Truly Wild Experiences Down Under

As someone with a keen interest in conservation and zoology, seeing the native wildlife of a place is something that usually features highly on my destination wishlist when I travel. This year hasn’t been easy for me on a personal level but it always lifts my spirits when I think of the amazing things I have seen and done already.

One of my most cherished memories is when I went backpacking Down Under with my husband. Australia and New Zealand are two of my best-loved countries – friendly locals, stunning scenery and most importantly, amazing wildlife. So I would like to share my favourite wildlife experience from each.

Adorable quokka - a native to Rottnest Island in Western Australia

Discovering quokkas on Rottnest Island, Australia

Rottnest Island is a beautiful island off the coast of Western Australia, home to an adorably smiley-looking marsupial known as the quokka. In fact, Rottnest Island was named after the quokka when a Dutch explorer arrived at the island and mistook the quokkas for rats, naming it ‘Rat’s Nest’.

Wild Experiences Down Under

Being almost completely wiped out on the mainland of Australia, Rottnest Island is one of only a few places where you can see quokkas in their natural habitat and due to the lack of predators on the island, coupled with an abundance of food, their numbers are thriving.

Beautiful Rottnest Island - catch the ferry from Fremantle and enjoy a day with the quokkas!

As the island has a strong focus on the environment and sustainability, the best way to explore is by bicycle. So when we arrived by boat we picked up some hired bikes from the dock and went on our merry way.

Rottnest Island is easily one of the most beautiful places I have been fortunate enough to visit, with its white sand beaches and turquoise seas it looks like something from a movie set. Of course, my favourite part was observing the quokkas and I managed to even get a #quokkaselfie too! All flora and fauna on the island is protected by law so visitors must remember not to touch or feed the animals as it could harm them.

The best way to get around Rottnest Island! Hire a bike and explore this beautiful part of Western Australia.

Quokka selfie on Rottnest Island, Australia

One of my favourite things about Australia happens to be its native creatures – I’m completely in awe of it – so to be able to see the happy little quokkas in the wild and not in a zoo was something unforgettable.

Spotting wild seals in Kaikoura, New Zealand

Kaikoura is a small town on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island and is famed for its marine life. Due to the weather cancelling any whale watching trips out to sea, we made a spontaneous decision to take a drive to Ohau Point where we could see some wild New Zealand fur seals.

Adorable seal pup at Ohau Point, New Zealand

After a short walk into the woodland, we were greeted by one of the most magical sights I have seen – numerous young seals swimming and frolicking at the bottom of a waterfall! I wasn’t sure what to expect on this spur of the moment adventure but it by far exceeded any expectations I could have had. The seals looked so happy and there were very few tourists at this spot making it feel all the more special. Of course, we kept our distance but a couple of the seals were playing on the path together just a mere metre away from where we stood!

Ohau waterfall - a beautiful place to see seal pups swimming

The seal pups are born in November and December and start making their way to the waterfall in April, where they are then able to develop their swimming and social skills together. They stay in the stream for several days at a time before returning to the coast to feed from their mothers. Once weaned, they then remain on the coast where they can hunt for food at sea.

See New Zealand fur seals - free things to do in Kaikoura

Seal swimming in Ohau stream, Kaikoura

We waited and watched the playful pups for a little while longer but even on the walk back to the car we were able spot a few of them swimming in the shallow waters alongside us. Amazing! Sometimes the best adventures are unplanned.

Note: My visit to Ohau Point happened prior to the devastating 2016 earthquake and although parts of this area are still destroyed, visitors are still able to see seal colonies elsewhere in Kaikoura. Hopefully they will return to the waterfall very soon.

As far as future wildlife adventures go, a safari in Kenya would be at the top spot on my travel bucket list and as a proud recipient of a charity rhino adoption, I would love nothing more than to see them in the wild.

Win a safari adventure in Kenya!

