Jurien Bay – Turquoise Coast – Western Australia

With the Covid pandemic still rampant and travel restrictions frequent, July has called for another holiday at home here in beautiful Western Australia. Whilst we would have liked to find a hot and sunny location to brighten the winter blues, in reality it has been a battle to find a destination at all. With everywhere in WA booking up earlier than usual and only a week to play with, our choices were limited.

In the end, a cabin at Jurien Bay tourist park, four and a half hours from home, seemed as good a place as any…… and it would have been……. until the forecast showed a massive storm front rolling in affecting the whole south west corner of WA. We were worried.

We arrived late on Saturday evening and knew Sunday may be our only sunny day in which to explore what Jurien has to offer. After a good sleep, we headed down to the beach (some 200m) from our cabin door and discovered the monthly markets. We strolled through an array of soap, bag, toy, art and craft stalls before filling up on a yummy stuffed potato then grabbed a coffee and headed out to explore Jurien Bay jetty.

Jurien Bay jetty

When you come from Busselton, jetties can often be quite anticlimactic (after all we have the longest in the Southern Hemisphere at home) but this one offered something different….. a curve. Why, I am still not sure but I am assuming it must be something to do with prevailing winds… and wind there has been. On subsequent walks along this jetty we have been soaked by freakish waves and had trouble staying upright while being hammered by gusts. This has made for a rather exciting time walking along the 162m jetty and is likely a highlight the kids will remember.

As the pictures show, in summer Jurien would be a wonderful place to chill out by the beach, fish, cycle, swim and enjoy the good old Aussie bakery pie. There is a snorkel trail with an artificial reef just north of the jetty which boosts underwater signage and many varieties of sea creatures. In fact, I didn’t realise this whole bay from Wedge Island to Green Head in the north, is considered a marine park offering fantastic snorkelling, diving, fishing and swimming as well as being home to large colonies of Australian sea lions. My heaven in summer!

Jurien Bay beach

In winter, however it is a whole other story. When the rain set in on Monday our choice of activities became very slim. At the best of times teenagers can be difficult to please. When there is rain, wind, intermittent wifi, no games consoles, no bookshop and more rain and wind, it can be quite a battle to keep everyone happy. The Travel Bee and friends have had to get a little creative.

Out came the games…. Uno, Trivial Pursuit, Bananagrams, a deck of cards and Beat the Parents. Although reluctant at first, even the teenagers are discovering games can be quite fun. Things are getting quite competitive and rather loud in the evenings.

The kids are learning some old ways to have fun and the parents are just glad to be away from the pressures of home and work. This is a true holiday, full of rest and recuperation….. just what the doctor ordered.

TTB

Augusta Easter traditions – Western Australia

Last weekend saw our family head to Augusta for our annual Easter camping trip. Looking back, I think this was our 7th year in the same camping ground, same site, same tent with many of the same campers surrounding us. As a family who loves to travel and explore new things, we had considered perhaps it was time to move on. There is however a certain kind of calm heading to a place you know well. The kids love the camping ground comradery and as they get older are finding Flinders Bay camping ground presents new possibilities. For us parents, the best thing is the knowledge we don’t need to rush out and do anything in particular because we have done it all before. This is a holiday to truly relax and unwind ………..that is once the tent is up!

For those that have read my Augusta blogs before, you will know setting up the tent is not Mr Travel Bee’s favourite pass time. Every year he mutters ‘this is the last time’. Every year I book for the next. This year was no exception and to add to his woes we had to put the tent up in the rain. As you can imagine, this was not fun but with a bit of coaxing and cracking the cider open part way through, we managed to get the tent up in good time. Once the puddles were dry and the BBQ was on, all was well in the world again.

Camp Bee 2021

The next three days saw us wander along the path to the Colourpatch Cafe at the Blackwood river mouth, in the opposite direction to the Augusta Harbour and swim in Flinders Bay. There was no rush and no stress. Our walks took as long as they took and we spent as much time as we felt like watching the kite surfers, paddle boarders, boats, stingrays and birds going about their business. We joined friends for meals, drank wine and read books, while the kids rode their bikes and hung out with friends. The Easter bunny did his usual Easter egg hunt around our site (albeit inside due to a rainy night) and we ate chocolate. It all felt very familiar and very comforting.

