Although a fairly new contender, Nusa Penida is quickly creeping its way up the top of the list of Bali’s most popular tourist destinations. The jaw dropping coast lines, unusual landscape and milky blue waters are drawing daily visitors in by the hundreds. Although it’s easy enough to jump on a pre-organised (and very expensive) day tour, the best way to explore this undiscovered and stunning island is without a doubt by doing it yourself. Ditch the tour guides, find some cheap accommodation, grab a scooter and the island is yours for the taking.
Travelling to Nusa Penida from Bali is very easy. Most tour operators or hotels in any Balinese spot will be able to organise transport for you, which normally consists of a hotel pick up and transfer to the harbour, a boat ride across from Sanur to Penida and another taxi transfer to your Penida accommodation. We travelled from Lullaby Bungalows in Ulu Watu (south of Bukit Peninsula) and a return trip cost two of us 500,000 IDR, which gives you a rough idea of what prices to expect. There are a few boat trips that go out each day, I personally always prefer the early ones as there’s less traffic about, plus you get the travelling out of the way which means more time left in the day for the juicy fun stuff.
The main strip of Nusa Penida is in the North, starting at the boat harbour and running parallel to the sea, along the full width of the top of the island. The majority of accommodation and dining options lie here, and if you like convenience this is a good place to head. We were after something a little more remote and we discovered exactly that at the beautiful Ananta Bungalows. Made up of just 3 little bungalows and surrounded by dense rows of coconut trees which spill on to the gorgeous Crystal Bay, this place was my kind of heaven on earth. Putu the owner is lovely and will go out of her way to ensure you have a wonderful stay. The location is second to none, only a 5 minute walk to the beach which boasts the best sunsets on the island. You have to travel a little further for food options, our favourite was Warung Jungle (15 minute scooter ride away) which had the most delicious fresh seafood BBQ’s.
What to do…
Where to begin! First thing you need to know is that Nusa Penida is ENORMOUS! What looks like a tiny island on the map (from my point of view anyway) is actually a very substantial land mass with very few roads, all of which are in pretty bad condition. This means exploring takes a little longer than normal so you need to plan ahead and try to visit spots that are all situated near to each other, to minimise travelling time. You can get taxis to take you around but you’ll have a much more private, unique and exciting adventure if you take a scooter and go off by yourself. (However I’d also recommend bringing a towel to sit on to ease the discomfort of hours of riding across bumpy roads!)
Overall I’d recommend at least four days to really make the most of this amazing island. A day to explore each of the Eastern, Southern and Western sides of the island, plus another day for scuba diving because the currents around these parts bring some pretty epic sea-life in, like mola-molas, mantas, dolphins and sharks. We could’ve happily spent at least another week here, as once you’ve finished exploring it’s the perfect place to slow down, kick back and take it all in.
Here are a few of my favourite spots in Nusa Penida…
Crystal Bay – a beautiful beach lined with hundreds of palm trees means that you’ll have more fresh coconuts to drink than you can shake a stick at. If you get sick of coconuts there are plenty of bintangs on offer too, which go down pretty well at sunset. This is also an epic spot for snorkelling and scuba diving, just be a little wary of the currents.
Angel’s Billabong – this is an absolute gem of a rock pool and is best experienced first thing in the morning, before the hordes of crowds arrive. Watch out for your tootsies as there are lots of urchins about.
Atuh Beach – don’t let the cliff scaling put you off, this beach is so stunning once you get down to it and it’s easy to see how days would melt into weeks at a place like this. There’s a couple of rustic beach huts to keep you fed and watered too, so you have no reason to leave.
Peguyangan Waterfall – not so much a waterfall, I’d call it more of a natural spring with a small bathing pool located at the bottom of a very steep cliff. The views were absolutely incredible all the way down but it’s not a trek for the faint hearted, as the rusty stairs are broken in places and it’s a reeeeally long climb, but it is gorgeous once you get down there.
Kelingking Beach – also known as ‘t-rex rock’ this amazing landscape is a super popular one for tourists to visit, and you can see why as the views are stunning. You can walk all the way down to the beach (about a 40 minute climb) but the stairs are very broken and it’s pretty hairy in places, so I chose to admire the unbelievably turquoise waters from above.
Broken Beach – just a 5 minute walk up from Angel’s Billabong, Broken Beach is a beautiful natural bridge that runs over bright blue waters. If you’re lucky you can spot Mantas from here so keep your eye out!
The Treehouses near Atuh Beach – although extremely difficult to find, these awesome treehouses are definitely worth a visit – especially at sunset. We were lucky enough to meet the man that built them and share a bintang with him at the top of the cliff near his home. He’s a very chatty guy and loves to get to know the tourists that are fascinated with his little treehouses, so try and find him to say hello when you visit.
So you want a slice of the good life down under, you’ve saved up and bought your plane tickets and you’ve broken the news to your Mum… but what visa do you need and how do you get it? How do you choose what city to move to? What do you do when you first get there? And what the hell does “grab us a sanger and a frozo from the servo” mean?!
Having taken the plunge last year when I moved from London to Brisbane, I’ve put together this comprehensive guide to moving down under in the hope that it will help (and persuade) anyone that’s considering the move themselves!
