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Kate Webster

Kate Webster

Kate Webster is a world traveller, ocean lover and conservation warrior who is determined to make every moment count for not only herself, but the world around her. An editor and travel journalist, Kate travels the globe in search of vivid imagery and compelling stories that capture the essence of the people and places she visits. She is a passionate conservation advocate, sustainable traveller and always travels with reason and cause. Born out of a life-long love of travel, the ocean, wildlife and conservation and fascination with the world around her, is Kate’s inspiration behind her writing and photography.

PRODUCT REVIEW: Canon EOSR vs 5D Mark IV

Canon 70-200mm lens

I recently took the Canon EOS R with RF 24-105mm Lens and the Canon 5D Mark IV with 70-200mm Lens to Africa to test them out.

When it comes to wildlife photography, there is a lot you need to take into account and therefore to have the right camera equipment is essential.

I have always been a fan of Canon and really could not see myself switching to any other brand. With Canon, you know you are getting a superior product that delivers. So, imagine my excitement to have both cameras in my hands (which was very handy when switching up without having to change lenses).

Canon EOS R

First of all, the Canon EOS R is the first full-frame mirrorless camera. Yes, it comes with a bit of a hefty price tag but it is worth every penny as it will have even the most amateur of photographers taking photos like a professional.

This camera is enhancing performance like never before. It’s intuitive control captures movement in any light with the fastest, sharpest Canon lenses, hyperfast autofocus and 30.3MP Full Frame CMOS sensor.

Not only does it take remarkable images with vivid colour, it does so with incredible intelligence in auto shooting mode. There is really not much need for post editing on your images.

The light weight mixed with deep handle makes carrying this camera a breeze. Easy to use buttons for fast control certainly makes using this camera a pleasure.

Features include intuitive control with revolutionised feel and functionality. The full frame means its image sensor is roughly the same size as a piece of 35mm film, and mirrorless meaning it doesn’t have a mirror that mechanically flips up and down (like a DSLR). Not only does it capture movement in any light with the fastest, sharpest Canon lenses, hyperfast autofocus and a 30.3MP Full Frame CMOS sensor, it is much lighter to carry than previous Canon models.

The new RF system has a wider 54mm mount with a shorter 20mm flange, meaning it’s a lot wider to let more light in, and the distance from the lens to sensor is shorter, which should aid in its focusing capabilities. All of Canon’s new RF lenses will have a new ring on them (in addition to focus and zoom rings) that can be mapped to control aperture, shutter speed, ISO, or exposure comp. Canon has three adaptors that allow you to use your old glass without any loss in quality.

Most importantly for first time users, the dials and buttons on the EOS R are easily customizable to shoot your way while each RF lens features Canon’s new lens control ring for fast control over your choice of aperture, shutter speed, ISO or exposure compensation.

Canon 5D Mark IV  

Canon’s 5D Mark IV is truly versatile camera, delivering top-notch images and 4K video while continuing with the 5D range of latest innovations.

The design and dimensions of the Mark IV are similar to the predecessor, the 5D Mark III, but it features a new sensor, with 30.4 megapixels, and it’s a full-frame number.

61-point (41 cross-type) AF covers an expanded sensor area and delivers focus at EV-3 in viewfinder shooting mode, or EV-4 in Live View mode. Dual Pixel RAW file format allows photographers to fine-tune images in post-production such as adjusting or correcting the point of sharpness.

The high resolution 3.2-inch LCD with full touch panel operation is combined with a new AF area selection button providing quick AF point selection.

Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC enables remote operation and secure file transfer (FTPS/FTP) via smart devices using the Canon Camera Connect app.

A truly versatile camera, EOS 5D Mark IV delivers DCI 4K shooting at up to 30 fps and the ability to extract 8.8MP JPEG images from 4K videos. Take creative control of time – speed things up with built in time lapse movie mode or slow things down with Full HD 60p and HD 120p movie recording.

The power of this camera and lens when paired together deliver quality grade images that can be further enhanced in post-production. The video shooting options are fantastic for those who are looking at doing more than just photography.

Opinion

To be honest, I really enjoyed using the EOS R as it was so light weight, perfect for when I am travelling tough and jumping in and out of vehicles, helicopters and more. I do however know the buttons and settings of the EOS 5D Mark IV better and preferred this for those wildlife photos where you can be up close or in a distance.

Canon EOS R Body RRP: $3,099.00 | Canon 5D Mark IV RRP: $3,999.00.

For more visit www.canon.com.au/cameras/    

Serendipity and sunsets in Sri Lanka

Lion Rock in Sri Lanka

No matter where you are in Sri Lanka, one thing I found is the sunsets are magic. Some people collect souvenirs from their travels, I tend to collect sunsets.

