Category Adventures

Photo Friday: Wharekauhau New Zealand luxury lodge

Wharekauhau Luxury Lodge is on the southern tip of the North Island of New Zealand

I took this Photo Friday image on the way to one of New Zealand’s spectacular luxury lodges: Wharekauhau Country Estate.

Wharekauhau Country Estate

Driving 90 minutes from the nation’s capital of Wellington to Wharekauhau Country Estate, I zigzagged through the brooding Rimutaka Ranges and then followed country roads over rolling green hills. Everywhere I looked were gamboling long-tailed suckling lambs with their mothers. The whole landscape was Pure New Zealand, where sheep outnumber people twenty to one.

In the distance, nestled amongst hedgerows in a fold of emerald green pasture is Wharekauhau’s cream stucco Edwardian manor house with a steeply pitched roof dotted with large chimneys, its expansive bay windows overlooking a shimmering celadon sea...

Read More

Photo Friday: Hiking around Gelmer Lake in Switzerland

Gelmer Lake is part of a massive hydro-electric system in the Bernese Oberland

I took this picture during a hike around the gorgeous aquamarine Gelmer Lake not far from Grimsel Pass in the Bernese Oberland mountain area of Switzerland.

To get here you drive on a spectacular road that climbs, in large zig-zag bends, through canyons of wild beauty. This is Swiss hydro-electric country and all the lakes here, like Gelmer Lake, are man-made but that doesn’t mean they aren’t beautiful. The color of their waters is exquisite and they are rimmed by wildflowers in summer and framed by dramatic granite rocks and snow covered mountain peaks.

Europe’s steepest funicular goes to Gelmer Lake

We took the Gelmerbahn, which is Europe‘s steepest funicular with a gradient of 106%, down the mountain from Gelmer Lake. It’s quite a hair-raising adventure which is topped only by the walk across the narrow swing bridge which sways 70 meters above the Handeck Gorge, offering a fantastic view of the Handeck waterfall.

Grimsel Hospiz

We stayed nearby at the beautifully restored...

Read More

Photo Friday: The Endangered Orangutans of Borneo

Indonesia's orangutans are endangered because their habitat is being destroyed

Becky is a young orangutan mother who is very skilled at teaching her baby to live in the wilds of the Borneo jungle in Indonesia. Under her silent but perfectly calibrated watchful gaze he climbs up and down the tree trunk and right to the edge of the branch she is sitting on. Becky is displaying the sort of initiative and teaching skills that are hallmarks of orangutans’ superior intelligence

Sadly, orangutans such as Becky are under serious threat due to the fact that almost 80% of Indonesia’s rainforest has been lost in the past 50 years. Australia’s neighbor is the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, due almost solely to the destruction of its rainforests and carbon-rich peat lands for palm oil production.

Orangutan Odysseys

I visit Central Kalimantan or Indonesian Borneo with Australian-owned Orangutan Odysseys, the only orangutan tour company that visits all the orangutan quarantine stations in both Borneo and Sumatra...

Read More

L.L. Bean: Super Store in a Shoe Store

Discover the Outdoors with LL Bean...one step at a time
L.L. Bean’s famous boots

Pioneer American outdoors outfitter L. L. Bean has been a fixture on Main Street in Freeport Maine since its showroom opened in 1917. When Leon Leonwood Bean created the Bean Boot by combining lightweight leather tops with waterproof rubber bottoms, he offered a revolutionary 100-percent satisfaction guarantee.  To this day, customers can return any item for a complete refund, no questions asked.  In 1951, he also threw away the keys to keep the store open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Today L.L. Bean’s five stores (hunting and fishing; bike, boat and ski; retail apparel; kids; and factory store) make up an enterprising shopping campus, which has attracted more than 200 upscale discount outlets to this quaint coastal Maine village.

You could spend days meandering in this mecca to outdoor adventures. There is every conceivable item of clothing and outdoor gear for the hiker while the selection of bikes, canoes, skis, hunting and fishing gear leaves you speechless. I have never seen so many different types of flies, each one delicately copying an insect from the New England woods. In short, LL Bean offers an ode to all those classic New England outdoors pursuits.

But it...

Read More

Best Luxury Resort in New South Wales: Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa

Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa: luxury and conservation

The Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa offers a beguiling mix of unbridled luxury and environmental sustainability.  If you are looking for the best luxury resort in New South Wales, this is it. Even better, it is immersed in a dramatic outback landscape which the resort has gone to great pains to preserve, restore and protect.

