Category Archives: Travel

Lombok and Komodo 25th/26th February 2014

Day 29 of our cruise and we’ve arrived at Lombok

Lombok is an island in West Nusa Tenggara province, Indonesia. It forms part of the chain of the Lesser Sunda Islands, with the Lombok Strait separating it from Bali to the west and the Alas Strait between it and Sumbawa to the east.

We only had half a day in Lombok, some of which was taken up by the tendering operation between our ship at anchor in the bay of Lembar, and the one-hour drive to the township of Sengiggi, which was the closest tourist centre.  It wasn’t an altogether enjoyable visit, as we were continually pestered by hawkers selling their wares, but we did manage to get a few items to bring back for friends and family, and I did manage to grab 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi time at one of the local bars.

Lombok is not somewhere I would go out of my way to visit again, though the people seemed friendly enough, and it did have sun, sea and sand in abundance.

Linda at Lombok Beach
Linda at Lombok Beach


Day 30 of our cruise and we’ve arrived at Komodo Island.

Komodo is one of the 17,508 islands that compose the Republic of Indonesia. The island is particularly notable as the habitat of the Komodo dragon, the largest lizard on Earth, which is named for the island. Komodo Island has a surface area of 390 square kilometres and a human population of over two thousand. The people of the island are descendants of former convicts who were exiled to the island.

After a tender ride from the ship we stepped ashore to the Komodo National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve. 
The Komodo Dragon is thought to be the remnant of a once widespread ancient order of monitor lizards, which can grow to 11ft in length and weigh more than 300 pounds. The Komodo Dragon can look pretty menacing with its sharp, saw-like teeth and menacing eyes. It lives on deer and wild pigs that inhabit the island. It is also surprisingly agile over short distances, reputed to be able to travel at 20km/hour and is a good swimmer.

This was our penultimate port of call. Our last stop – Broome – is one day’s sailing away.


Komodo Island
Komodo Island, Indonesia
Komodo Island and The Astor
Komodo Island and The Astor
Komodo Dragons
What we came to see – Komodo Dragons
Komodo Dragons
Getting a smell of English meat!



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Bali, Indonesia. 24th February 2014

Day 28 of our cruise and we’ve arrived at Bali.

The highlight of our visit to Bali was the tour of the Taro Elephant Safari Park, north of Ubud. Our bus trip took in the views of coffee, cacao, banana and spice plantations, little villages with alang-alang thatched roofs and the green terraced hillsides full of rice paddies.

Set in over four acres of exotic botanical gardens and surrounded by lush forest, the Elephant Safari Park is home to some 27 elephants that were rescued from deforestation in Central and Southern Sumatra. The Park is an official member of the World Zoo Association, and meets international standards for animal care as well as being a sanctuary for the endangered Sumatran elephants.

Our tour started at the Park’s Museum, which housed fossils that date back over five million years, mammoth tusks, a full-sized 15,000 year-old mastodon skeleton and a 300-year-old carved African elephant tusk.

We then watched the elephants play at their daily bathing ritual, and were able to help feed them and have our photo taken with them. This was followed by a short show in the central arena, where the elephants played football, basketball and even tried their “trunk” at a bit of abstract art. This part of the schedule was not to everyone’s taste (including mine) as it conjured up memories of how elephants were used to entertain people in travelling circuses. However, it was fairly brief and I never once saw an elephant being poked or prodded.

The highlight though, was a 30-minute elephant ride in a teak wooden chair atop these gentle giants – our elephant was a female called Deaha. We soon got used to the gentle, swaying gait of our elephant, from where we had panoramic views of the tropical rainforest, terraced rice paddies and dry riverbeds.

The visit was rounded off with an excellent buffet lunch on the terrace overlooking the elephant pool.

For anyone who questions the ethics of this “elephant exploitation, I will only add that the tourist dollar helps to keep these elephants in a safe environment, where each elephant has it’s own dedicated keeper, and enables the work of the sanctuary to continue.

