scUber dives into the Great Barrier Reef

It’s been a big week on the Great Barrier Reef, with the launch of the world’s first ridesharing submarine, appropriately named scUber.

Uber has teamed up with a baby sub named Barry, for a month of dives to explore the Great Barrier Reef – currently hovering around Heron Island, off Gladstone, it moves up to Cairns this coming week.

Fancy a seat? They’re $1500 a pop, book on the app.

If you think it’s just a publicity stunt, you’re right. Queensland’s tourism board has teamed up with Uber to highlight the health of the reef, to encourage people to come and see it for themselves. Hopefully, they’ll learn to love our marine icon – the world’s largest living thing – and therefore help protect it.

You can read more in my news story for the Sydney Morning Herald’s/The Age Traveller section, there’s even a competition to win a seat on the mini submarine. Click here to check it out.

Chasing auroras in Tasmania

Hunting the Light

A couple of years ago, I found myself standing on the top deck of a Norwegian coastal liner, the Hurtigruten. The night was pitch black, it was way below zero degrees, and we stared at the sky, our necks cricked in the cold as we attempted to capture the Northern Lights.

Then, another Australian reemerged from the warm cabins below to show us a magnificent photo of the aurora phenomenon. Where’s this? we all asked. It’s in Tasmania, he said. The Australians in the group noted it was a good 15 degrees warmer and 23 hours closer to home. So on my list for this year is to see our own Aurora Australis, the Southern Lights.

I got in touch with one of Tassie’s best-known aurora chasers, Margaret Sonnemann, founder of the Aurora Australis Tasmania Facebook group and author of The Aurora Chaser’s Handbook for her tips.

Happily, she says, you can see the Aurora Australis all year round in Tasmania, one of the landmasses closest to the South Magnetic Pole, which is where aurorae originate from. She shares camera tips as well as her favourite viewing points.

Click here to read the full story, which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age‘s Traveller website.

The mighty Murray spins a winning yarn

I’m so pleased to say that my yarn about boating through the backwaters of the Murray River, in South Australia’s Riverland, has won 2018 Best Australian Story under 1000 words at Saturday’s Australian Society of Travel Writers’ pomp-and-glitter awards in Bangkok. It was an equal first, I’m sharing the award with Andrew Bain, whose work is damned fantastic.

My story was published in Fairfax’s Traveller section, and while I was there, my host Rick Edmonds, from The Frames asked me why the tourism boards don’t promote the mighty Murray as an Australian icon, as they do Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef.

I don’t have the answer, but at a time when rural Australia needs our support, I hope that can change, and the Murray receives its due recognition. Thank you to Tourism Australia for sponsoring this award, and for supporting the ASTW. In the words of another Aussie icon, the immortal Jeff Fenech, I love youse all.

Murray River at sunset. Photo: Belle Jackson

You can read the story here: http://www.traveller.com.au/murray-river-cruise-along-the-h…

Mystic river: cruise along the hidden waterways of the Murray

“Why isn’t the Murray promoted as an icon, like Uluru or the Great Barrier Reef?”

If you’re not Australian, you probably don’t know the mighty Murray River (the ‘mighty’ is an unofficial sobriquet). It is Australia’s longest river, at 2,530km (about seven times longer than the Thames, but who’s counting?) It runs through four states, and is even a state border for 1880km and is estimated at about 60 million years old. 

In short, it’s a pretty impressive natural formation, and it’s damned pretty, as well.

So you can see why I didn’t have an answer to the question above, asked by Rick Edmonds, a proud Riverlands man and owner of the luxury The Frames property, which perches over the river near Renmark, in South Australia.

Perhaps we should adopt a French word, instead of “back creeks”, to describe this labyrinth of creeks, lagoons and inlets that cobweb the strong, flowing River Murray, here at the corner of three states.

Click here to read my story about pootling along the Murray, spotting emus, kangaroos and kingfishers, with Rick, his wife Cathy and Captain Willow (pictured above).

The story was published in the Traveller section of the Sun-Herald (Sydney) and Sunday Age (Melbourne). 

Belinda Jackson was a guest of The Frames.

Get out of town: Discover a Mornington Peninsula drive

polperro
Polperro Winery, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia Photo: Belinda Jackson

It’s an hour from Melbourne, and when you’re among the leafy vines of one if its fine wineries, with an overflowing picnic basket, the Mornington Peninsula is a whole different state of mind.

I had my first holiday here on the peninsula (aged 5 months), and still return to Safety Beach for my weekend getaway.

So it was an easy task to share my suggestions of great shopping strips, natural hot springs, and how to find that winery with picnic basket.

Click here to read my recommendations on where to shop, eat, stay and play on the Mornington Peninsula for Mercedes Benz owners.

From Rajasthani fortress to boutique hotel

FortBishangarh
Photo: Belle Jackson

Catching up on my poor, neglected blog. The reason for my neglect is
good: I’ve been tromping around the wilds of Rajasthan, specifically
Bishangarh, a little village about an hour north of Jaipur.

