Great Southern Land

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Today I watched the movie ‘Lion’. I really enjoyed it and found it to be a moving film. It reinforced a feeling that really struck me when I travelled around Cambodia last year- that we don’t have a choice as to where we are born or what circumstances we are born into. So many factors beyond our control shape our lives.

There is no doubt I was born into fortunate circumstances- as a child, I never had to wander the streets, or worry about my next meal, or toil in laborious jobs to support my family. I was able to go to school and get an education. I went to bed each night with a roof over my head, feeling loved and safe. I have been very blessed indeed, because, as the movie showed, not all children are lucky enough to have such a carefree introduction to life.

No doubt one of the reasons why I had such a fortunate childhood is because I was born in Australia. And since it is Australia Day, it is apt that, today of all days, ‘Lion’ reminded me of how lucky I am to be Australian. There are many things to love about living in this beautiful country, but today, what I feel most grateful for is that, when my wheel of life was spun to determine where I would be born, it just so happened to land on this great southern land.

My Top 10 Travel Memories of 2016: #4

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Number 4: Sailing around the islands of the Bacuit Archipalego

I love the ocean and always find the sight of it, stretching infinitely out beyond the horizon, so calming and peaceful to look at. I take comfort in its constancy and timelessness. The lives of humans come and go but the ocean remains where it always has been and always will be.

I’m not much of a swimmer but I love being out on the water. Unfortunately, since I do not have a millionaire husband with his own private yacht, it is not an opportunity that arises very often! That’s why if I’m travelling somewhere warm and it has any sort of coastline, one of the first things I’ll do is arrange some sort of sailing experience.

So, it’s safe to say that when my friend and I visited the Philippines, there was definitely going to be some sailing involved. After all, a country with over 7000 islands was practically made for living life on the sea.

The main sailing experiences we had on our holiday were in El Nido, a municipality situated in the north of the island of Palawan. As you enter the town, a sign proclaims Welcome to El Nido- A Paradise Within Paradise. El Nido has also been called the Best Beach and Island destination in the Philippines. Again, given the number of islands that make up this country, such acclaim meant that our expectations were high.

We were not disappointed.

My friend and I only had two full days in El Nido and spent both of them doing ‘island hopping’ tours. As El Nido is the gateway to the wider Bacuit Archipelago, there are 45 enchanting tropical islands which you can explore. We visited ten of them over the two days.

Our first island hopping tour was my favourite and the highlight of my entire Philippines holiday. A calm, clear ocean and the balmiest sea breeze set the scene for a perfect day of sailing. The gentle swaying of the boat was so soothing that I could’ve easily dozed off, if it wasn’t for all the rugged karst cliffs rising around me. It is awe-inspiring and humbling to see the work of eons towering over you.

The day offered many opportunities to swim and snorkel and it was such a treat to be able to do so in such magnificent natural surrounds. Striking contrasts were everywhere- ivory shores, ebony outcrops, emerald forests and crystal water. But what I loved most of all was just sitting at the front of the boat, the sun on my skin, the wind in my hair and the presence of freedom all around me.