Tag Archive: Travels



We’re done feeding the wild rainbow lorikeets , and decided we’d have more animal adventures. Bendalong Bay is not far from our homebase in Lake Conjola, and we spent the morning there watching people let loose their dogs on the beach, viewing stingrays swim near the shore, young paddlers on boards, swatting fruit flies trying to land on our cereal bars. Sun’s up and the weather’s ideal for a lazy morn.

Only one thing went wrong. Stingray feeding happens late afternoon. But no worries, we found many swim up to shore while seagulls fly above the paddlers, ducks and the pelicans. Bendalong is only a half hour north of Ulladulla and actually borders Lake Conjola National Park. The beach is good for paddle boating, surfing, swimming, fishing, and errr…. stingray feeding. I am just not sure how I’d feel swimming with these stingrays. 😜 Have a look at this video on stingray feeding in Bendalong Beach.

http://youtu.be/53O3OuAh9d0

This is Australia. The wildlife is awesome, birdwatching, bush walking and water activities the norm. Where else do you meet kangaroos in parks while you’re out intending to go kayaking or fishing? Where else can you paddle on boards while weaving through pelicans and stingrays swimming near the shore? How else can you enjoy a weekend without going outdoors? Life here is more meaningful for the outdoorsy types. Camping is always an option and bush walking is a regular activity. That is, after one does the laundry 🙄 My nephews are serious bikers and rock climbing is always a favourite sport. The girls love to shop but won’t mind weekend trips to the lake and parks. Fishing will have to wait though.

We made trips to Bendalong Bay for the stingrays and another day to Newcastle for the pelicans. Of course you’d find the seagulls almost everywhere like when we visited Kiama and Wollongong. I am amazed that all these animal and bird encounters are so freely enjoyed here in Australia. What a blessing for these Aussies!

The Pelican Feeding in Newcastle was quite a show. The feeders/carers are professionals and loved an audience and they got a pretty good sized crowd the time we visited. Weekends are never a bore. Or for that matter, neither are weekdays. The feeding show is timed daily at 4pm at the most popular tourist attraction in the Central Coast — The Entrance Waterfront. This feeding event sponsored by the Central Coast Council is quite a spectacle. I noted though that one of the volunteers clearly has a favourite among the pelicans. She calls her “One Wing” for obvious reasons. She narrated how this particular pelican lost her wing in a boat accident some years back. The upside though is this pelican will never have to go hungry as the volunteer looks for her and feeds her first. After that, the rest of the pelicans compete for the fish and other seafood scraps.


It happens daily at 3-4pm here in the park fronting Burrill Lake In Ulladulla. Open to the general public, you can come help feed these wild colourful birds who gather from all over the natural bushland for a tasty afternoon snack. The man in charge hands you a plate and the birds swoop down on your arms, hands, head and shoulders. At one point, I think I had 3 on my head and another 3 or 4 on my arm.

Call us Bird Ladies, but this was quite an experience. I had scratches all over my arms though and truth be told, I was so tense worrying the wild birds would poo on my head. I suggest you come wearing a jacket and a hat when you visit. You’d never know. But really, these wild birds look so pretty and my, were they sooooo noisy. In a nearby cage, you can have a chat with the cheeky cockatoos who never grew tired saying HELLO. There were also ducks and parrots.

Never done this before, and I was surprised they have this daily activity open to the public. It would be a truly great animal adventure for the little ones and it won’t even cost you a cent! Now this is Australia for you. Love it!


We’re on a road trip towards the South Coast. First off is Kangaroo Valley which I’ve visited some years back. (Go check the link) The Hampden Bridge is one of its attractions here, being one of only a few suspension bridges around Australia. I remember a lunch in this landmark pub and hotel called the Friendly Inn with 2 grandchildren who have since grown up. What 5 years can do!

We drove towards Lake Conjola which is really one of my favourite destinations whenever I’m in Sydney. Our family would always spend family time here but we only managed 3 of us on this trip as everyone else was busy. The resident kangaroos were too lazy to welcome us, unlike the last time I was here when we found around 30 of them Roos!

