Joanne Coughlan

18 Nov

Gondar, Ethiopia – Once a city of emperors and princesses

One of northern Ethiopia’s highlights is Gondar, a historical town that is home to some significant and truly unique sights. It is also a town where, depending on the time of year when visiting – you may see many Ethiopian Orthodox pilgrims near Timkat at what is known as the Ethiopian Epiphany (see our post […]


4 Nov

Ilies du Salut (Devils Island), French Guiana

When I was about 7 or 8 years old, I watched the movie Papillon with my parents at the local drive-in theatre in North Ryde. The Steve McQueen/Dustin Hoffman classic left a huge impact on me as a young boy so almost 50 years later I was really excited to visit the islands off the coast of […]


28 Oct

Georgetown, Guyana

I arrived with Kate into cricket-mad Guyana from Panama City. The airport at Georgetown (named after King George III) is about an hour’s drive from the city. Our driver, Patrick, talks the entire journey so we feel like we know a lot by the time we arrive in town.   We’re booked into Cara Lodge, a famous colonial-style building not far […]


21 Oct

Gorilla tracking, Volcano National Park, Rwanda

Along with my small group of 8, I crossed the border into Rwanda from Uganda with the typical level of bureaucracy expected in a developing African nation. After an hour or so and several processes which didn’t make a lot of sense, we were on our way.    We head to Mountain Gorilla View Lodge in northern Rwanda, not all […]


14 Oct

What to do in NYC … with teenage girls

I still have my “L” plates on when it comes to parenting my teenage daughters.  At 13 and 15 they are into stuff that, well, I simply will never understand. Thankfully, my wife Kate, “gets” them but even so, we still had to work out what to do with teenagers in the Big Apple. The […]


7 Oct

Cuba – a little piece of socialism in the Caribbean

Many tourists come to Cuba to seek out the gorgeous beaches on the north coast but for me, it was the unique vibrancy of the people that drew me to this little piece of socialism in the Caribbean. Cubans have a real sense of pride in their country’s defiance of the American capitalists who sit […]


23 Sep

The incredible people of the Mursi Tribe

You probably know them by sight if not by name – the Mursi is one of the most fascinating tribes in Africa, widely recognised for the clay plates the women insert into their lower lips and sometimes their ear lobes. The tribe lives in the Omo Valley, one of the most isolated regions of southern […]


16 Sep

Etosha National Park, Namibia

Many people who have travelled to Namibia’s Etosha National Park rate it as the best wildlife-spotting destination in Southern Africa. Having taken a trip to Namibia on one of our small group tours to Africa, I have to agree.   Etosha is an enormous National Park – about 22,000 square kilometres, or about 1/3 the size […]


9 Sep

India: a country that keeps drawing you back

India is a place that stays with you long after you have boarded your flight home. A place where the more you see, the more you realise there is to see. At first impression, this complex country can feel like chaos, an affront of your senses. But as you take a breath and relax into […]


2 Sep

Namibia is a jewel of a country – Part 2

Damaraland is a huge, untamed and ruggedly beautiful region in Namibia. We stayed at the Mowani Mountain Camp, hidden among some of the region’s massive red granite boulders. The scene was set for us by the enthusiastic welcome we received at the gate, a joyous atmosphere which continued throughout our stay. Nothing was too much […]


26 Aug

Namibia is a jewel of a country – Part 1

Sometimes described as Africa for beginners, Namibia unexpectedly assembles in one place many iconic experiences: the highest sand dunes in the world; the deepest canyon in Africa; one of Africa’s richest historic art sites; the world’s oldest, driest desert; abundant wildlife. Our trip to Namibia did not disappoint. The people are friendly with lots of laughter. […]


19 Aug

Danpaati River Lodge, Suriname

In Surinamese (a combination of Dutch and local language), danpaati means “dam on the parting waters”. The eco-resort is in the middle of the Suriname River, surrounded by thick jungle and small villages mainly inhabited by descendants of African slaves who fled from their captors in the mid-1800s when slave labour was abolished.    From Paramaribo, it’s a two-hour drive to the […]


