The Outback Meets the Reef

Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef is a remote beach-side safari camp in the dunes of the Cape Range National Park. It’s located just an hour ride from the Learmonth Airport, a military airport for the Royal Australian Air Force. This is an extraordinary luxury lodge located in Western Australia.  You’ll be near the Indian Ocean enjoying breathtaking views of the Ningaloo Reef. During the day you can explore the reef and its 500 species of fish and over 250 species of coral. Just beyond the reef you have the opportunity to swim with some of the mighty giants of the ocean—Whale Sharks, Orcas, Humpback Whales, Manta Rays and dolphins. Depending on the season, will depend on what species you will see. So make sure to check that out before booking to be sure you are in the right season.

Sal Salis, nestled amongst the sand dunes, offers all guests Eco-luxe Safari tent accommodations. This is an eco-friendly resort and is run entirely off of solar panels. Each tent is allowed 20L of water per person per day to shower. There is no WiFi or phone service which forces you to be cut off from your everyday distractions of life offering ultimate relaxation.

The resort offers plenty of things to keep you as busy as you want. You are steps away from the Ningaloo Reef if you want to snorkel or just relax on their amazing beach. I was able to see some of the most unique fish and turtles right off the beach. No need to bring your snorkel gear, the resort has some for you to use during your stay.

Because of the seclusion of the resort is it all-inclusive. All meals are served in the main lodge or the beautiful desk and are shared with fellow guests. In the main lodge there is a set up where you can grab anything you want to drink any time of the day or some small snacks. If you wanted to grab a glass of wine, sit on the deck and watch the sun set … you can! Each night you are treated to a 5-star gourmet meal made from a simple camp kitchen. I am not sure how they did it, but the food was absolutely amazing. You will be eating with the other campers at one long table so it was quite fun to meet people from all over the world and share your stories.

From the minute you step on property you are treated like family throughout your stay. We even got to know the mangers that ran the resort, a husband and wife with a true passion for what they do. The staff is highly engaged with the guests … they offer daily walks and guided snorkeling tours at a different location each day. I truly can’t say enough about the staff … some of the best I have personally experienced. One morning I woke up, walked out of the tent to watch sunrise and there was a Wallaby just hopping by. That is what dreams are made of and I just sat back in awe and took that moment in.

This resort does offer a truly unique experience. The outback and reef combo is something you must see for yourself. When you are ready to make this dream a reality I am here to help.


 

Up Close and Personal with Whale Sharks

When I was in Australia I had an opportunity to swim with Whale sharks on the Ningaloo Reef. Swimming with sharks has been on my bucket list FOREVER…so I was very happy to finally check it off. The Ningaloo reef is located on the west side of Australia. You would take a 2 hour flight north from Perth to the town of Exmouth.

You can swim with whale sharks from April through July so my trip in June was perfect timing. From August to October it is Humpback whale season, which is another opportunity you won’t want to miss out on. For this trip I went with a company called Live Ningaloo. Only 10 people are allowed on the boat at a time to get in the water with the sharks. It’s a very intimate experience.

There is a photographer and a guide on the boat with the 10 of us. The photographer will get in the water first so they can get in the perfect position to capture these magical moments. The guide will follow and then all us sat down on the back of the boat in a line. One by one we all got in the water and lined up to watch the whale pass by.  Once they pass you are more than welcome to swim with them IF you can keep up. They are crazy fast! I tried to swim with them but they are much faster than one would think. These sharks are magnificent creatures. I know they are very large animals but once in the water you realize they are much larger than I expected.  However they very gentle and glide with ease through the water. We are instructed to stay behind their front fins and do not go in front of the whales when swimming with them.

Ever wonder how they spot these whales? Well they have spotter planes that are up in the sky looking for the whales. Think about that for a second.. a plane is needed to spot the whales and that they are that big that they can be spotted from a plane. Once they are spotted they radio down to the boats. The captains will then take off and try to get ahead of the whales so that everyone can get situated in the water for it to swim by. We saw 2 whales and were in the water about 10 times with them. It was just such a cool experience. When looking back, I sit here and think about how you are out in the middle of the ocean with these massive creatures with nothing else around. You looking down and all you can see is the deep blue.. don’t recommend looking down. Haha.

I have always wanted to do this in Australia and know I can say that I have. This is one of the top 5 spots to do this in the World to do the whale shark swim. I was very nervous but those nerves quickly disappeared once I got in the water with them. I can’t wait to do it again, it was such an amazing experience! I would love to tell you more and help you plan your adventure.

