Curious turtles, resident manta rays, “naked corals” and rare birds: Lady Elliot Island in Queensland (Australia) is not comparable to any other island you have ever seen before. Due to it’s geographic isolation this southernmost coral cay of the Great Barrier Reef has an exceptional wildlife above and below the water. The island lies 85 km north-east of Bundaberg and you can only reach it by plane (there are daily flights from Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Brisbane and the Gold Coast). In 1816, the island was officially discovered by Captain Thomas Stuart and named aboard his vessel Lady Elliot. But the nickname of Lady Elliot remains Shipwreck Island because several ships floundered ot its reef. And you can still spot some pieces of them at low tide, when the corals “undress”. I spent one day and one night on the island but the fact of it being located directly on the reef left me speechless all the time. If you are neither interested in rays nor in birds: just go to the beach, observe the water moving and have a yummy picknick. And enjoy this island where everything is located at the beach! Lady Elliot is home to an eco resort (the only accommodation, prices from 118 euros per person and night including meals and activities) and an airstrip is crossing the entire island, which is fun to see from above.While walking around you should watch out though…Both, low and high tide have their advantages. During the low tide you can walk around the coral reefs like in a mushroom forest – just a bit prettier. During the high tide you can go snorkling just straight to the beach, no need to pick a boat or swim out to a reef. Lady Elliot has the highest seabird diversity of any island within the Great Barrier Reef (over 100,000). Most of them are very relaxed during the day… During the high tide all the corals hide once again and you have your regular beach back.One part of the island is sandy, the other one full with fossils and shellfish.Low tide once again. It turned the beach into some sort of blue and green leopard fur and I could stay there for hours watching the water leave and come back again.Luckily I found a comfy chair for my observations…Put my prettiest little black dress on for the date with Mr. Turtle. Turtles are actually shy and difficult to approach, not so in Lady Elliot. They are so curious that they even turn around to see who you are. Maybe it doen’t work with guys thoug…The island is home to 40 manta rays and many more come for a visit. This is the view from the glass-bottom boat, but it’s so much better to see one of the world’s biggest fish (measuring up to 8 meters between wingtips) “flying” over your head and covering the sun while you are diving. Manta rays are friendly, they mostly eat plankton and need 14 percent of their body weight per day. This fact keeps them pretty busy. The white lighthouse, built in 1873 to guide the ships of miners, is not longer in use. But it’s still Lady Elliot’s landmark and a perfect place to watch the sunset.As they announced a “sunset picknick” I was expecting some chips, nuts and a beer to be honest, but I’m totally fine with oysters and wine as well…And even the sharks joined our beach party after the sun has set.The birds of Lady Elliot Island work as an opposite alarm clock. When they start to scream it’s definitely time to go to bed. Unfortunately I’ve noticed the earplugs the morning AFTER the night concert…There is another advantage of only being able to reach the island per plane: the views you get on the way there. The island below is mine! I hope there are no birds though…
Ilha Grande is one of the most magical places I’ve ever been to. When you arrive to this 150 km long island between Rio de Janeiro and São Paolo, you first keep wondering how they managed to preserve it so wild and untouched. There are no streets, no cars and no cash machines on the entire island. Well, the reason lies in it´s dark history. For almost a century Ilha Grande was closed by the Brazilian goverment because it housed a leper colony and after a top-security jail with some of the most dangerous prisoners within the Brazilian penal system. The jail was closed in 1994 but the island still looks like an unexplored piece of jungle – except the main village Vila do Abraão (approximately 1900 inhabitants), where you can find some bars, shops and affordable places to spend a night. Ironically, everything was booked out in the village at the time we were travelling. We still wanted to stay some days on the island, so we picked the last remaining pousada for nearly 300 euros/per night. First pretty grumpy about the price, by arrival we realized that it was probably the best forced decision ever.
