Home DESTINATIONS Guide to Fiji’s best nature-based activities

Guide to Fiji’s best nature-based activities

by Fiona Harper

[vc_row][vc_column][penci_container][penci_column width=”11″][vc_custom_heading text=”Fiji’s best nature-based activities” font_container=”tag:h1|font_size:42|text_align:center|color:%233a3a3a|line_height:1.2″ google_fonts=”font_family:Playfair%20Display%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700%2C700italic%2C900%2C900italic|font_style:400%20regular%3A400%3Anormal” css=”.vc_custom_1635977598878{padding-right: 50px !important;padding-bottom: 15px !important;padding-left: 50px !important;}”][vc_separator color=”custom” border_width=”3″ el_width=”10″ accent_color=”#d89145″][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1635978228655{padding-right: 50px !important;padding-left: 50px !important;}”]When serial adventurer and author Paul Theroux lobbed into Fiji while paddling the Pacific he observed in The Happy Isles of Oceania that ‘loud laughter was the Fijian way of conveying the bad news that something was impossible.’ It’s hard to imagine good-natured Fijians being disagreeable. Along with their trademark ‘Bula’ greeting, Fijians are known for warm hospitality – wide-mouthed smiles that invariably precede laughter.

Their easy going nature almost guarantees that a Fiji holiday is going to be good fun. Toss in an island archipelago with an abundance of natural beauty and Fiji’s heart and you’ve found Fiji’s heart and soul. Here’s our top picks for getting your nature fix in a tropical paradise.

Hike to the Wailing Rock & send a message on the coconut telegraph

Long before mobile phones dominated our lives, Fijian warriors were using nature’s own coconut telegraph to communicate. Using a hollow wooden log Tui Lawa elders would strike a wailing rock called Vatu Tagi, much like a drum and which has a distinct ringing sound, to send messages during times of war. The sound would reverberate around Malolo Island, informing elders to convene for a chiefly meeting.

There’s a Fijian saying that translates to ‘Malolo is where the sun comes to rest’ based on a belief that it appeared that the sun was resting as it set behind Malolo Island. The wailing rock is located on a large rocky outcrop high atop the summit of Malolo and is accessed via a narrow track. The hike is popular as a pre-breakfast appetiser or at dusk to witness the sun rest upon the Pacific Ocean.

Get there from Malolo Island Resort

Celebrate an ancient turtle calling ceremony

Villagers at Namuana Village on Kadavu Island perform an emotional sacred turtle calling ceremony high on a headland above Udelevu beach. Legend has it that a princess and her daughter were out fishing when they were captured by warriors and tossed into the boats’ hold. When a storm threatened to capsize the vessel the women morphed into turtles and escaped.

Today, colourfully dressed women summon their descendants by dancing, chanting and singing to call turtles home. When a turtle surfaces and makes its way shoreward the laughing, singing and chanting reaches fever-pitch as the whole village celebrates the reappearance of their ancestors.

Get there via a Lau Island Cruise with Captain Cook Cruises[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”14913″ img_size=”large” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1635978474296{padding-right: 50px !important;padding-left: 50px !important;}”]

Get castaway on an uninhabited island

Tom Hanks along with his bearded bedraggled character Chuck Nolan have a lot to answer for. Ever since he washed up on uninhabited Modriki Island (also known as Monuriki) after a plane crash, travellers have been flocking to the island he was marooned on in the 2000 movie Cast Away. It’s understandable. Beyond the obvious ‘Insta boasting-worthiness’ of the islands serene beauty, a forest clad peak tumbling into a swathe of white sand kissed by an emerald sea are the drawcard. Snorkelling, swimming, beachcombing and daydreaming of an uncomplicated life on a tropical island keep most visitors enthralled.

Get there on a day trip from Likuliku Island Resort.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”14915″ img_size=”large” alignment=”center” css=”.vc_custom_1635978527711{padding-right: 25px !important;padding-left: 25px !important;}”][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1635978569870{padding-right: 50px !important;padding-left: 50px !important;}”]

Wash away your cares in a therapeutic mud bath

There’s no denying the allure of therapeutic warm spring-fed mud pools at Sabeto Mud Baths. Fed by geothermal spring water from an inland volcano, the outdoor baths have a distinct sulphuric aroma typical of therapeutic pools.

The mud bath ritual is not for the squeamish. Wearing a swimsuit (tip: do not wear white!) visitors step into the warm muddy waters of a small pool as soft mud squishes between their toes. After soaking in tepid waters bathers are then lathered in mud the colour of dark chocolate and the texture of clotted cream. It’s then a matter of standing around in the sun for around 20 minutes while the mud bakes firm and dry. Then it’s back into the pool to wash away the mud before hopping into a much cleaner and larger pool to soak away your cares (and any remaining mud).

Is the mud bath therapeutic? It’s hard to say, but it’s certainly good clean (eventually!) fun. It’s certainly relaxed in true Fijian style.

Get there by private car from Nadi or Lautoka

Hike to waterfalls in the rainforest

There is no better place to cool down from tropical heat than in a fresh water pool fed by a tumbling waterfall. Head to Tavoro Waterfalls in the Bouma National Heritage Park on Taveuni Island where a three-hour hike will take you to three waterfalls. The first swimming hole is a mere ten minutes from the trail head and has a large pool fed by a waterfall plunging about 25 metres. Leave the crowds behind and carry on hiking the forest trail where you’ll come to two more falls and swimming holes. The smallest waterfall has a pretty pool at its base inhabited by fresh water prawns. The trail can get a bit overgrown and slippery so sturdy hiking shoes are a must.

Nearby Lavena Coastal Walk is another splendid hike complete with coastal views, a swing bridge river crossing, and a waterfall reached by a short swim-through a grotto.

Get there from the Taveuni coastal road[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”14914″ img_size=”large” alignment=”center” css=”.vc_custom_1635978357549{padding-right: 25px !important;padding-left: 25px !important;}”][/penci_column][/penci_container][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner]

IPW is USA's largest inbound tourism trade show
California | USA

All the news from IPW Los Angeles, USA's biggest travel trade show

Fiona Harper joins the Australian delegation of travel media at IPW in Los Angeles. IPW is the leading inbound tourism trade show in the USA, whose purpose is to drive tourism from international markets such as Australia

The USA’ travel trade show known as IPW, (IPW Los Angeles in 2024), ended with a farewell party not to be missed (yes, Universal Studios Hollywood we’re looking at you). After five days of meetings, networking and seeing some of LA’s famed attractions, it’s fair to say tourism is well and truly thriving, not only in the Golden State of California, but across the USA.

The inbound travel trade show is hosted by a different city each year.  IPW San Antonio in 2023 was epic and IPW Chicago in 2025 looks like raising the bar still further.

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IPW Los Angeles is a generous host for IPW 2024

IPW is managed by the US Travel Association and is supported by Brand USA. All US states along with tourism operators, cruise companies and other tourism-related business are represented and exhibit at the inbound travel trade show which attracts buyers, travel wholesalers and media from around the world. 

A delegation of 35 Australian travel media, journalists and photographers attended as part of 600-strong travel media attending from across the globe.

IPW Los Angeles 2024 attracted over 5,700 delegates from 70 countries with thousands of official meetings taking place. Unofficial meetings and networking opportunities are limitless.

Brand USA is the official destination marketing organisation for the United States and is premier sponsor of the U.S. Travel Association’s IPW. The inbound trade show celebrates a productive week of partner appointments, trade meetings, and media engagements, all aimed at increasing inbound international visitation.  

IPW Los Angeles is a serious networking event for the travel trade

While meetings and networking are at the heart of IPW, the entertainment, parties and press tours and famils are equally important. For Australian travel media, IPW represents a treasured opportunity to explore the host city while also learn about story ideas from across the USA.

Opening night party at IPW Los Angeles featured the legendary Diana Ross who lit up the stage at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, a venue which will host the opening ceremony of the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. The Olympic flame burns bright over the stadium entrance.

At other events, NYC’s Broadway stars put on an exciting show, Ziggy Marley got the crowd rocking and Keanu Reeves’ band Dogstar entertained over lunches. The impressive Getty Museum was the venue for a press brunch while Universal Studios Hollywood was commandeered for exclusive use for closing night celebrations that won’t be easily forgotten.

Where else can you gain that sort of exclusive privilege to ride the roller coasters of Universal Studios without the crowds?

Press conferences kept media engaged with San Antonio (last year’s IPW host) making a party out of it,  Tennessee whose tag line Sounds Perfect really does entice me to visit, along with Chicago  (next years IPW host city), which turned the conference into a house party with famed DJs providing the tunes.

Plus, there were multiple VIP parties across downtown Los Angeles, sometimes as many as four each night with generous hosting by tourism organisations, meaning IPW socialisaing is not for the faint-hearted. My liver is still reeling from the deluge of margaritas it was asked to filter.

USA's travel industry has rebounded post-pandemic

As the USA’s international inbound travel industry continues to demonstrate remarkable resilience, Brand USA is poised to further elevate the United States’ position as a premier travel destination. 

Despite the strength of the USD making the USA an expensive destination for Australians, Aussies continue to flock to the country.

“There is a clear resurgence in travel enthusiasm with the United States continuing to lead the world in long-haul travel arrivals,” said Chris Thompson, outgoing president and CEO of Brand USA. “And while retiring is bittersweet for me personally, the industry is strong, and Brand USA is well positioned.”