Exploring Lizard Island in Australia

I was lucky enough to visit Lizard Island on my first trip to Australia … talk about a dream come true! This amazing little island is an hour flight north of Cairns. It is an island in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef. The 1-hour flight was on a little plane with about 12 seats. I have never been on a plane that small, this was a plane where the pilot was actually within reach. We flew right over the reef and the views below were so amazing. There are so many little reefs that make up the Great Barrier Reef.

The airport was VERY small. It was basically a landing strip near the resort. You step off the plane and head right to a vehicle to take you to the resort! We arrived at the resort and were so amazed by everything. The rooms left me speechless. As I walked out the front patio … I took 10 steps and I was on the beach! We were lucky enough to spend 2-nights here.

The next morning, we hopped on a boat and did a full day snorkel tour. We were located 1 hour away from the outer reef. I have snorkeled before, but nothing will ever compare to what the Great Barrier Reef has to offer! We even were able to snorkel at the World Famous Cod Hole. It is home to huge Potato Cod. I saw sharks, turtles, clams, oysters and just about every fish you can think of.. and of course we did find Nemo and Dory … LOL. A snorkeling experience I will NEVER forget.

We also got to visit the research station that is the on the island! This was a very cool experience! It was on the opposite side of the island so guests and researchers aren’t running into each other.

Here are a few things I learned:

  • It’s a National Park in the middle of the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef
  • It has 24 sandy beaches and a lagoon
  • It is a 1-hour flight north from Cairns flying right over the amazing Great Barrier Reef
  • It is located in Tropical Queensland with an average temp of 80 degrees
  • There is a Coral Reef research Station on the island, where researchers from all over the world come to work and learn about the coral reef.

I am ready for a trip back … are you ready to go? I’d be happy to share more about my experience.

Kangaroo Island at its best

An added benefit of staying at Southern Ocean Lodge is that all excursions are included. It’s more like an all-inclusive luxury resort.

These are some of the tours we did:

  • Kangas and Kanapes. On this historic tour you will learn about the early island settlers at Grassdale, an island property that can be reached by a short drive from the lodge. There is plenty of local wildlife including kangaroos and wallabies that congregate to graze. It’s amazing to observe these creatures in their natural environment. During you trip you will sip on premium Southern Australian beverages and nibble on a canapé while enjoying the sunset
  • Seal Bay. Seal Bay is home to Australia’s third largest colony of Australian sea lions. You will join a naturalist guide for an exclusive tour on the beach with these wild animals. Hear about their unique breeding cycle and the ongoing research programs implemented on site. This is privilege unique to KI!
  • Wonders of KI. This half-day signature experience is a spectacular introduction to KI’s wildlife, maritime heritage and stunning coastal landscapes. The trip highlights include: visit Cape du Couedic lighthouse, a stop at Remarkable Rocks, a view from Admirals Arch and a fur seal colony encounter. What a wonder it was!
  • Koala Sanctuary. We also stopped at a Koala Sanctuary nearby to look for some Koalas in the trees. We spotted 3. It was really raining when we stopped so we didn’t stay too long to search for them. But there were a few!

                                

Luxury Livin’ at Southern Ocean Lodge

Southern Ocean is an exquisite luxury lodge located on Kangaroo island. You can reach this lodge by plane from Adelaide or via a ferry ride. This is one of the most sought after places to stay in Australia and now I know why. We arrived very late in the day from Adelaide and were anxious to get to the resort. Upon landing in Kangaroo island, the resort had someone waiting at the airport to pick us up. The staff member at the airport knew who we were and were awaiting our arrival. As it was dark once we landed, we learned how alert and a driver/guide have to be on the roads on Kangaroo island. Those Wallabies, Kangaroos and Koala’s don’t always obey the animal crossing signs. LOL They can jump out in front of a car at night or even during the day. The training for these drivers and guides is intense as they have to learn to not be distracted while driving and always on the lookout for these cute animals. 😊  

      

We traveled there in the Winter so it was rainy season, but the lodge was still completely booked. Upon arrival at the resort, the Manager of the hotel was waiting for us and ready to welcome us. There is no standard check in desk, you are lead to the beautiful couch in front of the fire place to get all checked in. Once we were checked in, we mentioned we were starving from traveling all day. They kept the kitchen open a little later for us to be able to have something to eat so that we didn’t go hungry. So thoughtful and made a great first impression.

