Holy Flower Petals, Batman! We haven't seen WA wildflowers looking this spectacular for years! We were fortunate to witness a vivid ongoing roadside floral display as we drove from Exmouth to Perth in mid-August after our Rudall River Expedition (more on this tour later!).
We can't encourage you Gypsies enough to get out there & admire this marvelous natural wonder as soon as you can! According to the experts, some of the best places for viewing right now are Mullewa, Kalbarri, Merredin, Wave Rock, Mt Augustus & Coalseam just to name a few! And don't forget the Kings Park Wildflower Festival in Perth from September 1 - 30! Flower power, indeed!
Have you ever thought about how much rubbish you generate as a passenger on a plane? We hadn't but we should have! According to the International Air Transport Association, the average person creates 1.4 kgs of waste per flight! And in 2017, the total amount of passenger waste generated was 5.7 million tones - while this includes toilet waste, it is mainly made up of paper, cardboard & plastic!
IATA estimates that disposal costs for airlines are $700 million per year! While there don't seem to be any easy solutions, it appears that Qantas & Air New Zealand deserve a pat on the back for trying to address the problem. Sounds like something airlines AND we as passengers should be considering...hmmm...
As we write this, we're getting ready for our next "voluntour" Science Safari to Dirk Hartog Island in the Shark Bay World Heritage Area. We have a full house of keen & enthusiastic 'voluntourists' & a terrific team of scientists & researchers who just can't wait to get started!
Once again we'll be assisting the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation & Attractions (DBCA) with their research & rehabilitation of the island's indigenous wildlife as part of the "Return to 1616" program. This fantastic initiative is dedicated to restoring DHI to its former glory & is already achieving very positive results.
Our activities will include trapping the little critters, processing them (this sounds like we're putting them in a blender (!!) but it actually means weighing, recording & tagging them); as well as counting & monitoring threatened populations. As usual, partial tour proceeds will go back to DBCA to help them with their important scientific work on the island. We are so proud to be involved with this philanthropic project & everyone who joins us is delighted to be able to put something back in!
They say an army marches on its tummy & we're pleased to announce that Jo Clews will once again be joining us as our Safari Hostess on this tour. Jo is WA's leading outback & camp-oven cooking expert, popular cookbook author & more recently, owner & manager of Melangata Station Stay. Melangata is a top place to visit if you're near Geraldton or Yalgoo & is just bursting with history & hospitality! Check it out at www.outbackpathways.com/place-to-stay/melangata-station-stay or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Melangatastationstay.
Loyal readers may remember that Di & John Boekhout who run Wandering Star Trailers recently won a tour to Dirk Hartog Island in our competition!
The couple enjoyed their prize in May & here's what Di had to say about the experience:
In November/December, then again in April/May, we have been contracted by our business partner & friend, JP Ponte in The Netherlands, to lead two four-week 4WD outback self-drive safaris on a private charter.
Using a combination of their own & hired vehicles, our Dutch clients will travel in convoy from Darwin to Sydney with Jeremy, take a break, then drive from Perth to Darwin visiting all the great spots in between - we'll clock up over 15,000 kms in total!
While we're familiar with most of the places we'll be visiting, several places & tracks on the east coast are new to us so it will be just as exciting for the tour leader as for the clients!
We've led several safaris for our Dutch friends in the past & they are terrific travellers - always a lot of fun, very adventurous & they absolutely love Australia! Welkom vrienden!
In July, Jeremy, Jan & Angela, our Safari Hostess, headed up to Rudall River/Karlamilyi National Park with a band of 19 eager Gypsies for a fantastic 14 days of outback 4WD adventures.
Karlamilyi, Australia's second largest national park, lies 1200 kms northeast of Perth & is bordered by desert. We met up in the mining town of Newman & then left civilisation to explore spinifex grass country, salt lakes, sand dunes, rocky outcrops & rugged sand & dirt tracks.
Few places still offer such a pristine wilderness experience for nature-lovers & we felt privileged to be there. However, it was a bit busier than usual because unseasonal rains (what climate change!?!) had closed parts of the Canning Stock Route & some travellers were using nearby Rudall as a detour. This didn't deter us from having a terrific time, but we did notice more vehicles & visitors out there than on previous visits. Then again there are more people everywhere in the bush as Aussies rediscover their own backyard & international visitors go in search of some peace & tranquility far from the bustling crowds. But that's another topic altogether!
Our courageous Gypsy band comprised Jan & Arnoud Diekmeijer from The Netherlands; Dorothee & Armin Janitzki from Germany; Diane Schudmak from Victoria (who travelled with us in the escort vehicle); & from WA, Jill & Wayne Fairclough; Mal Gannaway; Darce & Bel Holman; Mike & Jenny Jolley; Jim & Pat Jordan; Brad Kent; Bob & Eileen Mounsey & Jeff & Wendy Spencer. What a terrific group with such varied interests! These ranged from rock gathering, handicrafts, painting & naturopathy to bush walking & Aboriginal art - not to mention such highly specialized skills as outback cocktail mixing, billabong snorkeling, wood gathering, tent dismantling, speed dishwashing, bandaid mechanical repairs & emergency rescues!