Last year, the USA welcomed nearly 67 million visitors who spent USD213 billion on travel and tourism-related activities within the United States—representing a 28 percent increase over the prior year. Inbound visitation from India has already surpassed 2019 visitation levels, and Australia is one of seven countries set to surpass previous visitation numbers to the USA in 2025. 

IPW is a great trade show for networking

IPW prides itself on its networking opportunities, with 15 minute prearranged meetings facilitated across three full days. There’s one whole day dedicated to the Media Marketplace where travel journalists have one-on-one meetings with tourism boards and operators. It’s a terrific opportunity to learn about story ideas and to set up press trip (famils) opportunities for the coming year.

IPW provides exceptional networking with travel industry peers, colleagues and friends from around the globe. Alongside the official meetings and functions, there’s tours and free time to explore Los Angeles during IPW. Additionally, for those who stay on after IPW or arrive early,  explorations across California at pre and post-IPW famil trips are hosted by Visit California.

In Los Angeles I particularly enjoyed an evening at Santa Monica Pier where we rode the ferris wheel and rollercoaster like kids.  The beachfront pier is daggy and kitschy but is a whole lot of fun and definitely exudes the California beachfront vibe.

At PECLA (Porsche Experience Centre Los Angeles), where more than 100 Porsches are at our disposal, no-one said “drive it like you stole it”. But that didn’t stop me wanting to. Flying down the race track straight at almost 200km per hour was an exhilarating thrill. Those Porsches sure know how to hug the asphalt.

Universal Studios Hollywood was the venue for the closing party which provided crowd-free access to ride the roller coasters and the parks iconic characters without the crowds. With exclusive use of the entire park for three hours, the staff treated our mob of 6,000 IPW funlovers like celebrities.

My hot tip: don’t do the behind-the-scenes Studio Tour after dark. You’ll see a lot of parking lots and purportedly “beautiful painted murals” which are not lit up at night.

The USA has plenty of issues to address for inbound travellers

Despite the positive forecasts, the USA admits it has some rather pressing challenges it needs to resolve.

At a media press conference, the challenges were addressed by Geoff Freeman, President and CEO of the US Travel Association. 

Freeman admits the USA has ” serious problems,” noting that there are a handful of issues of major concern that US Travel Association has on its radar.

The first is that entering the USA should be made easier for foreign travellers. Visa interview wait times are extraordinary, particularly for nationals of Columbia (600 days), Mexico (800 days) and India (200 days).

The inability of aircraft to fly over regions at conflict, such as Russian airspace, which is important for travelers from Asia.

Another issue is  the strength of the greenback.

The USA is ridiculously expensive for Aussie travellers. An Uber from LAX to downtown will cost in excess of USD50 (AUD90). A coffee costs AUD11, a bowl of fries close to AUD18. Plus there is the ‘pretty much’ mandatory 20% gratuity which applies to almost every purchase or service. There’s very few occasions where a tip is not expected, which always confounds Aussie travellers.

In my opinion, it’s a poor business model where operators expect their customers to contribute to the income of staff. I’ll never get used to that warped situation, no matter how much time I spend in the USA.

Next year’s IPW is to be held in Chicago, a city which promises to provide an exciting line up of networking and tourism adventures.  Start planning your trip to the USA with a visit to Choose Chicago for a taster of what we’ll get up to next year.

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Fiona Harper travel writer runs the New York Marathon in Central Park, USA

Seeing New York City alongside 50,000 runners

On the first Sunday in November athletes of all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities take a bite line up at the start line of the New York City Marathon. Fiona Harper joined them for a 42.2km run through the city that never sleeps accompanied by 2 million spectators who bump, grind and groove on the sidelines, encouraging runners towards the Central Park finish line.

The start line of the New York City Marathon feels more like a dance party than a running race. Frank Sinatra’s anthem to the city that never sleeps belts out over loud speakers. Lyrca-clad runners sashay and sway towards the official starting line, our grins as wide as the Verazzano-Narrows Bridge we’re about to run over from Staten Island, the first of five boroughs we’ll run through.

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Getting a ticket into the New York City Marathon is just the start

I’ve wanted to run the New York City Marathon for many, many years. Despite allowing 50,000 runners to enter, it’s difficult to get a ticket. For international runners like me, there are only two options to get a slot. You can enter as a charity runner, which comes with an obligation to raise a minimum amount of funds with one of the events chosen American charities. Or you can go into the ballot and hope your name is drawn out for a coveted entry slot. Which is how I got in. Of 90,000 hopeful entrants I was one of 9,000 lucky runners to get a spot on the starting line.

Though gaining entry is just the first of many logistics and eye-watering expenses that come with a ticket to run in the New York City Marathon. Navigating the cost of travelling from Australia to New York, finding accommodation, then figuring out the logistics of getting to the start line alongside 50,000 runners in the early morning, not to mention dodging two million-odd spectators claiming their place along the route, running 42km seems the least of my worries. At least that’s how it feels before race day.

New Yorkers embrace the marathon with an estimated 2 million supporters

New Yorkers embrace the marathon as one city-wide street party with all the sass and attitude they’re renown for. Affection too, enthusiastically cheering on strangers like lifelong friends. Many have spent days preparing signs to hold aloft as runners pass through their ‘hood.

‘Due to inflation, you now gotta run 27 miles,’ says one. A blonde ponytailed woman’s sign encourages us to ‘run like the men in my life.’

‘Can I call an Uber?’ and ‘where is everyone going?’ others ask. A golden retriever sports a sign declaring, ‘your dog is proud of you’.

Unscientific estimates put spectator numbers at two million-plus. Churches dispatch choirs, schools send their bands, charities set up stalls selling cakes, bagels and hotdogs. Volunteers man drink stations by the thousands. Paramedics are stationed at almost every mile marker. Three days before the race, council workers on the night shift went through more than 200 litres of paint, marking the course in ‘marathon blue’.

My sister and brother-in-law join me for a week in New York, so I task my non-morning-person sister with the formidable challenge of getting me from our New Jersey apartment to the start line. We figure we need to allow five hours. She’s more than a little horrified as we set five alarms for stupid o’clock, plotting our pre-dawn route through NYC’s streets by subway, uber and bus like a commando operation. Jaci and John don’t let me down and I join the lycra-clad crush on Staten Island with plenty of time while I wait for my start wave to be called. They slink off to find caffeine and return to Manhattan where they hope to see me coming off the bridge and into Manhattan. This is one of the few marathons I’ve run where friends or family are in the crowd and I can’t wait to see them amongst the spectator throng. They’ve got an Aussie flag to wave, though I’m not confident I’ll see them along the route then later at the finish line.

But that’s a long way ahead as I inch towards the start line, Frank Sinatra’s New York New York egging on the runners.

Running the New York City Marathon is the run of a lifetime

‘Hey folks, you people need to move along, there’s no loitering in the Bronx,’ barks a uniformed police officer as we run over the bridge into the Bronx. ‘This aint like those other boroughs!’ he smirks cheekily.

‘Hurry up,’ the Bronx Cop shouts to other runners behind me as I run over the final bridge that will take me back to Manhattan and the Central Park finish line, ‘Manhattan called and wants its runners back!’

Despite my exhaustion I can’t help but laugh. We’re at the business end of the New York City Marathon, fatigue has set in and my focus has narrowed to little more than putting one foot in front of the other. In my trance-like state, numbers are all that I can focus on as I compute how far I’ve come. But more crucially, how far I still have to go. Earlier, I’d high fived kids handing out jelly jubes and enthusiastically wiggled my hips to Frank Sinatra’s anthem New York New York. In Brooklyn I’d danced with hipsters, stomped to drumbeats and traded jibes with partygoers hanging off balconies above Queens. In the Bronx I’d paused to catch my breath as Scottish bagpipes whaled. On the Staten Island Ferry I’d taken selfies with Lady Liberty as a background prop and felt surprisingly emotional at a live rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.

Oh, and I’d almost run a marathon. It had been a long day already and we weren’t done yet.

Today wouldn’t be ‘done’ until I’d taken 67,122 steps. Run 42.19 kilometres alongside 47,893 finishers. Passed through five boroughs. Crossed five bridges. Laughed. Cried. Exalted with equal parts exhilaration and exhaustion. Clutched one coveted finishers medal.

But that medal was still far, far away.

New York Marathon starts on the Verrazano Bridge from Staten Island
The New York Marathon starts on Staten Island on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge

"At 32km I need to dig deep. The next 5-8km are the hardest part of a marathon."

Running a marathon is more about what goes on in your head than your legs

My marathon mind game strategy is always to just think about running 10km. I can’t think further ahead than that as the distance becomes overwhelming.

“Just 10km. Just 10km,” is all I think about. I take in the crowd, absorb their energy and chat with runners doing the same pace as me.

The first km feels good, then by about 3km I’m thinking, “shit, I don’t like this.” I get to 8km and feel like I’m back on track. 

“Only 2km to go”. By 10km I’m warmed up and feeling good. Between 10km and 20km is the best part of a marathon. I’m energised and feeling great! High fiving the kids, I dance to the bands, stop to take photos and selfies. And I keep running, loving every moment, feeling the runner’s high that keeps runners motivated.

At 20km I mentally reset and start another 10km run. I’m still feeling good at 25km, even at 28km. Though I’m no longer high fiving the crowd. And I’m not dancing anymore. But I’m still grinning like a cheshire cat at the crowd with their signs. 

