As the beginning of 2017 is now only one sunset away, it’s got me pondering over the last 12 months.
Twenty sixteen has been a amazing year for me, packed full of adventures all over the world. So as I sit here hoping that I get to visit just as many tropical islands next year, I thought I would put pen to paper and share with you just a few of my favourite travel experiences of the year just gone.
1. Summiting the Half Dome
For our trip to the States earlier in the year I had decided that my absolute must-do, bucket-list experience was to climb the Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. If you don’t know of Yosemite, then picture the famous Apple Mac screen saver. It’s a giant stone kingdom that will blow your mind!
This was by far one of my biggest highlights of 2016, if not my life! We hiked over three days, across difficult terrain, carrying packs that were way too heavy; thanks to all the unnecessary camera gear I just had to have. Overall we hiked nearly 40km’s following a path that took us deep into the back country. We then wound our way across the mountains and up into Little Yosemite Valley at the base of Half Dome.
To say I found this trek both physically and mentally challenging would be a serious understatement – it was absolute hell! Atleast 90% of the km’s walked were done with my poor, weak muscles screaming in agony. But nevertheless I pushed the boundaries of my body’s capabilities and coupled with a little bit of dragging on my boyfriend Matt’s behalf and a pinch of stubbornness, I made it up the mountain and summited the half dome. The feeling as you reach the top of the cables to take in 360 degree views of the entire park was indescribable. An experience I would recommend to everybody. Just make sure you prepare a little more than I did!
2. Liveaboard on the Great Barrier Reef
While I didn’t have to travel far for this experience, as the GBR is literally on my doorstep, it was still one of my biggest highlights of this past year. Only a couple of months ago I was given the opportunity to jump on board Ocean Quest with Deep Sea Divers Den and drift around the Great Barrier Reef in the comfort of what can only be described as a giant floating hotel. We explored the reef by day and snuggled up in our cozy cabins by night, whilst our every need was catered for by the awesome onboard crew.
The reef sites we visited each day were among some of the most beautiful I have seen on the GBR. Teaming with colourful coral and marine life, it was easy to make the mistake of thinking you had entered a whole new world. Over the three days we were lucky enough to swim with placid reef sharks, drift along with inquisitive turtles and make friends with some very playful Nemo. I even had a few surprisingly non-hostile encounters with a local Trigger-fish and I was once again reminded why I need a prescription mask. All in all my live aboard experience was amazing and I can’t wait to do it again some day.
Quick tip – Don’t know what a Trigger-fish is? Then be sure to look them up, especially if you ever plan on heading out to the Great Barrier Reef.
3. Wallaman Falls
I had dreamed of visiting this waterfall ever since relocating to TNQ and earlier this year we finally found the time. Wallaman Falls is located within the Girringun National Park, approx a 4.5 hours drive from Cairns, or 2.5 hours from Townsville. To get to the base of the falls, you must undertake a fairly strenuous hike through lush rainforest and down a steep and at times un-even track. The trail descends deep into the the gorge and before long you will find yourself standing in the shadow of Australia’s highest single drop waterfall. The hike down may be difficult, and the climb up even more so but the reward is sweet – 268 meters of a purely perfect waterfall! Be sure to bring some hiking-boots, plenty of water and your camera!
4. Soaring High above Jurassic Park – Kauai, Hawaii
I wasn’t exactly the biggest fan of Jurassic Park growing up, mainly because I was scared of the dinosaurs. One thing I remember vividly however was how I marvelled at the beautiful landscapes within which the movie was set.
Kauai or otherwise known as the Garden Island is as lush and beautiful as the films depict. After exploring this island by water, ground and air, I would have to say that the helicopter flight was my favourite experience of the entire time we spent in the Hawaiian Islands.
We flew around the whole island, doors-off with Jack Harter Helicopters and I didn’t want to close my eyes to blink throughout the whole trip. Two of my particular favourite locations were the Na’Pali Coast and inside the crater of Mt Waialeale. This is one of the wettest places on earth, where waterfalls appear to be falling from the sky.
If you are ever on Kauai, and it’s within your budget, then a heli tour is an absolute must!
5. Mountain Layers & God Rays, Eungella NP
For all the photographers out there, have you ever had one of those moments where everything is simply perfect? All the elements come together at once and there is an epic capture just laid out before you, like present and all you have to do is figure out the best way to use it!
Well these were the circumstances I came across the morning that myself and four other very talented photographers went in search of sunrise in Eungella National Park. We were on a commissioned road trip from Cairns to Brisbane for Tourism Queensland and Toyota Australia and looking for ways to best display this wilderness.
What we were rewarded with was nothing short of amazing! To start with there was the mountain layers coupled with low lying clouds and a sunrise glow that blanketed the entire Pioneer Valley in a peachy-pink. The view from Eungella Chalet was stunning. This was the place to be for sunrise.
Next was the ‘God Rays’. You know the kind of rays that are created when you find yourself at just the right altitude for pockets of clouds to cling to the side of a mountain. Then, as the sun diffuses through the tree tops, it looks like heaven is opening up. Well, they are ‘God Rays’. Not too much to ask for really and lucky for us that is exactly what we got. Framed by none other than a picturesque, winding mountain road. It really was the perfect morning for photos in Eungella NP!
So there you have it, a glimpse of my top five experiences from twenty sixteen. I can’t thank you all enough for following along with all my adventures this past 12 months. Here’s hoping twenty seventeen has many more exciting things in store for everybody.
Happy New Year to all!