Highlights of the tour included incredibly clear starry nights with the Milky Way forming a huge sparkling arch above us; herds of camels; howling dingoes; luxuriating in the deluxe palm-fringed spa & pool at the Newman "Oasis" caravan park (only kidding about this one!); staying up late to watch an exquisite 'blood moon' & lunar eclipse; our 1000-star bush camps at Desert Queen Baths & Christmas Pool; Jeremy's delicious damper; cozy campfires on cold nights; Angela's tasty meals; walks to hidden art sites; rainbow-hued jasper stone at Marble Bar; only five flat tyres on the entire trip; our sunset walk & Farewell Dinner at Mt Augustus & happy times spent just enjoying the great outdoors & each others' company.
We did have some high drama though! At our special 'Mulla Mulla' campsite, Darce suddenly became seriously ill in the middle of the night. We were miles from a town & had to take some drastic action. Everyone pulled together as a close-knit team & we fortunately managed to find some emergency medical help at a nearby worksite. While the rest of the group waited anxiously in camp, the phenomenal folks from the Royal Flying Doctor Service whisked Darce away to the hospital in Port Hedland. Meanwhile we helped his wife Bel make arrangements to drive their vehicle to Port Hedland to meet up with him, have their vehicle transported back to Perth & then fly home together.
We are pleased to report that Darce is now making a good recovery, but the incident certainly tested our emergency response plans. A special thanks to Mal Gannaway who was of tremendous assistance in this crisis & a HUGE thank you to the RFDS! Also a giant round of applause for the medic who looked after Darce in the first instance - he doesn't want to be named but you know who you are! Like we say, there's never a dull moment in the Gypsy camp!
After our Rudall River tour, we enjoyed some R&R at Exmouth & Ningaloo Reef. Our timing was perfect - swimming-with-whale-shark season was just winding down & swimming-with-humpbacks was just beginning so we were fortunate enough to do both!
If you enjoy exciting interactive wildlife experiences, these mind-bending activities available right here in WA (yes!) are the next best thing to an African safari! And you don't need to be a hot-shot swimmer to do them! Being in the water with these massive creatures is heart-stopping & quite emotional. They cruise past you just metres away, yet you feel safe & secure in the hands of marine experts.
We booked our whale shark trip with Ningaloo Whale Shark 'n' Dive - lovely people, luxurious boat, great food & awesome sightings - we give them a 10-out-of-10! Ditto for our humpback swim with Exmouth Dive Centre which was more basic but delivered an equally fabulous wildlife experience. We highly recommend that you put these marvelous eco-adventures on your bucket list!
We hear a lot about 'sustainable travel' but what does it really mean? Here are some tips that came across our desk recently about how to be a sustainable traveler:
Ever wondered what we do between tours? If you think we're exploring far away destinations by yak or sipping umbrella drinks on a tropical island, you might be right SOME of the time, but in truth we're probably at home in Perth delivering 4WD or towing training courses!
Training keeps us incredibly busy - particularly the half-day private towing training courses delivered by Jeremy, Eddy Tamlin, Ken George & Andy McLeod. More & more people are getting into caravanning & not just the 'Grey Nomads' - the 30 to 45 age group is discovering the joys of caravanning, too!
According to the Caravan Industry Association, almost 650,000 'recreational vehicles' (RV's) are currently registered in Australia. And many of the new owners are keen to learn how to tow safely, correctly & confidently which is good news for everyone on the roads! See our Towing Training page for more details.
Meanwhile our 4WD instructors Jeremy, Richard Nicholls & Ken George are also kept busy training both private & corporate clients on our one-day group 4x4 sessions. See 4WD Training for more details. One loyal corporate customer we've been working with for several years is Australian Hearing. Their versatile field staff - most of them young women - regularly take mobile hearing clinics into remote areas & travel solo so it's important that they have proficient 4WD skills. Hear, hear, ladies - you do a great job! And well done Oz Hearing for preparing your people so well!
We have a wild & wonderful couple of years ahead & are looking forward to sharing many of these adventures with you! Here's a peep into the gypsy crystal ball...
2019 will kick off with a personal pilgrimage to Hawaii where we'll meet up with two dear friends from the USA. We were looking for a halfway point for our rendezvous & as none of us had been to Hawaii before, it seemed like a hula of an idea! We're just hoping that no volcanoes erupt or hurricanes happen while we're there!