After the Elephant Park we travelled to Sangeh village for a short visit to the Sangeh Monkey Forest. The six hectares of forestland have giant nutmeg trees that grow as high as 131ft, but the main attractions are the hordes of mischievous Balinese monkeys. Monkeys have always had a sacred place in the Hindu religion, and inhabit both trees and its 17th century temple, Pura Bukit Sari, found in the heart of the forest.

Finally, back to the ship for the usual ‘sail away’ party, and preparation for our next port of call – Lombok.

Balinese Dancers
Balinese dancers welcome our ship.
At the Elephant Safari Park
At the Elephant Safari Park
On safari!
On safari, but no tigers!


Darwin, 21st February 2014

Day 25 of our cruise and we’ve arrived at Darwin.

Darwin is the capital city of the Northern Territory. Its proximity to Indonesia (it is closer to Indonesia than most major Australian cities) made it a target for the Japanese in World War II.  Around 10,000 Allied troops arrived in Darwin in the early 1940s at the outset of World War II, in order to defend Australia’s northern coastline. On 19 February 1942 at 0957, 188 Japanese warplanes attacked Darwin in two waves. It was the same fleet that had bombed Pearl Harbor, though a considerably larger number of bombs were dropped on Darwin than on Pearl Harbor. The attack killed at least 243 people; at least 12 ships in the harbor were sank, and caused immense damage to the town. These were by far the most serious attacks on Australia in time of war, in terms of fatalities and damage. They were the first of many raids on Darwin.

On 25 December 1974, Darwin was struck by Cyclone Tracy, which
killed 71 people and destroyed over 70% of the town’s buildings. After the disaster, 30,000 people of a then population of 43,000 were evacuated, in what turned out to be the biggest airlift in Australia’s history. The town was subsequently rebuilt with newer materials and techniques during the late 1970s.

Saltwater crocodiles are very common in all waterways surrounding Darwin and are even occasionally found swimming in Darwin Harbour and on local beaches. The Adelaide River is home to 1,600 deadly crocodiles and – according to the brochures – offers some of the best crocodile viewing in the world. It is one of eight rivers that have large floodplains in their catchments; these floodplains create a great expanse of coastal wetlands that is home to unique animal and plant life. This was out destination for our “Jumping Crocodile Cruise” that we embarked on during the afternoon of our visit.

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves, but suffice to say, what with the crocodiles (and especially “Trevor”, an immense saltwater crocodile of around 4.5 metres, which was not far short of the total length of our little boat) and the Kites that followed our boat looking for scraps of buffalo meat our return journey, it was one of the highlights of our holiday so far.

After our river cruise we had a brief stop at the Window on the Wetlands Visitors Centre located on one of the highest points on the Adelaide River floodplain with a magnificent panorama across the Marrakai Plains.

Altogether, a truly memorable visit to Darwin.

Bombing of Darwin, 1942
Bombing of Darwin, 1942
Adelaide River, crocodile far ahead (Northern ...
Adelaide River,  (Northern Territory, Australia









Saltwater crocodile jumping up at Adelaide River
Saltwater crocodile jumping up at Adelaide River















Saltwater Croc - Adelaide River, Darwin
Saltwater Croc (Trevor) – Adelaide River, Darwin
Saltwater Croc - Trevor
Saltwater Croc – Trevor
Kite, Adelaide River
Kite, following our boat on the Adelaide River


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Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef, 16th February 2014

Day 20 of our cruise.

Cairns is located about 1,700 km (1,056 mi) from Brisbane, and about 2,700 km (1,678 mi) from Sydney by road. It is a popular travel destination because of its tropical climate and serves as a starting point for people wanting to visit the Great Barrier Reef.

During World War II, Cairns was used by the Allied Forces as a staging base for operations in the Pacific. Combat missions were flown out of Cairns in support of the Battle of the Coral Sea in 1942. The humid climate and dense rain forest also provided ideal conditions for training US Marines preparing to go to Vietnam.

Our focus was very much on our trip out to the Great Barrier Reef. The giant reef was proclaimed a marine park by the Australian government in 1975, and placed on the World Heritage list in 1981, becoming the biggest World Heritage area in existence. We embarked on of the many large catamarans for our 90 minute journey out to the reef, where there was a pontoon moored over the reef. We took to the water immediately, with mask, snorkel and flippers and spent the next hour or so marveling at the huge variety of fish and multi-coloured corals, from greens, to yellows to purples and blues. This was definitely a tick on the bucket list!

