Skydiving in Cairns: jumping from 16,000ft

After a month in Australia, skydiving in Cairns seemed an apt way to finish an epic trip.

I slumped into the pillow with the desultory air of someone faced with 200 channels and not a decent TV show between them. I sighed, then yawned, then slouched.

After seven days of diving in the Great Barrier Reef and all the wonder and adrenaline that comes with it, spending two days cooped up in a Cairns hotels seemed like a damp squib of a way to end our month-long trip across Australia. Sure, there was a great pancake house down the street and, yes, Aangan round the corner did excellent Indian cuisine, but after camping, hiking, sailing and diving our way through this continent-sized country, we weren’t satisfied with a quiet goodbye. Continue reading

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20 interesting facts about the Great Barrier Reef

We share the most interesting facts about the Great Barrier Reef gathered on our week-long visit

We’ve all seen pictures of the Great Barrier Reef: a pearl-string of reefs and lagoons boasting every imaginable shade of blue. This natural wonder in Australia teems with life.

Marine animals here vary from microscopic plankton to whales weighing 100 tonnes. It is a riot of colour, a carnival of life. Clownfish of bursting orange curl next to fish of luminous blue. It is a true spectacle – but what exactly is the Great Barrier Reef? Is it really bigger than Italy and can it really be seen from space? Continue reading

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Exploring Cooktown, Captain Cook’s historic landing site

We visit Cooktown in the far north of Queensland where Captain James Cook beached his crippled ship and helped found a giant country.

If you’ve seen a map of Australia, you’ve seen the huge, remote Cape York Peninsula, an area bigger than the UK, but with a population of just 18,000. Home to Australia’s northernmost point, Cape York Peninsula points upwards towards the Torres Strait and New Guinea in the northeastern corner of the continent-sized island of Australia.

On the southeastern edge of the peninsula with a population of around 2,600 lies Cooktown, a small town with a big history. We stopped off for a morning during our small-ship expedition around the Great Barrier Reef with Coral Expeditions. Continue reading

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8 of the best dive sites in the Great Barrier Reef

We spent seven days diving in the world’s largest reef system – and loved every minute. Below we share some of the best dive sites in the Great Barrier Reef.

As travel bloggers, we are at times guilty of hyperbole. When it comes to diving in the Great Barrier Reef, however, there is no overstating. The coral reef here is simply magnificent.

We spent seven days aboard the 35m catamaran Coral Expeditions II, a small ship that accommodates a maximum of 44 passengers (our trip had 22). Continue reading

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Diving Steve’s Bommie in the Great Barrier Reef

A first-hand report of diving Steve’s Bommie in the Great Barrier Reef including information on when to go, how to get there and what to expect.

It started with a whisper, as if he were revealing a state secret or the coordinates of Atlantis. His shoulders eased into the buttery leather of his seat, his stance loose and casual, as if this were any other drink on any other evening of our small-ship expedition across the Great Barrier Reef. His tone, however, betrayed something different: a low and certain intensity, alerting us to the fact that this dive would be like no other.

He would need special dispensation from the captain, said Colin, our dive instructor on the expedition. We’d have to leave early and take the dinghy and be back before breakfast. Nothing was guaranteed, but he’d talk to the captain and we’d wait and see. Continue reading

Whitehaven Beach: is it really the best in the world?

With swathes of white sand curving like a dervish around a vivid blue sea and a reputation for unparalleled beauty, would Whitehaven Beach beat everything we’ve seen?

It’s fair to say that Peter is not a beach baby. Give him a stretch of sand and he’ll search for a kayak to go off exploring. Give him sunny skies and he’ll plan a day of solo sailing. It’s no surprise then that he was dubious about our visit to Whitehaven Beach. On boarding the Providence V, he was clearly more excited about the journey there and back rather than the beach itself. Continue reading

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7 adventure sailing holidays for your bucket list

Adventure sailing holidays have the ability to carry passengers to the far reaches of the world, accessing some of the most remote and magnificent scenery the world has to offer.

Having recently returned from my first tall ship sailing adventure off the west coast of Scotland, and with my interest for the high seas well and truly piqued, I take a look at some adventure sailing holidays I would love to join. Continue reading

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Sailing the Whitsunday Islands from Airlie Beach, Australia

The sheltered waters of the Coral Sea off Queensland’s tropical coast are best explored by boat. Here’s our account of sailing the Whitsunday Islands.

Home to 74 tropical islands, the Whitsundays are perfect for sailing. Dotted along the beautiful tropical coast of Queensland, fringed and sheltered by the Great Barrier Reef, the picturesque islands are home to some of the finest beaches in the world.

One’s gaze is immediately drawn to Whitehaven Beach, repeatedly named one of the best beaches in Australia and indeed the world. With 74 islands to choose from, however, there are secret beaches hiding around every secluded bay. Continue reading

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7 best day hikes in the Blue Mountains

We explore seven of the best day hikes in the Blue Mountains, or the “Blueys” as they’re affectionately known to “Sydneysiders”.

