Another year is almost over and 2015 has certainly been one to remember!
It has been a wonderful year for travel and when I look back it’s crazy to think how much I have managed to achieve in this year alone. I’ve learnt and seen some incredible things, met some amazing people, and I have challenged my inner-scaredy-cat more than I ever thought possible. But above all else, I have began a new chapter in my life, which I know travel will continue to be a big part of.
So in no particular order…here are some of my top travel highlights from 2015.
Volunteering in Moshi, Tanzania
In April, I returned to Moshi to volunteer at Newlands School and Orphanage. It was so amazing to go back and see how the children had grown since my last visit. While I talk a lot about my time at Newlands on the blog, one thing most of you don’t know is that I also volunteered at an organisation called NAFGEM who are doing incredible work to put an end to FGM in Tanzania. It was so inspiring to be a part of such a worthwhile cause, and something I hope to talk about more on the blog in 2016.
To read more about my time as a volunteer, check out my photo diary a Day in the Life of a Volunteer
Celebrating the big 3-0 in Tanzania
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t dreading the big three-oh-no. But getting the chance to spend my 30th in a country that holds such a special place in my heart certainly made it a birthday to remember. During the day I relived my youth by holding a kid’s party at the school and seeing their little faces light up was the best birthday gift I could have ever wished for. This was of course followed by an evening of alcohol-fuelled fun where the other volunteers surprised me with not just one huge chocolate cake, but two! Just perfect!
Easy Rider tour of the Central Highlands, Vietnam
My inner-scaredy-cat told me not to do it…but I’m so glad I did it anyway. Getting to witness some of Vietnam’s stunning scenery from the seat of a motorcycle was just awesome. But what truly made it an unforgettable outing was my driver Leo’s wealth of knowledge, hilarious banter and passion for riding. If ever you find yourself in Da Lat, I can fully recommend doing a tour with him. You can find him at the Tiny Tigers hostel (which is just as awesome as he is).
Skydiving over Lake Taupo, New Zealand
This was by far my biggest extravagance this year and definitely one of the most adventurous things I have ever done. When I look back over my video, I still can’t quite believe it’s me that I am watching on the screen. For someone who is terrified of heights, this was a huge achievement! So worth every penny…just look how happy I am in my mid-air selfie!
Ever wondered what it feels like to do a skydive? Check out my article on the ten stages of fear!
Seeing the Big Five on safari in Tanzania
An African safari had been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. Growing up I was obsessed with wildlife programmes and animals, so imagine my excitement when we were lucky enough to see all of the Big Five while roaming the plains of the Serengeti, Tarangire and Ngorogoro national parks. To top things off, we had a very close encounter with this cheeky chap (perhaps a bit TOO close!)
Swimming with dusky dolphins in Kaikoura, New Zealand
It was another life-long dream to swim with dolphins in their natural environment, and I finally got to experience this on a really great eco-tour in Kaikoura (one of my fave places in NZ, might I add!) This was definitely one of those moments where I wished I had a GoPro just to document how amazing it was to swim among a pod of over 200 dusky dolphins.
Want to know more about my time in New Zealand? Click here.
Watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat
As they say patience is a virtue…and I certainly had my patience tested this day. Not only did it take forever for the sun to rise, I had never encountered so much tourist rage in all my life. Turns out I’m not the only one whose not a morning person. Was it worth getting up at 5am? Well I think this picture speaks for itself…
Want to know why everyone got so ragey? Then go here to find out.
Hopping my way around the Fiji Islands
The Fiji Islands has to be way, way up there on my list of all-time favourites. The Fijians are some of the friendliest and happiest people I have ever met…but then who wouldn’t be when you live in complete paradise? Here I am enjoying my favourite Fijian tipple while enduring a terrible case of the hammock coma.
Click here to find out why Fiji is (in my opinion) the happiest place on Earth.
Monkeying around in Machame, Tanzania
I’m detecting an animal theme here in my highlights! Kilimanjaro Animal CREW is part of Makoa Farm on the southern slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro and their main aim is to educate people about animal conservation. A large part of the farm looks after injured and orphaned animals, providing a safe haven for a variety of different species. At a time where Tanzania’s amazing wildlife continues to be destroyed by human intervention, their work couldn’t be more important. It was here I got to meet this cheeky guy who absolutely stole my heart.
Discovering my inner Hobbit, New Zealand
I’m a little bit of a nerd at heart and grew up loving the LOTR films. Needless to say, visiting the Hobbiton Movie Set was always going to be on my list of things to do when visiting New Zealand. And it didn’t dissapoint. The level of detail that goes into the movie set is just insane and it truly captures the magic that you see in the films.
A fan of LOTR? Check out my article Discovering my Inner Hobbit in the Shire.
Paradise perfection in Koh Rong, Cambodia
This was my first island stop of the year and it was just what I needed after hopping from town to town. Koh Rong was pure paradise perfection – a haven for complete relaxation, whether that be just sitting in a hammock reading a book or trying your hand at other activities like fishing or kayaking. I think this photo says it all…
Like the sound of this lovely little island? Then find out more in my article Paradise Perfection in Koh Rong.
Cruising the beautiful blues of Halong Bay, Vietnam
Halong Bay is one of nature’s many wonders and getting the chance to cruise peacefully around some of its 2000 limestone karsts was complete bliss. Not only that, but it’s the perfect spot for some leisurely kayaking and they have some of the most impressive caves I’ve ever seen.
To find out more about this mystical place, read my article “From Halong Bay to Ninh Binh”
Road-trip across Australia’s Great Ocean Road
I only got the chance to explore a tiny part of Australia, but I’m so glad I managed to fit in this stunning coastal drive with some friends from back home. The GOR is an amazing drive through winding mountains, with roads lined by rugged beaches and the clear blue sea. And if you’re lucky, you may even spot a koala or two lazing around in the wild.
To see more stunning scenery from the GOR, check out my photo diary
Finding my Zen in Zanzibar
Before my around-the-world trip came to an end, I honoured my inner beach-bum one last time with a week in Zanzibar. And what better place to unwind than on this beautifully exotic island that is blessed with some of the whitest feet-sinking sands I have ever seen. It really is the picture of perfect paradise. I mean…just look at this…
After some more wanderlust inspiration? Check out my travelogue on Zanzibar
Getting festive in Bruges
My recent weekend trip to Bruges was such a lovely way to round off my travels for the year! I’d visited this charming little city ten years ago on my first backpacking adventure around Western Europe, so I was super excited to return. It truly is a magical destination all year around, but during the festive season you’ll see it transform into a winter wonderland.
For tips on how to enjoy a festive weekend in Bruges, go here.
And finally, just one more little thing…
Where is Noodles? has gone from strength to strength over the last year, which has completely exceeded all my expectations.
I originally set this blog up to share amusing stories with family and friends back home, so have been completely blown away by how much my following has quickly grown outside of this bubble.
So I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your support this year! Blogging has certainly been a journey in itself (with many a temper tantrum where my computer has almost ended up in the bin!) and I hope I can continue to entertain you all with my ramblings in 2016.