Category Wildlife

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...

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Photo Friday: Packing Prosecco Picnic in Victoria’s King Valley

Forges Farm offers a Packing Prosecco picnic in the King Valley

I took this Photo Friday image in the bucolic King Valley in Victoria’s High Country.

The afternoon sun glints on the Prosecco glasses set beside platters of local Milawa cheeses and crusty bread. Ancient river red gums shade our picnic area, set with hessian-covered hay bales, blankets and bright pillows as Hereford cows feast on clover in a nearby paddock. Our horses also enjoyed chomping on those sweet green grasses on the 20-minute pack horse ride…more of a lazy amble really…to the picnic spot along the King River on Forges Farm.

How do you pack a horse

Fifth generation cattle farmers Anne Marie and Graham Forge are the last original settler family on the King River. Before we had set out, they’d demonstrated the fine art of packing horses, once used to take supplies into the high country.

“I am so proud to be living and working on the same piece of property as my forefathers,” says Anne Marie. “And it’s great to be able to show visitors our packhorse skills.”

Lo...

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Eyre Peninsula Seafood Trail: tuna, oysters, lobster and more

Port Lincoln is the tuna capital of Australia

Slurping down a sweet Coffin Bay Pacific oyster at Port Lincoln Fresh Fish Place as workers shuck them at lightning speed, I ask owner Craig McCathie what it is about the Eyre Peninsula that makes the seafood here so special.

“On one side you have the warm saline waters of Spencer Gulf, which are ideal for prawns, calamari, and blue crabs, and on the other side are the cold, high-nutrient waters of the Great Australian Bight where southern bluefin tuna, snapper, and squid hang out,” he explains. “There are also the shallow estuaries, which are perfect for oysters, garfish and whiting. And let’s not forget the abalone, which live on the rugged limestone rocks. There is such an incredible diversity of environments for sea life and the waters are pristine along this isolated coastline.”

Then...

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Cruising the Peruvian Amazon in Luxury

The Delphin cruisers on the Peruvian Amazon

Delphin Cruises has two luxury river boats that cruise the Peruvian Amazon as well as Yacayali and Maranon tributaries, which embrace the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. This waterscape is a magical Garden of Eden where you’ll discover Amazonian exotica like pink dolphin, diminutive freshwater turtles, and the massive arapaima, which is a living fossil and one of the largest freshwater fishes in the world. And throughout the voyage through the jungle you enjoy gourmet meals and luxurious accommodations aboard these beautiful river boats.

How to get...

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Great Overnight Getaway from Tokyo: Karuizawa

The onsen in Karuizawa, an hour out of Tokyo

The mountain retreat of Karuizawa, just an hour by bullet train from Tokyo, offers a delightful overnight getaway from the frenetic metropolis. In winter, it has skiing, snow shoeing, and steaming onsen baths. In summer it offers a wonderful respite from Tokyo’s heat. And year-round it has great shopping, walking, restaurants and other adventures.

Karuizawa,  has long welcomed travellers. From the early 17th century, when Japan was ruled by the Edo (Tokyo)-based shogun, Karuizawa was a post town along the busy Nakasendo highway between Tokyo and Kyoto.

You can still explore the long narrow post-town street once lined with wooden restaurants and inns catering to samurai lords and merchants. These days the offerings lean more towards trinket-filled Japanese souvenir outlets, bakeries and sweets shops.

What distinguishes Karuizawa from other post towns is…surprisingly…how it became a getaway for Westerners in the late 19th century.  After first coming in 1886, Canadian-born missionary Alexander Croft Shaw recommended what he called Happy Valley to fellow missionaries and other foreigners as a wonderful place to escape Tokyo’s summer heat. Soon an entire community of western-style houses was built among the larch and fir trees.

A ret...

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The Best Authentic Dude Ranch in Wyoming

Letting the horses out of the coral at HF Bar Ranch

Letting the horses out of the coral at HF Bar Ranch

The HF Bar Ranch, 9000 acres spread beneath the pines and aspen of the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming, is the second oldest dude ranch in America. Offering a classic dude ranch experience that has filled the hearts and souls of thousands of families since it started taking guests back in the early 1900s, it wins the award as the best authentic dude ranch in Wyoming.

