I’m a journalist, travel writer, editor and copywriter based in Melbourne, Australia. I write pacy travel features, edit edifying websites and fashion flamboyant copy. My articles and photographs have appeared in publications worldwide, from inflight to interior design: I’ve visited every continent, and have lived in three. Want to work together? Drop me a line… 

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Heart to Heart: visiting the Great Barrier Reef’s most iconic reef

Alone, but not unloved, tiny Heart Reef is the pin-up star of everything that’s beautiful on the Great Barrier Reef – its perfect heart shape, its glittering lagoon, its intricate corals and its romantically remote location.

If you’ve seen an ad for Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in the past few years, you’ve probably been looking at an aerial shot of Heart Reef, the little heart-shaped bommie (“It’s NOT A REEF!” clarifies the Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority, with some asperity) set within Hardy Reef, north-east of the Whitsunday Islands.

The vastness of the reef, the oceans and the deepest blue of the channels between the coral platforms send shivers down my spine. To read more about how to visit Heart Reef and this luxury Heart Island pontoon, click here to take a look at my story for Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.


Airline review: FlyDubai to the Silk Road city of Almaty, Kazakhstan

It might seem weird posting a flight review in the midst of a global lockdown, but irrepressible travellers are already looking and booking deals around the world for travel late in 2020 and throughout 2021.

If it’s not on your radar, FlyDubai operates a fleet of Boeing 737-800s out of Dubai Airport’s Terminal 2. It’s currently still on the ground, but when in the skies, its destination list includes some intriguing cities including Prague, Naples and Dubrovnik in Europe, Tbilisi in Georgia and its new route from Dubai to Finland’s fun little capital, Helsinki. It also services the ancient cities along the Silk Road including the Turkmenistan capital Ashgabat and Almaty in Kazakhstan, which is where I was headed on this journey.

The UAE is already opening back up, with sister airline Emirates flying from its Dubai base to Sydney and Melbourne, sprinkling hygiene kits around its cabins, which includes masks, gloves, wipes and hand santiser. Like Emirates, FlyDubai is owned by the Dubai government, and the two often codeshare.

Click here to read my review, published in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers. The print edition is currently in slumber, dreaming of its next destination.


One morning, two icons: touring the Top End, Australia

It’s a strange think to talk of lack of time when time is all we’ve got at the moment as we while away our time in self isolate.

Yet time is always precious: I wrote this short piece about a new air tour of two of the Northern Territory’s most popular national parks – Litchfield and Kakadu, just before this COVID-19 virus took hold of our country.

The little local airline – NT Air – says the best time to visit this part of the Top End is now, just after the Wet, when the territory is deluged by monsoonal rain, and everything is green and glowing.

The Wet will come again, this virus will pass. Those benefiting are not just shareholders in gold, supermarkets, toilet paper manufacturers and face mask factories. Nature, too, is benifiting from our global lockdown: she will heal as we stay away from our most loved destinations, including our national parks.

So put this trip on your inspiration list, to fly via light aircraft between the so-called Lost City rock formation in Litchfield to the billabongs and dramatic escarpments of Kakadu.

Click here to read the full story, published in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers.

 


Notes from a zombie zone: Turkmenistan’s Ashgabat airport

To get through the departure gates at Ashgabat airport, in the Central Asian country of Turkmenistan, I had to have my passport scanned.

And my fingerprints.

And my thumbprints.

And my retinas.

They’re taking no chances in this airport. Not that there would be many me look-alikes here. There just aren’t that many people, full stop. And most of the women are swanning about with impossibly high headdresses and long, vivid gowns that sweep the already immaculate white marble floors.

Should you find yourself in Ashgabat any time soon, click here to read my review in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers.


Airline review: Madrid to Cairo with Egyptair

Recently, I completed an epic trek from Cusco, near Macchu Pichu in Peru, to Cairo, Egypt.

Let me tell you, it took some serious, late-night internet hunting! I could have travelled via Sao Paulo, (Brazil) then across to Casablanca (Morocco) and on to Egypt, or from Sao Paulo via a 12-hour layover in Addas Ababa (Ethiopia) and on to Cairo. In the end, the best connections were flying from Lima (Peru) up to Madrid (with three hours cooling my heels in a secondary airport in Ecuador) with LATAM and from Madrid on to Cairo with Egyptair.

This is my review of the Egyptair flight – I’ve flown many times domestically and internationally with the national carrier – on the Madrid-Cairo route, a direct flight of 4 hours 40 minutes.

I’m going to paste my favourite para here, about the food on board:

Chicken or the beef? The beef arrives cubed in a sauce with spiral pasta, and is surprisingly comforting. It’s accompanied by a dried, tired salad, crackers, chocolate cake, a wholemeal dinner role, butter and a triangle of La vache qui rit (The Laughing Cow, incidentally, is the nickname of Egypt’s deposed military dictator, Hosny Mubarak). Because you needed to know that last fact : )

Published in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age‘s Traveller section, you can read the full review here.


