a day before winter in Bondi Beach

It’s the last day of the autumn months (Mar/Apr/May) and one day before winter sets in (Jun/Jul/Aug) and the weather is phenomenal, don’t you wish you were here in Bondi?

Bondi Beach iphoneography
stunning weather at Bondi in the day before winter

It’s not really a secret that we have a pretty good climate here in Sydney. Some years it’s just better (or worse) than others. The current weather is bright blue skies, highs of 20&#8451 -23&#8451 , crisp overnights at 10&#8451-14&#8451, on the coast at least. I’m loving it – here’s some more of today’s iphoneography to enjoy:

Bondi Beach iphoneography
the ocean pool at Bronte in stunning sunshine the day before winter
Bondi Beach iphoneography
Attack of the killer seagulls (I really don’t like seagulls)
Bondi Beach iphoneography
fishing off a ledge near Tamarama
Bondi Beach iphoneography
light filtered through this leafy street

And here’s a few more shots of the rest of this week of Bondi in the evening sun, in the gallery below.






The Unbearable Lightness of Bondi Beach

I know, I know, it’s a very lame pun. But a daily view of Bondi Beach is a marvellous thing to live with. It’s the same view coated in an endless variety of light and colour. So I thought it was time to share a few with you.

For the last two months I’ve been focused on the Rugby World Cup – the rugby and the beer and the flights every weekend and the parties in NZ and all the work in between. So to get myself blogging again, I am literally posting about view out my front door.

From stormy skies to brilliant greens and blues

From grey and silver to pink and orange, the prettiest of palettes

and the moon at all hours of the day and night.

Photofriday: Round: Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi

Bondi Sculpture by the Sea
Bondi Sculpture by the Sea


I love the Sculpture by the Sea exhibition in October every year, with the sculptures all displayed along the Bondi to Bronte cliff walk, with the gorgeous ocean as the backdrop. This sculpture from 2006 was one of my favourites.

This will be my last blog for a few weeks, I am off to Tanzania, including parts without wifi and internet access!

Tangalooma – a tropical trip back in time

Shall I tell you a secret – a really well kept secret? There is an island, a tropical playground only 75 minutes by ferry from Brisbane. I’m talking about Tangalooma Island resort, on Moreton Bay island just off the coast from Brisbane. In my ten years in Australia I’d say that pretty much every local and about 50% of imports and visitors I have talked to have heard of Moreton Bay Island, and yet I can count on one hand the number of people I’ve come across who’ve heard of Tangalooma. I suspect if I lived in Brisbane that number might be higher, but for the rest of us, its been a secret for far too long.

Tangalooma Island Resort, a trip back to the seventies.

Moreton Bay Island is a large sand island surrounded by beautiful shallow turquoise water teeming with sea life. Its 95% National Park, so if you are on Moreton Bay island its likely that you are at the Tangalooma Island Resort. In spite of their excellent efforts to modernise the accommodations, what I love about Tangalooma is how it feels like a step back into a good seventies motel. Here’s a holiday spot where I can embrace my inner bogan. Bring out your beer brand t-shirts, your hawaiian shirts, your tracky-dacs or your checked bush shirt and you will feel right at home here. I order a XXXX Gold – no,  I don’t have a choice, its the only beer on tap – at least it is lovely and cold. I mull over my choice of fish and chips, pizza or meat pie for dinner, order from behind the bar, sit outside in the beer garden, watch the sky turn deep orange and realise I really don’t need any other mod cons.


It may be the 1970s but there is a raft of brilliant things for us to do. First off we are staying on a beautiful sheltered white sand beach with calm shallow clear blue waters. As well as swimming, we can snorkel, kayak, or go for a ride on a water trike (giant three wheeled floating tractor for those who haven’t yet had this thrill). Around the resort there is tennis and archery. Heading inland there is sand tobogganing and quad biking. But we are looking at the sea, so we head off for an afternoon of whale watching. The boat heads around to the seaward side of the ocean, where from June to October each year the humpbacks migrate right past the island. We see a lot of humpbacks, including a few that come right up and swim under and around us, slapping their tails, blowing through their blow holes, but sadly no spectacular breaches today.

Hand feeding wild dolphins.

