Spotting quokkas on Rottnest Island, Australia

If you’ve never seen a quokka before, google “the world’s happiest animal” and you’ll see image after image of an adorable furry little creature that appears to be smiling. That, my friends, is a quokka and they live wild on Rottnest Island off of the coast of Western Australia.

Quokkas on Rottnest Island Australia

When I returned to Australia I knew I had to pay a visit to Rottnest Island and it turned out to be one of the best days!

We were staying in an Airbnb in the lovely town of Fremantle, which was where we caught the ferry from. The ferry journey took around 25 minutes before we reached the blissful shores of Rottnest.

Beautiful beach of Rottnest Island in Western Australia

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

At the port, we collected the bikes we had hired as this is pretty much the only way to travel around the island as cars are not permitted and it is too large to navigate by foot. However, there is a bus service but where’s the freedom in that?!

We picked up a map and set off on one of the bike trails. We only covered a small section of the island but still managed to cycle about 10km!

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

The beaches are stunningly beautiful here, with white sand and turquoise sea, so be sure to take a break from cycling to enjoy them. It was a little while before we spotted any quokkas but when we did, we tried to get ourselves an obligatory ‘quokka selfie’ (yes that’s a thing). After initially worrying that we wouldn’t find any quokkas, we ended up seeing loads of them all around the island.

Quokka selfie

Quokka selfie

The quokkas face no natural predators on the island so they aren’t particularly fearful of anything. They actually see humans as a source of food which is bad because you aren’t supposed to feed the quokkas.

Once we’d cycled a loop, admiring the views and the wildlife along the way, we headed to Aristos Waterfront Restaurant for some well earned fish and chips which were delicious!

Rules of Rottnest Island

  1. Don’t feed the quokkas

  2. Don’t touch the quokkas

  3. Be careful – in one quokka encounter, I ended up shoving a man in the leg because a throng of over excited tourists had showed up and he wasn’t looking where he was going and stepped backwards onto a poor little quokka’s tail! I’m a wildlife warrior, me.

  4. When cycling, ensure you are wearing your helmet. They are compulsory by law in Western Australia.

  5. Respect the island – take your rubbish with you and stay on the designated paths.

Quokkas having a nose in our bag
Watch your bags – those quokkas aren’t shy!

Top Tips

  1. Take plenty of water and snacks as once you leave the main harbour there isn’t really anywhere else to grab refreshments.

  2. Take sunscreen/hat/sunglasses etc as it is hot out there and not particularly shaded.

  3. If you’re only in Western Australia for a short amount of time I would recommend booking your place on the ferry in advance. We booked ours before we left the UK and the package included bike hire. We also went on a Tuesday as we found that this was the cheapest day to go.

  4. Take a watch with you to ensure you don’t miss your ferry slot back!

We had booked the last ferry back so once we’d explored a little more, we spent some time chilling on one of the beaches before having a drink at Quokka Joe’s cafe. I was pretty jealous of the people who were staying overnight on the island but I was also incredibly satified at what a wonderful day we had had.

Adorable quokka - a native to Rottnest Island in Western Australia

A girl's guide to The Maldives

A girl’s guide to… The Maldives

If you’re jetting off to the Maldives, chances are you are travelling with your significant other and are either

a) Newly weds on honeymoon
b) Happily married and celebrating a special anniversary
c) filthy rich and head to the Maldives every year, darling!

When I stayed on these beautiful islands, I fell into camp A (although secretly I want to be in camp C!) and must admit that the Maldives always seemed like one of those magical places that was so much of a perfect paradise that it was unattainable for a normal girl like me.

Not so. Here is a girl’s guide to this tropical heaven…

Kuramathi Island Resort, Maldives

Before you go

Go and speak to a few travel agents and ask them to price up some options for you. Different islands cater for different budgets, although this is no budget holiday. We stayed on Kuramathi Island Resort, which is one of the larger islands, and as we found, less expensive (well, less expensive for the Maldives anyway).

You will also want to discuss the type of accommodation you wish to stay in – beach villa? overwater bungalow? garden villa? Staying in an overwater bungalow was something on my Bucket List but not an affordable option for our entire stay, so we booked an overwater bungalow for our first night and then stayed in a beach villa for the remaining duration of our holiday. We were lucky to have the best of both worlds although our friends who went to Kuramathi after us said that this isn’t an option anymore, but perhaps one of the other islands offers it? Go do your research!

Water bungalow on Kuramathi island in the Maldives

What to pack

  • Leave your heels at home! A pair of flipflops for daytime is all you need (and perhaps some pretty sandals for evening) but trust me, you’ll be barefoot in the sand for most of your stay.
  • Bikinis, sarongs, shorts, vests, light summer dresses. You may need to cover up if you leave your island to mingle with the locals but otherwise beachwear is fine.
  • Bring your own toiletries and suncream – to buy on the island is more expensive.
  • Take U.S. dollars. We were told that our island only really dealt with American dollars, but again, if you leave your island you may need to take some Maldivian Rufiyaa with you.

