Nov 21

55th Birthday Adventure Trip

Back when I turned 50 I decided I should indulge myself somewhat with a trip to Las Vegas. And for each 5 year “milestone” after that, to cross some places off my Bucket List. So, for my 55th birthday, it was off to Indonesia to visit Krakatoa and Komodo.

I met up with my daughters Skye & Jenny, and Jen’s husband Dave, in Jakarta. I had pre-arranged an overnight camping trip to Krakatoa through a chap named Thom. His website is Krakatau Adventure. He did a great job with the logistics at a reasonable price and I highly recommend his services.

The drive from Jakarta to Carita took about 3.5 hours. We stayed overnight in Carita then set off by dual-engined speed boat the following morning. The sea relatively calm thankfully (I’m not much of a mariner!) and after about 90 minutes we arrived at Rakata, an island that is a remnant of the huge 1883 eruption of Krakatoa. We spent some time snorkelling on a coral reef, followed by a picnic lunch on the beach. Part way through lunch we were joined by a couple of good sized Asian Water Monitors, one of which was a little too fearless! Nevertheless we enjoyed their company. In the early afternoon we continued our journey by the same speed boat to Anak Krakatau. Anak means “child of” and is the island that formed after 1883, rising above sea level in 1927. It continues to grow, erupting every few years. We thoroughly enjoyed exploring the island with one guide while the other crew members set up camp and prepared dinner. Towards late afternoon we climbed the volcano as far as the first ridge – it’s not safe to go any further really. An awesome sight, accompanied by a beautiful sunset.

Krakatoa 2014
Krakatoa 2014Oct 26, 2014Photos: 88
 

Dinner was excellent (apart from the ants and flying insects!). We strolled along the black sand beach at night and sat by a small camp fire on the beach afterwards, before retiring for the evening. It was a bit of a long night – quite hot inside the tent and the ground was a little too hard for my back. In hindsight, bringing an air mattress would have been an excellent idea!

We were up before dawn, had a refreshing morning swim and watched the sunrise. Beautiful. At breakfast we were joined by yet another Asian Water Monitor! This one was even bigger than the ones we’d seen the previous day on Rakata. He was close to 2 metres long – a very handsome and majestic fellow indeed.

After packing up camp we boarded the boat, again this time stopping for some snorkelling at a spot where a recent lava flow has reached the ocean. The water was fairly clear – not heaps of marine life but interesting nonetheless as the water kept changing temperature! There were obviously some hot spots somewhere down in the depths.

After our snorkel we circumnavigated Anak Krakatau in the boat before heading back to the mainland. Road traffic was terrible and we didn’t get back to our hotel in Jakarta until the evening. By gosh the hot shower and soft clean bed felt good that night!

Next morning we flew Lion Air to Bali then Wings Air to Labuan Bajo in Flores, the jumping off point for Komodo National Park. We enjoyed a lovely authentic Italian lunch in town before setting off by slow-boat for Kanawa Island, which was to be out home for the next 4 days.

And what a beautiful spot Kanawa turned out to be. The accommodation was very simple and inexpensive, but the real treat was the island itself. Surrounded by coral reef and clear calm waters – a snorkeller’s dream come true.

Komodo & Kanawa 2014
Komodo & Kanawa 2014Oct 29, 2014Photos: 123
 

We did a full day trip to Komodo National Park and I was so happy to finally see Komodo Dragon’s in the wild, something I’ve wanted to do since I was knee high to a grasshopper. And if that wasn’t enough, the day-trip also included swimming with Manta Rays! What an awesome experience that was too.

Final stop for the trip was a couple of nights at the Hard Rock Hotel in Bali. It certainly felt quite luxurious after the rustic nights on Kanawa. And the food was excellent!

Chillin' at the Hard Rock

Chillin’ at the Hard Rock

 

Nov 21

2014 Summer Holiday

Had a very enjoyable 4 week break this summer. We visited Thailand, staying at some old favourites, plus visited some new places. The Lebua Hotel in Bangkok is just a delightful place to stay. Once again I couldn’t fault anything about our visit and will definitely be returning first chance we have! Likewise, the Sunrise Tropical Resort in Krabi is like an old friend – I never tire of going back.

This time we also visited Koh Tao, Koh Nangyuan and Koh Samui on the eastern side of the Thai peninsula. Loved the place we stayed in Koh Tao – The Thipwimarn Resort. And Koh Nangyuan was really nice. Our 4 days there flew by and I think we will definitely be heading back there again one day.

We also made our first visit to Sri Lanka this trip. After stopping just the one night in Colombo at the Cinnamon Grand (another lovely hotel), we caught the train up to Kandy – an interesting experience, although not quite as nice as I was expecting. A couple nights in Kandy, then travelled by road to the Back of Beyond eco-lodge at Dehigaha Ela. Very rustic (the rooms don’t even have walls!), but very enjoyable. We also travelled by road to Sigiriya, Girithale and Pinnawala. At the latter we could watch the elephants bathe from our hotel window.

Finally, we spent a few days in the Maldives – a country I’ve been meaning to visit for a long time, since we live so close. Beautiful beaches, good snorkelling. A great way to finish off the trip.

