Around this time last year, I posted a collection of ten photo highlights from my first year of solo backpacking. One year on, I managed to visit five more countries with my backpack; Australia, Indonesia, Philippines, New Zealand and Fiji. I swam with turtles and sharks, climbed volcanos and mountains and drove through some of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever seen. Here are ten photos from my year!
1. Turtles In philippines
Swimming with turtles is something I’ve wanted to do for so many years, an obsession that only grew when I went on countless dives and snorkels around the world and never saw one. I saw my first in Western Australia, in Coral Bay. But this experience in the Philippines was entirely different. This turtle was so calm and I was able to swim with it underwater for as long as I possibly could before coming up for air. I’ve swam with a fair few since, but nothing quite compares to this extraordinary encounter.
2. INSIDE THE VOLCANO
During one of my favourite travel days of the year, I entered Kawah Ijen - Java’s most famous volcano. We’d spent the morning hiking up to the summit of the volcano to watch a stunning sunrise over the mountainscape, but this moment, scrambling down and standing on the edge of an acid pit, feeling so small in this gaping active space, was unforgettable.
3. MEETING ORANGUTANS IN SUMATRA
I’ve always been an animal lover, so any experience I can have with them is special to me, but up until this point, my greatest encounters had been underwater. In two days trekking through the Sumatran jungle, we were able to meet over a dozen orangutans, occasionally being able to interact with them. This is one of my favourite photographs from our trip, where we met our first alpha as he made his mating calls from the trees - I was able to catch him from an amazing perspective and considered the moment to be an incredible stroke of luck.
4. HOOKER VALLEY IN MOUNT COOK
Mount Cook National Park is truly something to behold in New Zealand. Driving into it is captivating, with lakes, valleys and mountains filling your windows. On our second day there, we ventured into Hooker Valley and were extremely lucky with the conditions. The trek was amazing and offered us so many spectacular views, like this one.
5. SHIPWRECKED IN WHITSUNDAYS
I chose this photo because of what it reminds me of; a four week adventure down the East Coast of Australia in a camper van with three other friends. During that time, we explored national parks, met Koala’s, lived on an island and were shipwrecked in the Whitsundays. This evening in particular, we all got wet-suited up and jumped into the water to catch sunset across the islands from the open water and the small beach across from the boat.
6. A WHALE OF A TIME
Wow, I still get shivers looking at this image. Without a doubt, one of my greatest ambitions on this journey was to swim with whale sharks, the largest known fish species. The largest known individual has a length of almost 13m! We were unbelievably lucky on this day, as the expedition was almost fully booked. Luckily, we were able to join and ended up coming across some of the calmest and most approachable sharks the crew had come across in quite some time, meaning we were able to real swim with this unbelievable animal for a good amount of time, in pure admiration. This shot really encapsulates that, and my pure fascination with this species of shark.
7. A DAY IN TONGARIRO
Easily the best day trek I’ve ever been on. Venturing into Tongariro at sunrise was incredible, seeing the gorgeous white snow over its landscape glimmer in the sun and guide us through its mountainous route. This was taken on the way down from its highest point, looking down over an unbelievable landscape of earth, snow and icey volcanic water.
8. ISLAND HOPPING IN THE PHILIPPINES
In general, the Philippines is an unbelievable place to visit, with gorgeous islands, crystal clear waters and amazing food. This photo takes be back to three or four days of island hopping, heading out on a different boat every day to explore a new charter of small islands, all so unique and with incredible beaches. I had the greatest time there.
9. A VIEW TO PARADISE
My visit to West Australia’s famous Nature’s Window couldn’t have come with better weather. A gorgeous, clear sunny day made this window into the wild truly idyllic. I was with a small group, who were the only people up here at this time so early in the morning, so it really allowed us to take in the sights and sounds of our surroundings. Something truly special.
10. FALLING, WITH STYLE
Another bucket-list obsession of mine was to sky-dive. Something I’ve said for years and years, and finally accomplished during my time in Byron Bay, Australia. A big group of friends I had made and travelled with for four or five days had all left the night before and I woke up wondering what to do with my day. I saw a flyer for a 15,000 feet skydive over the bay and with slight fear and hesitation, decided to just go for it. What followed was one of the most thrilling experiences of my life!