Rottnest Island stars in new Tourism Australia ad with Chris Hemsworth

AUSSIE actor Chris Hemsworth has launched a new $40 million tourism campaign that will showcase Rottnest Island to a global audience of millions.

“Rotto” takes centre stage in the latest chapter of the “There’s Nothing Like Australia” marketing blitz launched on Tuesday in New York and set to be beamed throughout Europe, the US and Asia in April.

Rottnest’s Mabel Cove, Fish Hook Bay, Parakeet Bay, Herschel Lake and Pinky

Beach feature in footage shot in and under the water over four days by a production crew of 30.

Hemsworth, best known for his roles as Kim Hyde in Home and Away and as Thor in the Marvel Avengers movie series, tells holiday-makers that Australia is a destination to be felt rather than seen.

Other than his voiceover, the Hollywood star named last week as Tourism Australia’s global ambassador, didn’t feature in the ad as bosses didn’t want him to overshadow the nation’s hottest destinations.

Rottnest Island features in a new Tourism Australia advertisement.Source:Supplied

The official launch at New York’s Bryant Park included virtual reality displays and aquatic-themed images projected onto an ice rink.

The campaign highlights authentic individual and family experiences on WA’s favourite island getaway and will include TV, print and online coverage that also showcases Fremantle, Cottesloe, Rockingham’s dolphins, Ningaloo, The Pinnacles, Monkey Mia, Margaret River, whale watching off WA, the Cape To Cape track, Denmark, Broome and the Kimberley’s Horizontal Falls.

Acting Tourism Minister Albert Jacob said Rottnest deserved to be the focus of the campaign but said the rest of WA would benefit from a boost in visitors as well.

“Rottnest Island is the WA focus of the campaign videos but we firmly believe this footage will be a springboard for visitors to explore more of the state and for Tourism WA to leverage this interest through other marketing opportunities.

“WA is renowned for our beautiful natural landscape, and stunning plants and animals, many of

which are found nowhere else in the world.

“Our Kimberley region provides for a wilderness experience like no other and Perth city has come of age with the highest quality of restaurants and small bars now making it a must-do experience.”

Rottnest Island has a starring role in the ad unveiled in New York today.Source:Supplied

Mr Jacob said swimming with humpbacks off Ningaloo would be another incentive for foreign visitors to make the pilgrimage to WA.

“Our Ningaloo Marine Park is one of the few places in the world where tourists can swim with whale sharks. This year we are starting a trial of swimming with humpback whales in the same marine park to give visitors another great experience of nature,” he said.

Next month, Tourism WA will host a WA-specific themed marketing event in Los Angeles ahead of the Australian Tourism Summit.

From beaches to cafes, Perth has it all

SYDNEY has long lauded its beaches as the best in Australia, and Melbourne brags about its laneway art and cafe culture. But Perth is proving travellers can have the best of both.

The west coast capital is perfect for a summer getaway, just a four-hour flight from Sydney and Melbourne.

Space on the sand at the beautiful Cottesloe Beach is easy to come by and the perfect spot to watch the sun setting.

Across the road, the Cottesloe Beach Hotel has something for everyone with its sports bar, cocktail bar and outdoor beach club. The hotel has perfected the art of the novelty pop-up, drawing in crowds with everything from a taco stand to a gin garden. For something more substantial The Shorehouse restaurant, nestled between Cottesloe and the Swanbourne Reserve, is proving a popular new dining addition.

The signature cocktail, with fruit and lollies, at the Beach Club at the Cottesloe Beach Hotel.Source:AAP

It opened in December, imitating a style made popular by The Stokehouse in Melbourne, which burnt down only months earlier. From the outside it looks like a portable school building plonked by the beach, but the inside has a cool, fresh Hampton’s feel.

At one end the dining area opens on to a large alfresco deck offering stunning views of the Indian Ocean and Rottnest Island, famous for its smiling quokkas.

The food, by former Stokehouse chef Oliver Gould, showcases local produce including cuttlefish, scallops and prawns from Shark Bay and blue swimmer crab.

Honey cake tops the dessert menu.

Further south at Fremantle the water is warm and the sand space aplenty and there are plenty of dining options to choose from, including the fresh food selection at Fremantle Markets, The Raw Kitchen and Bread in Common.

But if you’re looking for somewhere for an Instagram-worthy brunch, it’s hard to go past Bib & Tucker.

Buttermilk pancakes with banana, pecans and salted caramel at Bib & Tucker.Source:AAP

From simple homemade jam on toast to the picture-perfect buttermilk banana pancakes with salted caramel and pecans to the Middle Eastern baked eggs, the worst part is having to choose. At night it offers perfect views of the sunset as gold as the Olympic medals its owners, swimmer Eamon Sullivan, pole vaulter Steve Hooks and hockeyroo Jamie Dwyer, once vied for.

As the beachside suburbs effortlessly attract visitors wanting to relax, the city is a hub for those wanting to try multiple venues throughout the evening.

The suburb of Northbridge, once mocked as “Knifebridge”, has shed its rough image in favour of a fresh, modern vibe.

Street art in Northbridge. Picture: Erokism

The Brass Monkey serves as a meeting point for locals and travellers.

It’s also where Food Loose Tours greet guests for a foodie adventure through the suburb’s arty laneways and hidden bars. A true speak-easy at The Dominion League is the first stop, where bartending is treated as the art form it is.

There’s a lengthy process that passionate staff members go through in serving their whiskey cocktails, including putting the alcohol through fat washes and making their own honeycomb.

From there it’s only a short walk to The Standard for a selection of tapas including kimchi cauliflower, fava bites, caramelised squid, beef carpaccio and a melt-in-your-mouth blue goats cheese.

But don’t fill up too much, because the next stop is for dinner at Sauma, which offers a rustic Indian street-food experience including Bombay bonda, Goan sausage, and Wagyu beef samosas. There’s also a selection of authentic curries, mountain-style goat curry and spicy lamb ribs.

The final stop on the tour is dessert at a newly opened Livingstone’s Urban Jungle where chocolate-filled doughnuts, chocolate orange tarts and ice cream are squeezed in.

