What to do in Cebu, Philippines

By the reactions from locals we spoke to on the way to Cebu, it's not as much of a holiday destination as El Nido or Boracay but I loved it!

What to do  in Cebu

A lot of people visit this part of the Philippines to swim with whale sharks in Oslob which was the main drawcard for me initially, but after some research I found the ethics to be quite questionable and I decided not to. We found some other really awesome things to do in the area instead!

It's a bit of a journey, but if you keep going south past Oslob and then across the water to Dumaguete, you'll be able to go to Apo Island. The snorkelling there is amazing and from research, it seemed like the only place in the Philippines where you're guaranteed to see sea turtles. It was a bit of a journey but one we were keen to make considering we weren't going to swim with whale sharks. 

We arrived too late to make the ferry across on the first night to stay on Apo Island so opted to stay at Harold's Mansion, right next door to where the tours left. "Mansion" is a bit of a stretch, but the place was tidy enough, has air-con and a nice rooftop restaurant with its own vege/herb garden. When we checked in they informed us that we were too late for the Apo Island tour, it was all booked up. They offered us a spot on the snorkelling tour to Dauin instead.

What to do in Cebu 2

When we got to Dauin the next morning we managed to negotiate spots on the Apo Island tour anyway and we were so happy that they let us! Dauin was just a beach that probably had nice underwater views, but once we got to Apo Island we were rewarded with the most amazing snorkelling, the best we had on the whole trip and we saw so many turtles! We also saw sea snakes, sea slugs, starfish, giant clams and a plethora of different types of tropical fish. I even saw flying fish on the boat ride over.

What to do in Cebu 4

We were about two swimmers to one guide who showed us around and told us what not to do, but I still saw other tourists try to touch the turtles. Our guide took us to some caves on the shore and we had fun jumping off the boat with the other guides and watching them make bubble rings underwater, it was a wonderful trip. 

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After the tour, we headed back to Cebu Island via the quick ferry and went to our accommodation in Liloan - Tropara Resort which can be found on Airbnb. We loved it there, it was right on the beach and everything about it was really tropical and relaxed. Our room, the Mermaid Room, had a balcony that opened out to the water which gave us some spectacular sunrises and sunsets. 

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What to do in Cebu Kawasan Falls

The next day we were picked up to do the Kawasan Falls, which I will write a full blog post for soon. Let's just say it is highly recommended! 

After that, we took another yellow bus up the island back to Cebu City, where we stayed in the Bayfront Hotel Cebu. It was a nice enough hotel just across the SM Cebu City Mall which we took a trip to. The mall itself was pretty standard, there wasn't anything too outrageous and when I visited the supermarket I struggled to find anything weird and wonderful to take home. We were disappointed by the supermarket's lack of Asian fruits like mangosteens or dragonfruit. But I was really happy with my dried mango purchases and wish I had bought more, apparently, Cebu mango is much cheaper in Cebu, who would've thought! 

We spent a lot of our time in Cebu travelling (it was 6 hours from Cebu to Liloan on the bus alone) but it was a really cool part of the trip; I feel like we got to experience the less touristy sides of the Philippines like the city centre and the small towns that don't see a lot of foreigners. 

Would you give Cebu a try? Or have you been yourself? 

The 2017 round-up

Well...2017 did not turn out the way I thought it would! It was an emotional rollercoaster, to say the least. I won't go into the bad stuff because that's what angsty diary entries are for, but when 2017 was good, it was really really good! Here are some of my highlights from 2017:

5. Mini roadtrips with great friends

One thing I've really come to appreciate over the last few years is how good friends make all the difference. As well as the overseas trips I took, I was also really lucky that my friends have been keen to come on mini road trips out of Auckland! I wrote this post on some of them - the 10 best day trips from Auckland. Even before summer arrived I was hitting the road with friends and going away for bush walks, exploring new beaches and getting cool drone shots of amazing places. 

