Raz al-Jinz, Sur & The Sinkhole, Oman

In search for sea turtles, we headed down the coast to Raz al-Jinz, stopping by at Sur and the Bimmah Sinkhole along the way. There are a number of day and weekend trips you can do within an easy drive from Muscat, with many things to see and do. There aren’t any famous landmarks or tourist centres in Oman – it’s all about getting outside and enjoying nature and the wonderful landscapes. And it’s not only tourists who enjoy exploring Oman – many Omanis also spend there weekends outside of the city, having barbecues and picnics by beaches and wadis, or hiking in the mountains.

Even though it was towards the end of the turtle hatching season, which lasts from July to September, we still headed to Raz al-Jinz in the hope of seeing turtles. Raz al-Jinz beach is a government protected turtle reserve, where green turtles come to lay there eggs. It is believe that over 20,000 female turtles come to the beach each year. We were lucky enough to see one female turtle laying her eggs and a couple of young hatchlings making their way to the ocean. I was unable to get a good photo of the hatchlings – they move incredibly fast and along with the dawn light, the photos turned out rather blurry.

On our way back to Muscat, we stopped by Sur to stretch our legs and take a few photos. Sur is known for its fishing and boat building industries, as well as it’s beautiful forts and corniche (a seaside promenade). The bay, which is hugged by the old town Ayjah, is guarded by a lighthouse and contains beautiful clear turquoise water, which sits as a contrast to the rough orange rock of the fort outposts. Whilst walking though Ayjah you will notice some of the old wooden doors which Omani villages are famous for.

Another must see during any visit to Oman is Bimmah Sinkhole, which is located in Hawiyat Najm Park, just off the Muscat-Sur Highway. It’s a great place to stop for a swim – the water is wonderfully clear and the temperature is refreshing, but not cold. Be weary of the small fish which inhabit the sinkhole – they will nibble at you, which can be rather ticklish, if not annoying. However, if you keep moving they will keep away and you can enjoying bathing in this stunning natural pool.

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Essentials

Getting There:
Raz al-Jinz, Sur and the Bimmah Sinkhole can all be reached by the Muscat-Sur Highway. Raz al-Jinz is 300km south of Muscat and almost a 3 hour drive, Sur is 200km and just over 2 hour drive, and the sinkhole is 125km and a 1.5 hour drive south of Muscat. Again, you will have to take a car, as there is not public transport along this route.

Stay:
We stayed at Raz al-Jinz Turtle Reserve in their new eco glamping tents, which overlook the beach. The accommodation isn’t cheap, but most decent places in Oman aren’t. The tents were comfortable and clean, and well worthwhile staying at if you wish to see the turtles at night and at dawn. The turtle reserve offers complimentary night and morning turtle tours for those staying at the reserve.
Oman doesn’t do budget accommodation well yet, but as tourism increases, I’m sure there will be more good budget options available in the near future.

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Glenorchy & Queenstown, New Zealand

We spent our final day in New Zealand taking a drive to Glenorchy and chilling out in Queenstown. There isn’t a great deal to see in Glenorchy, but the drive from Queenstown is stunning, with views over Lake Wakatipu and a mountainous backdrop.

We had spectacular weather during our entire trip in New Zealand, except for our last day. It was cloudy, with a few light showers, but still fine enough to get outside and explore. And on the upside, the clouds and fog made for some great moody photos over the jetty in Glenorchy.

After taking a short walk around Glenorchy, we headed further north to a section of the Routeburn Track. We weren’t quite adventurous enough to organise a trek before leaving Sydney, but we did do a short walk for an hour or two along part of the track. Like most places in South Island, the landscape was beautiful.

So after a week exploring the South Island, it was time to return to Sydney. We were very impress with New Zealand, and it was a much needed short break after a few hectic months back home.

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Essentials:

Eat:
We didn’t line up for the famous Fergburgers, but we did stop by at the bakery for some cream buns. And oh were they great cream buns!
We also had a fantastic lunch on our way back to the airport before heading home at The Boatshed Cafe. They do great, value for money lunches, with a stunning view towards The Remarkables. Also, don’t forget to grab one of the savoury muffins for the road.

The Catlins, New Zealand

After a day exploring Milford Sound, we headed south-east towards the Catlins. After spending a night in Invercargill at a fantastic eco-guesthouse (see details in essentials at the end of this post), we headed north along the coast through the Catlins, finishing at Kaka Point. The Catlins are wonderful for nature lovers – the entire area is hardly developed, it’s easy to access, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and the landscapes are breathtaking. Set aside at least a day to drive along this stretch of coast, as there are many places to stop and things to see along the way.