I get to 30km and mentally reset again. “Now I think about a 5km run.” It’s starting to hurt.

“Just a parkrun to go,” I tell myself.

At 32km I need to dig deep. The next 5-8km are the hardest part of a marathon. I’m still not thinking about the finish line. I’m telling myself it’s just a 5km run. Then, when I feel depleted and don’t want to run any more and am thinking about walking, I break it down to a 2km run in my head. 

“I can run 2km,” I tell myself. I don’t look at my watch which will only confirm I’m nowhere near done yet. I try not to see the mile markers which never come up quick enough. Denial is a useful strategy at this point.

By 37km, everything is hurting. Even my teeth hurt. My legs are heavy, my calf muscles are twinging and feel whiskers away from seizing into cramps, my toes are on fire, my back hurts, there’s more than a little chafe around the edges of my underwear. I’ve drunk many, many litres of water yet have not peed since before the start. I’m drenched in sweat, and I’m soaked from head to foot from the water I’ve been pouring over my head at every drink station. I’m aware of my surroundings but my energy levels are close to depleted and my smile is barely more than a grimace. I’m no longer taking photos and am completely focused on finishing this. I’m sucking on every piece of sugary sweet liquid that is handed to me by the gorgeous volunteers. I walk through the drink stations then somehow find the energy to run again. But it’s barely running by this stage. It’s a shuffle, one foot in front of the other. “Keep moving forward,” is my mantra by now.

As the 40km mark looms I finally allow my thoughts to think about the finish line. I start to really believe I can do it. Even if I have to crawl, I know I’m going to finish this damn thing. I start to relax just a little. I can feel my inner smile return. I’ve broken the back of this mammoth challenge and the hardest part is behind me. The crowd is going nuts at this stage of the race.

“You’ve got this. You can do it.” they scream enthusiastically. And, worst of all, tell me, “You’re nearly there!” In my head I’m thinking how much fucking longer do I need to keep running. I look at my watch and register what my actual finish time may be. I try and do the maths to calculate how long it should take me to run the final 2km. How much longer do I need to hang in there? But my mind is toast and I can’t do even the simplest of calculations. At the business end of a marathon every step seems to take an eternity. All I can do is count my steps, one to twenty. Then I start counting again. One, two, three…

Soon I can hear the announcer calling runners over the finish line. 

I start to think about crossing that line. It’s not far. I can do it. I’ve got this. I’ve actually fucking got this! I’m running the New York City Marathon!!

"I cross the finish line, stop my watch and I stop running."

Finish line euphoria drives runners in New York marathon

As I approach the finish chute I look around at the crowd. At their smiling faces. They are clapping and dancing and screaming and cheering They’re high fiving runners. They’re cheering for me like I’m Frank Sinatra himself.

I’m finishing the New York freakin Marathon! My pace increases. Fuelled by adrenaline I start to actually run again, not just shuffle. I’m suddenly energized. I’m grinning like an fool.

I can see the finish line! I feel relief. But also euphoria. Exhilaration. This is what I trained for. Why I did all those lonely, solo 30km+ runs up and down hills, doing tempo runs, beach runs, getting up at stupid o’clock to beat the heat. This is why I ran and ran and ran, day after day, week after week, month after month. For this exhilaration. For this incredible elation and euphoric endorphin-fueled rush. It’s a feeling like nothing else.

I cross the finish line, stop my watch and I stop running. Tears fill my eyes. Emotion overwhelms me and drop my face into my hands and I sob big gulping, gasping sobs.

A volunteers drapes a finishers medal around my neck, someone else hands me a drink and a lovely stranger wraps a warm poncho around my shoulders. It’s now dark, its getting cold and I need to find Jaci and John. I’m still grinning like an idiot when we find each other in the crowd and I’m deliriously happy to see them. We’d had a brief hug around the 25km mark and then once more in the high 30s when I was in a world of pain.

New York Marathon takes runners on a scenic foot race through five boroughs

In what now seems a lifetime ago, earlier I’d stood on the Staten Island on-ramp to the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, Manhattan skyscrapers minuscule in the distance, Lady Liberty a small dot on the Hudson River. Ear-splitting cannon fire marked the start of our scenic foot tour through New York’s five famed boroughs – Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan. No other city does events like the Big Apple and the first Sunday in November is devoted to one of its most ambitious.

The 42.19km/26.2 mile marathon distance is brutal. A marathon leaves nowhere for pretenders to hide. There’s no faking it: you either get to the finish line or you don’t. Sure, not everyone wants to run a marathon, but it’s a goal which is achievable for anyone with a modicum of fitness who is prepared to put in the training. A healthy dose of determination and optimism helps too. The evidence is all around me on marathon Sunday in New York. Our pulsating mob of Lycra-clad, sweat-soaked bodies of all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities propel each other forward one step at a time. 88-year-old New Yorker Alan Patricof is the oldest finisher. Israeli runner Mosher Lederfien runs the entire race balancing a pineapple on his head. It was his twelfth marathon wearing pineapple headgear. Go figure!

New York marathon is like no other race

Author Liz Robbins noted in her book, A Race Like No Other, that marathoners push themselves to the edge of insanity and exhaustion, ‘because when they look back on those 26.2 miles the view is profoundly satisfying. They see where they have been and what they have become.’

This unique view of New York is what has propelled me across hemispheres, flying over 15,000km in order to run 42.2km. My scenic foot tour through New York’s five boroughs represents a victory run for the 800-plus kilometres I’ve run in training. Exhausted and depleted by unseasonal November heat, I leave New York with a coveted finishers medal embossed with Lady Liberty in my luggage. But more than that, having been embraced by a city at its pulsating best, I take a small part of New York in our hearts.

I never set out to be a marathon runner. It just kind of happened as I found a group of running buddies who were doing extraordinary things. There’s actually not that many people who can say I ran the New York Marathon. But I can.

‘Come back anytime. If you love New York, we love you right back,’ says Matthew Futterman of the New York Times.

Runners love you too New York.


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1 comment

Claudette Harper February 7, 2023 - 11:02 pm

Fiona I’ve just relived the excitement and preparation needed for this amazing event. Having JC and JR there to witness your success was heart warming. we were there witnessing every digital step.
just loved reading your well written article.
Mum (Claudette)


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Fiona Harper travel writer and Travel Boating Lifestyle
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Windin Falls hike to waterfall Cairns. Image Fiona Harper
Atherton Tablelands | AUSTRALIA

Hiking guide to Windin Falls (Windin Waterfall Hike) near Cairns

Windin Falls is west of Cairns on north Queensland's Atherton Tablelands. Windin waterfall and swimming hole is the reward for a relatively easy 90 min hike through rainforest of the Wooroonooran National Park. Windin Falls trailhead starts near Malanda.

After hiking for almost two hours, still not certain we’re on the right trail, the increasingly loud burble of water confirms we took the correct trail at the orange tape-marked tree 20 minutes earlier. Descending down a steep embankment pocked with tree roots and rocks, the rainforest closes in above a trickling stream sprouting with giant tree ferns. Rock-hopping across gin-clear water filtered through the world’s oldest Wet Tropics rainforest, we emerge into the dazzling glare of sunshine. We’ve arrived spectacularly at the top of Windin Falls.

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A rock pool with a view is the hikers reward

‘Wow!’ is all I can think of to say.

Then I say it again as we edge closer to the precipice. The view is so extraordinary it takes my breath away. I’m so excited, it feels like we’ve summited Everest. Instead of snow-capped peaks of the Himalaya’s, rich forest-clad peaks line up cheek by jowl, jostling for position like young boys on a football team. Down the Mulgrave Valley and far in the distance the summit of Mt Bellenden Kerr is concealed behind a line of cloud. Water plummets to unfathomable depths below from the pool at my feet. A bird of prey circles overhead, gracefully gliding the updrafts above the watery tumult.

I desperately want to swim in the pool, but the water is freezing! Instead, I take a gazillion photos, vowing to return later in the year when the sun is warmer. Next time we’ll bring a picnic lunch (ill prepared for this impromptu hike, all I’ve got in my pack is a can of tuna and a handful of almonds – not quite a picnic!).

The Atherton Tablelands is no shrinking violet when it comes to mountain streams cascading over craggy outcrops before plummeting to unfathomable depths below. Oh yes, the highlands west of Cairns are quite the drama queen who all her ‘look at me’ beauty.

How to find Windin Waterfall on the Windin Falls Hike

North of Malanda, drive along Topaz Rd from the Gillies Hwy. Take a left turn down the Old Cairns Track at the Bartle Frere National Park sign. Take time to enjoy the stunning views over rolling hills towards Mt Bellenden Ker from Lamin’s Hill lookout. Veer left at the Gourka Rd intersection and drive for about 4km until you reach the gate which marks the start of the trailhead. Mountain bikers, this is where it gets a bit tricky: lifting your bike over the gate is the first challenge. The OCT is easily navigable for hikers though mountain bikers will be challenged by eroded ruts deep enough to swallow a Landrover.

The main trail continues for approx. along a ridge passing through along the ‘road’ that once connected the Tablelands with the Goldsborough Valley. The vegetation varies from lush rainforest with towering lumber to wet sclerophyll forests of casuarina. It is a beautiful hike. About 4km from the gate take a sharp right-hand turn (marked by orange tape at the time the writer visited) onto a steeply descending single track. If you come to a distinct Y junction that drops down to the left and right, you’ve gone too far and missed the turn to Windin Falls.