      

The dining at the lodge was superb some of the best I have divulged in my travel. There was everything from burgers to the gastronomic journey of Kangaroo Island. The menu changes daily and there are plenty of selections to please your palette. There is also complimentary FULL bar as well … and when I say full bar, I mean full bar. They had wine selections from all over Australia and endless beer varieties including local specialties. All beverages were self-serve. The rooms and common areas were focused on the outdoors and amazing surroundings. 

      

The rooms are absolutely breathtaking. Since we arrived in the dark, we were very anxious to see our view and the rest of the hotel once the sun came up. Trust me, it didn’t disappoint. 

       

The lodge is located on Hanson Bay on the southwest coast of the island. There are just 21 luxury suites with some of the most amazing views you will ever have the pleasure of experiencing. The best features of the room were the heated Floors, free Wi-Fi, walk in closet and a mini bar that is stocked daily 

      

When you’re ready for the ultimate luxury experience in Australia contact me and I will share more about this once in a lifetime experience and help you to plan your own personal journey.

My America’s Cup Sailing Experience

While traveling in New Zealand we had the opportunity to visit the beautiful city of Auckland. My most memorable a experience from this trip was sailing on an authentic retired Americas Cup Yacht.

We boarded the yacht at the port in Auckland and began the 2-hour hands on adventure. This was not your traditional sailboat excursion. As part of experience you had your turn to help steer and hoist the sails on the boat. There was no experience required to partake in these activities, they helped guide you through these processes on board. If you weren’t interested in joining in you could simply sit back, relax and enjoy the views and beauty of New Zealand.

If you are planning a trip to New Zealand let’s schedule a stop in Auckland for a sailboat ride.

      

This honeymoon inspiration brought to you from Mandy!

Each honeymoon I plan is unique and customized to each couple and their desires. Honeymoons are a great time to cross items off of your bucket list. Why not spend 3 weeks in Australia and New Zealand and check off two!

Here’s an example of honeymoon ideas I had given and planned for a very adventurous couple. 

New Zealand offer stunning landscapes and plenty of friendly locals to provide guidance.

What to do:

  • Sea Kayaking at Cathedral Cove — This is one of the best sea kayaking trips in the country
  • Hobbiton Movie Set Tour — experience the sights, sounds and tastes of the Shire as seen in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film trilogies.
  • OGO in Rotorua — dive into a giant inflatable ball and roll down Mt Ngongotaha
  • Polynesian Spa — enjoy deluxe thermal bathing and relaxation while overlooking lake Rotorua
  • Waitomo Glowworm Cave — view thousands of magical glowworms above you as you glide silently by boat.
  • Stay at Chateau Tongariro Hotel in Mount Ruapehu In The Heart Of Tongariro National Park, you’ll volcanoes and enjoy thermal springs
  • Tongariro Alpine Crossing — Provides a 19K trek that leads you up to the saddle between Mt. Ngauruhoe and Mt. Tongariro.
  • Fly to Dunedin — Take a wildlife tour where you may encounter penguins, seals and albatross
  • Milford Sound Nature Cruise — enjoy waterfall scenery, spot wildlife and listening to an informative nature guide. 
  • Explore Queenstown — visit a winery or take a scenic tour

Australia has plenty of things to see and do. There is endless beauty wherever you turn.

What to do:

  • Cairns  Take an outer reef tour and explore the Great Barrier Reef
  • Kuranda  You must book an all-inclusive tour on the regions oldest railway. The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway offers ocean-views and is the world’s most beautiful cableway.
  • Blue Mountains — These mountains are known for inexplicable scenery, a eucalyptus forests, breathtaking waterfalls and MORE. Spend a couple nights in the mountains … you certainly will not run out of things to do.
  • Sydney — Check out the Sydney Opera House, explore the harbor and make a stop at the zoo or the botanic garden

If Australia & New Zealand aren’t on your list there are plenty of other destinations our travel advisors can recommend. The sooner we start planning the more time we have to perfect!

A Day at the Sydney Fish Market

On the flight we talked to some of the locals about what to do while we were in Sydney who told us to go check out the Fish Market early in the morning! At first we laughed because we didn’t think we’d want to get up that early. When we woke up that first morning at 5:00 am we figured, “let’s do it!”