Jodi Foster comes every year to chill.  US Supreme Court Justice, Harry Blackman, wrote a letter when he was in his 80s to say his summer experiences here changed the course of his life. Wrangler Stephan, who’s been making the trek from Luxembourg with his family since he was seven, isn’t planning to leave any time soon and you can see why as he drives off in his Chevy pickup.

What are dude ranches?

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Photo Friday: Indonesia’s Komodo Dragons

Three Komodo dragons at the UNESCO World Heritage Komodo National Park

I took this Photo Friday image of these three gigantic komodo dragons on UNESCO World Heritage-listed Komodo Island in Komodo National Park off the coast of Flores Island in Eastern Indonesia. They are found only on four volcanic islands that rise Jurassic-park-like from the sea.

Three of them are sunbaking at a waterhole when I visit. Each is three-meters-long with prehistoric claws, beady eyes and scaly skin, which looks like woven metal armor. It feels like I’ve done a Dr Who and dropped into a dinosaur convention. Our diminutive guide is armed with nothing but a pronged stick. One heaves itself up and lurches towards me, so close I can hear its guttural hiss. A foot-long pink forked tongue darts in and out of its mouth. Meanwhile, saliva is drooling from the other two. Even DreamWorks couldn’t have come up with scarier looking creatures. Suddenly, my walk in the Komodo Islands National Park doesn’t feel like…well…a walk in the park anymore...

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Melbourne’s Best Weekend Getaway: Mornington Peninsula

Millionaire's Walk in Portsea on the Mornington Peninsula

Millionaire’s Walk in Portsea on the Mornington Peninsula

About an hour’s drive from Melbourne and wedged like the boot of Italy between Port Phillip and Westernport Bays, the Mornington Peninsula can make you wonder, at times, whether you are in Australia. Great swathes of blue water peak out between horse studs, alleys of pines and vistas of vines making it feel like a playground more Mediterranean than Melbourne.  But then those rolling green hills dotted with sandy bunkers could easily be in Scotland. Yet one glance at koalas lazing in aromatic gum trees and sun-drenched beaches with brightly colored bathing boxes and you realize you are in in the middle of one of Australia’s most appealing holiday destinations. Up until now, it has been a well-kept secret amongst Melbourne’s savvy insiders, but the Mornington Peninsula has so many world-class wineries, restaurants, beaches and gardens that it’s time the rest of the world discovered what it has to offer. For most of the p...

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Australia’s remote castaway tropical island: Haggerstone

Haggerstone Island mfp

Not a skerrick of pretension can be found anywhere near the jungle green mound that is Haggerstone Island, sitting peaceably in its own reef just 80 kilometers from the tip of Cape York Peninsula in Queensland. Those in the know ditch their shoes along with their big city stresses and fly 2 ½ hours from Cairns over virgin rainforest and an aquamarine sea dotted with lily-pad-like reefs.   The airport is a clay landing strip on nearby Hicks Island.  Baggage handling is by tractor. The destination: a remote, castaway tropical island paradise.

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Exploring Alaska’s Largest Wilderness: Wrangell St Elias National Park

The Bagley Ice Field is the largest non-polar icefield in North America

The 52,000 square kilometer Wrangell-St.Elias National Park is bigger than Switzerland. It has an active volcano, the largest sub-polar ice field in North America, 150 glaciers, and the tallest coastal mountains in the world with nine of the 16 highest peaks in the United States, four of which are over 4,800 meters including Mount St Elias, the biggest vertical rock face on the planet.  There are way more grizzly bears, moose, Dall sheep, bald eagles and salmon than humans. Together with Canada’s adjacent Kluane National Park, this area is the largest protected wilderness area on earth.

I have come here to explore “The Alaska factor.” Here everything is bigger, larger, greater – and tougher than it looks.

It is a spectacular five hours drive from Anchorage just to get to the park’s main entrance.

Before becoming a ...

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