Ah, Perth. Picture: Daniel Lee

FIVE MUST-TRY TREATS

1. Buttermilk pancakes with banana, salted caramel and pecans from Bib & Tucker, Fremantle.

2. Blue goats cheese and charcuterie selection at The Standard, Northbridge.

3. Any of the 170 whiskey varieties available at The Dominion League, straight up or in a cocktail.

4. Twice-cooked lamb ribs with sweet tamarind chilli at Sauma, Northbridge.

5. Blue swimmer crab and shellfish orecchiette with saffron, chilli and pangratto at The Shorehouse, Cottesloe.

GETTING THERE

Tigerair Australia flies daily return flights between Sydney and Perth from $159 each way, and two return daily services from Melbourne from $155 each way.

STAYING THERE

Mercure Perth is conveniently located close to shops, restaurants and just a short walk from the Swan River and new Elizabeth Quay precinct, offering suites, separate and interconnecting rooms and a heated outdoor pool, spa and gym.

The writer travelled as a guest of Tourism WA, Accor Hotels and Tiger Air.

Fears growing tourist numbers will spoil Myanmar

The writer with monks on the top of Mandalay Hill. Picture: Gavin Fernando

IT CAN be difficult not to feel cynical in parts of Southeast Asia.

Sex workers line the busy backpacker streets of Bangkok, roided-up meatheads pick fights in Kuta, and drugged-up backpackers party in Vang Vieng.

Of course, there’s so much more to these countries than their party districts, but these areas have unfortunately earned themselves reputations as hedonistic playgrounds for young westerners.

However, one particular country offers a different setting. Myanmar only eased its border restrictions a few years ago, with tourism increasing from 300,000 visitors in 2010 to 4.7 million in 2015.

Here, you’d be hard pressed to find anything resembling the noisy scenes of Khao San Road or Pattaya Beach.

Myanmar’s appeal instead lies in small, simple pleasures — a solo bike ride weaving through isolated temples, a hike through the untouched mountains, a sunset boat ride in the vast lakes.

But as tourist figures rise and the country rides through a period of rapid change, is this unspoiled haven in jeopardy?

A COUNTRY UNDER DRAMATIC TRANSFORMATION

A temple in Bagan, in central Myanmar. Picture: Gavin FernandoSource:Supplied

For a long time Myanmar – also known as Burma – was closed to the outside world.

In 1996, the leader of the country’s pro-democracy movement Aung San Suu Kyi urged tourists to stay away, as their money would go straight into the hands of the country’s oppressive then-rulers.

“Visiting now is tantamount to condoning the regime,” said Suu Kyi. “Burma will be here for many years, so tell your friends to visit us later.”

By the end of 2015, “later” had arrived – Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory and ended almost five decades of military rule, sparking a revolution.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to see a place rapidly transform right before your eyes, jump on a plane to Yangon or Mandalay.

Just five years ago, less than 10 per cent of Burmese people owned a mobile phone. At the time, North Korea was the only country that had less.

To put that into perspective, this was the same year Facebook recorded more than one billion active users worldwide. While Australian toddlers were being raised on new iPad minis, basic SIM cards in Myanmar were available only on the black market, and cost up to AU$2000, keeping them exclusively in the hands of the rich and powerful.

Fast forward to 2017, and the changes are astounding. WiFi has gone from virtually non-existent to readily available across the country’s growing number of international hotels, shopping malls and restaurants.

All sorts of world cuisines – Italian, Chinese, Indian, Thai – can now be ordered from the same menu.

Earlier this year, the city of Mandalay even celebrated the grand opening of its first KFC.

A SIM card will now set you back only $A1.50, and according to The Brookings Institution, there are now more than 45 million mobile phone subscriptions in Myanmar.

With all these rapid developments, there’s one piece of advice travellers offer so frequently it’s practically a cliché: “Get in now before it’s too late.”

HOW MYANMAR IS DIFFERENT

No filter required. Picture: Gavin FernandoSource:Supplied

I stayed in Myanmar for just under four weeks.

The contrast to its neighbours was immediately felt. Instead of crossing the road to avoid drunk groups stumbling out of bars, I was crossing isolated roads lined with tens of thousands of temples and pagodas on a motorbike.

Instead of being propositioned for drugs and sex on busy street corners, I was propositioned by young Buddhist monks wanting me to participate in their incense-burning rituals.

Instead of getting wasted on cheap beer, I went on a three-day hike through the Burmese mountains, staying with local villagers and being swallowed up in vast, breathtaking landscapes of green and orange.

But perhaps the greatest contrast between Myanmar and the rest of the region is its drinking culture – or lackof.

Alcohol isn’t forbidden, and local men enjoy pints together in outdoor “beer stations”, but even the major cities tend to close well before midnight.

Small bars geared towards tourists are slowly opening up serving inexpensive cocktails and beers, but they’re not a key part of the country’s nightlife. Shots and dance floors are virtually non-existent.

It feels like the Burmese people are still figuring out how to best handle and capitalise on rising tourist numbers.

Most major sites charge an exclusive but inexpensive fee for foreigners, which has risen gradually over the years.

Entry into the cities of Bagan and Inle Lake cost $A25 and $A15 respectively.

Mandalay Hill, a famous 1729-step temple overlooking the whole city, now costs $A1 for non-locals.

While it’s hard not to feel like a walking dollar sign in Asia, Myanmar is decidedly less intense about it. Touts are less aggressive, and violent crimes against foreigners are extremely rare.

I had two local guys abruptly join me for drinks at a bar in Yangon one night – and I’m ashamed to admit I was on my guard the whole time.

In the end, there was no catch. They just wanted to talk to a foreigner.

Hiking is one of the big attractions of the country. Picture: Gavin FernandoSource:Supplied

WHERE IS MYANMAR HEADED NEXT?

The question remains – can Myanmar remain an “untouched paradise” forever, or will its culture eventually cave in to its growing number of tourists?

I put this question to Wai Lin, a local tour specialist who works for the popular south-east Asia travel agency Backyard Travel.

Wai Lin is part of Myanmar’s “next generation” — the under-30s group that will shape the country’s rapid change and development in the coming years.

