Let’s get the #1 question out of the way: no, I did not summit Everest. I did, however, hike to Base Camp, spend a fair amount of time there, climb up to Camp 1 and Camp 2, and share the whole experience with true mountaineers and aficionados alike… in one of the deadliest seasons in Everest history. The experience, in fact, left me so raw, it’s taking me over a month to sit down and write this post.
After five days in Mahe, we took the ferry to La Digue. This island is fairly different from the main one, much smaller and with a limited number of cars, everyone moves around in bicycles. And although there are hotels, most people stay in so-called self-catering rentals, which you can easily find on Airbnb. These were the spots we visited over a little under three days:
Anse Source d’Argent: This beach is the most famous one in all of the Seychelles, as it has been named “the most beautiful beach in the world” in many rankings. Unfortunately, that means it gets crowded with tourists, while many other equally stunning beaches across the country are pretty much empty, and this really detracts from the experience. In addition, the beach is inside a private estate, so you have to pay 115 rupees / ~$10 to get in… except we found a loophole: we were able to get in two different days by walking in the water from the beach further north J It’s worth noting that they control the exit on the land, so if you “break in” you must “break out”, and that things get very tricky when the tide goes up (read: water up to your throat).
The beach itself is comprised of several coves with thin white sand and very cool boulders. The water is extremely clear and you can spot large fish easily, but swimming is not particularly easy due to coral reefs and seaweed. In addition to the beach, the estate has interesting plantations (e.g., vanilla), and giant tortoises you can feed, though these are in an enclosure and not very active. All in all, we did enjoy Source d’Argent the two times we went there, but I would definitely not put it at the top of my list of things to do in Seychelles, not even in La Digue.
Grande Anse, Petite Anse, Anse Cocos: On our second day in La Digue, we rented bikes (100 rupees / ~$7 per day, cheaper on the main road than at hotels) and headed south. The ride was very enjoyable, and we made it to Grand Anse in about 20 min, after a quick stop at a minimart to buy snacks (since takeaway places didn’t seem to open until lunch time). Grand Anse was yet another fantastic beach, but maybe a bot rough for swimming. So we left our bikes behind (no lock needed in this tiny island) and kept going.
From behind Grand Anse, we took the trail that led us to Petite Anse in barely 10-15 min. Once again, the beach didn’t disappoint: turquoise waters and white sands, lined by palm trees and boulders. It was scorching hot, the first day we had had with no clouds and no signs of rain. Luckily, the locals who run a juice bar on the beach had built a handful of shacks out of palm tree leafs, and we were early enough to grab one.
After chilling for a bit, we continued on, taking the trail just behind the juice bar towards Anse Cocos. This trail was a bit longer, around 30-40 min, and rockier, and we were glad we had sneakers with us rather than just flip-flops. Anse Cocos immediately won me over, I’d definitely say it’s the best beach in La Digue. The sand was extremely soft and fluffy, and the water had all shades of blue and green. And on the far end, beyond the first boulders, there was an unreal natural pool with even more clear and calm waters. We spent hours there, playing in the water and sand like kids J In the late afternoon, we biked back to town, stopping at Ray and Josh Café to grab some delicious curry.
North shore, Anse Severe: On our last day in La Digue, we rode north, enjoying the scenic shoreline, and eventually turning around and settling at Anse Severe. The sand was not as good as in other beaches, and the coral reef and low tide made it hard to swim, making it easier to just lay in the shallows. But we still liked it, because it was very laid back and the water was as perfect as everywhere in the Seychelles.
And in any case, we had a different agenda: we wanted to see tortoises in the wild and they hang out in the area. During the day it was too hot and they were sleeping tucked under the trees, so we went on another bike ride to Source d’Argent and to the nature reserve in the middle of the island, and by the time we came back two tortoises were out on the road. It was very cool observing them, they looked like dinosaurs, and they don’t seem to mind being petted! Anse Severe was also a perfect spot for a final sunset and a final fruit juice in the Seychelles.
- The pyramids of Giza
- The temples and tombs around Luxor
- Diving in the Red Sea, especially the Thistlegorm wreck
Egypt is a classic diving destination, maybe not as epic as Australia or Malaysia, but probably on par with Indonesia or Belize. And the best way to enjoy it, like all these, is on a liveaboard. We did the King Snefro 3-day trip and it was fantastic!
3 years ago, I went to Tonga for one of the most epic experiences of my travel life – swimming with humpback whales – and I ended up suffering my biggest disappointment – there were no whales to be seen. I still had an amazing time in Tonga, exploring its gorgeous landscapes and unique culture, and I promised myself I would come back one day. A couple of weeks ago, when I saw that the whale swimming season was in full blow, I didn’t think it twice, and I booked a flight to Vava’u over Labor Day weekend. As I fly back home, I can’t erase the smile from my face, it’s been such a dream come true.
And just like that, after 10 unbelievable days driving across New Zealand, we were entering the final leg of our trip: Queenstown and Milford Sound. For this part, we were going to meet up with an old Spanish friend of mine and her kiwi husband, making it extra special!
This was a trip that I had been dreaming about for years, one of those epic adventures on the same scale as hiking in Nepal, driving through African reserves, backpacking across Southeast Asia, or sailing in Polynesia. Landing in Auckland, the largest city of New Zealand (though not the capital, that honor is reserved for Wellington), I looked ahead to an unforgettable road trip. The plan was simple: get in through Auckland, near the north tip of NZ’s North Island, get out two weeks later through Queenstown, near the south end of the South Island.
I always say that for the highest concentration of breathtaking views and mind-blowing adventures one doesn’t need to look further than the West Coast of the US. Sometimes we travel far seeking picture-perfect landscapes and epic hikes, and forget to explore our backyards. For those lucky enough like me to live in the West Coast, our backyard happens to be packed with world wonders.
This is my list of top 10 sites – I tried to balance best views with best hikes, depending on what you’re looking for, you will want to prioritize differently. But you might not need to choose, all of the below can be tackled in a 3 week ultimate road trip! If you go for this, get the National Parks Annual Pass.
- Penang, its street art and food
- Diving in Sipadan
- Orangutans in Sepilok
Seeing orangutans was one of our main goals in our Malaysia trip. We weren’t able to do it in the wild, at Kinabatangan, but the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center offered a semi-wild setting with guaranteed sightings. The reserve is a large area of protected forest, where 60-80 orangutans live free, and also contains a nursery for 20-30 orphan orangutans. It’s a great initiative to protect these extraordinary animals, which are under huge pressure due to deforestation and trafficking.