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.

8 things to do in and around Queenstown New Zealand

8 things to do in and around Queenstown New Zealand

Queenstown is a must-do on anyone’s South Island itinerary, after all its not the adventure capital of New Zealand for nothing! Of course, there are TONS of things to do there, but here are 8 of my recommendations…

 1. Ride the gondola

Although Queenstown is famed for its fun and adventure, lets not forget that this is New Zealand, meaning that it is also quite pretty. The best way to take advantage of all that scenic beauty is to ride the gondola, which is STEEP (it’s actually the steepest cable car lift in the Southern hemisphere!) but so worth it when you reach the top and take in those gorgeous views.

Skyline gondola Queenstown

2. Have fun on the luge

Once you’ve ridden the gondola up to Bob’s Peak, you may as well enjoy some of the activities on offer up there. My recommendation is the luge – so much fun! You take a chair lift up even higher and then pick one of the two luge tracks to travel back down. There’s a more gentle, scenic track which everyone must do on their first ride and then there’s also a faster paced, steeper track. We ended up riding the luge 5 times!

Luge track in Queenstown New Zealand

3. Try a famous Fergburger

If you read my post about 3 fast food burgers you must try in New Zealand then you will already know about Fergburger. Although to be fair, you probably already know about Fergburger because literally anyone who has been to Queenstown has raved about this place. It’s not really “fast food” as you’ll probably be queuing about 45 minutes for it but it’s still worth trying at least once. Or twice in my case.

Burger and fries at the legendary Fergburger

4. Go horseriding

45 minutes drive from Queenstown is the town of Glenorchy, home to Dart Stables where we admired yet more of New Zealand’s beauty but on horse back. We did the beginners trek named Hobbit’s Hack and saw where some of Lord of the Rings was filmed. I can’t claim to be a LOTR fan but I did enjoy the scenery.

Horse riding in Glenorchy New Zealand

5. Spin and splash on the Shotover Jet

The Shotover Jet is quite simply, a jet boat ride on the Shotover River. Running since 1965, they are the only company permitted to operate within the Shotover River’s canyons. High speeds and 360 spins are guaranteed – you might even see rainbows in the mist!

Shotover jet boat ride in Queenstown, New Zealand

6. Bungy jump

So I have a small confession to make… I didn’t actually do a bungy jump because I don’t have that part of my brain that makes me want to pay $195 to tie a rubber band to my legs and throw myself off a bridge. However, my husband is a bit of a secret adrenalin junkie and did the AJ Hackett Kawarau Bridge jump in Queenstown – the world’s first commercial bungy jump.

He loved it and wouldn’t let me write this list without including it!

Bungy jumping on the Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown, New Zealand

7. Visit wonderful Wanaka

We only spent one day in Wanaka which really wasn’t enough. It was pretty and peaceful and we enjoyed a lovely lunch by the lake. It’s also home to two fabulously quirky attractions – Puzzling World and Cinema Paradiso. If you want to know a bit more about Wanaka then take a look at my post Quirky things to do in wonderful Wanaka.

Quirky Wanaka New Zealand - Puzzling World!

8. Take a day trip to Milford Sound

I admit this might be an odd choice given that my trip to Milford Sound was my worst day travelling but I know other people who have been there and had a great time. I can’t say more than that. Go read my post Milford Sound – is it worth it? and decide for yourself on this one.

Milford Sound - is it worth it?
Milford Sound – image not my own unfortunately. Image via Unsplash.

Have you been to Queenstown? What was your favourite thing to do? Comment below. And for more inspiration, follow my New Zealand Pinterest Board.

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8 things to do in and around Queenstown New Zealand

Milford Sound – is it worth it?

aka My Worst Day at New Zealand’s Number 1 Attraction

Milford Sound - is it worth it?
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Milford Sound – is it worth it? It’s often touted as New Zealand’s number 1 must visit attraction, but is it worth the hype?

That greatly depends. Many people come back from there with wonderful experiences having spotted seals, dolphins and penguins as they’ve glided their way on a beautiful boat through the majestic waters. I, however, want to tell you about my visit to Milford Sound, because well, I’m all about keeping it real and sharing what the likes of Lonely Planet probably won’t tell you…

Milford Sound - is it worth it?
Milford Sound – image not my own unfortunately. Image via Unsplash.

Although we had hired a car in New Zealand, neither of us really fancied driving the lengthy journey from Queenstown to Milford Sound, so we booked an organised coach tour. There are plenty of operators based in Queenstown but we chose to go with Jucy.

Our driver Lucy (you can’t make this up!) picked us up in the morning and remained bright and friendly throughout our trip. She told us all stories of her childhood on a farm and made several rest stops on route. Sadly for us, the weather was not being kind and even though we’re British and quite used to the rain, the more than damp weather was dampening our spirits the closer we got to Milford Sound.