He described a different “type” of traveller here to what you might expect in Kuta or Phuket – they’re more interested in outdoor activities, ancient history and temples than partying and luxurious resorts.

“Temple visits are most popular in Myanmar and 90 per cent of clients include these kinds on tours,” he said. “Then adventure activities like trekking to local villages and cruising are also experiences that the tourists are looking for – a more off-the-beaten-track experience in Myanmar.”

A boat ride on Inle Lake. Pictyure: Gavin FernandoSource:Supplied

But Wai Lin has concerns. He said rising tourist figures are slowly taking a negative toll on the Burmese people’s culture and conservative lifestyle.

“The local people copy the lifestyles of the tourists and outside influences, and to a degree, we are losing our own customs and traditions,” he said. “And the government still can’t take good action on that yet.”

On the plus side, tourism brings obvious economic benefits, especially job opportunities for the locals.

My hiking guide, a warm and friendly girl named August, didn’t share the concerns for tourism destroying her country – perhaps because all her interactions have so far been incredibly positive.

She’s working as a tour guide to put herself through university. One tour can bring in up to $A400 not including tips – a big sum in Myanmar.

“I wouldn’t have this job if tourists didn’t come here,” she said. “I like that people are interested in experiencing my country.”

But Wai Lin said concerns about Myanmar becoming another clichéd “party” destination are definitely felt throughout the country.

“We all have this fear honestly,” he said. “If the government is not able to protect well, Myanmar might become one of those countries too, especially in tourist destinations like Bagan and Inle Lake.

“The government would need to draw the suitable rules and regulations on tourisms. At the same time, we have to educate the local people how and why we need to protect our destinations.”

He noted that it’s getting more difficult to preserve temples and other historical sites in cities like Bagan and Mandalay, where he says rising tourism numbers have contributed to their damages.

At Inle Lake, the rise of international hotel chains now threaten the area’s natural beauty. Beaches like Ngapali, in the country’s west, face similar problems.

“Some of Myanmar’s tourist destinations, such as Bagan, Inle and Kyaiktiyo, are already under environmental and social pressure from the effects of tourism, which is affecting the livelihoods of local inhabitants and long-term viability of these places as tourism destinations.”

At the end of the day, he says it will just be a balancing act for the govenrment. But until then, Myanmar remains a special gem in the region.

On that note, I can only reiterate the cliché: Get in there now.

Myanmar – go before it is too late.

Leave Bali to the bogans, I’m going to this Aussie oasis

It’s the island paradise most Australians wouldn’t think to travel to, and it’s time we saw it in a new light. Picture: Chris Bray Photography

AS FAR from the typical tourist haunts as you could get, is an island with a strong history, better snorkelling than the Great Barrier Reef (in my opinion) and diverse wildlife that practically stops and strikes a pose for your camera.

Christmas Island — an idyllic creation of jagged volcanic peaks encircled by the navy blue water of the Indian Ocean — might well be the most unique and exceptional island in all of Australia.

It’s a place where children run free, house keys serve no purpose, road signs warn of “crabs on the road” and in one day you can dine on Malaysian roti for breakfast, Chinese chow mein for lunch and fresh wahoo for dinner.

And it’s dead easy to get to this “Galapagos of the Indian Ocean” — it’s just a three and a half-hour flight from Perth (Perth to Bali is four hours) and there’s no need to waste time comparing flight prices — Virgin Australia is the only carrier that flies to this tropical oasis.

And while flights can be pricey (you need to book ahead to get the best deal) once you’re here a lot of the activities you will do are free, such as snorkelling and hiking.

And if you’re lucky, you could find yourself snorkelling with dolphins. Picture: Chris Bray PhotographySource:Supplied

INTO THE BRIGHT BLUE YONDER

The Aussie flag flies high above the Christmas Island airport, but the terminal has a foreign, ‘I can’t possibly be in Australia’, feel.

I’m travelling alone on this week-long jaunt, but now that I’m on this Hawaii-esque island I wish I’d brought my husband and daughters with me.

Upon arrival I’m met by Lisa Preston, from tour company Indian Ocean Experiences, and on the short drive from the airport to a lookout for a welcome drink she explains that the island is home to tens of millions of endemic red crabs.

Millions of Tiny Red Crabs Migrate on Christmas Island

As we drive through the national park, which covers around two-thirds of the island, the dirt road is peppered with countless bright, blood-red crabs.

“That was definitely the crunch of a twig,” says Lisa as she zigzags the car in slow-motion on the road where several crabs crawl perilously close to the tyres.

“It’s not a nice sound if you do get them.”

It’s a relief to pull up at our destination having not killed any of the wildlife.

Lisa gestures for me to follow her. I pluck my camera out of my bag and follow her lead as we ascend to Margaret Knoll Lookout where the water below is so paint-pot glossy as to be unnatural.

The sun warms our backs and just when I think things can’t get any better, I spot a nest that’s home to a brown booby chick.

The incredibly cute booby chick. Picture: Leah McLennanSource:Supplied

The adorable bird looks like a giant cotton wool ball with two plastic beady eyes stuck on.

How many places in the world can you drive five minutes from the airport and find yourself drinking wine while photographing a scene that wouldn’t look out of place in a David Attenborough documentary?

Over biscuits and cheese, Lisa tells me that the population of the former British colony, now an Australian territory, is about 1500 (the locals are a vibrant mix of Chinese, Malay and mainland Australians) and visitor numbers are estimated to be around 1200 a year.

“And there is little to fear on the island as there aren’t any dangerous snakes or spiders,” she says.

“There are a few mozzies but there’s no dengue or Ross River fever on the island.”

The unusually bare rainforest floor deep in the heart of Christmas Island is meticulously cleaned by millions of the island’s famous red crabs that live in burrows in the soil around these fig trees. Picture: Chris Bray PhotographySource:Supplied

As the setting sun turns the sky a romantic mauve hue we dodge dozens of crustaceans as we drive to my temporary home for the next few days, The Sunset.

The accommodation is motel-style basic, but when I pull back the thick blue curtains that cover the sliding door I discover there’s nothing average about the 180 degree ocean view.

