Raja Ampat archipelago in the Indonesian Papua: paradise above and under water

naturist 0002 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

Who wouldn’t like a full week spent at a tropical, green archipelago surrounded by pristine waters? Writing this makes me want to throw myself back to those worry-free 7 days (almost a year ago) of a sailing trip at one of the natural marine wonders of our planet.

clown fish coral reef 0001 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

This post comes all the way from the magnificent marine park of Raja Ampat in Papua.

islands view 0011 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

Raja Ampat is an archipelago on the northern tip of the Bird’s Peninsula on the island of New Guinea or Papua, as it’s locally called. It belongs to Indonesian territory and is one of the easternmost provinces in the archipelago. Raja Ampat is a local language for Four Kings. In terms of history, Raja Ampat Archipelago in the 15th century was part of the reign of Tidore Sultanate, a great kingdom centered in Moluccas Islands. The Sultanate of Tidore appointed 4 local kings to rule the islands of Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati and Misool, which are the four largest islands to this day. The term 4 Kings who rule the islands became the root of the name Raja Ampat.

We spent the whole week in Raja Ampat. We were a group of 6, sailing on a wooden boat to explore the archipelago. This is the best way to explore the area: since it is an archipelago, you need to spend most of your days on or in the water to get the best experience of Raja Ampat.

Raja Ampat is claimed to boast the richest marine biodiversity in the world.

clown fish coral reef 0000 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

Right from the moment I arrived in the islands, I couldn’t stop my admiration of the beautiful surroundings – its breathtaking landscape and waters just blew my mind away.

naturist 0001 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

Many locals claimed these islands to be a paradise on Earth, and I must agree with that statement!

islands view 0004 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

We started from the central islands of the archipelago.

islands view 0003 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

We were presented with a wide array of beautiful corals from the first days.

coral reef 0008 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

They were very colorful and in good shape

coral reef 0007 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

– encouraging to see that in the age when many coral reefs suffer from bleaching due to pollution.

coral reef 0000 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

The fish too were no less colorful, as if they were competing to win the best outfit.

coral reef 0002 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

Merely by snorkeling, you can see the best of Raja Ampat.

naturist 0005 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

Yes, you need very minimal 😉 gear to enjoy all that extraordinary underwater world!

naturist 0007 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

The next days were spent venturing northbound

islands view 0007 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

to get to Wayag –

islands view 0010 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

the jungle covered islets, that often appear in the internet as a classic example of ‘tropical paradise’.

islands view 0006 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

Swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing, fishing, are among the things you could enjoy in the sailing trips… In Raja Ampat, you can even feed sharks and swim with them too!

shark coral reef 0000 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

Well, they weren’t that huge, but at first it was scary and made me nervous… Soon enough though, I found myself mingle with those sharks at ease, which was quite fascinating.

There are lodges on the bigger islands, and some of them offer full packages, where you can do a lot of water activities. But for me, sailing trip seemed to be the best way to experience Raja Ampat, as it allowed to wander as far as we wanted.

islands view 0012 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

It was also great to have some breaks from being on/in the water, and explore the islands – even hiking naked in the tropical forest!

islands view 0008 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

While the rest of the group were not keen on disrobing, I managed to exercise some naturism, mostly away from the group. I must admit that I am a newbie to naturism, which prevented me from being myself and naked in the whole journey… but I still enjoyed a good portion of it in the buff! I still recall how nice it felt to be naked and let the tropical breeze sweep your skin.

naturist 0010 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

It was definitely hot, but enjoyable. As many have said, the sun is the best treatment.

naturist 0004 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

Best part? Of course swimming naked and snorkeling in the most beautiful underwater world!

naturist 0009 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

If you are keen on spending some of the best days of your life in this paradise, I would surely recommend you to visit the islands. The authorities restrict the number of tourists visiting the islands, which is actually nice, as you can enjoy the islands almost all to yourself when you get there, especially, once again, if you take a sailing trip. The crew of the boat might be not too familiar with naturism, if you want to make it a nude sailing trip, but I think they’d be open enough if you could explain it to them.