Something about sunsets I find alluring and romantic. It is a time to reflect on the day and give thanks for the experiences you have had, while holding the excitement that a new day is just around the corner, wrapped in mystery and adventure yet to be discovered. Also, the fact that a sunset goes hand in hand with a sundowner, you can’t lose.

My first Sri Lankan sunset arrived as I was sat in a car driving from Sigiriya to Dambulla. I had spent the morning exploring the infamous Lion Rock, an ancient rock fortress located in the northern Matale District near the town of Dambulla in the Central Province, Sri Lanka.

The 200-metre-high rock is a site of historical and archaeological. The name Lion Rock is derived from the small plateau about halfway up the side of this the form of an enormous lion is carved into the rock. Climbing Lion Rock sets up back USD$30 and will take about 2 hours to take in the entire complex. It is best to visit early morning to avoid the crowds and give you enough time to move on to your next destination.

The drive from Sigiriya to Dambulla is quite scenic, winding through the country roads and avoiding the constant intervention from local buses but does take time. I unfortunately did not prepare for this, so by the time I was arriving at Jetwings Lake in Dambulla, I had to suffice for my first Sri Lankan sunset moment hanging out the window of the car. Still, it was satisfying, as the sun dipped below the mountains and farming land I passed along the way.

Dambulla

Waking for sunrise as a substitute the following day, I was not disappointed. Jetwing Lake is situated on a lake and surrounded by what can only be described as a serene panoramic vista. Birds morning calls broke the silence as the mist lifted off the lake and engulfed the mountainous surroundings. The golden glow spilled across the horizon as the sun rose and a hot air balloon floated silently across the horizon. For a short moment, I felt I was cheating on my love for sunset as the sunrise warmed my heart.

A property that has been built with the harmony of its surroundings in mind, Jetwings Lake is open and airy which offers an ambience of being one with nature. There was a feel of tread lightly here, not only in the fact the property’s dedication to sustainable living is evident in their operations, but the staff also seemed to breeze around with a delicate balance of helping when needed but leaving you to just enjoy being there at the same time.

From Dambulla it was time to move south. Determined to arrive at my next destination in time for sunset, I set off early. This time the chaotic traffic was broken for a moment when an old blue train chugged past and I felt transported back in time. I am told these blue trains are quite the experience in Sri Lanka and I am disappointed I am missing out on it.

Yala

Located where the southern and eastern coasts meet, Yala is the gateway to Yala National Park. The journey through provincial greenery and coastal roads is most scenic. As I get closer to Yala National Park the vegetation turns more to grassland and the sightings of elephants begin.

The elephants in the area seem accustomed to the human activity and roam right onto the road. I asked my driver to continue past the elephants and avoid feeding them in fear it just entices them more to humans.

As the sun was getting low in the sky, I made my way along the outskirts of Yala National Park to check in at Jetwing Yala. Sprawled over 38 acres of uncharted coastal wilderness; Jetwing Yala is the closest hotel to Sri Lanka’s most popular natural reserve.

I was taken back by the raw beauty and wild luxury that lay before me. Harmoniously nestled amongst the surrounding bush and resting upon the shoreline of the Indian Ocean behind the dunes, Jetwing Yala makes you feel like you are one with wilderness. After a speedy check-in, I was sat on the balcony of my room, a drink in hand and marvelling at the changing colours of the sky from pastel pinks into a burnt orange glow that reflected off the waves lapping on the shore. My mind wandered as I thought about what the following day would bring in this little piece of paradise I had found.

An early morning start took me on a game safari into Yala National Park. Being a frequent visitor to Africa and many game safaris there, I was keen to see the difference between the two destinations. Unfortunately, I found the experience quite busy and disorganised so returned to the hotel quite deflated and disappointed.

This disappointment soon dissolved as I returned to find Jetwing Yala had a glamping option, Yala Safari Camp, and there was an opening for me to stay. The tent was hardly like one you would pitch in the back yard. Nestled in the picturesque dunes of coastal, these elegant tents bring together the pleasure of camping with creature comforts of modern living. A large wooden deck stretched out into the bush and it was here I would spend my next sunset in Sri Lanka.

Not only was the afternoon greeted by the setting sun, but the wildlife began to stir, finding refuge for the evening or waking for the evening hunting. I sat watching a nearby family of wild pig, making snuffle noises as they fossicked for food under the bushes. As darkness fell the snuffle noises became louder and I realised it was no longer just the wild pigs present. The crack of sticks and rustle from the nearby bushes confirmed the presence of an elephant. As the last of the light drained from the sky, I thought to myself, you don’t need an entire National Park when the wild life comes to you at Yala Safari Camp.

Hiriketiya Bay

From Yala I headed West along winding scenic coastal roads that lead to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, Hiriketiya Bay. Hiriketiya Bay is a small stretch of beach that curves around the outside of Dikwella. Familiar with coastal towns, the relaxed vibe of Hiriketiya makes everyone slow down.