I let out a squeal of excitement, knowing I’ll be able to spend tonight drifting off to sleep listening to the lap of the ocean and the scurry of crabs.

Sitting on the balcony watching an Australian navy patrol boat slowly pass (the navy is always on the lookout off Christmas Island for suspected asylum-seeker boats), I read over my itinerary for the next few days.

Highlights include: turtle spotting at Greta Beach; an expedition to Dolly beach, where in the 1600s some Dutch sailors were shipwrecked and apparently loved it so much they didn’t want to be rescued; snorkelling; and a trip to the outdoor cinema.

It doesn’t get much better than this. Picture: Chris Bray PhotographySource:Supplied

The next morning, very uncharacteristically, I’m up before the dawn to take more photos boobies before I embark on a snorkelling adventure. I discover that these chicken-sized birds only break into a walk when you are about to accidentally step on them.

If you lived in paradise with hardly any predators and plenty of food would you bother with such unnecessary exertion?

Homo sapiens, like the wildlife on this handsome green island, have also adapted their behaviour to suit the unique environment. They wave at strangers, smile a lot and chat excitedly as if intoxicated by this wildlife mecca.

Another of the island’s friendly residents: The coconut crab. It’s the world’s largest land-living arthropod, weighing up to 4.1kg and can have a leg span of up to 1m! Picture: Chris Bray PhotographySource:Supplied

NO TIME TO READ BY THE POOL

I’m ashamed to admit that before I embarked on this trip I thought I might get bored so I packed two books.

But it turns out there’s no time for reading when you’ve developed a new obsession: snorkelling on Christmas Island with Japanese dive instructor Teruki Hamanaka (Hama for short).

In Hama’s boat we potter about under a polished blue sky and jump into the gin-clear water to look at giant trevally, clownfish, angelfish, dolphins and reef sharks.

The snorkling at Christmas Island is world class. Picture: Chris Bray PhotographySource:Supplied

I manage to squeeze in a snorkel every morning that I’m on Christmas Island. Instead of taking a boat you can simply pop on flippers and walk backwards into the water at Flying Fish cove, the location of the main settlement of the island.

Even on my last morning before I check in for my lunchtime flight back to Perth I manage to fit in a last minute snorkel.

As I board the plane I think to myself, “could that holiday have been any better”?

And then an announcement comes over the PA system.

“Sorry everyone, but we have a problem with the engine and everyone will have to disembark.

“We will have to bring another plane over from Brisbane, so I’m afraid you all will be staying here the night.”

Wonderful news, I think to myself.

Not a bad place to watch the sunset. Picture: Chris Bray PhotographySource:Supplied

Why Gibb River Road is Australia’s best

Leah McLennan’s daughter Tallula keeps a lookout for crocodiles during a family road trip along the Gibb River Road in Western Australia. Picture: Leah McLennan

The 660km former cattle route that stretches between the towns of Derby and Wyndham beat a range of other global road-trip destinations when The Guardian in Britain named it as one of the five best road trips in the world.

“It’s where people can experience what many regard as the real Australia,” says the head of Australia’s North West Tourism, Glen Chidlow.

“Australian and international visitors alike just love it.”

I certainly did.

On our first day on the Gibb with my partner and two kids we point our new five-seat Safari Landcruiser from Britz car rentals towards El Questro, a place that has been on my bucket list for years.

El Questro cattle station is one of the jewels in Western Australia’s rugged Kimberley landscape. Picture: Leah McLennanSource:Supplied

We have driven from Broome on the Great Northern Highway, passing through Fitzroy Crossing, Halls Creek and the remote Aboriginal community of Warmun, and entered the Gibb at the eastern end.

We travel with a spare tyre, a snatch strap (to pull a vehicle out of a bog), a GPS enabled tablet, a first aid kit, emergency distress beacon, a 20-litre water tank and 130 litres of fuel.

We will mostly camp along the way as our car has a rooftop tent with room for two and an annex that can sleep three down below.

“Does it have a TV?” my four-year- old asks.

“No,” I reply before she switches her attention to the sleeping arrangements.

“I’ll sleep up top with you and Tallula can sleep down the bottom with Dad.”

Oh no, I think to myself.

The family takes in the stunning views. Picture: Leah McLennanSource:Supplied

On my right the towering Cockburn Range looms outside the window. On the left bulging boab trees dot the suntanned landscape.

This roadside scenery, in my opinion, is better than the Great Ocean Road, which is so often named as Australia’s number one self-drive holiday destination.

Soon I spot the sign for El Questro.

Is that me squealing with excitement? A second squeal confirms it.

If I were a puppy I’d be running in circles I’m that excited to be heading towards the vast cattle station turned resort that incorporates Zebedee thermal springs and Amelia and El Questro Gorges.

And then the windscreen cracks.

This Safari Landcruiser from Britz was the best way to get around. Picture: Leah McLennanSource:Supplied

Not an hour into our Gibb adventure and a road train, which was going so fast it wouldn’t be out of place on Germany’s unrestricted autobahn, has thrown up a stone.

I dive head first into the glove box looking for the hire car contract.

Eureka. Our insurance will cover the windscreen.

Smiling, we trundle on.

After a brief stop in the dizzying heat to gaffer tape up the increasing crack in the windscreen, we arrive at a river crossing.

“Are there crocodiles in there?” my six-year- old asks as I wade through the water to take some photos.

“I didn’t think of that,” I yell as I run towards the car.

Setting up camp. Picture: Leah McLennanSource:Supplied

It’s just after 5pm when we arrive at El Questro, with the big 4WD throwing up a plume of dust that sticks with us like a giant squirrel’s tail all the way to the car park.

Bigger than the United Kingdom, El Questro (a made-up name) is well known for its super-duper Homestead, a polished retreat set atop Chamberlain Gorge where folks go to soak up the rugged Kimberley with gourmet picnic lunches packed by the chef.

Well, I’m not staying there.

Boab tree-spotting along the way. Picture: Leah McLennanSource:Supplied

I’ll be 9km down the dirt track at the hub of El Questro, called The Station, where you can erect your own tent, plug in your caravan, try some glamping, stay in a family-friendly bungalow and either cook for yourself or dine at the up-market steakhouse or outdoor bar.