The reward for less than two hours of sweat equity is arriving at the top of Windin Falls. A stream cascades gently into a number of small pools, the highlight of which is a small pool at the very edge of the cliff before the falls plummet unfathomable depths below into the Mulgrave Valley. It is nothing short of spectacular. Cool off in the crisp clear water while taking in the view and thank your lucky stars to be alive. This is the sort of place that will recalibrate your sense of place in the world.

The Windin Falls hike is a ‘moderate difficulty’ hike that anyone of reasonable fitness can do. The steepest section is the single track ascent on the return when leaving the falls.

Windin Falls are in Wooroonooran National Park

The unpronounceable Wooroonooran National Park (let’s just call it WNP to make it easier for everyone!) is the poster child for hiking trails, waterfalls and wildlife spotting opportunities in the region. King of the mountain, literally, is Mt Bartle Frere, Queensland’s highest peak dominating the landscape with her 1,622m peak mostly concealed in cloud. Sibling Mt Bellendon Ker (1,593m) is almost equally lofty.

The park itself runs kind of north south, mostly over highlands but it also covers some of the low country of the Goldsborough Valley south of Cairns. Major rivers like the East and West Mulgrave and North and South Johnstone Rivers feed the ample forest that thrives here. Much of the park is protected under Wet Tropics World Heritage status. Download Park Map

Windin Waterfall Hike, Cairns Queensland Australia Image Fiona Harper
Wooroonooran National Park | Travel Boating Lifestyle

Have you hiked any of the Atherton Tablelands trails? Tell us about your favourite walks in the comments below!


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Fiona Harper travel writer and Travel Boating Lifestyle
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Epic runs of the world
Lonely Planet


Lonely Planet inspire travellers to see the world by bike and by foot. Slow travel takes a whole new meaning at this sort of pace. New guidebooks are especially for travellers who like to combine cycling and running with their travels .

Lonely Planet’s first travel guide book was famously an accident according to co-founders Tony and Maureen Wheeler. The story goes something like most adventures do when a plan is formulated to travel somewhere new and unknown. Then things go awry.

You know how it goes. You depart on your trip, find something interesting that evolves into a deviation and before you know it the plan has gone out the window and you’re going off on some tangent to who knows where with a stranger who has recently become your BFF. That’s the joy of independent free-spirited travel, right?

The best travel adventures evolve from serendipity

This is exactly how some of my most fun travel adventures have played out. Like the time I was contracted to help deliver a yacht on a simple delivery from A (Tonga, actually) to B (Japan). Before too long the delivery turned into a island-hopping sojourn as the skipper revisited old stomping grounds, a mutiny ensued, I jumped ship in Guam, found a lift on a yacht sailing south and eventually returned home to New Zealand 6 months later.

Or more recently, when I flew to New York to run the marathon and ended up in Argentina then cruised to Antarctica on a squid games hunt for colossal squid ‘since I was in the area’.  Travel is all about serendipity, being in the moment, having random conversations with strangers and taking up opportunities when they present.

The Wheelers didn't plan on becoming travel book publishers

The Wheelers original plan was to travel overland from London to Australia back in the early 1970s, spend a few months in Sydney then continue travelling around the world, returning to London within a year.

It turned out that people were fascinated with how they did their overland trip and wanted to know all the details. These casual conversations with other travellers eventually turned into LP’s first published guide, Across Asia on the Cheap. That first guide launched what would eventually become a global publishing house. But more importantly it became the catalyst for countless young travellers to leave home and see the world.


My first Lonely Planet book inspired a lifetime of travel

My first LP book was Southeast Asia on a Shoestring. I remember its distinctive canary yellow cover containing an inordinate amount of information. It talked about the logistics of travelling SE Asia, places to stay, where to eat and how to get around. It was enticing fodder for a teenager yearning to escape the boundaries of well-meaning parents and teachers.

I planned and dreamed of taking off with just a backpack, a head full of curiosity and a yearning to see the world. Eventually I did just that, though it was some years before I actually got to South East Asia. I left school, tossed my backpack onto a Greyhound bus and went north to Broome, hitching lifts to Australia’s east coast before eventually returning to Perth.  That first independent travel adventure led me to buying my first yacht, which led me down a path that still resonates today (but that’s a whole other story).

South East Asia on a Shoestring

Back then there was no internet and LP guides were gold for independent travellers. These LP guidebooks were trusted and respected and revered. They were thumbed through, yes religiously, like Catholics might treat a Bible. In so many ways LP’s later blue spines were indeed the travellers bible, passed around hostels with every word treated as gospel.

They still are. Though they’ve recently changed the look of their classic guidebooks as the company celebrates 50 years.

Despite the plethora of travel information at our disposal in print and online, LP remains at the forefront of travel guidebooks. It’s hard to argue against 50 years of publishing.


Lonely Planet guidebooks are not just for backpackers

Though these days you’re more likely to find their guidebooks on coffee tables or piled up beside beds for night time reading rather than tossed into backpacks. LP’s digital resources are constantly updated making the website far more valuable for travellers on the ground looking for up to date info.

With titles like Best Bike Rides Australia, Best Bike Rides New Zealand and Epic Runs of the World, LP produces travel titles that tap into our desire to combine travel with personal interests. Seeing the world from the perspective of a runner or a cyclist is the ultimate form of slow travel.

I’ve ridden bikes and participated in running events all over the world, motivated by active adventures as a reason to travel to a particular destination. So, when I saw these biking and running titles I couldn’t wait to get my hands on them. I’m still devouring them, lingering over every single page as I plan future travels.

Lonely Planet - Epic Runs of the World

Lonely Planet feeds my wanderlust

Like any self-respecting traveller with itchy feet waiting to hit the ground running, I’ve bookmarked pages and earmarked future runs and rides. My mind wanders while flicking through their pages each night before falling asleep, plotting, planning and dreaming of my next active adventures.

The truth is, I could use each book as inspiration for the next few years and still not get close to doing all of these runs or rides. But travel has never been about ticking off destinations or places like a shopping list. Rather, the planning and the dreaming and hitting the Confirm button on that airline booking site is as tantalising as the travel itself.

Which is ultimately the true pleasure of books such as these. They ignite our enthusiasm for travel while continuing to feed the flames of inspiration with the turn of each page.

Which epic run or ride ignites your flame? Australia’s Gold Coast? New Zealand’s South Island? Paris perhaps? The savannahs of South Africa? Let me know in the comments where you’re headed!

Running the Gold Coast Marathon

About these running & riding travel books

Epic Runs of the World

In this comprehensive runner’s companion, you’ll find 50 of the world’s greatest running routes – from short city runs and must-do marathons to cross-country trails and challenging ultras – plus a further 150 courses around the globe to satisfy runners of all abilities.

Each run is accompanied by photos, map and toolkit of practical details – where to start and finish, how to get there, where to stay and more – to help you plan the perfect trip. Suggestions for similar runs around the world are also included.

Organised by continent, Lonely Planet’s Epic Runs of the World takes runners past giraffes, zebras and rhinos in Africa, along courses the length of Vancouver’s Stanley Park Seawall in the Americas, offers spectacular views of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak in Asia and jogs along Rome’s Tiber River in Europe, while inviting athletes to push themselves to the limit in Oceania’s Blue Mountains Ultra.

Best Bike Rides Australia

– 40 day trips on two wheels from easy to hard, a few hours to full day rides. . From rail trails to coastal pathways, there’s  easy-to-follow trails for cyclists and E-bike riders.

Colour maps (including elevation charts) and images throughout.

Special features – on Australia’s highlights for cyclist, kid-friendly rides, accessible trails and what to take.

Region profiles cover when to go, where to stay, what’s on, cultural insights, and local food and drink recommendations to refuel and refresh.

Featured regions include: Sydney and Around, Byron Bay to the Sunshine Coast, The Daintree and the Far North, the Outback, Southwest Forests to the Sea, Flinders to Fleurieu, Grampians to the High Country, the Prom to the Great Ocean Road, and Tasmania

Essential info at your fingertips – ride itineraries accompanied by illustrative maps are combined with details about ride duration, distance, terrain, start/end locations (including bike rental options) and difficulty with over 50 maps.

Best Bike Rides New Zealand

38 day trips on two wheels to explore New Zealand, from a couple of hours to a full day, from easy to hard. From rail trails to coastal pathways we cover the country with easy-to-follow trails for cyclists and E-bike riders.

Colour maps (including elevation charts) and images.

Special features – on New Zealand’s highlights for cyclist, kid-friendly rides, accessible trails and what to take.

Region profiles cover when to go, where to stay, what’s on, cultural insights, and local food and drink recommendations to refuel and refresh.

Featured regions include: Marlborough, Bay of Islands, Akaroa, West Coast, Central Plateau, Milford Sound, Waiheke Island, Kaikoura, Mackenzie Country, Waitomo Caves, Canterbury, Rotorua, Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch, Queenstown and more

Essential info at your fingertips – ride itineraries accompanied by illustrative maps are combined with details about ride duration, distance, terrain, start/end locations (including bike rental options) and difficulty with over 48 maps.

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Novotel Darwin Airport Resort

Welcome to Darwin Airport where resort hotel and terminal sit side-by-side

Fiona Harper checked into Darwin Airport for a weekend getaway with a difference. Arriving at the airport she bypassed the airport terminal and went straight to the all-new Novotel Darwin Airport Resort instead.
Read her review to see how this airport resort hotel in the Northern Territory lived up to expectations.