Spot the dog

But no matter how many times you have been somewhere, you can bet there will always be something new to see. For 2021 our new thing just happened to be a shark. On Monday morning there was a bit of a commotion in the park as the rumour circulated there was a shark at the beach down near the toilet block. Miss 11 alerted us just as Mr Travel Bee and I were getting ready to go for another 1.5km swim! At her insistence we headed down to the beach where a small crowd had gathered. We climbed up on some rocks and watched stingrays circling before glimpsing a dorsal fin and a long, dark shadow heading towards us. They weren’t tricking……………….. there really was a shark in the bay!

This was the first time I had actually seen a shark from the beach. It wasn’t huge and definitely not a great white, but it looked big enough to leave a mark if you know what I mean! It looked to be around 1.5 – 2m long with quite a long prominent tail. From my limited knowledge and those around, we think it was probably a Bronze Whaler. Whatever it was, it was enough to put me off my swim! It seems someone had been gutting fish earlier in the day attracting it and the stingrays.

River mouth walking

After the excitement and deciding against our swim, we headed for another walk and then to the Augusta Bakery for our last pie before heading home. We parked up at the boat ramp to eat, knowing there is always something to watch when there are boats. Sure enough within a few minutes we spotted some entertainment. I feel awful calling it that because in reality it didn’t look much fun for the two poor men involved. Out in the middle of the river was a stranded tinny with two men attempting to row it in. One with an oar and the other with what looked like the paddle part of an oar, minus the stick.

These were not small chaps and it looked to be rather hard work. It was disappointing to see several boats zoom past them. Not one checking to see if they were ok. It was fairly obvious to us they were not. Anyway, it took them some time but they made it to the jetty with their 1.5 oars and successfully docked (although things were a bit shaky there for a while, one nearly ended up in the drink).

Row row row your boat

Once we made sure they had mobile phones (and a smoke!) we knew they would be okay and it was time to head home to Busselton with the camp site safely booked for 2022.

TTB

Lost in another world: Busselton Jetty with a snorkel

This weekend I have spent some time appreciating my home patch. Saturday morning started with my usual 1.8km swim in the shark net. Although I come down every weekend, I am constantly blown away with how beautiful this place is and this weekend really was extra special. Yet again I found myself snapping away with my camera behaving like a tourist in my home town but I wasn’t the only one….. A Busselton City council worker clearing rubbish was doing the same, seemly blown away by what is effectively her office day in and day out. She greeted us cheerfully as she went on with her work knowing she had the best workplace ever.

Although there is an autumnal chill in the early morning the days are still warm and most importantly the water is still hovering around 22 degrees! This combined with not a breath of wind or swell, made for a magnificent swim and the absolute best start to a weekend. After a swim, walk and coffee we spent the afternoon relaxing and planning for an early Sunday morning snorkel.

Sunrise in paradise

Sunday morning came and we gathered a few friends, a collection of snorkels and wetsuits then headed down our 1.8km jetty ready to immerse ourselves in another world. The sun was out, the sea was flat and conditions were perfect. We chatted as we strolled along, watching dolphins frolicking out to our east and seabirds soaring above. We said hello to fellow walkers and people fishing, all of which sported wide smiles as they enjoyed all that the morning had to offer. It felt like no time and we had reached the end of the jetty where there is a dive platform and underwater observatory for those who want to enjoy the spectacle without getting wet.

Dive platform at the end of Busselton Jetty

When we arrived on the platform there was a scramble of equipment as we squeezed into wetsuits, zipped each other up, adjusted mask straps and hit the water. Some of us waved for the camera (whoops that is me on the left, already off and into another world – my happy place!).

Snorkels on and ready to go – Mum has gone already!

The minute my head entered the water, the worries of the week left and I entered a world where I could be completely free. First up I visited a small friend from a few weeks ago. On the first pylon right near the platform there is a collection of corals that form holes……… and in the holes, live blenny fish. I have always been intrigued by these fish, I first came across them many years ago snorkelling with my Dad. They are so easy to overlook but so interesting to watch should you see one. At first all you can see is a tiny pair of eyes looking at you but as you dive down they often come out of their hole just a little way to greet you, seemingly just as curious about us as we are of them. I introduced my family and friends to Mr Blenny before we swam off in a group towards the spectacular pylons and the underwater observatory.

