Category Travel Tips

Photo Friday: California’s Big Sur coastline


Highway One, which snakes along the spectacular Big Sur coastline, is one of the world’s great drives offering splendid vistas of mountains plunging into the often mist-shrouded Pacific Ocean.

Big Sur is a sparsely populated region of the Central Coast of California, between San Francisco and Los Angeles, where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise abruptly from the Pacific Ocean. The Name ‘Big Sur’ is derived from the Spanish ‘el sur grande’ meaning ‘the big south’ referring to its location south of the Monterey Peninsula.

Because of its relative isolation and natural beauty, Big Sur has been a magnet for artists and writers including Henry Miller, Edward Weston, Hunter S. Thompson and Jack Kerouac.

To check out one of Big Sur’s iconic institutions, read my post on The Esalen Institute, which focuses on alternative humanistic eduction. Often nicknamed ‘The New Age Harvard’, it is a spectacular retreat center and hot springs perched on the cliffs over the Pacific Ocean...

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Photo Friday: Japanese snow monkeys

Photo Friday: Japanese snow monkey

I shot this photo in winter when this Japanese snow monkey and his friends were enjoying their hot springs baths in snow-covered Jigokudani Yaenkoen park, not far from Nagano on the island of Honshu.

These snow monkeys are Japanese macaque, a monkey species native to northern Japan and the most northern-living non-human primate surviving winter temperatures below -15 degrees centigrade.

To see the monkeys in their natural environment you walk up alongside the Yokoyu River, which is nicknamed Hell’s Valley because of its steep cliffs and hot water steaming out from the ground. It is fun to watch them going about their business…playing, eating, running around and soaking in the onsen. There is a lot of social activity to enjoy with mothers and babies and alpha males. And it is remarkable how their faces and hands and all their emotions are so like our own.

If you would like to try soaking in an onsen yourself, check out my post on Kusatsu, which is much more human friendly!

Japanese s...
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Photo Friday: Captain Awesome of Cook Islands’ Koko Lagoon Cruises

Captain Awesome from Koko Lagoon Cruises in the Cook IslandsI took this photo of Captain Awesome, the charismatic leader of a four-man band of guides on Koko Lagoon Cruises in the Cook Islands. He blows on this beautiful conch shell to welcome us aboard the boat. The merry band of funsters are the sole reason why the Koko Lagoon Cruises on Muri Lagoon on the Cook Island’s main island of Rarotonga is such a fun trip. They don’t look that bad either!

Koko Lagoon Cruises

Out come the ukuleles the moment the Koko Lagoon Cruises glass bottom boat pushes off from the creamy sands of Muri Lagoon and Captain Awesome and his mates Captain Amazing, Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Cook (the chef who creates our lunch) serenade us with toe tapping tunes as we cruise around the aquamarine lagoon. Jack Sparrow even manages to steer the boat with one hand and beat a drum with the other.

We head to the edge of a marine reserve and Captain Amazing jumps overboard to feed the fishes right underneath the glass bottom so that we see a kaleidoscope of color...

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Photo Friday: Tranquil Bay in Australia’s Kimberley

The Kimberley region in Australia's Northwest is filled with beautiful scenes like this tranqul lagoon

I took this Photo Friday picture at Tranquil Bay in the Kimberley in Australia’s northwest. I love the space, the “untouched-ness” of exquisite places like this. Cliffs of ancient orange sandstone are reflected in the emerald waters of this coastal lagoon that is directly behind a pristine kilometer-long white sand beach.

How to get to Tranquil Bay

The only way to access Tranquil Bay is via expedition cruise ship. Sadly, once you are here, you can’t even go swimming as this entire area is home to saltwater crocodiles that would think nothing of gobbling you up for lunch.

I recently enjoyed a cruise along this coastline, between Broome and Darwin, with Australian wilderness expedition experts Aurora Expeditions.

The jagged gorges we cruised along were carved by ancient freshwater river systems flooded after the end of the last ice age. The rocks are more than 400 million years old.

Today, the Kimberley is the most geologically stable region on earth, yet we saw massive sandstone an...

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Photo Friday: Icy Bay in Alaska

Icy Bay in Southeast Alaska

I took this image for Photo Friday at Icy Bay, which is a remarkable landscape in Southeastern Alaska that is rarely visited because it is so inaccessible and remote.

