Aruba wasn’t necessarily on my bucket list. But we were going to Colombia for the Christmas holidays, and decided we wanted an easy, idyllic beach destination for the last days of our trip… and the flights and hotels happened to work out well. Aruba, a little overseas territory of the Netherlands nicknamed “one happy island”, turned out to be exactly what we needed and much more!Continue reading “Lots of cool things to do in Aruba”
The Tayrona National Park, in the Caribbean coast of Colombia, is worth a visit, especially if you find yourself in Cartagena looking for other things to do beyond the beautiful colonial city. But it’s not particularly easy to get to, nor to visit, and it gets packed, so planning ahead is highly recommended (and visiting off-season even more ;)). The main entrance to the park is El Zaino, about 1 hour east of Santa Marta, which in turn is about 4 hours north east of Cartagena. You can either take a public bus to Santa Marta, and then another public bus to the park, and might need to spend a night in Santa Marta in between, or spend $20 to get a shared shuttle straight from your hotel in Cartagena to the park.
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:
We had wrapped up the North Island on a very high note with the Tongariro Crossing, and after a short flight from Wellington to Nelson, were ready to kick off the South Island with another epic hike: the Abel Tasman Coast Track. We had originally planned to do 3 days / 2 nights from Marahau to Totaranui, but the weather forecast for our first day was so terrible, that we shortened it to 2 days / 1 night. We spent the extra day in Nelson, chilling and preparing for the hike, and we were very glad we did so, because: (1) all the hikers we met who had been in the park that day were soaking wet and miserable, and (2) we were able to arrange the perfect logistics.
- Penang, its street art and food
- Diving in Sipadan
- Orangutans in Sepilok
- Sydney and its beaches
- Diving in the Great Barrier Reef
- Whitsunday Islands
- Uluru and the Red Center
For diving lovers like us, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef had always been at the top of our bucket list. We are usually economic travelers, staying in backpacker hostels, taking public buses, and eating street food as much as possible. But when it came to the GBR, we knew it was time to splurge. We booked ourselves on a 4 nights / 14 dives liveaboard with Mike Ball Expeditions, one of the most prominent scuba operators in the world. And the trip was nothing short of perfect.
Our last days in Australia had been sour-sweet… the terrible weather we experienced in Fraser Island and the fact that we had to cancel our attempt to dive the Yongala shipwreck, had been partially compensated by some epic New Year’s Eve fireworks. We were flying back home to LA on the morning of January 2nd and hadn’t planned anything for the 1st, thinking we would wake up late and maybe make one last trip to our beloved Bondi Beach. But as we walked back to our hotel from the NYE party, we wondered… what if we could have one last adventure? The idea of going to Jervis Bay came up immediately. We had looked into this perfect white sand beaches before, but hadn’t been able to make the trip for one reason or another. Being about 3 hours south of Sydney, we thought that you needed multiple days to visit Jervis properly… but why not try to do it as a day trip, and end our time in Australia with a bang?
Fraser is the world’s largest sand island, and one of Australia’s premier adventure destinations. Accommodation on the island is very limited (and quite expensive), and roads are almost nonexistent. So the most typical way to visit is on a self-driving 4WD camping trip, be it as part of a guided group (in which case you are clustered with other travelers), or on your own. If you’ve read this blog, you’ll know which option we chose.
One of the things we really wanted to do in our time in Australia was interact with the autochthonous fauna. We wanted to spend time observing koalas and kangaroos, beyond our brief encounters in Hamilton Island and the Red Center, respectively. And we wanted to get close and touch the animals, if possible. A bit of online research showed us that Queensland was the best state to do so (koala cuddling is not allowed in Sydney / New South Wales, for example), and that the Cairns Tropical Zoo was the perfect place.