Imagine stepping off an aircraft, waltzing through the airport terminal and plonking yourself down poolside in a sunlounge amidst a tropical paradise. This is the sort of welcoming experience awaiting at Darwin Airport Resort, a groundbreaking concept that redefines airport accommodation. Stepping out of Darwin Airport the first thing you’ll notice is the steamy heat of the tropics. A swimming pool in this climate is not a luxury it’s essential for your sanity. So it makes absolute sense that the Territory’s sexiest pool is the central hub of this swanky new airport hotel.

You can imagine my disappointment upon checking in to be told that the mammoth Olympic-plus sized pool is closed. Looking over the receptionist’s shoulder I can see the water cascading down the glass-fronted swimming pool.

The Novotel Darwin Airport Resort with its mammoth swimming pool. Image Fiona Harper
The pool looks inviting! Image Darwin Airport Resort

Swimming pools in the Territory are essential to combat tropical heat

“How come it’s closed?” I ask.
“They’re doing maintenance,” says the receptionist without further explanation. That’s odd I think. The hotel and its pool only just opened. Weeks later, a friend who was lured to the hotel for its alluring pool gets the same explanation. I have plenty of time to ponder the question as I wait for my room key. It’s just after midday, so I’m a little early for the 2pm check-in time. 

But, it’s low season, and according to room availability listed online, there’s plenty of unoccupied rooms. But, rules are rules.
So I wait. After 30 minutes or so after wandering around the open-air lobby, perusing the menu at Splash Cafe and peering over the wall to see the pool which is invitingly close but most definitely out of bounds, I decide to get back in my car and drive to Casuarina to get lunch. The receptionists takes my number and says she’ll call me when the room is ready.

The call never comes. So I go to my room at 2pm and kill more time waiting outside while someone comes to give me a key card and let me in. My room – a Deluxe King Suite – when I finally get in, is lovely. It’s an odd start to a weekend getaway at a hotel which proudly boasts of its in-house training program. I do hope that things become a little more polished as the busy season arrives and guests are likely to be far more demanding.
A New Chapter for A

A new chapter for airport resorts and hotels opens

Gone are the days when airport hotels were just a quick stopover. The Novotel & Mercure Darwin Airport Resort has undergone a dramatic transformation merging luxury with convenience. Guests can now enjoy a unified reception, leading to a world-class aquatic centre featuring an Olympic-plus size swimming pool, surrounded by lush tropical gardens. The old Mercure Hotel has been updated, while the adjacent Novotel with it mammoth Olympic-plus pool is new. The whole complex of two hotels and two pools melds as one, with the convenience of an airport locality creating a tropical haven gateway to exploring the Northern Territory’s Top End.
Deluxe King Suite. Image Fiona Harper
Tropical pool villa with private plunge pool. Image Darwin Airport Resort

Darwin Airport Resort is rooted in tradition

Rooted in Tradition Darwin is located on the traditional lands of Larrakia Nation, and the resort honours this heritage. Aboriginal culture is woven into the fabric of the resort’s design, paying homage to Larrakia people, the traditional custodians of the Darwin area. Diverse Accommodations The resort boasts a variety of rooms within its 423-room inventory. From sleek hotel rooms to luxurious 5-star tropical villas, each space is designed to harmonise with Darwin’s tropical environment. Families and long-stay guests will find the bungalows and family suites a perfect match for their needs. Indulge in Tropical Luxury The Tropical Pool Villas are a sanctuary of comfort, offering a king-sized bed, state-of-the-art amenities, and a spa-like bathroom. Step outside to your private pool, set against the tranquil backdrop of Rapid Creek bushland. Each villa celebrates a prominent Territorian, inviting guests to connect with their stories and the spirit of Larrakia country.

Savour the airport resort's local flavours and tropical vibe

Dine poolside at two exquisite eateries. Splash café and bar is all breezy spaces where walls are nonexistent and gardens create a tropical ambience. Cossies Poolside Bar & Bistro is beside the pool at the Mercure. It’s menu serves local favorites like barramundi, pizza, burgers and steaks complemented by tropical cocktails and an Australian wine list. Buffet breakfast is served at Cossies and comes with a limited hot and cold selection. It’s adequate but doesn’t tempt me to linger any longer than is necessary to refuel and scarper. I walk back to my room via the new pool, hoping that it may have opened. A sign on the gate saying ‘Closed for maintenance’ needs no further explanation so I return my still-dry bathing suit into my bag.
Splash Cafe is poolside at Novotel Darwin Airport Resort. Image Fiona Harper
Open air lobby has a tropical vibe. Image Fiona Harper

Darwin Airport Resort commits to Indigenous hospitality

The resort is a leader in Indigenous engagement, featuring a stunning Aboriginal mural that connects guests with the Larrakia people and their enduring legacy around the Darwin area. At the heart of our mission is the empowerment of Indigenous communities. Through the Indigenous Training Academy, the hotel nurtures talent and provides nationally recognised qualifications in hospitality and tourism. Aboriginal creativity is on show through oversized murals and artworks throughout the resort. The most obvious artwork is the Water Tower Welcome to Country piece which rises high above the palm trees. Affectionately dubbed the Darwin Didgeridoo, the 41m tall water tower is adorned with a striking Aboriginal mural which weaves the stories of Larrakia people. Other artworks honour the worlds oldest living culture with massive murals on external hotel walls. Information boards enhance the stories of Aboriginal culture and history that underpins much of any visitor’s Northern Territory experience. Novotel Darwin Airport Resort is a terrific introduction to the Territory. AT least it will be once that pool opens.

Here's what I liked about Darwin Airport Hotels

The mammoth pool looked so inviting, and I’m sure it’s a terrific place to hang out. When it opens. 

I really liked my King Deluxe Suite for its modern, clean look and spaciousness with bedroom and separate living room. A small deck is shaded by tropical garden. The bathroom has a massive walk-in-shower with enough room to hold a dance party. The king bed with crisp linen and overstuffed pillows was an absolute delight.

The lush gardens are trimmed and well cared for and give a tropical feel and soften concrete hotel walls.

Here's what I didn't like about Darwin Airport Hotels

Again, the mammoth pool looked so inviting, so it was disappointing that it wasn’t open. The lagoon pool at the Mercure was hosting kids birthday parties on both the days I was there so it was a noisy, chaotic space that didn’t endear me to lounging in a sun lounge reading a book.

I put the laborious check-in process down to teething problems as staff presumably become accustomed to new processes.

More information Darwin Airport Hotels

The writer was a guest of Novotel Darwin Airport Resort.

Lagoon swimming pool at Mercure Darwin Airport Resort
Aboriginal mural on external hotel walls
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North Face Duffel bag

North Face duffel bag luggage review by Fiona Harper travel writer

Luggage Review of Base Camp Roller Duffel bag from The North Face

Fiona Harper is a global traveller who demands a lot from her luggage. She put The North Face’s Base Camp Duffel Roller to the test on travels between the polar regions, almost twice around the world and all points in between.
How did the roller duffel, which she spent so much time with she named Ruby Tuesday, stack up? Scroll down to read Fiona’s luggage review.

Every single item in my travel bag is there for a purpose. As a professional traveller who spends much of the year on the road, I take luggage and packing seriously. I’ve packed up and moved onto to the next airport, hotel, ship, boat or whatever so many times, I can seriously go from waking up to out the door in less than 10 minutes. So this luggage review comes from real life experience across the globe.

Many of the essentials that make it into my luggage have multiple purposes. All are given a gig based on a rating of their usefulness, their weight and the amount of space they take up. If I was doing one or two trips a year it wouldn’t matter.

But I often travel back-to-back on assignments with little or no time in between trips to repack. During one extended period recently I spent two days at home in 15 months, living out of my Base Camp Roller Duffel bag as I travelled between north and south polar latitudes and almost twice around the world. I travelled by plane, train, ship, sailboat, by car, by bus and by bike. My luggage needs to keep up with this often gruelling schedule.

Some people take novelty ‘friends’ or toys on their travels, photographing them in iconic locations around the world. It’s a fun sort of way to add a theme to travels and the photos shared on socials. You’ve all seen garden gnomes at the Eiffel Tower, right?

Sadly, I don’t have the space in my travel gear for such indulgences.

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North Face duffel bag luggage review by Fiona Harper travel writer
The North Face Duffel Roller on The Canadian train from Vancouver to Toronto

The right luggage can make or break a trip

Everything has a dual purpose. For example, a well-travelled black sarong works overtime as a beach or pool coverup, has been seen to grace the red carpet as a skirt or shoulder wrap at fine dining restaurants, but is is most commonly seen on aircraft as either a blanket or a headscarf blocking out the light so I can catch some sleep. In Muslim countries it’s perfectly modest to pass as a chador.

My not-quite-as-well-travelled wet weather jacket is also a serial multi-tasker. When not keeping rain or sea spray at bay it’s rolled up into its inbuilt hood and doing time as a cushion wedged against the wall of an aircraft window seat. Elastic sided black Hush Puppy walking boots have gone from hiking trails to 5 star hotel to a Texas dance floor all in one day. Likewise a pair of black cargo pants teamed with a black merino wool thermal top which just needs a colourful scarf to go from walking city streets or Arctic explorations to sophisticated dinner. Colourful cotton tunic tops (hello West Indies Wear!) brighten up tropical days or Antarctic nights when teamed with aforementioned merino underlayers.