Where else in Australia can you stay for $20 a night and enjoy the same jaw-dropping Landscapes as those paying $1500?

Our itinerary for the next two days includes a trip on a large boat to explore the Chamberlain Gorge and to spot saltwater crocodiles, taking the kids on their first horse ride, a history and nature tour and watching the sun rise and set over the immense savannah.

Swapping the land for the water for a while. Picture: Leah McLennanSource:Supplied

There are plenty more tours that we could do if we had deeper pockets, such as taking a chopper to a remote location to fish for barramundi, mangrove jack or threadfin salmon.

That night at the outdoor bar we buy a bag of marshmallows and roast them on the huge open fire as our kids make friends with other little people whose parents have congregated to listen to country musician Chris Matthews.

The next day we are up early for the history and nature tour with guide Vinnie, where we bump around in a safari vehicle that wouldn’t be out of place in Africa.

We learn about the characters that lived at the original cattle station and the property’s journey to acclaimed wilderness park, as well as the uses for kapok seeds (good for stuffing pillows), scarlet gum (good for making didgeridoos) and spiral pandanus (perfect if you want to weave a basket).

Cable Beach proved to be an excellent spot for a stop. Picture: Leah McLennanSource:Supplied

But there’s no time for weaving, this is a driving holiday after all, and before we can ask Vinnie how stinkwood got its name we have packed up and set off for our next destination.

Emma Gorge Resort, some 25km away yet still part of El Questro, sits hard up against the Cockburn Ranges.

Its tented cabins deliver a glamping experience, garnished with creature comforts such as a swimming pool, restaurant and lush gardens.

The next morning before the birds have a chance to wake us up, we are up and ready for the one-hour walk to the Emma Gorge waterfall, often referred to as the best known, most spectacular gorge in the Kimberley.

More incredible views at Wyndham. Picture: Leah McLennanSource:Supplied

Not 20 minutes into the walk and our two children stop and plonk down like baby boab trees.

“We never give up,” I tell them, channelling personal trainer Michelle Bridges.

After five minutes of carrying one of them I give up.

Back at the restaurant over delicious eggs benedict I ask the waitress what she thinks of Emma Gorge.

“It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world,” she says.

I’ll just have to take her word for it.

After a swim in the pool we load our bags into the car and set off again, moving towards our next stop — camping at Manning Gorge on Mount Barnett Station.

A wispy cloud in the shape of a baby’s first curl drifts across the intense blue sky and the Cockburn Ranges are gleaming orange in the noon sun.

A rewarding scene at the Mount Barnett camp site. Picture: Leah McLennanSource:Supplied

As we bump down the road, the cutlery rattling in the back like a child is playing the xylophone, I start to fall in love with this wild chunk of Western Australia.

With its gin-clear gorges and waterfalls, rugged ranges, vast cattle stations and many examples of Aboriginal rock art, I can see why travellers become infatuated with this place.

Not even its saltwater crocodiles, the Kimberley death adder, extreme humidity or kilometre after kilometre of stomach-churning road can put me off what I believe is Australia’s ultimate drive holiday.

Australia from Above competition: Best aerial and drone photos

Kyle Bowman’s image of Wyadup Spa, WA beat more than 5000 others to be named winner of the Australia from Above competition. Picture: Kyle Bowman, Airloft

IS THIS Australia’s best angle?

Judges of the Australia from Above drone photography competition thought so.

Kyle Bowman’s shot of Wyadup Spa in Western Australia’s Margaret River regionwas considered the “quintessential Australia from Above shot due to the lighting, composition and striking colours”.

The Wyadup rock pools, near Yallingup, are a favourite haunt among locals, with its natural spa ideal for relaxing in a Jacuzzi-like setting — as well as being a drawcard for photographers.

BONDI BEACH, NSW: You can’t go past Australia’s beaches for spectacular views. Pilots Aaron Philips and Tom Faunt were so in awe with their views from the cockpit that they began returning to photograph some of the favourites with a drone. And Sydney’s most famous stretch of sand is one of the classics, says Philips. “Bondi is my home town, where I grew up, so it will always be my favourite place to photograph. No matter where I travel in the world, I’m always appreciative of how beautiful Sydney is.” Picture: The Vertical Project
EXUMA, BAHAMAS: Australia is so blessed with beaches that it’s not easy to find overseas beaches that genuinely impress an Aussie — but for Philips and Faunt, the Bahamas did the trick. “I’ve seen a lot of beaches in my life, but the sand and water in the Bahamas is like no other,” says Philips. “We travelled to the less touristy, more isolated island of Exuma — which looks like a grain of sand on a map of the world — and it was well worth the effort of getting there. We swam with sharks, turtles, sting rays and even pigs.” Picture: The Vertical Project

WYADUP BAY, WA: The Perth-based pilot duo love to escape to the Margaret River region, and naturally the drone gets a workout photographing the area’s natural highlights, with the rock pools at Wyadup Bay one of the area’s most striking sights from the air. “We discovered this spot awaiting us just a short walk down a bush track,” Philips says. “Rock pools are always impressive to photograph from above.” Picture: The Vertical Project

MOJAVE DESERT, US: It’s not just beaches that make great aerial shots. This stunning desert in the US southwest is a good example. Philips and Faunt were lucky enough to drive a convertible Mustang through the Mohave, and were struck by the unusual scenery. “On our way to Palm Springs for a weekend, we decided to take a detour through the Joshua tree National Park and the Mojave Desert,” Philips says. “There were infinite cactuses and crazy rock formations, with a road winding through the middle.” Picture: The Vertical Project

LITTLE BOAT HARBOUR, BREMER BAY, WA: Whether you’re on the ground or in the air, the sparkling water of the beaches between Albany and Esperance in southern Western Australia is an inviting sight. “We took a two-week expedition around the south of Western Australia, four-wheel driving across white sandy beaches to crystal clear water,” Philips says. “We tried not to think about the threat of sharks while floating in this little slice of heaven on Earth, in Bremer Bay.” Picture: The Vertical Project