Win an African safari with Audley Travel by sharing your best wildlife photograph or video on your social media channels. To enter write #AudleySafari and @AudleyTravel on your Instagram or Twitter post or share directly on the Audley Travel Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/audleytravel/. To find out more or enter via the website, visit www.audleytravel.com/social.  Entries must be posted between 20th August – 23rd September.

This post is my entry into the Trips 100 & Audley Travel blogger challenge.

Europe’s best destinations for thrill-seeking travelers

Adventure holidays are becoming more and more popular but often can be a case of doing the same thing just in a different location. Europe has many thrilling destinations that are just waiting to be discovered and explored, with a variety of things to do to keep the adrenaline pumping. These are some of the best destinations in Europe for a thrill-seeking adventurer to visit.

Lagos – Portugal

image via flickr

Kayaking is often a go-to for many thrill-seekers, and in Lagos, Portugal, those searching for that thrill won’t be left disappointed. Visitors to Lagos can expect to try blokarting (sailing on land), 4×4 safaris, sea kayaking and even rock climbing. Many of these activities are readily available and are no further than a short trip away, about an hour, for those staying in Lagos. All of that plus it is considered to be one of the best party locations in Europe (and the world). There really is something for everyone here.

Dog Sledding in Sweden

image via pixabay

For something a little different, you could try dog sledding in Sweden. While you may not be too familiar with making a pack of dogs pull you around a snowy landscape, you don’t have to be an expert to take up this activity. You’ll need to make sure you bring plenty of warm clothing though as you are likely to get very cold otherwise. Although you’ll have a guide to help you, it will feel like it is just you and the dogs after a while. Soon you’ll be navigating your way through tricky routes watching the snowy landscape whirring by. Then you’ll have a break and get to chill with the dogs for a bit, what could be better?

Be at one with the ice – Iceland

image via pixabay

Here you can climb beautifully blue ice structures as well as taking a jeep out at night to try and capture the natural phenomenon that is the northern lights. Iceland has lots to offer those who travel there, and you won’t be surprised to know there is an abundance of ice there. It is also the setting of many scenes in the HBO TV series Game of Thrones, so fans of the show can transport themselves beyond the wall and into the Wildling’s country.  

Diving in Scotland

image viawikimedia

Near the islands off the coast of mainland Scotland are some hidden treasures under the water. Heading to the Orkney Islands with your diving gear will bring history to life as there are some sunken warships ready for exploration should you have the diving skill. In fairness, they are just ten meters below the surface so many divers will have the capabilities of entering these abandoned ships. They were sunk to protect the services of the British Navy by blocking access to their would-be attackers. Visit the shores of Scotland if you’d like to throw in a bit of history with your adventure.

Zipwire in Italy

image via pixabay

Head to 2019’s European Capital of Culture and zip wire across its skyline. A zip wire that is almost a mile long connects two villages from high above in this mountainous region of Basilicata. Dubbed the “Flight of the Angel,” this will be the highlight of your adventure holiday in the mountains of Italy’s south. Rides along the zip wire will only set you back around €30, so it is well worth the entry fee. You can take a trek up into the mountains afterward and visit the rock churches that are carved into the rock face of the mountain.

Those were some of the best adventure destinations for those seeking a thrill in Europe. Hopefully, you’ve added one or two destinations to your list. Let us know in the comments your experiences of these places or any places you think we missed out.


This post was a guest post written by Jack Flynn – an avid traveller originally from London, but now spending time travelling in Europe and beyond. Currently situated in Spain, he writes for a few travel blogs whilst seeing the world of his own accord.

Gin Festival Maidstone

Gins a bit trendy isn’t it? I must admit I’m quite new to the pleasure of a nice cold G&T but with all these creative craft gins popping up all over the place, it’s sure to become my tipple of choice.

So when the lovely peeps at Gin Festival invited me along to one of their events, I thought that would be my perfect opportunity to discover some new favourites. Along with my gin loving hubby, we went to the Saturday afternoon event at the Kent Showground, Detling, Maidstone. Although the Gin Festival has been going since 2013, this year was the first year it came to Maidstone – and it completely sold out!