The colours down there are just breath taking and on a clear day like today we were able to appreciate them in all their glory. The sun shone through the water illuminating the corals allowing the blues, greens, oranges and pinks to stand out against the crystal clear waters. We all pointed things out to each other exclaiming over fish, sponges and corals. There was the unusual sounds of excited snorkel talk, warped and loud! I dove down, down, down to the depths. With each dive I felt better and better equalising my ears, eventually allowing me to dive all the way to the seafloor (about 8m).

The coral colours – photo taken from inside the underwater observatory on my last visit

I was leading the way and suddenly came across what looked (through the shadows) to be a large bed of seagrass or weeds. As I came closer I realised the whole thing was moving and I became momentarily confused before I realised I was on top of the largest school of fish I have ever seen. It seemed to go on forever like a rippling blanket beneath me. I beckoned the others and we all dove down and watched the fish move around us with perfect flow and cohesion. I think they were herring but I can’t be sure, I need to work on my species identification!

We carried on and discovered old ladders and pieces of jetty now covered in coral and home to fish of all kinds. There were little ones, big ones, stripy ones, yellow ones, orange ones, silver ones, black ones, ones with eye patches, blow fish, old wives, angel fish and leather jackets (like I said I really need to brush up on who is who!).

Reluctantly after we did a full circuit it was time to get out as some in the party were feeling cold (we must have been in the water around 45 minutes). The brave decided to swim the 1.8km home, one decided the equipment trolley was the best way back and the rest strolled along in much the same fashion we started the day chatting and discussing things we had seen.

A last minute jetty jump as we passed the jump platform (known to every child in Busselton) and the morning was completed with coffee and chips on the lawn.

The absolute perfect way to spend a weekend in Busselton and the perfect way to clear the mind ready to tackle a new week.

TTB

Travelling the road of life

For quite some time now, I have been feeling uneasy and overwhelmed. It has kind of built up over a few weeks (maybe months) with little niggles and annoyances. Things have been slowly but surely getting on top of me. My mind has felt full and jumbled. I have been unable to think clearly and to remain present in everyday life. I have been racing ahead thinking about what needs to be done, diligently crossing things off and moving forward. All the while, standing completely still in my mind.

Finally I have realised what the problem is…………… or at least part of it.

I have stopped writing.

You see, I felt that the whole essence of my blog was supposed to be about travelling and I wasn’t able to travel. So what would I have to say? My secondary blog entitled ‘Covid Parenting’ seemed equally useless. I mean in reality I have no idea how hard it has been for many parents around the world navigating the challenges of lockdowns, I only had to do it for five weeks!! Again, what did I know, what could I say?

Yet through all this time of writing silence, people have been reading my blogs (The Travel Bee and the old ones from Stressaholics days). I had a hit today on a blog post I wrote almost 3 years ago. I was writing about happiness and satisfaction (Happiness and satisfaction – The Travel Bee). Now three things occurred to me when I saw this:

  1. I have been blogging for more than 3 years!!
  2. Random people actually read my blog (admittedly only a few!).
  3. I actually had a point back then and maybe it would serve me well to go back and reread my own writing! I wrote about finding sparks in everyday life. In reference to my blog I wrote; ‘What matters is that I am doing it, fuelling my spark, and that every time I do, it gives me a little more energy and makes me feel a little more alive.

How have I allowed myself to lose that spark?

I alluded in my blog post at the end of 2020 that changing the name of my blog from ‘Stressaholics Anonymous” to ‘The Travel Bee’ may have been a mistake. I had no idea what the world had install for us back then. I wanted to get away from calling myself a Stressaholic because I firmly believed I had moved past that and I still believe I have. However, ‘The Travel Bee’ name has rather restricted me.

Or perhaps I have been looking at this all wrong. I mean what is life, if it is not a journey? What is a journey if it is not travelling? We are all travelling every day. This realisation means I can actually write about anything!

Travelling the road of life

I listened to a wonderful podcast the other day called Happy Place. Fern Cotton was interviewing Robbie Williams. We all know Robbie and his music. We all know he has been through some troubled times but what I took away from this particular interview, is that we are all human and humans have a fundamental flaw. We are never satisfied.

We keep thinking if I just get past this or I just achieve this, then everything will be alright. Of course this is not true because all that happens is we find something else we want! We are in a permanent state of dissatisfaction. To top it off, we forget things! We must constantly remind ourselves of the things that matter, what makes us tick and that we will make mistakes BECAUSE WE ARE HUMAN!