(Please note that my visa advice is by no means official, just some tips that I’m sharing from my own experiences.)
Working Holiday Visa
If you’re planning on coming to Australia for travel or to live here for under 2 years and you don’t have an Australian passport, the best option for you is to get a working holiday visa (subclass 417).
Am I eligible? – You have to be between the ages of 18 – 30 to be eligible, you have to have a passport from an eligible country and you must be outside of Australia when you apply for the visa and when the visa is granted. The visa allows you to travel in and out of Australia freely and lasts for one year from the date of your first arrival into Australia. Your arrival date has to be within one year of being granted the visa.
What are my working rights? – An important thing to remember is that you cannot work for an employer for longer than six months if you’re in Aus on a working holiday visa, this can sometimes make life a bit difficult if you’re planning on staying longer term, however if you’re just working to supplement your travel (which is what the visa is designed for) then it’s not a huge problem.
How do I get one? – check out the official website here for more information and to apply. It’s easy enough to do it yourself so I’d recommend completing your forms directly with the Australian Government rather than going through a visa agency, as agencies massively increase the costs with no real benefit to you. The cost of a 417 visa is approximately £270 and they typically take between 10 – 31 days to process.
How to extend your working holiday visa
If you’re loving the Australian lifestyle and can’t quite face the idea of returning home after one year, you can extend your working holiday visa for another 12 months – wahoo!
In order to do this, you have to complete your 88 days of ‘regional’ work before applying for your visa extension, which means you must do it within your first year. The most common thing for travellers to do is fruit picking, but there’s a lot more out there with the list of industries currently standing at: plant and animal cultivation, fishing and pearling, tree farming and felling, mining and construction.
The work you carry out must be in an eligible ‘rural’ postcode so triple check this here when you’re picking your job. Nothing worse than doing the hard slog for 88 days to find out you picked the wrong spot!
A few other things to bear in mind… the climate during your working period in the area that you’ve chosen and the proximity to civilisation! There are some great options available these days so there’s no need to get stuck ‘way out woop woop’.
What to bring and how to send it over
The obvious answer is to pack your belongings in a suitcase and bring them all with you as extra baggage on your flight, which is easy enough. However if you’re planning on staying in Aus for a long time, you might consider sending some of your larger belongings over by ship. I used the company Seven Seas Worldwide and I thoroughly recommend them. For 5 boxes and one suitcase (I’m clearly not a light packer) it cost me around £250 which seemed pretty reasonable, however it did take 3 months to get there. I could have sent the same amount via plane with a transit time of 1 – 2 weeks, but it would’ve cost around £1000.
What to bring is largely determined by where you’re moving to. As mentioned below, the climates of the different cities vary massively, for example between places like Melbourne and Cairns, so make sure you do some research before hand. If you’re headed somewhere sunny make sure you’ve got ya thongs and ya boardies (flip flops and swimmers) and if you’re from colder climates make sure you pack some sunscreen cos you really do feel it down here!
What I can also tell you is that if you’re moving to Brisbane you do not need to pack 13 jumpers, 3 coats, 2 woolly hats, 5 scarves and some mittens ‘just in case’ as my other half frequently likes to remind me. They are all gathering dust in my ‘winter wardrobe’.
Which city is the one for you?
Australia is so enormous that there’s actually a huge variation between the different states and cities that you can live in. The most popular ones for expats and travellers to settle down in are Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Like any cities, they all have their pros and cons, which I’ve tried to condense for you here:
Melbourne: Definitely the ‘trendiest’ of the 3, Melbourne is cosmopolitan, buzzy and has a ridiculous dining and nightlife scene. It’s a huge city so lots of international companies have set up shop here, which means more job opportunities for you and more expat friends. It’s close (ish) to famous attractions like the great ocean road and it’s beautiful surrounding hinterland, but the most popular thing to do is definitely eat and drink your way around the city, as it’s famous for its quirky brunch spots and hipster coffee joints so it’s perfect for foodies that love the big city life. Melbourne gets pretty chilly and typically drops to 5-6 degrees during winter so if you’re heading to aus because you want year round sunshine and endless days on the beach then keep on looking…
Sydney: Sydney seems to be a real magnet for British expats as it has a great balance of both the bustling city and laid back beach life, with iconic spots like Bondi and Manly beaches right on it’s doorstep, which are both justifiably popular. It also has some epic Australian landmarks like the opera house, the harbour bridge and the Blue Mountains an hour or so inland. Just like Melbourne, the big city brings a lot of job opportunities but the cost of living here is really high. If you’re hoping to live by the beach you’ll have to fork out a fair bit of cash, but it’s worth it if you’re looking for the coastal life, as it often takes a while to get places in this busy city and no one likes to be stuck in traffic. The weather here is much warmer than Melbourne but it still gets a little cold over winter, dropping to a fresh average temperature of 13 degrees. You’ll definitely be able to meet a lot of expats and tourists here too and there’s no shortage of things to see and do.