NUSA LEMBONGAN, INDONESIA: This tiny island off the coast of Bali is not only visually impressive, it’s great for R & R when you’re taking time out from flying, according to Philips. “We’ve been to Bali countless times for work over the years, but recently we ventured over to Nusa Lembongan for the first time,” he says. “It was like stepping back in time and what I imagine what Bali would have been like many years ago. Beautiful! We stayed at a resort on a hill overlooking the sea, and between snorkelling trips chilled by the pool.” Picture: The Vertical Project

GREENS POOL, WILLIAM BAY NATIONAL PARK, WA: On the rocky coastline in William Bay National Park, Greens Pool is a popular snorkelling beach with fish darting among the rocks and coral. The area, west of Denmark in southern WA, also makes for a dramatic sight from the air. “This beautiful blue water with big rocks bulging out through the water was a highlight of our two- week road trip around southern Western Australia,” Philips says. “More evidence that some of the most beautiful beaches are in our very own country.” Picture: The Vertical Project

CORAL COAST, FIJI: This stretch of beaches and bays between Nadi and Suva on Fiji’s main island is a well-established tourist destination, but the area’s beauty still took Philips and Faunt by surprise. “We got lucky and had spectacular weather this entire trip, and spent much of our time avoiding the humidity swimming and snorkelling around this reef. The pastel colours are amazing.” Picture: The Vertical Project

SOUTH BEACH, MIAMI, US: The colourful furniture on this iconic Florida beach makes it especially photogenic. A favourite with the rich and famous, this trendy, quirky spot lives up to expectations, says Philips. “The beach is absolutely packed with beach chairs and umbrellas grouped into colours, and every couple of metres there is a new colour,” he explains. “Each hotel has a particular allocation on the sand — we were staying at the hotel that had the yellow umbrellas.” Picture: The Vertical Project See more of Aaron Philips and Tom Faunt’s photos attheverticalproject.com.au

Run by SkyPixel in partnership with Tourism Australia and DJI, the Australia from Above competition attracted more than 6000 entries from Australian and international photographers.

A photo of Perth’s Secret Harbour by Al Edgar (skysnaps99) took out second spot for its “mesmerising composition, detail and colour”.

“The competition had a lot of top down shots over jettys and ocean but this one stood out above them all,” said judge Tom Rex Jessett.

Al Edgar’s shot of Secret Harbour, WA was named Australia from Above second placegetter. Picture: Al Edgar, Skysnaps99.Source:Supplied

Peter Yan’s image of Rigby Island at Lakes Entrance, Victoria rounded out the top three, described by Jessett as “one of the most striking and vivid photographs in the competition”.

“I love not only the composition and the colours but the mesmerising feel of wanting to look closer into the photograph,” he said.

Tourism Australia chief marketing officer Lisa Ronson said the judges were blown away by the quantity and quality of the entries.

About 1200 entries had been expected in the competition — but that was surpassed in the first few days.

“There are some amazingly talented photographers out there who are using drone technology to capture some breathtaking images of Australia,” said Ms Ronson.

“Drone-facilitated photography as well as other new technologies such as VR and 360 are enabling us to tell our story in ways which were just not possible a few years ago.”

Rigby Island, Lake Entrance, Victoria. Picture: Peter Yan, YantasticSource:Supplied

DJI Vice President of Marketing, Danny Zheng echoed Ms Ronson’s remarks.

“The amazing work from participants really shows the growing interest around this new photographic artform and the potential of aerial technology,” said Mr Zheng.

“We were thrilled to see so many quality entries, from local photographers as well as those outside the country who captured Australia’s extraordinary beauty in an entirely new way.”

Among the entries that made it to the judges’ short-list, were Brendan McGrath’s breathtaking shot of Bondi Beach, Scott Portelli’s striking “Mining Red Soil” and Kevin Perrin’s “Red and White Salt Lake” — that resembled a work of abstract art.

While the first place getter scores trips to Lord Howe and Kangaroo islands plus a drone combo package, all the finalists will enjoy exposure on Tourism Australia’s world-leading social media platforms.

“It’s very exciting for our industry and will, I’m sure, provide inspiration to many Australian tourism operators as they look at new and engaging ways to promote their businesses,” Ms Ronson said.

A ‘passion project’ for billionaire Aussie property developer Lang Walker will be Fijian holiday paradise for guests

Kokomo Island Resort in Fiji: billionaire property developer Lang Walker has turned his prowess to vacay time

A ‘PASSION project’ of billionaire Australian property developer Lang Walker will soon become a luxury getaway hotspot for holiday-makers.

Mr Walker has lived and breathed property development and “place-making” for over 50 years, focusing on industrial and residential projects.

But this time, there will be palm trees, lapping shores and pina coladas with Kokomo Island designed to embody his life enthusiasms.

Mr Walker loves living near the water’s edge in waterfront developments and enjoys any kind of activity on the water.

With his family, it has taken him three years to bring this project to life with Kokomo Island Fiji tagged as the holiday destination’s newest and most exclusive private island resort and will open its doors in March 2017.

Designed to meet the needs of inter-generational travellers, the island sanctuary should cater to travellers’ desire for activities, service and great food.

Bula! Kokomo Island Resort looks sen-bloody-sationalSource:Supplied

A hidden gem located on the edge of the Kadavu Island group, the unspoilt island paradise will be offering guests myriad experiences both on land and in the surrounding waters.

Spread across 140 acres, the island is pocketed with lush rainforest and dotted with gardens that showcase the native flora and fauna. The resort is lined with fine, white sand beaches while the shores are hugged by the Great Astrolabe Reef, which is home to coral gardens and sea life.

The Walkers want their resort to be a retreat for families and a haven for couples. It’s hoped everyone will go barefoot.

Holiday dreamin’: Kokomo Resort in Fiji opens early next yearSource:Supplied

The island’s villas are designed for sustainability, luxury and privacy. There is the owners’ beachfront residence, five hilltop luxury residences with some of the best views on the island, and 21 exclusive beachfront villas, each with their own pool and private walled garden.

With the Great Astrolabe Reef (the fourth largest in the world) just metres from the shores of Kokomo Island, guests will be able to discover the reef’s diversity of marine life while diving, snorkelling, fishing or kayaking.