After a long journey, we made it to the boat where the rain was still pouring and the wind was blowing a gale. The crew on board could obviously sense our coach load of disappointment as they tried to remain enthusiastic and marvelled at the many waterfalls spilling down the rocks because of the torrential downpour. I don’t know if they were genuinely that excited about the waterfalls or if they were just putting a positive spin on things in order to lift our spirits.

Many waterfalls can be seen at Milford Sound when it rains
Expect to see all the waterfalls when it rains

We received lunch on board the boat – wraps, cookies and drinks. I chose a falafel wrap and shortly afterwards found myself in the toilets with an upset stomach.

Needless to say, the rest of my Milford Sound experience was spent locked in a cubicle. But I didn’t miss much as hubby didn’t see any wildlife or rainbows beyond the drizzle and clouds, but he did venture out on deck to battle the elements. Sure, you could say it’s dramatic and atmospheric but when you’ve got food poisoning and you’re having panic attacks about spending another 5 hours stuck on a coach, who really cares?

What the travel guides DON'T show you about Milford Sound
* sigh *

The 90 minute boat ride was soon over and everyone was pretty keen to just get back to Queenstown. Lucy from Jucy had to ask another couple (who had prime location seats at the front of the coach) to switch with us so I could be at the front of the coach incase I needed to ‘go’ again. I would have felt guilty and mortified had all my energy not been focussed on making it through the next 5 or so hours. The trouble with New Zealand is that rest stops are few and far between but fortunately having dosed myself up with the necessary medication, I made it back to Queenstown just fine.

And thus concludes the worst day I had in my whole backpacking trip down under.

Milford Sound in bad weather
Image taken by my hubby 🙂

So, is it worth it?

In my opinion, no. Perhaps if we’d driven ourselves and stopped in Te Anau for a night maybe? But I feel it is my duty to present the less glossy, sunny and perfect side to travel.

There are two sides to every story of course, so if you want to read a good experience of Milford Sound then I’m sure there are a bazillion other travel bloggers out there who will gladly share that.

Milford Sound in New Zealand
Here’s what we *could* have seen. Image via Pixabay

Have you been to Milford Sound? What did you think? Or have you had Travellers Tummy at the worst moment? Share, we’re all friends here!


You can find some of my more pleasant New Zealand adventures right here.

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!

Where to see wild seals in New Zealand

where to see wild seals in new zealand

Where to see wild seals in New Zealand

This post could quite easily also be called Free things to do in Kaikoura or What to do in Kaikoura when weather ruins play but I thought I would go with the one that would grab my attention, after all who wouldn’t want to know where to go seal spotting in New Zealand?!

Initially we had booked a stay in Kaikoura in order to swim with seals. Sure, you can swim with dolphins there but I thought being able to swim with adorable New Zealand fur seals would be something completely unique.

Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be. Although the sun was high in the sky, the sea was cloudy because of the previous day’s poor weather. So our seal swimming adventures were over before they had even begun. We decided to book a whale watching excursion as an alternative but luck was not on our side and all whale watching trips were cancelled too.

I wasn’t too disappointed because we still had a wonderful day and managed to get closer to the New Zealand fur seals than I had ever imagined – AND without getting wet!

A seal swimming in Ohau stream, Kaikoura

We drove to Ohau Point seal colony where we parked up and took a walk to the waterfall with the promise of potentially spotting a few young seals frolicking in the water. The walk was much shorter than expected and there were seals everywhere! They jumped and played in the waterfall, they lolloped around on the rocks. We were careful not to disturb them but two of the little scamps were playing on the path merely a metre away from where we stood! We watched them for a while and even as we left we saw more seals swimming along in the shallow waters beside us.

Ohau waterfall - a beautiful place to see seal pups swimming

Adorable seal pup at Ohau Point, New Zealand

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

Our next stop was to drive down to the peninsula where another colony of seals could be found. One of the seals was even occupying a car park space! The rest of the seals were lolling around on the rocks which we climbed down on to in order to take a few pictures. Again, we were careful not to get too close as the car park seal already made it clear that I was invading its personal space when I stopped for a photo! (I really wasn’t that close either!).

Funny seal thinks its a car!

Seals on the peninsula in Kaikoura

We finished our day with a drive up to the lookout where we could see the stunning views of Kaikoura below.

View of Kaikoura in New Zealand's South Island

Even though the day didn’t go quite as planned, it was still one of my favourite days in New Zealand.

Here’s a little video I made from clips I shot on my mobile phone.

If you’re feeling inspired, why not take a look at my other New Zealand posts or check out my New Zealand board on Pinterest. My YouTube channel is also here.