I’d recommend downloading and printing a map of the area, which marks out places of interest, before heading off. We knew that we wouldn’t be able to see everything in one day, so chose one or two short walks and visited a few of the beautiful waterfalls. We didn’t venture too far off the main road, but felt we had a good mix of coastal and forest landscapes.

The most stunning place in my opinion was definitely Nugget Point, with its isolated lighthouse and fantastic views over the South Pacific Ocean. There is the possibility of seeing seals and penguins here, particularly at night, but we didn’t have such luck unfortunately.

All in all, I would recommend setting aside a day or two during a trip of the South Island to explore the Catlins, as they are a nice change from the mountains and lakes which dominate the landscapes of South Island of New Zealand.

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Essentials:

Getting There:
It’s roughly a 2.5 hour drive from Queenstown to Invercargill and a 3 hour drive to Kaka Point. Again, there isn’t any public transport, so you’ll have to hire a car. The roads through the South Island are well signposted, and if you have a simple map, it isn’t difficult to get around.

Stay:
We stayed at a fabulous guesthouse just outside Invercargill called Bushy Point Fernbirds. Ian and Jenny run a lovely eco-guesthouse, with three comfortable bedrooms set aside for guests. The house is located on a large property, bordering wetlands, which they have allowed native New Zealand plants to thrive.

Milford Sound, New Zealand

We arrived in Te Anau late in the afternoon to embark on a day trip to Milford Sound the following morning. Taking a trip to Milford Sound requires an entire day to be set aside at minimum. It is about a two hour drive from Te Anau each way, and the road from Te Anau is the only road in. Alternatively, you could always take a helicopter, if your budget allows for it. The road is straight for the majority of the way, and reasonably well maintained. But be careful, as there are patches of moss growing on parts of the road, which may make it slippery. Also, over the winter months the road is closed, making Milford Sound inaccessible by road.

We headed out early with our thermos of hot chocolate and a few snacks. We brought along one of those old-school green Stanley thermoses and it came in very handy. There are a number of scenic stops along the road and a few short walks to break up the drive. It’s worthwhile spending the time to stop at some of these places as the scenery is stunning and it really is part of the experience in visiting Milford Sound.

We were very lucky with the weather on the day we visited, as we were told that it had rained everyday for the previous seven days. It’s quite rare to get a sunny day at Milford Sound as the area has a very high rainfall. So we were very lucky indeed.

You cannot leave Milford Sound without taking a cruise along the sound. There are a number of companies that offer cruises, which more or less offer you the same experience. We chose on the basis that the one we went with offered a fish and chips lunch included in the ticket. When cruising along the sound you see the stunning fjords and a number of waterfalls. If you’re lucky, you may also see dolphins and seals. Most cruises last for two hours, during which you can relax and enjoy the beautiful landscape.

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Essentials:

Getting There:
Milford Sound is accessible by the Te Anau-Milford Highway. Make sure you fill up before you leave Te Anau, as there are no petrol stations along the way. It is about a 2 hour drive each way, without including stops.

Stay:
We stayed at a wonderfull bed and breakfast called The Croft. Jane, the owner, has two self-contained cottages on her property which she rents out as a bed and breakfast. The cottages are spacious and cosy, and she offers a wonderful breakfast.

Waiheke Island, New Zealand

A few photographs from a beautiful weekend away to Waiheke Island, New Zealand. IMG_3325 IMG_4092 Untitled-2 IMG_3334 Untitled-1 IMG_4134 Wai1 IMG_4140 IMG_3363 Untitled-4 IMG_3364 IMG_3366 Untitled-5 IMG_3369 Untitled-3 IMG_3376 IMG_3379 Wai2 IMG_3382 IMG_3393 Untitled-6 IMG_3399 IMG_3400 Untitled-7 IMG_3402 Untitled-8 IMG_3433 IMG_3448 IMG_3439 IMG_3456 Untitled-9 IMG_3459 IMG_3461

Essentials:

Getting There:
The ferry from Auckland departs hourly to Waiheke Island and the trip is approximate 40 minutes. The first ferry is a 6am on weekdays and Saturday and 7am on Sundays. The final return ferry is a 12:30 midnight and 10pm on Sundays. A return ticket costs NZ$35.

Stay:
We stayed at Hekeurua Lodge, located not far from the centre of Oneroa. Clean and comfortable, newly decorated with a pool and jacuzzi, it comes highly recommended for those on a budget. A double room with cost you around NZ$80 per night.

Eat:
Waiheke is a place to splurge on delicious food. Try eating at some of the wineries, particularly Cable Bay Vineyard and Mudbrick Vineyard (both of these have beautiful views of Auckland by night). For breakfast, don’t miss Delight Cafe in Oneroa.