Great Attractions

See, Swim With Penguins
(Not in Antarctica)

Every day around dusk the world’s smallest penguins waddle up on a stretch of coast near Oamaru, New Zealand

Is it possible to dislike penguins? There’s something universally adorable about them. Maybe it’s their waddling. Or their tuxedo outfits. Or how they are portrayed in popular culture, as in the wonderful March of the Penguins documentary.

Most penguin stories, including March, take place in Antarctica. However there are several other places on the planet to see wild penguins. At a few of those you can hop in the water and swim along side these friendly, feathered creatures. Here’s a look at our favorite:

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The World’s Most Amazing Swimming Holes

Technically, a “swimming hole” is any deep place for swimming in a stream, lake or river. But for this post — where are share our picks for the world’s best, coolest and most picturesque swimming holes — Spot Cool Stuff’s travel editors decided on a more ridged set of criteria:

First, we considered only swimming spots that were inside some sort of hole in the earth. That is, our swimming holes had to be substantially surrounded by rock. So somewhere like Idaho’s Redfish Lake, which a popular travel magazine named as one of their best swimming holes, wouldn’t count for us because, really, it’s just a regular lake.

Second, we decided to count only naturally occurring swimming holes. Sadly, this eliminated a very cool hidden swimming spot in Mexico that was created by a giant bomb — check back for our post on that later.

Finally, we only considered swimming holes that offered temperate waters. Because, well, we are cold water wimps. Spain’s wonderful, meadow-surrounded Playa del Gulpiyuri is unfortunately ruled out of contention on this count.

So what swimming holes made the cut? Read on . . . .

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Sky High Swimming

It gives a whole new meaning to the term “high dive.”

It brings the experience of swimming to the edge.

It combines the fear of drowning with the fear of heights.

It is the infinity swimming pool atop the Marina Bay Sands Resort & Casino. And from it you can gaze out upon an amazing view of the Singapore skyline — and straight down a 55-story plunge to the ground.

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Literally Cool Music

Incredibly fragile, many of the instruments hang from the ceiling during concerts so as not to be melted by their musician’s body heat.

Ice and music. Depending on your age, those two words might conjure up the infamous 80s band Vanilla Ice and their hit “Ice Ice Baby” or the more recent rendition of the song by North Carolina school administrators announcing a snow day. But what’s really too cool (too cool) is the Swedish musical group aptly named Ice Music, whose instruments are carved out of ice.

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A Visit to the Chocolate Hills

Kids (and those possessing a sweet tooth) might be disappointed when they arrive at the Chocolate Hills and discover they are not literally so. For everyone else, though, these curious conical mounds in the middle of the Philippine island of Bohol are bound to delight.

Imagine being on a white sand beach on a tropical island and then heading inland through green jungle. The way is mostly flat and lush. And then, suddenly, you see a large earthen mound 30 meters (100 feet) high covered in grass but otherwise devoid of foliage. You wonder why anyone would bother building such an enormous, symmetrical mound of dirt and then overlay it with astroturf.

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Total Luxury Half Underneath the Indian Ocean

Longtime readers of Spot Cool Stuff might remember our review of Sweden’s Utter Inn. The “inn” is located in the middle of a lake and consists of a single suite with one room above water — and another room beneath it!

It’s amazing being a guest at the Utter Inn, laying snuggled under your sheets while looking out at the underwater scene beyond your bedroom’s windows. But how much more cool would it be if that scene was of crystal clear tropical waters instead of a murky Scandinavian lake?

To answer that question, one needs to travel to the The Manta Resort on Pemba Island, part of the Zanzibar archipelago off the coast of Tanzania. That’s where Genberg Underwater Hotels, the company that designed and constructed the Utter Inn, recently finished work on their second half-underwater suite.

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This Little Piggy Goes Swimming

Swimming with penguins is adorable. Swimming with whale sharks is magnificent. But swimming with pigs?

In the Caribbean, there’s a bay of pigs where you can experience for yourself what that’s like. No, not the Bay of Pigs, as in the site of the CIA’s failed invasion of Cuba1. This (literal) bay of pigs is located in the Bahamas, on the uninhabited island of Big Major Cay — one of the 365 Exuma islands that stretch out in an arc south of Nassau. That’s where you’ll find beach Babes swimming in the clear waters and frolicking on the golden sand.

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Pink Lakes of the World

Spot Cool Stuff loves visiting color-bending locales. Like the black, green and red colored beaches of Hawaii. And the pastel-colored mountains of China. And lakes — of pink water?!

A select few lakes in the world — we’re featuring four below but there some two dozen others — have a hue of Pepto Bismol. That’s (usually) because their waters contain a large number of algae that excrete carotenoids. Algae are not the only life forms produce carotenoids. If, on trivia night, you are asked why salmon is pink or why lobster turns red when cooked, “carotenoids” would be your answer. But no animal can make carotenoids in the quality or at a level of pink-ness that the dunaliella salina algae can.

In case you are wondering, these pink lakes are all safe for swimming. (Indeed, both local folklore and some scientific studies have found that carotenoid-rich water is good for you). However, these lakes are also very salty — salt being a byproduct of all that carotenoids production.

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