It feels like you have entered a lost world when you arrive. The 4,000-acre conservancy reserve is located at the base of its own hidden canyon surrounded by ancient sun-drenched escarpments in a tucked-away part of the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains several hours’ drive out of Sydney.

It is the first carbon neutral resort in the world to be certified through an internationally accredited greenhouse gas program and one of its key initiatives has been to restore the indigenous habitat of the former cattle property, including planting of more than 175,000 indigenous plants and restoring of the original 1832 homestead.

Occupying just two per cent of the reserve, the $125-million resort features a two-story barn-like main homestead building, constructed of wood, sandstone and glass, plus on-site recycled building materials, and an entire flotilla of 40 free-standing luxury Federation-style bungalows.

The r...

Read More

Adrenalin adventures in Rotorua: raft waterfalls, ride the Schweeb, bungy jump, then soak in natural hot pools

The thermal area of Rotorua in New Zealand has plenty of adventures on offer

Rotorua is New Zealand’s coolest hot spot and it is easy to see why. The region is renowned for its geothermal activity with geysers, mud pools and hot springs not to mention 18 lakes, rushing rivers and majestic native and exotic forests. It offers a veritable feast of adrenalin and nature-based adventures.

Read More

Photo Friday: Is this the most beautiful beach in the world

You can have Champagne Beach all to yourself on Fiji's Yasawa Island

Is this the most beautiful beach in the world?

I took this photo on Champagne Beach in the remote Yasawa Islands off the northwest coast of the main island of Viti Levu in Fiji.  It is a huge arc of fine pinkish sand which surrounds a wide bay of aquamarine water. At each end are small reefs where you can snorkel to see myriad brightly colored tropical fish and hard and soft corals.

Even better, most of the time you have the whole beach to yourselves save for an occasional fisherman.

So how do you get here to enjoy it?

Yasawa Island Resort: home to the world’s most beautiful beaches

It is one of 11 pristine beaches that are available to guests of Yasawa Island Resort, one of Fiji’s most upscale one-island resorts located on one of the country’s most unspoiled islands. Although remote, it is just a 30-minute flight from Nadi International Airport to the resort’s private airstrip.

Yasawa is a standout in Fiji because of its absolutely spectacular beaches...

Read More

Photo Friday: Bali’s rice paddies around Ubud

Rice paddies around Ubud in Bali

I took this photo for Photo Friday on an early morning walk with a local guide through lime green rice paddies of Bongkasa alongside the Ayung River around the village of Baung in Sayan, which is not far out of Ubud in Central Bali.

It is enchanting to walk through such a lush landscape and watch the farmers work the paddies as well as learning about Hindu traditions and the local names for all the local tropical plants and flowers. After the walk, our guide took us home to his village compound, where we enjoyed coffee and cake with his wife and baby daughter and his extended family and learned how a traditional Balinese home is configured. All in all, it was a fascinating experience.

I arranged this walk through my accommodation, Bambu Indah, which is a delightful eco luxury boutique hotel with 11 antique Javanese bridal homes that were brought to Bali, restored and decorated with authentic Indonesian furniture and crafts...

Read More

What to Do Along the Great Ocean Road: beaches, forests, coastal towns

Victoria's Great Ocean Road is one of the world's great drives

Photo by Robert Blackburn

Not the ok ocean road or the good ocean road, Victoria is home to the GREAT Ocean Road, one of the world’s most scenic coastal drives that spans 243 km of Victoria’s stunning coastline southwest of Melbourne.

All too often visitors zip past The Great Ocean Road’s spectacular beaches, zigzag around its jagged cliffs, plough through its soaring rainforests, and scarcely make a pit-stop in its pretty beach towns in their rush to get to the 12 Apostles.

If the truth...

Read More

Photo Friday: Sailboats at the Tuileries in Paris

Model sail boats for rent in the Tuileries gardens in Paris

I took this picture of the rickety cart filled with handmade wooden sailboats with their much-patched sails one spring day in the Tuileries gardens in Paris.

In fact, I’ve taken pictures of these boats  and the kids sailing them every time I have visited Paris over the past 25 years. And the same man has been there renting them every single time. I’ve tried to talk to him over the years to learn a little bit more about him, where he makes the boats and mends the sails and just how long he has been doing this. But he is a cagey fellow and doesn’t like all those inquisitive questions.  His face is tanned from spending every afternoon outside in the park, summer and winter, rain or shine.

The first time I saw him my oldest daughter was just a babe in arms and she has now just announced her engagement at the age of 26! I feel like he has watched my family grow up just like he must have seen hundreds of other little kids get big and have children of their own, which they bring down to th...

Read More