I’VE been incredibly fortunate in the past few years, in the course of my travel writing adventures, to indulge in some of the most amazing experiences that exist between humans and animals. Here’s 8 I’ve done that I’ll reckon you’ll love.
1. Walk with the Polar Bears
To be utterly honest, I was more frightened of how cold I expected it to be up in arctic Canada, than being eaten by a polar bear, and I was right. This trip-of-a-lifetime sees you fly into Winnipeg, where you will overnight and be fitted with your polar gear (which assists greatly with minus 14 degree Celsius temperatures). The next day you’ll fly to Churchill, and then board a tiny plane out to Seal River Heritage Lodge. Here, Churchill Wild runs “walk with the polar bear” safaris out on the arctic tundra framing wild and remote Hudson Bay. So unthreatened are these beautiful animals by this tour, one 400kg male came within 10 metres of our group. Sublime.
2. Snorkel with Salmon
In this instance, I WAS frightened of bears, but I had no real reason. On this adventure, you fly out of Vancouver over to Vancouver Island and Campbell River. Here, you can join an eclectic journey with Destiny River Adventures where you will board a raft and paddle down Campbell River, before plunging into 14 degree waters. Yes, chilly, but worth it, as you plummet down the rapids, dodging rocks and snorkelling with salmon. There’s three pools to experience here (in pool two you are advised to fly like a super hero to avoid being shredded to bits by the rocks). And no, there are no grizzly bears waiting by the shoreline to feast on salmon, or you, as it’s the wrong season. What you will experience is a thrill of a lifetime, and come face-to-face with some friendly seals as well.
3. Sail to see the Komodo Dragons
I LOVE lizards and any reptile for that matter, and had always longed to see the komodo dragons. But arriving at Komodo National Park is not as simple as it seems. However, there exists an incredible adventure which makes the journey a dream. Head out with Indonesian Island Sail on its traditional timber boat, and you can spend 14 glorious days sailing from Bali to Komodo and back. Along the way you’ll feast on fabulous food, snorkel some of the clearest waters in the region, swim with manta rays and turtles, and arrive at Komodo National Park where you can snatch a selfie with those gorgeous giants.
4. Float with the Manta Rays
Did someone mention manta rays? A few years ago, while staying on Hawaii’s Big Island, I had the fabulous fortune of a night float with the manta rays. Courtesy of Manta Ray Advocates, at Kona, after dark you are taken out into the bay on an outrigger canoe. Then, when the conditions are just right, you are invited to slip into the ocean. Holding on to a surf board with handles, and sporting a snorkel and mask, you are invited to plunge your face into the ocean and watch as the magnificent mantas swim right up to you. If you are lucky, they will eye-ball you before they perform a tumble turn.
5. Drive a Reindeer or Husky Sleigh
They are hard-core up in Finnish Lapland and it’s easy to see why. When you have months of darkness during winter, and the temperature plummets to minus 40 degrees Celsius, you tend to be made of serious stuff. Up at Beana Laponia Wilderness Boutique Hotel, a working husky farm, you are invited to not only join a husky safari, but are taught how to drive the team. Yes, you can become a musher. And it is seriously great fun as you fly through snowy trails in a pure-white winter wonderland. For those looking for something a little more sedate, the hotel can also arrange for you to do a reindeer safari. Not as fast or as fun as the huskies, but if Santa is your thing, this might be right up your alley.
6. Meditate with a Horse
If only the horse could talk. One of my craziest animal experiences to date, this one occurred in the Gold Coast Hinterland at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat. Sure, you can do yoga, tai-chi or go bushwalking, or, if you’re like me, you can indulge in a one-hour meditation session with a horse. At first I was dubious, but it became very obvious during this session that Jack knew far more than I realised. Horses are used for therapy as it is believed they can pick up on human emotions (without any of the bullshit) and from my experience, Jack was spot on. When I was nervous, Jack was skittish. When I lost confidence leading him around the ring, so, too, did Jack. By the end of this session I was able to command Jack to gallop, and stop, purely by using my breath.