12 Aug

Infatuated by the beauty of Ilulissat Greenland

Bucket lists were pretty much invented for places like Greenland. Perhaps it is because of the immense sense of magic and wonder is present in every moment of every single day. There is not one part of this experience that does not impress and excite. To reach Ilulissat, fly with Air Greenland from Reykjavik or […]


5 Aug

Wadi Rum and its lunar like landscape

Jordan had a little surprise in store for us: we came to tour Petra but it was Wadi Rum that blew us away with its special kind of magic. It is an ancient desert in Southern Jordan which encompasses over 700 square kilometres of jagged formations, towering dunes, cylindrical cliffs, natural rock bridges and an […]


29 Jul

The Flaming Cliffs of Mongolia

The Flaming Cliffs is an escarpment on the edge of the Gobi Desert in southern Mongolia, by road some 660kms from the capital Ulaanbaatar. The cliffs became famous in 1923 when young American explorer and palaeontologist Dr Roy Chapman Andrews from the American Museum of Natural History discovered the first dinosaur eggs and the now […]


22 Jul

Discover Northern Cambodia

Without a doubt, Cambodia is a poor country – probably the poorest of the region. Some of the rural areas face particular struggles, lacking in basic infrastructure. But regardless of the hardship much of the population endures every day, one thing is evident – the locals appear happy, more often than not with a smile on […]


15 Jul

24 Hours in Bogota

After three days enjoying Colombia tourism, I expected more tropical weather in Bogota but the first thing I notice on arrival is the temperature. No … it’s not blistering hot … it’s a cool 15 degrees and I need a jacket! How can this be when I’m not that far from the equator? Well … […]


8 Jul

The Galapagos Islands – one of the foremost wildlife experiences on the planet

All the documentaries I’d seen on the Galapagos Islands inferred that it’s one of the foremost wildlife experiences on the planet. Friends and family members who had travelled there only reinforced this. It was time to experience these famous islands for myself so, along with my family and some friends, we took at Galapagos cruise,  […]


1 Jul

Cartagena’s Old City – an up and coming destination

I’d heard and read a lot about Cartagena, Colombia’s UNESCO-listed old capital on the Caribbean coast. My travel friends kept telling me I had to travel to Columbia and when I finally got there, I was not disappointed and now understand why Cartagena’s popularity as a destination is on the rapid rise. It certainly offers […]


17 Jun

There are fish markets and then, there are fish markets! Busan, South Korea

There are fish markets and then, there are fish markets!   The Jagalchi Fish Markets in Busan fall into the latter category. Markets are not every traveller’s “thing” but I have to confess to being a market tragic – especially when they are there for the locals, not the tourists. And even more so when they […]


10 Jun

Gdansk – A true gem of Poland

In the north of Poland on the Baltic Sea lies the beautiful city of Gdansk. Take at least a full day – more if you prefer to move at a leisurely pace – this gem of a city which offers as much at night as it does in the day. The lights in the streets […]


3 Jun

Can we recommend Corsica? of course we can!

What an island of surprises Corsica proved to be. It may not have been on your radar as a destination but having visited,  its many delights deserve to be shared. Barely an hour’s ferry ride from the northern tip of Sardinia, the final approach into Bonfacio is breathtaking and immediately, the scenery and vibe is […]


27 May

Bukhara – an ancient city in Central Asia’s Uzbekistan

One of my favourite Silk Road cities is the town of Bukhara, located a few hours west of Samarkand. Like Samarkand, Bukhara is also home to significant and stunning architectural sites (like the Ark, Po-i-Kalyan and Char Minar), however, while they may not be as grand in size and scale, it is the city as […]


20 May

Odisha India – with it’s complex history, enticing tribal culture and natural beauty

 Over 40 million people live in Odisha (pronounced Orisha) – one of India’s 29 states.  Sitting in the northeast on the Bay of Bengal, it is generally regarded as India’s poorest state, but don’t let this tag put you off visiting. It’s a hidden gem, not on westerner’s travel list. However, it should be because it has wonderful cultural sites, fabulous food, very friendly […]


13 May

Lithuania, The Baltics – One of the gems of Europe

Allow at least a week to see the best of what Lithuania has to offer, including the following highlights. Without a doubt, the capital city Vilnius, is a treasure.  The old town was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, back in 1994. It had a strong Jewish influence up until the 20th Century, […]