Gin Festival Maidstone

When you arrive you are given a guide to the festival as well as your very own copa gin glass which you can keep and take home. I thought this was particularly good and wins some eco-friendly points from me on that! There is a cashless system in place so you are also given a wrist band which you can load up with money before or during the event to ensure a smoother process at the bars rather than faffing about with money.

What to expect

There were four brands giving out free tasters, they were: PJ Gin from Belgium – available exclusively from ginfestival.com, Tinker Gin – based in Yorkshire and launched in 2017, Anno – a Kent based distillers whose delish cranberry gin tasted like Christmas and Brockmans – an English gin ‘like no other’.

Well, I quite liked them all with a bit of tonic (which was from the Schweppes 1783 premium range).

Anno Gins at Gin Festival Maidstone

Beyond these tasters there were five bars to get your drinks at, as well as a cocktail bar, snacks, food and live music. There were also masterclasses on. We attended the one held by Dan from Tinker Gins which was really quite funny (and full of swearing hehe!). It definitely adds something when you meet the people behind the drinks and learn about their passions.

Tinker Gin masterclass at Gin Festival Maidstone

Mr QLP loves a G&T and enjoyed a Brockmans Premium Gin followed by a Tinker Gin. I chose a Boe Violet Gin which was very light and sweet, followed by a Marula Gin which was garnished with peach. We also tried the Elephant Gin because 15% of proceeds go to support African elephant charities, which is enough to make me want it, but its also garnished with the winning combo of apple and ginger – yum!

The UK's biggest gin festival

The guide book given out tells you about all the gins on offer and what they taste like as well as what kind of garnish and mixer you should pair them with. There were so many gins to try it actually made it difficult to decide what to go for! I was certainly intrigued by the Hidden Curiosities gin with peppercorns and the Sweet Potato Plum gin liqueur but I’ll have to try those out next time. My only niggle was that I had really wanted to try the Zymurgorium Sweet Violet gin as its supposed to taste like parma violet sweets but it had sold out just an hour into the event. Disappointing.

Gin Life

We ended the day feeling rather tipsy but bought ourselves a bottle of Brockmans to take home! I would definitely recommend Gin Festival and I’ll be sure to keep my eyes peeled in future for some of the gins I didn’t get chance to try!

Disclaimer: I was given free tickets by Gin Festival but all thoughts are my own.

Update: Unfortunately Gin Festival have since gone into administration however if you’re looking for Gin Festivals then check out www.eatdrinkseek.co.uk/gin-festivals

Alphabet Dating - T is for Tasting Tour

Alphabet Dating – T is for Tasting Tour

Copper Rivet Distillery Tour

There are many kinds of tasting tours you can do for alphabet dating letter T – tapas, street food, beer, chocolate… We chose to do the Copper Rivet Distillery Tour which is situated in the historic dockyard of Chatham in Kent.

The distillery is set in the Victorian Pump House No. 5 and brews vodka, whiskey and gin. Although the dockyard itself has a long history, Copper Rivet Distillery didn’t come into planning until 2005 and didn’t open for tours until 2016, so its relatively new.

Pump House No.5 - home to the Copper Rivet Distillery Tour

When you arrive at Pump House No. 5 you walk straight into the bar which proudly displays some of the awards that Copper Rivet have won. There’s a nice relaxed atmosphere there with a vibe of old-meets-new. The bar acts as a waiting area before your tour so if you’re early enough you can have a drink beforehand.

Dockyard gin - bar display

The tour was interesting. We learnt about the process of making the alcohol, the Russell family who set up the distillery and a guy named Abhi, the head distiller at the Copper Rivet Distillery and a bit of a genius in his field from the sounds of it!