I was lucky to fly there in a tiny three person Super Cub plane, courtesy of Ultima Thule Lodge, which is located deep inside Wrangell St. Elias National Park. We flew across the Bagley Ice Field, which is the largest non-polar ice field in North America and then flew out over Icy Bay to see hundreds of seals sunbaking on the small icebergs that dotted the bay.

Several glaciers spewed into the icy water from the ice field and their jagged blue cliff faces extended more than three kilometers across the bay. The landscape was eerily silent, except for the cries of a few large birds. That was until a chunk of ice, the size of a city skyscraper, broke off the glacier and crashed into the bay with the sound of an enormous explosion. Sensational.

If you would like to read more about my adventures in the world’s largest protect...

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Travel Gadget Review: 4-port adaptor to charge USB appliances

USB hub + 4 makes charging at home and on the road a breeze

This ingenious  Korjo 4 port USB Adaptor is a very clever product to make charging all your USB based appliances very simple both at home and on your world travels. No more lugging all your chargers when you are on the road or having them plugged into rooms all around the house. You just plug all your cables into this really convenient USB hub.

Four-Port Adaptor Special features:

  • It is compatible with any USB charged product such as mobile phones, tablets, digital cameras, music players, GPS units, games consoles and any other items that use USB based Korjo's USB Hubcharging systems.
  • It has the ability to connect up to 4 USB devices directly to a mains socket
  • Its interchangeable plugs enable use in Australia, the European Union, United Kingdom, USA, and Japan. Basically it works in 99% of countries around the world.
  • It has an automatic voltage range between 100 and 240 volts.
  • Its output is 2.1A Max (unlike most 0...
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Photo Friday: Ghost gum in the Red Centre’s King Canyon

Ghost gum in the Red Centre's King's Canyon

Ghost gum in the Red Centre’s King’s Canyon


I took this picture during the spectacular six-kilometer Kings Canyon Rim Walk, which is one of Australia’s great day walks.The pure white trunk of the ghost gum makes such a remarkable contrast against the rugged sandstone rocks.

Located in the Watarrka National Park, 300 kilometer’s northeast of Uluru, the landscape is defined by rugged red sandstone ranges and gorges that were laid 440 million years ago at about the same time that first life on land appeared. At its heart Kings Canyon sports spectacular 270-metre sandstone walls, sculpted by the elements, which rise up to a plateau of rocky domes.

Kings Canyon

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Kings Canyon -24.250641, 131.511454
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Photo Friday: Walking California’s Point Reyes National Seashore

Walking along the Point Reyes National Seashore

I took this picture of a couple of avid walkers of a certain age along the Tomales Point Trail on the Point Reyes National Seashore in West Marin.

This spectacular stretch of wild coastline offers one of the world’s great day walks from historic Pierce Point Ranch to the end of Tomales Point with its stunning views over both the Pacific Ocean and the entrance to Tomales Bay, which is right on the San Andreas fault line above San Francisco. Along the way you will see waves crashing along cliffs and windswept beaches and small herds of native tule elk grazing on the lush green hillsides. In springtime, entire hillsides are blanketed with California poppies, wild iris and mustard flowers while overhead hawks and kestrels ride the wind currents looking for small animals.

This landscape could so easily have been destroyed if it were not for a broad ranging group of conservationists, farmers, ranchers, widows, politicians and volunteers who fought a hard-won battle between 1950 to 1970 to p...

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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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Photo Friday: Gardener and chef at Tennessee’s Blackberry Farm

Chef and master gardener at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee

I took this photo one fine spring afternoon at Blackberry Farm, the multi-award-winning Relais et Chateaux property in the hills of Tennessee. Sous chef Adam Cooke has come to collect some herbs for the evening meal.  Garden manager Jeff Ross hands him some white flower buds and spiraling stems or scapes of Russian hard-neck red garlic suggesting the kitchen sautés them in butter as a tasty side dish. It is amusing to reflect on the color of their skin…Adam pale from working in the kitchen, Jeff dark from hours under the sun. Still they make a terrific team contributing equally to the superb meals prepared in the resort’s restaurants.

Everything old is new again.  As consumers seek alternatives to modern, homogenized hybrid vegetables that have been bred for shelf life and machine harvesting (everything except honest flavor),  places like Blackberry Farm in Tennessee are bringing the past back to life.

To this end, master gardener, John Coykendall, and garden manager, Jeff Ro...

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