 

text and imagery by Miko

Villa Roca hotel and beach Macha in Costa Rica

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naturist 0000 Villa Roca hotel, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Costa Rica may be among the world’s top destinations for naturalists but unfortunately not for naturists: even though the climate is certainly appropriate for walking around au naturel, legally it is forbidden. However, there is a couple of clothing-optional resorts/hotels. Three of such locations that I found online are strictly for couples only, so the fourth one, Villa Roca hotel – for “gays, lesbians and their friends” – actually sounds more inclusive!

It’s located in Quepos village by the popular national park and beach Manuel Antonio. The hotel itself is not at the beach, but you have an amazing view from up there – you almost feel like you could glide from that infinity pool above the forest and on to the Pacific Ocean (even more so infinite).

naturist 0001 Villa Roca hotel, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

The hotel is not clothing-optional throughout, but you can be naked around the pool and hot tubs. Those were perfect for relaxing after our long hikes (hint for the upcoming blogpost ;-)) One of the hot tubs is down by a long staircase and hidden away from the rest of the hotel, so it’s particularly peaceful… and perhaps your only company will be this little dragon.

basilisk 0000 Villa Roca hotel, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

This was the most impressive specimen of a basilisk I had seen! This lizard is famous for its ability to run on water (but I guess he’s not allowed at the pool).

basilisk 0001 Villa Roca hotel, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

It was somewhat even more peculiar to see cows at the beach though – somehow those two don’t come together very often!

cows 0000 beach, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Well, that’s Cows’ Beach for you 😉

cows 0001 beach, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

So yes, of course we weren’t just hanging out by the pool – beaches are the main attraction in Quepos. The main beach of Manuel Antonio is really beautiful, but unfortunately you cannot be naked anywhere there… Not anymore – there actually used to be a section with nudists – Playita, but when a big hotel was built in the area, they started policing the beach once in a while. I surfed there but didn’t get to do it naked and didn’t see anyone else naked 😦 Hence we headed to a more secluded location – playa La Macha.

naturist 0001 playa Mancha, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Cows’ Beach is the first cove on the way there, but as you can see on the photos, it is really reserved for cows! After you walk through the jungle by not very well maintained but short trail, you’ll be rewarded with this hidden gem:

view beach 0000 playa Mancha, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

A calm and picturesque cove with shallow and warm water, surrounded by the forest.

view beach 0001 playa Mancha, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

There is plenty of natural shade, and one tree proved to be quite cozy to seat on too!

naturist 0000 playa Mancha, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

This a great place, if you want some quiet time for conversations with friends or reading… only interrupted for some swimming!

Tyagarah lake, Australia

Tyagarah Lake is located in Northern New South Wales, Australia, about a 30 drive minutes from well known Byron Bay (and the very popular naturist spot Kings Beach). It is a picturesque small freshwater lake just minutes from the beach. A much larger lake is across the road next it but this is swampy and inaccessible.

view 0002 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

Tyagarah Lake is a popular spot for locals and not a known tourist spot, as it’s off the main highway, on a dirt road and not near any towns.  But it is still easy to get to: turn off the Pacific Highway onto Greys Lane and follow it as it turns into a dirt road on the way to Tyagarah Nature reserve beach. Before you make it to the beach you will see cars parked on the road.

view 0005 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

Look for the Tyagarah Nature reserve signs to find the path in.  It’s only a very short 3 min walk in to reach the lake.

naturist 0000 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

While I like it as the main destination for the day it is also a popular stop when driving back from Tyagarah Beach (also a naturist spot!) to rinse off the ocean and sand on the way home.  It is such a beautiful peaceful spot.

naturist 0001 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

The water is never too cold and is the perfect temperature to jump right in.

naturist 0003 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

The surrounding trees go right up the waters edge providing many shady resting spots.

view 0004 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

The surrounding trees are known as “Tea Trees” or “Paperbarks” (Melaleuca alternifolia).

