New Year’s Eve, Phillip Island…

After a sorcher of a Christmas Day in Melbourne (36c!) we took off in search of sea-breeze for a mini-break on Phillip Island. Here are our top 5 discoveries… (without even a mention of its famous tourist hotspot; the Penguin Parade)

1) Orange, almond & ricotta gelato from Pino’s Trattoria, Cowes
2) Old fashioned milkshakes in the retro Silverleaves General Store & Cafe
3) Cape Woolamai Pinnacles walk
4) Tasty Greek food at The Goat in the Boat 
5) Discovering how relaxing life is when you holiday with extended family. Namely having grandma, aunties, uncles & cousins on tap to entertain your toddler! It was one of our tamer New Year’s Eves (in bed by the stroke of midnight) but just as well with baby #2 due any day now…

 

Our Belizean Wedding…

20151228_191726.jpgIf we had a dollar for every friend and family member that asked ‘Why Belize?’ we’d be a very rich couple. Our wedding – or more of an elopement really – was low key, no shoes, no fuss, completely unique and absolutely perfect for us.

The answer is; because it’s slightly off the radar, it’s hard to get to, it’s legally straightforward (for an English / Australian couple) and home to one of the best scuba diving sites in the world at The Blue Hole.

Our venue; Xanadu Resort in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, was a rare combination of luxury and ramshackle. It was beachfront and rustic, with flawless customer service. Plus, we will forever enjoy singing the Olivia Newton John classic hit every time we fondly think of it.

Highlights included screaming with laughter as we jumped from the Xanadu pier into the warm Caribbean at sunset (i’m a less than $100 dress kind of gal.) Our wedding brunch was local jerk chicken from Robin’s roadside hut, and dinner featured rum chocolate cake & cerviche from the candle lit Hidden Treasures restaurant. We discovered it down a back alley the day before when they let us shelter from a thunderstorm. We successfully and gracefully perfected the art of releasing Chinese lanterns after many a glass of champagne. Finally our wedding photographer Efrain was all sorts of awesome in indulging my requests for NatGeo style travel shots in our location shoots in downtown Belize City and Mayan temple Altun Ha. I just couldn’t resist a cheeky homage to travel Instagrammer #followmeto.

 

 

 

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Pic of the week; Brighton Beach

The colourful walk from Foreshore Reserve to Brighton Outdoor Baths, shared with only a handful of kite-surfers on a quiet weekday. Despite the Australian flags, the beach reminds me more than ever of her English namesake. No one does kitsch retro seaside quite like Blighty!

The Great Ocean Road & 12 Apostles

How do you top last year’s birthday at Marina Bay Sands? You can’t really! So this year the theme was nature, and the mission; to see a wild koala. So we set out for 48 hours along Australia’s Great Ocean Road. Here are 8 gems we found along the way…

1) Queenscliff – A nice beach-side picnic spot if like me, you can’t wait to tuck into the picnic just 2 hours out of Melbourne.  Great views of Sorrento across the bay.

2) Torquay – The real ‘surfers paradise’ with tons of surf brand outlet stores. You can pick up Quicksilver bikini’s for $10. Perhaps not the ideal purchase when 6 months pregnant, but such a bargain I couldn’t resist. The Imperial Rhino cafe’s menu tells you everything you need to know about this town; ‘Berocca over ice’ for weekend hangovers.

3) Apollo Bay – Packed with tourists year-round, so lots of cute coffee shops & a small Sunday farmers market. If you want to stay off the beaten track however check out….

4) … Yuulong – One of the best Air B & B’s we’ve ever stayed in. Michelle’s rustic countryside home could be straight out of Grand Designs. It took 20 years to build (the wooden beams were shipped in from the old Sydney pier!) The breakfast & views are out of this world.

5) 12 Apostles – There are only 8 left but they still attract 2 million visitors per year! Loch Ard Gorge is the best spot for walking trails. A winter version of Maya Bay.

6) L’Artisan Cheese Cafe – A beautiful stop if you travel inland along the Timboon Road. They do tastings & lunch platters in the garden from $15pp. http://www.lartisancheese.com.au/

7) Timboon Railway Shed Distillery – Whilst you’re in ‘tasting mode’ stop for free samples of fruit vodka & the creamiest chocolate liqueur. We bought a bottle an anticipation for baby’s arrival 3 months from now.

8) Great Otway National Park – Last but not least, this place is koala spotting  heaven. Mission accomplished for another year.