How to arrive? There is a bus departing every two hours from Rio de Janeiro to Angra dos Reis (160 km, ticket aprox. 15 euros), then you take a ferry to Ilha Grande (1h, ticket aprox. 5 euros). Make sure to check the ferry hours before you go, it’s only operating in the mornings and in the evenings. We arrived in the main village where we were picked up by a smaller boat and it took us another half an hour to come to our pousada Atlantica Jungle Lodge. As we were approaching it, I could barely believe my eyes. A house in the middle of the jungle with only 3 rooms, a private beach and a lady preparing the catch of the day just for us. The rooms were beautiful but simple and I loved the smell of the sheets (I am crazy about fresh white sheets).We were having grilled fish and an octopus with a view to a floating bar, which also belonged to the pousada. You had to either swim or puddle to have a drink over there but it was not an option for me after finishing all these beans alone…In case you are asking yourself why I look so weird: This picture has a special story. Before my trip to Brazil friends kept telling me not to take jewellery and nice clothes with me – just some pants and old tshirts. Girls, now I will tell you one thing: It’s a trap! When I arrived in Rio de Janeiro, you really could tell I was a tourist, because all the Brazilian ladies were so dressed up – even at the beach. So I told my boyfriend I was not leaving the hotel room untill we went shopping. On Ilha Grande I finally had the right outfit on, but unfortunately nobody was there watching. Well, at least we took this picture haha.From our pousada you could hike to the famous Lopes Mendes beach (picture above), which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful beaches of the world. I liked our little private beach so much more to be honest, but still: It’s a nice hike through the jungle and you meet some apes and some bats on your way. If you are staying on the island just for a short period time a full day boat trip (aprox. 50 euros/per person) would be a perfect way to explore the most beautiful beaches of Ilha Grande. We shared our boat with a group of Columbian guys who brought some Pisco – so you can imagine the fun we had! At some point we ran out of Pisco. We were lucky the whole island was surrounded by floating bars though. This is the most famous palm tree of Ilha Grande and the pefect proof that it’s never too late to change your mind and go up! I would have loved to stay at least one week longer…
If you have ever been to Iceland in summer, you won’t recognize it if you go in winter. It’s not better or worse, it’s just like visiting a completely different country. And if you think Iceland looks grey, dark and uncozy during the wintertime, you gonna be really surprised how many colours can show up during one single trip. You will see the sunrise and the sunset every day, even if you are a lazy tourist and love to sleep, because the sun rises at 11 a.m. and goes down at 3 p.m. There is one colour you should be careful with though: the green of the nordic lights. The Japanese believe it brings a lot of babys… So here are my ten favorite things to do in Iceland in winter, I´ve experienced on my last trip with WOW Air, Iceland’s only low cost airline:
1. VÍK, THE BLACK BEACHThe black sand beach of Vík in South Iceland (180 km away from Reykjavik) is counted as one of the ten most beautiful non-tropical beaches on earth. In winter it’s all covered by snow, but you can still recognize the black colour on the rock formation Reynisdrangar in the middle of the sea (picture below) and on the tiny space between water and snow the waves leave everytime they go back (picture above).Plenty of space in Iceland: on the streets and in the nose…2. WATERFALLSDuring a trip in the Golden Circle, the most famous route in South Iceland, you usually get to see 3 waterfalls: Skógarfoss (first picture), Gullfoss (second picture) und Seljalandsfoss (picture below). All of them are beautiful in a different way: Skógarfoss has a nice setting, Gullfoss is incredibly big, but Seljalandsfoss always used to be my favorite one. You can walk behind it (but watch your step on the icy stairs!) and search for a treasure. 3. FOODPretty sure everybody will like the first dish: icelandic lobster in the traditional Fjorubordid-Restaurant. After that on the pictures below: smoked puffin (yes, the cute bird) in Hotel Rangá, horse meat carpaccio with parmigiano in Cava-Restaurant and Hákarl (rotten shark) from a local supermarket.4. GEYSERSBig plans need big cars. But seriously: in Iceland this size of wheels really makes sence. Like on our way to the geysers of the Haukadalur valley. Strokkur (the geyser on the picture below) erupts every 10 minutes up to 35 meters high. Can you spot the two tiny tourists right to it? There are more than 40 other little hot springs in the area but you are not allowed to touch them because the water can get up to 90 degrees hot. When we were standing in front of Stokkur the sun started to rise and it has been such a magical moment when all the steam got colloured in purple, yellow and finally red. 5. HOT POTSDue to the geothermal activity there are a lot of hot springs all over the country. Some of them are boiling but some have just the right temperature to bath in. These natural jacuzzis – the so called hot pots – are a very important part of the icelandic culture. It’s not just about having a bath. It’s about meeting your friends and family, having a drink, discussing things. The most famous and most touristic hot pot of Iceland is probably the Blue Lagoon (pictures above, tickets for 35 euros – at least the beauty mask is for free) near the airport. But every town bath also has a couple of hot pots outside (tickets for aprox. 