Hawaii’s North Shore – The Surf Bus

Aloha wanderers!

If you have been following along on my instagram feed (@sam_clarkey) you will have seen I have just returned from the Aloha State, Hawaii.

With my time coming to an end in Melbourne, Australia I decided to have a short ‘lei’ over in Honolulu as I made my way back to Toronto. Jetstar has recently started operating direct flights Melbourne (MEL) to Honolulu (HNL) for an affordable “backpacker” price. I paid only $299 AUD one way, and added on 40kg of checked baggage for $75. With prices like that – it only made sense to have a layover.

The state of Hawaii is made up of eight main islands. Some of the more popular islands to visit are Oahu (Honolulu), Maui, Kauai and the Big Island of Hawaii (Kona). With my short time frame – I decided to focus my time on Oahu.

Oahu is known for its stunning beaches, rich history and delicious tropical fruit. Home to Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbour, the USS Arizona Memorial and the North Shore – there are plenty of ways to fill your time.

During my time on Oahu, I was lucky enough to jump on board a North Shore day trip with The Surf Bus. The Surf Bus is a family run tour operator who are the experts on the North Shore of Oahu. It’s the best way to get you to experience some of the North Shore’s main highlights!

My day on The Surf Bus started when my tour guide Uncle Kevin picked me up in the Waikiki city centre. Some of the planned highlights of the day were visiting some of the North Shore’s most iconic surf beaches; Waimea Bay, Banzai Pipeline & Sunset Beach. When we arrived at each spot we had the chance to stroll along the beach, bathe in the sunshine or watch the surfers catching some waves. On the North Shore it isn’t rare to see young kids absolutely dominating on the waves – it’s so impressive!

The day with the surf bus is broken up into two activity blocks – a morning block for 2 hours and the afternoon block for 3 hours. The options for the morning session included snorkelling, bike riding or visiting the Waimea Falls Park. Our group decided to pick the Waimea Falls walk.

The Waimea Falls Park is considered one of Oahu best walks – a mile long stroll through lush botanical gardens leading up to the grand Waimea Falls. Waimea Falls is a 50-foot cascading waterfall down into a pool below – which we of course took full advantage of and took a dip.

The options for the afternoon session included surfing, kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding. I decided to try out the stand-up paddle boarding around the Haleiwa boat harbour and along the river.

Along the river you will find stunning houses, beautiful wildlife and if you’re lucky enough you will paddle over a 4-foot green turtle!

To finish off our afternoon we were given the time to explore the must-visit town of Haleiwa. A laid-back surf town filled with local style, cool surf shops and boutiques; shaved ice stands and charming art galleries.

On our way back to Waikiki Beach, we stopped by Turtle Beach to spot the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles. The perfect end to a day of sun, fun and adventure!

If you are short on time and want to experience the North Shore “the way the locals do,” then The Surf Bus is for you! Make sure you check them out the next time you are in Hawaii – you won’t regret it!

BOOK HERE – The Surf Bus!

Cowabunga duddddesss!

sam.C

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Thaintro – The best week in Thailand!

Heading to South East Asia for the first time? Well look no further!

This past May, I had the pleasure of heading over to South East Asia, starting my trip in the Land of Smiles, Thailand.

Throughout my research of Thailand, I quickly came to realize that there were SO many places to start, routes to follow and things to see/do, even for a travel agent (haha) it all became a bit overwhelming. To pin point the exact itinerary I wanted to complete in my three-week time span, it took careful consideration, however all I knew was that I wanted to ensure that my holiday actually felt like a holiday.

I wanted the ease of travel, everything to be sorted for me before I went, someone to tell me all the best places to go/see/eat/drink/party and on top of that to have an awesome group of people to share it with me… and then I came to the realization… all I wanted to do was Thaintro!

Thaintro is an amazing group tour commencing in Bangkok and finishing up on the island of Koh Phangan. It’s the perfect option for solo travellers, couples, or for anybody heading to South East Asia for the first time.

With a jam-packed itinerary (don’t worry you’ll still have plenty of free time for sun-tanning and cocktails on the beach) – Thaintro is able to tick off your Thailand bucket list in 9 days! With thai massages, elephant cuddles, beach parties’, floating bungalows & heaps of new friends – Thaintro is the trip of a lifetime.

Day 1: Arrival into Bangkok

The day was finally here! I landed at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok (BKK) and was pleasantly greeted by our group’s guide for the week Dan. Dan was waiting at the airport’s meeting point to ensure we landed safely off the plane and made it with ease into the madness of Bangkok city.

The streets of Bangkok are fast-paced, covered in market & food stalls, eager tuk-tuk drivers and keen Thai sales people trying to sell you their local city tour for only 100 baht ($4 AUD). For a first time visitor – it can be quite full on but it’s all about the experience and within a couple hours it will seem quite normal.

Our accommodation in Bangkok was at a guesthouse called the Wild Orchid Villa. Wild Orchid Villa is conveniently located in the centre of Bangkok – close to the shops, temples, various cafes/restaurants and the very well known Khao San road. The villa is decked out with an all day restaurant & bar, private outdoor poor & local travel agent on site.

Wild Orchid Villa Twin Rooms 

Outdoor pool at Wild Orchid Villa

After checking in and getting settled into our twin share rooms – we were given the remainder of the day to explore Bangkok before the welcome dinner later in the evening. I decided to spend my day sampling some of Bangkok’s best food & cocktails, and splurging on a 150 baht ($6 AUD) 1-hour long traditional Thai massage. This easily became a trend throughout the rest of my Thailand trip as well.
Some of my favourite Thai appetizers – Chicken Satay & Spring Rolls!

The welcome dinner was the first opportunity to get everyone together. We had a very diverse group with people coming from the UK, Canada, America, Germany, The Netherlands, Austria and Spain; all ranging in age from 18-35 years old.

By the end of the night it didn’t take long to realize it was going to be an amazing week!

Day 2: Temples, Tuk Tuks & Party Night in Bangkok

Day two rolled around and it was time to explore some Bangkok’s most popular highlights! We headed out after breakfast and walked to our first temple Wat Arun where we meet our guide “Mr James Bond.” He knew absolutely everything about Thailand, temples, Buddhism and more! He even called me Miss Universe Canada so I instantly became his biggest fan!

When in South East Asia it is always advised to cover your knees and shoulders when visiting temples. This shows respect to the people praying in the temples, the monks on the premises and other visitors to these temples.Temple visits in Bangkok

On arrival to the first temple we were taken through a traditional Thai blessing ceremony – surrounded by beautiful lit candles and incense sticks. As we made our way through the rest of the temple we entered a room where a monk blessed our group with holy water and sent us off with well wishes for the rest of our travels in Thailand.

Following Wat Arun temple our group walked through the city towards the river where we would boarded a long boat along the Chao Phraya River. Along the river were beautiful man-made river bungalows and little ladies in boats selling their goods those passing by. One lady absolutely stole my heart with her beautiful smile and charm, so much so I had no problem purchasing a few cold drinks and souvenirs off of her.