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The Maldives on a budget…

 

The Babymoon. My new favorite concept in travel. It’s that window between 12 – 24 weeks in your second trimester where you’re still energised. The ‘last time’ you and baby-dadda will ever have the freedom to holiday for while. Ha – Who are we kidding! But it’s the perfect excuse for country #62… The Maldives.

If anywhere lives up to the google image of itself, it’s here. #NoFilter – sums it up perfectly. We chose Rasdhoo island, because of it’s proximity to the hammerhead shark dive site. A place where you can see black tip reef sharks, turtles & sting rays whilst snorkeling at 5 meters. It reminded us of Malupascua and/or the Gili Islands. No cars, 6 guesthouses, 3 restaurants, 2 stray wooden sun-loungers & 12 or so tourists, max.

Our top 5 Maldives survival items; 1) A gripping book (Gillian Flynn’s brilliant Gone Girl) 2) Snorkel 3) Travel scrabble 4) deck of cards.

wpid-img_20141112_170129.jpgAnd 5) As it turns out…. an engagement ring for a surprise proposal on the beautiful Mandivaru sandbank island!

Come on, it’s the MALDIVES & we’re both beach-bums at heart. We had to really :) X

 

The practical stuff

wpid-img-20141112-wa0002.jpgOn a budget

When I say budget, I mean we spent less than $1000 USD  for 7 nights. (Total, not per person.) The price of an average resort is $1050 USD per night! It’s not quite backpacker prices but it’s definitely do-able on a budget. Not just because alcohol is banned, although this helps on the old purse-strings.

As a rough guide:

Flights: $280 USD return pp from Singapore – Tiger Airlines
Rasdhoo Island Inn $26 USD per room including all taxes. Highly recommended
Food: $5 – 6 USD for pp for noodles or rice (your only option!)
Ripple Beach Hulhumale $72 USD per night.
Seahouse Topdeck Villingili $50 USD per night.
Scuba Diving: $60 per dive at Atoll Divers. Great instructors. Ask for Ronny.
Day trip to picnic island: $20 USD per person

M3Which island to choose…?

The Maldives has around 5 ‘inhabitable islands’ which have recently opened up to tourism, meaning you can now DIY your own trip at guesthouses instead of the all-inclusive resorts. However piecing together the ferry schedules is half the battle in picking your island.

The public Rasdhoo ferry is dirt cheap at less than $5 USD for a 3 hour ride. It runs x3 times a week, just not in harmony with Tiger Airline’s flights. A private speedboat to Rasdhoo costs $450 – 500 USD or the seaplane similar at $250 USD per person. We booked a shared speedboat through out guesthouse for $40 USD one way pp, leaving 3 times a week from Male South West Harbour. Forget the chaos ‘Fiji/island time’, our boat (The Crystalline) was super smooth & super punctual, taking exactly 1h 20 mins Male to Rasdhoo.

wpid-img_20141108_195310.jpgMale, Hulhumale & Villingili…

Be warned; The entire country grinds to a halt for Muslim prayer time. Male has to be the only airport with zero taxis, since we arrived during Friday prayer. If you’re at a resort you get to do the super cool exit; dashing straight from arrivals into a speedboat, which practically meets you off the tarmac. If you’re like us, you’ll need a extra night in Male either side of your flight. It’s a good excuse to check out two more islands; Hulhumale and Villingili. Both are rustic, local, worth checking out for half a day, but somewhat overpriced at $60 USD+ for hotels. Villingili was the nicer of the two for it’s house reef & decent restaurant; xhi xhi.

Male city itself is tiny, busy, colourful, nothing to get excited about. Our only notable hour there was to hit up HSBC, which surprisingly only dispenses Rufiyaa not USD. You can use either currency everywhere and ask for change in whatever you prefer. Shops give a good rate of 14 or 15 Rufiyaa to the USD.

wpid-img_20141111_163614.jpgThe Verdict…

Traveling the Maldives independently was interesting, budget-friendly, and above all; easy to do! It’s a friendly, punctual and hassle free in a way that many South East Asia countries have lost over the years. What’s intriguing is that on the DIY islands locals absolutely don’t pander to tourists in anyway. You feel welcome but it’s not ALL about you, which is relaxing, refreshing or maybe just more real than most holidays.

As for the baby/pregnancy factor; it’s perfect, if you don’t mind the odd speedboat & reef shark! And besides, when in your life do you ever want to be on a tropical island and not mind that it’s alcohol free!

Previous Older Entries

An.an.tas.in : The Anantasin is the name of a shipwreck just of the coast of the Sensi Parasise, Mae Haad Bay, Koh Tao, Thailand. It’s one of my many favorite places.

Lit.tle: Just because it’s cute.

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