Brisbane: Unlike the metropolitan areas of Sydney and Melbourne, Brissie feels like a big country town where everyone knows each other, because of how friendly and laid back the vibe is. Although the city is smaller in comparison, it’s also a lot newer, cleaner and greener and very easy to get around. The job opportunities here are a little thinner on the ground depending on your industry, but the cost of living is extremely reasonable and it boasts a beauuutiful subtropical climate all year round (it’s 28 degrees today and we’re technically still in winter). Brissie feels a lot more ‘Aussie’ than the cities down south, which means there aren’t quite as many tourists and expats to meet. Although Brisbane itself isn’t on the coast, you can get to the gorgeous Gold Coast or Sunny Coast beaches within 45 minutes of driving, which you will be able to visit all year round due to the roasty toasty weather. There’s also some amazing places to see that surround Brissie in all directions, such as the scenic rim, the gold coast hinterland and the glasshouse mountains, so it’s ideal for those of you that love the outdoorsy lifestyle. The food and drink scene here is in its early days in comparison to Melbourne and Sydney, but it is definitely growing so watch this space! If a laidback, sunny way of life is what you’re after then Queensland (also known as the sunshine state) could be the one for you.
One thing I would definitely recommend is moving to a place where you might know someone or know friends of friends that you can meet up with. Trying to make pals in new countries can be daunting so having a foot in the door really eases off the pressure.
What do you need to do when you get here?
A few essentials that I’d recommend sorting out as soon as you can to make your life easier:
Apply for a medicare card – generally speaking, this allows you to get medical help for free in the incident that you get sick or hurt yourself, providing you’re a citizen of a reciprocal health care country. To apply for a medicare card and for more information follow this link.
Open up a bank account – If you want to get paid this will definitely help you out! Remember to bring as much ID as possible with you, including your visa grant letter.
Sort out your phone – either get an australian sim card or open up a new phone contract, because you can’t get far without one.
Apply for a TFN – this is a tax file number (similar to a social security number). Most employers require these before you start working with them, so they are pretty essential. They can take a couple of weeks to come through so try and get this sorted as soon as possible. For more info and to apply for a TFN click here.
It’s no secret that Aussie’s have a certain way of expressing themselves. Not only do they have a whole host of different words in their dictionary, they also LOVE an analogy. Here’s a few of my favourites and some commonly used ones to give you an idea of what’s to come (along with a very British translation)…
“Tonight’s going off like a bucket o’prawns in the sun” – this evening is going very well
“The missus is kicking off like a bag full of wild cats” – my wife is very angry
“I’m as full as a dribblers flute / state school hat rack / fat lady’s sock / the last bus” – I don’t need any more food
“He’s way out woop woop” – he is in the middle of nowhere
“Chuck a U-ey wouldja” – do a u-turn when possible
“Aw bloody oath!” – that is true
“Grab a tinny from the bottle-o for Jono and Steveo” – get a beer from the off license for John and Steve
“You little ripper” – how fantastic!
“I’m up at a Sparrows fart for brekkie” – I have to wake up very early for breakfast
“Gotta chuck a sickie i’m crook” – I have to call in sick for work, i’m ill
“Pretty exy that chook at woolies” – the chicken in Woolworths is very expensive
“Good on ya mate” – well done you my friend
“She’ll be right” – everything is going to be okay
And to quote my lovely Aussie partner on the first day he got back to Australia, “Grab us a sanger and a frozo from the servo wouldja?!” – could you get me a sandwich and a frozen coke from the petrol station please.
If you have any questions about the moving process feel free to leave a comment or send me a message, as I’m more than happy to help!
With stretches of white sand beaches, turquoise seas, scrubby emerald green jungles, tropical coral reefs, bustling cities, and historic Mayan ruins, it’s no surprise that Mexico is topping the charts of many travelers’ bucket lists. One of the most popular locations in Mexico is the Yucatan Peninsula – the south-easterly tip of the country that separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Caribbean Sea, and home to some of the most stunning destinations and experiences you will ever encounter.
The most wonderful thing about Indonesia is the incredible size of it. You could spend months there and still have thousands of places that you haven’t seen, 18,307 to be precise. That’s how many islands make up the whopping archipelago. Yes, Bali is amazing and will always be popular, but there are so many more treasures to be found in this paradisiacal pocket of the world that will have you feeling more “Eat-Pray-Love” than ever before. Here are my top 5 most unforgettable experiences in Indonesia.
Read the full article on the We Are Travel Girls website here…
The Philippines are a beach bum’s heaven on earth. There are over 7000 islands to choose from, so that’s a pretty good start, not to mention the glittering turquoise waters that are teeming with tropical fish, the plethora of secret lagoons hidden by enormous limestone cliffs, and the endless white sandy coves lined with palm trees and coconut shacks. Top all of that off with a frosty san miguel in hand and a fresh fish dinner while watching some of the most vivid sunsets you’ll ever see, and you have a recipe for an absolute dream.
If you’re still not sold, have a read of my top 6 reasons to visit the Philippines below:
Boracay is the marmite of the Philippines: you either love it or you hate it. The island itself is beautiful, featuring the classic stretches of palm fringed white beaches and blue waters, but it is absolutely jam packed with tourists and all of the bright gimmicky attractions that seem to follow them. You can’t go far without being badgered to buy a selfie stick and the island is often inundated with tour groups and cruise visitors, however… you will never be short of accommodation, shops, restaurants or bars to choose from, most of which feature candlelit tables, hammocks and cushy bean bags on the sand.