North Face duffel bag luggage review by Fiona Harper travel writer
The North Face Duffel Roller rolls around yet another luggage carousel
North Face duffel bag
The North Face Duffel Roller at ULUM Moab, Utah USA

Choose luggage that is robust

So when I went looking for luggage that was up to the task of accompanying me on global travels, the first thing I looked for was a multi-tasking travel bag. The well-travelled folks at The North Face get this.

My bag had to be able to cope with all the rigours of travel, stand up to being tossed around by uncaring baggage handlers, keep my worldly goods safe and not damage my things safely tucked within its inner. But number one priority was that it had to be tough.

The bag had to stand up to being tossed into the bilges of small boats, piled atop stores in milk-run 6 seater aircraft, dragged across beaches and gravel airstrips while also frocking up to fancy hotel foyers and not embarrassing me with its travel-worn scars.

The North Face makes serious luggage for travellers

As a professional mostly solo, full time traveller, my luggage is almost an extension of myself.

My bag of choice from The North Face is the 97 litre-capacity Base Camp Duffel Roller. It’s fair to say I’ve put Ruby Tuesday through a rigorous challenge over almost two years of travel. Though she bears the scars of transiting through more than 100 airports (as do I… continous travel is not for feeble), she’s still in travel-ready shape and looks like she’ll outlast me.

We’ve spent so much time together I feel a weird sort of affection for my duffel bag.

I’ve said a mental goodbye to her so many times at airport check-ins I christened my scarlet red bag Ruby Tuesday. Ruby has not let me down once, turning up on queue at baggage carousels every single time. (Thank you to all the unknown baggage handlers who have managed this feat).

Here’s some of the reasons I wholeheartedly recommend and endorse this bag, whether you’re taking your first overseas trip or are a seasoned traveller who’s lost count of airports transited through.

For the statistic nerds, this Ruby Tuesday’s 22 month travel diary during 2022/23:

  • Days on the road: 388
  • Airports transited: 128
  • Flights: 100+
  • Trips: 33
  • Countries: 17
North Face duffel bag luggage review by Fiona Harper travel writer
The North Face Duffel Roller on the Brisbane Airport transit bus
North Face duffel bag luggage review by Fiona Harper travel writer
The North Face Duffel Roller right at home at the scores of Balinese villas we checked into

Here’s what I like about the Base Camp Roller Duffel

  • Sturdy wheels – honestly I can’t believe these two wheels are still functioning. I’ve put them through far more jobs than their pay scale warrants. And still they keep rolling relentlessly towards my next destination.
  • Soft outer shell – I do a lot of trips that take me off the beaten track. Whether that’s travelling on small ships, even smaller sailboats or perhaps zipping between islands on a teeny powerboat. Other times I’m getting around in seaplanes or helicopters. All of which have limited cargo space. Few have capacity to squeeze a hard-shell four-wheeled suitcase into their holds. The soft sides of the Base Camp Duffel Roller mean the bag can actually be squeezed into tight spaces. Ruby Tuesday is a little like a shape shifting octopus morphing into different shapes depending upon her environment.
  • Flexible carrying options – The Base Camp Duffel Roller has two top straps. One has flexible lengths and is for rolling the bag on its twin wheels. The other is the kind that baggage handlers and porters love when they need to hoist the bag onto a trolley. But the best carrying option is the addition of backpack straps. Though I don’t use this too often, this feature comes into its own when travelling to far-flung islands, like in Fiji or the Solomon Islands for example. When a burly Fijian man greets me on the beach and offers to carry my bag, I couldn’t be more grateful to show him the backpack straps as he hoiks the heavy bag onto his shoulders like its the weight of fairy floss. I wish my own shoulders were as strong… sigh.

Features of the Base Camp Roller Duffel

Other features I really like:

  • Though Ruby Tuesday is ostensibly a duffel bag, the solid base and wheels mean she’s robust enough to stand vertically (this becomes usefully apparent when moving through airports or when waiting for ubers, buses or taxis.
  • Side compression straps mean the bag can be made smaller when space is at a premium.
  • Waterproof outer shell and rainproof zip flap – though Ruby is unlikely to survive full immersion, the main zip and overlaid flap keeps pretty much all water out. Same with the one-piece main compartment. If she sits in a boat bilge with water lapping I’m too concerned about my worldly possessions getting soaked.
  • Internal capacity is huge. One mesh pocket runs along the top inner flap, and is useful for storing paperwork and maps I collect along the way. I use compression bags to keep everything sorted and easily found – like a filing system. One each for bottoms, tops, smalls, shoes, tech gear etc.
  • There’s a top zippered compartment that’s separate to main compartment and is useful for stashing travel gear I want quick access to – jacket, notebook, spare clothes etc.

Overall this roller duffel is incredibly strong and even after almost two years of near-constant travel the outer material shows no sign of tears or holes that other soft bags are susceptible to. I’m seriously impressed.

Here’s what I didn’t like about the Base Camp Roller Duffel

There’s few things that I didn’t like about this bag, given all of the above and all the challenges I put it through.

Except… It’s big volume and non-compartmentalised interior means it can be really hard to find things. Often I would just pull everything out which meant my hotel room quickly became a hot mess. Once I discovered packing cubes that problem was sorted (I don’t why it took me so long to discover these gems!).

More information The North Face

Note: Base Camp Duffel Roller was provided to the writer for review purposes.

North Face duffel bag luggage review by Fiona Harper travel writer
The North Face Duffel Roller in a friends house transiting through South Australia
North Face duffel bag luggage review by Fiona Harper travel writer
The North Face Duffel Roller in New Orleans where cowboy boots are de rigeur

Shop at mitribe.shop for activewear and leggings by Fiona Harper

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Why settle for a boring hotel room when you can check into one of the world’s best overwater bungalows? For a self-confessed water baby who’s partial to romantic tropical getaways, if given the choice I’ll always choose a room with a water view, water side location or, best of all, over the water with direct ocean ocean access from an overwater bungalow. Here are some of the best overwater bungalows from around the globe.

Likuliku Lagoon Resort | Fiji

Fiji has cornered the South Pacific market when it comes to idyllic beachfront hotels but there are only two resorts in the entire country that has overwater bures (Marriot Momi Bay opened in 2018). Islands magazine rates Likuliku Lagoon Resort at No. 3 in their Top 10 Most Romantic Resorts globally in part because of their stunning overwater offering. We rate Likuliku as one of our favourites too. Teetering atop the reef at the northern headland of a crescent shaped cove, 10 bungalows are styled on a traditional Fijian village. A luxurious adults only retreat, Likuliku means calm water and perfectly describes its Yasawa Islands location.

Glass panels in the floor as well as the bathroom vanity top bring the ocean indoors providing a sort of personal ‘marinelife TV’. Timber decks with sun lounges, outdoor showers and ladders into the sea allow full immersion for water babies.

Likuliku Lagoon Resort Fiji

Sofitel Bora Bora Private Island | Tahiti

Bora Bora is well known for it’s ridiculously turquoise seas bathed in a balmy tropical warmth. But this island archipelago is also famous for a proliferation of hotels perched above the sheltered water of ocean lagoons. Few are as plush as those found on the lush private island known as Motu Piti U u Uta. Arrive in James Bond speedboat style, zipping across the lagoon after touching down at Bora Bora Airport. Once ensconced in your Island Luxury Overwater Bungalow, enjoy views of the craggy peaks of Mt Otemanu. That is if you can drag your eyes away from the mesmerising ocean vista that dominates the foreground.

Naturally, elegant French-based Sofitel luxury hotel brand is at their most stylish in French Polynesia. Expect understated perfection. Accor’s sustainable development Planet 21 program includes such practises as serving non-endangered seafood and sourcing local produce in the restaurant and capturing that Tahitian sun to heat bungalow showers.

Sofitel Bora Bora Tahiti

Royal Huahine Resort | Tahiti

While we’re talking Tahiti, Royal Huahine Resort is worthy of inclusion in our Best Overwater Bungalows feature simply because these Tahitian overwater bungalows are not located at Bora Bora. Not that there is anything wrong with Bora Bora, quite the opposite in fact. But it’s good to have options beyond the mainstream popular choices, right? Making few red carpet appearances for the paparazzi, Huahine Island gets a gong thanks to its far-flung location on the ‘Isle of Gardens’.

Moderately priced, small and intimate, Royal Huahine is for those who like to indulge in nature and can get by without an endless menu of scheduled activities or tours. Just eleven overwater bungalows face west to capture the sun setting over the watery horizon. Shaded sun decks and a swim platform at sea level make it easy for diving into the deep blue sea.Tahiti Royal Huahine

Warwick Le Lagon Resort | Vanuatu

Beautifully located above Erakor Lagoon in the heart of Port Vila, there are just 4 much-sought after overwater villas at Warwick Le Lagon. Unlike more traditional South Pacific overwater complexes that are linked to the land by elevated boardwalks, the villas at Le Lagoon are partially built onshore on a peninsula jutting out into the lagoon. They’re a little like a hotel room with the added advantage of tranquil lapping water viewed from a private patio on the seaward side.

All inclusive meal plans keep things affordable while Ni-Vanutua people rival Fijians for their warmth and friendly hospitality. Don’t miss Port Villa Markets for a fascinating insight into how the locals live, eat and play. Pop into the maze of craft stalls for some souvenirs to take home.