Tea tree (paperback) 0001 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

This is what makes the lake particularly special. At first glance the water looks brown and barely swimmable, but it because when Tea Trees grow beside a lake, their oil drips down into the water making it look like tea.

view 0001 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

The water is very fresh and clean and the oil leaves a lovely moisturizing residue on your skin.

tea tree 0000 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

Tea Tree oil has been used traditionally by Australian Aboriginal people as an antiseptic on the skin and as an insect repellant. Squeezing the small leaves releases the oil and a refreshing scent.

Tea tree 0002 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

Tyagarah is named from an Aboriginal word meaning tussocks of sharp bladed grass. There is lots of grass of this description growing in the lake, so it is well named.

view 0003 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

Other beautiful sights on the lake are the water lilies and dragonflies.

dragonfly on water lily 0000 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

When it’s time to leave after a last swim and before you put your clothes back on, a short walk can be taken all the way around the lake and reveals and some smaller inlets and swampy areas.

naturist 0002 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

Hidden paradise in Trinidade, Brazil

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Paraty is one of the most visited cities of the green coast of Brazil thanks to its natural beauty and historic sites. And just a few kilometers away, you can find a paradisiac corner of Trinidade. This little village has a few amazing beaches, but the best one, in my opinion, remains unknown to most tourists.

Just before entering Trinidade from Paraty, you’ll see a sign on the left side saying “Praia
Brava”.  From there, you’ll take an easy trail through a beautiful forest for about 20min

naturist beach 0000 praia Brava de Trinidade, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

until you get to the hidden beach Brava.

naturist beach 0004 praia Brava de Trinidade, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
No villas, restaurants or any vendors – only magnificent views of the ocean and splendid vegetation around!

naturist beach 0003 praia Brava de Trinidade, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

Follow to the left to the rocks with a writing that notifies about nudists, and you may enjoy it all in your natural state 🙂

naturist beach 0001 praia Brava de Trinidade, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

That’s what I did, and even spotted a sea turtle!

turtle at the beach 0005 praia Brava de Trinidade, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

some memories from Florida Young Naturists’s Spring Bash and nature trail at Sunny Sands Resort

I thought I’d skip a report on this event entirely due to lack of photography, but when I mentioned it in the previous post, I realized I had to share with the world at least some of my good memories – so here are a few words about the Florida Young Naturists‘ Spring Bash and its venue, Sunny Sands Resort. It’s a spacious resort, mostly oriented to permanent or part-time residents; FYN certainly changes its pace! There are some basic amenities typical to a naturist resort, such as a pool, a hot tub, volleyball court; the restaurant seems to be open only during such events. The Spring Bash itself was very well organized, with numerous fun activities, seminars and workshops hosted by the participants: e.g., capoeira and acro-yoga (by yours truly), salsa, juggling, fire-spinning, discussions on polyamory… There were professional masseurs too, and needless to say they were very much in demand – one had to sign up for a session. I got probably the best deep tissue massage I had ever had (and to add a cherry on the cake, the masseur was my namesake!) All these activities were free, and there was a good sense of community and active participation. In the evening there was live music, and the band got naked too. When we gathered around the fire pit at night, one guy started singing a Swahili song, and then taught us all the chorus (which alternated between male and female voices) – it was a beautiful experience! Thus, it was a very busy event, but you could always leave for a walk on the nature trail if you wanted some quiet time.

As it often happens, naturist events and venues have prohibitive or very restrictive photo policies, so I cannot provide a full report from FYN Spring Bash in the same sense, as I do from Burning Man, for example. But here are some photos from Sunny Sands’ nature trail, which is worth a mention too (even with a risk of confusing naturists and naturalists 😀 )

woodpecker 0000 Sunny Sands Resort, Florida, USA

Woodpeckers seemed to be particularly active at the time.

woodpecker 0001 Sunny Sands Resort, Florida, USA

This one literally stuffed his beak with larvae (probably saving them for the chicks).

woodpecker 0002 Sunny Sands Resort, Florida, USA

But I’m not sure they’d touch this hairy caterpillar.

caterpillar 0000 Sunny Sands Resort, Florida, USA

There used to be a pond of a decent size, but most of the water has vanished now.