Cruise along Chao Phraya River

Our river cruise took us to the entrance of the second and a more popular temple, Wat Pho Temple. The Wat Pho Temple next to the Grand Palace is one of the oldest temples in Bangkok. At Wat Pho you will find the magnificent 46 meters long gold plated Reclining Buddha, and plenty of other smaller buddhas around the area.

After a full morning of temples we jumped into our tuk-tuks (Thai-styled taxis) and made our way through the city back to our villa. In Thailand, road rules simply don’t apply. Traffic lights aren’t abided by, passing other cars is the norm and jay-walking is extremely common.

Tuk tuk madness! 

Our tuk-tuk driver gave us the full crazy experience as he whizzed in and out of the lanes speeding his way to our destination!

Our “party night” out in Bangkok began at a little Indian restaurant named Bombay Blues. After some food and some cocktails we finally hit Khaosan Road. Khaosan Road is a famous street amongst Bangkok’s hustle and bustle. Lined with bars, Khaosan Road attracts tourists, backpackers from around the world for it’s nightlife, cheap drinks and exotic street food. The party atmosphere on Khaosan is great and every night there’s something going on so if you’re ready to cut loose, this is the place to be.

On Khaosan road, our first stop was a bucket’s bar named Kim’s Cocktails. Drinking from children’s beach buckets (where they make sand castles out of) is a very popular thing to do while in Thailand. We all had the chance to test this out ourselves – choosing from hundred of different drinks on the menu; everything from pina coladas, daiquiris, long island ice teas to mystery Thai concoctions. After a nice pre-game we were ready to hit “The Club” to finish off our night.

Traveller trip: These buckets are strong (not like your standard measured drinks back in Australia, UK, Canada or Europe – These are best shared with someone else if you want to remember your night! However – they are delicious and a great way to get your buzz on for the rest of your night on Khaosan Road. Not to mention they are cheap (~300-400 baht – $12-16 AUD for way to much drink!)

Day #3: Thai Cooking Class & the Overnight Train

With a sore head and the after taste of a late night McDonalds burger from Khaosan Road; I awoke ready for day 3. It was the Thai cooking class day and I was so excited! I love to cook and I LOVE Thai food – what a perfect activity!

Mai-Dee’s Cooking School hosted us for the morning and we were going to cook three classic Thai dishes. We had the chance to make a Tom Yum Soup, Pad Thai and a Massaman Curry. It’s crazy to now know how simple it is to make some of your favourite Thai dishes!

Ready to cook! 

Simple ingredients, simple steps and a bit of love and you’d be able to cook some of your favourites too. And the best part of this class… was of course tasting all of our creations! Following the cooking portion – the group was lead through some dancing and Thai sing-alongs, which had everyone in hysterics.

We had the afternoon free to do some last minute shopping, get a Thai massage, grab some lunch or visit some of the local sites we missed. A lot of people chose to venture down Khaosan Road for some market shopping, while I decided to lounge by the pool and recover from my alcohol-bucket hangover.

Shortly after 5pm we met in the lobby to begin our journey on the overnight train that would take us from Bangkok to Khao Sok National Park. I am not going to lie… I was a bit apprehensive about spending a whole evening on the sleeper train… but this train was lush!

Overnight train fun!

The beds were extremely comfortable, food was served on board, you had your own little cubby to put your belongings, and every bunk had curtains for privacy while sleeping! Before we knew it – it was 7AM and it was time to depart the train!

Day #4: Khao Sok National Park

After we arrived off the train, we grabbed a quick breakfast before jumping onto a bus + longboat into Khao Sok National Park. Thaintro makes this journey from Bangkok to Khao Sok National Park absolutely seamless – I would have had NO clue how to navigate these bus and train timetables if I had to do it alone… especially with a Khaosan Road bucket hangover…

The longboat journey into the entrance of the National Park is nothing short of spectacular. The pictures speak a thousand words, and my description and photos won’t even begin to do it justice. We stopped for a swim stop along the way. In a quiet little bay lined with beautiful cliff edges the longboat stopped for us to cool off, and enjoy some rock jumping!

Khao Sok National Park 

Shortly after we made it into Khao Sok and our accommodation for the evening. For a backpacker trip this place felt like absolute luxury! We were staying in floating bungalows on the water, had access to jumping platforms to swim from, rubber tubes to relax in the crystal clear waters, kayaks to explore the park and plenty more.

Our group spent the rest of the day enjoying the sunshine, (some people enjoyed the sun a bit too much – don’t forget to wear your sunscreen!) having a few drinks and cranking tunes on the dock. It was the perfect day and goes down as one of my top 5 best travel experiences to date!

The fun didn’t stop in the evening. After a yummy Thai dinner the whole group sat around in the common area and played some camp games including The Box Game, Mafia, and Who’s Coming to Dinner? You are never too old for these kinds of games!

Day #5: Khao Sok National Park to Koh Pha Ngan

Off to the southern islands of Thailand today! We said goodbye to the stunning Khao Sok National Park and jumped on the long boat back to the mainland. A 2-hour bus journey and 2-hour ferry; we finally arrived at Koh Phangan, our home for the next 4 nights.

Sarana Bungalows is the ‘home of Thaintro’ in Thailand and was our accommodation on the island. Situated directly on the beach with a beautiful infinity pool overlooking the ocean – this place was lush. When we arrived we were all given our room assignments and were put in either twin/triple or quad share rooms. They were all en-suited and had hammocks on the front deck – the perfect place to read a book or have a mid-day nap to get out of the sun.

Welcome to Paradise! 

Our day was left for us to enjoy. Some people went into the town to check out the market and shops, whereas others decided to kick it at the resort; have some lunch or chose to enjoy the sun by the pool. Around the accommodation there were two resort dogs that were so friendly: Dave and Rosie. They had been taken in by Thaintro a while ago and have now made themselves resident on the property.

Hey Dave!

The evening was set for our first beach party on the famous “Full Moon Party” Island of Koh Phangan. We headed out for dinner at a restaurant called Matty’s Joint and then ventured to the Pirates Bar to get beach party ready: buckets, neon paint and glitter!

One bucket each? Sure, why not!

Haad Rin is the area where the legendary Full Moon Party is hosted. Even though our trip didn’t follow on a Full Moon Party, Thaintro creates it’s own beach party for everyone to experience a taste of the real deal. On the beach you will experience fire shows, table dancing, musical chairs, limbo, basketball shooting contests and plenty of other party games to get people in the spirit!

Day #6: Massage and Chill Day

What could be better than a traditional Thai massage on the beach after a late night out at Haad Rin beach? Absolutely nothing! Thaintro includes a 45-minute massage at Sarana Bungalows overlooking the ocean in your package– what a treat!

The remainder of the day was spent sun-tanning by the pool, visiting the markets in the town and playing some beach volleyball at the resort.