Le Lagoon

L’Escapade island Resort | New Caledonia

New Caledonia’s only overwater bungalows can be found at L’Escapade Island Resort, a short boat ride from downtown Noumea. 25 overwater bungalows are spacious, styled on functionality rather than luxury while being well appointed. Wide staircase-like steps to reach the sea where it’s likely you’ll see turtles foraging in the shallows.

As the resort is located on a private island, activities are limited and dining options outside the resort are non-existent. Go here for far-flung, tranquil relaxation with a French Melanesian cultural style.

Conrad Maldives Rangali Island | Maldives

It would be remiss of us to neglect to mention the Maldives, a country which is undisputed leader in overwater accommodation. The problem with the Maldives is where to start, with over 80 private island resorts, most of which have bungalows tottering above the sea. Some, like Conrad Maldives Rangali Island offer extreme indulgence. Like a 24 hour Butler service, glass floors, outdoor spa, private infinity pool and ocean view bathtub for example. How about a circular bed that rotates through 270 degrees to follow the sun as it sinks into an endless Maldivian sea? Sure, why not.

If all that overwater action gets a little too tedious, drop down below sea level for an underwater dining experience at all-glass Ithaa Undersea Restaurant. But Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is not just a pretty face. The resort (which is actually 3 resorts in one) makes regular red carpet appearances, picking up awards for its outstanding accommodation, cuisine and hospitality.

Conrad Maldives

Coconuts Beach Club | Samoa

In Samoa bungalows are called fales (pronounced far-lay) and are usually pretty simple huts consisting of little more than a raised timber platform with thatched roof. Samoan fales are just about always situated on a glorious white-sand beach shaded by coconut palms. Bedding down in a fale much as the locals do, is definitely one of those highly recommended ‘when in Rome’ holiday experiences. The six overwater fales at Coconuts Beach Club on Upulo Island raise the comfort factor significantly.

Walls of glass frame panoramic views from within and are a bonus for those who struggle in tropical heat and like to keep the air-conditioning cranked up yet still enjoy dreamy ocean views. Bathrooms are superb with with opaque ceilings bathing the room in light creating an outdoors feel – slide back the glass doors onto the sundeck and bathe indoors/outdoors while enjoying the salty scent of sea air wafting through.
4 Rivers Floating Lodge | Cambodia

Let’s move away from dazzling tropical atolls with overwater bungalows perched atop coral reefs for the moment. In Cambodia 4 Rivers Floating Lodge has an inland location surrounded by virgin jungle. In southern Cambodia at Tatai, 4 Rivers Lodge is not far from the Thai border and is midway between Bangkok and Phnom Penh. The jungle location is serene and green where nature dominates the view while forest walks and wildlife spotting is the main activity.

The 12 Tented villas are reminiscent of African safari game parks and are cleverly connected by floating boardwalks. Canvas walls are broken up with floor to ceiling mesh windows. The cathedral ceiling channels a Big Top circus tent with its lofty central peak. Octagonal shaped overwater tents come with king or twin beds, plush ensuite and a comfy sitting area. The best view in the house is from a sun lounge on the deck where jungle and river views dominate.

Aitutaki Lagoon Resort and Spa Cook Islands

Dreamy Cook Islands brochures were tantalising water babies to its shores long before Instagram became flooded with photos of untouched beaches shaded by palm trees. The Cooks ticks all those essential tropical holiday boxes: white sand, tick. Palm trees, tick. Tranquil lagoon teeming with marinelife, yep. Aitutaki Lagoon takes the gong for the most picturesque atoll on the planet. Throw in overwater bungalows lined with woven pandanus leaves, lofty thatched roofs, outdoor bathrooms on the edge of that lagoon and we’ve found holiday heaven. Warm and friendly Polynesian culture who open their ample arms to embrace visitors will ensure you never want to leave.

Cook Islands Aitutaki

Avani Sepang Gold Coast Resort | Malaysia

Less than one hour’s drive from Kuala International Airport lies a little Malaysian secret getaway that feels a million miles away from the big city bustle.  Admittedly, with 300 Polynesian-inspired overwater villas, the word is definitely out about this little piece of tropical paradise. No matter, it’s pretty easy to imagine you are the only resident once ensconced on a sun lounge bathed in a golden late afternoon glow, G&T in hand as the sun sinks below the horizon.

Avani sepang Malaysia

Have you stayed in an overwater bungalow? Would you like to? Tell us about your favourite overwater hotel in the comments below!

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Vanua Balavu, Bay of Islands, Lau Group Fiji | Travel Boating Lifestyle

Fulaga Island / Vulaga Island Fiji | Travel Boating Lifestyle

Muana-i-cake Village on Fulaga Island

Go beyond the South Pacific cliche of palm trees and beaches to meet the people of Muana-i-cake village (pronounced Mon-a-tha-key), a village of around 100 residents on Fulaga (pronounced Foo-lang-ah) Island (also spelt Vulaga Island) in Fiji’s remote Southern Lau Group. Fulaga Island is about as far east in Fiji as you can without sailing into International Waters.

With little outside influence, villagers live much as their ancestors did, fishing and farming to support each other, heavily influenced by traditional values. Sharing of skills and resources underpins a strong community spirit which benefits residents of three villages on Vulaga Island.

Men and women practice traditional crafts like weaving, carving and making magi magi, a rope woven from the fibres of coconut husks that is used to embellish buildings across Fiji. Vulaga Island weavers and carvers are recognised as some of the most skilled in Fiji with their craft works highly sought after.

If you can’t travel to Fulaga to see their crafts you can find some of these exquisite works from Lau artisans for sale in Jacks stores in Nadi and Suva.

READ Bay of Islands – one of the world’s best anchorages

Fulaga Island / Vulaga Island Fiji | Travel Boating Lifestyle
Fulaga Island / Vulaga Island Fiji | Travel Boating Lifestyle
Fulaga Island / Vulaga Island Fiji | Travel Boating Lifestyle

Fulaga Village welcome by Chief Mika

“I am Mika Colati from Muana-i-cake village of the Vunikoro clan, Acting Chief of Vulaga Island in the Southern Lau Group, Fiji. I welcome you into our village.

I think it is a good idea to collect the stories from us, so everybody can look back at what is recorded to help us remember our traditions. I remember our forefathers, our grandfathers and my father and know that solesolevaki* and veiwasei* * is a good idea, we really like how it helps the village…  our families can look back and everybody will remember our village.”

* Solesolevaki defines the community spirit which guides villager’s contribution to the overall prosperity of the village by helping each other with farming, building, fishing, family chores, or wherever else help is required.

** Veiwasei describes the generosity of sharing resources and skills between family, clan and village

Fulaga Island / Vulaga Island Fiji | Travel Boating Lifestyle

Chief Mica (who sadly passed away in Nov 18) conducts sevusevu ceremony at Fulaga village

Fulaga Island / Vulaga Island Fiji | Travel Boating Lifestyle

The author Fiona Harper and Chief Bese who sadly passed away some months after this photo was taken

What you should know about Fijian Sevusevu ceremony

Sevusevu is the name given to the gift presented to the village Chief when arriving at a Fijian village. The usual gift is yagona (kava root) or kava powder, and is offered to the Chief as a goodwill gesture to request permission to visit the villages’ traditional land and waterways.

Fiji’s common law decrees that all land belongs to locals and so permission must be sought when visiting. It is customary for visitors to seek permission through the head villager, known as Turaga ni Koro (pronounced too-ranga-koor-oh), to request sevusevu ceremony. To not do so is a sign of disrespect and visitors are considered trespassers if they do not partake in sevusevu.

Village etiquette requires that ladies wear clothing that covers their knees and shoulders, men should wrap a sulu or sarong around their legs and hats and sunglasses should be removed. Taking photographs of sevusevu is usually ok but it’s polite to ask first.

Sevusevu ceremony can be a short casual affair that is over in a few minutes or it can be an elaborate ceremony with the entire village present, and may be the precursor to an extended celebration around the kava bowl that lasts long into the night. It depends entirely on the village and how they choose to conduct sevusevu. The ceremony starts with everyone seated on the floor, the Turaga ni Koro will speak, the Chief will speak, usually in Fijian, then at the end there will be an English translation welcoming visitors into the village.

In Fulaga Island, sevusevu is always a reason for celebration, as it signifies new yacht crews have arrived in the lagoon and will likely be spending time in the village. Sevusevu is an opportunity for host families to welcome new arrivals and show them around the village. If a couple of yachts arrive around the same time, a group sevusevu ceremony will eventuate, the kava bowl is filled and visitors and villagers will likely spend many convivial hours around the kava bowl.[/vc_column_text]Fulaga Island / Vulaga Island Fiji | Travel Boating Lifestyle
Fulaga Island / Vulaga Island Fiji | Travel Boating Lifestyle
Fulaga Island / Vulaga Island Fiji | Travel Boating Lifestyle
Fulaga Island / Vulaga Island Fiji | Travel Boating Lifestyle

Village Life on Fulaga Island

There are few places in the world where a war of global significance that impacted millions of people can slip by virtually unnoticed. Vulaga, a far-flung weathered limestone island archipelago rising from a picturesque lagoon in the South Pacific Ocean, is one of them.

An elderly island resident Moses says when asked about how village life has changed over the years that in the early 1940’s villagers had no inkling that a world war was raging over their watery horizon. “We didn’t know anything about a war. We had no radio,” he recollects.