5 euros). See the beauty essentials we brought with us on the picture below hahaAnother way to try out a hot pot would be booking a hotel with a hot pot, such as Rangá Hotel. The only obstacle: The hot pots were outside and we had to walk through the snow to get there. With a couple of local beers before no problem…After two beers we even started talking to the bear in the lobby.Still don’t know if it was a good idea to put my Havaianas on for the way to the hot pot. We had minus 17 degrees on that day, if you want to know…Before I left for this trip I promised my Mom always to wear my hat. I kept my promise, Mom!6. WALKING ON THE GLACIERWalking on the Sólheimajökull glacier with spikes under your shoes and a piolet in your hand during the sunset is one of the most breathtaking experiences in Iceland. This glacier is melting away due to the climate change and will disappear completely approximately in 100 years.7. SHOPPINGNever say “Norwegian sweater” in Iceland! It’s Icelandic, even if they look completely the same to us. The Icelandic ones are supposed to keep you warmer though, because they are made from the wool of a special sheep. Anyway, both look nice.The local outdoor label is called 66°NORTH (I had enough money for a hat haha). If you are looking for some hip clothes, you better go to one of the numerous second hand shops in Reykjavik, like Spúútnik on the pictures below. The best thing about shopping in Iceland: it’s duty free when you shop over 25 euros. Just get your taxes (15 percent) back at the airport! 8. LAVA TUBE CAVESIf you think the Blue Mountains are beautiful (25 minutes drive from Reykjavik), wait to explore the hidden world underneath them. All over Iceland lava tubes from the volcanoes have created a huge cave system. The Leiðarendi cave (3000 years old, means “the dead end”) we climbed down into, looked like a castle made of icicles and lava. And from time to time I even had to crawl on my belly from one “room” to another. 9. SNORKELING BETWEEN THE CONTINENTSYeah! It´s minus 19 outside and we go snorkeling! Sounds weird, but the Silfra fissure in the Pinvellir National Park got voted under the top ten dive and snorkeling sites in the world. So we just had to try it! The Silfra fissure is actually a crack between the North American and Eurasian continents, which drift apart about 2 cm per year. So you basically snorkel between Europe and America! There are even places where you can touch both continents at the same time. The second reason the Silfra fissure is so special: The visibility is over 100 meters and I´ve never seen so many different shades of green and blue in my life. The water (about 3 degrees) comes from the nearby Langjökull glacier and needs up to 100 years until it reaches the Silfra fissure – this works like a perfect natural filter. The dry suit will not let the water run inside, they told me. Well, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t…The Silfra fissure doesn’t look special at all from outside, but wait until you jump in!So this is how snorkeling between America and Europe looks like (the picture above is by Arctic Adventures). My underwater camera was dead from the first second it touched the icy water. We stayed inside for about 40 minutes and when we walked out, the boys had icicles in their beards and I had icicles on my lashes. But we felt pretty cool to be honest…10. REYKJAVIKReykjavik is the world’s northernmost capital but I promise you will not feel cold at all. Why? To get from one bar to another you just have to cross the Laugavegur street (well, the good looking guys are also a reason). And there are a lot of nice places to have a drink at . My suggestions: Cava (pictures below) is a bar upstairs and a restaurant downstairs, Kaffibarrinn is famous for it’s famous people hanging around there, Micro Bar has it’s own brewery, Kaldi Bar spreads some kind of industrial charme and you can do you laundry and have a brunch at the Laundromat Cafe. Try Reykavik’s most famous hotdog at Beajarins Beztu Pylsur! The super modern concert hall Harpa has become a landmark of the city. Another special thing to visit: Phallusmuseum where you can find over 280 animal penises. You can book all these tours with Arctic Adventures! Lava caving and snorkeling are available from 189 euros per person as a combo, a Golden Circle safari from 300 euros, glacier hiking & ice climbing from 131 euros. Fly to Iceland with WOW air starting from 59 euros per ticket!
