Diving the Galápagos Islands

Diving the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Having just completed my PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course, I was keen to put my new skills to the test. Diving in the Galápagos Islands seemed the perfect way to do this.

We were pretty much winging our trip to the Galápagos Islands but we decided to pre-book our first hotel as well as our diving. In the spirit of the Galápagos, we decided to break our budget for our first stop, and so checked into the rather luxurious Royal Palm Hotel in the centre of Santa Cruz island. It was nice to be away from bustling Puerto Ayora, cocooned within lush gardens with epic views across the island.

The hotel grounds include a lava tunnel, extensive gardens and even a barn owl! There is also a gym, large pool, a tennis court and in-room hot tub(!) as well as complimentary bikes to explore the surrounding interior where giant tortoises roam freely in the fields. It was a great base for starting our Galápagos adventure. Continue reading

cotopaxi-volcano

Testing my limits on Cotopaxi Volcano

I knew it was going to be cold. I knew it was going to be hard. What I didn’t know is that I’d want to give up after a mere 10 minutes on Cotopaxi Volcano. Our altitude of 4,500m mixed with unusually harsh weather made every breath difficult, every step a labour. As the wind slapped my face, I closed my eyes and wondered not for the first time why I had let Peter talk me into this. Glaciers were his thing. Trekking in freezing cold weather was his hobby. I like adventure, sure, but not when it hurt this much. I prefer my adrenaline 10 degrees above freezing, thank you. Continue reading

best beaches

The best beaches we’ve ever seen

When I first went on holiday I was 18 and on the lookout for the perfect beach. You know the sort: powdery white sand and clear turquoise water set against a blazing blue sky. I’ve seen beautiful beaches in Barbados, Tunisia, Thailand, Mexico and Dubai, but none were quite the same as the brochures and billboards.

They were either lined with high-rise hotels (Waikiki), filled with tourists (Ko Phi Phi), or not quite as soft and powdery as the pictures would have you believe. Eventually, I decided that all the adverts were photoshopped beyond reality and that there was no such thing as the perfect beach. And then I went to the Maldives and Fiji and Samoa, and I found what I was looking for. Continue reading

Horse riding in Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Horse riding in Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Our Ecuadorian guide smiles at the motley crew of would-be horse riders assembled in front of him. In Spanish, he asks if anyone has any experience. A few people shuffle their feet nervously. When no-one else speaks up, I put up my hand reluctantly.

“Yo tomó doce clases hace dos años,” I tell him in my faltering Spanish, explaining that I took 12 lessons two years ago.

He beckons me forward and leads me to a young male, one of the bigger horses in the group. I swallow. During my lessons at Lee Valley Riding Centre, I was always given a small horse corresponding to my size, not to mention a platform to step up onto the horse. Today, I need a leg up. Continue reading

best-south-pacific-cruises

5 best South Pacific cruises

The Pacific Ocean is the largest body of water in the world and the South Pacific is arguably the most beautiful. Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan first entered the Pacific on an expedition of world circumnavigation from 1519 to 1522. He named the ocean Pacífico, meaning “peaceful”, as he was surprised at how calm the waters could be. Centuries later, sailors still flock to the great ocean to catch the trade winds in their sails. Continue reading