Night-time brings the most unusual entertainment – hand feeding the wild dolphins. Now this doesn’t immediately sound very ecologically sound to us, but we are reassured that it is in fact a highly controlled program, only about 11 of the population of around 600 local wild bottlenose dolphins participate (at their choice), and they are all feed only a small proportion of their daily requirements so that it doesn’t stop their normal hunting and feeding patterns. Re-assured that we are not doing anything bad, we line up for the process of dolphin feeding, which goes like this:

  1. Strip down to swimwear.
  2. Stand under a cold shower and make sure we’ve washed off any trace of mossie repellant, sunscreen, moisturiser or any other lotions and potions, as these can irritate the dolphins.
  3. Stand in a queue waiting our turn, getting colder and colder  – warm sunny day has turned into cold windy night
  4. Wash hands again in a special antibacterial solution to ensure we don’t pass any bugs on to the dolphin
  5. Pick up nasty slimy smelly fish from bucket and try and hold in the approved fashion, which is “just like an icecream “, the head is poking out toward the sky and the tail resting in my palm, as apparently dolphins prefer to munch their fish head first.
  6. Then its my turn and I shuffle forward hip deep in the cold water with one of the biologists, hold my fish a foot under the surface, and wait while one of the dolphins swims up and and swallows it straight out of my hand. I notice what big teeth it has as it opens its mouth wide.
  7. There is a strict no touching rule (we can’t touch the dolphin) but the dolphins have their own rules, and my dolphin starts nudging my shin – the biologist says it OK so I stand there with it nudging me until it gets bored at my refusal to play, and off it swims – the whole time I am desperately trying to stop myself from reaching in and giving it a huge hug – dolphins do have that effect on us humans!
  8. We wade back onto the beach and start dancing around in excitement – again its that joyful effect dolphins seem to have on us.


Dugong spotting.

In the morning we go for a walk up to the northern end of the beach, where there is a large man-made ship graveyard just offshore. This has been created deliberately in recent decades, and has turned into a spectacular dive and snorkel spot, with rusting skeletons of boats in shallow clear warm waters housing a colourful parade of fishes and sea life.
Then we jump on another boat to go Dugong spotting. Dugongs are a protected species, are notoriously shy, and can swim a long time under water without having to come up for a breath, so they can be hard to find. Thats why we head to the sand banks, in some very shallow water between Moreton island and the mainland, as it is easier to spot them when they are close to the surface. The dugong are large, up to 3 metres long, and have a rather ugly bulbous head which rather belies their legend of being the animal that made sailors think they had seen a mermaid. But when spooked they can instantly accelerate and speed off like a missile, no speed boat has a hope of keeping up with them. So both we and our boat try and stay as quiet as we can, and we are rewarded with a mass of sightings, pod after pod of dozens of dugongs, and we are under their spell for the next couple of hours, watching as much of their antics as they will let us.
As the afternoon shadows lengthen, we head back to the jetty and are soon on the ferry and heading home to Brisbane, very happy with our sea mammal encounters for the weekend.

There’s more to Gold Coast than the glitter


Gold Coast, living on the canals
Gold Coast, living on the canals

Meter maids in gold bikini’s, schoolies on drinking binges, leather skinned woman of a certain age in tight white jeans,  plastic surgery outcomes on display everywhere – the tacky glitz and glam is something you either love or hate. But is there more to the Gold Coast than it’s popular image?

I didn’t think so but this weekend has convinced me that there is another Gold Coast and it’s one I like. My sister and I spend the weekend visiting our very charming cousins, Jill and Ernie. They have a house on the canals just ten minutes inland from Broadbeach on the Gold Coast. It is huge and modern and spacious with a gorgeous swimming pool in a tranquil river corner setting. Apart from wandering through the tropical botanical gardens just five minutes away, it would be easy to just stay here in on the loungers in the sun, especially as Ernie is such a great cook! But we drag ourselves out for some sightseeing.

Gold Coast, The Spit
Gold Coast, The Spit

Gold Coast – the northern end.

At the northern end of the Gold Coast is The Spit – a 5km stretch of almost undeveloped beach, very popular with surfers, picnickers and dogs. At the very northern end is the Seaway entrance, where a seawall provides a protected entrance from and to the rivers and canals to the open sea. A walk out along the seawall gives a fantastic view all the way down the gold coast. Near the seawall is a jetty extending almost half a kilometre out into the ocean, part of the sand bypass process that recycles sand back to the beaches as the sea washes it away. Walk out along the top of the wooden jetty until you are 450metres out to sea and feel the wind on your face and the giant swells making the jetty supports tremble (or maybe that is just my knees). From here I can see the beach stretch out straight for thirty six kms and then curve around to Coolangatta at the southern end of the Gold Coast. In the middle I can see the mass of glitzy highrises of Main beach and Broadbeach.