In the evening the group gathered in the yoga hall for the travel talk. Dan our guide went through various different destinations to visit following our week on Thaintro and some of the other Intro travel products in other countries (Bali, Vietnam & Australia). Thaintro really focuses on the total travel solution for each and every one of their travellers. From even before arriving into Thailand, to landing at the airport, to the entire week and leaving the group – you are sorted from start to finish!

Day #7: Island Boat Trip + BBQ

Instead of exploring the island of Koh Phangan by land, Thaintro includes an island boat trip to experience the beauty of the island by water.

Our boat had a sun deck, bar and jumping platform which led into the water. We spent the day cruising the island, stopping along the way to snorkel, swimming from the boat and going kayaking.

Following lunch we headed to Malibu Beach for the rest of the afternoon. Malibu Beach has a nice beach bar serving food, drinks, and a secluded private beach just for us! We had the afternoon to ourselves to catch some rays, or play some beach volleyball.

When we got back from the boat trip our evening finished off with a freshly prepared BBQ at Sarana Bungalows.

Day #8: Elephant Experience & Farewell Dinner

On the bucket list of many backpackers to South East Asia is to visit an elephant sanctuary. Getting that elephant selfie is a must for any traveller’s Instagram page. If you didn’t get an elephant photo in Thailand did you even go? Well no, so of course Thaintro pre-included this experience in the trip and it was definitely a highlight for many people. Just after breakfast, our group headed out and had the remainder of the morning to spend at the elephant sanctuary.

Splashing around with the elephants

The farewell dinner was hosted at a lovely Thai restaurant in town. As we were all going separate ways the following day it was nice to share stories from the week. We all looked back on day 1 in Bangkok and couldn’t believe how well we all knew each other, all the amazing places we had seen and all the amazing things we had done. From temples, to tuk-tuk rides, overnight trains, boat trips, beach parties and more – it really was an action packed week!

What an amazing week! 

Day #9 – Onward travels or off to the Phi Phi Islands!

For those who only booked onto the 9 day Thaintro package their trip finished on day 9. Many people (if they have time) choose to continue to travel with Thaintro on their 4 day Phi Phi island add-on package from Koh Phangan across the Gulf.

This add-on package is a separate trip to the 9-day trip. Included in this package is your transfers across the Gulf from Koh Phangan to Koh Phi Phi, 2 nights on Phi Phi, a half day sunset boat trip and the highlight; the overnight Maya bay sleep aboard trip.

To continue reading more about my Thailand trip in the Phi Phi Islands with Thaintro click HERE.& the adventure continues…

sam.C

For more information on booking a holiday with Thaintro you can find their website HERE.

Thaintro – Koh Phi Phi & Maya Bay Overnight

Day 1 – Welcome to Koh Phi Phi!

After an amazing 9 days on Thaintro it was time to continue the adventure on the other side of the Gulf of Thailand. We left Koh Phangan at 6AM and began our 8-hour journey (ferry-bus-ferry) across to Koh Phi Phi.

Koh Phi Phi Island is the highlight of many travellers when they go to Thailand. The Phi Phi Island group is known for it’s tropical beaches, stunning rock formations, turquoise waters and colourful marine life – it has something for everyone! In the year 2000 it become famous off the Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Beach” which was set at Maya Bay. Phi Phi Island is only a 45-minute speedboat journey from Phuket making it an easy first destination to visit after many people step off their international flight.

The stunning Phi Phi Islands. 

We arrived just after lunch and were met at the ferry terminal by our new Thaintro guide, Whitney. The first thing I noticed when arriving at Phi Phi was that it reminded me slightly of Gili Trawangan Island in Bali. There are no paved roads (or a very limited number of them) on the island, and the streets are lines with shops, restaurants, dive shops and bars. It is well known as one of the biggest party islands in Thailand – very similar to Gili T’s reputation in Bali. Phi Phi is truly a backpacker’s haven, and I could definitely see why.

We checked in to our accommodation, Kinaree Hostel and had the rest of the afternoon to our leisure. Whitney has been living on Phi Phi for over a year and knows all the hidden gems of Phi Phi, so she wanted to take us to a secret little spot that overlooked the island. It was a cliff-top pool bar, which showcased Phi Phi island’s stunning sunset.

We met up as a group in the evening and headed to Unni’s Restaurant for dinner and some drinks. After a long travel day many people took the night off and had a chill night, while others decided to venture out into the town for the evening.

Day 2 – Bamboo Island + Monkey Beach Sunset Boat Cruise

Bright and early a few people in our group decided to get up to see the sunrise from the Phi Phi Island lookout point. It was a short 45-minute walk up-hill – but it was bloody worth it! Once you arrived at the lookout point you were treated to stunning panoramic views of Phi Phi Island.

Well worth the hike!

Later in the afternoon our group gathered for departure on the boat trip to Bamboo Island & Monkey Beach. The weather (as expected during rainy season) was not great today. This was one of the only days of the 12 that we received “typical rainy season weather.” Lucky for us!

After returning from our afternoon on the boat we met at Acqua Restaurant in town for some happy hour cocktails (80 baht = $3 AUD) and dinner.

Day 3 & 4 – Check out & Maya Bay Overnight Sleep-aboard

Today we checked out of Kinaree Hostel and had the morning to explore Phi Phi before departing on the overnight Maya Bay sleep-aboard trip. My morning consisted of a delicious breakfast, some market shopping, a watermelon fruit shake and some sun-tanning.

Ready for the Maya Bay Sleep Aboard. 

The sleep-aboard boat visiting Maya Bay is a main highlight of many visitors to the Phi Phi islands. Our boat cruised out of the bay and headed past the Viking Cave and anchored at Blue Lagoon for a couple hours. At Blue Lagoon we had the chance to do some snorkelling or kayaking out around the bay. The snorkelling around the boat was breathtaking. Schools of fish would swim right around your face and the reef was beautiful.

Later in the afternoon we cruised around to the entrance of Maya Bay. Due to the water being so rough surrounding the area we were unable to enter the bay the normal way and had to get a bit more creative.

En route to Maya Bay!

At Maya Bay the water was crystal clear, the sand was so fine and it was everything you could have imagined and more! I now understand why it’s so famous and so commonly visited. Another highlight of the overnight sleep-aboard experience is that when the horn goes off for all the day boats to leave the beach to head back to Phi Phi, we were able to spend another hour at the beach and get our photos without anyone else around! We had the whole Maya Bay to ourselves!

After dinner, we had the option to head out to a secluded beach for a beach party and bonfire or go swimming with the plankton off the back of the boat. One of the most unique experiences I have ever had was swimming with the plankton. Once you get in the water and turn off your torches – you move your limbs against the water and light up like a star! The plankton lights up in the water due to it’s bioluminescent nature. Following the swim, we spent our night sleeping on deck, having views of the beautiful stars in the clear night sky.

In the morning we had another chance to visit Maya Bay and get those last minute photos we missed the day before. We cruised back via Monkey Beach to Phi Phi Island arriving just before 10am.

The beautiful Maya Bay. 