We had no idea what to expect, but it was kind of amazing. Any kind of seafood imaginable, it was there. Prawns and shrimp of all sizes, crab, squid, octopus (even baby ones!), lobster, oysters, snapper, cod – really everything. It was more than just fresh fish, there were café’s there stocked daily serving up food for the customers and workers.

Seafood wasn’t the only thing there was a ton of… The pelicans were EVERYWHERE, waiting around for the moment they could get some scraps. They’re friendly, but they really just want your food!

Touring the Taronga Zoo!

After the long, long flight to Sydney, we knew we were going to be exhausted, but we couldn’t let that get in our way so we dropped off our bags and got as far away from the hotel as possible! We decided to head to The Taronga Zoo for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Australian animals habitat.

 The zoo is easy enough to get to; it’s just a short ferry ride form Circular Key. No planning needed – you can buy your tickets right at the ferry!

Once the ferry ride was over it really hit us… WE’RE HALFWAY AROUND THE WORLD! That feeling is indescribable.

Touring the Taronga

When we got to the zoo, we rode the gondola lift – The Sky Safari! – up to the top. Since we had time before our tour started, we walked around a bit. It was just my aunt and me. It was nice to be able to explore the place just the two of us.

We were there during Vivid Sydney, an annual city-wide three-week celebration of lights, music and ideas. In celebration of Vivid, the zoo had a great display of giant animal light sculptures. It was fun to see the display before we got to the real animals!

A Different Kind of Zoo

We went straight for the wallabies. Wallabies look a lot like kangaroos, but they are a lot smaller. We got to feed them, and I even got close enough to try and take a selfie with one, because I couldn’t pass up that opportunity!

Guess what was next on the list! If you guessed koalas, you are correct! You’re not allowed to hold the koalas – in Queensland you can hold the koalas – but you are still able to get up close and personal. They were just hanging out in the trees, which didn’t look so comfortable to me, but must have been to them. We were even able to see some of the babies coming out of their pouches! And of course, I got a selfie.

After that, we went to see some smaller animals. First, the echidna – a flying squirrel – and then the bilbies – rabbit bandicoot. Then on to the kangaroos.

And, I couldn’t possibly forget about the Tasmanian devil! On our way out, we saw the giraffes. We even got to see the baby!

It was a great experience, and a great day at the zoo. The Taronga is a must do when visiting Sydney!

Conquering Fears and Great Heights in Sydney!

Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge was one of the most exhilarating and rewarding experiences I have ever had!

I’ve wanted to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge since my very first trip to Australia in 2013, so I wasn’t going to let my fear of heights stop me when I returned this year!

I got to check the bridge climb off my bucket list with a beautiful twilight climb to the top! I would highly recommend the twilight tour over a daytime tour. We started off the trek in daylight, as we reached the top we got to watch the sun set and watch the city lights begin to come alive.

Facing Fears

Before the climb, we got all suited up, and latched onto the steel safety beam, and then we were off! The feat starts with four sets of stairs, and only one person can ascend each set at once. It was a little unsettling being alone on the stairs, but I felt comforted knowing that my aunt was not too far behind me with another guide.

I was in full panic attack mode by the time I got to the second set of stairs, but I knew I had to do this; I had to keep going. I needed to conquer my fears and prove to myself that I could do it.

As if the heights weren’t bad enough, the steps are tiny and steep as can be! Each set of stairs brings you closer and closer to the open air of the top of the bridge. By the time you get through all four and are on the final ascent, you can look down directly into the Harbour.

Although I was white knuckled up the last three sets of stairs, I did it! I got to the top of the stairs and started off on the nice gradual climb to the very top. As we climbed, the guide pointed out many different landmarks down below, and we stopped to take some pictures. I managed to have the exact same look on my face for every picture.

What Goes Up…

We made it to the top and watched the sunset. That’s when I realized… We still have to take the stairs back down. There we were at the top of the stairs, and to get back down I had to turn myself around and go backwards down the stairs! I was crying before I even made it down the first set of steps.

It was getting dark by this time. We had lights, but we also had sunglasses, so most of my light was blocked. I had to stop after the first two sets of stairs to compose myself. My aunt caught up to me here to make sure I was doing okay. I told her yes. Even though I was mid-panic attack, I had to do it. At this point, I really had no choice.

The guide behind me started yelling encouragements and telling me I was almost done, and I was getting the same encouragement from my aunt. It was really what I needed that on those last 2 sets of stairs!