crane 0000 Sunny Sands Resort, Florida, USA

But what’s left still provides home for water lilies, frogs

crane 0001 Sunny Sands Resort, Florida, USA

and a family of cranes!

crane 0002 Sunny Sands Resort, Florida, USA

I’ve never seen wild cranes so close, though these ones are clearly used to human presence.

crane 0003 Sunny Sands Resort, Florida, USA

(And perhaps it makes them feel safer that the humans around them are naturally naked :-))

Playalinda beach… after Florida Young Naturists’ Spring Bash

Playalinda is one of the few official naturist beaches in Florida and is certainly one of the best overall. I visited it last April as part of the group outing at the Naked Spring Bash of Florida Young Naturists.

naturist 0001 Playalinda beach, Florida, USA

It’s a great beach with plenty of space whether you are with a big group or want to chill quietly enjoying the sound of waves.

view 0000 Playalinda beach, Florida, USA

If you want to enjoy the waves in a more active manner, Playalinda is known to have a pretty good swell for surfing, but it wasn’t the case at the time of my visit. However, the waves were perfect for body surfing.

naturist 0000 Playalinda beach, Florida, USA

Naked body surfing is as natural as it gets when it comes syncing with the ocean and feeling it power!

Unlike the urban Haulover Beach in Miami, where we went after FYN Spring Bash 4 years ago, Playalinda is set in a natural surrounding of the Cape Canaveral National Seashore.

naturist 0002 Playalinda beach, Florida, USA

Nudists usually congregate at the section near the farthest parking of Playalinda beach (and as the commentator indicated below, just a little further north there is an officially clothing-optional Apollo beach),

view 0001 Playalinda beach, Florida, USA

but even from there you can see well the NASA Shuttle Landing Facility… Those were the days, when you could sunbathe naked and watch the shuttle lift off into space! Nowadays you may be lucky to see the launch of a rocket by SpaceX though. So, next time I’ll try to time my visit well (and check the surf forecast too).

 

Russian and Turkish baths in NYC

When it is cold and gloomy, one of the best things you can do is to go to a bathhouse – as I did yesterday, while the cold spell is back to the US Northeast. New York City has several options. The biggest one is probably the Spa Castle with Korean saunas in Queens, but if you prefer a more central location, Russian & Turkish Baths in the East Village is a good choice. Some friends of mine don’t like its dated look, but I actually find that low key style appealing; the room of Russian sauna (banya) looks as if it has not been renovated since the opening of the bathhouse in 1892.

Although the bathhouse is called Russian & Turkish Baths, it has also two Finnish saunas (dry and hot), in addition to two hammams (Turkish steam room, relatively mild temperature), and a bigger banya (Russian sauna, very hot but with humid air, sort of a mix between Turkish and Finnish ones). There are also massage rooms with treatments (e.g. mud scrub). But my favorite treatment there is actually performed right in the Russian sauna room. It’s a traditional Russian banya massage (aka platza, a yiddish term). It is a whole body massage that includes soap wash and whipping with oak branches. It may look a little rough, but in fact it feels very relaxing. As they claim, “the oak leaves contain a natural astringent, which will open your pours, remove toxins, and actually take off layers of dead skin”. And it does feel so. Platza is finished with a dip in the cold water pool, which is supposed to train your vascular system. Yesterday, I used the birch broom which I brought from the Ivanovskie Bani in Kiev. I first massaged two Brazilian friends of mine, and then one of them massaged me. But if you don’t have such a broom and don’t know how to do platza, you can ask local masseurs – they are really good!

On a side note, coming to the US after Germany, I have to mention that saunas here are clothing-optional only in single-sex setting. (This is also increasingly common in Ukraine and Russia.) So unfortunately for heterosexual couples or mixed-gender groups, they will have to walk around in shorts soaked in sweat… If you want to hang out naked, Russian & Turkish Baths offer one women-only and two men-only time slots.

