06 January 2017

30 Dec 2016-5 Jan 2017: Magnetic Island, Queensland, Australia

Magnetic Island - paradise - hot, sunny and tropical!

Magnetic Island is the only island on the North Queensland Coast with a blend of untouched National Park, a resident population of about 2,500 and a variety of holiday resorts. And just twenty minutes by fast "Cat" across Cleveland Bay from Townsville.

Although in the Tropics, the Townsville area is in a rain shadow which makes it the sunniest city on the Queensland coast (Magnetic Island averages over 320 days of sunshine per year. More than half of the Island's 5,184 hectares is National Park, with Mt. Cook in the centre rising to 497 metres. Huge granite boulders are softened by tall Hoop pines, eucalypt forest and small patches of rainforest.

There are 24kms of walking track through the park with many spectacular lookouts. The National Park is a haven for wildlife, like rock wallabies, possums, koalas and a wide variety of bird-life. A great 6km walk to do is from Nelly Bay to Arcadia (where you can spot wild koalas), and also from Horseshoe Bay to Radical and Balding Bays. All very beautiful with a feeling of being untouched.

I was there mainly for the scuba diving (Great Barrier Reef, Yongala Wreck) but actually found there was a lot more to do. There was plenty of walking (albeit you had to choose the time of day wisely as the humidity was horrible), lots of beaches to visit (my favourite being Alma Bay), and everything from snorkeling, to hiring a bike/car, to kayaking.

I went diving on Great Barrier Reef with a company called Pro Dive Magnetic Island and they were fantastic. Nik (Captain and Dive Guide) was relaxed, chilled and went with the flow.  He was attentive to those divers who were a little less experienced, but overall catered to everyone's skill levels and ensured there were appropriate dive briefs etc.  Definitely recommend these guys - and they are located in Nelly Bay and boat out from the ferry terminal. GBR was stunning, with most of the more beautiful coral/fish nearer to 10m. We did two dives - from 50-60mins in duration each.

The SS Yongala is one of the best dive sites in the world and in Australia. It is actually considered by many people as THE best wreck dive in the world. The Yongala Shipwreck is a 110m former steel passenger and freight steamer. It sank in 1911 during a tropical cyclone with its 124 passengers. The Shipwreck was found only in 1958 and is now a main tourist attraction in Australia.

The bottom of the wreck is at 33m, with the top at 15m and with very strong currents and visibility from 10-15m.  We were lucky and the weather was relatively calm, the currents were good and the visibility was about 10-12m.  Aside from the wreck itself, the marine life is amazing - we spotted giant groupers, schools of barracuda, giant trevally, massive wrasse (almost as big as a person's torso), lots of sea snakes and 2-3 turtles (though they were at the surface). The most diverse range of marine life that I've seen in a long time!

I went through the Townsville diving shop - Adrenaline Dive - as dive shops can only go out on certain days so there are not too many divers there at any one time. They are professional, run a tight ship and make sure there are extensive briefings to ensure everyone is aware of how to deal with the strong currents.  It is illegal to enter the wreck - the last diver to do that was deported from Australia with a $15,000 fine!

 What a chilled and relaxing 6 days.  Wish I could have dived another day or two, but alas with flying I had to be careful of when my last dive was. Next time.


17 November 2016

2016: Setting up home in Sydney, Australia

Moving to Sydney Australia from New York USA during summer, was the best decision! A major move (via London and New Zealand) but I had the opportunity to enjoy summer at Bondi Beach while looking for work.

Sydney is a fabulous city - edgy, bright lights, big enough for most city slickers, and famous sites such as the Opera House and Bondi Beach.  You can't be bored here as there is something for everyone - though mostly an outdoors environment - which is great for those who would describe themselves as water babies.

It is costly living in Sydney, no denying that.  Clothes and shoes are not cheap, but then again, most people live in their gym/beach gear and flipflops! Food is also not cheap - but it is fresh, local and delicious - so most times it's worth the price. As for the coffee....to die for!

If you want body-beautiful then head to the Eastern suburbs, if you want clubby, head to Paddington, and if you want chilled then head north. There are festivals every weekend, sports activities every day, and fitness bootcamps in the morning and evenings.  There are no excuses for being a couch potato when living in Sydney. 

Also having joined up with a dragonboat club (Mavericks) has meant I've been able to meet a lot more people in a short time, keep fit, enjoy the outdoors and see Sydney from the water.

To sum up Sydney so far:

11 April 2016

Dec 2015-March 2016: Moving to Sydney, Australia

Moving from the US to Sydney via London, Netherlands, Wellington and Brisbane

Alas it was a goodbye to New York and hello to 'down under'!  I also quit 9 years working at Credit Suisse which was a very hard decision, but as I didn't want to relocate back to London and there were no roles going in Australia, it was the best option.

I also had the opportunity to see all my friends and family in the UK, Netherlands, NZ and Brisbane. 

Spending Xmas with my brother, sister in law and adorable two nieces in London was the icing on the cake! That and spending New Year's with very good friends of mine (Vicky/Conall), catching up with other close friends such as Sera/Jasper/Alex, Wai, Jacky and having the chance to go over to Gramsbergen and see my Dutch cousins Hilga and Jacco (and their kids), and my aunt and uncle.

Then I flew downunder to stay with my folks in Wellington for 4 weeks and enjoy the Wellington summer (which was pretty decent), and also fly across to Brisbane (which was very hot) to catch up with my sister Pen, brother in law and very lively two nephews!

Been an amazing (busy/stressful - but so wonderful) 3 months and so happy that I was able to catch up with everyone.