I got to the bottom and breathed a sigh of relief – I did it! I was so happy; happy to be back down off the bridge, happy to have faced my fear, and happy to have done something incredible. Check! It was one of the best experiences of my life and I am so glad my aunt and I got to share it. I honestly can’t wait to do it again!

Top 10 Things to Do/See in Sydney, Australia

Australia is a MUST!

If you do not have Australia on your list of places to travel I highly suggest that you add it on … and near the top.

Here are some of my personal favorites:

  1. Darling harbour. Lots of restaurant choices including the Hard Rock Café, Chinese Garden of Friendship, Wild Life Sydney Zoo, Sea Life Aquarium, A carousel, a Huge Ferris Wheel and the National Maritime Museum. There is also were you can pick up your Harbour cruises, Dinner cruises, Set Sail with America’s Cup or just take a Jet boat out on the Harbour.

      

  2. Sydney Tower Eye. Enjoy 360 views of the beautiful city of Sydney. While you are up there you can choose to do a SkyWalk. It is a 45 min guided tour outside at the top of the Eye.

      

  3. China Town. You need to make a stop at Paddy’s Market and do some Souvenir Shopping. After you’re done shopping stop at the 3 Wise Monkey bar for a drink and some food.

      

  4. Bridge Climb. I would highly suggest a twilight tour.

        

  5. Panorama City Tour. Takes you all through the city including a stop at Royal Botanical Gardens, Drive by the most expensive street in Sydney, Head over to Watson’s Bay and then a stop at Bondi Beach.

      

  6. Rocks District. While you are there have lunch at Sydney’s Oldest Pub

       

  7. Take a Ferry from Circular Key. You can go just about anywhere in Sydney including the Taronga Zoo.
         
  8. Harbour Bridge Pylon Lookout. Experience breathtaking views of the Harbour and if you don’t get a chance to do the Bridge Climb, this is the next best thing.

      

  9. Sydney Opera House. A must visit don’t forget to stop at the Opera Kitchen and have Chocolate and Salted Carmel tart with Hot chocolate (Best when traveling to Sydney in the winter).

      

  10. Relax and take in the city. It is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited and there is so much to see and do.

Client Review: Honeymoon Adventures in the Land Down Under

The trip was fantastic.  Of the 4 places we went, I’d be pressed to pick a favorite because they were all such different experiences.  The location of all the hotels you found were perfect, we could just walk to do anything we wanted during our free time.  Each hotel had gotten your note that it was our honeymoon and had left out some wine or chocolates or both and a couple of them even gave us hand written congratulatory notes which was extremely touching.  The Hobbit tour driver Damion even had a printout of a very kind email you’d written to them and gave us a special memento to take back with us.  Chris from Quicksilver met us when we checked in, walked out to the boat with us, made us feel very welcome and mentioned your name and even gave us some drink tickets which was great!  All the tours went well, it often felt like they were really chaotic, but incredibly they all ended precisely as described.  The Sydney harbor bridge climb was amazing and its accessible to far more people than you’d think based on how they describe it.  To get a sample of the great barrier reef, both Tusa and Quicksilver are great options for a try scuba day trip.  If you have to pick, Cairns seems like a better place to stay than Port Douglas, there just seems to be more to do.  The service we encountered at all locations and tours was very welcoming and the amazing concierge in Auckland helped us find entertainment and a delicious Valentines Day dinner.

I’m really struggling to summarize the diving portion as Quicksilver and Tusa both really did a great job.  The staff at both outfitters were nice, competent, efficient, all good things.  I’m not sure which I’d recommend over the other as they were quite different.  Quicksilver was a longer day as they fetched us from our hotel (which was great), there were many times more people on that boat, but it was also bigger and faster so you were able to get to better places on the reef.  Quicksilver broke people out into groups of 4-6 and had a dive guide, Tusa gave you more autonomy unless you asked to have a guided tour.  The food on both was very good, though I did think Tusa’s was better.  I think we only paid for 2 dives on Tusa, but they gave us a 3rd for free which was really nice.

If I ever went there again, I would spend the money to do a live aboard and get better dive sites and a more intimate group of divers.  I would say for you, if someone asked about it I would find out how much diving they’ve done.  If it’s not much, then either of these outfits are perfect (or if they’re really set and cannot do more than 1 or 2 days).  If they’ve done a bit of diving (like more than 50 dives) then maybe steer them to a liveaboard.  Anyone can do either obviously, you’ll probably get a more experienced group doing a live aboard.  Or at least no college kids betting on who can hold their breath the best. haha

Overall it was definitely a success and we had a great time.  Thank you!!