For those who prefer their adventures on land, there is the opportunity to discover the island on foot, relax in the authentic Fijian spa or kick back and enjoy gourmet cuisine, featuring fresh, sustainable, locally-sourced produce grown.

Pure paradise at the latest development from Lang Walker: Kokomo Island in FijiSource:Supplied

Kokomo Island will officially open in March 2017, with villas available on a limited basis from January 2017. An all-inclusive daily rate will include meals and beverages, accommodation, a spa treatment and array of activities.

Skydiver snaps incredible image of circular rainbow

Skydiver Anthony Killeen photographed a double-rainbow. Picture: Anthony Killeen

news.com.au
HAVE you ever wondered why you can never find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

Well, it turns out there’s no such thing.

Skydiver Anthony Killeen revealed the truth in a series of stunning images, shared on Imgur.

He jumped out of a plane 4800m in the air over the Bay of Islands in New Zealand, capturing the 360 degree double-rainbow on camera.

The phenomenon is called a “glory”, and it’s not as rare as you think.

In fact, all rainbows are a full circle, but in most cases your view is broken by the ground.

Natural phenomena makes thrillseeking an even bigger rush. Picture: Anthony KilleenSource:imgur

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The images show a stunning 360 degree ring of colour. Picture: Anthony KilleenSource:imgur

Reddit users were fascinated with the photos.

“It’s an exact replica of the cloud level on Mario 64,” Chandler 0521 wrote.

“If you shoot the middle then you get +10 coins,” added MrCaptDrNonsense.

Others turned their attention to leprechauns.

“It’s actually a circle … those leprechauns had us fooled the whole time,” wrote MikhailButtovsky.

“Where is the pot of gold!? I’ve been lied to,” complained AngryRatMan.

“Those little green b*stards,” said WindsyOfWesleyChapel.

The ecstatic pair can’t believe their luck. Picture: Anthony Killeen.Source:imgur

Turns out there never was a pot of gold. Picture: Anthony Killeen.Source:imgur

Rainbows are notoriously difficult to photograph, because conditions must be such that there is moisture in the air but no clouds.

The colours appear when sunlight refracts off the water droplets.

In Eastern cultures, a double-rainbow is said to be a sign of good fortune — the first arc represents the material world, while the second is the spiritual realm.

It’s said to represent movement from earth to heaven.

11 reasons to visit the beautiful islands of Fiji now

WHILE you might think the devastation wrecked by Tropical Cyclone Winston would make Fiji a no-go zone, there’s never been a better time to travel to our beautiful island neighbours.

Many resorts are back up and running, Fiji Airways are offering special deals and the locals need Australians to visit now more than ever.

While my visit was prior to the cyclone, I feel it’s now even more important to share — for the beautiful people of Fiji, and to provide a glimpse of what you can experience just a three hour flight away.

***

EVERYONE IS ALWAYS LOOKING FOR THE NEXT SECRET GETAWAY

When I first came off I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, I was looking for the ultimate holiday away. A place that wasn’t swarming with tourists, but still had everything I wanted to see. Beautiful beaches, luxury resorts, local culture, adventure, and food, lots of food.

The thought of being surrounded by half of Australia in Bali just wasn’t cutting it for me and having to fend off street vendors in Thailand every time I left the hotel wasn’t the holiday I was after.

So if you haven’t already visited Fiji, my only question is why not?

Here are 11 reasons why you need to make Fiji your next holiday:

1. ULTIMATE RESET

If walking along white sandy beaches, snorkelling some of the world’s best reef or getting lost under jungle waterfalls sounds like your type of escape, then Fiji has you covered! Expect to feel like a new, energised person after spending time in this paradise. It’s impossible to leave Fiji and not feel happier.

Tyson Mayr enjoying some quality hammock time. Picture: Tyson MayrSource:Supplied

2. WHITE SANDY BEACHES

Who doesn’t like a good beach? No matter where you are, Fiji seems to have an amazing beach just a few minutes away. In fact, nearly every picture you take will probably look like a ‘wish you were here’ post card.

3. YOU CAN SWIM WITH SHARKS

Ever been slapped in the face by a Shark? Well after my recent trip I can safely say I have! Swimming with sharks without a cage may sound insane, however for me, this is one of the most surreal moments I have ever experienced. A bucket-list and travel highlight that will leave you feeling very differently about how dangerous these ocean predators really are. I say go for it!

It sounds scary, but swimming with sharks is definitely a must-do. Picture: Tyson MayrSource:Supplied

4. VOLCANIC MUD BATHS AND HOT SPRINGS

Because where else in the world can you swim with sharks in the morning and bathe in volcanic mud in the afternoon? They say volcanic mud baths are amazing for your skin and will leave you looking 10 years younger. Not sure if it worked for me.

Tyson and Lisa get dirty. Picture: Tyson MayrSource:Supplied

5. WORLD CLASS SNORKELLING

It’s no secret, Fiji has some of the most beautiful and diverse marine life on the planet. Home to the richest soft coral in the world, its nearly impossible to take an ocean swim in Fiji without seeing something beautiful. Whether it’s swimming with Manta Rays, snorkelling at the front of your resort or diving ship wrecks, Fiji has all the water action you could ask for.

6. THE YASAWA ISLANDS

Fiji is made up of more than 330 islands. Many of these are uninhabited and all of them offer something different to the next. However if you were to come to Fiji and only travel through the Yasawa Islands, you would leave a happy person.

The Yasawa Group is an archipelago of about 20 volcanic islands in the Western Division of Fiji. Many of the islands you visit are home to locals who have lived there for generations, so traditions and way of life can vary depending on where you visit. It may take you some time to travel by boat between them all, however a local sea plane will give you the aerial tour and get you to where you need all in about 30 minutes.

Flying over the Yasawa Islands. Picture: Tyson MayrSource:Supplied

7. ROMANCE

Secluded islands, private beach picnics, sunset lit dinners, turquoise waters and warm starry nights. Fiji is the definition of Romance, where everything feels as though it has been tailor made for your very own amorous getaway. Whether it’s a private island or a fun couple’s resort, Fiji has a range of romantic options for you and your partner.

