Why no visit to the Philippines is complete without going to Cebu Island

Did you know that the Philippines comprise over 7,641 islands? As you can imagine, a visit to the country has plenty to offer any visitor! One of the hottest tourist spots in the Philippines is Cebu Island. Here are some of the reasons why you need to visit this beautiful place at least once in your life:

Tumalog Falls
It’s no secret that there are many natural waterfalls in the world. But, one of the most captivating waterfalls you should check out is Tumalog Falls!

Basílica del Santo Niño
Founded in 1565, this small church is an important religious point of interest. It’s also the oldest Roman Catholic church in the Philippines.

Tops Lookout
If you want to see a commanding view of Cebu city, make your way to Tops Lookout. A habal-habal (motorbike taxi) can take you there in just 20 minutes from the city center.

Fort San Pedro
Built by the Spanish in the 16th century, Fort San Pedro is a unique triangular structure. With two sides facing the sea, it originally got built from wood. The fort is now a museum and features stunning Spanish artifacts within it.

Magellan’s Cross
As you probably know, the Philippines got claimed for Spain by Ferdinand Magellan. In 1521, he planted a cross in the soil to mark the occasion. And you can still see it today!

Want to know more about Cebu Island? Take a look at this fact-packed infographic:

Infographic Thanks To Cebu island

Posted in 2016, tourism, travel, travel ideas, travel tips | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Operation Smile: Changing lives one smile at a time in Zomba, Malawi

If someone told me years ago that one day I would be working in an operating theatre in Zomba, Malawi; I would have laughed and responded with disbelief. Yet last week I sat as a Patient Image Technician (PIT) volunteer for Operation Smile, right outside two operating theatres as a global power team of experienced plastic surgeons, anesthetists and nurses changed the lives of many babies, children and adults as they had their cleft lips, cleft palettes and noses repaired.

I had absolutely no idea of what to expect on an Operation Smile mission so I decided to go with the flow and take it one moment at a time.  I believe it’s the best way to approach something so far from your comfort zone. I made sure I packed some Rescue Remedy in case things got overwhelming and arrived at Cape Town International Airport not knowing any of my fellow volunteers or how the next ten days would unfold.

We spent the first two days medically screening patients who travelled over 14 hours to get to Zomba Central Hospital in hope that they themselves or their loved ones would be selected to receive a safe, life-changing surgery. Over dinner one evening; Conrad, the Plastic Surgeon Team Lead, said that he was surprised to see how many adults had arrived on the screening days – far more than any other mission he had been involved in. Conrad’s comment struck a chord with me as I observed each case.

Take a moment to think what life would be like as an adult if you had a cleft lip and/or palette. Imagine you lived in a rural village in Malawi and whenever the sun sets and it’s time to make a fire; you have to call a passerby or a neighbour to blow on the coals to spark a healthy flame because you cannot? It’s highly likely that your speech is impaired, throat and ear infections are a regular problem with a scarcity of medical supplies and trying to find a good job or a life-partner is an endless, hopeless struggle. That is what makes each Operation Smile mission so amazing – around 150 patients will leave this hospital with healthy new smiles; which will renew their hope and open up new opportunities they never thought possible.

One morning I chatted to a 19 year-old patient who was waiting to go into his surgery and I asked him what he was most looking forward to post-surgery. My PIT buddy, Clem, translated his answer for me; ‘Man, I just want to get married!’.  In rural Malawian villages men get married around age 18. I shot his post-op photos and when he was handed a mirror to admire his new mouth and face, his eyes welled up with emotion. As I walked him through to the recovery area, I pointed to where a wedding ring would sit on my own hand and tried to say, ‘Now you can find a wife’. Another smile, another life changed for the better.

I was amazed how the adult patients undergo cleft lip and cleft palette surgery with only local anaesthetic. On the second day of surgery, I saw a 44 year-old man sitting outside on a bench waiting to be called in for his surgery and he was shaking. His nervousness unsettled me and later, as I watched an exceptionally talented plastic surgeon work on him, reminding him to keep his eyes closed, I sent him all the good vibes I could muster up. Can you imagine? It’s like sitting in a dentist’s chair except that the medical professional leaning over you is doing a major surgery that will change the rest of his life. And that’s why each local patient lies dead still and perseveres for what must feel like a life time as the plastic surgeon works his / her magic.

The result makes it all worth it as each adult patient sits up and admires their new reflection for the first time. The Malawian patients I observed seemed to have an ’emotions party’ internally that sometimes made their eyes glisten with gratitude.

“Today is the day for transformation. Today I begin a new life.” – Vincent, 60 years old

If I had to describe my behind-the-scenes experience in one word, it would be ‘surreal’. Each night, it took me a good hour or two for the theatre monitoring machinery metronome to quieten in my mind. As the beeping faded away, I drifted off to sleep thinking about the 35+ smiles that were operated on that day and how their futures will be redirected on a much brighter path.