If partying is what you’re in the Philippines for then you’ve come to the right place. I strongly suggest staying at the infamous Friendz hostel, which boasts great dorms and free pasta (and rum) nights twice weekly, that often lead into epic nights out with new-found travelling pals. I speak from experience when I say be careful not to get sucked into a bubble here, as days can melt into weeks after a few mojitos with a good group of people, which is why I’m heading back again next year, in hope of finishing off my original itinerary!
Diving and snorkelling is great in Boracay and there are a few memorable day trips to be had from the island. One that I would definitely recommend (although not for the faint hearted) is cliff jumping at Aerial’s Point. If adrenaline rushes aren’t your thing, then find yourself a local with a boat and ask them to sail you away to a remote island – not the worst alternative, right?
2. El Nido
Located at the far northern end of the beautiful island of Palawan, El Nido is a rustic and charming port town with a cruisy island atmosphere. There’s just about enough food and drink options to keep you busy along the main strip, but the vibe is more beach shack than beach club. Pukka bar (the town’s token reggae spot) is definitely worth a look.
You’re spoilt for choice with deserted beaches here, which are easily accessible by moped, taxi or by walking your way along the coastline – my recommendations would be Corong-Corong, Nacpan and Las Cabanas. If you want something even more remote, jump on a fisherman’s boat and ask him to take you to some secret coves. The sunsets on El Nido are absolutely out of this world and best enjoyed with a drink on the beach and a fresh fish BBQ, the Beach Shack on Las Cabanas beach is definitely worth a look.
El Nido can be a pain to get to if you don’t book the direct (and sometimes pricey) flight from Cebu or Manila in advance, as you’ll have to fly to Puerto Princessa and then take a 5 hour van up to get there, so try to avoid this if the direct route is within your budget.
3. Bacuit Archipelago
El Nido is the gateway to the incredible Bacuit Archipelago just off shore. Made up of stunning limestone cliffs towering out of the crystal waters, tiny remote islands and hidden lagoons, it really is like something from a dream world. The archipelago hosts a few fairly expensive but extremely gorgeous accommodation options. However, if they’re out of your price range it’s easy enough to stay in El Nido and explore the archipelago by day trips either with tour operators or fishermen with their own boats.
The most famous spots to go and see are undoubtedly the Big and Small Lagoons. The place names sound simplistic and modest but you will be amazed when you kayak or float your way through these jurassic looking paradisiacal pools. Most tours will tie in a few other spots on your day trip depending on what the tides and crowds are doing, but there are definitely enough hidden beaches to find one all to yourself.
To travel anywhere in the Philippines you have to go by plane, so you’ll find yourself in and out of Cebu or Manila airport a fair few times. As Manila has a reputation for being a little unsafe, I’d recommend sticking to Cebu where possible and making the most of the detour by exploring outside the airport. Cebu carries a lot of cultural significance in the Philippines, as well as having its own fair share of white sand beaches, fantastic eateries and lively bars.
The Kawasan Falls just outside of Cebu in Moalboal are absolutely stunning and have the brightest milky blue water you will ever see. There are three different waterfalls here, the largest (and most popular) has a cascade of over 20m. Head here as early in the day as possible to beat the crowds and to bask in that beautiful morning light.
Just south of Cebu lies one of the most famous places to swim with whale sharks – Oslob. I swam with whale sharks just off Isla Mujeres in Mexico and haven’t been in Oslob, but I would strongly recommend the experience to anyone as it’s exceptionally incredible. Tour operators will pick you up from your accommodation in Cebu and take you on a full day trip which includes transport, snorkelling kit, lunch and admission fees. Trips will start from around $200 but the memories are unbeatable.
Famous for being the Philippines’ top surfing spot and boasting beaches synonymous with those of the South Pacific, it’s no surprise Siargao is growing in popularity. The well known reef wave Cloud Nine can draw in a few crowds, so if peace and quiet is what you’re after then head off shore to one of the many remote islets to find a large slice of sugary soft white sand all to yourself.
If you’ve had enough of the salty sea life then head in land to soak up the green landscapes of the Ifugao rice terraces or visit Bohol to come nose to nose with tarsiers in the Chocolate Hills.
The rainy season of the Philippines runs from June – October, so the best time to visit is November – May.
A melting pot of culture, a futuristic metropolis, a city in a garden and a foodies heaven on earth – it’s no surprise Singapore is quickly working it’s way to the top of Asia’s most popular destinations. This tiny but bustling country is right in the middle of South East Asia and has one of the busiest airports in the world, so it’s no wonder so many people find their long haul flights are sliced in two with a stopover in Singapore popped in the middle. I spent a lot of time in Singapore back in my air hostess days, as well as visiting several times as an extra stop on my holidays or backpacking trips and I completely fell in love with the place. I strongly recommend making the most of a stopover here by extending your stay and soaking up all that this diverse place has to offer.