The place is a surfing mecca, as the curve forming a bay like shape causes the waves to come in high.  Also, a hot spot for yogis, potters and designers, Hiriketiya oozes that entrepreneurial vibe. Hipster restaurants and quirky cafes are dotted along the palm tree fringe beach. I checked in to Salthouse, a short walk from the beach, run by Australians Cristal Napper and Rob Dixon.

The guesthouse has a holistic approach to your stay, with a yoga shala available for daily practice, a healthy menu packed with goodness and smoothies to boot. Rooms are designed to keep you in touch with nature while keeping a local Sri Lankan flare about them. Impressed by the ambiance of Salthouse, I decided to spend a few nights here.

With plenty of time to spare for the afternoon, I wandered up the road, waving at the tuk tuk drivers that passed me. I had been told of a newly opened beachside café called Malu that served up some wholesome health in a bowl, otherwise known as a poke bowl. This sounded like a perfect lunch option before taking a quick swim to refresh from the heat.

The sunsets at Hiriketiya Bay would have to have been my favourite in Sri Lanka by far. An ice-cold glass of Mojito in my hand, funky tunes of Bob Marley serenading the crowd from a nearby café, my toes wriggling in the sand as the waves continuously lap at the beach in a rhythmic pulse. The salty air is warm and clings like a friendly hug.

It was time. The sky filled with colour, as if giving its last hoorah to the day. The sun began to set and I reflected on my time in Sri Lanka. This Land Of Serendipity had become for me, the Land of Sunsets.


Here are just some of the articles from the trip which will give you a little bit more insight into my time spent there.

If you want to read more about my adventures in Sri Lanka, please see the below published articles. While I was hosted by Jetwing Hotels, Salthouse Sri Lanka and AirAsia, they have not approved nor edited any of these articles and all words are my own.

Asian Journeys magazine – Chasing Sunsets in Sri Lanka

ESCAPE – Sri Lanka Snapshot

Captured Travel – Discover Sri Lanka

Captured Travel – Hotel Review: Jetwing Colombo Seven

Captured Travel – Hotel Review: Jetwing Yala

Captured Travel – Hotel Review: Jetwing Safari Camp

Captured Travel – Hotel Review: Jetwing Lake

Captured Travel – Flight Review: AirAsia

Where Wild Things Roam – Safari in Sri Lanka’s Yala National Park

Back to nature

Back to Nature

Kate Webster takes time to relax, unwind and recharge at Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat.

Every now and then I think it is important to switch off, completely disconnect from the world and tune in to nature. This really does recharge the mind and soul in the purest way.

Hidden on the Far North Coast of New South Wales, Australia in the Tweed region is Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat. A scenic hour drive from the Gold Coast and you are on the doorstep of this lush valley, surrounded on three sides by the world heritage-listed Numinbah Nature Reserve and Springbrook National Park.

As if seeing the beauty of this region from afar was not spectacular enough, Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat brings the rainforest to your very back door. My abode for a few nights was Lamington Lodge, one of the five Luxury Mountain View Lodges found higher in the Retreat.

These lodges are as breathtaking on the inside as the views outside. Luxurious down to the last detail while being environmentally conscious, the open planned space mixed with floor-to-ceiling glass windows make you feel at one with nature. I found my days spent on the back deck, enjoying the symphonies of the surrounding rainforest while cooling off in the private plunge pool.

Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat is a place where your living space is just as much your destination. There are no restaurants on site, instead a delicious hamper option for daily meals that you can cook yourself in the fully functional kitchen or out on the back-deck BBQ.

Dragging myself away from the blissful retreat, I ventured on a short walk through the rainforest to the rockpools. After a quick refreshing swim, it was time to retreat to the hammocks hung across the flowing creek below. Drifting off into a peaceful snooze, listening to the waterfalls over the rocks and rainforest birds call, is easy here.

After an evening at Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat, falling asleep to the rainforest’s natural orchestra of cicadas and wind in the leaves is only rivalled by waking to the sun rising over the silhouette of the canopy as morning birds stir.

By taking this time to get back to nature, I left with a floating feeling, refreshed and inspired to take more time out like this in future.

For more visit Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat at www.ccrr.com.au  

Read the full article here.

Snapshot of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Article

Featured in Escape, my recount of a whirlwind trip around Sri Lanka.

From the busy streets in the capital of Colombo to the serene shores of the south, Kate Webster takes you on a whirlwind road trip of Sri Lanka.

Ranking in Lonely Planet’s hot list, Sri Lanka is the place to visit in 2019. Just make sure you give yourself more than one week as it is just not enough time.

Touching down in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo at nearly midnight, I was frustrated to lose day one of just seven in Sri Lanka due to a delayed flight and system outage at immigration. I was determined to make up for time and squeeze seven days into six.