When we arrived back at Phi Phi Island this was where our Thaintro trip ended. Everyone in our group was headed to different places; many were staying longer in Phi Phi, some were going to Krabi, Phuket or flying back to Bangkok.

The rest of my time in Southern Thailand following Thaintro was being spent visiting Phuket, Koh Tao & Koh Samui. I had made some life-long friends during my time on Thaintro that I would be connecting with again during the rest of my travels. To follow the rest of my Thailand and South East Asia travels – check out the rest of my Asia blogs!

To read more about my trip in Thailand (Bangkok – Khao Sok NP – Koh Phangan) click HERE.

For more information on booking a holiday with Thaintro you can find their website HERE.

Bali, Indonesia – Uluwatu, Gili Trawangan & Ubud

A popular destination for all style of travellers; surfers, yogis, beach bums, party animals, foodies and scuba diving addicts; Bali, Indonesia has been on my bucket list since the travel bug bit.

Bali is easily accessible from Australia; 6 hours by plane from Melbourne & Sydney, 3 ½ hour from Perth & 2 ½ hours from Darwin – due to that it is quite common for travellers to find themselves spontaneously booking flights to this tropical state of mind.

With all my bikinis packed (one for each day of course), my GoPro and a sense of adventure I was ready to explore Bali myself!

Uluwatu – Surf’s Up and Single Fin 

When we landed in Denpasar (Bali’s International Airport), our driver who was bringing us back to our accommodation in Uluwatu pleasantly greeted us. The 45-minute drive from the airport to our accommodation cost us 300,000 IDR, which equates to roughly $30 AUD. We chose to stay at a little homestay close to the famous Padang Padang beach named Bali Bule Homestay. The homestay has a prime location for us as we only had a short stay in Uluwatu. It was only a 5-minute walk from the beach, and a short 5-minute drive to Uluwatu Temple; both of which we wanted to see during our stay.

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetBali Bule Homestay, Uluwatu. 

Uluwatu Temple

“Pura Luhur Uluwatu or Uluwatu Temple is a famous Balinese sea temple in Bali. It is one of the nine directional temples of Bali meant to protect it from evil spirits. This spectacular temple is one to marvel with as it perched at the edge of the rock overlooking the sea as if on guard.” 

IMG_8866We decided to walk from our accommodation to the entrance of Uluwatu Temple. Just before we arrived we stopped by a little market stall offering sarongs, handmade bracelets and souvenir shirts. As it was our first day in Bali we figured a couple sarongs would come in handy throughout our week so we (Ben) bartered for a cheaper deal and purchased our first souvenirs!

IMG_8827

Ben’s new sarong! 

As you enter the sacred land you are warned over the intercom about the resident monkeys who don’t hesitate in taking your belongings… food, sunglasses, cameras and even selfies sticks! Balinese long-tailed monkeys can be found all throughout Bali. They sure do make for some hilarious photos and videos! One of them even tried to snatch my camera case while I was holding it!

We spent the remainder of the afternoon exploring the temple and wandering the walkways; whilst taking in the spectacular views from the cliff-edge.

Single Fin                                                  http://singlefinbali.com/

Before even arriving in Bali, I was informed that we HAD to go check out Single Fin for dinner & drinks while staying in Uluwatu. Let’s just say that the night let for an experience I could never forget!

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetOur balcony, the biggest in the archipelago, boasts stunning views of one of surfing’s spiritual homes, and comes alive as the sun sinks into the Indian Ocean.

We arrived at Single Fin and was pleasantly greeted by their bar staff who showed us to our table. Like any night out in Bali, a couple Bintangs were ordered to start us off.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetTwo Bintangs Please! 

Due to a not so friendly couple that ended up squeezing their way into a table beside us; the lovely manager at Single Fin upgraded us into one of the epic booths! We had a whole 10-person booth to ourselves to watch the sunset.

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The cocktails were delicious, the food was divine and the whole Single Fin experience exceeded our expectations and need to be put on any Bali Bucket List!

Gili Trawangan – Turtle Capital of the World

Our next destination in Bali was to the popular tropical destination of the Gili Islands. The Gili Islands are a group of 3 tiny islands; Gili Air, Gili Meno and the most visited; Gili Trawangan. They are all known for their sandy beaches, lined by palm trees and exotic coral reefs offshore.

IMG_8951Main Beach, Gili Trawangan.

For the short amount of time in Bali, we decided to spend the majority of it at Gili Trawangan; the largest of the three islands. Gili Trawangan is easily accessible from the mainland of Bali through fast-boats and air.

Fast Boat Bookings: https://www.gilibookings.com/bali-to-gili-fast-boat?gclid=CKyI9an2h9ICFcGSvQodoM0GCw

Denpasar (Bali) to Lombok Flight Companies: Lion Air, Wings Air & Garuda Indonesia.

IMG_8981Bluewater Express Fast Boat

When we arrived off the Bluewater Express fast boat, “taxi drivers” wanting to transport us to our accommodation overwhelmed us at the terminal. When I say taxi drivers, I don’t mean the typical taxi drivers you would expect to see in yellow cars in busy cities… but taxi drivers riding horses in carriages.

IMG_8937This is very unique to Gili T and makes it a very bustling place to visit as there are absolutely no motorized vehicles on the island; with everyone getting around on horse or push bike! If you aren’t careful you might get run over by a horse as these guys move fast down the tiny Gili streets!

We decided to make our own way to our accommodation, which was a short walk from the fast boat terminal. We chose to stay at a stunning little spot called Villa Nero, which was just off the main drag. From the minute we arrived on Villa Nero’s property we know we chose somewhere special. From the stunning minimalistic design of the villas, the sparking welcome drink on arrival, to most importantly the service from all staff on property – it was an absolute treat to stay there.

IMG_8907Villa Nero, Gili Trawangan. 

With Gili boasting the reputation of being the Turtle capital of the world, Ben and I were both keen to see these majestic creatures ourselves.

Screen Shot 2017-02-05 at 6.34.57 PMGili T TURTLE! 

As a certified diver; Ben went out on a ‘fun dive’ with Manta Dive Gili Trawangan to a dive spot called Celo Turbo. Celo Terbo was only a short boat trip away from the Gili T’s main beach. When he resurfaced he reported to me when he got back that he spotted: a massive turtle, lion fish, puffer-fish, mantis shrimp and reef stone fish! I was so jealous that within weeks of getting back to Australia I have booked into getting my PADI Open Water Dive Certification!

16426234_10155047053276474_2166986930162670652_nAs I was not certified at the time, I chose to snorkel a few times in Gili and was able to see the stunning colourful reef a few steps off the shore. I also managed to sneak in a stand up paddleboard session as well!

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetThough it was rainy season in Bali, we still managed to find some time to kick back and enjoy the sunshine on the beach. All we needed here… was a Bintang Radler!

UbudPeace, Love, Yoga & Rice Paddies! 