After saying "Aloha" to Oahu & Maui, we'll morph back into work mode - Jeremy will lead our second "Dutch Treat" safari in April followed by the 22-day Canning Stock Route Expedition in July.
As usual, this challenging outback tag-along tour from Wiluna to Halls Creek is fully booked, but because we sometimes get cancellations due to ill health or other unexpected life events, we always have a wait-list bubbling away. If you're keen to tackle the mother of all 4WD adventures with us, just add your name to it! To read more, tap your accelerator here: Canning stock route Expedition
Instead of returning to Perth after that little outing, we'll retrace our tyre tracks on the Canning, but this time to undertake a very special volunteer project! With the assistance of Trackcare WA & the Traditional Owners of the land, a convoy of hard-working gypsies will spend a week refurbishing a well & erecting a shelter & 'dunny' (bush toilet) in the northern section of the Stock Route.
This complex project has been almost two years in the planning. It began with a suggestion & a generous donation from long-standing Gypsy clients, Jim & Lisa Bond, who have a special place in their hearts for the Canning. We then approached Trackcare (who have 'adopted' the CSR) who agreed to provide their expertise & a team of volunteers to supervise the work; they also approached the TO's to gain their support & approval.
Invitations were then issued to a group of dedicated CSR tragics to participate in the working party & they all accepted enthusiastically! Needless to say we're very excited about this initiative - not only will it be a lot of fun but more importantly, it will deliver benefits to future Canning travellers for years to come.
After that unique outback experience, we'll repack the suitcases, this time for an African safari! From August 19 - September 1, 2019, during the annual wildlife "migration" we'll be touring Tanzania!
Starting in Arusha not far from Mt Kilimanjaro, we'll visit Lake Manyara,the magical Ngorongoro Crater, historic Oldupai Gorge & spectacular Serengeti National Park just to name a few.
We'll stay in a combination of quality lodges & classy tented safari camps, travel in comfy 4WD's, see wild animals in their natural surroundings, have most meals provided & learn about the culture of the majestic Maasai tribe.
We spent a fair bit of time in this region awhile back & can't wait to return!. There are also two optional post-safari tours which will take you gorilla trekking in Uganda or beach-combing in Zanzibar - tough choice!
The Treasures of Tanzania Safari will be personally escorted by Jeremy & Jan & there are just THREE places left! So make like a meerkat & get in quick!
While all this is happening, our Tashkent-based partners at Miramax Travel will be running our Silk Road Safari from August 9 - September 3, 2019. Beginning in western China it traverses the ancient trade route through Kyrgyzstan & on to Uzbekistan following in the footsteps of Marco Polo & Alexander the Great.
You'll learn the fascinating Persian history & culture, eat delicious meals, travel in comfort, stay in quality accommodation, see the terracotta warriors, the Great Wall, minarets, mosques, madrassahs, mausoleums, tombs, temples, yaks, yurts, golden eagles, national parks & more.
There are just FOUR places left on this amazing adventure. No pressure (!!) but we suggest you visit this part of the world soon - there are plans to build a super-highway along the legendary Silk Road in the next couple of years - once that happens, this legendary experience will disappear forever.
We are so looking forward to returning to India in Feb/March 2020! This time we'll be including the colourful Holi Festival which we'll celebrate with the locals in a desert village in Rajasthan! WOW!
Combine that with a tour of the recently refurbished Taj Mahal, river trips on Mother Ganges, game drives in a tiger sanctuary, houseboats in Cochin, cultural & craft experiences, fantastic food, a Bollywood film & dance class, optional yoga sessions, turban-tying & cooking lessons, tour of the 'Exotic Marigold Hotel' film set, an elephant sanctuary, temples, palaces, pashminas, maharajahs, museums, markets & more. Oh my goodness gracious me! How can you resist?
And you'll be staying in quality hotels, travelling in comfy A/C transport & accompanied by Jeremy, Jan & professional local guides. We're still fine-tuning the plans but have quite a few gypsies interested already. Add your name to the list & we'll send you a tour flyer quicker than a curry in a hurry!
To our delight, the Northern Lights are shining bright!! Terrible rhyme but great news - our Northern Lights, Orcas, Reindeer & Huskies Tour to Norway in 2020 is fully booked! What an amazing response from you Gypsies out there - thank you so much!
Apologies to those of you who missed out on this knock-out trip, but we have two consolation prizes for you! First, there's always the possibility of a cancellation so add your name to the wait-list. And second - grab your furry hat, Boris! - we have a new tour planned for this part of the world in 2021 which might just tickle your Trotsky!
We want to go to RUSSIA!! We're currently plotting an itinerary with Vladimir, our new bestie in Moscow, & hope to have details soon. If you're keen to join us on this one-off discovery tour, you vill let us know ASAP, comrade!
Until next time, happy travels from –
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