I had mapped out a snapshot road trip of Sri Lanka that would take a slightly different route to the norm. Unfortunately, my time restrictions meant I missed the experience of local trains and buses and instead hit the streets of Colombo to find myself a driver willing to go the distance. A quick negotiation later and I was on my way out of the capital with Sansuka, my driver.

Download the article HERE.

Chilling at Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat

Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat - Lamington Lodge - Plunge Pool Views. Image - Kate Webster

Every now and then I think it is important to switch off, completely disconnect from the world and tune in to nature. This really does recharge the mind and soul in the purest way.

Hidden on the Far North Coast of New South Wales, Australia in the Tweed region is Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat. A scenic hour drive from the Gold Coast and you are on the doorstep of this lush valley, surrounded on three sides by the world heritage-listed Numinbah Nature Reserve and Springbrook National Park.

Lamington Lodge

As if seeing the beauty of this region from afar was not spectacular enough, Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat brings the rainforest to your very back door. My abode for a few nights was Lamington Lodge, one of the five Luxury Mountain View Lodges found higher in the Retreat.

These lodges are as breathtaking on the inside as the views outside. Luxurious down to the last detail while being environmentally conscious, the open planned space mixed with floor-to-ceiling glass windows make you feel at one with nature. I found my days spent on the back deck, enjoying the symphonies of the surrounding rainforest while cooling off in the private plunge pool.

Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat is a place where your living space is just as much your destination. There are no restaurants on site, instead a delicious hamper option for daily meals that you can cook yourself in the fully functional kitchen or out on the back-deck BBQ.

Surrounding Crystal Creek

Dragging myself away from the blissful retreat, I ventured on a short walk through the rainforest to the rockpools. After a quick refreshing swim, it was time to retreat to the hammocks hung across the flowing creek below. Drifting off into a peaceful snooze, listening to the waterfalls over the rocks and rainforest birds call, is easy here.

After an evening at Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat, falling asleep to the rainforest’s natural orchestra of cicadas and wind in the leaves is only rivalled by waking to the sun rising over the silhouette of the canopy as morning birds stir.

By taking this time to get back to nature, I left with a floating feeling, refreshed and inspired to take more time out like this in future.F

For more visit Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat at www.ccrr.com.au  

Ubumuntu is what we all need

Ubunmuntu

Like many people around the world, I was horrified at news out of Christchurch, New Zealand, this week. Yet another racial attack on innocent people. I mourned for the deaths of people I don’t know, I cried for a situation that I feel is out of control and I was angered by a hatred I can’t comprehend.

It got me thinking about my recent visit to Rwanda. I arrived in this country that I knew nothing about, except that Rwanda had been through immense conflict with the genocide. It was a mass slaughter of Tutsi in Rwanda during the Rwandan Civil War, which had started in 1990. Directed by members of the Hutu majority government, during the 100-day period from 7 April to mid-July 1994, an estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 Rwandans were killed.

Neighbours killed neighbours, colleagues killed colleagues, lovers killed their lovers, all because they were different. This loss of life amounted to an estimated 70% of the Tutsi population. Over half of a racial population, eliminated in just 100 days.

To comprehend that as I walked around the Kigali Genocide Memorial hit me in the heart like a freight train. I felt so heavy with sadness as to how humans can inflict so much pain and destruction on a fellow human being just because of their differences.

Years on from that however, they have found such a resilient peace that has much to teach us. From those dark days, Rwanda has risen to a country that the rest of the world can learn from.

It was on the streets of Kigali that I learnt the word Ubumuntu. Ubumuntu is a Kinyarwanda word that means “to be human,” carrying a similar meaning to the word Ubuntu. Ubumuntu is to be humane: to genuinely care about others, to be generous and kind, to show empathy, to be sympathetic to the plight of others, and to recognize the humanity of others.

This word has been etched on my soul ever since I heard of it. To be human is such a profound thing. At the end of the day, we are all human, just skin and bones. There is nothing different between any race, just our beliefs. So how do we learn to hate just because of beliefs? Nelson Mandela once said, “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” So why are we not choosing to love?

As a traveller, I appreciate nothing more than different. A different country means a different view of scenery, a different food to taste, but the one thing I take most pleasure and happiness from is a different belief and way of life from the people I meet.

I have been to church in Tonga, marvelled at mosques in Brunei, learnt the Buddhist ways of the Balinese, been healed by a Sangoma in South Africa, celebrated Independence Day in Malaysia, been invited to experience village life in Papua New Guinea and danced until the sun came up at an Indian wedding.

These are experiences that have made my life so much richer because of the cultural and religious differences of people from around the world. In exchange, every step of the way, I have shared my Australian way of life and culture with those I have met abroad.

That is the beauty of difference. It opens our hearts and souls. It teaches us something out of our ordinary. Is that not a lesson worth learning? As only through learning can we gain a sense of acceptance, and through acceptance, we can learn to love those differences.