Our last stop on trip to Bali was Ubud. Ubud is commonly known for being Bali’s cultural and spiritual heart. Featured in the famous movie; Eat, Pray, Love starring Julia Roberts – Ubud situates itself in the cool mountains, surrounded amongst various rice paddies. Popular activities in Ubud include (but are not limited to): spa & yoga retreats, hiking up Mt Batur, gazing at local artisans work at the Ubud Markets, enjoying delicious cuisines in the various restaurants and cafes and monkeying around in the Sacred Monkey Forest. There is plenty to do for all types of travellers, and many find Ubud easy to stay and hard to leave.

Anusara Luxury Villas – Ben’s Review

Ubud was a one of those must go and see places and to say that Anusara Luxury Villas sits in the heart of it, well it left me and my partner speechless. In a little world of it’s own and what many would say a ‘honeymoon’ destination, it was actually worth it’s weight in gold. Sitting on one of the most amazing views of rice paddies you can imagine and what is real Indonesia, Bali, it’s safe to say that you don’t need much else.

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Private pool overlooking the Rice Paddies, Anusara Luxury Villas. 

Although segregated and about a 5 minute drive from town, it has multiple opportunities for a ‘free’ shuttle into town and also back, allowing you to experience what Ubud is like in the evening. The original complex we stayed in was impeccable, needless to stay when my partner (me) accidentally got the key stuck in the door, they had the generosity to UPGRADE us to the presidential suite, which they certainly didn’t have to do… (Certainly do not try this for good measure haha).

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Presidential Suite Upgrade, Anusara Luxury Villas. 

Gusti (the chauffeur) was second to none in the customer service he offered with not only the way he was, but also the fun he made us have, singing along to Balinese music – if only you could imagine. We would like to take the time to thank the whole team at Anusara and we hope to be back in the future.’ 

– Benjamin Wootton (Trip Advisor, Feb 2017)

Sacred Monkey Forest

One of the top tourist destinations in Ubud is the Sacred Monkey Forest. Located only a short walk from the Ubud centre; it’s easily accessible from anywhere in Ubud. When we arrived at the monkey forest we purchased some bananas from the vendors; and started to explore through the forest.

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Going Bananas in the Sacred Monkey Forest!

As you can see from the photos – these monkeys are absolutely hilarious! They don’t hesitate to crawl all the way up you to reach for a banana held above your head. Also if you have loose electronics (phones, cameras, etc) in your hands you need to be sure to hold onto them tightly! You can easily spend hours here enjoying the antics of these funny animals.

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Monkeying around! 

Ubud Markets

Located in the heart of Ubud is the Ubud markets. There is no complete trip to South East Asia without a visit to the local markets – discovering all the local artisans work, crafts, jewelry, and plenty more. You can easily get lost in a maze of market stalls with eager sellers showcasing their products. Half the fun of visiting the markets is bartering “your price” vs “their price.” Ben managed to barter himself a NBA basketball jersey and hat from over 400,000 IDR ($40 AUD) down to only 204,000 IDR ($20 AUD). Cheeky, cheeky!

Pod Chocolate

When we were at Single Fin in Uluwatu we were recommended by friends to check out a place in Ubud named Pod Chocolate. I had never heard of this place before and had no idea what to expect or what we were going to see.

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I spy with my little eye… 

Pod Chocolate is a chocolate factory situated on the grounds of an Elephant Camp just north of Ubud. With the chocolate made on location – you can participate in chocolate tours, chocolate making classes or chocolate tastings.

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Complimentary Chocolate shot on arrival! Yummy! 

On top of just the delicious variety of chocolates made on site, you will also find a herd of Sumatran Elephants on property. Ranging from fully-grown (~3 metre high) adult elephants to only 6-day old baby elephant calfs – it was definitely the highlight of my visit.

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The sweetest little Dumbo! 

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Ben has made a new friend!

After spending some time playing with the elephants we headed over to where the sun bears were located. The sun bears were all rescued and brought to Pod Chocolate; where they now all live happily amongst each other and their bear trainer. Occasionally when the bears are in a good mood – tourists are able to get a ‘bear hug’ photo while the bear is feeding.

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Note: The bear is in no way sedated, drugged or mistreated for these photos to happen – they have just been brought up in this environment after being rescued and they have been trained to be tame around humans.

Pod Chocolate is definitely somewhere I would recommend visiting while staying in Ubud. It is only a 1 hour drive from the city centre; and has a reasonably priced entry fee of only 95,000 IDR ($10 AUD).

I absolutely loved my time at Pod Chocolate and I am looking forward to visiting again in the future.

Bali Zoo – Breakfast with Orangutans

On our final day in Ubud, we checked out of our villa bright and early and were taken to the Bali Zoo. One of their most popular exclusive attractions they have at the Bali Zoo is the Breakfast with Orangutans. Included in this experience was: Full buffet breakfast, entrance into the Zoo & personal souvenir photos with the Orangutans.

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This was a big highlight of my time in Ubud as I had never been so close to these creatures before. It’s incredible to see how human-like they are as well – they show expression and emotion on their faces as blatantly as we do! One of the orang-utans you could tell was in a mood as he would sulk… then be happy… then sulk again! It was bloody hilarious to watch and made for such an enjoyable experience. Ben even tried to give him his hat and the little fellow couldn’t be bothered.

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Holding me with his feet! 

I would highly suggest this experience for anyone visiting Ubud. The Bali Zoo is only a short 30 minute drive from the main centre, and only requires a morning from start to finish!

Until next time Bali… 

Bali completely took Ben and I for a surprise. We had heard from others that Bali was just a crazy party place that Aussies enjoy going for spring-break; but we never expected to be blown away by the beauty, culture and nature found within the various places we visited. Each place we went (Uluwatu, Gili T & Ubud) left us wanting more – feeling like we only had a small taster of how unique each destination was. This is my favourite way to leave a place though – so I have a reason to come back!

I haven’t stopped checking flights to Bali since being back… so I will be back soon!

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Until next adventure…

sam C.

The Wild West – Western Australia with Red Earth Safaris

After over two and a half years of living on the East coast of Australia, it was time to see why they all say, The West of Australia is best. With high expectations, 15kg of clothes, a camera and an adventurous spirit I was ready to take on an 8 day road-trip from Perth to Exmouth and back with Red Earth Safaris.

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Kalbarri National Park, Western Australia.

Monday – Day 1

An early morning pickup from the Old Swan Barracks backpackers set the pace for our week of exploring with Neil (our guide) and the rest of our group onboard Red Earth Safaris. We began to make our way North along all of Perth’s beautiful coastal towns – Fremantle, Cottlesloe Beach & Scarbourough Beach. As we cruised along I could already tell that WA was different then the Eastern beaches, first of all they were completely empty! Beautiful crystal clear waters, untouched sands and views out into the sea for miles I could tell I was going to love this place!

As we continued driving, we made our way to the first stop of the day, which was the Yanchep National Park. Amongst the Yanchep National Park is the perfect place to spot koalas, kangaroos and most importantly to visit the Crystal Caves.