Here are my top things to do to make the most of a detour in Singapore:
Chinatown & Little India
An assault on all your senses in the best possible way, Chinatown and Little India are two incredible pockets of culture in the heart of Singapore. Both of them feature huge markets packed with stalls of food, crafts, medicines, trinkets and souvenirs. Surrounding the markets are further shops, buildings and temples all designed in keeping with beautiful Chinese and Indian architecture respectively. You can find the most delish of snacks in both of these spots, just follow your nose to whichever stall takes your fancy the most. If your feet are feeling a little tired after all your exploring, there are plenty of places to get a quick massage or a fish-tootsie-nibble in the area.
The idea of zoos is often a strange one for me. Yes it’s great watching animals but no one really likes seeing them in tiny cages, until Singapore Zoo came along and blew that concept out of the water by letting most of their animals roam free! Tree huggers rejoice. The orangutans will literally be swinging over your head and lemurs will be running across the paths in front of you while you wander through the rainforest grounds. Sure, there are often moats of water in between you and the bigger animals but let’s be honest did you really want to come nose to nose with a rhino? Probably not.
The zoo is a good half an hour drive out of the city so it’s best to get a taxi there rather than buses or the MRT. As it’s so huge and there’s so much to explore, I’d recommend getting there as early as possible to make the most of the day and the $30 (USD) entry fee. Top tip: bring cash or pre-bought snacks because no where inside takes card. Also worth remembering, when it rains in Singapore it really does pour, bring a raincoat just in case because it’s a LONG walk from one end of the wet zoo to the other.
Gardens by the Bay
A huge nature park along the waterfront, Gardens by the bay is part of the government’s strategy to increase the green space in Singapore to improve the quality of life. These gardens are amazingly beautiful and combine modern avatar-esque architecture that lights up at night with hundreds and thousands of natural trees and flowers. Entry is free and sunset is definitely the best time to go, as you get to see the gardens transform from daylight to darkness.
Marina Bay Sands
Right next to Gardens by the bay you probably will have noticed the giant boat suspended 57 stories high across three towers – this is Marina Bay Sands. It will cost you $20 just to take the lift up to the top of this incredible building but the view is pretty spectacular. Most of the roof-top/boat-top is closed off to guests of the hotel who have access to the dreamy infinity pool, but the sky bar is still worth a visit for a few sundowners. I’d also recommend visiting the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands, they are currently hosting the ever-insta-popular Future World exhibition.
Just a hop, skip and a jump across a few different MRT lines and monorails and you will find yourself on the manmade island of Sentosa, just south of the city and mainland. Self proclaimed ‘State of Fun’, Sentosa is a fairly bizarre place and extremely touristy, but if loud and fast activities are your thing this is worth checking out. To name a few attractions to keep you busy here: Universal Studios, Adventure Cove Waterpark, Butterfly & Insect Kingdom, Dolphin Park, Fort Siloso Skywalk, KidZania, Madam Tussauds, Tiger Sky Tower… you get the idea. If a beach is what you’re after, there’s actually a nice selection in this area (try Tanjong Beach if you want to escape the crowds) as well as heaps of places to eat and drink.
One of my favourite things about Singapore is the incredible food (shock). As it’s situated right in the middle of South East Asia, the cuisine on offer here is an amazing fusion of all of Singapore’s close neighbours – Thai, Malaysian, Indonesia, Indian, Japanese and Chinese. Yum. The best way to experience all that’s on offer is to head to a food market or hawker centre with an empty belly and make your way from stall to stall trying whatever takes your fancy. I like to try a few small dishes from a selection of stalls to get a good variety. There’s always tables and chairs about plus vendors with fridges stocked with ice cold beers. You can head to these places at any time of day, but dinner time definitely has the best atmosphere and the most stalls open. My top recommendations: Newton Food Centre and Lau Pa Sat Food Centre.
If fine dining is more your thing, check out the hundreds of bars and restaurants located in the snazzy areas of Clarke Quay or Orchard Road, or head to the beautiful Raffles Hotel for a Singapore Sling.
A few more tips…
Singapore is quite expensive, save money by eating at food hawker centres, taking public transport and doing your shopping at the markets
The best and cheapest way to travel around the city is the MRT (a much slicker version of the tube), once you get the hang of it it’s super easy and beats sitting in traffic in the back of a taxi
If you’re not sure how long to go for, I’d recommend 3-4 days. Enjoy!
Often overshadowed by it’s glitzy and ever-popular neighbour across the water, Lombok is the explorer’s dream next door. Situated just east of Bali, Lombok is another beautiful gem that makes up the absolute treasure trove that is the Indonesian archipelago. With a gargantuan volcano complete with crater lakes and jungles, gushing waterfalls, world famous surf breaks and isolated paradisiac beaches… it’s definitely worth a few days on your itinerary. Have a read of my top 6 stops below to make your loop of Lombok truly spectacular:
Tiu Kelep and Sendang Gile Waterfalls
Nestled into the mountains of the Senaru region and near the base of Gunung Rinjani, these two natural beauties will have you dribbling in awe. Motorbike hire is pretty scarce around Senaru so your best bet is to get a taxi there, or walk if your accommodation is close enough. Once you arrive you’ll have to pay a small fee to get into the area which gives you access to Tiu Kelep, the smaller waterfall of the two. To get to Sendang Gile you’ll need a guide, which costs a little extra but the result is pretty incredible. If you’re on a budget then just stick to Tiu Kelep, this is an easy 10 minute walk which you can do by yourself and you’ll still leave feeling amazed. I’d definitely recommend exploring the area around Tiu Kelep too because the surrounding rivers and jungles are beautiful!