Learn to love those differences for what they are. You don’t need to adopt those differences and change your way of life, but if you are open to understand them, then maybe we can get just a little bit closer to being united as one, instead of being so segregate.

So I ask you all, to learn the meaning of Ubumuntu and adopt it to your way of life. It is worth it.

ASIAN JOURNEYS MAGAZINE: Chasing Sunsets in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka 1

From the busy streets in the capital of Colombo to the serene shores of the south, Kate Webster takes you on a journey chasing sunsets in Sri Lanka.

No matter where you are in Sri Lanka, one thing I found is the sunsets are magic. Some people collect souvenirs from their travels, I tend to collect sunsets.

There is something about sunsets I find alluring and romantic. It is a time to reflect on the day and give thanks for the experiences you have had, while holding the excitement that a new day is just around the corner, wrapped in mystery and adventure yet to be discovered. Also, the fact that a sunset goes hand in hand with a sundowner, you can’t lose.

My first Sri Lankan sunset arrived as I was sat in a car driving from Sigiriya to Dambulla. I had spent the morning exploring the infamous Lion Rock, an ancient rock fortress located in the northern Matale District near the town of Dambulla in the Central Province, Sri Lanka.

The 200-metre-high rock is a site of historical and archaeological wonder. The name Lion Rock is derived from enormous lion is carved into the rock. Climbing Lion Rock sets you back USD$30 and will take about 2 hours to take in the entire complex. It is best to visit early morning to avoid the crowds and give you enough time to move on to your next destination.

The drive from Sigiriya to Dambulla is quite scenic, winding through the country roads and avoiding the constant intervention from local buses but does take time. I unfortunately did not prepare for this, so by the time I was arriving at Jetwings Lake in Dambulla, I had to suffice for my first Sri Lankan sunset moment hanging out the window of the car. Still, it was satisfying, as the sun dipped below the mountains and farming land I passed along the way.

Dambulla

Waking for sunrise as a substitute the following day, I was not disappointed. Jetwings Lake is situated on a lake and surrounded by what can only be described as a serene panoramic vista. Birds morning calls broke the silence as the mist lifted off the lake and engulfed the mountainous surroundings. The golden glow spilled across the horizon as the sun rose and a hot air balloon floated silently across the horizon. For a short moment, I felt I was cheating on my love for sunset as the sunrise warmed my heart.

A property that has been built with the harmony of its surroundings in mind, Jetwings Lake is open and airy which offers an ambience of being one with nature. There was a feel of tread lightly here, not only in the fact the property’s dedication to sustainable living is evident in their operations, but the staff also seemed to breeze around with a delicate balance of helping when needed but leaving you to just enjoy being there at the same time.

From Dambulla it was time to move south. Determined to arrive at my next destination in time for sunset, I set off early. This time the chaotic traffic was broken for a moment when an old blue train chugged past and I felt transported back in time. I am told these blue trains are quite the experience in Sri Lanka and I am disappointed I am missing out on it.

Yala

Located where the southern and eastern coasts meet, Yala is the gateway to Yala National Park. The journey through provincial greenery and coastal roads is most scenic. As I get closer to Yala National Park the vegetation turns more to grassland and the sightings of elephants begin.

The elephants in the area seem accustomed to the human activity and roam right onto the road. I asked my driver to continue past the elephants and avoid feeding them in fear it just entices them more to rely on humans.

As the sun was getting low in the sky, I made my way along the outskirts of Yala National Park to check in at Jetwing Yala. Sprawled over 38 acres of uncharted coastal wilderness; Jetwing Yala is the closest hotel to Sri Lanka’s most popular natural reserve.

I was taken back by the raw beauty and wild luxury that lay before me. Harmoniously nestled amongst the surrounding bush and resting upon the shoreline of the Indian Ocean behind the dunes, Jetwings Lake makes you feel like you are one with the wilderness. After a speedy check-in, I was sat on the balcony of my room, a drink in hand and marvelling at the changing colours of the sky from pastel pinks into a burnt orange glow that reflected off the waves lapping on the shore. My mind wandered as I thought about what the following day would bring in this little piece of paradise I had found.

An early morning start took me on a game safari into Yala National Park. Being a frequent visitor to Africa and many game safaris there, I was keen to see the difference between the two destinations. Unfortunately, I found the experience quite busy and disorganised so returned to the hotel quite deflated and disappointed.

This disappointment soon dissolved as I returned to find Jetwing Yala had a glamping option, Yala Safari Camp, and there was an opening for me to stay. The tent was hardly like one you would pitch in the back yard. Nestled in the picturesque coastal dunes, these elegant tents bring together the pleasure of camping with creature comforts of modern living. A large wooden deck stretched out into the bush and it was here I would spend my next sunset in Sri Lanka.

