Aussie safari in the land down under

Even catching baitfish was exciting – Ollie with a Spanish mackerel

Over the Easter holidays I traveled with Steph and the kids to Australia. With Ollie now eleven years old, and Halina nine, it was the perfect time to bring them back to this beautiful country where I spent an adventurous childhood. During our three weeks on the eastern coast, we experienced much of what I have always loved about Oz, as well as a few new things. 

Highlights for the kids included seeing nine wombats on a night drive, a first surfing lesson at Manly Beach in Sydney, sailing through stunning Sydney Harbour, riding horses down Seven Mile Beach, successfully completing the Coffs Harbor Ocean Swims, and of course our week on Haggerstone Island in far north Queensland on the Great Barrier Reef.  

Sailing under the Harbour Bridge in Sydney
Epic session with Manly Surf School
Sunrise at Manly Beach, Sydney
Riding along Seven Mile Beach on Billy and Spotty
After we finished our races at the Coffs Ocean Swims
Sunset at Brown’s Mountain

Steph and I also enjoyed a special evening out in Sydney for the Handa Opera outdoor performance of West Side Story. The exciting choreography and classic music were made all the better by the backdrop of the iconic Harbor Bridge and Opera House all lit up, and fabulous fireworks during the intermission!

Sydney Harbor, the backdrop for Handa Opera’s West Wide Story

Steph and the kids have been dreaming of a trip to the Great Barrier Reef for years, and I was excited to go back to that part of the world. I teamed up with my Australian travel partners at The Tailor to organize the trip to Haggerstone. The island is a family-owned and hosted destination, castaway-rustic and comparable in many ways to our own style of safaris in Africa. Snorkeling from the island and the boat each day, we saw green sea turtles and great numbers of other marine life, including countless fishes, rays, starfish, and coral. Fishing expeditions were exciting and successful due to the remote location we were in, and always involved cooking our coral trout catch for lunch on the boat – except for the crayfish ceviche and various sushi dishes! There is nothing quite like fresh seafood in such an exquisite location, especially when you have caught it yourself and the only other thing you have to do that afternoon is relax! We also made a special trip to the mainland one day, to climb the monstrous sand dunes that emerge straight out of the sea at the very northernmost tip of Australia. Our Aussie safari was such fun for all of us, but especially the kids. With so much coastline and outback to explore, with interesting wildlife and the most colorful birds, and with the cultural highlights of Sydney as well as the Aboriginal tribes and lands, Australia has so much to offer any traveler. 

Haggerstone Island, the Great Barrier Reef

Coral trout on the line….
And coral trout for lunch on the boat!
Steph with her first trevally – caught from the shore
Catch and release of a little black tip shark
Climbing the giant sand dunes
The ride home after another day of fishing and snorkeling

The extraordinary people of the Omo River Delta in Ethiopia

Dancing men of the Kara tribe

The breeze cresting the banks of the mighty Omo River cooled the air as we cruised upstream to our destination: Lale’s Camp on the banks of this winding tributary to the Lake Turkana – Africa’s evocative Jade Sea. Carmine bee-eaters danced midair as they whisked in and out of their homes in the walls of the banks as crocodiles watched malevolently from the sand bars below. 

Even for a seasoned safari guide, a journey into this part of Ethiopia is truly like stepping back in time. Striking, semi-naked figures decorated with splendid scarification proudly stride the plains alongside the watery lifeline as we neared camp. These were the Kara, the Nyangatom, the Mursi, and the Hammar. An impressively diverse medley of tribal groups who’ve made this place home. 

Lale’s Camp is nestled amongst a forest of fig trees near the river, and Lale himself greeted us warmly and was an exceptional host for the duration of our stay. With Colobus monkeys cavorting in the canopy above, and the sun setting off to the west, we soaked up the remote and comforting ambience of this unique destination. 

Perhaps the most incredible interaction was with the Mursi tribe, whose lip-plates and extensive body scarring provides such a novel mix of shock, awe, and, ultimately, admiration for a people who’ve carved a living between the Omo’s silty shores and their highland farms. What was so special about our visit was having the time to fully immerse ourselves in the surroundings and to spend time with them. The polaroid camera I brought along provided huge laughs as the men and women looked with astonishment at their own images appearing. Such genuine banter and fun, and the fact that we were so remote from where 99% of other visitors go, ensured this was a really impressive cultural highlight. 

Another very memorable occasion was the last evening in camp, when Lale took us to the village of the Kara people nearby camp. This is Lale’s tribe and as we arrived at sunset it seemed the entire extended family had turned up to perform incredibly passionate and colorful traditional dances. As we mixed in on the edge we were aware of how truly unobtrusive we were while they immersed in this magnificent display. Once again the authenticity of this resonated with us and we knew we were experiencing something significantly out of the ordinary.

The impressive body decoration of the Kara tribe
A Mursi woman
A Hammar woman and child
A Kara woman making a bracelet
Nyangatom women with their dwellings
Amongst the Kara