DJI are the undisputed leaders for consumer, semi-pro and professional drones for photographer and videographers. So when DJI offered the opportunity to put the all new, all-fabulous DJI Mavic 2 Pro through its paces I couldn’t get this baby airborne quick enough.

I’m fortunate to live in a region of drop-dead gorgeous beauty like north Queensland where there are plenty of opportunities to capture land and seascapes. But I also flew the DJI Mavic 2 Pro in Perth, Rottnest Island, Dunsborough Brisbane, and throughout the Philippines.

DJI Mavic 2 Pro | Fiona Harper travel writer
First up, let me say that drones are equal parts awesome and equal parts freaking scary. The scary part has a lot to do with the price tag of DJI’s Mavic 2 Pro. At an eye-watering retail price of AUD2199 plus AUD649 for the Fly More Kit, there’s not much change from AUD3,000. If by chance the drone falls out of the sky, that’s one very expensive mistake. The Fly More Kit option is an interesting upsell (advertised on the DJI site for AUD1006 discounted by AUD357 – it’s hard to see the $1000-plus value). The Fly More Kit includes two batteries and a charger, which we think should actually come with the drone as most photographers would plan a shoot longer than just one flight, plus there’s some spare props and a carry bag.

But, price aside, if you’ve got the coin the DJI Mavic 2 Pro is one awesome piece of technology that is small enough to fit in a handbag. Or wrapped up in a woolen beanie in my backpack which is where mine spent most of past few months.

DJI Mavic 2 Pro | Fiona Harper travel writer

What makes the DJI Mavic 2 Pro so damn awesome?

I was familiar with DJI Mavic’s first edition which was a pretty awesome drone.  I absolutely love how you can take your hands off the controls and the drone hovers motionless waiting for the next instruction. This aspect alone is a deal maker for newbie pilots.

While there are improvements between mark 1 and mark 2 in the drone itself, the big improvements is in the camera quality. The Mavic 2 Pro comes with a quality Hasleblad 20 megapixel camera with a 1 inch CMOS sensor which enables it to shoot extraordinary quality stills and video.  Creative control through camera settings opens up an exciting new photography playing field.

I won’t go into all the technical settings that are available for photographers and videographers. Suffice to to say, the creative choices are brilliant, allowing amateurs to create professional looking footage and stills once they master the technicalities. I was totally enraptured with the learning process and barely scratched the surface of what this mighty beast can accomplish.

DJI Mavic 2 Pro | Fiona Harper travel writer

How easy is it to fly the Mavic 2 Pro?

DJI have done an incredible job at making the Mavic 2 Pro almost idiot proof. I say almost, because there are plenty of ways that drone flying can go spectacularly wrong. A bad day flying usually involves a drone falling out of the sky, crashing into trees or flying over the horizon never to be seen again. None of which are ideal scenarios for any pilot.

So, I recommend before your first flight you binge-watch all the you tube tutorials you can stomach. There are plenty of cringe-worthy video channels but dig deep enough and you’ll find some that offer sound advice. The best place to start is the DJI manual to learn about the flight controller and memorise each function. It’s no time to learn after takeoff. when you’re trying to figure out how to get around a tree or avoid powerlines.

The Return to Home option remains DJI’s signature selling point, though this is not a foolproof bailout. Things can still go wrong if you haven’t set up the home point correctly.

DJI Mavic 2 Pro | Fiona Harper travel writer
I’ve had a number of heart palpitations after launching the drone and have lost my bearings and become confused about which direction to fly to bring it back to me. With a battery time of less than 30 minutes, there’s not a lot of time to mess around once airborne so it’s a good idea to think about composition and what sort of shots you want to achieve before you fly. Google Earth is invaluable for scouting an area to gauge the possibilities.

Naturally, you’ll need to abide by the flight laws within your area too. The Open Sky app is applicable to flying in Australia. I attempted to take off a number of times only to find that I was in a no-fly zone and had to relocate to a safer position.