Missy Skoog’s visit to Ayers Rock (Uluru), Australia

Ayers Rock is one of the most impressive landmarks in Australia. A huge chunk of sandstone and a ‘true’ monolith, it resides in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Ayers Rock is located down towards the southwest corner of the Northern Territory and close to the geographic centre of Australia.

The rock is huge, jutting up about 350m from its barren surrounds. And more interestingly, Ayers Rock extends even further than this amount below ground. Although there are other, similar entities to Ayers Rock – most notably the nearby Olgas and Mount Augustus in Western Australia – it is the only singular monolith with its composition.

A World Heritage site, Ayers Rock also goes by the Aboriginal name of Uluru. Aboriginal tribes were living in the area 10,000 years ago. White men did not come onto the scene until the 1870s, when William Gosse named it for Henry Ayers, the then-South Australia Chief Secretary. Ayers Rock is sometimes incorrectly written as Ayres Rock, Ayes Rock, Ares Rock, Eyers Rock, Eyres Rock, Aires Rock and Airs Rock. The Pitjantjatjara Aboriginals own the land around and about Ayers Rock today

Cheers to Uluru!

Cheers to Uluru!

Beautiful aboriginal woman showing us symbols in the sand drawing

Beautiful aboriginal woman showing us symbols in the sand drawing

"on" Uluru

“on” Uluru

"the bush"

“the bush”

Punu – trees Puti – shrubs Tjulpun-tjulpunpa – flowers Ukiri – grasses

Punu – trees
Puti – shrubs
Tjulpun-tjulpunpa – flowers
Ukiri – grasses

Close up of one section of Uluru

Close up of one section of Uluru

Morning sunrise tour to Uluru. Rose on the opposite side of the rock. Amazing!

Morning sunrise tour to Uluru. Rose on the opposite side of the rock. Amazing!

My favorite sales rep from Travel2 Ward!

My favorite sales rep from Travel2 Ward!

Entered into the Australian Tourism Hall of Fame, Sounds of Silence offers the best of the Red Centre distilled into four magical hours. An evening of dining under the sparkling outback sky

Entered into the Australian Tourism Hall of Fame, Sounds of Silence offers the best of the Red Centre distilled into four magical hours. An evening of dining under the sparkling outback sky

Sounds of Silence

Sounds of Silence

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Me with the president of Travel2

Me with the president of Travel2

I told them they were all hunks. As I was walking away the one man said I should be careful what I say or I would have to stay in the bush with him. RUN!

I told them they were all hunks. As I was walking away the one man said I should be careful what I say or I would have to stay in the bush with him. RUN!

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Traditional dance

Traditional dance

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Little friend

Little friend

Camel riding at sunrise is very popular. Although this was at night..just thought you might like to no that.

Camel riding at sunrise is very popular. Although this was at night..just thought you might like to no that.

Cutest cowboy on the ranch

Cutest cowboy on the ranch

sunset at Camel farm

sunset at Camel farm

Yee-haw! Having a great time at the Camel farm!

Yee-haw! Having a great time at the Camel farm!

We are defiantly not bush woman!

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Rocking the outback hat!

Rocking the outback hat!

Missy Skoog’s 2nd visit for Sydney Australia

It’s not to often a girl from the Midwest can say she has been to Sydney twice in her lifetime! Such a far distance and seems to exotic. Let me say it’s one of my top 10 favorite cities I have visited. Sydney is a cosmopolitan city surrounded by iconic beaches, world heritage sites, and acclaimed wine regions. Besides being Australia’s largest city, Sydney is also its most visited. (And, contrary to popular belief, not the country’s capital!) With an incredible variety of attractions and sights to see, including the very famous Bondi Beach.

Crocodile pizza and some alternative delicacy's.

Crocodile pizza and some alternative delicacy’s.

 

Situated in one of Sydney's important thoroughfares in the heart of the city, the foundation stone was laid by Sir Henry Parkes in 1889, and the opening of the new establishment was performed two years later by Sarah Bernhardt, whose name was first in the new hotel's register, subsequently displayed in a glass showcase in the main foyer.

Situated in one of Sydney’s important thoroughfares in the heart of the city, the foundation stone was laid by Sir Henry Parkes in 1889, and the opening of the new establishment was performed two years later by Sarah Bernhardt, whose name was first in the new hotel’s register, subsequently displayed in a glass showcase in the main foyer.