We were ready to head to the hills. We’d had a great time exploring Sydney and climbing the Harbour Bridge, but were keen to get back into the outdoors. And so we ventured from our comfy dwellings at Mantra on Kent in Sydney for a day trip to The Blue Mountains. Continue reading

8 outdoor activities in Chile that bare its true beauty

From cycling parched deserts to exploring mountain lakes, we share our favourite outdoor activities in Chile.

There is a charming folk tale about Chile that claims when God created the world, he had a little bit of everything left over – deserts, lakes, mountains, glaciers and volcanoes – so he tossed it all together and created Chile.

The country, which stretches like a spine along South America’s western coast, is one of the most diverse in the world. From the parched Atacama Desert to the lush greenery of the Lake District, Chile swings from one extreme to another. Continue reading

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Sydney Bridge Climb: is it worth it?

The Sydney Bridge Climb is one of Australia’s most iconic activities – but is it worth the cost and effort? We braved some boiler suits to go and find out.

The Sydney Bridge Climb, if nothing else, is a lesson in sheer forcefulness. When its creator, Paul Cave, first put forward proposals for the climb, regulators replied with a list of 60-something reasons why it simply wasn’t possible.

Cave’s proposed blue suits would distract drivers, they said. Dropped items would cause accidents, and climbers would fall and hurt themselves. The list went on. Continue reading

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What is the greenest country in the world?

The greenest country in the world is Switzerland according to the latest data analysis from the 2018 Environmental Performance Index (EPI).

The Environmental Performance Index evaluates and ranks 180 countries on 24 performance indicators across 10 categories covering environmental health and ecosystem vitality.

The aim is to gauge, at a national scale, how close countries are to meeting the environmental policy goals outlined in the United Nations 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement. Continue reading

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Climbing Mount Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest peak

Climbing Mount Kosciuszko in Australia may not be on every visitor’s itinerary, but it’s the easiest way to bag one of the seven summits (sort of).

“So does this really count as one of your seven summits?” Kia asked as we started to break trail.

“Not really. But if I’m on my deathbed and one short, it will have to count,” I replied.

I may have mentioned climbing the seven summits (the highest mountain on each of the seven continents) once or twice or ten times before. I dream of climbing them all, no matter how improbableContinue reading

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Crowd control: the world’s least densely populated countries

Are those living in the world’s least densely populated countries happier than those living in more crowded ones? 

Finland was recently named the happiest country in the world. As with previous years, it is clear that developed, conflict-free nations with stable governments tend to rank higher in these indexes.

What’s interesting is that many of the world’s happiest countries also have relatively low population density. Finland, Norway, Iceland, CanadaNew Zealand and Australia all have fewer than 20 people per square kilometre (followed closely by Sweden with 22.12), and all appear in the top 10 happiest countries. Continue reading

Phillip Island: the day we saw 613 penguins

We visit the Phillip Island Penguin Parade in Australia to see if it’s worth the hype.

There is a palpable tension in the air. It reminds me of the atmosphere at a standing-only gig just before the doors open: everyone acts calm but then rushes forward in a desperate attempt to secure a good spot, pushing people like me – short, slight, little – to the outer margins of the room.

Needless to say, I hate standing-only gigs. Continue reading

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Happiest countries in the world 2018

The happiest countries in the world of 2018 have been ranked in the latest World Happiness Report. This year, Finland has snatched the title knocking Norway into second.

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a global initiative for the United Nations, has published this year’s World Happiness Report. The SDSN employs an international group of economists, neuroscientists and statisticians to survey citizens on their subjective wellbeing and produce a comprehensive annual list of the happiest countries in the world.

Continue reading

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Great Ocean Road attractions: the musts, shoulds and coulds

We list the best Great Ocean Road attractions you must see, should see and could see along the way. 

The Great Ocean Road in Australia is one of the world’s most scenic coastal drives and one of Lonely Planet’s Epic Drives of the World. Stretching for 243km along the southeastern coast of Australia, the road showcases some of the country’s most dramatic coastal scenery.

The Great Ocean Road runs between the Victorian towns of Torquay and Allansford and was built between 1919 and 1932 by soldiers returning from World War I. It is dedicated to soldiers killed during the war and as such is the world’s largest war memorial. Continue reading

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Flinders Chase National Park: what not to miss

Flinders Chase National Park on Kangaroo Island is one of South Australia’s finest parks. We take a look at seven sights not to be missed.

Sprawled across the western end of Kangaroo Island, Flinders Chase National Park is home to wild coastline, diverse wildlife and some truly extraordinary landmarks. The park has steadily recovered from bushfires that destroyed over 400 sq km of land in 2007, and today offers a uniquely Australian landscape of sugar-gum canopies and mallee scrub.  Continue reading