Atrium Prestige, Rhodes, Greece

Only a four hour flight from London, there’s a place where I can be away from it all, here in Rhodes, Greece. Not only is the weather warm, the sky is blue but the hotel too is pristine. I am staying at the Atrium Prestige Hotel ( ). On our arrival we were guided into the palatial foyer with chandeliers and a glass of fizz to welcome us. From here we were transported by golf buggy down hill to our room which is simply decorated with a pretty trailing ivy design and butterflies on the ceiling. The doors open out to a seating area and we are fortunate to have our own pool which overlooks the white villas below and the glistening and calm ocean.

It takes me a while to grasp that the reception area was at ground level with the rest of the hotel, apartments and villas cascading down towards the ocean. There are two main swimming pools and surroundings full of colour from plants, flowers, trees which complement the sky, white buildings and ocean. There is a small delicate chapel next to one of the swimming pools accessed by an arched white bridge.  

The main building houses an adults playground. The spa pool is amazing with two jacuzzi type beds incorporated into the pool. There are three spouts blasting water which is rather painful to go beneath and numerous jets pumping out water too. Being filled with salt water means that you don’t have to swim but can float as the jets move you around. All of the pools at the hotel contain salt water which is much nice than swimming in chemicals. The spa has treatment rooms which you can book as well as a sauna and hammam. The hammam is a vast steam room, large enough for corporate business meetings. For those feeling energetic there is a well equipped gym to use too. 

Near to the gym is an Greek BBQ restaurant, one of four restaurants. The Asian and Aegean restaurants are close to the sea whilst the gourmet restaurant (where breakfast is served) sits high in the main building with a glass edged balcony providing fantastic views out over the ocean. The hotel serves delicious food, wine and the hospitality is exceptional.  

There are of course a choice of bars here, two at the pool and one as you leave the tunnel which leads down to the black sandy beach. Follow the board walks and you’ll find countless parasols and loungers awaiting sun worshipping travellers.  

The Atrium Prestige provides a relaxing environment and I’m sure most travellers would use the time to have a morning lie in however here that would mean missing another great phenomenon, sunrise. A much better choice would be to watch dawn which fortunately occurs directly in front of the hotel. The red, yellow, green and blue colours at dawn provide a vivid rainbow across the horizon and precede a speedy sunrise. 

Our stay is only mard by the pathways which when damp due to the early morning air or the efficient cleaners become slippery. As the paths do slope down to the ocean it can be quite hazardous.  

If you want warmth, blue sky, great hospitality and somewhere that you don’t want to leave (we didn’t the whole week) The Atrium Prestige is an awesome place to go!  

Campervanning – Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands

On 2nd March 2017 we moved on from Magnetic Island to Airlie Beach. Our drive takes us to a less humid area and Martha happily escorts us to Flametree Tourist Village which is run by a British couple who had been working hard to improve the camp site. Staying here feels cooler, there is less wildlife around us and this allows for a better few nights of sleep. The only downside is that we are some distance from the nearest shops and our liquor supply had depleted. 

The site help us to plan our next days journey to the Whitsunday Islands. There are so many tours on offer however we choose to do a one day excursion in which we are collected from outside the site at 7am. Thankfully we are the last to get on the coach and the journey to the boat was only about a twenty minute ride. We travelled with Reef Cruises who made sure all the passengers were well fed and watered throughout the day. Our first stop was reached after a 60 minute boat ride. It required us with stinger suits and snorkelling gear in hand to decend onto a small boat that takes us to the a small sandy bay to the south east of Hook Island.

We are given an hour and a half to snorkel. The stinger suits are tight, hot and not particularly nice to manovere into. My fetching look is completed with goggles and a snorkel. I opt to wear a life jacket too. This stops me from the worry of having to ground myself by standing on the reef something I have no desire to do and something which our guides have to remind other over and over again. The reef is lacking colour according to those who have seen it before and through our journey around Australia bleached white pieces of reef have washed ashore. Not being the strongest of swimmers (another reason to wear a life jacket) I swim with caution. Oh and did I mention my other fear, fish. Fish that might nibble my toes. I have no idea where this fear came from except that when I was a child I dug a hole on the beach only to discover a dead fish. Since then fish with faces have not been a favourite thing of mine.