However, we were warned about the possibility of encountering box jellyfish (“stingers”), which are quite prevalent between December and April, and whose sting can be fatal. We were assured that there had been no incidents recently, and the pontoon had a medical facility – just in case!

There was also a semi-submersible and a glass bottomed boat available to visitors, both of which we explored to get the complete experience. It was certainly a day to remember.

We now have four sea days to look forward to until we get to our next destination – Darwin.

Linda and the turtles, Cairns.
Linda and the turtles, Cairns harbour.
Fruit Bat, spotted over Cairns.
Fruit Bat, spotted over Cairns.
Fish at the Great Barrier Reef
Fish (indeterminate variety) at the Great Barrier Reef
Sunset over Cairns
Sunset over Cairms



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Brisbane, 13th February 2014

Day 17 of our cruise and we arrive at Brisbane.

Brisbane is the capital and most populous city in the Australian state of Queensland, and the third most populous city in Australia with a population of 2.2 million. It was also the home of Ingrid Burkett, who I had only ‘met’ though social media channels and who had heard about our visit and arranged to meet us.

We docked slightly later than planned at 10.30am, and had to find our way to the ferry terminal to catch one of the “City Cat” catamarans that ply their way along the length of the Brisbane River. We met Ingrid at the Treasury Casino, a landmark building (hotel and casino) on Queens Mall. We took a short walk over the bridge to South Bank, which has an array of restaurants, art complexes and a fairly substantial artificial beach, complete with lifeguard.

We enjoyed (yet another) wonderful local seafood lunch with Ingrid (Twitter: @IngridBurkett), whilst chatting about our mutual interest in knowledge sharing and communities of practice. After lunch we had to go our separate ways (Ingrid had a meeting to attend), though I’m confident that we will keep in touch, albeit in a virtual world.

Man-made beach in Brisbane's city centre
Man-made beach in Brisbane’s city centre (spot Linda).
Brisbane City
Brisbane City
Bouganvillia, South Bank, Brisbane
Bouganvillia, South Bank, Brisbane




Sydney, 11th February 2014

Day 15 of our cruise and we’ve arrived at Sydney – the cultural capital of Australia? Melbourne-ites will argue differently!

Sydney is the site of the first British colony in Australia, established in 1788 at Sydney Cove by Captain Arthur Phillip, of the First Fleet.  The city is built on hills surrounding Port Jackson, which is commonly known as Sydney Harbour, where the iconic Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge are prominent structures.

With only a day to explore the sights, we headed first for ‘The Rocks”.

The Rocks, just west of circular key, is the neighbourhood where Sydney was born. It was here that Australia’s founding fathers – convicts who had been charged with anything from theft to forgery – came ashore in 1788 to build the colony of New South Wales. The Rocks was once one of Sydney’s most squalid a dangerous quarters, a Dickensian warren of warehouses, grog shops and brothels. It has since been rebuilt and regenerated and is now a great place to explore the plazas, the old shops and the many restaurants and pubs.

After the Rocks we headed for Circular Quay, which was alive with buskers selling everything from boomerangs and didgery doo’s to “rap” Aboriginal CD’s. This was also the place to book a ferry ride around the harbour, and though we had already seen the harbour as we came in on The Astor, it was a convenient way of getting to our next destination – Darling Harbour.

Darling Harbour is a modern leisure precinct, with lots of shops, restaurant and attractions, including the Sydney Aquarium – which we didn’t have time to visit. Our priority instead was to have a leisurely lunch and some highly quafable wine at ‘Nick’s’, and yes, yet another seafood platter!

It was then back to the ship, and a memorable exit from Sydney harbour, with a few more photo opportunities of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the iconic Opera House. All accompanied to the usual “Hot, Hot, Hot” song and dance from our Entertainment Team on the upper pool deck.

Next stop – Brisbane.

