Review: Okumizuma Onsen

When we started planning our 2016 trip to Japan we both felt it would be essential to try and stay in some more traditionally Japanese accomodation and couldn’t go past the location and setting we found at Okumizuma Onsen.

Our very first night in Japan turned out to be one where we were able to immerse ourselves into Japan and soak away over 24 hours of planes, trains and automobiles in the natural hot spring baths of Okumizuma Onsen.

Okumizuma Onsen
Driveway and entry to Okumizuma Onsen.

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My Panda Moments: Adventure World Japan

As you know I’m a bit keen on the good old Giant Panda.  So when we started planning our trip to Japan I knew I was going to be having some Panda moments!

There are three Zoos in Japan that have Giant Pandas on exhibit; Oji Zoo in Kobe, Ueno Zoo in Tokyo and Adventure World in Shirahama.

On the 10th of May 2016 we made our way to Adventure World in the town of Shirahama.  Adventure World is home to the largest Panda “family” outside of China and has had considerable success with breeding Giant Pandas over the years.  If there’s one place in the world where you can have Panda moments this is it!

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Boyd’s Tower

After visiting Davidson Whaling Station we travelled a little further along to the 1840’s folly Boyd’s Tower.

Rising as a monument to one mans devotion to empire building Boyd’s Tower is a massive sandstone tower rising from the coastal brush that has now taken over the site.  While only the ground floor is open to the public there’s a further 4 levels making up this surprisingly intact piece of history.

Boyd's Tower
Boyd’s Tower

Around the site the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service has built a number of lookouts and paths which give visitors easy access to the amazing views.

From the most easterly lookout we spent some time watching for Humpback Whales and were (finally) rewarded with a fine breach or two of a mother and her calf.

Boyd's Tower - Humpback Whales Breaching
Boyd’s Tower – Humpback Whales Breaching

It’s easy to understand why Boyd chose the location for his tower, it offered a commanding view of the oceans (for whale spotting) and could also serve an a navigational marker for shipping coming into Boydtown.

Entry into this part of the Ben Boyd National Park is AUD8.00 paid via a honor system (Place payment in a provided envelope, and display the receipt portion on your car) and I feel is good value considering the quality of access to the site.

Overall the scale of the tower is difficult to grasp until you’re standing in it, the “Boyd” name still clearly legible on the ramparts reminding all who saw it of the man who commissioned it.

Roadtrip: Canberra – Merimbula

Not every holiday we take involves jumping onto a jet plane.  Instead for a nice week away we decided to head for the region of Merimbula & Sapphire Coast slowly travelling up towards the South Coast of NSW.  There’s going to be a few other posts about this trip so check out the links below.

Getting to Merimbula

To make this a little more comfortable on the varied road conditions and unsealed carparks we left the Megane GT220 at home and hired ourselves a Mitsubishi ASX through Hertz.  Ultimately it proved a good move with the more relaxed ride and increased ground clearance making some of the National Park access roads a much more comfortable affair.

Canberra to Merimbula Navigation
Canberra to Merimbula Navigation

Our route from Canberra was one new to both of us and turned out to be both thoroughly enjoyable and much smoother than the more traditional route travelled by Canberrans to the South Coast.  We’d taken a leisurely approach to departure time and meandered along the highways.  Stopping at Cooma for lunch before a relaxed break at the Fred Piper Memorial Lookout before descending down to the coast visiting the Bega Co-Operative Heritage Centre.

After stocking up on local dairy goods we completed the journey arriving at our (almost) Beachfront accommodation and wandered out to the beach to take some photos.

Unlike a lot of our Driving Daytrips where we end up spending 5-6 hours in the car this leg of our holiday was all about slowing down into a week of relaxation.  Stepping down into a more relaxed vehicle worked, and we made a point of stopping at any and every lookout or “point-of-interest”.

Sometimes it’s nice to step into the “Slow Lane”.

Review: Hideaway Island (Vanuatu) Snorkelling

Hideaway Island was definitely a high point of our Vanuatu Holiday.  The snorkelling was exceptional despite the day being quite overcast, really it only played havoc with the GoPro footage a little bit and probably kept the crowds at bay.

Hideaway Island is also home of the The Underwater Post Office which has a great novelty factor, but I did find it a bit of a reach (in depth) while snorkelling.

Where is it?

Hideaway Island is a small island within the shelter of Efate Island in Vanuatu.  Surrounded by reefs the island is only accessible by boat from Efate Harbour or a “ferry” service from the nearest point on the main island.  There’s a small fee to access Hideaway Island that you pay once landed.

The bar/cafe on the beach sells a variety of food and drink at slightly higher prices than elsewhere in Vanuatu.

Getting in the water


While there’s a few ways to get to Hideaway Island with organised tours we got a ride direct with a local boat from Efate harbour area, it was a longer trip but a different way of getting around.

One of the more “odd” things to see is the Underwater Post Office which is manned by a SCUBA equipped Postman at various times of the day.  Simply buy a postcard on the beach, fill it out and take in the water for postage!

During our visit the weather was mostly overcast which probably kept some of the numbers down so it never felt ‘crowded’ however we also visited in the shoulder season.  TripAdvisor comments indicate that at various times of the year it can feel overcrowded.

Reef shoes or proper closed flippers are essential as the coral starts from the moment you step into the water and is very unforgiving.  I’d almost suggest some gloves would be ideal additions if you are thinking of being more tactile with things.

So despite a reasonable number of people in the water are there still fish to be seen?  Obviously the videos show there are, but I guess like most things the schools look larger in the brochure.  It’s still possible to be bobbing along and suddenly find yourself being surrounded by a school who will scatter at your slightest change in movement.

All-in-all Hideaway Island gave us a great experience in the water at a very reasonable cost.  It’s a great addition to any Vanuatu trip if you’re on the island of Efate.