The lakeside house bears many happy memories and our stay here adds another. Revisiting the house, the lake, the nearby beach, the boardwalk, or simply walking aimlessly are favourite pastimes here. If one is into fishing, paddle boating, kayaking or swimming, there’s much to do. As for me, I’m quite happy dropping in in this heritage bakery in Milton and taking out some pies to eat in the cottage while having coffee and reading a book.

From Lake Conjola, we had the chance to drop in on nearby beaches and lakes to feed some birds and sea creatures. Upon leaving, we made our way back to Sydney with stops in Berry for a relaxing Oriental lunch at LEAF. Wish the rest of the family was with us but there would be other times, for sure.

Feel free to click on the highlighted links for more photos and details on Lake Conjola and The Heritage Bakery in Milton. Watch this site for blogs on feeding adventures with stingrays, pelicans, Lorikeets and seagulls.


We made good time. Who wouldn’t if you’re up by 6am? Took the 333 bus to Bondi where a dip in the waters was planned no matter how cold it gets. Taking the bus directly to North Bondi beats the crowd waiting for the connecting bus at the train station in Bondi Junction. It helps too that we were way too early at 6:30am. Going early was a good decision as we nearly had the entire beach to ourselves but for a few joggers, swimmers and a couple of surfers. The sun was up but the wind factor gave the chills but some of us cannot be held back from taking a brave dip in Bondi Beach.

Our trip to Bondi was timed with the annual art event “Sculptures by the Sea” where 100 artworks were on display along the coastal walk from Bondi to Tamarama. Amazing artworks but for the strong winds that compelled us to sit it out at the spot overlooking the Pacific. “Fatso” sat right where the wind went wild pushing us down to our knees. I honestly wanted to crawl away from Fatso while holding down my hat.

From Bondi, we took the 380 bus to Watson’s Bay. Feasted on Doyle’s seafood combo, fish and chips. I was so looking forward to this lunch as Doyle’s never disappoints. Except that we’ve had a similar lunch in Manly Fish Cafe the day before and had a truly remarkable lunch. Stiff competition I’d say. But I’m not complaining having both on 2 consecutive days 😊 What likely tilted the scorecard in favor of Manly Fish and Chips was the mussels cooked in fresh cream a la Moules Frites and the sweet potato fries. Next time I visit Manly, I’d likely go back to this place. On the other hand, Doyle’s Resto offers a perfect view of Watson’s Bay. Lunch here by the wharf guarantees watching several ferries loading and unloading passengers along with views of yachts bobbing up and down. For good measure, the many seagulls and pelicans lend more charm to this area.

We were happy to board the ferry from Watson’s Bay bound for Pyrmont Bay to reach Darling Harbour. It’s nearly an hour’s ride passing Rose Bay, Luna Park, Circular Quay, Barangaroo and finally Pyrmont Bay. On this ferry ride, it is easier to take shots of the Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Luna Park and the approach to Darling Harbour. Not as many tourists as one finds on ferry rides to Manly Beach. Doing these 3 sites — Bondi, Watson’s Bay and Darling Harbour– via bus and ferry is a breeze, never mind that one has to make an early start.

I have always liked Darling Harbour. I do like it better at night though. Cocklebay Wharf Area is my favourite spot where many bistros and bars sit side by side gelaterias like Lindt’s. We made our mandatory stop here for some frozen delights. Six different ice cream flavours in ceramic cups passed clockwise amongst us. We couldn’t agree which flavour is best though. From Cocklebay Wharf, we took the escalators to get on street level and found ourselves walking towards Town Hall and Queen Victoria Building (QVB). Day almost over, we were a bit tired but felt we’ve spent the day very well and covered much from 6:30am to 5pm.


I came to Sydney for 2 major reasons. To attend my sister’s and brother-in-law’s 50th wedding anniversary on October 27 and to celebrate my birthday with my “OZ family”. My visits are rather regular, but this comes more special for those 2 reasons. Not every couple is blessed to celebrate a golden wedding anniversary. And another year tucked under one’s belt is always a good reason to celebrate. My birthdays were always spent in Manila except for 3 celebrated in India, Madrid and Peru in recent years. While travel adventures provided novelty and excitement, nothing beats being with family on such a special day.

I still have a long wish list and trust there is no limit to God’s mercy and generosity. Like a child, I unashamedly ask that God grants my heart’s desires. I’ve asked for much — for myself, as well as for others. Mostly “little things”. And just as much if not more, thank Him for answered prayers. I honour Him with much joy in my heart, and celebrate His gift of life.

