That’s it! Another year has gone by again. It’s crazy just how quickly time flies by. 2018 has been another fantastic year for us, with lots of incredible travel experiences. We’ve visited five countries as well as exploring four Australian states and we’ve seen some amazing wildlife and done some crazy stuff. Choosing our top 10 experiences in 2018 wasn’t easy but after a lot of debate, we’ve managed to narrow them down. Read on to find out which one won!
1 – Tracking the Bengal Tiger in Ranthambore National Park
Well, we just couldn’t beat this experience. It was by far the show stopper, two days full of suspense, disappointment and finally elation.
Over those two days, we took three separate safaris inside Ranthambore National Park, looking for the elusive Bengal tiger. We were really starting to get frustrated when we kept returning to our hotel empty-handed.
Then, in the very last hour of our final safari, we had the pleasure of meeting mister T-34, aka Khumba, a stunning 10-year-old male Bengal tiger. There are no words to describe the incredible feeling of seeing this huge cat walk by so close to our jeep. We watched him bathe in a nearby watering hole and laze around in his natural habitat. No visit to a zoo or animal park can beat this. It was simply amazing! We were ever so lucky to see him and it feels so good when you get lucky!
Read more about our safari in Ranthambore National Park here.
2 – Staying overnight at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai
We couldn’t go to Chiang Mai and not see some elephants. But because we love them, we didn’t want to spend any of our money contributing to unethical animal practices, such as elephant riding.
We spent two days at the Elephant Nature Park and it was the highlight of our time in Thailand for several reasons. Firstly, the animals we saw all appeared happy and healthy. They’re now spending a peaceful retirement after years of being mistreated and abused in logging, trekking and circus industries.
Secondly, we could observe the elephants acting naturally, doing their “elephant things”. We fed them snacks of bananas and watermelon multiple times (they eat a lot!) and helped prepare some enormous protein balls. We stayed overnight at the park and woke up to the sounds of trumpeting elephants. That’s not something that happens every day! It was an incredible experience and we enjoyed every second of it.
Read more about the Elephant Nature Park here.
3 – Snorkeling with turtles and Manta Rays in Lady Elliot Island
I know we mention swimming with turtles every year but that’s because we’re obsessed with them and no year goes by without us trying to find a new place to snorkel with these beautiful creatures.
Lady Elliot Island lies just off the coast of Queensland in Australia and it is basically a turtle paradise. Not only that but it’s a Manta Ray paradise as well.
No snorkelling session went by without at least four or five turtles coming over to say hello. The Manta rays were not as friendly but we saw a couple of them further off shore during our snorkel safari. Should I mention that we went during whale season and saw several whales frolicking in the waters just outside the breakwater? I know, I know, but I’m not even making this stuff up!
Read more about Lady Eliott Island here.
4 – Cruising Bai Tu Long Bay in Vietnam
Everyone who’s looked into visiting Vietnam has read about Halong Bay but we decided to cruise Bai Tu Long Bay instead. Why? Because it’s a lot less touristy and the scenery is pretty much identical. Bai Tu Long Bay is just as spectacular and a lot less crowded.
We took a delightful three day, two-night cruise aboard the Dragon Legend. It was a great feeling waking up on the boat every morning and watching the sun rise over the limestone karts, with barely a soul in sight. We followed that up with a bit of kayaking, visits to a nearby fishing village and a lunch on the beach with our feet in the sand. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Read more about our cruise on Bai Tu Long Bay here.
5 – Taking a motorbike tour around Ho Chi Minh City
If there’s one thing I absolutely loved about Vietnam it’s how crazy it was! The traffic is especially nuts. Yes, getting stuck in traffic in a car is no fun at all, but jumping on the back of a motorbike and cruising amongst that craziness, that was really fun! Of course, it’s a lot easier when someone else does the driving and you can just sit back and laugh at the insanity of it all. Learning about the road laws, or should I say lack of road laws, was so much fun!
Read more about Ho Chi Minh City here.
6 – Visiting the Taj Mahal at sunrise
I have been wanting to see the Taj Mahal for many years. When people asked me why I want to visit India, my answer was always that I had to see the Taj Mahal at least once! I think that’s fair enough too. After all, it’s one of the most iconic monuments and for a good reason. It’s impossible to appreciate just how impressive it is until you’re there, standing on its marble floors, looking up at the amazing details of the mausoleum. And when the sun rises over the top, well, it takes your breath away. To think that it all started because of a love story. My heart was melting!
Read more about the Taj Mahal here.
7 – Cruising along and flying over the 75 mile beach on Fraser Island
Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world, is great fun for anyone like us who truly loves nature. During our recent visit, we took a 4WD tour of the island. Driving down Fraser Island’s 75-mile beach was the highlight of our trip. The view from the window was incredible; miles and miles of a ridiculously stunning sandy beach with barely anyone on it except for an old wreck, a few jeeps and a dingo fishing for his lunch. Halfway down the highway, we stopped for a quick scenic flight over the island which was also pretty awesome.
Read more about Fraser Island here.
8 – Exploring the Bay of Fires in Tasmania
For such a small island, Tasmania never ceases to amaze us. That’s why we try and visit every year. Well, this year’s visit to the Bay of Fires didn’t disappoint either. For some reason, the Bay of Fires isn’t a popular Tasmanian tourist destination but it’s so beautiful that it absolutely should be. The Bay of Fires stretches fifty kilometres from Binalong Bay to Eddystone Point along the eastern coast of Tasmania. It’s totally photogenic, with its stunning white sandy beaches, turquoise blue water and rock formations covered in orange lichen. The only problem was that we should have stayed there for a lot longer!
Read more about the Bay of Fires here.
9 – Taking a Slow Boat down the Mekong River in Laos
Leaving Thailand behind us, our introduction to Laos was a two-day slow boat cruise down the mighty Mekong river. We booked our ticket through our hotel in Chiang Rai, not knowing quite what to expect.
Although the boat was rather cramped, the trip turned out to be amazing. We slowly cruised down the Mekong (one of the longest rivers in South East Asia) towards Luang Prabang, stopping occasionally at sandy beaches to pick up a local or two.
The scenery along the way was absolutely breathtaking with lush green mountains on either side, big black boulders rising out of the water and young children rushing down the embankments to wave at us as we cruised by.
Read more about our slow boat experience here.
10 – Watching the sunset in Railay Beach
Watching a sunset might sound boring to some but sunsets in Railay Beach are anything but boring. It’s definitely a sight to remember when the entire sky turns purple and pink and you are surrounded by limestone karts.
Read more about Railey Beach here.
… and a bonus one!
11 – Hiking the Main Range track to Mount Kosciusko
Technically this was in 2017 as we completed the hike on the 30th of December last year but it was so awesome that we really have to mention it. The hike was quite challenging and early on in the hike the weather was freezing cold with gale force winds. But we persevered and halfway through the weather cleared up and the remainder of the day was amazing. It felt like such an accomplishment to make it to the top of Australia’s largest mountain. Once the morning fog disappeared, the views along the way were spectacular and all of our hard work was totally worth it.
Read more about our hike on the Main Range track here.
Well, that’s it for 2018. Next year should be even more fun because as some of you may know, we’ve left Australia for a while to travel full time. We have some pretty cool adventures planned for the first half of the year, including lots of incredible wildlife encounters.
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