Poles apart from Bali’s Kuta, this ramshackle surfers paradise is easy going and picturesque. The long stretch of white beach is peppered with surf huts and palm trees, while the buzzy roads out the back have a friendly atmosphere and a great selection of cheap bars and eateries. Kuta is a great place to stay while exploring Lombok’s southern beaches as it’s a lot more geared towards travellers than any other parts we saw and is fairly central to all the best spots. We stayed at the Lemon Tree Bungalows – a small but very friendly family owned hostel with cute huts, a pool and free banana pancakes. We also discovered the largest lizard we’ve ever seen here, his name is Goliath and he likes to hang around the beautiful outdoor bathrooms – so keep your eyes peeled.
When you’re finished beaching for the day, grab a couple of bintangs from the local kids and head up to the rocky outcrops to the west of the beach for the best sunset seat in the house.
3. Mawun Beach
A 15 minute scooter ride from Kuta, Mawun sits just west along the southern coast of Lombok. The beach combines a half-moon bay of white sand (and hundreds of colourful shells) with bright blue water and vivid green hills surrounding the area. Although beautiful, the beach is incredibly quiet and has an amazing untouched feel about it. Hopefully it will stay that way and keep it’s natural charm. If you’re planning on spending the day there I’d bring drinks and snacks along with you as there’s very little on offer here.
4. Tanjung Aan
Although a slightly trickier drive to get to due to the lack of real road, Tanjung Aan beach is another impossibly beautiful bay with you guessed it… white sand and turquoise sea. There’s a big rocky outcrop right in the middle of the bay and once you reach the top the views are pretty breath taking. This spot is popular with surfers but generally remains fairly quiet. I’d recommend visiting this dreamy pocket of the world sooner rather than later though, as it’s earmarked for hotel and resort development and is occasionally inundated with busloads of tourist groups.
5. Mount Rinjani
Another addition to the Lombok list is the colossal volcanic giant that you probably would’ve clocked all the way over in Bali. Mount Rinjani is Indonesia’s second largest mountain and a huge hit with tourists from all over the world. The most popular trek here is a 3 day trip and it’s no easy feat so brace yourself for a bit of hard work. Embarrassingly, we never actually made it up the top but instead got “stuck” at a beautiful spa hotel called Rinjani Lodge, which is definitely worth checking out before or after your trek. It seemed like a pretty good idea to us at the time! Check this website for lots more info on how to make your mountain dreams a reality and how not to get sidetracked by an infinity pool.
6. The Gili Islands
My final recommendation while in Lombok is to explore one of my favourite places in the world – the wonderful Gili islands. Prepare to set some time aside for these beauties, I intended on staying for 1 week and it quickly turned into 5. Whether you’re looking for an isolated picture perfect paradise, a scuba divers and snorkelers heaven or somewhere to boogie the night away, you’ll find your match in one of the three Gili islands. For more information and pictures of my 5 weeks in the Gilis, check out my Bali blog.
If all else fails, grab your hog, ride off into the distance and explore the good old fashioned way and get lost.
North Stradbroke island is a beautiful spit of land just off the Gold Coast in sunny Queensland, Straya. As with all names in the aussie dictionary, it’s abbreviated and subsequently known to most as Straddie. My weekend in Straddie was a huge turning point in my ‘settling in’ time in Australia cos I gotta say, I completely fell in love with the place and I haven’t looked back since. Beaches, sunshine, kangaroos, dolphins, turtles, (…and sharks), it was the perfect cliché aussie combo us Brits dream about and I couldn’t recommend the place higher for a weekend away or as an extra stop off on a trip along the east coast.
To get to Straddie you need to hop on a ferry at Cleveland which is about 30 minutes drive from Brisbane. If you’re travelling without a car and getting the bus at the other end it’s as cheap as chippies, but if you’ve got your wheels with you it’ll cost around $100+. The good thing about going in a car is you can pack it full of food and people, which will end up levelling the costs out. It also means you have free reign across the island and don’t have to rely on public transport to explore. For ferry fares and times check the official website here.
We got one of the early boats and pulled into Point Lookout at around 8am for a quick stroll along the North Gorge boardwalk before brekky, which turned out to be my favourite walk of all time! The boardwalk wraps around the sea edge for about a kilometre on the far North East side of the island and is one of Straddie’s most popular features. We had only been out the car for 2 minutes when we came across a huge family of kangaroos having breakfast on the grassy sea cliff. Being British, the novelty of kangaroos definitely hasn’t worn off yet and I absolutely LOVED watching the mammas and joeys having an early morning feast. Nature continued to show off as we worked our way around the boardwalk and spotted turtles and dolphins rolling in the surf! The water here is the bluest of blues and on a beautiful day it is such an amazing place for spotting marine life. If you come between June and November then keep your eyes peeled for humpback whales passing by too, and sometimes you can even catch a glimpse of manta rays and sharks. I’d definitely recommend doing this walk first thing in the morning to catch the roos having brekky or at the end of the day for some balmy sunset views.