Friends often ask me if I´m still nervous when I´m travelling or if it has already become a routine. I AM nervous every single minute and I think it is one of the most important things about travelling. And if I´m not excited enough I just go and get 3 coffees and my heart´s bumping again. Easy like that. Well this time I was extra nervous without having a single coffee. I was travelling alone for the first time. To a tiny island where everybody comes with it’s favorite company. There are also a couple of families and singles staying at the Robinson Club Maldives, but most of the guests are honeymooners. Or at least people who aim to kiss the whole day. I was not that sad about (not) kissing, it was more like: “Ok, who is gonna take the typical Inna posing pictures then?” (at least I´m honest). And you know what: I never had so many posing pictures like after staying a couple of days at THIS place!You have a choice of either staying at the water bungalow (with a glass bottom near your bed, a huge terrace and some stairs right into the water) or – if you prefer sand on your feet- a beach or a garden bungalow. I have some pictures of a beach bungalow on my last post.First day was all about exploring the island. Our island Funamadua was only 450×240 m and you could walk around it in 20 minutes. When thinking about the Maldives I always had these amazing pictures from above on my mind: just an island, some water bungalows and nothing around it. So I prefered flying around it with a parasail fixed on a boat for the first impression. It´s really a good way to take some pictures to show off. Make sure you are flying between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on a clear day, otherwise the colours won´t look that bright.Another cool thing about flying over the island was the only possibility to get to see the 240 sqm presidential suite at the end of the water bungalows. Hey there, can I land in your pool?The restaurant always offered a huge international buffet but they also had a local corner with a maledivian cook explaining you what it is and how to prepare it. The Robinson island has it´s own vegetable and herbs garden, a bakery and they produce drinking water by filtering the water from the Indian Ocean (so the food container only has to come once in two weeks). This is how they manage to save 400.000 plastic bottles per year. I don´t want to sound like a teacher, but these things are important since every island of the Maldives is located only one meter about the sea level and it keeps rising every year. Once a week the crew shows you around and explains how the island “works”, in case you are interested….If you are staying at the beach bungalow, you always have a little beach just for yourself. No building on an island is allowed to be higher than the highest palm. You can find the fruits everywhere in the sand.After only a single day I felt like a biologist knowing every tree and every flower (and every hammock!!!) on this island. And always meeting some new people during my expedition.There are two perfect places to enjoy the sunset on the Robinson island. The first one you see on this picture, the second one by the end of the post.I was lucky enough to arrive at the day of the captains dinner (always on fridays), so all the stuff was dressed up as a sailing crew and the guests were asked to come in white. The funny thing about knowing so many people by the end of the day was that the party felt like hanging around with friends and nobody had to do the washing up haha.What I already learned as a kid: Always make friends with the ice cream guys (yep, this ship is made of ice cream). But I´m kinda out of training: they didn´t want to deliver it to my room…During the night you can watch little baby sharks coming really close to the island.At the second day I finally tried out the water. No comments about it, hate people always writing about how blue the ocean is. I mean it´s obvious, you can see it on the picture. But it was really warm (between 27-28 degrees), so you could stay there for hours.Why don´t I look sexy even though I´m trying? This tree was full of spikes. So I rather felt like a yogi man without a matcha tea than a relaxed beach girl. This day might look really lazy to you but I was diving and snorkling between the posing and I will show you the pictures on the next post. I got a new underwater cam for my birthday and I was very excited to finally present it to the sharks.This is the second sunset place I was talking about: the Sundowner Bar with a DJ playing some house chill out music. I´m not too romantic or something but this place was really WOOOW.Thank you, Robinson Club Maldives, for having me. Thanks to the amazing crew, there are so many stories I would love to tell but I know they gonna kill me haha (“what happens on the Robinson island, stays on the Robinson island”).
To talk about the prices: One week All Inclusive starts from 2299 euros/per person (including the flight). I was flying with Turkish Airlines via Istanbul and I can highly recommend this airline. They got voted for the best european airline for the third time last year and it´s totally true. Economy so feels like business with them.