If you’re looking for romance, Fiji has got your covered. Picture: Tyson MayrSource:Supplied

8. FAMILY FRIENDLY

Fiji is one of the safest and most welcoming places in the world. And with heaps of attractions and activities like water obstacle courses and ziplining, your kids will be begging you to try!

9. FIJI’S SIZE

Fiji is small enough that you can safely drive around its circumference in just over a day, but big enough that you could spend weeks there and still not come close to seeing everything. The roads are safe to drive on with a national speed limit of 80km, so rent a car and see if you can get lost on the friendliest island there is.

Sunset on the main island of Nadi. Picture: Tyson MayrSource:Supplied

10. KAVA, LOCAL CULTURE AND WALKING ON FIRE

Fiji is a destination where you are immersed immediately into the local culture. Whether you stay in a luxury resort or in a hut on the beach, the Fijian way of life will find its way to you. Make sure you try Kava, a traditional drink made up from a natural herb root and be sure to witness the locals walk on fire at islands such as Robinson Crusoe.

11. THE FRIENDLIEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD

They say it’s the people that make a destination and there would not be a person out there who disagrees that Fiji has the friendliest people on the planet. This is what I will always remember Fiji for. ‘Bula’ to me is not just a Fijian greeting, it is a way of life.

I’ve been lucky enough to have visited more than 60 different countries and I have yet to find locals who have made my experience this pleasant. Expect a lot of smiles, no one ever trying to hassle you into buying something and a deeper local experience because of it.

Life in Fiji is a constant giggle, but then again if you live in Fiji, what have you got nothing to be miserable about, right? You are in paradise every day. Picture: Tyson MayrSource:Supplied

Whether it’s the staff that greet you at your resort, or locals you drive past on the street, when you are in Fiji you just feel happier.

If you pull out a camera out in Fiji don’t worry about locals running off with it or telling you to put it away, worry about them wanting to jump in the picture with you, yelling ‘Bula’!

The tiny island the British swapped for New York

Run Island, one of Indonesia’s Banda Islands, was once swapped by Britain for New York. Picture: Simon Proudman / Newsmodo

RUN Island is so small it doesn’t make an appearance on most maps of Indonesia.

Closer to Darwin than Jakarta, this tropical island has an intriguing claim to fame. In 1667, it was swapped by the British for another small piece of land in North America — now better known as New York.

Why? It was because of spices; cinnamon and cloves, but the real money spinner was nutmeg.

In the 17th century this small nut became, kilo for kilo, worth considerably more than gold.

Initially, it had been used to preserve food, and for the affluent, it was used as any spice would be these days — as flavouring on meals. Yet this all changed when Elizabethan doctors began recommending it as a cure to the bubonic plague, better known as Black Death, sweeping through Europe.

Almost overnight its price went up 10-fold, and it just kept rising.

Then, bold new claims were made for this wonder nut. It could cure the common cold, flatulence, and it was even believed to cure erectile dysfunction! — a definite improvement upon another remedy of the time, the chewing of roasted wolf’s penisprior to intercourse.

A Run Island local sits in the nutmeg forest. Picture: Simon Proudman / NewsmodoSource:Supplied

The spice only came from the Banda Islands, a group of 10 small volcanic islands in the remote Indonesian Banda Sea. The Dutch controlled all of them, except one, Run.

The British sent an expedition to try and gain a foothold in the lucrative supply of nutmeg and in 1616 colonised Run.

So happy was King James I that he immediately changed his title to ‘King of England, Scotland, France, Ireland and Run’. The Dutch never gave up in trying to attack and occupy Run to gain a world monopoly of nutmeg, and this became one of the main causes of the Anglo Dutch wars.

Eventually, at the peace treaty of 1667, the British reluctantly swapped Run for a flat, boring bit of North America, which did not even have any spices.

The treaty negotiations dragged on for months, and the British were eager to conclude them and focus more on trade than fighting. Even so, the main island, what we now know as Manhattan, was little more than a swamp, and the British were not sure they had brokered a good deal.

Three hundred and fifty years later that swamp is now a sprawling world famous metropolis, while Run, well, it has sunk into obscurity.

It has no running water, electricity is only available for four hours a day, and in what would be unfathomable to most of us, it has no internet.

The main street has just enough room to wheel a cart through, and there are no cars on the island. With the village built into the side of a cliff, walking is the only way to get around.

The village on Run Island, where their major export is still nutmeg. Picture: Simon Proudman / NewsmodoSource:Supplied

A bit of a contrast to New York City.Source:Supplied

The seas are only calm for three months of the year making transport to the island irregular at best. The islanders have to be self sufficient, and the weather also restricts the number of tourists who can actually visit.

Lohor Burhan, a schoolteacher at the small island school, says nutmeg is the main source of income for the inhabitants.

When the trees are being harvested, the family collects the nuts and dries them — usually on their own doorstep.

Unfortunately for Run the price of the spice collapsed when the British stole seedlings and dramatically increased supply by planting them in their new colonies of India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).

However, Run’s nutmeg remains in demand. All their produce is organic, they cannot afford chemicals and see no reason to use them because the volcanic soil is so fertile it allows three crops a year.

Now, remarkably, their produce graces the tables in New York restaurants.

Nutmeg: The produce that made Run so valuable. Picture: Simon Proudman / NewsmodoSource:Supplied

Few of the 900 residents know, or care little, of their place in world events.

But one man, Jusuf Barhani, does know of Run’s 15 minutes of fame: “I think somewhere called Florida. No, no it was New York, that we were swapped for. I have seen pictures, looks nothing like here. Many, many tall buildings. Why would you live without a beach and your nutmeg trees?”

Jusuf may have a point.

New York grew dramatically since the British obtained it, now with a population of more than 8.4 million and housing both the United Nations and the backbone of the world’s economy, Wall St, the contrast between itself and Run could not be starker.

From a wealth and growth perspective perhaps the British did get the better deal, but Run cannot be denied its simple, peaceful way of life.

Why would you live in New York, when you can live in peaceful Run? Picture: Simon Proudman / NewsmodoSource:Supplied