6 May

The Panama Canal

Since I was a small kid, I’d always wanted to visit Panama and see the Panama Canal.  The notion of watching huge cargo ships glide through the nearly 80km of a man-made waterway in between the two Americas and linking the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans had always fascinated me.  I thought it was perhaps a […]


29 Apr

Kolkata and its street markets

Kolkata has a dark history from the days of it’s formation by the British East India company in the late 1600s to the early Bengal insurrections such as the Black Hole of Calcutta and the India freedom movement of Gandhi.  The very essence of India’s nationhood stems from Kolkata’s intellectual class and their sense of […]


15 Apr

Latvia – rich in UNESCO world heritage listed sites

Latvia, part of the Baltic States (a term used by the locals), is a small country with a small population. But there’s much to see and do, around the capital and also in the countryside. If you enjoy medieval history, you will love Latvia. Riga is the cultural centre of Latvia. There are many churches, […]


8 Apr

Tallinn, Estonia – Small city, weird language

Arriving on the ferry from Helsinki, two things grabbed my immediate attention about this small, sophisticated, medieval capital city. First, it is one of the most charming and beautiful cities in Europe with its cobble-stoned streets, gorgeous terracotta roofs and church steeples providing for fantastic photos! Secondly, when speaking the native tongue, the locals are […]


25 Mar

Kratie – The Real Cambodia

Without a doubt, Angkor Wat is Cambodia’s immediately recognisable national icon but there is much more to this beautiful country. If you want to see the real regional Cambodia where tourists are few and far apart, head to the northeast township of Kratie where you’ll find something special. Life in Kratie is very different from […]


18 Mar

A few days in Seoul – South Korea

Years ago in the advertising industry, we used to joke that if a manager did a lousy job, they’d get a “promotion” to run the Seoul office. Well, things have certainly changed. Seoul has come a long way and is now a great city with a great vibe. Having been there many times, here are […]


4 Mar

Malta is definitely the mouse that roared

Malta is definitely the mouse that roared. It is tiny yet impressive enough for the country to be awarded the George Cross for bravery in World War II. Blue Dot Travel’s small group Malta tours include Sardinia and Corsica.   There are five islands in all with only three inhabited. Malta, the main island, is 28 […]


25 Feb

Corsica – Home of Napoleon and Paoli

The story of Napoleon Bonaparte is known around the world. A successful military leader, born in Corsica and became emperor of France. But lesser known and more of a Corsican hero is Pasquale Paoli. Paoli led the resistance against the French in the late 1700s, wrote and implemented the Corsican constitution and became the island’s […]


18 Feb

Macedonia’s Lake Ohrid – the oldest lake in Europe

There’s often confusion when Macedonia is discussed because – depending who you talk to – there are two Macedonias. There’s Macedonia, the small independent country on the Balkan Peninsula which was part of the former Yugoslavia, and there’s Macedonia, a northern region of Greece. The issue over the naming of the country goes back a long way but even […]


11 Feb

Montenegro – The Black Mountain

If you didn’t know that Montenegro was a country, don’t despair – you’re not on your own! While many travellers from Australia have discovered neighbouring Croatia as a fabulous destination, not so many have ventured further afield to Montenegro. The James Bond film Casino, partly filmed in beautiful Montenegro, certainly helped raise awareness. Montenegro is a small […]


4 Feb

Hornbill Festival of Nagaland North East India

The north east frontier of India has always been a remote outpost even during the rule of the British Raj. Whilst the famous Assam tea plantations saw early colonial interest in the north east, much of the hill tribes were left to their own devices, due partly to the ruggedness of their mountain homes on […]


28 Jan

Guatemala – A lesser travelled gem of Central America

We all travel for different kinds of reasons. Some people like ancient history, others prefer more recent colonial history. Some folks love to photograph wildlife, while some would rather eat their way around a country.  You can do all of this in Guatemala, and more. Not many Australians travel to Guatemala. Rather, if they head […]


21 Jan

Turkmenistan – now for something unusual!