It also reminded me that whether we are famous, in high power jobs or the average person going about our day, we face many of the same challenges day in and day out. We have to find the things that are unique to us and feed them in order to make us feel alive and with direction. We also have to realise that happiness is not a constant, it is not something we can achieve and expect it to stay that way forever, we have to work constantly just to feel okay.

For me, writing is an important part of that process and not one I should sideline just because it doesn’t fit nicely in a box or blog title. It is a spark I should fuel, not for anyone else but for me. It doesn’t matter what other people think of it or whether anyone reads it. It matters only what it does for me.

TTB

Woody Island – Recherche Archipelago – Western Australia

On Sunday we had the opportunity to head out on a boat and investigate some of the islands of the Recherche Archipelago. We chose a Woody Island Eco tour which would include looking out for some local wildlife and a guided bush walk. It was a dull morning as we left Taylor’s jetty in Esperance but the wind was low. With a couple of seasick types in our midst, we knew a low wind and swell was more important than sunshine. In the end we got both (and no sickness).

Esperance Harbour

First up, we headed towards Thomas Island in search of some sea lions. As we approached the island there seemed to be nothing but rocks, then the guide called out that he could see a sea lion dead ahead. As we got closer we saw a blob on the rocks and no movement whatsoever. Master 13 piped up ‘Is it dead?. Momentarily the guide himself did look a little worried but then we pulled up alongside and he gave a sharp clap. The sea lion lifted it’s head as much to say ‘What do you want? Don’t you know it is 9:30am on Sunday morning?’. It was indeed alive.

Sunday morning slumber

From here our attention turned to the sky where we had two White Bellied Sea Eagles circling above us. What amazing creatures these are riding the thermals with ease. One of the guides threw a fish and we watched as the eagle swooped down for his breakfast. Unfortunately my photography skills were not quite up to scratch and I was unable to capture the eagle in all of it’s glory. After a quick circle around Seal rock where we saw another five sea lions we headed into Shearwater Bay on Woody Island.

Shearwater Bay – Woody Island

Once we arrived in the bay and disembarked onto the jetty, I was amazed to see the staff onboard our boat jump into action in various different roles cooking lunches, preparing for guided walks and taking gear up to the huts and tents for those staying overnight. In the meantime, we headed up to the visitors centre for a gaze over the beautiful bay while enjoying a coffee and muffin before getting the call to assemble for our guided walk.

Over the next hour and a half we walked the tracks of the island and listened to stories of it’s history. The walk itself was a reasonably good work out and included what the guide referred to as ‘heart attack hill’, a steep incline up to the peak where we had lovely views over the surrounding islands. Miss 10 the ‘mountain goat’ had no trouble with this at all and beat the rest of the family up the hill. She enjoyed feeding the skinks and hearing about the story behind a rocky bank on the edge of the island called ‘Twiggy’s landing’.

Twiggy was a dog who was lost at sea one day while his owner (Mr Mackenzie who also happened to be the owner of Woody Island) was out fishing on his boat. After many weeks of searching for Twiggy on surrounding islands, all hope was lost. A few months passed and one day a visitor to the island told of a dog residing on the far side. It turns out Twiggy had survived his ordeal and was living on lizards and rainwater. Mr Mackenzie left out a few juicy steaks for Twiggy which disappeared but without sight of the dog. One day as the boat was packed up ready to head to the mainland, Twiggy arrived on the jetty and jumped aboard, his island adventure complete.

Lizard feeding

To conclude our day trip we had some lunch back in the visitors centre while other members of our tour had a swim. The bay looked to be a great sheltered place to snorkel with some interesting cave formations right on the waters edge. Our family chose to have a day out of the water but felt that this would be a great place to come back and spend a few nights in one of the glamping tents or huts.

Incidentally, we were very impressed with our deckhand’s cooking skills who at 1:20pm made their way back down onto the jetty for our return to Esperance. We were a well behaved mob and everyone was onboard ready to depart at 1:30pm much to the staff’s relief, I am sure they were due a break!

The view as we motored back to Esperance

Another thoroughly enjoyable day.

TTB

Lucky Bay – Cape Le Grand National Park – Western Australia

Well one thing is for sure, you certainly feel lucky when you find yourself on this beach. It really is sublime. The colours are truly picture perfect; pure white sand and the ocean an array of blues and aqua. Several times I have had to take off my sunglasses just to check there isn’t some kind of trick or optical illusion. We have made two trips out to Lucky Bay in the Cape Le Grand National Park which is around 64km east of Esperance. It is well worth the 45 minute drive and $15 entry fee into the park.