To my family and friends, I have you all in my prayers. Praying for good health, safety wherever and with whomever we are, harmony and precious joy in our hearts. Most of all, we humbly thank You Lord for the time to celebrate with our loved ones as well as for the lessons learned from our poor decisions and ill-thought choices.


Last Tuesday October 16 was World Food Day. It’s also the anniversary of the founding day of the Food and Agriculture Organization in 1945. Sydney’s Noodles Market is held around this time when Hyde Park transforms itself into an Oriental food event — not necessarily limited to noodles but any Asian dish oozing with aromatic spices from the East. It’s been raining in Sydney for a week but we picked Tuesday to go to the city on a cloudy but rain-free day.

The little boy with us had so much energy in him, and that was even before his teriyaki noodle dish and creamy allo-allo mixed fruit dessert. Some parts of the park were muddy from the previous day’s rain. Luckily, Citi has a fenced-in area complete with more comfortable chairs, tables and even faux grass-carpeting. Swell! I flashed my card and claimed a table for us. We got drinks from within the reserved space but bought our food from the stalls outside.

Good thing we were early. The crowd started to build up after 5:30pm. The office crowd spilling out of the surrounding buildings and creating queues at the more popular food stalls. It’s like a hawker market but with pricier tags, and overhyped food choices. We couldn’t resist trying out the Pinoy offerings like the lechon (roasted pork @$18 and it was not even crunchy), the desserts like the allo-allo aka halo-halo which is really nothing like the popular local dessert. One dessert is even named “Thrilla in Manila” and I swear we don’t even have that kind of stuff back home.

Even the pork barbeque doesn’t remind me of home. The marinade is more Western than Asian, for sure. Oh well. The event organisers do this annually and from the looks of it, it draws a regular crowd. Next time, maybe I’d try the ramen.

Nonetheless we had a good time especially when a Lion Dance (not Dragon?) cheered up the place. The little boy perked up like crazy and we all felt the excitement! The kid jumped up and down and followed the “lion” across the park. The senior grandma struggled to follow …..

Floriade 2018 (Canberra)


I have visited Sydney many times since my sister and her family migrated here but not once have I visited the Floriade in Canberra, the nation’s capital. The visits were always off-timed and I only contented myself with photos of beautiful spring blooms from the Commonwealth Park where it’s annually held. This 2018, it was staged from September 15 to October 14, a full month, and we managed to visit on the 2nd to the last day!

Just 2.5 hours south of Sydney, the Commonwealth Park in Canberra was truly a celebration of spring blooms. Carpeted in many colours of tulips and other blooms, the lake and the Ferris wheel simply added to the park’s charm. We hardly paid attention to the market stalls and playing bands, and just took in all the splendour of Nature’s floral cheer. There was a good crowd beating the deadline (like us) but we were early. Beating the traffic and the crowds, we enjoyed the Park before it drizzled early afternoon.

The place reminded me of Keukenhof Gardens in Dutchland. There must have been a million bulbs for this year’s Floriade. I felt it’d be a waste to end the flower show while the flowers are still in full bloom! But I’ve read in today’s papers that many folks have volunteered to cut the flowers and dig up the bulbs to distribute among the community. About a hundred bucketloads have found their way to hospitals and nursing homes to cheer up the old and sick. Such a happy ending to this flower exhibit, don’t you think?

My Safari Woes


No big deal, really. But if I were to do this again, I’d likely do this just a little differently. Like I’d concentrate on just Maasai Mara, Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Lake Manyara to save on those lonnnng, bumpy rides. In my book, the first 2 are what Safari dreams are made of. Bite the dust and enjoy the game drives! The last 2 is like “safari the easier way” because Ngorongoro area is such a vast expanse the animals are in plain view! Hide and seek kept to a minimum. The animals happily co-exist here. Well, for sure, there are predators but there are nearly no tall grasses where they can hide. Manyara on the other hand “completes” the deal, in a lush vegetation way. It’s good for tired nerves and limbs. No regrets waking up early for these animal sightings. Except that the tree-climbing lions went into hiding. Such a glorious experience. But a safari holiday can surely benefit from more time spent in the camp and lodges we’ve stayed in in the last 3 places. These are my woes. Would have relished more time spent here.

