Wilsons Promontory National Park in Australia is one of my favourite places in the world. Affectionately known as The Prom, this park has pristine beaches with squeaky-white sand and some gorgeous coves that can be discovered by strapping on a pack and going overnight hiking.
One of my favourite hikes is the three-day loop from Mt Oberon carpark to Sealers Cove, Refuge Cove and Little Waterloo Bay. We happened to hike it in the middle of winter and on the first day there was a light mist falling while we were walking. Only after we’d reached our first camping site and pitched our tent, did the heavens open with torrential rain. From the comfort and warmth of our sturdy little tent, we could hear the chaos of other less fortunate campers. Many of them abandoned their hike the next day, as everything got wet. But for us, the weekend was perfect. The next two days were sunny and we witnessed this incredible sunrise over Refuge Cove.
Do you have a favourite place to go camping and hiking? One of the things I love the most about getting outdoors is that you do get to see beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and you are more vulnerable to the weather. Do you have any memorable experiences?
Having done most of my hiking in Australia, it’s always a bit surreal setting off on a hike in North America and having to think about the wildlife we might encounter.
Once I was with a couple of Canadian friends on Vancouver Island and one of them was carrying a big stick, which I thought was just a walking stick. He told me it was for fighting off cougars, but he was a bit of a larrikin – like the tour guides I’ve met at home, who tell tourists about Australia’s deadly drop-bears – so I’m still not 100 per cent sure he was serious! Fortunately, I’ve never seen a cougar in the wild or, heaven forbid, ever had to fight one off.
Another time, in Alaska, a hiker inadvertently got between a female moose and its calf while collecting water from the river. We were sitting around a campfire cooking breakfast when this moose suddenly came crashing through the campsite. It scared the bejesus out of us!
But, I have to say, there has been nothing more exhilarating for me than seeing a grizzly bear on a back-country hike in the Canadian Rockies. Below is a recap of that experience.
The Kimberley is one of Australia’s most spectacular and remote wilderness areas. Its rugged landscape includes strange rock formations, deep gorges, waterfalls and aboriginal rock art. But one of my favourite photographic moments came at El Questro Station, when we were setting up our tents in the camping ground.
It was late-afternoon and the sun was dipping low on the horizon. I could hear the trickle of water from the nearby stream and glanced up to see this golden light across the top of the trees. I forgot about my tent, grabbed my camera and tripod, and clambered down a grassy slope to get to this spot.
Sure, this wasn’t one of those dramatic landscapes we’d seen in previous days, but it was an example of how the right light can transform a place that you mightn’t normally give a second glance… and it was one of my favourite moments in the Kimberley.
Have you had a moment like this, where you just had to drop everything and get outside to take a photo? It happens to me all the time.
Some years ago I participated on my first voluntary work camp in Ireland through Service Civil International. For 10 days I worked with a group of like-minded travellers at the community of Ballytobin. This place was a sheltered environment for children in need of special care and our job was collecting apples from the orchard to make apple juice.
Working at Ballytobin was an incredible experience. We got to know some of the children and quickly began to feel part of the community, sharing some very special experiences. It opened my eyes to the joys of volunteering and, since then, I’ve volunteered on several occasions (both at home in Australia and overseas).
One of my all-time favourite travel experiences was volunteering at a brown bear refuge in Kuterevo, Croatia and below is an account of that experience.
Kuterevo’s brown bear refuge
Kuterevo is a magical place, nestled in the foothills of Croatia’s highest peak, Mount Velebit, and only an hour’s drive from the Adriatic Coast. I’m immediately inspired by its old-world charm and by its location, a valley surrounded by spectacular mountains. An old woman herds a flock of sheep across the road, pausing when she sees us to call out “dobar dan – good afternoon!” Already I’m in love with this village.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” Charles Darwin
- Standing close to a Galapagos dragon, aka marine iguana, on Isabela Island.
Last year I fulfilled one of my travel dreams – visiting the Galapagos Islands – and I wasn’t disappointed. I’ve always loved watching wildlife and I knew I was in for a treat from the minute I arrived. As we waited on the dock to be transferred to our cruise boat, there were raucous sea lions on the boat-ramp and magnificent frigatebirds overhead. During the next 10 days I saw so much wildlife, including giant tortoises, sea turtles, marine iguanas, land iguanas, blue-footed bobbies, seals, sea lions, penguins, frigatebirds, lava lizards, sally lightfoot crabs and Darwin’s finches. I took so many photographs and had so many wonderful experiences that I’ve decided to do a series of blogs – and where better to start than with the famous Galapagos dragons.