What to expect when visiting Cairo Airport’s Terminal 2

Over the past decade, I’ve watched Cairo Airport change and grow – definitely for the better – from the raucous taxi chorus and decaying bathrooms of the old Terminal 1 to the snappy design of its newest expansion, Terminal 3.

If you’re coming through the Egyptian capital any time soon, here’s my take on Terminal 2, which sees the major Middle Eastern carriers, Etihad and Emirates, passing on through.

What to remember: security is paramount, and there are plenty of screening points. What to forget: Facebook, as wifi is but a beautiful dream.

Far better to grab a seat and watch the parade of fashions, from central African men in patterned jellibiyas (traditional robes) and matching kufis (caps) to women from the Gulf states in well-cut abayas and heels. You can identify the rare Antipodean by their khaki zip-off pants. If you want to hang with the locals, they’re in the smoking rooms.

Click here to read my full review, which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age’s Traveller section.


How to pack – a guide

I love a good ‘how to pack’ story, I really do. I love those one-pagers in glossy magazines that have a shirt, hat, watch, book and other pieces of travel euphemia scattered about the page, organised into geographic locations:

waterproof pants and binoculars for Antarctica.
Foldable sun hat and cats-eye sunglasses for southern Italy.
Cigarette pants, black loafers and reusable coffee cup for Melbourne.

They may be cliched, but for me, they encapsulate a destination.

I chatted to uber-packer Cathy Perry, who tells me you really can pack for two weeks with just hand luggage (ok, maybe not for Antarctica). She talks up the trans-seasonal trench coat, the joy of pairing fashion runners with dresses and the rules on getting organised.

Check out my interview with Cathy, which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Sunday Age’s Traveller section.


Game on: kids in business class

Business class is out of reach of most travellers, and I had to hit my third decade before experiencing the delicious sensation of turning left on the plane.Some, however, are far luckier.

Recently, my seven-year-old daughter put Etihad Airways’ business class to the test en route to Abu Dhabi.

We’ve flown Etihad many times before, we’ve been scarred by its kids meals, most notably a long-haul economy nightmare of reoccurring cheese macaroni and UHT banana milk that comprises the kids menu – with no water served with their meals. I’ve ranted about it in the past – why load children up with a tray full of sugar, then complain when they turn into sugar-fuelled screeching monsters?

This time, in business, it’s a whole different ball game…

To read the full story on the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age’s Traveller website, click here


Emirates named world’s best airline

Ok plane nerds, here’s the list for 2016 – the world’s best airlines as voted by travellers in the annual Skytrax awards
Again, a battle between the Middle Eastern airlines versus the old fave, Singapore, and Australia’s own Qantas just scrapes in at number 9 in the world’s best. Note that it also took out the best Australia/Pacific airline, as well.
The top 10 best airlines:
1. Emirates
2. Qatar Airways
3. Singapore Airlines
4. Cathay Pacific
5. ANA All Nippon Airways
6. Etihad Airways
7. Turkish Airlines
8. EVA Air
9. Qantas Airways
10. Lufthansa
Other winners included:
Transatlantic Airline: Lufthansa
Transpacific Airline: Eva Air
North American Regional Airline: Porter Airline
Airline Staff in Asia: ANA airlines
Regional European Airline: Aegean
Airline lounge: Star Alliance
Airline in Southern Europe: Turkish Airlines
Airline in Northern Europe: FinnAir
Airline in Western Europe: Lufthansa
Airline in Eastern Europe: Aeroflot
Airline in Africa: South African Airways
Airline in Australia/Pacific: Qantas
Airline in Central Asia: Air Astana
Airline in China: Hainan Airlines
Airline in Central America/Caribbean: Copa Airlines
Airline in S. America: LAN Airlines
Airline in N. America: Virgin America
Airline in Asia: Singapore Airlines
Airline in Middle East: Emirates
Airline in Europe: Turkish Airlines
Low-cost airline in Australia & Pacific: JetStar Airways
Low-cost airline in Asia: AirAsia
Low-cost airline in Central Asia & India: IndiGo
Low-cost airline in China: Spring Airlines
Low-cost airline in South America: Azul Brazil
Low-cost airline in North America: Virgin America
Low-cost airline in Europe: Norwegian
Lounge dining business class: Turkish
First class lounge dining: Air France
Airline staff service Africa: Ethiopia Airlines
Airline staff service Aus Pac: Qantas

Airline review: Qatar Airways economy class, Melbourne to Doha

A street scene from Doha’s Souq Waqif. Photo: Belle Jackson

Qatar Airways, the newest Middle Eastern airline to service Australia, does the Melbourne-Doha (Qatar) route and recently started flying from Sydney, with Adelaide-Doha in the wings.

I flew Melbourne to Qatar on the way to Stockholm, and reviewed it for the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper. I never seem to draw the A380 card, so plane nerds please note that this flight was on its Boeing 777-300ER.
Great entertainment system (when it got working), good food (except that thing about stuffing kids full of sugar while in a confined space for 14 hours – um, why???) and timely arrival into Doha’s new airport, which is fantastic until you hit the maniacal bottlenecks at the transit area.
Click here to read my review of the rival to Emirates and Etihad.

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