7. Witness hatching Turtles
There’s few nicer things in nature than watching an animal begin its life journey and at Bundaberg, on Queensland’s Southern Great Barrier Reef, you can do just that. Between November and January, head to Mon Repos Beach and watch the lady loggerhead turtles lay their eggs, and then, between January and March, you can encounter the hatchlings as they erupt from the nests. Carefully managed by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, join a ranger on a guided tour at night on the beach and your life will never quite be the same again. https://www.bundabergregion.org/turtles/mon-repos-turtle-encounter
8. Hang out with some cool Cats
If you’ve ever wanted to witness Africa’s Big Five, this is your chance. And at Sabi Sabi Luxury Safari Lodges, you can do this in style. Plonked within South Africa’s Kruger National Park, each day you’ll head out on two safaris, one before dawn and the other before dusk, for your best chances of seeing animals in their wild habitat. Again, I was initially worried about being mauled by a lion, but you are in a four-wheel drive with a ranger and a spotter who are fastidious about safety. And, by the end of my trip, I was even going on walking safaris, out in the open, with the exceptional guides who will explain animal tracks and the stories behind them.
AND ONE I CAN’T WAIT TO DO
9. Swim with the Whales
Last year, I was all set to slip into the Pacific Ocean off of the Sunshine Coast and swim with the whales, but wild weather prevented that adventure. But each year, between July and October, when the humpback whales are migrating from Antarctica to breed and play in Queensland’s warm waters, visitors have the opportunity to go out with Sunreef Mooloolaba to get wet with the whales. You hold onto a floating line attached to the boat, and then it’s up to these mammoth mammals as to how close they wish to get to you. Watch this space…
What animal experiences have you done that you’ve loved or want to do? My list doesn’t end. At number 10, I want to swim with the whale sharks and do a shark cage dive
THIS is the headline which screeched across my desk late last week. And naturally, being a lover of romance (and travel), my curiosity was piqued. Turns out the fun folk at Tourism Fiji are using Fiji’s famed sense of humour to entice us to their islands. With Valentine’s Day next week, I thought I’d take a closer look at what they have in mind. And even for single girls, like me, there’s plenty of “unromantic” options to keep you occupied.
1. Feed the sharks
Feeling a little fishy? Personally, I can think of a few Brisbane blokes who I would like to feed TO the sharks, but apparently this is not an option. On this adventure you’ll join Fiji’s “shark whisperer” Brandon Paige of Aqua-Trek on a dream dive with 8 species of sharks. Yes, you’ll see bull sharks, whitetip reef sharks, blacktip reef sharks, nurse sharks, lemon sharks, grey reef sharks, silvertip sharks and 16-foot+ tiger sharks. Plus, there’s more than 300 species of fish out in this marine reserve which aims to conserve the shark population.
2. Zipline Fiji
The Global Goddess is not a huge fan of heights (unless it’s a penthouse suite) but for others far braver than me, there’s nothing better than flying through the air with the greatest of ease. Take an eco-friendly zipline adventure across 14ha of lush rainforest where you’ll soar over rivers and waterfalls. Sleeping Giant Zipline, 35 minutes from Nadi, boasts five zips ranging from 80m to 160m and flying at speeds up to 40km/h. Much more my style, afterwards, you can take a guided walk through the jungle to view the Orchid Falls.
3. Soak in the Sabeto Hot Springs
This “unromantic” offering actually sounds quite romantic to me. I mean, smothering yourself with mud? Situated between Nadi and Lautoka, the Sabeto Hot Springs are a series of natural hot springs where you can soak in a therapeutic natural thermal mud spa. Locals believe that the sulphur in the hot springs have healing properties. There’s three pools here, set in lush natural surroundings. They’ve supplied the mud, all I need now is a man to join me.
4. Climb Fiji’s highest mountain
Another activity for lovers of heights, you can climb Mt Tomaniivi, Fiji’s highest, trekking through cloud forest to a summit of 1323. Talanoa Treks offers an overnight excursion and on a clear day, you will be rewarded with views across Viti Levu. The bit of this trip I do like the sound of is the afternoon tea and a dip in the river before heading back to the coast. Just plonk me in a helicopter and I’ll see you up there.
5. Potter around The Pottery Village
Can arts and craft be considered sexy? Decide this for yourself at Nakabuta Village, one of the villages still making traditional Fijian pottery. Here, you’ll witness traditional pottery-making methods. What is rather romantic is the opportunity to shop and you’ll discover Nakabuta-made bowls, plates and other items in craft shops all over town.