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Koala friends in the Yanchep National Park.

After lunch we set off for our evening accommodation in Cervantes, but not before checking out the Lancelin Sand Dunes close by. These sand dunes are perfect for sand boarding, making sand castles, and sand angels! We have about an hour to play around in the sand and catch some awesome photos!

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Lancelin Sand Dunes.

Our accommodation for our first night on the West Coast was in a small coastal town of Cervantes where the beach is just a short walk, and you can see sea lions close to shore. Before dinner we have the chance to explore the area, go for a swim or freshen up for the night.

Just before dinner we made our way to the Nambung National Park to watch the sunset over the famousPinnacles Desert. This was one of the highlights of trip — my travel mate (Allan Dixon) and I didn’t hesitate running around taking loads of silhouette shots, playing hide and seek and testing out my dance skills. At sunset you get a spectrum of yellows, oranges and red’s reflecting off the naturally formed Pinnacles, which creates the perfect opportunity for stunning photos.

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Silhouettes at the Pinnacles Desert, Nambung National Park.

Following sunset, we made our way back to our accommodations for a nice group meal, and an early bedtime that way we were all refreshed for an early morning the following day! Goodnight WA you are beautiful!

Tuesday – Day 2

We departed Cervantes, and headed to our first stop of the day, which was the Greenough Wildlife Park & Sanctuary. We were greeted by the friendly sanctuary staff and given a short tour around the park before being given time to explore on our own.

I easily found a connection and love for one of the albino kangaroos, Sebastian who was bouncing around the park. He is one in 10,000 of his kind, and was an absolute sweetheart. In order to ensure he doesn’t get sunburnt he even had to wear sunscreen on his ears!

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Sebastian the Albino Kangaroo, Greenough Wildlife Park & Sanctuary.

Within the sanctuary you could also see kangaroos, wallabies, snakes, emus, camels, birds, crocodiles and dingos! It was so much fun exploring the park, feeding the animals, and taking heaps of selfies!

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Cheeky kangaroo…

At the end of our visit as we were about to depart Michelle (sanctuary staff) surprised us all and brought out the most adorable joey! I nearly died of cuteness!

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Our next stop of the day was to Hutt River Province. Out of all my travel experiences over the last couple years, I’d have to say that visiting Hutt River was one of the most absurd experiences yet.

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Hutt River Province is a breakaway country located in Australia that was declared an independent province in 1970 by Leonard Casley. This was in response to a dispute with the government of Western Australia over what the Casley family considered wheat production quotas.

You can even get an entrance and exit stamp on your passport when you visit Hutt River!

Following lunch we began our journey up towards Kalbarri National Park and Kalbarri Backpackers, our evening accommodation. When we arrived the lovely hostel owners, and even better 3 hostel dogs greeted us! Kalbarri Backpackers was minutes walk from the beach and had a great BBQ outdoors area. We had the evening to ourselves to explore the area, go for a swim or catch up on some sleep before our Aussie BBQ dinner! One of the best meals of the week – beef burgers, chicken breasts, sausages, kangaroo meatballs and an assortment of freshly made salads! After a long day of exploring this meal went down nicely.

Wednesday – Day 3

Today was a day I had been looking forward to for a while, visiting Kalbarri National Park. We made our way deep into Kalbarri National Park and arrived at the entrance of the Z Bend Gorge. When we arrived we began our hike down into this 400 million year old landscape and got surrounded by sheer cliffs and bouldering rocks. When we arrived at the base we had the option of doing a 25-metre abseil with Kalbarri Abseiling. As the adrenaline junkie I claim to be, I was the first person to put their hand up for this experience!

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Kalbarri Gorge.

The most famous part of Kalbarri National Park is Nature’s Window.

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Nature’s Window is a wind-eroded opening in the layered sandstone that frames a view of the river.

We departed Kalbarri National Park and began our journey further North towards Shark Bay World Heritage Site. Along the way we stopped at the Billabong Roadhouse for lunch, and had an ice cream to cool off!

Shark Bay World Heritage Site is the setting for a variety of popular WA attractions including; Shell Beach, Hamelin Pool Stromatalites and last but not least, Monkey Mia!

Shell Beach was our first stop in Shark Bay Heritage Site. Shell Beach is very unique to other beaches as there is absolutely no sand! It’s completely made out of shells, billions of them! Shell Beach is another great spot to find crabs and jellyfish! The water is also extremely salty at Shell Beach, different than any other beach I have ever visited!

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Shell Beach, Shark Bay.

As we made our way back to our accommodation in Denham; the Western-most town in Australia, we couldn’t help but utilize a long stretched out country road highway for some epic road selfies! Lucky a car didn’t pass by during that time!

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To infinity and beyond…

When we finally arrived at our accommodation for the evening, we had some free time to explore the waterfront, go for a swim… or kayak in the pool!

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Goin’ for a paddle… 

The sunset over the Western-most town in Australia was breath taking! A spectrum of reds, oranges and yellows, accompanied by the palm tree silhouettes created epic photos.

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Denham sunset, Shark Bay. 

It was a great evening along the Coral Coast of Western Australia, and with such a great day today, I could not wait to see what tomorrow would bring!

Thursday – Day 4

Clear skies, and a warm Western wind woke us up on our fourth day on Red Earth Safaris. We were off to one of the highlights of the West Coast, and something I had been very excited to experience… the dolphins of MonkeyMia!

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Bottlenose Dolphins of Monkey Mia, Shark Bay. 

These bottlenose dolphins at Monkey Mia are wild, and have been returning to the same location at the Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort for years on end. It is amazing to see how comfortable they are up against to the dolphin trainers, and how predictable their nature is with the time they arrive at the resort every day. After the dolphin experience we had time to explore the resort, go for a swim, or catch some sun rays on the beach.

We departed Monkey Mia just before lunch and made our way to the Hamelin Stromatalites.

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The Hamelin Pool stromatolites are oldest and largest living fossils on earth. Stromatolites are considered ‘living fossils’, part of the Earth’s evolutionary history.

For the real Western Australia country experience we headed off to our accommodation for the night at WarrorraStation. Warrorra Station is an outback sheep station located inland from the Coral Coast. When we arrived at the station, we dropped our bags off into our rustic accommodation and jumped into the back of the trunk and ventured for the beach. Warrorra Station has hundreds of acres of beachfront on their own and you can’t see another person along the beach for miles. We had the evening to go for a swim, enjoy some snacks on the beach, enjoy dinner and catch the beautiful sunset.

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Warrorra Station Sunset

Friday – Day 5

Up bright and early after a stormy night at Warrorra Station, and on the road to Coral Bay! After a quick coffee stop, we made it to beautiful Coral Bay. As Coral Bay is located on one of the most concentrated parts of the Ningaloo Reef system, it was an obvious choice to head out on a snorkel trip to explore this beautiful part of the West Coast.

