Between November 2013 and November 2014 I traveled to South Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean, and had some of the greatest adventures of my life thus far. I saw African wildlife in Kruger National Park, I hand-fed rescued elephants in Thailand, I marveled at the temples of Angkor, I ate some of the most delicious food I’ve ever tasted in Vietnam, and I vacationed at some of the most pristine beaches in the Caribbean.
I’m so grateful for all the amazing destinations I visited this year, and I can only hope that 2015 will be filled with even more new countries and exciting adventures.
Here are my favourite travel moments from the past year.
1) Marveling at the views of Cape Town from the top of Lion’s Head
The weather was extremely temperamental when I visited Cape Town and the conditions were never quite right to go to the top of Table Mountain. I was so disappointed, but had heard the view from Lion’s Head was great as well. The views ended up blowing me away, and I spent a great deal of time just standing at the top, staring at the city, ocean, and mountains below. As I descended, I was lucky enough to see a full rainbow, perfectly framed above Cape Town.
2) Tasting Wine in Constantia Valley
The wineries just outside of Cape Town seriously impressed me. They are nestled amongst some of the most jaw-dropping scenery I’ve ever seen with rolling hills, rows of vineyards, and mountains rising in the distance. The wineries are also beautiful and offer affordable and outstanding wine.
3) Cage Diving with Great White Sharks in Gansbaai
Cage Diving is one the most fascinating and thrilling things I’ve ever done. The frigid water and poor visibility is overshadowed by seeing the sheer size and force of these sharks up close. Watching them effortlessly glide through the water, disappear, and then suddenly reappear out of the depths to ambush the decoy was an unbelievable sight. I left Gansbaai with an even greater sense of respect and enthusiasm for these amazing predators.
4) Going on a Safari in Kruger National Park
Seeing African wildlife in such close proximity left me in awe. Nothing else compares to seeing a herd of elephants within 20 feet of our safari vehicle, or watching giant rhinoceros quietly grazing, or seeing a pack of wild dogs casually walking along the roadside. I had dreamed of going on safari for so long and it felt completely surreal to actually be in Kruger National Park.
5) Bungee Jumping in Thailand
I took a ferry from Koh Phangan to Koh Samui for the day specifically to bungee jump there. It’s not the highest bungee by any means, but after trying the Canyon Swing in New Zealand a few years back, I was content with trying a smaller bungee for my first jump. It was also very inexpensive, so I knew I had to take advantage of the price while I was in Thailand. It was an amazing rush and I can’t wait to try a higher bungee somewhere else in the world!
6) Staying on a floating lake house in Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok National Park was one of my favourite spots in Thailand, and Smiley’s Lakehouse was one of the most unique accommodations I’ve ever stayed at. Floating on the lake surrounded by nature made for a wonderfully quiet and peaceful stay. I never tired of the view from my bungalow- the vast and calm lake, limestone karsts rising from the water, and lush jungle in the distance. The power would only stay on until midnight, and afterwards the complete and total darkness was perfect for star gazing on the deck.
7) Setting my eyes on Phra Nang Beach in Railay
Phra Nang Beach is quite possibly the most picturesque beach I’ve ever seen. The beach is surrounded by limestone cliffs, colourful longtail boats linger near the shoreline, and the azure water is calm and clear. I was enamored and had to pinch myself to make sure I was actually there.
8) Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park
Feeding, bathing, and watching these animals on the beautiful grounds of Elephant Nature Park was one of the most rewarding things I’ve been lucky enough to experience. I admit I really didn’t do all that much- apart from handing the elephants some fruit and throwing a few buckets of water on them in the river- but I felt so much joy knowing that my money was being used to care for these injured and rescued elephants. Seeing how happy they are, and just knowing they are free to live as they please, filled me with an immense amount of joy.
9) Riding on a motorbike and eating my way around Ho Chi Minh City
The Foodie Tour I took in Ho Chi Minh is the best tour I’ve ever taken. Riding (as a passenger) on a motorbike on busy roads in Ho Chi Minh was exciting enough in itself, but the food presented at each stop was even better than the motorbike ride. We explored many districts that we may not have otherwise seen and I can honestly say that I had the best meal of my life. Crab noodle soup, stir fried morning glory, banh knot, grilled prawns, and steamed razor clams were only a few of the drool-worthy offerings.
10) Exploring the temples of Angkor
Seeing the ancient temples of Angkor was a highlight from my trip to Southeast Asia. I had high expectations for Angkor Wat, but even the smaller temples left me in awe. From watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat, to marveling at Baphuon, to watching the quaint countryside villages pass by as we drove from temple to temple- I loved every second of my day exploring these marvelous ruins.
11) Relaxing in Hoi An
There isn’t a specific moment or day that stands out from my time in Hoi An; the entire time I spent there was blissful. The charming, latern-filled Old Town stole my heart and I loved cycling to the beach every day. The food was delicious, the weather was perfect, and the locals were friendly. Hoi An was my absolute favourite destination from my two months in Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
12) Discovering a new favourite beach in St. Thomas
I had been to St. Thomas previously, and while I enjoyed it, the island didn’t exactly leave a lasting impression on me. This time around, I decided to head to Coki Beach and I immediately fell in love. It’s a small and fairly crowded spot, but the powdery, white sand was glistening in the sun, and the turquoise water was calm, crystal clear, and warm.
13) Touring around Dominica
Dominica took me by surprise and made me fall in love with the Caribbean again. Driving around the island made me feel like I was in Jurassic Park; it was so green and incredibly lush. I saw natural hot springs, swam in the chilly but beautiful Emerald Pools, and strolled along a black sand beach.
14) Snorkeling in Bonaire
Bonaire was another island that wowed me with its unbelievable vistas. Bright turquoise water with an arid landscape and salt flats were so unique compared to other islands I had visited. I stopped at a small and rocky beach and spent the afternoon snorkeling close to the shoreline. I didn’t stop at one of the island’s world renowned dive sites, but it was a beautiful and colourful spot nonetheless.
I can’t wait to see what 2015 has in store!