BTW, they regularly offer special deals and discounts through Groupon, kgbdeals.com and savelocal.com, so keep your eyes open.

beach Olho de Boi, Buzios, Brazil

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naturist 0002 praia Olho de Boi, Buzios, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

Olho de Boi beach is located in Buzios, Rio de Janeiro state. It requires a bit of an effort, as you’ll have to walk for a bit on a trail (along two other beaches),

naturist 0003 praia Olho de Boi, Buzios, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

before you can descend to this tiny beach. You’ll be rewarded with calm waters, where you can sometimes even spot some turtles!

naturist 0001 praia Olho de Boi, Buzios, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

It’s a great naturist spot, and I wouldn’t go to any other beach around, especially if I had to wear a swimsuit there. Another beach of this kind in the state is Abrico. Swimming in the sea the natural way is one of the most pleasant ways to experience the contact with nature!

naturist 0000 praia Olho de Boi, Buzios, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

André

beaching in Fuerteventura

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To finish off out tour of the Canary Islands [for now] we turn to the island of Fuerteventura

Fuerteventura is the second largest of the Canary Islands and is another popular destination for tourists wanting to get some year-round sun. The island can be quite windy (in fact Fuerteventura comes from the spanish words ‘strong wind’ ) and average temperatures range from 17˚C in January to 25˚C in August. It is particularly popular for surfers and windsurfers and there are many surfing schools dotted around the island. Towns and resorts tend to be on the coast as there are many mountains in land. With 152 beaches along its coastline, visitors are spoilt for choice on where to go.

naturist 0000 Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, Spain

One of the most popular areas for naturists to stay is the north-eastern town of Corralejo which has many hotels (including naturist friendly), restaurants and bars. The water here is good for swimming although can be rough at times if windy. It has 7 miles of golden sand which is almost entirely naturist friendly and has a large dune area which backs onto a nature reserve.

view Corralejo 0000 Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, Spain

In the south, the most popular destinations are Costa Calma and Morro Jable. Just south of Costa Calma is the Jandia stretch of beaches which has a wide area of beach to explore and is also very popular with naturists.

view Jandia beach0001 Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, Spain

The water here can be calmer than the north. Morro Jable is a large tourist town and resort and can be a good place to stay if you like lots of local amenities.

view Jandia 0002 Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, Spain

Whether it’s Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote or Tenerife, the Canary Islands are an ideal place to visit for some sun and relaxation.

[text and photos by Dan]

Ivanovskie Bani (sauna) in Kiev

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On the recent visit to my homeland, I spent a few days in Kiev; pretty much the only option for a naturist experience in winter was to go to a sauna. My friend Sergey found a public sauna online that sounded particularly appealing, and we ventured there with two more mates.

Ivanovskie Bani indeed fulfilled our desire for a traditional Russian sauna (banya) experience. It is located literally on the  Dnieper River, in a modified boat. It has a traditional ambience, and already in the locker you can smell “venik”, a special sauna broom, typically made of birch or oak branches, which is used for massaging. After the lockers, there is a room with showers and a massage table, and then a steam room. You can hire a local masseur to do the banya ritual for you, but we just bought “veniki” and did it ourselves. Though one of the fellow visitors thought that our massage technique was too rough and showed a milder, calmer version with softer and slower moves (but it felt like the heat penetrated even deeper).

Regardless of the kind of massage you prefer in the steam room, after absorbing all that heat, you are supposed to cool down, and this is where Ivanovkie Bani truly stand out: you can splash in the waters of the Dnieper River right outside its doors, and if you are not too shocked you can meanwhile enjoy the views of the river banks with such landmarks as Kiev Pechersk Lavra (Kiev Monastery of the Caves) and the Motherland monument.

Well, it could only get more striking in much colder weather, when the river would be frozen, as it happened when we went to a banya in Moscow a couple of years ago.

After repeating the ritual a couple of times, we felt both relaxed and energized. We had some tea before leaving in the cafe (they don’t serve any meals there, but you can bring food with you or order something more exotic, like crayfish, in advance).

Even though the location is central, it’s not easy to get there without a car (and if you call a taxi, it may take a while for them to arrive), but it’s totally worth it, especially if you want a relaxing break from the busy city life without leaving the city!

PS Keep in mind that most banyas are gender-segregated, and in this one the only women day is Wednesday.