6. Drive your own dune buggy
The Global Goddess loves a good driving trip and this one sounds like fun, whether there’s a bloke in the buggy or not. Grab one of Fiji’s only self-drive dune buggies and join a guided tour with Terratrek. On this jaunty journey, you’ll discover Fiji’s most beautiful waterfalls and rainforests or head up into the mountains for panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean.
7. Explore Fiji’s largest cave
I’ve personally done this tour and loved it. Hop aboard an Off-Road Cave Safari where you’ll delve deep into Fiji’s interior and learn about its cannibalism history. People who eat people, what’s not to admire? My favourite part of this tour was walking through Fiji’s largest cave system, Naihehe Cave, which is more than 170 metres long, and at one point, if you don’t fit under a particularly tight spot, it apparently means you’ll become pregnant.
8. Shop like the locals
The Global Goddess isn’t particularly a shopper back in Australia, but plonk me somewhere exotic, and I’ll happily wander for hours. Forage like a Fijian at the Sigatoka Market, which bursts into life in the early hours of the morning. The stunning Sigatoka River Valley is known as “Fiji’s salad bowl” due to its fertile land and you’ll find plenty of pretty produce here.
9. Jetboat the Sigatoka River
One of my all-time favourite Pacific adventures, Sigatoka River Safari is Fiji’s original jet-boat safari. This splashy tour cruises at screaming speed along the Sigatoka River, so if romance to you is having nice hair, forget it. What you will get, however, is a cool ride to authentic Fijian villages and experience a day in the life of a real ‘kaiviti’ (Fijian). If you’re lucky, a handsome Fijian will ask you to dance.
10. Discover Glass Blowing
I’m intrigued by this activity, as I’ve never heard of this in Fiji before. Head to Hot Glass Fiji in Korotogo, and Fiji’s first and only glass-blowing studio. Here, with its views out to the sea, you can partake in a glass-blowing workshop or watch the artists create beautiful pieces from molten glass.
For more information on these activities and the Islands of Fiji, see www.fiji.travel
The Global Goddess took these shots while staying at the beautiful Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort, which, admittedly, is very romantic. https://www.outrigger.com/hotels-resorts/fiji
MY lips and tongue are so swollen it’s like I’ve been drinking salty margaritas. I have chaffing on the undersides of both arms, sunburn on my nose and back, and my legs are jellyfish, but my soul is soaring for I have just completed my first ever ocean swim. I am on Australia’s Lord Howe Island reporting on Pinetrees Lodge Ocean Swim Week with ironman Ali Day, and just for the heck of it, I decide that this week, I too, shall get wet. I mean, I have swum in an ocean, so how hard can an ocean swim be?
As per usual, the adventure begins before I arrive at the destination. Regular readers will know that The Global Goddess is a neurotic flyer and I glance at the Dash 8 aircraft in which I am to travel with barely-concealed contempt. This rises to a mild fear when about 30 minutes before we arrive we hear a loud bang, the plane starts to shudder and we start to descend. It’s a good five minutes later before the handsome voice that only Australian pilots seem to possess comes over the loud speaker to inform us there is nothing to fear, we just have ice on the wings. And to think I thought I might die of a shark attack this week.
We arrive safely on the island, a glorious emerald punctuation mark off the Australian east coast, about equidistant from Brisbane and Sydney. On Day One, we gather in front of the Boat Shed where we are reminded it’s a non-competitive week and we are here to have fun. I love to swim and am confident my laps in the University of Queensland pool in the lead up to this event will stand me in good stead. Heck, as part of my training instead of avoiding the fat kid who’d do a bomb dive and cause a massive wave, I practically invited him to jump on top of me to replicate some swell. The fact I took a brief break from my training while I was in Indonesia over Christmas, unless you count the repeated dog paddling to the pool bar, should be overlooked, I reasoned with myself.
We are taken out in a boat offshore in which there is considerable swell, courtesy of a tropical low hanging around this remote island. I’m one of the first off the boat and I’m struggling as the pack glides past me. Worse, I feel seasick and I can’t find my flow. Just as I’m about to panic at my serious lack of ability and the fact I’ve wasted a considerable fortune and time on swimming training, I turn to find Ali Day beside me, asking me what’s going on in my head. “I’m so far behind everyone, I can’t keep up” I sputter, my mouth full of salt water.