Coral Bay Ecotours took us out for a morning snorkel tour visiting 2 unique spots on the Ningaloo Reef. We jumped on board the glass bottom boat and made the quick trip out from the bay to the reef.

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Coral Bay Ecotours snorkel trip on the Ningaloo Reef. 

What is unique about the Ningaloo Reef is how close it is from the shore – you can literally grab a snorkel and swim a couple metres out and the vivid colours of the reef and the diversity of marine life will surround you! You sure can’t do that as easily on the Great Barrier Reef!

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I couldn’t wait to get my snorkel gear on and jump into the water… in fact I was so eager I was the first one off the boat! The colours of the reef were of the rainbow; we saw turtles, and an assortment of different fish species! The water was so blue; it was like nothing I had ever seen before! At one point when we headed towards the boat deck, the crew began a fish feed and you were swarmed by thousands of fishes!

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Hello fishes!

It was the perfect weather and the perfect morning out on the reef – I can’t wait to come back and experience it again soon!

After lunch we had the afternoon to enjoy the untouched beaches, and crystal clear waters of Coral Bay. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves… I could of stayed here forever.

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Coral Bay, Western Australia. 

After a very sad goodbye to Coral Bay, we began our journey to our final destination on our West Coast adventure… Exmouth! We enjoyed the journey and made a few stops along the way; catching all those amazing touristy photos at the Tropic of Capricorn!

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Wahoo! We finally made it to Exmouth! Exmouth is famous for it’s variety of water and land based activities! Most popular include; snorkeling and diving the Ningaloo Reef, swimming with the Whale Sharks, interacting with sea turtles, spending the day with the Manta Rays, fishing, and exploring the Cape Range National Park. It’s an adventurer’s wonderland and well worth the trip from Perth!

We had an early night in Exmouth, in order for us to take full advantage of our day in the 37 degree weather of Exmouth the following day!

Goodnight Exmouth!

Saturday – Day 6

Today was ours to explore! We all had a nice sleep in and met around 9am for our day – first thing planned was heading to Turquoise Bay! We had the morning at our leisure to enjoy the beautiful white sand, and snorkeling in the area. This place is the definition of paradise.

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Turquoise Bay, Exmouth. 

After getting our daily dose of vitamin D, we made our way to Yardie Creek in the Cape Range national park for lunch. We had the opportunity to walk along the creek and take in the exceptional views of the park.

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Yardie Creek, Cape Range National Park.

Just prior to dinner we decided as a group we wanted to check out sunset over the Vlamingh Head Lighthouse. It was the perfect setting to say goodbye to Exmouth, and reflect over our last 6-day travelling from Perth to Exmouth.

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Vlamingh Head Lighthouse, Exmouth.

Our evening was finished off in true country style with enjoying dinner at Exmouth’s famous country pub,Cadillac’s Bar and Grill!

Sunday & Monday – Day 7 & 8

It was time for the long journey back from Exmouth to Perth! We set off at 7am on Sunday morning and headed south. Along the way we stopped to stretch our legs, capture those last touristy shots at some of the quirky roadhouses, and grab a bite.

We arrived at our accommodation in the early evening, and had a couple hours to relax before dinner. Our accommodation was in Northampton at the Old Convent where it is know to be haunted… definitely made for an interesting night and a few stories being passed around! It was our final night as a group and the perfect time to reflect together on how amazing of a trip we had all had along the West Coast.

On Monday morning we arrived back in Perth just before lunchtime. It was a very sad goodbye to the group, and our amazing guide Neil as we all parted ways and continued our wanderlust elsewhere…

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The world is yours to explore… 

Thanks for the incredible trip Red Earth Safaris; you showed me the West Coast in style, and proved why they say… the WEST IS BEST! I am left with ever lasting memories, thousands of new photos and a new appreciation for this side of Australia.

Photos by Allan Dixon (instagram.com/daxon)

Thanks to Red Earth Safaris!

Quokkas, beaches, snorkelling & more! Rottnest Island, Western Australia

A beautiful Sunday morning in Perth, WA brought the perfect opportunity to experience Rottnest Island for the first time. After reading through the Rottnest Express brochure ample times, I was very much looking forward to seeing the “5 Awesome Reasons to Visit Rottnest” first hand. After a full day of exploring the island, I can confidently say there are whole lot more than 5 reasons to visit this magical place in Australia.

Departing from Perth City, Allan and I jumped onto the Rottnest Express Ferry bringing us along the river to Fremantle and onwards to Rottnest Island. The Rottnest Express is decked out with an upper and lower seating deck, outside viewing platform and café to purchase drinks and snacks. Before we knew it we were approaching Rottnest and our day of exploring by land and water was ready to begin!

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Welcome to Rottnest Island!

When we arrived we met up with our friend Annie, and we all grabbed our bikes, snorkels and maps and begin our journey along the south coast of Rottnest. Our first stop of the day was for some Quokka spotting. Quokkas are known to attract visitors to Rottnest from near and far due to their adorable smiles, teddy-bear like appearance, and inquisitive nature. There are nearly 18,000 quokkas that live on Rottnest Island, and can be spotted along the trails, in the bush and sometimes lounging on the beaches! Make sure to get your souvenir Quokka #selfie before you leave – it might gain you a few more followers on Instagram!

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Aren’t they adorable! – Quokkas of Rottnest Island.

There are 62 sandy beaches and 20 secluded bays nestled into Rottnest Island’s landscape – giving you various options of snorkeling spots and tanning opportunities to choose from!

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Little Salmon Bay, Rottnest Island.

We continued along the coastal bike trail and made our way to our first of many beach stops for the day, Porpoise Bay. Porpoise Bay has beautiful white sand, and is perfect for walking and snorkeling. It is backed with steep dunes and cliffs and presents with views of the Australia mainland in the distance. Another attractive quality for people interested in snorkeling around Porpoise Bay is the “Lady Elizabeth” Shipwreck of 1878, which is located metres off the beach in-between Rottnest and Dyer Island.

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Snorkelling the Lady Elizabeth Shipwreck. 

After dragging our sun-kissed bodies off the sand, we jump onto our bikes and headed west on the island towards Salmon Bay. Before we managed to get to Salmon Bay we got stopped by the beautiful conditions of it’s baby sister; Little Salmon Bay. Little Salmon Bay is in the island’s southernmost promontory that also contains Parker Point and Salmon Bay. This area of the island is known as one of the best snorkeling spots around Rottnest Island, suitable for all levels of snorkeling. The bay is rich in marine life and presents with some of the best coral reefs on Rottnest! Parker Point (located just East of Little Salmon Bay) is another great snorkeling spot as it is always full of diverse fish life! If you are all snorkeled out for the day, Parker Point is nonetheless a beautiful lookout point where you can sit and admire the beauty of Rottnest’s coastline.

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Rottnest Island coastline by bike. Stunning!

As our return ferry to the mainland was set to pick us up from the terminal shortly after 4pm, we began our bike journey back to the entrance. Along the way we kept our eyes open for Quokkas on the trails, and we didn’t hesitate to stop for one last #selfie to end off the day as it began.