Turkmenistan – Land of the Turkmen – could best be described as an odd country. The former Soviet state became independent in 1991 and was until 2006 ruled by Niyazov, a communist-style dictator. Niyazov had absolute final say over the country when his party mandated his presidency for life and during this time, he banned […]


14 Jan

Malta. A small country that packs a big punch!

I am lucky to have travelled to Malta on quite a few occasions. The more I go, the more I love it. Area-wise it’s a tiny country with two main islands – Malta and Gozo. But don’t be deceived by its size. There are heaps of things to do on both islands. For first time […]


7 Jan

Captivating Sardinia

I came to Sardinia with few preconceptions, except about its reputation for brigands and kidnappings. Our itinerary included a visit to the mountain village of Orgosolo, a headquarters for the brotherhood in recent years. Today it’s better known as the Painted Village, with politically inspired murals decorating most of the houses in the centre of […]


24 Dec

Spring time in Japan is synonymous with cherry blossoms

The Japanese are obsessed with the short-lived beauty of these fragile blossoms. They pay to reserve spots in the best parks where they can sit and appreciate their surroundings. The first few days on the tour: bare branches, with buds in various stages of development. Our cameras went berserk every time we found a tree […]


17 Dec

Iceland – Heaps of “wow”!

We visited Iceland on a recce in 2013. The brief to ourselves was to develop an itinerary providing a “best of” and some lesser-known parts of the country for our small group tours Iceland. Apart from what we had read and seen in magazines and brochures, we didn’t really know what to expect. We spent […]


10 Dec

Timkat Festival Ethiopia continues…

Day 2 of the Timkat Festival,  we reach the special ground where the waters are blessed for the Baptism rites. The whole area was crowded, and locals waved lighted tapers as the priests began arriving in all their glory. Deacons in their white robes with red borders, and priests wearing black cloaks over their white robes, formed a perimeter around […]


3 Dec

Arctic Wildlife wildlife and more wildlife – Arctic Part 2

Our trip was all about the Arctic wildlife. The best opportunity to photograph a bear surely had to be the site where the remains of a sperm whale had been drawing bears for at least a month. There is never more than one bear at a time, with the bear hierarchy strictly enforced. But there’s […]


26 Nov

Arctic Part 1 – Exploring Svalbard

It’s coldish up here in the Arctic, ranging from daily maximum of 1 degree celsius to an incredibly warm 10 degrees. On the warm days, we shed layers like reptile skins. Svalbard is a group of Norwegian islands that extend to just above 80 degrees north. If we went that far south in Antarctica we […]


19 Nov

A Hamar boy becomes a man – Omo Valley Ethiopia

Young men from many cultures must endure rituals to enter manhood. The young Hamar men of southern Ethiopia’s Omo Valley, prove their manhood by eventually succeeding at ‘cattle-jumping,’ a challenge that requires them to walk across the backs of livestock. It carries great weight in the Omotic tradition as it is the only way an […]


12 Nov

Chasing cherry blossom in Japan

Take a tour named Japan in Spring and it’s perfectly reasonable to expect to see cherry blossom … and lots of it. What I didn’t expect was the fervour that came with the pursuit – I can now identify with those crazy tornado chasers in the southern USA! We certainly didn’t put our lives at risk but […]


5 Nov

Iceland – Lots of green and lots of ice

Iceland conjures up images of a remote island in the arctic, with freezing temperatures and a small population. After all, who could live on an island in the middle of nowhere with icy cold winds blowing for most of the year?  While this is pretty much true, there are still many reasons to visit this […]


29 Oct

Tehran – it’s not what you think

I cannot recall visiting any country in any part of the world where the people are more welcoming than in Iran. This might sound like a big statement but it’s true. Within my first 24 hours in Tehran I was invited to play table tennis, asked where I was from on numerous occasions and frequently stopped with a smile, an out-stretched hand and a […]


22 Oct

Land of Fire and Ice – Kamchatka – Far Eastern Russia

I’m fortunate enough to have visited the land of fire and ice on a few occasions. It’s a destination that few people can pronounce and even fewer know where to find. Kamchatka is a peninsula in Russia’s Far East forming part of Southern Siberia. It lies between the Pacific Coast and the Sea of Okhotsk. Look on […]