Ole Serai Luxury Camp

(Turner Springs, Tanzania)

This is clearly our favorite. Newly-opened actually, part of the Wellworth Collection, a chain of luxury camps and hotels. It is a luxury camp with all amenities except a bath tub. Acacia trees all around, an impressive bar lounge and perfectly-designed semi-permanent luxury tents with both sunrise and sunset views. Beautiful during the day, even more beautiful when the African sky bursts into starry nights and the walkways to the lounge are dimly lit. I only wish they had steak or veal or venison for dinner 🥩 to go with my cab sav on those cool nights. For more details and photos, check out this link to my earlier blog.

Ngorongoro Oldeani Lodge

Tented cabins, is that what it’s called? Not really roughing it, considering the opulently-designed main hall where breakfasts and dinners were served. Plus the bar lounge and pool area overlooking the crater rim. Fabulous view. If you’re lucky, you’d even enjoy a cultural performance by young Maasai adults — get ready to be floored by a la Cirque du Soleil acrobatics! Not to be outdone, our cabin has a huge balcony with magnificent views too. The sunsets viewed from here are particularly enchanting and relaxing. There’s a tub, again with a view, and an outdoor shower for those brave enough.

Lake Manyara Kilimamoja Lodge (Tanzania)

Another Wellworth Collection Hotel. Another tented cabin. The room’s layout can be a bit confusing but just like the previous hotel, there’s the tub, an outside shower and a huge balcony to enjoy. On a clear day, you can spot Mt. Kilimanjaro beyond the gorge. If not, you won’t feel cheated enjoying a stunning view of Lake Manyara or Mt. Meru, nestled right on the rim of the Great Rift Valley. The best balcony views we found here. Such a pretty sight to wake up to. I can get used to this 😊

So there. Three great hotels/camp but not much time to enjoy them. The itinerary can be tweaked to skip the lesser attractions, save on long road trips and spend more time in luxurious environs after a game drive. Or, if you’re a smaller group and you’ve got money to burn, take the small planes to shuttle you from camp to camp! And yeah, spend more time in those balconies. Front seats to stunning views. Have a flute of champagne, enjoy late breakfasts, go use the outside shower or just soak in the tub. The dinners in this part of the world can be improved but they’re not bad. Maybe I was looking forward to more African dishes, or better carvings, but they’d do. If only for the view 😉 Make time to do NOTHING!


It was a very lonnnng day. We reached the Maasai Village near our hotel (Maasai Mara Sopa Lodge) high on the slopes of Oloolaimutia Hills. It was a good hour before sunset. The Chief’s son welcomed us along with the red-garbed Maasai men who regaled us with the traditional Maasai jump dance. Maasai men are known to be tall and fierce. Their high jumps (on straight legs in a narrow pose) speak of their stamina. But there’s really more to these rituals than meets the eye.

First off, there’s Emuratta. Upon reaching their teens, the Maasai boys are inducted to the first ritual of manhood. Unlike regular circumcisions, these young men aged 14 upwards go through the primitive circumcision ritual without flinching, without showing any pain. They graduate into being young warriors called morani after this ritualised ceremony. These morani then move to a manyatta, another stage of “manhood” where they are divorced from the tribe, and literally live by themselves garbed in black/dark clothing and wearing chalk marks on their faces. This encampment may last up to 10 years, during which time they should have slayed a lion before they finally graduate to full manhood. Tough, huh?

📸 by Ernie Albano. (What a shot!)[[[[[[[[

It’s easy to simply visit a Maasai Village, watch these men perform the adumu or jumping dance, have a picture taken with these men garbed mostly in red (they think red scares off the lions), and fail to understand these important manhood rituals of Maasai men. The Maasai culture compels these morani or young warriors to kill a lion before coming home to the tribe and being eligible for marriage. They bring home with them the lion’s mane and perform the “final” manhood ritual of adumu as part of the Eunoto ceremony which can last for more than 10 days. The Eunoto includes the jump dance or adumu (the higher, the better, to impress the watching “would be brides”) and their first sip of alcohol. After the Eunoto, these young men proceed to shave off their heads as a sign that they’ve fully graduated as full-fledged Maasai warriors. They can then return to the tribe, pick their brides and start their families.