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Making new friends on Rottnest Island. 

A full day on Rottnest Island with Rottnest Express: Experience Rottnest gave us a good taste of how beautiful and diverse this Island is on land and underwater! With only a quarter of the island explored, I look forward to revisiting soon to explore the remaining beaches, secluded bays and adorable Quokka hideaways – you truly could spend days on end exploring the hidden secrets of Rottnest’s landscape.

Photos: Allan Dixon (instagram.com/daxon)

With thanks to Rottnest Express.  https://www.rottnestexpress.com.au/

Exploring Australia’s Top End – Crocosaurus Cove & Kakadu National Park

As I slowly tick off my Australia travel bucket list, Darwin located in the Northern Territory was one of the final places I needed to experience. Through working in travel, and by following many social media influencers for the past couple years; I have been intrigued by the landscapes and natural attractions that are present in Darwin. With that it only made sense that with having a week off work, I’d make the trip North to visit Darwin!

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Twin Falls, Kakadu National Park

Darwin City – Crocosaurus Cove

My adventure in Darwin began Monday morning as I made my way along Mitchell Street exploring all the towns’ shops and cafes. The sun was shining, and the temperature was a beautiful 30 degrees Celsius! This was quite a nice change from the crisp and cold 10-degree weather down in Melbourne. I made my way to the Backpackers World Travel shop to visit the team there, and they made sure to let me know about all the cool things to do while staying in Darwin! Before lunch I headed to the sundeck at the Youthshack to catch some rays as I waited for my tour around The Crocosaurus Cove.

Crocosaurus Cove located in the heart of Mitchell Street in Darwin and is the world’s largest display of Australian reptiles! In addition it is ‘home to the Cage of Death, the only cage in the world that brings you face to face with some of the largest Saltwater Crocodiles in captivity.’ Being one of the must-do activities when visiting Darwin, I couldn’t wait for my chance in the cage! After wandering the grounds of Crocosaurus Cove, I made my way to join the thousands of other risk-takers who have jumped into the Cage of Death.

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Entering the Cage of Death

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Hello Chopper!

“Operated by an over-head monorail and designed for 1 or 2 people per cage, the Cage of Death has you suspended above the crocs before being lowered into the pen to get an up close and personal look at these amazing reptiles.”

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Suspended over Chopper… dun dun dunnnn

The most memorable part of this experience was when I would do a flip and get a bit disorientated… leaving me being face to face with Chopper the crocodile; that sure gave me a fright!

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Crocodile Selfie!

Following the Cage of Death, I had the opportunity of facing yet another fear… holding a reptile… a baby crocodile to be exact! To be honest… I was more nervous about this than getting in the cage with the 4 metre crocodile!

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Pucker up mister!

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Where’d he go?

In the evening, I met up with a few work friends and we headed to Monsoons for dinner and drinks! It was the perfect ending to my adventurous thrilling day in Darwin! It was an early night as I had a 5AM wake-up call to catch my Wayoutback 4WD Dragonfly Top End Safari!

Wayoutback Australian Safaris – Darwin to Litchfield National Park

Bright and early in the morning I was picked up by the Wayoutback 16-seater 4WD bus to begin our journey through the Top End. As we made out way to Litchfield National Park our first stop of the day was visiting the Magnetic Termite mounds. Built by termites over thousands of years, the termite mounds are amazing architectural feats complete with arches, tunnels, chimneys, insulation and nursery chambers.

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Wangi Falls, Litchfield National Park

As we entered the park our first stop was at Wangi Falls. Here we had the opportunity to do a hike, go for a swim or head to the café for a drink. Wangi Falls is a beautiful swimming hole that presents with cascading waterfalls, as well as secret hideaway to your own private swimming pool amongst the rock-face.

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Within Litchfield National Park there are various other beautiful waterfalls and lookouts to appease the eyes of it’s visitors. To name a couple, Tolmer Falls and Florence Falls are two of the more popular sites to check out.

My highlight of Litchfield National Park was the Buley Rockholes. The Buley Rockhole is a series of waterfalls and rock-holes, where you will find your own spot to swim and relax.

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Buley Rockhole, Litchfield National Park

Following the rock pools we made our way along the 4WD track to our camp for the night at Point Stuart Camp. Our campsite for the evening had permanent tents with beds, a communal dining area and toilet/shower facilities only a short walk away!

Mary River National Park to Kakadu National Park

A sunrise Mary River Crocodile Cruise started our morning in the National Park. The Mary River region is an area with the highest concentration of saltwater crocodiles found in the world! Along the cruise had the opportunity of spotting various different birds, and crocodiles!

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Mary River Wetlands Cruise

Following the cruise we began our off-roading journey into Kakadu National Park where we were to be visiting Twin Falls and Jim Jim Falls (only 4WD accessible).

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To get to Twin Falls, we had to travel by a 4-wheel drive track, a boat shuttle service and finally a rocky walking track and boardwalk! It seems like quite a mission… but I can guarantee it is worth the trip! Once we arrived at Twin Falls we had the chance to relax on the sandy banks and enjoy the view of the falls!

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Twin Falls, Kakadu National Parl

The next stop (and my personal highlight of the entire trip) was to Jim Jim Falls! To get to Jim Jim Falls there was more 4-wheel driving and when we arrived you have to walk through monsoon forest and over boulders. This will inevitably take you to the waterfall and plunge pool, which is surrounded, by 150 metre cliffs.

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Jim Jim Falls, Kakadu National Park

A short swim across the plunge pool and you will find yourself underneath the falls, getting an amazing massage on your back by the cascading waterfall! This is a travel moment I will never forget!

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Arriving just after sunset, we made our way to our campsite for the night located within Kakadu National Park. After a long day of 4WDing and exploring, it was an early night for the group!

Kakadu National Park To Darwin

It was the final day of our Wayoutback Dragonfly 4WD Safari in the Top End of Australia. Today had a more relaxed itinerary planned as we made our way back through to Darwin. The main highlight of this day was visiting Ubirr and the rock art sites.

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Ubirr Rock Art

“Ubirr is within the East Alligator region of Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory of Australia, and is known for its rock art. It consists of a group of rock outcrops on the edge of the Nadab floodplain where there are several natural shelters that have a collection of Aboriginal rock paintings, some of which are many thousands of years old.”

We spent the afternoon viewing the various rock art sites, as well as enjoying the view of Kakadu National Park from the Ubirr rocky lookout.

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Ubirr Lookout of Kakadu National Park

Following Ubirr, we began our journey back to Darwin. Along the way we stopped at the infamous Kakadu National Park entrance sign to capture one last photo to remember the amazing trip we just had!

The last five days spent in the Top End are some that I won’t ever forget! A big thanks to Crocosaurus Cove, the Youthshack and Wayoutback Australian Safaris for showing me the magic found in Darwin and it’s surroundings! This is not goodbye – I will definitely be back to explore some more!

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Until next adventure!

– s.clarkey