I think the thing that makes this place so attractive, is the ability to take your car right down onto the beach. This means everything is accessible, which is particularly attractive when you have children. There is no need to worry about lumping your Esky down steps or trudging through soft sand when someone leaves their hat in the car, everything is right there (providing you packed it in the first place!). You can even slide the gazebo out of the car and pop it up to provide shelter from the midday sun.

Lucky Bay (the photos do not do it justice)

There are several other things that make this beach different. The first is the sand. Not only is it the whitest, it is the finest I have ever come across and it does a few strange things………… it squeaks when you walk on it and it clumps when it gets wet. It actually resembles and behaves, quite like snow but without the chill factor! This provides hours of fun for the kids making videos of squeaky sand, building sand castles and burying oneself.

Sand or snow?

Lucky Bay is also famous for it’s visiting Kangaroos. They are very tame and more than happy to be around eager tourists. Local guide books and tourist information do tell you not to feed them but I am quite sure some people do. Although we weren’t ‘lucky’ enough to have any visit our day camp, we did see one and it’s joey sheltering under a Landcruiser as we wandered along the sand to the next unique thing about this beach….. the Lucky Bean – a coffee van!

Now this is pure perfection. Coffee, beach, chair, shade and happy kids …………… what a combination! I do just have to add, it is the most expensive coffee we have had for a long time (perhaps ever) but I guess you are paying for the remoteness and the experience. It was worth every cent. The water itself at Lucky Bay was lovely and we spent hours throwing the skim ball and frisbee around in the shallows. Recent shark sightings did mean deeper swims were only on the agenda for dare devils though!

Much nearer to Esperance itself, you can find the relatively new Lucky Bay Brewery. Whether you choose to do this on your way home from Cape Le Grand National park or on a different day as we did, we do recommend a visit to this place. To start with, the beers are very good. Apparently this is something to do with their use of locally farmed barley. They are the only brewery in Western Australia that are able to do this as most of the grain grown in WA is exported. Whatever the secret, it is a really nice brew.

We were lucky enough to visit on a day they had visiting caterers in the form of Kamal’s Paella. Our kids were introduced to this Spanish treat and immediately fell in love with it. This made for a happy family with full tummies. The usual menu does however also look good, as does the live music schedule. Overall, it is a very relaxing place to chill out after a day at the beach or after a 4WD adventure.

Seafood Paella

One thing is certain, Lucky Bay is definitely going to go down as one of The Travel Bee’s favourite spots for a chilled day out.

TTB

Esperance – Great Southern – Western Australia

We have so far had three epic days here enjoying Esperance and in particular the Southern Ocean. We started with the Great Ocean Drive early on Monday morning. This is a 40km loop that was perfect to introduce us to the area and help us gain our bearings. We cruised along the coast checking out each beach and analysing what it had to offer. Within the first five minutes, Master 13 had found his body boarding beach and sat agitated, longing to hit the waves. We persuaded him it would be worth checking the whole area out including a pie from the bakery before getting wet, which seemed to plicate him.

At each lookout we had to take a photo. The beaches here are absolutely stunning and each is different. The cliffs, reefs and rocky outcrops vary so much and make for some striking scenery. The colour of the water is out of this world ranging from a deep dark blue to the lightest of aqua and every hue in between. Apart from the beaches, the drive also takes you past the Esperance Docks, Wind Farm (which we are yet to visit) and Pink Lake which is no longer pink but still quite picturesque (just don’t park beside the rubbish bin like we did!).

Pink Lake

Our AirBnb Seascapes Beach House is perfectly situated just off Twilight Beach road at West Beach. This beach is unique in its reef formation which provides a protected pool, a small break of waves between the two sections of reef and some great snorkelling (yet to be done, but it is on the list). Blue Haven just around the corner is a deep dark blue bay and these are both within walking distance from the house. There is a beautiful dual access coast path which the kids have enjoyed riding their bikes along while we stroll.

West Beach
Blue Haven

Around the corner from Blue Haven is Fourth Beach now commonly known as the ‘Bee bodyboard beach’ (yes this is the beach Master 13 spotted). There are several carparks along this stretch but our favourite is the first carpark. Here there is a lookout perched high on the cliff, perfect for Nan to watch the action and a rather crumbly track down onto the beach. The swell here is relatively small when compared to Yallingup and Margaret River. However, this is perfect for the kids to learn. So far, there has been hours of fun here and I dare say there will be many more. Getting the kids out of the water is the tricky bit, in the end it is only hunger that pulls them out.