They have only three hours of daylight in Iceland during the wintertime. What looks like an early morning on the pictures is nearly noon. The sun starts to rise at 11.30 a.m. what doesn´t actually mean that you can see it. It stays at the horizon hidden behind clouds most of the time. So can you imagine how lucky we were to have a sunny day on our trip to the Golden Circle, the most visited touristic area in Iceland! Even the Icelanders were happy to see some rays of sunlight after a long period of darkness. Normally they have to drink fish liver oil everyday for breakfast because of the lack of vitamin D. So these guys really enjoyed skipping to beer that day.The gulf stream makes icelandic winters pretty warm (-/+2 degrees), so the -20 degrees we had were really unusual. Even the winter rafting rivers were frozen. The Gullfoss is the most famous and for many people the most beautiful waterfall in Iceland. The only problem: you couldn´t walk behind it and look for gold. With Anni from Arctic Adventures (you can book this trip or a whole tour with them) who never felt cold. I would have died without wearing my ski mask. After a short time we arrived en Haukadalur valley with it´s biggest geysers Strokkur and Geysir itself, which gave others their name. Strokkur erupts every 5 minutes 35 meters high, the bigger Geysir only erupts 5 times a day. There are more than 40 other little hot springs but you are not allowed to touch them because the water can get up to 90 degrees hot. When we were standing in front of Stokkur the sun started to rise and it has been a magical moment when all the dust was colloured in yellow and red. It looked like the ice was burning! Flights to Reykjavik: with Iceland´s only low cost Airline Wow Air.
I kept the highlight of our island hopping tour through Brittany (France) for my last post: Île de Sein, the best island to get drunk! You will ask: „Why exactly Île de Sein? You can perfectly get drunk on every island.“ Maybe. But you can do it even better on this one. See the 7 reasons below: 1. Even if the world seems to go down on the way to the island – as soon as you have passed a special point the sun always comes out. That´s what all the sailors and fishermen say who come over every day. And that´s what we have also experienced. So much luck must be celebrated! 2. In the sixties the island had 1000 inhabitans and 28 bars. Now there are only 150 inhabitans and 6 bars. No problem! Nearly the whole island is surrounded by a stone wall. When the sun shows up, peole come out and put their drinks on this wall. This is how the longest bar in the world has been established. By the way: I´m drinking Kir Breton (Kir Royal of Brittany). I´m not quite sure if you can remeber the recipe: take Cidre, put cassis inside.3. Most of the houses on Île de Sein are or have something colourful, which is pretty unusual for this part of France. The good thing about it: you will always find back to your house or your hotel even if you are drunk. You just have to remeber if it was pink or blue or yellow… No streets, no numbers.On the day I was visiting the island (end of April) they had spring tide. It only happens twice a year. The sea went back more than usual and you could pick all the sea treasures like oysters or crabs from the bottom. 4. The streets between the houses were built so narrow that you could roll a beer barrel between them but you would never fall down if you were drunk. One of the walls would always „catch“ you.5. If you compare it to the other two islands we have visited, Île de Sein is pretty far away from the continent. So it´s food stayed really traditional and you don´t have to look with a telescope on your plate to find it. I had a ray fish with pomegranate sauce and potatoes. A good base to order another 3 Kir Breton.Thank you, Christine, for showing me Brittany. And the drinks. Find here all her posts.6. If you get really brave after some drinks – no problem. People on this island will believe you.On the picture above you can see another tiny „beer“-street. The water was coming back by the time the ferry was leaving ( 4 p.m.). It was your own fault if you still haven´t picked up your dinner till then.7. If something goes wrong between you and the bottle, Sauvetage en Mer will save as soon as you come back to Audierne. Well, this one is a shitty reason. But the other 6 are really true!
On our island hopping tour through Brittany (3 islands on 3 days) we needed to find a hotel located in the middle of these islands (Ouessant, Glénan and Ile de Sein). The ferry was always crossing very early in the morning and the wine for dinner was to good to say goodbye at midnight – so we couldn´t lose any time on driving too long. The small town Douarnenez seemed to be a perfect stopover. When we were looking for our hotel I really felt in love with this charismatic city with an amazing harbour ending in the open sea. So once you are in Brittany, please don´t miss Douarnenez! Even if you are not looking for a hotel… just to see the sun going down.Our Hotel Ty Mad (from 110 Euro per night) was located near a tiny church. It was used to be a monastery long time ago. Now it is an amazing design hotel with a swimming pool, a sauna, a gourmet restaurant and a bar. And with a window view to miss your dinner aperitif for… I was seriously considering staying at this hotel when they brought me this dessert. Caramel au beurre salé (caramel made of salted butter) is something you can´t go without trying it. But in the next morning my dessert was history and we had to go on with our tour. Ile de Sein, the last island, was waiting for us. Read in the next post why it is the perfect place to get drunk.