 

Sydney harbor bridge

Sydney harbor bridge

Sydney opera house

Sydney opera house

Close look at Sydney opera house

Close look at Sydney opera house

Under the Sydney harbor bridge

Under the Sydney harbor bridge

Sailing on Sydney harbor

Sailing on Sydney harbor

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If all else fails, hit the beach! Bondi Beach!

If all else fails, hit the beach! Bondi Beach!

Bondi beach waiting to "catch a wave"

Bondi beach waiting to “catch a wave”

Gap Park Sydney, Australia

Gap Park Sydney, Australia

What a view!

What a view!

Mrs Macquaries Chair, the place where the wife of Governor Lachlan Macquarie used to sit and watch the boats sailing into the harbour, is the prime attraction. The chair is a piece of sandstone in the shape of a bench and hand carved by convicts in the good old days when Sydney was pretty much a desolate island prison.

Mrs Macquaries Chair, the place where the wife of Governor Lachlan Macquarie used to sit and watch the boats sailing into the harbour, is the prime attraction. The chair is a piece of sandstone in the shape of a bench and hand carved by convicts in the good old days when Sydney was pretty much a desolate island prison.

Put your camera down, take a breath and just enjoy! What a beautiful city Sydney is!

Put your camera down, take a breath and just enjoy! What a beautiful city Sydney is!

The two most iconic symbols of Sydney, Australia. The Harbor bridge and the opera house.

The two most iconic symbols of Sydney, Australia. The Harbor bridge and the opera house.

Northern Territory – Australia

I spent three nights in Sydney at the Four Seasons Hotel. This was a beautiful hotel in a great location to walk to the Rocks, the Quay, restaurants and activities. I had a spectacular view of the Harbor Bridge and Opera House from my room. A harbor cruise during the day is a great way to see the different areas of Sydney and to get around. There are lunch cruises, afternoon cruises and evening cruises. The harbor bridge climb is great to do either for the sunrise or sunset. You cannot take anything with you on the climb, but they do take pictures. Luna Park, across the Bridge, is a carnival area with rides and places to eat. This is a fun place to spend time and relax, especially for a family. I ate at Deedees on Pier 2-3, as well as at Morrisson’s down the street from the Four Seasons. They were both very good.

Darwin is a four hour flight from Sydney on the Top End. We stayed at the Skycity Hotel and Casino. This is a beach front property, but you cannot swim in the ocean because of the crocs, but they do have two pool areas. The downtown area is very compact and easy to get around. If you take the hop on/hop off bus, the ticket is good for all day. I recommend that you ride one full loop and see where everything is, then on the second time around, you can hop off and see sites and then hop on to the next. The Museum and Art Gallery of the NT is a free museum with many examples of Top End Aboriginal Art. It is on the bus line, so a great place to spend some time. There is also The Cornucopia Café which offers very good food at the Museum.

From Darwin we flew on an eight seat airplane to Davidson’s Arnhemland Safari Camp on the east side of Kakadu National Park, about a one hour flight. We were met and taken to the camp and shown our cabins. There are twenty cabins, but they feel that 40 people are too many, so they are restricting the number of guests that they have for a better experience, unless it is a family gathering. There is no air conditioning, but there are ceiling fans with screens on three sides of the cabin except for the bathroom/shower area. The nights cooled down, so it was beautiful sleeping with wonderful sunrises. The staff is very friendly and knowledgeable, and the food was excellent. We ate in the lodge for all of our meals. Coffee, tea, juice and water come with the meals, but all other drinks are purchased. They have a very nice selection of sodas, beer and wines.

Davidson’s Arnhemland Safaris at Mt Borradaile is a registered aboriginal sacred site in a remote 700 sq-km, exclusively leased area nestled against the Arnhem Land escarpment. This is a landscape of rugged ranges fringed by idyllic billabongs, flood plains, paper bark swamps and monsoonal rainforests, an amazingly beautiful wilderness. Mt Borradaile is still owned and managed by its traditional custodians the Amurdak people whose inhabitation of the area dates back for 50,000 years. Visitors of all ages have the opportunity to access this very special, protected and highly restricted region via the honorary custodian status conferred on Max Davidson and his staff by the traditional landowners. Today the story of their ancestry is evident in the many tools, ceremonial grounds and rock art paintings – still being uncovered today.