The first beach we explored on the island was Main Beach which is just east of Point lookout and right at the end of the North Gorge boardwalk. The white sand stretches on as far as the eye can see, with huge dunes running along the back of the beach. Although the water looks dreamy, the waves and currents here are pretty menacing. It’s not a bad spot for a surf, but if you’re a pansy like me and you prefer to have a relaxing float on your back without worrying about being flipped around like a rag-doll in a washing machine, you’re better off sticking to the shallow pools on the far left of the beach. Although it was a good spot on our first day, when we walked past the next day there was a huge sign that read: ‘WARNING: strong currents, dangerous rips, swarms of stingers and bluebottles, large schools of bait fish attracting sharks – not safe to swim’. I mean, could there be any more hazards in the sea? How Australian. Safe to say I was keen to find somewhere slightly less dangerous and we drove across to Cylinder Beach.
Cylinder Beach is very family friendly with calm waters, lots of lifeguards and no ridiculous warnings about sharks and stingers, so it can be pretty crowded but I loved it nonetheless. Amity Point on the other side of the island is also worth a visit if you’re in to camping, fishing and dodging thousands of soldier crabs, but the beaches definitely aren’t as pretty as those on the north east side. The sunsets here are epic though and dolphins (and sharks) are frequent visitors.
My favourite food spot on the island was without doubt Blue Room at Point Lookout. The feeds there are as delicious as they are beautiful, the brekky is an absolute must and I would strongly recommend trying out their freshly baked selection by the till (especially if they’ve made brownies). They also have an organic store at the back which is great for fruit and veggies if you’re staying in a self catered joint. Stradbroke Island Beach Hotel, which is just up the hill from Cylinder Beach, is a great spot for a drink and if you’re very lucky you can spot whales breaching from the bar. Last and by no means least for my snack recommendations on Straddie is the glorious ice cream parlour by Point Lookout: Oceanic Gelati. There are heaps of places to stay on Straddie and Air b&b is always worth a look to find some goodies here. We stayed in one of the Point Lookout Beach Resort homes through Discover Stradbroke which was perfect for a long weekend and I’d be happy to stay there again next time I go.
If beaching, drinking and eating isn’t your raison d’être, then the following would be worth a look while you’re there:
Scuba dive with Manta Lodge to spot some turtles, leopard sharks, manta rays and dolphins
Paddle your way to Peel Island on a kayak tour to see the shipwreck of the Platypus
Surf the sand dunes or try out a sunset SUP sesh
Camping and fishing at Amity Point (although if you’re like me and you struggle with the idea of sleeping on the ground, you’d be better off checking out a snazzier eco-shack option like this)
The wonderful thing about Indonesia is the sheer size of the place, you could spend months there and still have thousands of places that you’ve not seen. 18,307 to be precise, as that’s how many islands make up the giant archipelago. Yes, Bali is amazing, but there is SO much more to Indonesia and that’s exactly what we discovered in the beautiful island of Flores.
An hours flight east from Denpasar lies the port town Labuan Bajo – acting as the landing spot to the island Flores and a gateway to adventure, with nearby islands Komodo and Rinca just sitting off shore. Labuan Bajo (or Bajo as it’s commonly referred to) sits on a steep hill overlooking the harbour, the town itself is slightly ramshackled and rickety but that’s what gives it its unique charm. The main strip, Jl Soekarno Hatta, is lined with hostels, bars, cafes and travel agents galore, as well as being packed with zooming scooters balancing whole families and dogs that’ll chase you from one side of town to the other. However the town has this incredible laidback ease about it, which in true Indonesian style allows days to melt into weeks, so be careful you don’t get stuck here (like we did) as the journey east into the rest of Flores is supposed to be pretty amazing too.
We spent most of our waking hours underwater, as the diving in this area is like something from a dream and one of the main reasons we made the trip. Strong currents lure in huge pelagic fish and on any given day you are likely to spot pods of dolphins, schooling reef sharks, manta rays and mola-mola (sunfish), not to mention the thousands of colourful fish and coral beds that look like rainbow gardens. Within a few hours of arriving in Bajo we had already booked into our first full day of diving with Divers Paradise Komodo. We shopped around a bit before we settled on this joint but found these guys were the friendliest, as well as being the best value for money in town. Keen to see as many ocean giants as possible we were pretty happy to discover that we could choose our sites with our instructors and picked the following locations: Castle Rock, The Cauldron and Tatawa Besar. Sure enough we saw reef sharks as soon as we got to the bottom but the real jaw dropper for me was the ridiculous number of fish. We were completely surrounded! At some points you couldn’t tell which way was up because everywhere you looked were dense schools of huge tropical fish, whirlwinding and weaving their way around you as if you were right in the middle of some sort of fish frenzy …in a good way. The other highlights of our dives here were spotting half the cast of Finding Nemo gathered together at once (it’s as if they knew…) and being rocketed around by the strong currents known as ‘Shotgun Alley’ – not for the fainthearted. Shout out to the amazing instructors at Divers Paradise for giving us such an unforgettable day!