800 inhabitans, 1000 tourist beds, 4 bars, 7 fishing boats, but no trees and no policemen (both perfect for my excelent driving skills): Ouessant was the first island on our island hopping tour (3 days, 3 island) across Brittany. And at the same time the most western point of France. Somehow it really felt like arriving at the very end of the world…The beautiful cliffs on the coast of Ouessant are not only the reason for the many visitors, but also for the many lighthouses on the island (5 directly on it, another 20 you can see on a clear day). Ouessant is maybe not the right place for swimming, but really perfect for walking around, cycling and eating.As there are no trees and no wood on the island, the traditional food was cooked on sods (a lamb dish takes 6 hours). Because of the strong wind the grass never grows very high and because of the mild temperature during the whole year it´s roots never get frozen. I´ve never walked on such a soft grass carpet before.Everything wooden on the island was made from the ship wreckage. As you can imagine, there are no many exciting things happening on the tiny Ouessant. But there are a lot of funny storries about things the waves sometimes bring to the coast. One morning a container ship full of rubber ducks sank and the water turned all yellow. Another day the waves brought many shoes and the people on the island had to get together in the evening after collecting them all in order to find the right pairs.TY Korn was the best pub (ground floor) and restaurant (first floor) on the island. I didn´t want to wait 6 hours for my lamb, so I just ordered a crab which I had to crack with a nutcracker.There is one thing I haven´t done since my last teenage school trip: a night walk (nobody kissed this time!). On Ouessant it really made sense to walk around in the night because it was the best way to admire all the lighthouses “at work”. We also passed by a mysterious looking house on the cliffs and walked around it (I guess it wouldn´t look half that mysterious during the day). Creach is the most powerful lighthouse in Europe. When I was lying in my bed after this really long day I saw it´s lights running across the hotel room and hypnotizing zzzzz…. haha.On the next day we had to catch the ferry back to Le Conquet in the early morning. The second island was waiting for us. Le Glenán was the total opposite of Ouessant – no cliffs and a caribbean looking beach.
Cayo Largo (long island) is the second largest island of the Canarreos Archipelago after Isla de la Juventud. It is said to have the most beautiful beaches and corals reefs of Cuba. Inspite of the fact that there are 5 hotels and an airport on the island, it has no residents. All the staff goes home after 20 days of work. The only guys who are allowed to stay all the time on this 25 kilometers long island are some funny looking animals. The most people come to Cayo Largo because of it´s amazing beaches. I came because of it´s amazing “zoo”. I even have at home one of the exotic animals I´ve found on this island.We had some free days after our tour around Cuba and before our flight back home. So we decided to book a trip to Cayo Largo at our hotel in Varadero, which I guess is the easiest way to get there. You fly to the island with a small propeller-driven airplane and sometimes you are lucky enough to have it all to yourself (look at my Mom´s face). Don´t fall asleep on your way there, the view from the airplane is a beautiful sneak peek to what is expecting you.
Close to La Marina harbour, where the catamarans are waiting for the tour to get started, there is a small sea turtles farm. They help sea turtles to survive in Cayo Largo, especially during the egg deposition period (only few baby turtles are able to reach the sea). There are also some tubs where ill turtles are treated before being freed back in the sea.Cayo Iguana was the first stop on our catamaran cruise. It is a tiny island inhabited by iguanas. You can walk around and get really close to them.My Mom tried to make friends with some. And they didn´t mind as long she had something to eat…… but then they showed their real face…and she had to run away from them across the whole islandMy new best friend was much more friendly and we even had something in common: 1. We don´t see anything without glasses…2. We love having lunch in a comfortable positionAfter having some lobster on the boat (the captain was also an excellent cook, unfortunatelly married) we switched to the aquarium department of our “zoo” island. And then, nearly at the end of our trip I finally found him: the most exotic animal of Cayo Largo. This white labrador was a a big star on Playa Sirena and looked completely like my dog Lila. We had a lot of fun, althought he didn´t even have an idea what I mean with “sit”.