Fourth Beach

Another plus for me, is that further around this same bay is Twilight Beach. This is probably the most popular family beach as it is safe and sheltered, with some interesting rock formations for swimmers to jump off. There is a surf club, surf lifesavers (although as I found out today, they are only there on Saturday and Sundays), two shark beacons and a shark siren……………………. I chose here to have my first open water swim. Once the beach had filled I felt safe enough to get in and had a great 2km swim, one direction was tough against the current and the other I could switch on auto pilot and cruise through the clearest water ever.

So far it seems there is something for everyone here (at least in the Bee family!). The town itself has everything we need with several supermarkets which I have found are best visited before 4pm after which you compete with the hoards of tourists who have just come back from their daytrips or days at the beach! The main street is mostly 1960s brick buildings that house all one would need when they realise their wetsuits no longer fit or a beach cricket set is required or a different item of clothing is needed. There is ample selection of restaurants, takeaway food and the all important coffee!

It seems Esperance is definitely worth the 700km journey.

TTB

Great Aussie road trip – Busselton to Esperance WA

Finally……. here we are on holiday! It isn’t quite what we had planned for January 2021, but it is a getaway nonetheless and for that we are grateful. Sri Lanka and the Maldives will have to wait but will give us something to look forward to when this pandemic is all over. For my family and friends stuck in lockdowns or battling health problems, I hope that my blogs over the next few days will transport you out of your living room and into the beauty that is Western Australia so that you too can enjoy what WA has to offer.

Yesterday, we set out from Busselton at 7am ready to drive some 700km south east to Esperance in the Great Southern region of WA. The Travel Bee mobile was loaded to the brim with beach gear including chairs, umbrellas, body boards, snorkels, bathers, rashies, wetsuits and flippers. Inside the cab we had snacks, audiobooks, games and music. We were set for another great Aussie road trip.

Now, one might think that an eight hour journey across anywhere in Australia would be boring. You imagine long plains of brown grass, red dirt, sand and not much else……………….. perhaps a few kangaroos. Yes, there were kangaroos and yes there was brown grass but we did see a few things to capture our attention along the way.

The first, was the flocks of brown sheep (very unlike the shampooed version of sheep in New Zealand!) huddled together under the smallest patches of shade. They looked so funny all squished up and I imagined how hot it would be under all that wool with the harsh Australian sun beating down. Then one of the sheep spotted the farmer’s ute coming. He jumped up to head towards breakfast and in true sheep style the rest all followed. It was quite entertaining, watching these animals run like maniacs after their leader.

Next we saw the weird silhouettes of the Porongurups burst their way out of the ground and onto our horizon. This is one of the very few ‘mountain ranges’ of Western Australia. They are actually large granite domes that only rise 670m (again I compare something to New Zealand and conclude these are not really mountains but more like………. bumps). They are however, over one billions years old making them the oldest range in the world!!

Miss 10 and I were also entertained by the Giant (or Humongous) Jenga stacks of hay bails and the strange trees that looked like exotic mushrooms, with long naked trunks and branches and only a few leaves on top. All the way, we were reminded how scary it can be in outback Australia with evidence of many bushfires.

We took note of the town names and tried to work out their meaning. Most are named by the Noongar people who are the native Aboriginals in the south west of WA. In their language the suffix ‘up’ means ‘place of’ and a good portion of the towns included this term. Boyanup, Mumballup, Noggerup, Kojonup, Gnowangerup, Jerramungup. We were also counting the towns we passed but when Miss 10 took a nap we lost count! I think it was about 12.

We made one significant stop in Kojonup. ‘Kodja’ refers to the stone axe made by Aboriginal people from the stone in this area. We had been recommended the Black cockatoo cafe where we enjoyed a coffee and homemade sausage roll before checking out the native rose bush maze. This followed the story of three local women and would be very interesting if you had the time to read all the information.

After some 9 hours we made it to our destination of Esperance. Not one game was played, the audiobooks were not listened to and there was very little music heard or snacks eaten. As it turns out, there are plenty of things to keep your attention while travelling in Australia.