Sunset in the Maldives

Things to remember

  • While we had petals on the bed and a lovely card from our rep, don’t expect constant special treatment just because you are on honeymoon – so is everyone else. Sorry to burst your confetti-filled bubble there!
  • If you use up any toiletries while on holiday, please please take the empty packaging back home with you and dispose of it there. The Maldives cannot cope with excess waste (seriously, google: Thilafushi) so something as small as taking your plastic bottles home with you can make a difference.
  • Go snorkelling – the ocean is beautiful but be mindful of the coral, it’s very fragile.
  • Lastly, as the saying goes “Take only pictures, leave only footprints“.

If you enjoyed this then you might enjoy reading about my favourite things about the Maldives.

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A girl's guide to The Maldives - a brief but handy guide to a paradise honeymoon destination, written by a normal girl!

Around the world in 7 weeks - a video diary

Around the World in 7 weeks – a video diary

Around the world in 7 weeks

Exactly one year ago today, on 16th October 2015, me and my husband were on a flight from London to Singapore to embark on a whirlwind seven week trip around the world. Regretting never taking a gap year as students, we decided to ask for a career break and were granted those weeks – not as long as we had hoped for but still long enough for an epic adventure.

We had a brief two night stopover in Singapore before flying on to Australia for a couple of weeks – Oz being one of my all time favourite places. The main reason for our desire to head Down Under however, was an (almost) month-long road trip around New Zealand. After our epic road trip we stopped over in Fiji for some relaxation and culture (I never thought I would ever get to Fiji!) before finally crossing over the International Date Line and reliving 1st December all over again in Los Angeles where we spent a few more nights.

So for you, in video form, here is our awesome, amazing adventure!

Around the world in 7 weeks …in 7 minutes!

A Japanese Ryokan Experience

No Japan bucket list would be complete without a stay in a ryokan, so here is my guide to a Japanese ryokan experience.

What is a ryokan?

A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn. You may have seen them on tv or in books, they’re the ones with paper screens, low tables and futons instead of beds.

Japanese Ryokan Experience

How do I choose which ryokan?

Ryokan aren’t cheap and the ones that are cheap are most probably not that authentic. We started by looking on Tripadvisor at some of the best ryokan in Kyoto but found many were fully booked for the time of year we were looking at (April – Cherry Blossom season). One of the most famous and historic ryokans is the Hiiragiya which was slightly out of our budget, so in the end we opted for Hiiragiya Bekkan (annex) an authentic but more wallet-friendly option.

Hiiragiya Bekkan Japanese Ryokan in Kyoto
Outside Hiiragiya Bekkan

Other things to note when choosing your ryokan, is whether it includes a private bathroom or any meals, as of course this will affect the price. Our room at the Hiiragiya Bekkan included a private toilet and sink but shared bathing facilities (more on that later) and it also included a kaiseki meal (Japanese haute cuisine) in the evening and breakfast the following day.

Japanese garden view at our ryokan
Japanese garden surrounding our room

The initial experience

When we arrived at Hiiragiya Bekkan we were greeted by friendly and enthusiastic staff and as is custom in Japan, we were asked to remove our shoes at the door and wear the slippers provided.

We were shown to our room which overlooked a pretty Japanese garden and then we had to remove our slippers. I can’t quite remember how many different pairs of slippers we had, but if you’ve been to Japan you’ll know how much they love their slippers!

Matcha and sakura teas
Matcha and sakura teas
Japanese tea served at a traditional ryokan (Japanese inn)
Japanese tea

We were shortly served three different types of tea – matcha, sakura and Japanese. The Japanese tea was nice but the matcha and sakura are a bit of an acquired taste.

After tea we changed into the yukata (cotton robes) provided and spent some time relaxing and soaking up our surroundings!

Wearing yukata (cotton robes) at a ryokan
Looking dashing in our yukata

Kaiseki dinner

Upon arrival at the ryokan we chose a time we would like to have dinner and promptly at this time we received a knock on the door from our maid (for lack of a better word) bringing us the first course of our meal.

The April menu at Hiiragiya Bekkan
Menu

Some ryokan have communal dining areas, but the other thing that attracted us to the Hiiragiya Bekkan was being able to dine in the privacy of our own room.

Dinner at the ryokan was a seasonal menu and brought to us course by course. I didn’t really know what much of it was so I took a photo of the menu. It started off ok and I enjoyed the first few courses but I’m so glad we had this meal as part of a ryokan experience rather than at a kaiseki restaurant as I really struggled with a few of the courses. Sadly the bamboo shoots and the deep-fried bean curd with sea urchin weren’t to my taste.

Slideshow below.