Anyway, I paddle out to the reef. The fish are wonderfully coloured, stripy, spotty, iridescent, large, small, even larger and I appologise to each one I pass. I am invading their territory and after a while of watching some of them dash away from me I realise they are scared of me too. I’m not surprised by this. There are a lot of other snorkellers here with me. I look up to see a woman looking at me and make out the she is saying turtle. I swim (or should I say float) towards her with my head in the water. Beneath me I see the most impressive turtle tucking himself into the reef. He is about arms reach away but I darent touch him after all my fingers are important and who knows what would happen if I patted him. I am previleged to be one of three watching the turtle and after thanking the lady I continue floating along. The reef is mind blowing. It moves in the most incredible way, some opening and closing, showing their internal vivid colours. An hour or so later I leave the water, peel off the wetsuit and dry on the beach in the warmth before rejoining the main boat to be taken to our next stop.

A guide leads us up to the Hill Outlook at the Great Barrier Reef Park. From here there are amazing views over the sparkling white sandy beaches with the bluest of blue waters which vary from an aqua to a deep sumptuous teal blue. Cameras click everywhere trying to capture the moment and obviously I join in too. The colours here are spectacular and after a while of obsorbing our surroundings we walk down to the beach. Exhausted from the paddling earlier I opt to stay on the beach whilst others snorkel once again. From the beach I can see huge Manta Rays swimming, easy to see with their dark scales contrasting against the clear water. Due to timings we are required to walk back across the island to meet up with the boat for the final part of the day.

We are taken to Daydream Island to relax. There are lots of choices of activities including swimming in the pools, having a drink in the pool bar, sitting on the beach, Visiting the three mermaid sculptures and viewing the sea life in the aquarium. We choose the swim in the pool. It is a hot, hot day and I enjoy not having to fear my toes being nibbled. Following this we sit on the beach. The beach is covered in what I think is fossilised coral. I sounds like glass when walked on and the patterns with in are wondrous. After photographing the mermaids we visit the aquarium before making our way back to the boat. On the way we see wallaby or wallaroos, I’m not sure which is which. Once on board the boat we are served Tequilla Sunrise to signal the end of the day and the commence of our journey back to the mainland.

I feel very lucky to have been on this trip. A few weeks after this Cyclone Debbie hit the area. Not only has she destroyed parts of the island which have been closed for the next year but two of the three mermaids were swept away too. In some ways perhaps Cyclone Debbie will have a positive impact on the reef. This has been too commercialised and it may have a chance of recovery from the tourists who accidentally step on it not visiting for a while. Our guides were amazing I have to say, not only did they police the reef area but they provided an alternative to snorkelling by letting customers use a glass bottomed boat instead. When the tours are up and running I would highly recommend joining one and I would suggest a life jacket to stop the temptation of standing up.

Camper-vaning, Magnetic Island, Queensland, Australia

We board the forty minute journey on the ferry in the early evening towards Magnetic Island. Our site for the next few days is in Bungalow Bay Koala Park. There are very few people here, although it is the low season it is still very warm. With no one around we spot an isolated outdoor shower made with corrugated metal and pitch up nearby. This proves to be useful providing an opportunity to cool down during the hot days ahead. 
A ten minute walk takes us to Horseshoe Bay. Here there are a few shops, restaurants and bars. The beach is sandy and there is a swimming net to keep us safe from the crocs.

Further on from Horseshoe Bay is a rocky track. From here two remote beaches are accessible although they do require some stamina to get to them. We chose to walk the 2.5 km path to Balding Bay, a hike up and down hill over boulders and stones which is challenging in flip flops (I’d recommend trainers). The boulders house geckos and I’m an convinced a snake slithered under one as I approached. At the end was the sandy isolated bay. In hindsight the name should have given away that it was a nudist beach. 

We also hiked 4km to the Forts Walk. A World War 2 fortification which has great viewing points down and over the island and bays. At the top of the walk is a tower with a 360 degree view around the island. On our descent we were told that a koala had been seen and that the path was marked by a stick. Thinking that was a great idea I kept looking out for a pointing stick, which in a path with a lot of sticks was not easy to see. I did spot a Koala not far from the path, sleeping low enough in the tree to touch. It’s a long walk in 29 degree heat so lots of water is needed.