Not only was the afternoon greeted by the setting sun, but the wildlife began to stir, finding refuge for the evening or waking for the evening hunting. I sat watching a nearby family of wild pigs, making snuffle noises as they fossicked for food under the bushes. As darkness fell the snuffle noises became louder and I realised it was no longer just the wild pigs present. The crack of sticks and rustle from the nearby bushes confirmed the presence of an elephant. As the last of the light drained from the sky, I thought to myself, you don’t need an entire National Park when the wild life comes to you at Yala Safari Camp.

Hiriketiya Bay

From Yala I headed West along winding scenic coastal roads that lead to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, Hiriketiya Bay. Hiriketiya Bay is a small stretch of beach that curves around the outside of Dikwella. Familiar with coastal towns, the relaxed vibe of Hiriketiya makes everyone slow down.

The place is a surfing mecca, as the curve forming a bay like shape causes the waves to come in high.  Also, a hot spot for yogis, potters and designers, Hiriketiya oozes that entrepreneurial vibe. Hipster restaurants and quirky cafes are dotted along the palm tree fringed beach. I checked in to Salthouse, a short walk from the beach, run by Australians Cristal Napper and Rob Dixon.

The guesthouse has a holistic approach to your stay, with a yoga shala available for daily practice, a healthy menu packed with goodness and smoothies to boot. Rooms are designed to keep you in touch with nature while keeping a local Sri Lankan flare about them. Impressed by the ambience of Salthouse, I decided to spend a few nights here.

With plenty of time to spare for the afternoon, I wandered up the road, waving at the tuk tuk drivers that passed me. I had been told of a newly opened beachside café called Malu that served up some wholesome health in a bowl, otherwise known as a poke bowl. This sounded like a perfect lunch option before taking a quick swim to refresh from the heat.

The sunsets at Hiriketiya Bay would have to have been my favourite in Sri Lanka by far. An ice-cold glass of Mojito in my hand, funky tunes of Bob Marley serenading the crowd from a nearby café, my toes wriggling in the sand as the waves continuously lap at the beach in a rhythmic pulse. The salty air is warm and clings like a friendly hug.

It was time. The sky filled with colour, as if giving its last hoorah to the day. The sun began to set and I reflected on my time in Sri Lanka. This Land Of Serendipity had become for me, the Land of Sunsets.

Read the full article here.

Read Asian Journeys Magazine here.

ASIAN JOURNEYS MAGAZINE: Magnetic Mauritian Moments

Mauritius 1

Mauritius has long been famous for its sun, sea and sand.  Kate Webster gives you a taste of what to do on this island nation.

A volcanic island of lagoons and palm-fringed beaches with coral reefs surrounding most of the coastline, Mauritius boasts a colourful culture and unique landscape to explore.

Located off the southeast coast of the African continent in the Indian Ocean, this small island nation has a big heart and plenty to offer every type of traveller. Here are some of the top things to discover in Mauritius.

The Beaches

Being an island means Mauritius has some of the most amazing beaches to explore. The white coral sand beaches and crystal-clear lagoons are a stunning contrast to the backdrop of black volcanic mountains. Some of the most notable beaches definitely worth a visit are Pereybere, Flic en Flac, Le Morne, Belle Mare, Blue Bay and Ile aux Cerfs. A day at the beach is also a great opportunity to mingle with Mauritian families who enjoy picnicking on the beach on sunny days.

A good way to discover the differences between the North, East, South and West, is to drive around the coast visiting the different beaches. Each region is unique and has so many treasures waiting to be discovered. The North, with its flat, sandy beaches and stunning weather, is action packed and has plenty of activities on offer. The East boasts large turquoise lagoons and is windier, especially in winter. The South with its wild, steep cliffs is a stunning part of the island that is a must-see. The West and South-West are hot and dry, perfect for surfing and kitesurfing, among other activities.

Diving

With 330 kilometres of coastline encircled by a coral barrier reef that protects the turquoise lagoons of the island, Mauritius offers exclusive diving experiences to its visitors all year round. What is unique to diving in Mauritius is the proximity to shore. Although most of the more challenging dive sites are found outside of the barrier reef, they are still invariably reached with just a 20-minute boat ride.

Located off Flic en Flac on the west coast of the island is the dive site called the Cathedral, one of the most popular dives in Mauritius. Other popular spots include Gunner’s Coin where you can see large parrotfish at each dive; Whale Rock (26 to 38 meters deep) where the lucky ones can come face to face with a hammerhead shark; and Holt’s Rocks (16 to 25 meters deep) whose name suggests the formation of huge rocks under the sea.

Sega Dancing

You cannot possibly leave Mauritius without learning to dance a few Sega steps. The Sega is a vibrant, folkloric dance with a distinctive African rhythm. The spirit of Africa resonates through the musical instruments – usually ravanne, maravanne or triangle are played, while the songs, sung in Creole, depict the Mauritian way of life.