Beach day at Leigh. Photo: Nattaya J Creative

Beach day at Leigh. Photo: Nattaya J Creative

4. Surfing

I have been surfing a couple of times each summer for the last few years, but only in 2017 have I actually put in the effort to get better. I also bought myself a board which has helped my skills dramatically. Although I'm still splashing around in the whitewash, I'm much more confident and able to catch heaps of waves. My biggest resolution for 2018 is to get over my fear of unbroken waves and start making my way out the back.

One of my favourite surf trips this year was when I and my friend Lois went to Ohakune for a weekend of snowboarding but couldn't get up at all due to bad weather. There's not a lot to do in Ohakune when the weather is bad, so we cut our losses and drove home via Raglan and had a quick evening surf. The boards we hired weren't right for our skill levels, being October it was very cold and the waves were quite dumpy, but when I'm surfing those kinds of things don't matter. It felt so surreal being out there on a grey day, being pelted by heavy raindrops, and I was content to just be there.

3. My first trip to Queenstown

I had never been to Queenstown until 2017, and although it was a trip that had a lot of emotional collateral, I still had a wonderful time. I enjoyed being out in nature, with the Southern Alps as a backdrop. A highlight was Glenorchy where I went horseriding along the river bed, with the best view of the Alps. Also, Fergburger for brekkie! You can check out my Queenstown highlights video here.

The 2017 round-up Queenstown

2. Girls weekend in the Gold Coast

After going to the GC twice in the past, I never thought I'd go back there without kids of my own, but I signed up for a girls' weekend away in 2017 and had the best time. I particularly enjoyed Byron Bay, which isn't even in the GC, but it was so fun to go away with a couple of girlfriends and just do girly stuff. 

The 2017 ruond-up Gold Coast

1. Philippines

You might remember that for one of my "Travel to ...." posts I featured the Philippines? Well, I went in 2017! It was so amazing! There was a really decent sale through work that I took advantage of and headed to the Philippines for 9 days, which wasn't nearly enough. I went with my friend Nat to Cebu and Coron, which were both incredible places. We went snorkelling with turtles, canyoneering where we did 45ft jumps into an electric blue river, had a waterfall "massage", discovered a mysterious island with black caves and slept in a tree house. 

Teh 2017 round-up Philippines 3

So far I have a blog post and video on what to do in Coron, but another of my goals for 2018 will be to finish all my content around the Philippines, I have so much I want to share from that trip! 

View of the entry to the Twin Lagoons, Coron. Photo: Nattaya J Creative

View of the entry to the Twin Lagoons, Coron. Photo: Nattaya J Creative

What was your favourite part of 2017?! 

Girls' weekend in the Gold Coast

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I've never done a girls' weekend overseas, and after going to the Gold Coast with my friends Steph (also known online as Beauty Lust) and Kerri, I wish I'd done it sooner! 

My friends and I had been tossing up getting a hotel in Auckland and having a big night out, but then there were flights to Gold Coast for NZ$200 so we thought, why not make a weekend of it?! Even though Gold Coast is not a place I've been in a hurry to go back to, after going on a family holiday and a couple's trip years ago and preferring a different style of travel nowadays, it has its merits. 

What to do:

So many Kiwis go to the Gold Coast at some point for a cheap, fun getaway. Because we were only there for three nights, we decided to forgo the theme parks this time around, but they are very easy to get to and you could definitely squeeze at least one into your weekend. We were there for shopping and nightlife, with a bit of sunshine thrown in.

As the name would suggest, you can also surf at Surfer's Paradise. Sherpa, my favourite surf forecasting app, confirmed what the lack of surfers on the water suggested; conditions weren't great. Each day I thought it might improve but alas, it didn't. It would be a really neat place to learn though, and would be a really fun way to spend a morning with the girls!

Girls weekend Gold Coast beach

Then there's the shopping. There are a few malls to choose from, as well as the shops of Surfers Paradise. We hit up the outlet stores at Harbour Town, where we scored some pretty good bargains. The sales are similar to what you'd find at Dressmart in Auckland, with maybe a few more designer brands in the mix. Then there's the recently upgraded Pacific Fair, which is a stunning mall. I hate spending too much time in malls these days, in spite of my past as a shopaholic, but Pacific Fair was so impressive and mostly outdoors, so I didn't mind too much. 