The lure was the opening of the new Alila Fort Bishangarh, a fortress turned boutique hotel. I went crazy on instagram – take a look.

It took seven years to convert the 230-year-old fort, and it still
retains a tang of military austerity. Happily, the dungeon is free of
bats, snakes and gunpowder: it’s now an Alila spa, and staircases lead
to rooftop restaurants or a little yoga platform. I did a little
housework, cooking flatbread over an open fire in a mud-floor house, I
cycled past camel carts and flocks of goats and took a brief pilgrimage
to a Hindu temple – interspersed with cool, scented towels, sugared lime
juice and dips in this pool (below) because hey, it’s monsoon season in
this part of the world, and why suffer if you don’t have to?

FortBishangarhpool.JPG
Photo: Belle Jackson

My first review is out, for the Sydney Morning Herald/Sunday Age Traveller: click here to read it. If you’re planning a sojourn to Jaipur in the near future, this hotel absolutely must be on your list.

Tonga: pitch perfect

Tongan Beach Resort  PHOTO: Belle Jackson

“We Tongans party today, and there’s nothing on the table tomorrow,” a
Tongan woman tells me as we queue at Tongatapu’s airport. It’s 2am, I
haven’t even set foot in the country and already I’ve been warned that
Tongans are hardened socialites.

Looking around, I realise it’s true. You’re nobody if you’re not
kissing a staff member. Customs officers, passport controllers, baggage
handlers – they’re all wrapped in warm, loving embraces from the
passengers from our plane, all serenade by a tuneful, live ukulele band.
I guess there’s a reason why Captain Cook called them the Friendly
Islands.

My recent story in Air Niugini’s inflight magazine, Paradise,
finds the song of Tonga, from ukulele bands at the airport to the
ancient, deep and almost mournful whalesong that reverberates through
the water and into my bones.

It’s not a country high on the tourism radar, and I can’t work out
why. Surely the great Aussie tropical getaway is the new one-two – first
stop Fiji, second stop Tonga (the whale-loving archipelago of Vava’u is
now connected by direct flights to the Fijian capital, Nadi).

Tonga: pitch perfect

Tonga Belinda Jackson.JPG
Tongan Beach Resort  PHOTO:Belle Jackson

“We Tongans party today, and there’s nothing on the table tomorrow,” a Tongan woman tells me as we queue at Tongatapu’s airport. It’s 2am, I haven’t even set foot in the country and already I’ve been warned that Tongans are hardened socialites.

Looking around, I realise it’s true. You’re nobody if you’re not kissing a staff member. Customs officers, passport controllers, baggage handlers – they’re all wrapped in warm, loving embraces from the passengers from our plane, all serenade by a tuneful, live ukulele band. I guess there’s a reason why Captain Cook called them the Friendly Islands.

My recent story in Air Niugini’s inflight magazine, Paradise, finds the song of Tonga, from ukulele bands at the airport to the ancient, deep and almost mournful whalesong that reverberates through the water and into my bones.

It’s not a country high on the tourism radar, and I can’t work out why. Surely the great Aussie tropical getaway is the new one-two – first stop Fiji, second stop Tonga (the whale-loving archipelago of Vava’u is now connected by direct flights to the Fijian capital, Nadi).

 

 

From Rajasthani fortress to boutique hotel

Oh I’ve been bad – this poor blog! But the reason for my neglect is good: I’ve been tromping around the wilds of Rajasthan, specifically Bishangarh, a little village about an hour north of Jaipur.

FortBishangarh
Photo: Belle Jackson

The lure was the opening of the new Alila Fort Bishangarh, a fortress turned boutique hotel. I went crazy on instagram – take a look.

It took seven years to convert the 230-year-old fort, and it still retains a tang of military austerity. Happily, the dungeon is free of bats, snakes and gunpowder: it’s now an Alila spa, and staircases lead to rooftop restaurants or a little yoga platform. I did a little housework, cooking flatbread over an open fire in a mud-floor house, I cycled past camel carts and flocks of goats and took a brief pilgrimage to a Hindu temple – interspersed with cool, scented towels, sugared lime juice and dips in this pool (below) because hey, it’s monsoon season in this part of the world, and why suffer if you don’t have to?

My first review is out, for the Sydney Morning Herald/Sunday Age Traveller: click here to read it. If you’re planning a sojourn to Jaipur in the near future, this hotel absolutely must be on your list.

FortBishangarhpool.JPG
Photo: Belle Jackson

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Hotel review: Hilton Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

It’s peak season up in Darwin, as southerners rush north to escape winter (and hey, I’m not blaming anybody here). The Hilton is the city’s only official five-star hotel, and the pool is one fine reason to check in.

The 236-room hotel has held this city-centre position for years: old Darwin hands will remember the Hilton Darwin as a Crowne Plaza. The hotel is just behind the mall, and should you feel the need to swim with crocs, the croc hotpot of Crocosaurus Cove is just a few steps away.

Click here to take a look at the review I wrote for the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age.HiltonDarwin