Originally sung by men and women who had been sold as slaves but whose souls had remained sensitive to music, the Sega is nowadays a folksong which has integrated itself within the framework of their folklore.

Traditionally stimulated and inspired by local rum, the dancers would do so without music as such, but accompanied only by the sound of the” Ravanne”, the tinkling of spoons, the rattling of seeds/sand in a tin, and the clapping of hands of spectators who eventually join in.

If it happens to you to attend a Sega show and join in, you will definitely be enchanted and impressed.

SALT of Palmar

Set on a picture-perfect beach overlooking the Indian Ocean on the east coast of Mauritius, SALT of Palmar is redefining the hotel stay with a humanistic approach to hospitality for the culturally curious traveller. Its vibrant colours reflect the colourful people and culture of Mauritius and you will be in awe of where to point your camera first. In addition to the visual appeal, what makes SALT so unique is the fact that guests will be immersed into the very heart of the destination, giving guest a sense of being home and living like a local.

A stay here is more than just somewhere to rest your head at night, it is a destination and experience in itself. SALT takes its guests to people – not just places – connecting them to locals and their way of life, placing them in the action, not just beside it. Their unique skill swap approach gives guests the opportunity to connect directly with locals where they exchange their time, talent and skills to the local people, while also joining local suppliers to see their work or passion.

This includes pottery with Janine at her Pamplemousses studio, early morning fishing with Kishor, or basket weaving with Mrs Bulleeram in Brisée Verdière.  During their stay, guests can also get hands on experience and learn with the hotel staff and network of experts. You can help out on the SALT Farm, learn how to cook Mauritian Chicken Curry with the chefs and even master the maravanne rattle and moutia drum.

The 7-coloured earth of Chamarel

A world-famous attraction, the 7-coloured earth of Chamarel is a unique volcanic geological phenomenon resulting in seven colours of earth swirled together to create a beautiful feature. Found in the Chamarel region, this is a treasure not to be missed.

Chamarel rises 283 meters above sea level and is reached by a short scenic walk which cuts through the luxurious tropical forest surrounding it. There are many places to stop to admire the exquisite view and take photos. One of these spots is an 83-metre high waterfall.

Hike Le Morne Brabant Mountain

Step into the history of Mauritius, literally, and hike on the path of the runaway slaves at Le Morne Brabant.  Located at the south-western tip of Mauritius, this rocky peninsula has a summit which looks over the area of Le Morne and out to sea. Get into the heart of nature hiking while you experience both the extreme opposites of lush greenery together with the rough and dry patches of the World Heritage Site.

As you ascend, you will witness the captivating features of the mountain, whereby there are many caves and overhangs on the steep slopes. Generally surrounded by the lagoon, Le Morne Brabant is worth trying to climb for sunrise for a spectacular birds’ eye view.

Wild dolphin swim

When staying at LUX* Le Morne, you can head out on a Wild Dolphin Experience for a truly wild encounter with the local wildlife. Take a boat out and strap on those fins, snorkel and mask before jumping into the warm waters of Mauritius where you can meet spinner and bottlenose dolphins as they congregate in large numbers in the bay.

These dolphins are not enticed by food, nor contained. They are completely free, so swimming with them can be a challenge if you are not a good swimmer. When they do come to interact and play however, you can have a life changing experience with these inquisitive animals. Even if you do not get in the water with them, watching them from the boat is just as exciting. Sperm and humpback whales also migrate along the west coast of the island and can be spotted if you’re lucky.

Situated in the South West part of Mauritius, in the heart of a fertile valley lies the Rhumerie de Chamarel which is surrounded by vast sugarcane plantations growing in harmony with the pineapples and other tropical fruits nearby.

Rum tasting at Rhumerie de Chamarel

Mauritius is famous for its rum, and one of the most famous spots to try this rum is the Rhumerie de Chamarel Distillery. Rhumerie de Chamarel offers a holistic experience to guests, as you marvel at its unique design which blends harmoniously with the spectacular surroundings where wood, natural stone and water provide a sense of communion with nature.

A guided tour with one of the experienced guides will take you behind the scenes to provide a detailed explanation of the rum making process where all the sugar cane plants are carefully selected and grown at the domain. Finish off the tour with a unique rum tasting, where one can try the selection of the agricultural Rums produced by the distillery. As opposed to the traditional rum produced by the distillation of molasses, the agricultural rum is obtained by distilling pure cane juice, a process which gives it its specific aromas and flavours.

The Vortex at Riambel

There are in all fourteen vortices in the world and one of these can be found at Riambel in Mauritius. Located in the small village of Riambel in the south of the island, this vortex is where energy with intense vibratory levels flow. The energy travels in spirals through the vortex regulating the energetic disbalance within those who sit there for at least twenty minutes.