About DJI

Emerging from a small office in Shenzhen, China’s equivalent to Silicon Valley, DJI has created products that have redefined whole industries. Creativity is at the heart of DJI dreams and they deliver in spades. Every idea, every groundbreaking leap that changes our world starts with the vision of talented creators. At DJI, they’ve enabled content creators like me the tools I need to bring my creative vision to life.

Verdict: If you’re new to drones DJI has a number of less pricey options that might suit, like the Mavic Air and Spark. But if you’re seriously into photography and videography and have the budget, the Mavic 2 Pro is an extraordinary drone.

DJI Mavic 2 Pro | Fiona Harper travel writer

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I’ll admit I didn’t have hugely high expectations when given the chance to try out a shampoo bar for washing my hair. After 50+ years of pouring shampoo from a bottle, shampoo that looked like a bar of soap just sounded a little weird.

But I also had a couple of other doubts.Firstly, living in the tropics, humidity plays havoc with a lot of products not designed for these tough conditions so I anticipated it would ‘collapse’ into a soggy, gloppy useless lump of messy soap in my shower.

Secondly, I wondered how a bar of shampoo was going to provide a rich, cleansing lather on long straight hair that gets a daily wash.

Dispelling any doubts, I was immediately drawn to the philosophy of Shampoo With a Purpose. Created by mother and daughter business partners Liz and Geneva, not only do they aim to turn shampoo on its head they aim to do away with the relentless need for plastic bottles that regular shampoo and conditioners are packaged in.

Says Geneva, “We had been told that processing shampoo bars on the machinery we use would be impossible, but nevertheless, Liz persisted, and we have since become the first and only company to process shampoo/conditioner bars on triple-milling, commercial machinery.”

There’s a really holistic story behind the shampoo bars that shuns palm oil and chemical sulphates, is vegan friendly with no animal testing as well as being completely free of plastic packaging. All admirable attributes. The pair also have some sassy pizazz and have created a fun personality around their brand.

“After achieving the “impossible” we had to create our brand – we wanted to do something fun and fresh with a shit-tonne of added personality. Every box is covered in hand-drawn pictures of friends and family, along with plenty of education around our product, and our mission – to provide a simple and easy option to help reduce plastic consumption in the shower.”

Shampoo With a Purpose claims that one Shampoo Bar will replace six bottles of shampoo and conditioner. While I haven’t kept an accurate record, I have noticed that I’m no longer filling my rubbish bin with shampoo and conditioner bottles.
“Our unique manufacture process has made one of our bars worth up to 6 bottles of shampoo and conditioner and ensures that they hold their integrity in the shower. No mush!”

The bars come in four versions – The O.G, Dry or Damaged, Volume and Colour Treated. All have a base of Moroccan Argan Oil and shea butter with and enticing concoction of essential and other oils (like coconut or almond oils) along with herbs and extracts depending on the blend.

“We didn’t want to release a product full of nasties, our formulation took a long time to develop and we did not cut corners on quality, we’ve ended up with a beautiful, naturally lathering bar with no harsh chemicals, palm oil, sulphates or animal by-products – and it’s pH balanced!”

After two months of almost daily use, my hair feels fabulously silky! The rich lather that comes from running the bar through my hair is the real surprise. It takes just a quick ‘rub’ of the bar across my head for a lush lather to develop.

I’ve been using The OG which is a base product and has just four simple ingredients: Moroccan Argan Oil, shea butter, coconut oil and natural coconut. While it doesn’t have the rich essential oil aromas I would expect from the other three products which have more herbal extracts, I’m really enjoying how my hair reacts to the shampoo bar. Though I’m still adding a dash of conditioner to the ends of my long hair, I do hope that my hair will eventually become accustomed to Shampoo With a Purpose and I can eventually ditch the bottles of conditioner too.

So how does a shampoo bar stack up to the humidity of the tropics? Pretty damn well, actually. I’ve seen no signs of it turning into the blobby, soapy mess of I feared and has retained its solidity through the wettest of wet seasons in north Queensland.

The shampoo bar would also be terrific for cruising yachties who spend long amounts of time onboard their boats and are always looking for ways to limit plastic use.