At the camp ground is a Koala Park (hence the name) as well as a lot of free roaming wildlife. In the evenings we were surrounded by cockatoos, Rock Wallabies, raccoons and possums. The Koala Park is open for tours at specific times. They run a breakfast with the Koala event a few times a week if there are enough bookings. Unfortunately for us they didn’t and so we joining the general tour. The ranger was very informative, telling us about the environment and the animals. She took our group of eight around, for two hours and encouraged us to hold the animals. This was met with apprehension from some especially me when she seemed to realise my fear of lizards and crocodiles and asked me to carry them back to their enclosure. We were introduced to and held baby saltwater crocodile, numerous lizards, mischievous birds and a extremely long, heavy python. For a small fee I had a photo taken with a Koala which sounds easier than it is. The young koala was more interested in his surroundings rather than posing for the camera. The animals are well respected here and never pushed to perform. 
If you join the afternoon tour, you are invited to feed the Rainbow Lorikeets at 4pm. They seemed to know it was feeding time on our approach and swarmed into the trees ready to feast. 

Magnetic Island was incredibly hot. The parts of the island I had time to explore were well worth the ferry ride here and if you love animals it’s a great place to visit.

Camper-vaning Millaa Millaa Waterfalls and Tablelands, Queensland, Australia

Following the previous days snake excitement we drove from the beach area into the Tablelands. The road towards Millaa Millaa was winding and steep however our reward was to drive up to the most vivid double rainbow I have ever seen. The Tablelands are green and plentiful of trees and cattle, reminding me of Sussex in England. 

Our stay at the site in Millaa Millaa was brief due to us arriving at near darkness and leaving early to tour the three waterfalls near by. Australia being Australia is set up for tourists and the tourist route is a 15km road laid out so that the waterfalls can be visited in a loop and accessed by the free parking (which is everywhere here) available.

The waterfalls each different could be heard before your eyes were able to see them. With so many tourists travelling around we made an early start and stopped at Millaa Millaa falls first. 

Zillie Falls

Ellinjaa Falls

After the waterfalls was the long drive back towards the coast and to Townsville. Our destination was to catch the ferry to Magnetic Island. On route we took a detour to a shopping mall. After being inside for about 40 minutes, we walked back towards Martha (camper-van). As I went to get inside I saw a man opposite Martha holding what I thought was a snake bag. We went over to him as he retrieved a carpet python and secured it in the bag. Two snakes in two days! 
Only afterwards did it occur to us that the snake was close to Martha and that our snake had disappeared to the underside of the van. It couldn’t have been, could it?

Camper-vaning, Cape Tribulation, Daintree National Park, Australia (2)

I awaken to the orchestra of noise on day two of camper-van life. It has rained non stop all night and at the moment the storms seem to have depleted. I recall waking in the night and realising that the rain had uninvitingly entered the Martha. This morning Martha had a damp smell about her and felt too warm to be in. Unfortunately my lack of knowledge of camper-vaning had made me forget to bring my now sodden shoes inside during the night. This added to the collection of soggy clothes being hung to dry in the very confined space including two adults, making it feel very cosy.

In my naivety I had forgotten that the rainforest meant there would be rain and not just a shower but full on constant wetness. It is 30 degrees and I realise that even if it stopped raining I would be wet from the humidity. As if that wasn’t enough to deal with, there are crocs here. Crocs who have the speed and ability to snag themselves a human dinner and despite being reassured by a one armed man that taking a dip in the ocean is safe, I for one am not willing to try.

Myall Beach is where the noise of the rainforest meets the sound of the crashing ocean. A short walk along the beach leads us to the wooden path winds of Dubuji Boardwalk.  Mangrove trees with their roots above the ground supporting the trunk in the bogs containing the vocal frogs, red and black crabs and peppermint stick insects (which fire a peppermint spray towards predators). Here too are jungle fowl roaming freely, spiders building the most delicate but perhaps fearsome webs and mosquitoes hoovering, ready to bite.

Our stay at PK’s has been memorable. The site has a great pool to cool off in and a large bar, eating area to stay dry in. There are a mix of ages of people who stay in camper-vans and lodges. Oh and did I mention the snakes and the Cassowary birds? Thankfully I haven’t encountered either…..yet…..I think?!?!