We also went clubbing, and I think we could've branched out down to Broadbeach where it sounds like the clientele is a bit closer to our age, but we still had fun. We only went to Sin City (twice because they asked us to come in free of charge and offered a free drink) and Cocktails, because they were easy to locate and central. We also enjoyed drinks at the Islander but that closed pretty early. 

Girls Weekend in Gold Coast group shot

What to eat:

Girls weekend Gold Coast brunch

One of the joys of being back in Australia is the range of food delivery services! We wanted to be lazy one night and eat in, especially because we loved our apartment, and ordered Chinese takeaways from Deliveroo. It's like Uber Eats, if you're not familiar. I've never found the food in Surfers Paradise to be amazing, but I did enjoy brunch both days. The first day we went to The Beach Cafe and the second day we tried Sandbar. Both were right on the main street with gorgeous decor, I preferred Sandbar because it had a better menu in my opinion; I had a delicious smoothie bowl (to try make up for all the alcohol I'd consumed). 

Where to stay: 

I was very lucky to be offered a discounted stay at the Mantra Crown Towers, right in Surfers Paradise for this trip and it was an awesome place to stay. The main area seems geared more towards families, with a fun outdoor pool area that resembled a fake beach.

We were so excited when we reached our apartment on the 32nd floor, the view was spectacular! We also had our own rooms (I took the one with the biggest bed, seeing as I'm about a foot taller than the others), with two full bathrooms, a large kitchen and open dining/lounge area, and a balcony looking right out to sea. One of the rooms had a mirror that took up the whole wall, which was perfect for when we all wanted to get ready together! 

The two largest of our three bedrooms, and the bathroom featuring a spa bath

The two largest of our three bedrooms, and the bathroom featuring a spa bath

We had a lot of fun in that apartment, and the lighting was quite good so of course, we took many selfies! It was a really nice place to just relax as well, with a view of the whole Surfer's Paradise stretch, as well as the beach, it was the perfect spot to watch the sun rise and set. 

Where to go:

Girls weekend Gold Coast Byron Bay

I would like to throw in a special mention to Byron Bay. I guess it's not really a weekend on the Gold Coast if you visit somewhere that is over an hour's drive away and in a different time zone...but I would still highly recommend a trip to Byron Bay if you have time! Even though people say it's become far more touristy than it once was, I still fell in love, and it was a stark contrast to Surfer's. Along with the new modern chain stores for people who live beach-side, like Billabong and Tigerlilly, there are also really lovely boutiques, cute stores with retro themes and regular markets. Sadly we visited on a day with no markets, but there was still more than enough to explore. 

Unfortunately I didn't get too many photos here, I was more focused on getting footage for my video (stay tuned for that!) and also trying to find a bargain.

What's your favourite thing to do in the Gold Coast? Have you ever visited Byron Bay?

My first drone - DJI Spark

If you haven't noticed a lot more aerial footage on social media these days then you must be living under a rock! 

I recently joined the drone craze myself, after talking about it for months! I was constantly grilling a workmate about his DJI Mavic Pro, and one day he mentioned that DJI were going to release a new, smaller drone. I researched the Spark and found that it had everything I was after - a small, portable drone with good specs for its size - perfect for a beginner like myself. 

My first aerial photo, unedited - Snells Beach

My first aerial photo, unedited - Snells Beach

The main reason I went with the Spark over the Mavic Pro, in the end, was the price tag. In New Zealand, the Spark alone sells for around $900 and the Mavic Pro for about $1800, and then you can get combos for a few hundred more each. I paid $1299 for the Spark Fly More bundle, which includes the drone, remote, spare battery, propellors and guards, and a charging hub.  

Me and my DJI Spark

Me and my DJI Spark

I don't really know a lot about technical specs, but I know the Spark offers pretty much all I need to take cool photos and decent quality videos. The camera lens is 12 megapixels with a 1/2.3 inch sensor and the video is 1920x1080, which is fine because I'm only using it for a hobby. The camera is on a 2 axis gimbal so the footage remains stable when flying. It does take a little bit longer to stabilize when in Sports mode, however.