Feb 21

Around the World Trip 2013

I’ve travelled quite a bit in my time, but never actually travelled around the world in one direction (to prove the Earth is not flat LoL) until 2013. I combined and 18 night trans-Atlantic cruise with several one way air tickets to cook up a very nice 7 week long itinerary – even if I do say so myself!

Around the world 2013

Around the world 2013

We started out flying from Muscat to Milan Malpensa on Qatar Airways then travelled by train to our first stop – Venice. Venice is such a unique and beautiful city. I just love walking out of the train station and there it is, laid out before you. I had booked a hotel, the Dolomiti, which was just a short walk from the station. After checking in we enjoyed strolling around Venice and in the evening did the obligatory gondola ride. Next morning we walked all the way to St Mark’s Square then journeyed back by water taxi. In the afternoon it was off to the port to board our cruise ship, the MSC Divina.

Before long we were settled in to our balcony cabin #13103, unpacked and ready to enjoy our cruise all the way to Miami. I had intentionally booked a cabin on the port side of the ship so that we could enjoy the view of St Mark’s from our balcony as we sailed out of Venice.

The cruise was really a treat. Amani and Malaika loved the Kids Club and spent a few hours there most days, leaving Zawadi and I with some time to relax and enjoy each other’s company. Aboard they served a buffet breakfast and lunch, but in the evening we usually went to the Black Crab restaurant to enjoy a 5 course dinner.

The first port of call on the cruise was Valletta, Malta where we visited the Hypogeum. It was very interesting. Next stop was Malaga in the south of Spain where we took a guided walking tour around the old city. A couple of days later we were in Funchal on the Portuguese island of Madeira in the Azores. I had booked a taxi for the day for a private tour. The island is beautiful and very rugged, being volcanic in origin. The highlight of the stop was the ‘tobogan Madeira style’ – a cane bench on wooden skis that is steered downhill by two guides, on the roads! What a blast.

Then after a few days at sea eating, drinking, reading on my Kindle, and watching flying fish pass by, we sailed past the island of St Bart (I probably should visit it one day, since it’s my namesake) and docked at St Maarten. I had booked a private tour there also and the highlight was definitely Maho beach, where aircraft fly very low over the sand due to the beach’s proximity to the airport. We had a nice swim while watching planes land and then lunch at a nearby restaurant where a live band played reggae music. Irie mon!

The next day we stopped in the US Virgin Islands where we had to clear US immigration, which took half the day, so we didn’t get to see much. The final port of call the following day was San Juan, Puerto Rica. We didn’t do too much there as Amani was unwell with a fever (which the rest of us came down with in the following days). Strolling around the port area was nice though.

We arrived in Miami to much fanfare and media attention as it was the first time the MSC Divina had visited the USA. After staying in Miami for a couple of nights we picked up our hire car and drove up to Orlando, to visit Disney World and Universal Studios.

Next we flew up to New York state to visit Niagara Falls. It was cold and snowing there and we didn’t have much in the way of winter clothes since we had tried to pack lightly – with so many flights in our itinerary I wanted to avoid excess baggage charges as much as possible! It was good to see The Falls by both day and night. Then we set off by air to Las Vegas. I booked a stretch limo to meet us at the airport and take us to our hotel for the first night, the Luxor. We enjoyed strolling around the hotel for the rest of the evening and then the kids had a great time on the in-room jacuzzi. Next morning at Zawadi’s insistence we breakfasted at iHop then moved to the Bellagio hotel. The fountain view room I’d booked was a bit pricey, but worth it. In the evening we did Las Vegas Strip helicopter flight and enjoyed the lights, sights and sounds of Vegas.

San Francisco was our next stop. We stayed at Fisherman’s Wharf, strolled up to Lombard Street, ate clam chowder served in a fresh bread roll and enjoyed the atmosphere. On our second day in San Fran we hired bikes and rode about 16kms from Fisherman’s Wharf, over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. It was awesome! Had a lovely lunch in Sausalito then caught the ferry back.

After days of being busy, busy, busy, I had planned a nice quiet rest in the beautiful Cook Islands. We stayed in Rarotonga and then flew on to Aituaki which has to be one of the most beautiful islands in the world. We snorkelled with giant trevally in the lagoon and visited One-Foot island – arguably the jewel in the crown of Aitutaki.

Next stop was Sydney Australia, followed by Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) and Kata Tjuta where we managed 2 different treks thanks to the cool weather. The Rock and the Olgas are such remarkable places – I never tire of visiting them.

The Gold Coast in Queensland was next. Much fun at Sea World, Movie World and Wet ‘n Wild. Then on to Adelaide to catch up with some family.

Final stop on our very long journey was Singapore, where we spoiled ourselves a bit by staying at the Marina Bay Sands, with its amazing and enormous rooftop infinity pool.

From Singapore it was back to Muscat, on Sri Lankan Airlines. When we arrived our aircraft parked next to the same Qatar Airlines flight we had departed on 7 weeks earlier. Proof that the world is indeed round.

Jan 28

Slideshow – Around the World Trip 2013

Put this together for Zawadi:

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