The stills at the Copper Rivet Distillery Tour in Chatham Dockyard

The stills are all named after members of the Russell family who are no longer with us (but here in spirit. Pun intended). ‘Sandy’ the whiskey still, ‘Joyce’ the column and ‘Janet’ the gin still. Janet is a bit of a special one (I think our guide may have even said the only one like it!) and is a patented design. The other thing Copper Rivet are immensely proud of is that they are one of only a handful of distilleries in the UK who control the whole distillation process from grain to glass!

Janet the gin still

After being shown the stills and learning the history and processes, we were able to sample the vodka and the gin. The whiskey is busy maturing so won’t be ready until around 2020 so whiskey fans may wish to wait! I must admit I didn’t really enjoy the vodka, but vodka is not my tipple of choice. However the gin was pleasant and what we were really there for anyway. The Dockyard Gin is flavoured with 9 botanicals too – orange peel, orris root, lemon peel, elderflower, angelica root, green cardamom, coriander seeds, juniper and grains of paradise.

Copper Rivet Dockyard Gin

At the end of the tour we were given a full glass of gin and tonic to savour, complete with a slice of grapefruit – how Dockyard Gin is recommended! You can also buy bottles of the spirits to take home too.

After our tour we stopped off at one of the local restaurants in the dockside for some burgers and cocktails to round off a fun afternoon out!

The Copper Rivet Distillery Tour at Chatham Historic Dockyard - excellent idea for a date or fun afternoon out.

The Copper Rivet Distillery Tour lasts for around 1 hour and costs £12pp. If you enjoyed this you might like reading about the time I got tipsy at the XXXX brewery in Brisbane or some of my other Alphabet Dating adventures.

 

5 signs you’ve been bitten by the travel bug

There are some for whom international travel is as much a given as their birthday or the coming of the seasons. Ever since childhood they’ve been accustomed to going away and have come to regard it as not just a welcome reprieve from the pressures of their job, career and familial obligations, but as a basic human right. Yet, there are also many for whom the call of wanderlust is a relatively new phenomenon. They may have enjoyed a few activity breaks in their home country but the pleasures of seeing the great wide world are relatively new to them. For these people this new experience quickly becomes intoxicating and soon their every thought is geared towards lining up their next holiday.

5 signs you've been bitten by the travel bug

If this sounds like you, here are some telltale signs that will confirm that you’ve well and truly been bitten by the travel bug…

You want the things you used to want a whole lot less
After a bite from the travel bug you suddenly become a whole ,lot pickier about what you spend your precious disposable income on. That dress you lusted over a few months back? Pfft! A mere frippery! Those shoes that your life once seemed so incomplete without? A shocking frivolity. Every spare penny you have is, in your mind, already spent on the deposit for your next big getaway.

You’re already lining up avenues of credit
Sure, we should all be saving more, but the rising cost of living combined with the stagnation of most people’s wages mean that saving is not as easy as it sounds. Plus, most savings accounts suck! When the travel bug bites but you just can’t squirrel away as much as you’d like to, all avenues of credit look increasingly appealing. If you have poor credit there are personal loans no credit check no bank account required but if you can, opt for a credit card with a low or 0% introductory APR. Box clever with the interest rates and keep moving the debt around or you might find next year’s getaway that much harder!

You can’t watch a movie without pulling your phone or tablet out
The cinema is often a gateway to new and exotic lands, either real or imagined. But when we see a location that looks so gorgeous we want to step through the screen and lay down a beach towel, real travel bugs are instantly on their phone trying to find out where the scene was shot and the cost of a return flight.

You’re setting aside fridge space for more magnets
Just like a stamp on your passport, a fridge magnet is a fun reminder of a far away land that brings memories flooding back every time you lay eyes on it. You likely have a precious one or two on there, but your kids’ artwork is going to have to go somewhere else because you’re saving room for more.

Your bookcase is thronged with phrase books and rough guides
Preparing for a trip is half the fun, right? So, just to be on the safe side you’ve scoured Amazon for rough guides and phrase books for every destination on your ‘to do’ list… Y’know… Just in case!

Post written in collaboration with Hayley Edlund.