It has some cool features that I'm just getting the hang of. There's Active Tracking, which is great for following a moving object which remaining smooth and steady. A big selling point, which I haven't really mastered yet, is the Hand Gesture setting. I have managed to get it to follow my hand side to side once, but I haven't mastered the "dronie" - you gesture for it to take a selfie. I should probably read the instructions a bit more, so that's probably just as much my own fault. 

My favourite thing about it is that I can launch it from my palm! Yes, it would be just as easy to place it on the ground to launch, but it comes in handy if the ground is uneven or wet. I like to think of myself as the Mother of Drones. Anyway...

Landing my DJI Spark in the palm of my hand - Kitekite Falls

Landing my DJI Spark in the palm of my hand - Kitekite Falls

The short fly time is definitely one of the negatives I've found so far - the maximum it'll do is 16 mins, which is enough to do a fair bit of filming somewhere, but if I want to shoot a second location in one outing I'll need to make sure my spare battery is charged.

Aerial shot of Okura Reserve, unedited

Aerial shot of Okura Reserve, unedited

Also, often the video signal drops out and once I had the whole aircraft disconnect when it was out at the beach, around the rocks and out of sight. When that happened, I wasn't sure if I had any control over it or not, or whether it still had its Obstacle Avoidance on so I just pushed the joystick to fly it upwards, and prayed to God it would appear over the top of everything rather than fly into it when it "returned to home". Luckily it did, and once it was in sight I let the GPS guide it back to me. 

Te Arai point, unedited

Te Arai point, unedited

Overall, the DJI Spark is a neat little toy, and it does everything a part-time blogger like myself needs. If you are looking at getting a drone for professional use you might want to look at something with better specs from DJI but if not, then the DJI Spark is a great option. 

Have you got a drone? Any advice?

Travel to Slovenia

For this next instalment of "Travel to...", let's cast our eyes up to the European continent, and take a look at Slovenia. Why Slovenia? Because it looks like a picturesque country that may not be as well travelled as some of its neighbours, but from what I've heard it really should be! 

A mountainous country, Slovenia is surrounded by Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, with a small coastline on the Adriatic Sea. It has a small population, with just over 2 million people, the majority of whom speak Slovene. It is part of the UN so if you've travelling through Europe, you won't need to change your Euros to a different currency.  

Lake Bled - Our escape clause

Lake Bled - Our escape clause

Kate and Jeremy from Our Escape Clause pegged the country as one that they'd most like to return to, up there with Madrid and Dubrovnik! They also have another post about 8 stunning sights in Slovenia, which is a great read if you're interested in seeing some parts of Slovenia outside Ljubljana as well. The Skocjan Caves sound really interesting in particular, and although you aren't allowed to take photos inside but a quick Google search will show how stunning they are! 

Skocjan caves - Our Escape Clause

Skocjan caves - Our Escape Clause

Bordering Italy, Croatia, Austria and Hungary, Slovenia is a relatively small country, but that just means you'll be able to see a lot more of it in a short period of time. If you aren't staying there for a long time, Yulia's quick guide to Slovenia is a really helpful source to help you maximise your stay. I hate going somewhere and finding out later what I should've seen or done! 

tivoli park, slovenia - miss tourist

tivoli park, slovenia - miss tourist

Angela from The Sunday Chapter calls its capital, Ljubljana one of Europe's best kept secrets, and lists the country as one of Europe's most overlooked. Her reasons are quite compelling and paint the small country as a real fairy tale place. I've said this in some of my previous posts, but I'm a real sucker for pretty architecture, and it looks like Slovenia delivers! As you can see, the buildings in Ljubljana are just so lovely, with a variety of colours and styles! 

Ljubljana - the sunday chapter

Ljubljana - the sunday chapter

Queenstown Highlights Video

How much can you cram into a 4 day weekend in Queenstown? Well, quite a lot it turns out! 

Check out my Queenstown highlights video for an idea of all the adventures you can have in one of the most beautiful places on earth, and this isn't even half of what I would like to do down there! Four days crammed into a 6 minute video, it was hard cutting it all down. If you want a bit more info, you can read the full post about my 4 days in Queenstown here