You can read my previous Operation Smile blog posts by clicking on the hyperlinks below:

My Operation Smile #run4smiles journey

1st Operation Smile operation covered, 3 more to go

Support my Operation Smile fundraising project

Posted in 2016, Africa, charity, illnesses, inspiration, photography, tourism, travel, volunteer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

5 Excellent reasons to escape to Ocean Isle Beach

When it comes to globetrotting, some of us need no excuse to pack our bags and board a plane. But if you’re looking for excellent reasons to book a holiday in Ocean Isle Beach, you’ve come to the right place. The US may not be the first place you think of when somebody mentions the word beaches. But you’d be crazy to turn down the chance to explore some of this country’s beautiful islands and beach resorts. Here are five fantastic reasons why Ocean Isle Beach could be the perfect summer escape for you.

Ocean_isle_BeachImage credit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_Isle_Beach,_North_Carolina

1. The scenery

Ocean Isle Beach is a quaint seaside town located on the coast of North Carolina. It has a rugged charm and a tangible sense of tradition and times gone by. Wander through the streets of town before ending up on the expansive beaches. Feel the sand between your toes, as you watch the rolling ocean waves crash against the shore.

2. The beaches

Of course, the star of any beach holiday should be the beach. That goes without saying. And if you choose Ocean Isle Beach for your next trip, you won’t be disappointed. The soft powdery sand stretches are secluded, safe and free from hoards of tourists. You can enjoy views out across the ocean or panoramic vistas of the surrounding towns from the iconic pier.

3. The activities

For a small town in Brunswick County, Ocean Isle Beach has a lot to offer. Any beach holiday lover will probably appreciate a few days of doing nothing and taking advantage of the sun, sea, and sand. But if you do feel like being a little more active, there’s plenty to keep you busy. Book a boat trip and keep your eyes peeled for sea turtles. Visit the Museum of Coastal Carolina and explore the touch tanks. Take a boat tour of the Shallotte River Swamp Park. Or get your adrenaline pumping on the zip line. Get your beach games out or book a round of golf.

Before you go, it’s also a good idea to check the events calendar and see what’s going on. You may be lucky to time your trip with the annual North Carolina Oyster Festival.

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4. The food and drink

You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to eating and drinking in Ocean Isle Beach. One thing you won’t want to miss is the incredible seafood. Head down to the waterfront to take advantage of ocean views, al fresco dining and some of the best oysters you’ll ever taste.

seafood-platter-1232389_1280Image taken from https://pixabay.com/en/photos/seafood/

5. The weather

In the summer months, Ocean Isle Beach enjoys plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures. Perfect for topping up your tan and enjoying all those outdoor activities. The climate is pleasant in spring and autumn, but winter can be chilly.

If you’re looking for inspiration for your next holiday, why not throw Ocean Isle Beach into the mix? This charming seaside resort is an idyllic base for a family holiday, a trip with friends or a solo adventure. Ride the waves and catch the rays. Sample the local delicacies and get out and explore. However you spend your time, you won’t regret choosing this little gem.

Posted in 2016, beaches, tourism, travel, travel ideas, travel tips | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Looking for a beach holiday with a difference? Opt for the outer banks this summer

Are you looking for somewhere to escape it all, wind down, and chill out? Are you eager to steer clear of swarming beaches and tourist traps? If so, why not make the Outer Banks your next port of call? This narrow stretch of islands off the coast of North Carolina is an idyllic spot to soak up the sun, relax and enjoy stunning scenery.

14448323395_ed4346d267_kImage source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kenlund/14448323395

Where to stay

When it comes to booking accommodation in the Outer Banks, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Choose from budget motels and opulent hotels. Or hire a beach house. You may be surprised at the sheer number of beautiful Outer Banks vacation rentals. If you’re traveling in a group, it’s well worth considering condos and vacation homes. You’ll often find that splitting the cost works out much cheaper than booking individual hotel rooms.

The best places to stay include Corolla, Kitty Hawk, and Cape Hatteras.

When to visit

Summer is the busiest season, but this is essentially a year-round destination. During the spring and fall, you’ll get pleasant weather and deserted beaches. In the winter, temperatures fall, and you may find that some resorts and restaurants are closed. In the height of the summer, temperatures can reach well in excess of 80 degrees. If you don’t like the heat, wait until September. If you’re a sun worshipper, July and August vacations will suit you down to the ground.