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Bathtime

In Japan, bathtime is a bit of a ritual. So after dinner we were ushered off to the communal bathrooms. Similarly to pre-booking a dinner time slot, we also had a bathroom time slot too. A friendly old man had prepared our steaming hot bath for us and then gave us our privacy and left us to it. Basically in Japan, bathing etiquette dictates that you perch on a little stool and then soap and rinse yourself with a handheld shower before getting into the tub. The tubs are then for soaking once you are squeaky clean. Our tub was wooden and square, which was different but we had already had previous experience with onsen (hot springs) bathing which I will write about another time.

After our hot, relaxing baths we toddled off back to our room where our maid (who may or may not have been a ninja) had switched our room around from a dining room with low table to a bedroom with futons! The futons themselves were fairly comfortable, however the Japanese pillows, which I believe are filled with buckwheat, weren’t the most comfortable pillows I’ve ever slept on, but they certainly weren’t the worst!

Room at the ryokan set up for bedtime
All set for bed!

In the morning

The morning routine was almost like a reverse of the night before. We awoke early and went for our shower/bath and while we were soaking ourselves, our room was being whipped up from a bedroom back into a dining room, ready for breakfast.

Breakfast included an assortment of Japanese nibbles, the fish was delicious, however I struggled to stomach the rest of it. As I’m not much of a breakfast person anyway (yeah yeah I know it’s the most important meal of the day!) and by this point in our trip I just fancied something quite boring like toast. I know. I am a terrible travel blogger for saying that.

We checked out fairly early as we were due to travel on the Shinkansen back to Tokyo and upon check out we were presented with a gift – a neat box with chopsticks inside! Very sweet and thoughtful!

Japanese breakfast at a ryokan
The bit that looks like a nice apricot yogurt is actually raw egg >_<

Top tips

  • Advance booking is recommended as the ryokans are quite small and have limited availability.
  • In order to not have to worry about lugging our big suitcases with us for our one night stay in the ryokan we used a luggage forwarding service, quite a common thing to do in Japan and something that can be arranged at your hotel. We used this service a couple of times during our trip, so we had our luggage sent from our Kyoto hotel (where we stayed before our ryokan visit) to the hotel we would be staying at after departing the ryokan. Very efficient and helpful!
  • Follow ryokan etiquette regarding the removal of shoes, showering before bathing etc. And be sure not to place anything in the sacred alcove (pictured below with the wall hanging and flower arrangement).

Inside a Japanese ryokan

If you enjoyed this then you might like 10 foods to try in Japan or some of my other Japan adventures!

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Our Japanese Ryokan Experience in Kyoto - what to expect.

Things to remember when travelling abroad

Things to remember when travelling abroad

We Brits love to travel abroad. The Telegraph states on its travel section that the “British passion for travel is the biggest in twenty years.” But lets face it, while travelling is fun and exciting, it is also stressful. So to help you fellow travellers along the way, we have compiled some top tips for going abroad.

Waiting at the airport

The first hurdle of going on holiday is packing. It sounds simple you just put what you need for the duration of your trip in your suitcase or rucksack and off you go. Yet most people end up either not packing the right things or over packing and lugging extra weight around. Skyscanner came up with a top ten list of what not to pack on one of its travel posts. The article covered things such as packing clothes that aren’t appropriate for the country’s climate you’re travelling to and taking with you tech gadgets you don’t need.

Girl holding camera

The next step is to plan your journey. Spontaneity is great and leads to exciting new adventures but it is always best to have an idea of what you are going to do in the upcoming days otherwise the holiday can become expensive. Reader’s Digest detail some of the most common mistakes such as losing passports, not buying a service plan for mobile phones, forgetting to call your credit card company and failing to get medical insurance.

Girl sitting on suitcase

Many hours and opportunities can be wasted while you decide with your friends or family what you are going to do. Planning can also make sure that everybody gets to do something they want. Remember everybody has a different idea of what they would like to do on holiday, so be sure to consult your travel partners so that everyone feels involved.

One part of the journey travellers don’t think about but can end up being the most stressful is getting to the airport. There are many tips for making the process of getting onto your plane easier and stress free. Airport parking is often one of those services that can be forgotten, which can cost people more money than it should. Nowadays, all leading airports across the world have a variety of parking options available. For instance, at London’s famous Gatwick Airport, Parking4Less states that there are four options available to people, which are categorised as long and short stay, on-airport hotel and summer special car parking. Options like short stay give people a cheaper form of parking if they are only leaving their vehicle for a couple of days. Such provisions, if booked in advance, can save people a significant amount of money in the long run.

However, if you do leave your car at the airport or at a hotel, it’s also important you’re careful what you leave in it, and if it is visible to others. The worst thing you can do is to leave things so that passers by can see them – try to leave all your belongings out of sight or in the hotel.

While travelling USA Today recommends putting your money in different places so that you minimise the risk of losing it all.

Travelling abroad is one of the best ways to spend your time. With a little bit of planning and preparation your trip can be trouble and stress free.

Written by Amber Walsh. Images via Pixabay.