Ali reminds me we’re here to have fun. “Come on, we’ll swim together,” he says, proving it takes more than just being a good swimmer to be an elite athlete. You need compassion too. And so, I push on. Breathless, 2.8km and 1hr and 10 minutes later, I wash up on shore. But I am elated, as I made it.
On Day Two the tropical low hasn’t abated even in the normally calm Ned’s Beach on the other side of the island. Ali takes us through deep breathing exercises before he points to the swell and directs us that we’ll be swimming two rounds of a triangle out to sea, before turning a sharp left and then another sharp left into shore. I strike out early again, and keep up with the pack for the first round, before I succumb to seasickness and withdraw after about 1km. I’m mentally beating myself up when the pack returns after its second round. I resolve two things: to buy some seasick tablets and to relax and enjoy the next swim.
The tide turns for me on Day Three and we’re dropped offshore in the Lagoon where I seem to glide effortlessly along the shoreline. The coral is stunning, the sun is shining, and the swell is at our backs, beckoning us along. None of us stop at the allocated point and instead swim on, back to the Boat Shed. Two hours and 3.8km later I float into shore. I’m the second to finish and can’t stop smiling. (A few of the super swimmers might have been off climbing the 875 metre Mount Gower that day). Even the fat kid back the University of Queensland pool would be astounded. I have found my flow and that night, I sleep like the dead. I am confident that I have finally become an elite athlete and can already picture myself crossing the line first in the Coolangatta Gold, clad in my Kellogg’s Nutrigrain sponsored swimwear. I fantasise about launching my own swimwear range, such are my delusions of grandeur.
But on Day Four the swell has returned and so has my good mate motion sickness as we attempt to swim from Rabbit Island to North Bay. It’s a washing machine out there with the turn of the tide and I find myself saying out loud just as I jump off the boat: “I have zero confidence today.” Ali hears this and again, offers to swim with me, asking me what’s going on in my head. I tell him I feel sick and I’m struggling in the swell to gain any technique. He reminds me to breathe only from one side to gain more air and to just focus on enjoying the moment. I point again to the pack disappearing ahead of me in the waves. “Don’t worry Chris, I’ve been there before, believe me,” he says. It has never occurred to me that elite athletes feel like this and that’s all I need to hear to start punching into the waves. I punch and punch out of sheer stubbornness and a fair whack of anger at the ocean. Ali swims beside me and tells me I only have 50 metres to go. “That’s one lap of the university pool,” I pant. “Yep, just one shitty lap of the university pool,” he says. One hour and 2.4km later I arrive on the beach.
Day Five is just as choppy as we cross the Lagoon to Rabbit Island. It’s our last swim of the week and I’m determined to enjoy this, particularly when Ali reminds us that on Monday we’ll be back at our desks, wishing we were in the ocean. I breathe, I focus on long strokes, a face flat in the water, and relaxed hands that “catch the water”. It’s not an easy swim but I stay with the front of the pack and in what seems like 20 minutes, not 1.5 hours and 2.3km later, I wash up on the pebbly shore. Later that day I realise I have swum a massive 12km in five days. I have remarkably refused every offer to catch a boat or board ride into shore. And I have powered on when both my stomach and heart was sinking in the swell. My mind drifts back to Ali’s words on the first day: “We are going to be a bit uncomfortable at times but that’s where the good stuff happens.” And good stuff it is, indeed.
The Global Goddess travelled to Lord Howe Island as a guest of Pinetrees Lodge. For more details on a range on Ocean Swim Week and other interesting and adventurous weeks hosted by Pinetrees go to http://www.pinetrees.com.au
A special shout-out to the Kingscliff Mafia Swim Squad who recognised when The Global Goddess was floundering, and swam beside her, offering words of encouragement. I’ll see you in the Cudgen Creek soon.
IF you’re searching for answers in your life, they say you should look for the signs. In Indonesia, the signs find you. They’re colourful, often riddled with bad spelling, but always amusing. In Part Two of my Indonesian photo blog series, please look at these signs. (And feel free to share any you’ve encountered on your travels in the comments section, below).
There are the saucy signs…
The shark signs…
The rather obvious signs…
And even one for the cat lovers…
The Global Goddess funded her own travels to Indonesia