Sydney Harbour
Sydney Harbour
Aboriginal buskers at Circular Key
Aboriginal buskers at Circular Key
Sydney harbour bridge - what else! Linda - who else!
Sydney harbour bridge – what else! Linda – who else!
Sydney harbour, showing Circular Quay
Sydney harbour, showing Circular Quay
Lunch (seafood) at Nick's
Lunch (seafood) at Nick’s





Eden, 10th February 2014

Day 14 of our circumnavigation of Australia cruise.

Eden was an enchanting little town with some wonderful white-sand beaches. With a population of only 3000 people, it provided a significant contrast to the hustle and bustle of our previous port of call, Melbourne.

Whaling played a very important role in the town’s economy for over 100 years before its decline in the area in the 1920s and its end in 1930. Eden’s Killer Whale Museum informs visitors of the history of whaling in the area and the role of Orcas (killer whales) led by Old Tom in herding whales into the harbour and helping whalers kill them. Initially the prevalent Orcas in the area were seen as a nuisance, but the boat crews (Yuin aboriginals), refused to kill Orcas, and instead they encouraged collaboration between whalers and the killer whales; the killer whales would trap humpback whales that entered Twofold Bay, the whales would then be harpooned by the boat crews, and the Orcas rewarded with prize pieces of the humpback carcasses. A sort of symbiotic relationship between man and Orca.

After a walk though the town, we returned to the port area for a wonderful seafood lunch of locally caught produce, which included oysters, shrimps, mussels, Morton Bay bug (a sort of small lobster) and ‘catch of the day’ fish. We then headed for the headed for the beach at Cattle Bay and relaxing swim in the crystal clear – and warm – sea. A perfect end to the day!

Eden Whale Museum - home of "Old Tom"
Eden Whale Museum – home of “Old Tom”
Cattle Bay Beach
A ‘selfie” from Cattle Bay Beach, Eden.


Melbourne, 8th February 2014

Day 12 of our cruise and we’ve arrived at Melbourne.

I was looking forward to meeting Shawn Callahan and his wife Sheenagh who had kindly offered to give us a tour of their wonderful city. Shawn was an early pioneer of the art of storytelling for getting organisations to behave more collaboratively and improve knowledge flows. I’ve followed Shawn for several years on social media, and have been a regular reader of his blogs and the services he provides through his company I met him face to face a couple of years ago at one of his Storytelling Workshops that he occasionally runs in London, but as I’ve mentioned, our friendship has been primarily nurtured through social media.

We’ve always known that you can only really scratch the surface of a city’s culture and get a mere glimpse of some of the main attractions when you only have 8 hours or so before sailing to the next destination on the schedule, but Shawn and Sheenagh managed to pack in an extraordinary amount of sightseeing and information during our brief visit. And all of this without ever feeling rushed or overwhelmed. Perhaps they should consider branching out into the travel business!

So, after a breakfast of fresh croissants and coffee, we explored the Botanical Gardens, with views of Government House; we took in Federation Square, overlooked by the imposing architecture of St Pauls Cathedral; we experienced the café culture of the many narrow and intersecting lanes; we had a slightly surreal refreshment break at the “Captains of Industry” – a café that also provides shoe repairs, a barbers and a tailors. We had an excellent lunch across town at a retro-restaurant called the Action Rooms, where we met Shawn and Sheenagh’s daughter, Georgia, before finishing the day at the Post Office – not for stamps, this was the name of the local pub.

Altogether, a wonderful day for Lynda and I, and a Melbourne experience we won’t forget.

Skyline, Melbourne
Skyline, Melbourne
Lynda and Steve at the Botanical Gardens
Lynda and Steve at the Botanical Gardens
Shawn and Sheenagh at the Botanical Gardens
Shawn and Sheenagh at the Botanical Gardens
Botanical Gardens, Melbourne
Botanical Gardens, Melbourne
A flower (Iris) at the Botanical Gardens
Flinders St Railway Station (loved the Victorian architecture)
Flinders St Railway Station (loved the Victorian architecture)
One of the many 'Lanes", Melbourne
One of the many vibrant ‘Lanes” in Melbourne.
Lunch at "The Auction Rooms".
Lunch at “The Auction Rooms” (spot Lynda).