TTB

Goodbye 2020 from Geographe Bay – Western Australia

It has been a tough year for travel blogging (and just about everything else!). I started with some writing about Japan, a wonderful ski trip we were lucky enough to enjoy just before our world changed. Then I wrote of my experiences home schooling and a short trip to Pemberton before trying out my ‘virtual travel blog’.

‘Virtual’ writing just wasn’t the same. There was a lot of research and with research comes referencing. In the end it felt like I was writing an assignment for school or university and we all know, assignments are a chore. Blogging was never meant to be anything I felt I had to force myself to do. The whole reason I love to blog is because there is no right or wrong, it is just my thoughts and observations gathered together for myself and others to enjoy. It isn’t to regurgitate what others have already said.

Geographe Bay looking towards Dunsborough and Cape Leeuwin

This time last year I was excitedly putting the finishing touches to my new website and blog ‘The Travel Bee’. I shut down my old ‘Stressaholics’ blog and filed my previous entries (that could pass as travel writing) into categories, as I dreamed of the trips we had planned for 2020 and 2021. I couldn’t wait to write about the destinations we were travelling to and to share it with friends and family. Little did I realise that our January trip to Japan would be the last overseas holiday for a very long time and that travel writing was about to become very hard indeed. As it turns out ‘Stressaholics’ may have in fact been a more fitting blog for 2020, but I believed I was leaving my stress behind!

Within weeks of our return we were thrown into a world of lockdowns, masks, hand sanitiser, travel restrictions and social distancing. Terms we had never heard of suddenly became everyday talk. Some eleven months down the track and we seem no better off (on a world scale that is). Yes, we have a vaccine but we all know it will take time for this to be rolled out in our country let alone the world. In the meantime we battle on, listening to frightening statistics and news of outbreaks, hoping the next one isn’t in our own backyard.

Shark net swimming area Busselton foreshore

So as 2020 draws to a close, I am sharing with you a selection of photos I have taken here in my own backyard over the last few weeks. Every time I go down to the beach it blows me away how beautiful this place is and I often find myself clicking away as if I was a tourist. The beach, the ocean, the sky and the wildlife. Each day is new, fresh and exciting. This is a place to forget about Covid-19 and the dramas of 2020.

Cloud magic over Busselton jetty
West Australian emblem black swans cruising the bay

I don’t know what 2021 holds for me or my blogging nor for our world and the curse that is Covid-19. I do know that this year has taught us so many things, not the least of which, is that we have to enjoy every moment we are given. We don’t know what is around the corner. We can’t wait for things to change or get better, we have to find meaning and satisfaction in our daily life.

A cloudy day skiing on the bay

‘ We are not all in the same boat. We are in the same storm. Some have yachts, some canoes and some are drowning. Just be kind and help whoever you can’ don Miguel Ruiz Jr.

We have all had so much taken away from us this year, but this experience has been different for everyone. Some have coped well and others have not. Some have felt they are in their canoe with no paddle, others completely paralysed with no direction whatsoever.

The only way forward is to be making constant readjustments in direction. There are many ways to get to the things we want in life and mostly it isn’t via a straight line. I for one, have always wanted to take the straight line approach and get annoyed when my straight line becomes bendy. I feel like someone is out to get me or that I have done something wrong. This year has been a good lesson in showing me that we are all subject to the bends. No one could get anywhere in a straight line in 2020!

Underwater observatory Busselton Jetty

2021 is our chance for some new hope. We know there will be bends in the road and some big mountains placed in our way, but 2020 has surely given us new skills in negotiating these obstacles. My wish for 2021 is that things ease up for my family and friends that are doing it tough, that we can all make wonderful memories, even in the bad times and that each day we grow stronger and more resilient.

Just like each new day in Geographe Bay, here’s to a new, fresh and exciting year. One filled with hope, kindness and a whole lot less pain.

TTB

The Maldives – virtual adventure – Part 1

First up on my travel wish list is the Maldives. We had a trip booked to the Maldives and Sri Lanka for January 2021 but Covid-19 had other plans for us. Our dreams of an exotic island getaway and safari are now on hold for the foreseeable future.

Fortunately, we saw the writing on the wall months ago and booked a ‘back up’ holiday within Western Australia. We are looking forward to our visit to Esperance in a couple of months and I to the prospect of some real-life travel writing. It will even entail a few similar details with pristine beaches and clear waters, unfortunately no elephants or leopards though.

But…….. for now I am on a ‘virtual’ mission to learn more about the Maldives.