What to do

A vacation in the Outer Banks offers something for everyone. You can easily spend two weeks catching rays and working your way through a library of holiday reads. Alternatively, you can get out and about and explore. Book a wild horse riding tour in Carova or charter a boat and go dolphin spotting. Try your hand at fishing or spend the day at Currituck Beach Lighthouse. Go shopping in Duck or visit historic Manteo. Dine under the stars or enjoy a refreshing sunset drink. Scuba dive around the shipwrecks or hit the greens with a golf lesson. The options are endless, and you can be as active or as lazy as you wish.

Look out for details of special events and festivals. Search online and see what’s coming up. You may find that you’re in town for one of the annual highlights, such as the 4th July Parade or the Wright Kite Festival.

common-dolphins-914548_1280Image credit https://pixabay.com/en/common-dolphins-swimming-ocean-sea-914548/

Getting around

Flying and renting a car is the best option for those visiting the Outer Banks. The nearest international airport is Norfolk, 82 miles away. Pick up a hire car at the airport and you can then navigate the rest of your trip by road. There is no public transport available on the stretch, so car rental is highly recommended.

Are you thinking of planning a beach vacation in the US? If so, you may automatically start researching Florida or California. But don’t limit your options before you’ve had chances to explore some lesser-known gems. The Outer Banks are a perfect choice for those looking for rest and relaxation. But they also offer all kinds of activities. Sail the seas, join a dolphin spotting tour, or learn to scuba dive. Pack your golf clubs, relax at a spa, or make the most of lazy beach days.

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Your New York holiday itinerary sorted

Are you thinking of visiting New York? Are you wondering where on earth to start when it comes to planning an itinerary? If so, you’ve come to the perfect place. Here’s a sensational sample to inspire you and ensure you see the best of the Big Apple.

Day 1: Midtown

Get up early and head for New York’s most iconic architectural feat, the Empire State Building. Allow yourself plenty of time to queue, ride the elevator and enjoy the views from the top. Don’t forget your camera! Try and choose a clear, sunny day.

Pay a visit to St Patrick’s Cathedral and the Rockefeller Center. Freshen up at your hotel and then venture out to the soak up the hustle and bustle of Times Square. This vibrant area comes alive after dark, and you can’t fail to be dazzled by the glistening lights. If you’re a fan of musicals or live productions, snap up some tickets for a Broadway show.

empire-state-building-1081929_1280Image from https://pixabay.com/en/empire-state-building-usa-1081929/

Day 2: Uptown

Spend your day perusing the museums and galleries before relaxing with a picnic in Central Park. You’ll find the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the American Museum of Natural History nearby. This famous spot is vast, and the best way to see it in all its glory is by bike.

3801987972_3ae3eb6ecd_zImage via https://www.flickr.com/photos/trodel/3801987972

Day 3: Lower Manhattan

Getting around New York is easy if you know how. If you’re travelling downtown, take the subway to avoid the traffic and cut your travel time. In Lower Manhattan, you’ll find the 9/11 Memorial and the High Line, which offers stunning city views. When you’ve had a wander around Wall Street, catch the ferry to Staten Island. You can explore the island and also enjoy wonderful views of the Statue of Liberty.

statue-of-liberty-267949_1280Image by https://pixabay.com/en/photos/statue%20of%20liberty/

Day 4: Brooklyn

Cross the Brooklyn Bridge to discover incredible eateries and bustling markets. Haggle for a bargain and grab some quirky souvenirs. Get your adrenaline pumping on the rides at Coney Island before grabbing a refreshing rooftop beer.

bridge-668003_1280Image credit https://pixabay.com/en/photos/brooklyn%20bridge/

Travel tips

Designing an itinerary will help to prevent wasting time and reduce the risk of getting lost in the city. It’s also a great way of making sure you have time to see everything you want. It’s not a good idea to hire a car in New York. You’ll find that you sit in traffic for hours, and you’ll pay a fortune for parking. Ride the subway if you’re going from one part of the city to another. Alternatively, if you plan your itinerary well, you’ll find that you can walk to most places. If you do hire a cab, remember to tip. When visiting the tourist sights, try and aim for dawn and dusk. The views are often incredible at these times of day, and the crowds tend to be smaller.

15778643103_79cfc3aabe_zImage source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/quintanomedia/15778643103

If you’re going to New York this year, here’s an itinerary to give you some ideas and get you excited about your impending trip. Planning ahead will help you to navigate the city, and ensure you have a memorable, stress-free trip.

Posted in 2016, bucket list, tourism, travel, travel ideas, travel tips, USA | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The ins & outs of planning a trip to Vancouver

I’ve spoken about travelling to Canada before and how amazing it is as a travel destination. Today, however, I’ll be focusing on the city of Vancouver, a seaside city in bustling British Columbia. Surrounded by mountains, coastal areas, and wildlife, this is the perfect destination for a holiday. Especially as, as well as having lots of wildlife and outdoor activities, it also has a cultural side to it. Thanks to its vibrant culture, Vancouver has lots of places to immerse yourself in art, theatre, and shopping.