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Port Arthur, Tasmania 6th February 2014

Day 10 of our cruise and we’ve arrived at the historic heritage site of Port Arthur. Port Arthur is a small town and former convict settlement on the Tasman Peninsula, in Tasmania, Australia. Port Arthur is officially Tasmania’s top tourist 
attraction. It is located approximately 60
 kilometers south east of the state capital, Hobart. 

The site forms part of the Australian Convict Sites, a World Heritage property consisting of eleven remnant penal sites originally built within the British Empire during the 18th and 19th centuries on fertile Australian coastal strips. Collectively, these sites, including Port Arthur, now represent, “…the best surviving examples of large-scale convict transportation and the colonial expansion of European powers through the presence and labour of convicts.”

From 1833, until 1853, it was the destination for the hardest of convicted British criminals, those who were secondary offenders having re-offended after their arrival in Australia. Rebellious personalities from other convict stations were also sent here, a quite undesirable punishment. In addition Port Arthur had some of the strictest security measures of the British penal system.

The peninsula on which Port Arthur is located is a naturally secure site by being surrounded by water (rumoured by the administration to be shark-infested). The Island of the Dead was the destination for all who died inside the prison camps. Of the 1646 graves recorded to exist there, only 180, those of prison staff and military personnel are marked. The prison closed in 1877.

On 28 April 1996, the Port Arthur historic site was the location of a killing spree. The subsequently convicted perpetrator murdered 35 people and wounded 23 more before being captured by the Special Operations Group of the Tasmania Police. The killing spree led to a national ban on semi-automatic shotguns and rifles. The perpetrator, Martin Bryant, is currently serving 35 life sentences plus 1,035 years without parole in the psychiatric wing of Risdon Prison in Hobart, Tasmania.

However, despite this rather tragic history, it has a very tranquil atmosphere and is a beautiful place to visit.

Port Arthur Penitentiary
Port Arthur – the Penitentiary
Seclusion cell
Seclusion Cell
Prisoner garb (the one on the left!)
Prisoner garb (the one on the left!)
Lynda pondering the Penitentiary
Lynda pondering the Penitentiary
Port Arthur, The Astor
Port Arthur Bay and The Astor





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Hobart, Tasmania: 5th February 2014

Day 9 of our cruise, so it must be Hobart, internationally famous among the yachting community as the finish of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race which starts in Sydney Boxing Day.

Hobart is the state capital and most populous city of the Australian island state of Tasmania (pop 212,000). Founded in 1804 as a penal colony, it is Australia’s second oldest capital city after Sydney. The skyline is dominated by Mt. Wellington at 1,271 metres, which has its own ecosystem and plays a large part in determining the local weather.

The highlight today was our guided tour that took in the Bonorong Wildlife Park, a sanctuary for orphaned or injured native wildlife. We mingled with (and fed) the many kangaroos that populated the grassy areas, and saw – close-up –  koalas, wombats, possums, and the famous Tasmanian Devils.

From there we travelled to the historic village of Richmond, which could have been mistaken for any small Cotswold village, with its Georgian architecture, galleries, cafés and boutiques. The chocolate-box scene was completed by a beautiful sandstone bridge that crossed the river that lazily meandered through the village. A perfect place to settle if you enjoy small-village life, and glorious weather all year round – what more could you ask for!

Our day was rounded off with a taste of the wide variety of fresh seafood at Mure’s restaurant overlooking the harbour, where we slightly over-indulged ourselves with local mussels, oysters, crayfish and squid.

Out of all the places we’ve visited so far, Hobart is by far our favourite, and I’d quite happily up-sticks and move here permanently – given the chance!

Hobart harbour. Mt Wellington in the background.

Hobart harbour, Tasmania

 Lynda feeds a kangaroo.

Lynda feeds a kangaroo!

 A swarm of kangaroo’s queuing for food

A swarm of kangaroo's, queuing to be fed.

 A Tasmanian Devil – of course!

Tasmanian Devil - of course!

 Ahhh, a cuddly Koala

Ahhh, cuddly Koala

 The seafood arrives at Mures!

The seafood food arrives!