Personally, I’m looking forward to coming to the end of my O.G bar so I can send away for the Volume Bar to try next with its seaweed extract, ginseng, sage, rosemary on top of base and essential oils.

Well Played Shampoo With a Purpose!

Highly Recommended

NOTE: Shampoo With a Purpose provided a complimentary sample for review purposes. All observations are the independent opinion  of the author Fiona Harper

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Hedgren Connect Backpack

I’m the first to admit to being a card-carrying gadget geek. If the truth be known I’m also pathetically partial to luggage. Stationery too, but let’s not even go there! Unkind souls might say I have a hedonistic luggage obsession. Backpacks & hip packs, trolley bags & duffle swags, wheeled carryons & even larger wheeled week-longs, bags create a happy place.  It’s not a bad obsession given the ridiculous amount of time spent unpacking and packing said luggage at ports far and wide. Laden with laptop, camera gear and phone along with the necessary cables, spare batteries and 240v adapters, not to mention appropriate clothes and shoes while on assignment, a travel writer develops an intimate relationship with luggage. Or, maybe that’s just me.

Actually, in that context it’s really quite sad. My love life would undoubtedly be more interesting if I spent more time chatting to the stranger next to me instead of longingly eyeing off the snappy carryon bag being stashed overhead by the woman in row 7.

Self-charging backpack for the regular traveller

So when Hedgren invited me to road test a backpack with the capability of not only carrying my gadgets but keeping them all charged as well it was a no-brainer. It’s true, as soon as I laid eyes on the Hedgren Connect backpack I was smitten.  Landing on my doorstep like a long-lost lover wafting in from Italy all sleek black lines highlighted with surprising splashes of bright orange, I could barely wait to peel back the zips and discover secrets hidden within. I wasn’t disappointed.

Dispensing with ‘new relationship’ small talk, we swiftly became intimately acquainted. Delving into its soft squishy heart I found my own heart melting. With compartments purposefully defined, efficient cable organisers & ‘push through’ holes, cleverly concealed security features, a hefty battery with dual USB ports along with retractable 240v charging cable, my days of longing for other carryon partners was over. Packaging the whole shebang with slickly handsome good looks equally at home in the office or at the beach, it was time to hit the road to put my new Hedgren buddy to the ultimate test.

Hedgren Connect backpack

The Hedgren Connect road test

We hit the Larapinta Trail for five days of hiking and camping in some of Australia’s harshest, dustiest, hotttest country in the Northern Territory. Out back there are no 240v power charging stations and even less mobile or internet connectivity. Eeek! Cameras and iphone worked overtime snapping away at the extraordinary scenery while the internal battery kept juice supplied to a camera battery pack, image viewing device, iphone, ipod and another camera.

Before the dust had settled we returned home long enough to unpack one bag and repack another. A weekend at Port Douglas beckoned to check out the re-opening of the swanky five star Sheraton Mirage hotel. In these sophisticated surroundings Heddonish, as I’d come to call my hedonistic travel buddy, looked quite at home. Particularly once we (ooops, I mean I) had a cocktail in hand perched upon a sun lounge beside the ridiculously humongous lagoon pool. But our work wasn’t complete without a cocktail party poolside followed by an excursion to the Great Barrier Reef. At Agincourt Reef we swam, snorkelled, took a helicopter ride and an underwater submersible boat cruise. Admittedly Heddonish didn’t have quite as much fun as I did, being more a landlubber than a water baby. No matter, he did his best and kept up with the pace despite looking slightly green at one point.

Great Barrier Reef Queensland AustraliaBack on dry land Heddonish’s good looks (and humour) returned once the cocktails were handed out as we settled onto the daybeds overlooking the marina at Barbados Lounge. It turns out that Heddonish is quite the party boy (admittedly I think the Mojitos helped). Passed around our group who were equally enamored with his inner soul, I swear I heard a giggle as a fellow travel writer tickled his innards.

I’ll be keeping a very close eye on hedonistic Heddonish and his unquenchable penchant for cocktails and coconuts during our next assignment together to Laos and Thailand.