Image care of: https://www.ttgasia.com/2020/06/01/maldives-outlines-guidelines-for-reopening-of-resorts/

The picture says it all. Sun, sand and sea……… three of my absolute favourite things in the world. Throw in some coral, fish, a snorkel and some good food and I am truly in heaven. These are the reasons I have wanted for many years, to visit the Maldives. I imagine stepping off my own jetty and immersing myself into a world of colour, life and intrigue. One that is so far removed from normal life, I will be able to think of nothing but what is in front of me.

There will be lots of ‘oooos and ahhhs’ from the children and we will madly try to get each others attention to point out fish, wonderful coral and sea turtles. In the evening, we will shower and stroll along the board walk to indulge ourselves in a scrumptious dinner. We will chat about the amazing creatures we saw and plan for windsurfing lessons and snorkel tours. Then we will sleep like babies to the sound of water gently lapping beneath us.

Sounds amazing right??……

Until recently I hadn’t really thought about the logistics of how all that happens. Things like………………. how there is even electricity on an island in the middle of the ocean? how does the food come in? how do guests get their fresh water to drink? how do we even get to these remote places? is travelling here sustainable? This week I switched my bedtime reading to research on the Maldives and in particular how this tiny nation is coping amid our rapidly changing world.

The answer is not too well. If I could have picked any destination in the world to blog about the impacts of climate change, I could not have picked one that is more affected. Some predict, that if sea levels continue to rise at current rates, 75% of the Maldives will be under water by 2100.

Heaven ……. gone. Just like that.

As a nation that produces very little carbon emissions themselves, Maldivians must feel pretty miffed that they are going to be affected by the rest of the world’s choices in such a catastrophic way. To top it off, they are by no means a rich nation. In the past, other more affluent nations such as Japan, have helped build sea walls for the capital of Male. Today, the Maldives is still classified a ‘developing’ country. Although they do get funding from the United Nations ‘Green Climate Fund’ and their economy has greatly improved in the last couple of decades (with an increase in tourism) it still might not be enough to build the sea walls required to protect the islands from rising sea levels.

I should stop here and let you know some important figures. The Maldives are a collection of island in the Indian Ocean off the southern tip of India. The country is made up of 26 atolls or groups of islands. In total there are around 1190 islands (yes you read that right!) of which, almost 200 are inhabited. Now you should have some idea of why it is so difficult to protect this place.

In 2008 the Maldivian president at the time sensationally looked into purchasing a new homeland, to move his citizens and basically just let the islands sink (apparently a piece of Australia was even considered!!) This idea has since been shelved, but it just illustrates how bad the situation is and how long we have known there is a major problem. Today’s ideas are focusing more on increasing revenue through tourism and selling off islands privately. The government is also looking at moving residents onto fewer islands, condensing the population and thereby reducing the number of islands that need protection.

From what I have read, it seems difficult to come up with a consensus on what should happen. There are ‘catch-22s’ with any of these solutions. Increased tourism means increased flights, bigger airport, more land clearance, more carbon emissions, more demand for water. The list goes on. But the question remains, where else can they generate the necessary revenue? In the end it will likely be a combination of tactics.

One thing is for sure, the tourism industry is mighty important to the Maldives’ economy and accounts for around 39% of the GDP with fishing coming in as the second largest industry. As you can imagine, the absolute last thing this country needed right now was a pandemic!! Just when the country’s economy was improving, Covid-19 is likely to again force this country back into some hard times. It is clear to me, that when we can, we should still go and support this little country that depends so much on tourist dollars. If we don’t………… well, they might literally sink (and I might cry).

In my next installment I will discuss how the resorts on these tiny remote islands are doing their part to reduce their carbon emissions, helping to regenerate the coral reefs and assist in protecting the fishing industry.

The Virtual Travel Bee

https://amp.theguardian.com/environment/2017/mar/03/maldives-plan-to-embrace-mass-tourism-sparks-criticism-and-outrage

https://blogs.worldbank.org/endpovertyinsouthasia/bracing-climate-change-matter-survival-maldives

https://www.oyster.com/articles/17-things-we-wish-we-knew-before-we-went-to-the-maldives/

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2125198-on-front-line-of-climate-change-as-maldives-fights-rising-seas/

https://mobile.reuters.com/article/amp/idUSKBN1ZG0XS

https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/01/23/maldives-protect-mangroves-further-loss

https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/what-are-the-biggest-industries-in-maldives.html