Gold Coast – the southern end.

Towards the southern end of the beach, the long white strip of sand finally starts breaking up into smaller bays and headlands. The first is at Burleigh Heads, an iconic surf spot. And just a little bit further south is Coolangatta, and finally Rainbow Bay and the famous surf of Snapper Rocks. Here is the perfect sunset spot. The glorious old Rainbow Bay surf lifesaving club is a two storey building with a large balcony running all the way around, a genuine spot that hasn’t been ruined by a flashy makeover. The perfect spot to pull up a chair, grab a cold beer and look back up all those thirty six kms of Gold Coast curling across in front of me on the horizon. Below me the surfers are out in force as dusk falls, and I am starting to wonder where I can find some fish and chips for dinner.

Gold Coast, Burleigh Heads
Gold Coast, Burleigh Heads

Gold Coast – the markets.

The Carrera Markets are another slice of Gold Coast without a flashy makeover. These hugely popular markets are open 7am to 4pm every Saturday and Sunday, spread over vast fields and have an incredibly diverse range of tack and treasure. Looking for bargains on novelty electronic items and kids toys? Tick. Looking for bargains on summer beachwear and footwear? Tick. How about garden furniture and plants, new pets and pet accessories? Tick. Can I find Emu Oil, hair accessories, crystals, handbags, jewellery? Tick again. And plenty of food stores and fresh fruit and vege stands to boot. We buy the largest, melt-in-the-mouth strawberries, the sweetest I have tasted in years. It may not be the trendiest or the artiest, but it is a giant flea market with something for everyone.

Yes, there is a softer, gentler, more relaxing, low key  Gold Coast after all. Who’d have believed it?

What would James Bond think of all this?

James Bond Island in Phang Nga Bay, Thailand

36 years after The Man with the Golden Gun, tourism in Thailand is still making a mint out of the iconic view of Scaramanga’s hideaway. The karst pillar in Phang Nga Bay originally known as Ko Tapu, has been called “James Bond Island” ever since. It seems that every day there are hundreds of long tail and speed boats ferrying tourists out to have a look, and today, I am on one of those long tail boats.

We are dropped on the small karst island next door (Ko Phing Kan), and walk about 30 metres through a ravine completely filled with market stalls of the usual trinkets. We emerge on a tiny 20 metre wide beach, and there it is, straight in front of us, James Bond Island, about 50 metres out in the middle of the bay. This is the viewing spot, from this angle it looks completely stand alone with its huge backdrop of sea and other karst islands in the distance.

The de rigueur smug shot here is to be photographed as though you are holding the island in the palm of your hand. This seems a bit lacking in originality, perhaps a gun stance surrounded by bikini babes would be more appropriate, or perhaps a beach stall selling martini’s ,shaken not stirred, balancing the island on its roof? Or maybe I should just take a photo of the island, no tricks.

Sea canoeing in Thai caves and islands

Our longtail also takes us about 10 minutes away to Ko Talu Nok for some cave canoeing. I am disappointed that I am not allowed to paddle my own canoe. We sit in the front while a local guide paddles at the back. But it’s enjoyable enough as we spend the next half hour lying back and looking up at cave roofs 10 cm above our faces, up sheer cliffs of internal lagoons accessed through caves and covered in rainforest, and at sea worn karsts shaped like skulls, alligators and more.

Like all the karsts in this area, the sea erodes from the base in, so all the karats look narrowest at sea level. At Talu in particular the sea has worn away a lot of caves and tunnels to internal lagoons, with towering cliffs and glimpses of the sky from the middle of the island.

All of this is in Phang Nga bay area, where we originally boarded our long tail boat.  The tour operators insist on everyone wearing lifejackets but as the water is generally about one metre deep and the life jackets are a “one size fits no-one” and rather hot in this weather, most of us ditch the lifejackets as soon as we leave shore.

We also eat well at the floating village on the Ko Panyee, known as the Muslim Village. Lunch is a banquet including chilli fish, deep fried prawns, chicken and cashews, tom yum soup, omelette, spicy chicken legs, stir fried veges and fresh pineapple. And there is an interesting little craft market to explore, with a side of voyeurism into the village life.
As we leave James Bond Island we see a group of people arrive on a speedboat named James Bond, and I realise that I have only scratched the surface of the James Bond experience – next time!