Cocktail on beach

The Hedgren Connect verdict

Together until death do us part. Or at least until I find an alternative Travel Writer’s Plus One

Essential Info

Volume: 16 litre
Dimensions: 46 x 29 x 12cm
Weight: 780g
RRP: AUD299 (additional cost for battery pack)
More info: Hedgren

Disclaimer: Hedgren supplied the writer with the Hedgren Connect backpack for review purposes.

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Varidesk standing desk

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]We’re told that sitting is the new smoking. As in, extended sitting down is as detrimental to our health as smoking is. It sounds extreme I know, but there’s some decent science behind the term ‘sitting disease’.

This is where smart standing desk solutions like Varidesk come to the party, getting us off our butts and onto our feet. Beyond the health benefits, research has shown that these standing desks help us work more effectively by improving our ability to pay attention as well as manage stress. There’s also evidence that shows work environments with standing desks encourage creativity, collaboration and productivity.

Other benefits include lowering blood pressure as well as a metabolism boost with fours hours of standing for five days each week equating to burning 650 calories. Which equates to almost two guilt-free chocolate muffins every week – a win win!Varidesk ProPlus30
It makes sense – it’s so much easier to pop by your colleague’s desk for a quick check-in if you’re both already standing. Imagine a world where instead of emailing the colleague sitting next to us that we took two paces and had a quick face-to-face conversation. Now that would enhance productivity!

So, when Varidesk sent me a standing desk arrangement that could easily fit into my home office I was intrigued by this new way of working. As a travel writer, I spend way too many hours sitting at my desk it’s true. But I’m generally a pretty active person who runs, rides and dabbles in triathlon so anything that sniffs at being active has my immediate attention.

Research shows that prolonged sitting is unhealthy

The Heart Foundation says that people who sit less throughout the day have a lower risk of heart disease. Imagine that – by sitting less and standing or walking more you can help prevent early death. A study by the Texas A&M Health Science Centre found that standing desk users were 46% more productive and that participants reported a 75% reduction in body pain.

So why don’t we heed this message? When did we start sitting at every possible opportunity? Chairs are not new to be fair – Ancient Egyptians had them, as did the Aztecs and chairs were in common use in China as far back as the twelfth century.

Our lives are built around sitting at most every possible opportunity. We sit on buses, trains and planes. We sit at work, we sit at home and we sit when driving between the two. It’s almost like we only use our legs in order to move to the next sitting opportunity. Those of us who work at computers or in office environments are particularly susceptible.

Varidesk standing deskWhat’s it like to use a standing desk?

The Varidesk model I’m using is the ProPlus 30  and is a height-adjustable fixture that sits atop my regular desk. The ProPlus 30 is a two-tier design with an inbuilt spring loaded system that allows the whole thing to raise and lower by squeezing catches on either side. The top section is roomy and easily takes the monitor, speakers and other things I need to hand while the lower section accommodates keyboard and mouse.

The Varidesk ProPlus 30 feels solid and secure enough to take my weight if I lean lightly against it. Admittedly, standing while tapping away at my keyboard felt a little weird at first. My brain needed a little readjusting to get used to working from a standing position. But the ergonomics of it felt good once I found the right height to suit my body.

VARIDESK – ProPlus – Standing Desk Converters from VARIDESK® on Vimeo.

Once I got used to it, I found I really enjoyed this standing work position. For a start, I had a much better view of the garden beyond my office window. But I found the real benefit was that I actually moved around a lot more. Rather than just standing in one place I found myself constantly moving from side to side, swivelling my hips, even stretching my calves, ankles and quads while tapping away.

I can almost convince myself I am doing a mini lower body workout and I definitely feel more energised. My creativity and general feeling of well being is undisputedly enhanced.

But perhaps what I love most is that I have a brilliant view as I type of a gorgeous olive backed sunbird flitting around the patio outside at eye level as he builds a nest – this is magical treat I would have missed entirely had I been sitting.