English_Bay,_Vancouver,_BCPicture link

Like Canada as a whole, Vancouver has a lot to offer. It’s a vast, vibrant, and beautiful place that’s packed full of exciting things to see and do. To help you ensure that your trip to this fantastic city goes without a hitch, I thought I would share some useful tips and advice.

Find out if you’re able to visit Canada

Before you do anything else, it’s essential that you take the time to ensure that you’re able to visit Canada. Like many other countries, Canada has strict laws about who can and can’t enter the country. So before booking your tickets, it’s essential to ensure that you’ll be able to enter the country. Research the rules and regulations about who can enter and who can’t. Read up on whether you need a visa and also on eTA information, so that you know the best route to go down to get into Canada without a problem.

Decide where in Vancouver to stay

Executive_Premier_Room_-_Novotel_Century_Hong_Kong_HotelImage credit

The next step is to decide where in Vancouver to stay. The great thing about this bustling harbour town is that there are plenty of accommodation options. From five-star hotels to more budget-friendly guesthouses and hostels, there’s accommodation for every budget. There’s places to stay by the harbour, in the middle of the city, and also some quieter areas. It’s just a case of selecting accommodation that’s right for you and your travel buddies.

Research the best things to see and do

Once you’ve got your accommodation sorted, you can then focus on the things on offer to see and do. There’s so much to choose from; it’s just a case of working out what type of things you want to use your time to do. From exploring beautiful gardens and parks to cruising the harbour and taking part in a tour around the city, there’s lots of offer. Being a popular travel destination, a lot of the activities on offer tend to fill up quickly. So if there’s something that you’re desperate to do, make sure to book it in advance.

Find the best places to drink and dine

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Like most cities, Vancouver has lots of fantastic places to drink and dine. This can make finding the perfect place to eat a little difficult, as there’s just too much choice. If you want to experience authentic Canadian cuisine, it’s best to research the best places to drink and dine beforehand. That way you can ensure that you have the most amazing meals. A couple of the most popular eateries in Vancouver are The Flying Pig and Guu with Garlic. The food they serve is out of this world.

So there you have it, everything that you need to know about planning a trip to Vancouver.

Posted in 2016, tourism, travel, travel ideas, travel tips | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Traveling to Atlanta? Here’s your to-do list

Atlanta is the vast capital of the state of Georgia. Many people will have flown through it, as its large airport is where many people connect to various flights. However, not that many people will have stepped out of the arrivals lounge to discover this unique city. However, all that is changing as people are starting to realize just what a vibrant and diverse city this is. It’s a good idea to book your trip there now before it becomes a real tourist trap! Not sure what to do there? No problem; we’ve come up with a to-do list for you!


World of Coca-Cola

Are you a big fan of Coca-Cola? Then you’ll love this museum dedicated to the delicious soft drink. The drink was created in the city in 1886 by the pharmacist Dr. John S. Pemberton. Since then, the drink has gone from strength to strength. This large museum takes visitors through the drink’s history. You can discover how the tasty beverage has changed the face of popular culture, as well as taking a peek at the Coca-Cola bottling process.

Six Flags Over Georgia

Located just west of Atlanta, the Six Flags over Georgia theme park is one of the most popular in America. If you haven’t hired a car for your trip, don’t panic. There are still plenty of ways to get there, like jumping on a Shofur bus. You can even read Shofur bus reviews online before you book. The extensive theme park has an array of roller coasters and rides. Families can ride on the Daffy Duck Bucket Blasters together. While adrenalin junkies can get their thrills on the Blue Hawk roller coaster!

Zoo Atlanta

If your family need to calm down after all the excitement of Six Flags over Georgia, then head to the city’s Zoo Atlanta. It’s only one of four American zoos to currently have a family of Giant Pandas living in it. And there are plenty more animals to meet! Including elephants, giraffes, and exotic frogs. There are also many shows and talks held at the zoo throughout the day, where kids can learn about the different animals.

Centennial Olympic Park

Back in 1996, Atlanta hosted the Olympic Games. All the sports and competitions took place in the Centennial Olympic Park, which is now open to the public. It’s right in the middle of the downtown area, so you will have no trouble finding it. Many families head there on the weekends for a leisurely stroll or so kids can play in the play areas. The Fountain of Rings is the large centerpiece in the park. Loads of people can be seen jumping through the fountains on hot summer days.

CNN Center

The American news network CNN has its headquarters in Atlanta. And you can take a tour to check out behind the scenes! You’ll be able to see the studios where some of the country’s most popular news shows are broadcast. If you’re lucky, you may even bump into a famous news anchor!

Posted in 2016, tourism, travel, travel ideas, travel tips, USA | Leave a comment