A visit starts with a peaceful walk around a spiral path lined with rocks, as you repeat a mantra. You then lay in an area surrounded by coloured huts and meditate for some twenty minutes. Once complete, you then proceed to the coloured hut that represents the colour most present in your meditation and spend time in that particular hut healing with the energy from the vortex. It is not for everyone, but interesting to try if you are curious.

Food Tour of Port Louis

To get a real taste of Mauritius while learning about the culture and history, jump on a street food tour of Port Louis. Taste Buddies offer tours to explore the streets of Port Louis by foot and mouth. Led by a local guide and driven by your curiosity, this culinary journey takes you deep in the heart of the capital of Mauritius.

Starting at the Caudan Waterfront, you walk through Port Louis and stop at the best food spots for bite-sized delights. Sink your teeth into a warm roti, take a sip of freshly-squeezed juice, and let the flavours fuse. It truly is the way to experience the island’s authenticity.

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ASIAN JOURNEYS MAGAZINE: Travel Beyond the beaten track

Travel Beyond Feature

Blink and you missed 2018 right? As I sit here at the end of January 2019, I am worried that this year will pass by just as quickly which is why I am making a plan for 2019 now to go even further beyond the beaten track.

Some people set their New Year’s resolutions on the 31st of December so come 1st January and the start of the new year, they diligently go about keeping those promises. For myself, I like to start planning where foreign roads will lead me in the upcoming year.

There has been a lot of positive movement in the way people travel now. People are becoming more intrepid, seeking experiences beyond the ordinary and exploring in a way that offers more self-reward and accomplishment.

I know my journeys in 2018 led me to a stronger understanding and awareness of the world around me. Returning home to the Gold Coast after each of my travels, I was determined to make a difference in every way possible to sustain the ‘tread lightly’ approach on this planet.

Whilst being a tourist is always exciting in a new destination, I found my greatest most cherished memories came when I stepped off that beaten track and became a traveller. Yes, I took in city sights, snapped photos that made my Instagram account look plump and experienced popular activities in the destinations I visited. However, it was not until I took myself out of that comfort zone and got a little bit lost, that I truly found the best that that destination had to offer.

For me, being a tourist is great to get your bearings and give you a taste of a place, but it is when you go beyond that, that your journey begins. When you dine with the locals, hear their stories and learn their way of life; when you learn a skill and implement it in the current environment; when you step foot in places that you can’t find on any tourist map and unexpectedly you discover a cause worth fighting for. This is when a destination reveals its hidden gems and you cross over from being a tourist and become a traveller.

In doing this, I found a greater appreciation for my time spent travelling. I began to travel with reason and cause and to learn more about how I can make a positive impact in this world. Therefore, in 2019, as I continue to discover new places and revisit some of old, I will be doing so with the mindset of not only allowing it to change me, but hopefully change those people with whom I meet along the way.

If you want to travel in 2019 with a purpose, then you can join ‘Where Wild Things Roam Travel’ on one of their tours, focused at conservation and sustainability in some of the world’s most incredible destinations. To find out more, visit www.wherewildthinsgroamtravel.com

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PRODUCT REVIEW: Osprey Mutant Backpack

Osprey-Mutant

A backpack that is versatile enough to be used when climbing mountains, or simply on your daily commute, the Osprey Mutant Backpack has you covered.

WHY YOU NEED IT

Mutant 22 climbing pack is light, simple and discreet. It’s clever design disguises it’s technical features means you can take it to the streets for urban use or utilise on the peaks when climbing mountains.

FEATURES

This backpack is light, weighing a mere 570 grams. It’s compact and streamlined features makes packing it easy with the one large chamber and a hidden storage pocket. The bucket shape of the Mutant 22 is interesting, designed for a superior fit while keeping the pack snug to your back. You do have to ensure you have packed it correctly to distribute the weight.

For those taking it to the extreme and using it for hiking and mountain climbing, there is an integrated rope carry, secure and easy-to-use ice tool carry system, and discrete side loops for extra compression or attaching extra gear. The front panel also comes with a ‘daisy chain’ for even greater carrying capacity. The Mutant’s highly durable 210D Nylon fabric ensures that your pack can last as long as you can no matter your objective.

Colours options include Blue Fire (Dark Blue with Orange) and Black Ice (Black, Dark Blue with Light blue).

WHY YOU WILL LOVE IT

Perfect for daily work commutes, indoor climbing and gym sessions during the week and adventurous outdoor rock climbing and scaling Australian peaks on the weekend. The Osprey Mutant 22 is the ultimate multi-purpose pack that has your back regardless of the situation.

Osprey Mutant 22 RRP $129.95

Osprey Mutant 38 RRP $229.95

Osprey Mutant 52 RRP $229.95