Verdict: Highly recommended

Note: Varidesk supplied Fiona Harper with a review product for the purpose of this independent review

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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]There are no rules when it comes to beach towels. Well, not anymore since Tesalate took the beach towel industry by the neck and gave it a damn good sand-free shaking.

Oh sure, once upon a time a beach towel only had one job: dry the human when they came out of the water. Not so any more – now a beach towel is a funky accessory that needs to look as good as it feels.

Back in the bad old days of my youth beach towels came in monotone scratchy terry toweling that pilled and pulled itself into a pathetic excuse for a sponge. A beach towel would barely last one salt water-laden summer before shrinking into shadow of its former self, embarrassed by its failing to cope with West Australian summers and beach life in the fast lane.

Not only did these inept beach towels lose their way, they lost their dignity too. Shame.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”12318″ img_size=”large” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Then, along came a couple of high-falutin hiking buddies who, laden with heavy, wet, sandy towels knew there must be a better way. Hiking back to their cars from a secret Sydney beach, forward-thinking Volkan and Jacky dreamed up their perfect beach towel:

• One that would repel sand

• One made from super absorbent microfibre

• Praise the Lord, a beach towel that dries fast!

• What about a towel that folds into a compact size allowing room for other beach essentials. Like books, water bottles, a picnic lunch, heck, let’s throw in a bottle of bubbles and champagne flutes since we’ve got room to spare!

[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”12312″ img_size=”large” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]Throwing out the beach towel rule book and tossing caution to the wind they wondered if would be too much to ask to throw in funky designs and bright colours? The sort that would make a Tesalate beach towel triumph on Instagram?  Turns out it wasn’t.

18 months later the Tesalate beach towel was born to much applause, making its debut alongside one of Sydney’s most popular beach, at the Bondi Beach Markets.

It didn’t take long for this funky little Aussie beach baby to soon strut its stuff to high acclaim on beaches in 70 countries.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”12332″ img_size=”large” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Fabric Technology of a leading beach towel

So, what makes Tesalate beach towels rise above a crowded beach? The secret is in the fabric.

Apart from repelling sand, Tesalate beach towels measure a generous 160cm x 80cm. The towel is made from AbsorbLite microfibre which allows the sand to easily slide off instead of getting stuck in the looped fibers like those staid regular towels.  AbsorbLite is engineered to retain a vibrant aesthetic with impressive durability.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”12315″ img_size=”large” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Tesalate beach towels are capable of absorbing up to one litre of water. These towels could probably absorb the same amount of gin, but quite frankly, if you’re tossing that much gin around it’s probably time to reassess your lifestyle.

The point is, whatever the liquid, Tesalate towels dry fast![/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”12313″ img_size=”large” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Microfibre AbsorbLite fabric is actually 80% polyester and 20% polyamide. Don’t be put off by the P word – in this case, polyester is your friend. Fabric care is easy too. Toss your Tesalate Beach Towel into the machine for a cold wash & hang out to dry.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”12314″ img_size=”large” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]

Beach Towel Design – let’s talk about colour!

This is the fun part of reviewing Tesalate beach towels when you’re a colour junkie. These towels seriously rock. Proudly Australian-designed, they draw inspiration from the world’s best beaches with over 20 seriously drool-worthy colourful, funky towels to suit most tastes. Oh, don’t worry if your style is more discreet and low-key, Tesalate is not all ‘look at me’ bright colours and designs.

We love the way Tesalate present their towels too. Each beach towel comes wrapped in delicate tissue paper, with a personal note all wrapped up in its own drawstring pouch. Online purchasers are rewarded with free shipping.

Pure class.

Verdict: Highly recommended

RRP: AUD79[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://vimeo.com/254235069″ align=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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Vioir Design dry bag

Sailors know a thing or two about how to stay dry. It’s often the difference between a really great day at sea and a crap one. What’s really important is keeping things dry and free from the salt that permeates everything.  Especially those cruising sailors who live afloat full time, who have traded in their cars for dinghies and their handbags for dry bags.

Bouncing around in dinghies as we move between the yacht and shore, I’ve invariably got an iphone, ipad, a camera and a drone, as well as a purse and maybe a change of clothes with me. All of which I want to keep to dry and free of salt spray.