Another great photo by Ernie Albano.

Peals of laughter echoed when I tried jumping with these lion-slayers. On weaker knees, I joined a travel buddy visit one of the Maasai houses made of straw, sticks, grass, mud, cow dung and urine. The Maasai women build these loaf-shaped houses which we found dark inside with smoke billowing from a tiny kitchen. Moses, one of the Maasai men, led us inside and briefed us on Maasai life and culture. He tried teaching us some Maasai words by writing with a stick on his dark thigh. Then he proceeded to sell us some trinkets crafted by the Maasai women. 😉

We trooped back to our hotel with a few trinkets and other souvenirs. On our way out of the village, I spotted one Maasai lad and imagined how he’d “suffer” through the emuratta and the manyatta. Would he kill another lion just so he can do the jump dance, marry and raise his own family? Days after this visit, we met a young lad – no facial paint – alone with a sad, forlorn face. I wonder too what was in his mind. 😔


On clear days, the soft, pillowy clouds dot the blue horizon. Grass turn golden on certain hours of the day while the few trees left standing (and uneaten by ellies) in the savannah provide shade to some of the most beautiful animals. Safari drives early morn, packed lunch boxes midday, more game drives, before calling it a day. All these can drain you of whatever energy is left. The thrill of animal sightings in their own habitat pumps your adrenaline, leaving you wasted by day’s end. Mercifully, our accommodations in the Ole Serai Luxury Camp make for glorious evenings. The camp’s only 7 months old but it’s so well-run (thanks, Rashid!) and well-appointed. The tents are more permanent structures, roped down tight and “zipped up” every night by able staff. Nighttime melodies include “scratchings” of cape buffaloes’ backs on the ropes supporting the tents, followed by squeals of delight after a good scratch, the occasional rawrrrrr of a lion, leaves crunching while an unknown beast passes and birds chirping early morns. If you’re lucky, a giraffe may walk by oh so elegantly while you’re seated on the porch.

I’ve heard of and read about luxury camps, yet I was still floored by how luxurious this camp is. The soft pillows, the dresser, the escritoire, the sturdy but comfy granny armchairs, the lookout porch, the modern sinks and bath appointments. It broke my heart to leave this camp after 2 nights! Internet may be weak in the rooms but that’s a good reason to head for the Reception Lounge or the Serengeti Cocktail Lounge. My only complaint is how they price their wine. A bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon costs US$40, but a glass of the same wine costs US$15. If there’s 2 of you, you’re better off getting a bottle and bringing what’s left over (if any!) to your tent. Well, it’s a “young” camp and they can always review their price listings for cocktails. But they sure have a good crew — in the dining lounge, I remember the very efficient Ezekiel who’d happily take our breakfast and dinner orders. There are always choices, and it’s a chore to decide which from among the good stuff.

If there’s a word I’d use to describe the lounges and our rooms, I need to choose between luxurious and opulent. I mean, even many 5 star hotels don’t have escritoire as good looking as what we had in our room. I felt a longing to write down a thank you letter on some fancy stationery and feel those Karen Blixen vibes 😂 The bathroom and toilet may not be as luxurious as those found in regular hotels but hey, we’re in the middle of a savannah! No tubs too but I’m impressed with the attention to details — the coffee and tea set in the room, the soft towels and robes, the dresser, chandeliers and night lamps.

I just love how the camp looks at night. From our tent, the pathway leads up to the Serengeti Lounge (for cocktails) and right beside it, the Acacia Lounge where breakfasts and dinners are served. I noticed there’s an area for Boma dinners too but I guess one needs to make prior arrangements to set it up 😉 We enjoyed our meals here, and found the selections adequate. It’s just too bad we can’t linger in the porch with our feet up, nursing a drink, enjoying African starry nights. The camp staff will gently nudge you in and remind you to use the radio for help, if need be, before they leave you all “zipped in” inside. Mornings are ok since the roving guards and crew are up and around. But there was one morning they found a loitering lion at the camp’s periphery. Soooo….. early morning jogs may not really be a good idea.

(This is NOT a paid review. Just ramblings from a happy, satisfied guest )