Another absolute MUST while in Labuan Bajo is a day tour to get up close and personal with the legendary Komodo dragons. All the travel agents along the main strip offer similar tour packages, so we made our choice based on the friendliest smile and the nicest looking boat (which seemed like logical criteria at the time) and settled with Christian’s tours – look for a smiley man in a very small wooden hut squished next to Le Pirate. In our three months of exploring Indonesia I’d say this was our favourite day by far and I still get amazed when I think back on it. We started off extremely early and caught the sunrise while sailing to our first destination: Padar Island. Surrounded by bright turquoise sea, this is a bizarrely formed island with several white sandy crescent shaped bays and a steep crest of mountain that runs through the middle. Being slightly miffed at the thought of hiking up this steep hill first thing in the morning meant that most of this walk was spent staring at my feet, so it was only once I got to the top that I took in the breathtaking panoramic views of this incredible place, which made the trek so worthwhile.
The next stop on our journey was Komodo Island, which was recently featured on Planet Earth 2 and if David Attenborough thinks it’s worth a visit, then that says it all. Everything about this place seems prehistoric, from the rusty red volcanic hills and jagged coastline to the gargantuan dragon like beasts that wander freely. Both Rinca and Komodo islands are the only natural home to these giants, so it really is a rare experience to come so close to them. The guides of the National Park will take you on a walking tour around the island in search of them, but the easiest way to find them is to head to the restaurant on the island as they linger outside in packs waiting for scraps of food to be tossed from the kitchen windows. Although they look slow they are pretty deadly and tourists have been seriously attacked while on these tours, so I’d recommend sticking as close to your guide as possible! Clearly used to the photographic demands of tourists, our guide encouraged us to create a great (and pretty cheesy) photo of us ‘stroking’ the lizard below. In reality we were a few metres behind him and that was definitely close enough for me.
After our scaley encounter we headed to Pink Beach (Pantai Merah) for some R&R. The sand gets its colour from red coral off-shore that breaks off and mixes in with the white sand, creating a beautifully soft pink coastline with a backdrop of green hills, blue skies and crystal clear turquoise seas. Last of all on our day tour was a stop somewhere in the middle of the dark blue ocean to search for some manta rays. I was pretty sceptical that we’d find them as we were literally in the middle of nowhere, but as soon as we got our snorkels on and jumped in the water, we were surrounded! These guys are HUGE and have massive gaping mouths that gave me a bit of a fright at first, (especially when they’re coming right at you) but once we got accustomed to their mind blowing size we spent ages swimming alongside them, trying to keep up. As if the day wasn’t good enough, we then sailed back to Bajo at sunset while a pod of dolphins raced alongside the boat.
A trip to an Indonesian town isn’t complete without some sort of waterfall chasing, so on our last day in Bajo we drove an hour out of town (through torrential rain, which was an experience in itself) to Cunca Wulang Canyon. The canyon is about an hour’s walk deep into the rainforest which you need a local guide to take you on. As you approach the canyon the walk becomes a little trickier, having to balance across make-shift bamboo bridges suspended over rapids and rock climb up cliff faces, this is a bit tricky if you’re malcoordinated like me. But, as always once you get to the end the journey is well worth it, with views of striking waterfalls, fresh-water pools and flowing rivers, which are great to kick back and relax in. After a LOT of coaxing and examples of ‘look how easy it is to back flip off cliffs’ from my more adventurous other half, I finally jumped off the cliff and into the canyon. Wahoo!
My final tip to having an unreal time in this beautiful snicket of the planet is to go out and explore. The most memorable days we had were when we packed the scooter up with snorkels, water and snacks (always remember the snacks) and drove off in search of something different. One day we saw a bright green island in the sea from off-shore and were determined to somehow get to it. After weaving through some jungley back streets and a few wrong turns, we managed to navigate our way to an empty beach just opposite the island, so parked up our scooter and swam across. We had the island completely to ourselves and it was crazy beautiful so we spent the day snorkelling with fishes, following monkeys, exploring caves and eating our snacks. Obviously.
Also worth checking out:
Bajo fish market – for the freshest, fishiest and most delicious delicacies in town
Paradise Bar – located just off the strip this bar is an unreal spot for sunset
Bajo Taco – if you’re craving some Mexican goodness
To all of my Bali bound friends – this one’s for you
Having spent three glorious months bouncing around Indonesia at the end of last year, I have since been the recipient of many Bali related travel enquiries. In fact, that’s actually what inspired me to start a blog – to put all of my experiences, adventures and top tips in one place so that when friends ask ‘what should I do, where should I eat, where can I find a turtle’, I can point them all in one direction and hope it helps them to fall in love with Bali as much as we did.
Granted, expecting people to have three months off to explore each and every corner is a bit unrealistic, so I’ve put together a two week Bali bucket list compiling some of my favourite and most unmissable experiences. Enjoy! Continue reading Bali Bucket List