So when I saw Vioir Designs dry bag, which is designed by women sailors for women sailors I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one. I road tested this splendid dry bag while sailing around Fiji for a couple of months, taking it on dinghy outings, hiking adventures, bus trips and provisioning excursions. It’s even rocked up at a couple of luxury resorts I’ve been checking out and looking quite at home.

I am super impressed with it’s durability and toughness. But what I like most is that it doesn’t look like a clunky ‘yachtie’ backpack.’ It could easily pass for a regular carry-all backpack that any traveller might own.

Vioir Design dry bagThe dry bag is big enough to carry all the bits I need as a photographer, cruiser and tourist. But it’s not so big that I stuff it full of so many things that it hurts my back to lug it around. It fits snugly across my shoulders. The top has a full width zip as well as a fold over sleeve to keep everything nice and dry. There’s a quick access zip on the outside for essentials like my lip balm which travels everywhere with me.

I’m particularly fond of the styling. In matt black, it’s trimmed with adjustable sky blue shoulder straps and zips. While it doesn’t look too ‘girly’, it’s definitely girl-friendly.

The Verdict: Highly Recommended

RRP: AUD70.00 Shop online

Well played Vioir Designs!

NOTE: Vioir Designs provided a review backpack. All opinions are my own.

Vioir Design dry bag


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Sail Fiji Planning Guide | Travel Boating Lifestyle

Sail Fiji Planning Guide

by Fiona Harper

A Fiji cruising guide by Sail South Pacific

Sail Fiji Planning Guide is a comprehensive planning guide in App format developed for boat owners cruising Fiji. It’s simply a ‘must have’ onboard, particularly for first-time visitors, who will find that the first challenge of cruising Fiji is finding reliable information and charts. Many cruising areas haven’t been resurveyed since Cook sailed through in the late 1700’s, so accurate navigation information is highly regarded.

Sail Fiji Planning Guide | Travel Boating LifestyleDeveloped by Lyn and John Martin and published by Island Cruising Press, the guide comes in two editions. Fiji West covers Central and Western Fiji (ie the Mamanuca’s the Yasawas, Viti Levu and western parts of Vanua Levu) while Fiji East covers the remainder of Vanua Levu and the Lau Group.

The problem with traditional cruising guides in book format is that they are often out of date even before they are published. With the plethora of information available online, it’s a real challenge to sort out reliable information from hearsay, or to find specific information relevant to cruising yachts.

Sail Fiji Planning Guide | Travel Boating LifestyleJohn says that they didn’t plan to create a Fiji sailing guide, but while writing up briefing notes for various rallies they run through the Island Cruising Association, he realised there was a real need for one written specifically for cruising yachts visiting Fiji (and Tonga, for which there is a separate guide).

‘Lyn and I have been cruising the Fiji Islands in our own boat Windflower on a regular basis since 1995 and on an annual basis since taking over the running of the Island Cruising Association in 2007. We’ve taken thousands of photos over the years and logged many tracks and waypoints,’ John said.

‘With Sail Fiji we’ve built an information source that’s constantly evolving and available offline.’ All information and charts, except web links, is available without connecting to the internet – an important consideration given unreliable internet connection, particularly in cruising areas like the Lau Group.

Sail Fiji Planning Guide | Travel Boating LifestyleBy publishing in App format the guide can be constantly updated whenever John and Lyn revisit an area or cruisers advise updated information. The guides offer a ‘big picture’ view with cruising routes and Port of Entry information. From there it’s simply a matter of drilling down into the area you intend to cruise, with charts getting more specific with waypoints and suggested routes.

It’s easy to navigate around the guide, which is laid out in a logical format. Helpful tips and photographs show passages likely to be challenging or navigational hazards to be wary of. Overall, it feels like the information provided is accurate and well considered and notes and recommendations can be trusted.

The Verdict: Highly Recommended

Download the Sail Fiji Guide from the App Store

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Travel Boating Lifestyle is managed by Fiona Harper

We acknowledge the Traditional Owners 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.