During the day, our guide, Locky, took us out to see the Aboriginal Rock Art which is thousands of years old. Locky told us about the Dream Time and the stories that they have been told by the only man left alive who lived on this land. The rock art was unbelievable! We also saw areas where the Aboriginals used to live. In one cave area, there was a cache of some of the tools that they had used which were found there.

We saw wallabies, wild boars, saltwater and fresh water crocs and lots of bird life. The fresh water crocs are smaller than the saltwater crocs. We took a sunset cruise on Cooper Creek, a part of the East Alligator River where they served wine and hors devours. It used to be thought that these were alligators in this area, but then they discovered that they were really crocodiles. We ate with the other guests at the Camp, some nights at separate tables and other nights all together. It was very pleasant. There was a wide variety of foods from fish, steak, lamb, salads, potatoes and desserts.

Following our stay, we took two four seat airplanes to Bamarru Plains on the west side of Kakadu National Park which was a 20 minute flight. I flew in the co-pilots seats, which was very exciting. However, I made sure that I kept my feet away from the pedals and my hands away from the controls. We landed on a short dirt airstrip, where we were met by the staff of the lodge. Bamarru Plains (Bamarru means Magpie Geese) is a water buffalo station (ranch) of 76,000 acres where they raise water buffalo and ship them to Asia.

We drove to the lodge and were shown our cabins. There are nine cabins at this all-inclusive property, with two cabins having air conditioning. With the screens on the three sides, there really was no need for air conditioning. From the cabin, you can hear and see the wallabies, all the birds, geese and water buffalo. It is unnerving at first, but it is so-o-o-o cool. In the cabin there are a few chairs to sit and view the animals. At this property, the screens on the cabins and the lodge you can see out, but no one can see in. The bathroom is very large, with a huge open shower with a tree in it. The lighting is very subdued, so as not to attract bugs. You cannot use hair dryers at this property as they are very eco-friendly.

The manager of the property, John Cooper, took us out on air boats on the flood plains to see the water buffalo, geese, 260 species of birds and saltwater crocs. It was amazing. I am not a fan of boats that bounce on the water, but these air boats just glide across the water. When the motor is shut off, it is perfectly quiet except for the natural sounds of the flood plains. It is so hard to explain. One morning we went to the other side of the flood plains into a grove area and when the motor was shut off, we just drifted for about twenty minutes and no one said a word. It was so beautiful as we listened to the natural sounds and watched the changing of light as the sun came up. This lodge offers fishing, photography, and pure relaxation.

The meals here were prepared by Chef Lee and the evening meal included wine pairings. We had fish, duck, lamb, kangaroo, croc, veggies, salads, desserts and wines. You could help yourself anytime at the beverage area for sodas, waters, beer, wine and snacks. The staff was extremely friendly and engaging.

Two of the staff was caring for an orphaned wallaby and they brought him over for us to see and hold. He was very cute and they were taking extremely good care of him. The wallaby was 12 months old and they would be releasing him back to the wild at eighteen months, which is the normal time they leave the mother’s pouch.

One evening we took a drive around the station to an area to watch the sunset, where they served hors devours, wine, beer and water. We also took a cruise on the Mary River where we saw many types of birds and saltwater crocs, again they served hors devours and beverages. These were great experiences.

It was hard to leave Bamarru Plains, but we took the two four seat airplanes back to Darwin, a 20 minute flight. We stayed this time at the Mantra Pandanas Hotel, in a good area to be able to walk to everything. We had time to do a little shopping and then we took a catamaran out in the harbor area for a tour and a four course dinner on board of prosciutto, oysters, Territory caught fish, scotch fillet steak, salad, potato salad, rolls, dessert and wine. It was a very smooth ride and we were able to watch the sun set from the catamaran. The next day we ate at the II Lido Waterfront Kitchen and Tapas Lounge for lunch. I had fish (ocean salmon) and chips and finished the meal with an Affogatto for dessert. This is a scoop of vanilla ice cream with a shot of espresso and a shot of liquor, I had Bailey’s. You pour both over the ice cream and enjoy!

It was time to leave Darwin and fly back to Sydney. We stayed at Rydges Sydney Airport Hotel. The next morning we were able to walk over to the terminal and catch our flight back to the states.

What an unbelievable adventure! We saw so many fascinating sites and met many wonderful people. This is definitely a great trip for anyone looking for something different. There are many areas throughout Australia that offer these types of adventures – these were just a few.

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