Straddling the International Dateline dogleg at longitude 180 degrees, Fulaga Island  is home to approx. 400 residents across three villages – Naividamu, Muana-i-rai and Muana-i-cake. Muana-i-cake is the central hub of Fulaga Island and is home to the primary school, nurses station and a hut which serves as the bank and post office.

Residents maintain a subsistence lifestyle, harvesting food from the land and sea to supplement supplies that come by the irregular barge service from Suva.Fulaga Island / Vulaga Island Fiji | Travel Boating Lifestyle
Fulaga Island / Vulaga Island Fiji | Travel Boating Lifestyle

Visiting Fulaga Island

Cruising yachts make up most of the outside visitors to Fulaga, which almost 100 yachts dropping anchor in the lagoon each year. Some crews return year after year so warm is the welcome from villagers. Yachts pay FJD50 to the Chief before being invited to a sevusevu ceremony, the traditional welcome ceremony which grants permission for visitors to access land and sea belonging to the village. READ Boating Guide to Fulaga Island

Families at Muana-i-cake village take turns at hosting the crew of each yacht, inviting crew to become part of village life. The first time I visited Tai was my host, then the next visit Jojo (George) and Ma along with Tai hosted me. Their generous hospitality is almost overwhelming, sharing meals, fresh fruits and fish along with an endearing friendship. This hosting arrangement is not common in Fiji and offers a rare opportunity for visitors to get to know the locals and learn about village life. At Fulaga Island, with little digital connection and far from the high tech mainstream world, daily life is all about connecting with one another and helping family and friends.

On my first to Fulaga I travelled with Captain Cook Cruises, who run approx. three annual cruises to the Lau Group. On this first visited we stayed just long enough to get a tantalising taste of this beautiful island outpost, inspiring me to return. Later, I returned to the Southern Lau Group on a yacht for an extended visit after cruising the Northern Lau, then again last year. The fascination with this remote island remains, not just because of its drop-dead gorgeous island landscape (as important as that is). What really stands out from visiting Fulaga is the warmth and heartfelt welcome by villagers given to visitors.

Fulaga Island / Vulaga Island Fiji | Travel Boating Lifestyle
Fulaga Island / Vulaga Island Fiji | Travel Boating Lifestyle

Fulaga Island Fiji Google Earth

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Sailing Indonesia on traditional pinisi sailboat with Seatrek Sailing Adventures

I’ve recently been exploring eastern Indonesia’s Spice Islands and Maluku Island groups. I was travelling onboard a traditional Indonesian sailboat, known as a phinisi, which is a timber-hulled gaff-rigged ketch. Ombak Putih has a crew of 15 Indonesian seafarers, guides and hospitality crew who kept our 12 passengers fed, hydrated and fully entertained over 12 days.

Following the ancient wake of 17th century spice traders

These images were captured to tell the story of our voyage as we followed in the wake of traders who landed on these shores as far back as the 16th century. The attraction was initially nutmeg, which only grew on one island – the small piece of land in the Banda Sea called Run Island (pronounced roon).

Alfred Wallace made his mark in the Spice Islands

We’re also following the trail of British natural historian Alfred Wallace (of the famed Wallace Line which distinguishes animal species east and west of the line) who had his epiphany about natural selection while suffering from malaria on Halmahera Island

We started our voyage in Ambon, travelled to Run Island and Banda Neira in the Banda Islands. Then we sailed northwards towards Sapura Island, Manipa Island, Balan Balan Island and Bacan Island. Crossing the Equator (my third time crossing by sea) north of the Guarici Archipelago  we sailed into Ternate where our voyage ended.

I travelled with Seatrek Sailing Adventures  who run sailing trips year round across Indonesia as far afield as West Papua from their base in Bali.

I hope you enjoy viewing these photos as much as I enjoyed making them.

If you’d like to see any of these images displayed on your own walls, please drop a comment below or contact me in the usual way – I can make it happen via my online store at mitribe.shop.

Fiona x

The stories behind the photographs

Capturing photographs from my travels around the world, I love the serendipity of heading out for an adventure to see what I may discover.

Boats and travelling across the sea is definitely where I feel most at home and I was thrilled to spend 12 glorious days sailing through eastern Indonesia. Find me a boatyard, a marina, an anchorage or a boat harbour and I can amuse myself for weeks, if not months.

The equipment I use

My main camera is a Canon 5DM4 with my go-to lens being a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 ( I absolutely LOVE this lens!). I also travel with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L which works for wide-angle, and a 100-400mm which is great for wildlife.

Usually I travel with a Manfrotto tripod, though I also have a Manfrotto monopod which works well with the 100-400mm lens.

For calibrating my screens once I start the editing process I recommend either of these products:

Calibrate ColourChecker (sells for approx AUD250)

Datacolour SpyderX Pro (retails for approx AUD260)

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Swimming with giant tuna at Port Lincoln South Australia


Fiona Harper takes her life in her hands swimming with Giant Tuna being primed for the Japanese sashimi market.

Giant Tuna are harvested in the Southern Ocean near South Australia’s Port Lincoln, with most destined for Japanese dinner tables. But before they’re bound for the dinner table swimmers can get up close and personal with these hungry predators of the deep sea.

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The sea erupts into a feeding frenzy & I'm in the thick of it

 Slipping into the deep green ocean a few miles offshore  from Port Lincoln in the Southern Ocean I’m enclosed by a circular net approximately 40 metres in diameter. Giant tuna are nowhere to be seen. In fact, the ocean seems devoid of any marine critters. I’m the only swimmer in the net and seem to have the entire ‘pool’ to myself. 

So far, so good.

Gently buffeted by ocean swell, I’m grateful for the protection the net provides as these waters are known to house some of the most ferocious creatures in the sea. Great White Sharks live here, making me just a little nervous, though I know I’m safe within net which forms the tuna enclosure.

Soon however my attention is drawn to the sea below which has suddenly erupted into a boiling frenzy of splashes, fins and tails. The water explodes into a feeding frenzy and I’m in the thick of it. I feel like I’m in a horror flick as those terrifying scenes from Jaws flash through my head.

I tell myself to stay calm. Then, I take a deep breath, fill my lungs and my snorkel with great gulps of  air and I duck my head underwater to see what the heck is going on. The giant tuna have arrived and I literally squeal with  excitement in my snorkel.

Swimming with giant tuna is not for the squeemish

I confess I was less than thrilled when I saw ‘tuna swimming’ on my itinerary while visiting South Australia. Sure, I’ve swum with dolphins, turtles, sea lions, even sharks. But tuna? My first (nonsensical) thought was ‘how do they get the cans to float?’

My ignorance was quickly dispelled within minutes of stepping onboard Adventure Lady, a 14m purpose built vessel, at Port Lincoln Marina. Captain Matt Waller loudly declared that he ‘loves eating tuna, catching tuna and talking about tuna,’ leaving no doubt about his passion for these fish before launching into a fascinating introduction into the tuna fishing industry. It’s a lucrative industry that sees the Port Lincoln community home to the highest population per capita of millionaires in Australia.

Beneath the surface is literally a sea of tightly packed fish darting swiftly and seemingly effortlessly just beyond my mask. Knowing that the Southern Bluefin Tuna never stop swimming, reaching speeds up to 70km per hour, it’s somewhat unnerving to be in such close proximity to these enormous fish. Some of them are almost as large my own 55 kg frame. Momentarily I notice a dead pilchard lob from above, which lands in front of my mask. I have just enough time to register its presence before it disappears in a blur of razor sharp teeth amid deep blue flashes reflecting sunlight on a rotund, streamlined body. A Southern Bluefin Tuna, commonly caught weighing in at over 100kg and up to 2m in length, snatches the fish in its gob as it whizzes past, leaving behind a turbid stream of bubbles.




How big are giant tuna? The clue is in the name

Having been pre-warned of the size and speed of the tuna, I’m still startled enough to inhale a mouthful of water as I gasp with surprise the first time it happens. Others in our group who have stayed on the floating pontoon above are dangling pilchards from their fists or lobbing them into the ocean around me. Being in the water is unsettling even though it’s perfectly safe. It’s fascinating being immersed in such a captive environment. Who knew that tuna could be so interesting? Or so large! 




Thankfully I survive the encounter unscathed and with a newfound respect for these farmed fish that are actually quite beautiful. Port Lincoln fishermen steam more than 180 km offshore to catch Southern Bluefin Tuna, much of which is destined for the Japanese market. Live tuna are herded into floating nets and towed back to the waters surrounding Port Lincoln, a journey that can take up to five weeks. From there they are fattened up in farming nets just like the one I’ve emerged from, until they are ready to be harvested and exported.

You won’t need to travel all the way to Japan though to savour southern Australia’s delights. Award winning Del Giorno’s Cafe Restaurant on the Port Lincoln waterfront, just down the road from the Port Lincoln Hotel, has a menu that seafood lovers will relish. Though there is a thriving fish cannery in town, expect the freshest produce harvested from the diverse Eyre Peninsula, including wines produced locally like a sassy Sauvignon Blanc or two.





Do you want to see giant tuna, swim with great white sharks or sea lions at Port Lincoln? Click the links for more information.
Adventure Bay Charters
Tunarama Festival


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Fiona Harper travel writer and Travel Boating Lifestyle
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Travel Boating Lifestyle is managed by Fiona Harper

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land and waters on which we live, work and travel. As people who seek meaning and knowledge through storytelling, we recognise that the First Peoples of this land have been doing so for over 60,000 years. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging.