Outside Tropical Queensland's capital city; Cairns, lies the worlds largest coral reef with over 2900 individual reefs and 900 islands. This magical underwater world is the only living thing that can be seen from space and is home to over 1500 different species of fish. It truly is something out of this world and if you ever get the chance to see the reef for yourself I highly recommend to take the chance, you won't be disappointed.

Both Olivia and I have spent a lot of time in Cairns and we've seen the reef from above, helicopter style and under the surface with air tanks on our backs getting so close we could touch this wonder with our own hands (but please be careful with the coral).

Green Island, The Great Barrier Reef

Even though Australia might not be the cheapest of places to travel to it is still, in our opinion, worth every penny. The Great Barrier Reef is definitely something you just have to experience for yourself.

Go on a day trip and try scuba diving for the first time, you don't even need to be certified or train yourself to an open water certificate you can actually just sign up for the day and get a feeling of scuba diving and go as deep as 9 meters. Which, as an advanced open water diver I can tell you, might not sound deep but it's definitely more then enough for your very first time.

If you try it and fall in love with scuba diving as much as we did there are heaps of different companies that offer open water courses which allow you to go down to 18 meters. If you still feel like you want to get more out of your diving there are companies that can offer you internships to become a Dive master etc.

For those of you who might think spending up to an hour underwater without ever coming to the surface is not for you, there are other ways to experience the reef. Why not go on a day trip to the outer reef with a snorkel and some fins and enjoy a great day on the boat? And for those who get a little sea sick of prefer to spend their day hanging out on the beach, taking the ferry from Cairns harbor to Fitzroy island is a great option.

Fitzroy island is truly beautiful and is only a 45 minute ferry ride from Cairns. Typically people choose to do Fitzroy Island as a day trip, the ferry departs in the morning from Cairns and takes you back in the late afternoon. It is possible to spend the night but you’ll probably have to camp as we found accommodation on the island to be extremely pricey.

Some of the ferries include snorkel gear, otherwise you can rent it on the island, along with kayaks and paddle boards. Around the island there are heaps of sea turtles and beautiful coral to look at and if you go inland you will find yourself in the middle of a rainforest. We really recommend giving the island a little bit of an explore, there are some gorgeous hidden gems including Nudey beach, one of the most serene and uncrowded beaches we’ve ever seen.

Nudey beach, Fitzroy Island

Another incredible way to experience the reef is, as I mentioned earlier, from a birds eye view; Helicopter tour. This is a bit more pricey but oh so pretty.

I actually surprised my boyfriend on his birthday with a 1 hour helicopter tour over the reef and 2 hours on our own private sand cay. It truly was an amazing experience to see the reef from above and to land on a little island in the middle of the reef just for ourselves.

We got served champagne, a plate with seafood and a massive cheese platter – IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WORLDS LARGEST REEF! Can't stress this enough, it was an experience of a life time. I booked it all with a company called Helitours and the tour was called ”The sandy cay experience”. They really took good care of us and I can highly recommend you to book the tour with them.

Vlassof cay, Great Barrier Reef

Besides exploring the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns offers you a great nightlife and a huge backpacker scene. Many young backpackers either start or finish their east coast trip in Cairns; therefore, a lot of people are excited to meet new people or reunite with friends they met up along the coast. Cairns has lots of great pubs, bars and restaurants and there is always something going on.

Australia’s biggest party hostel is located in Cairns and it's called Gilligan's backpacker hostel. It’s often referred to as a party hostel because it has it's own huge nightclub attached and there’s never a boring night. It really is an amazing hostel where we can guarantee you'll have a great time and meet lots of new people (we can tell you first hand, we actually met at Gilligans)! If you're not much of a party person or just don't want to sleep next to a nightclub we can recommend Castaways or Calypso Inn, both have a chill atmosphere and are close enough (Castaways is a bit further out of the CBD) to still enjoy a night out in Cairns.

Further inland from Cairns you'll find a huge rainforest/jungle with loads of hidden waterfalls. We highly recommend taking a day and hiring a car with friends or booking a trip around the waterfalls. One of our personal favourites is Stoney Creek waterfall, which is a bit tricky to get to (if you don't like an off track experience in the jungle) although you can see it from the Kuranda railway. Millaa Millaa and Barron falls are also truly stunning waterfalls you'll find outside Cairns in the Tabellands region.

Stoney Creek falls, Kuranda

Stoney Creek, Kuranda

Millaa Millaa falls, Tabellands

Kuranda railway & Barron falls (very dried out this day)

There are many other notable attractions that we loved visiting around Cairns including Cape Tribulation and Mossman Gorge.

Cape Tribulation is in the heart of the Daintree Rainforest and is located approximately 3 hours north of Cairns. This is also where the rainforest meets the coral sea, an incredible view to say the least. Mossman Gorge is located in between Cape Tribulation and Cairns and we absolutely recommend visiting them both in the same trip.

We wouldn't make this a day trip so we suggest spending a night or two in any of the jungle hotel/hostels that Cape Tribulation has to offer, since it's quite a drive and we’re sure when you get there you want to spend some more time and not feel stressed about getting back before the sunsets. We’ve stayed in PK's Jungle Village and it was totally fine to spend the night, just make sure to bring lots of insect repellent.

Mossman Gorge, Daintree National Park

Cape Tribulation, northeast Queensland

As we said earlier both of us have spent a good amount of time in this awesome city and we hope we have convinced you to make Cairns part of your next travel plans! We both plan spending even more time here in the future to continue exploring more of what tropical Queensland has to offer.

Want to see more of our adventures around the world? 😊 Make sure to follow us on Instagram @vaga_blondes .

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I don’t even know where to start about this beautiful slice of paradise we discovered in the Bahamas. As a fan (and owner) of pigs- going to swim with them in Exuma was always right at the top of my bucket list. It wasn’t until I looked further into it that I realised there is so much more Exuma has to offer (that does not include fyre festival, more on that later).

We flew from Orlando on Bahamasair, but seeing as direct flights to Georgetown were both scarce and expensive, we stopped in Nassau first. I do not think a single flight left on time from Nassau (or Georgetown). We were also told in Orlando that our bag would be making it all the way through and they tagged it all the way to Georgetown.

When we got to Nassau we waited for a few minutes, just in case, at baggage claim and when we didn’t see it we made our way through security and back to the gate for our flight to Georgetown. Ten minutes before our flight they called us to the front and gave us a pretty hard time for not getting our bag and led us through the airport again to collect it, then sent us through security a second time.

Luckily for us this was one of those times where a flight being delayed has a positive result. The staff made us feel pretty stupid for this whole debacle and we eventually came to the conclusion that we had misheard the guy in Orlando, but after meeting a couple that had the EXACT same thing happen to them, we have surmised that there is a fundamental miscommunication occurring with this staff. Side note: I have been on 45 flights alone this year and I have never been as terrified of crashing as I was on this flight (even the flight attendant looked frightened).

We spent the majority of our time at an amazing air BnB owned by a woman named Ann, and despite living in Nassau but she managed to be incredible helpful, even just from communicating on the phone. The place itself was right on the water and incredibly clean and spacious.

The listing on air BnB is under “Exuma Pearl” and its about 110 USD a night. Could not recommend this more, it made our stay even better than we could have imagined. We spent two nights (our first and last nights, due to Ann’s being booked) at Air bnb’s close by where our experiences were not as wonderful as they were at Ann’s but we are starting to think this could have been related to fyre festival.

I would recommend staying on Exuma for a whole week because there really is a lot to do.

Tropic of cancer is arguable the nicest beach I have ever been to and I don’t think I’ve ever seen water that blue. And the best part of this beach is that it is almost completely empty.

Coco plum beach is nice as well but we only went for sunset and fortunately there were swings for us to play on left over from fyre festival. Another good way to spend the day is at Stocking Island, which is a 10 minute water taxi ride from the centre of Georgetown.

There’s a place there called Chat n’ Chill and we just spent the day playing with sting rays and eating conch salad. It would be easy to just spend the day driving around and stopping at whatever looks nice, the whole island is absolutely stunning and it’s covered in empty beaches.

One thing that made our trip pretty unique was being there for Fyre festival (music festival). We of course weren't actually there FOR Fyre festival but just happened to be on the island when it all went down. I didn’t even know what it was until it came up as a geotag on my snapchat and wasn’t aware of the disaster it became until a friend called me and asked what was happening on the island.

The aftermath was pretty funny to witness and we had fun picking out people who had clearly come for the festival. Some of them looked like they were making the most of it but some looked absolutely torn to pieces over what had happened. Even the swings we found on Coco Plum beach were horribly contructed and my arm fat got stuck on the chains and the rust got all over our skin.

One thing I did take away from it after speaking to some locals is that I really felt bad for the them (more than I felt bad for people who spent thousands of dollars because some models told them to) because it really didn’t seem they had any control over it. It was the busiest week they have all year because of the regatta and so most of them were busy as it was, and they were very kept out of the loop about what was going on. This island thrives off of tourism so it’s not good for them when the island gets bad publicity.

Other random helpful info about Exuma:

The people: This is a tough one because I really cannot say how I felt about the people. The majority were helpful but (with the exception of Ann), they really didn’t seem to WANT to be. It felt as though they were constantly frustrated, a feeling I don’t often feel when deal with locals, and it became increasingly noticeable as the trip went on. Our experiences weren’t necessarily unpleasant (apart from the showdown I had with the staff at the Donkin Donuts in the Nassau airport over butter), but they weren’t overly pleasant either. Some of this definitely could have been related to the stress of fyre festival and the regatta that was happening on the island but the behaviour was all too similar to be traced back to one thing.

Money: This is an easy one to explain because it only takes one word- EXPENSIVE. Everything on Exuma is imported there and it shows in the prices. We ate out once and it was almost as much as we spent on an entire weeks worth of groceries, which consisted mostly of rice, pasta, and soup. The island was 52 miles long and getting anywhere with a taxi was ABSURDLY overpriced. For this reason, almost everyone who visits Exuma rents a car but seeing as neither of us are 25, we couldn’t find anyone on the island who would rent to us. Ann ended up contacting a friend to drive us into town one day, and we did an extra tour just to fill the days but on other days we were just stuck at Ann’s. I still 100% recommend this island despite how expensive it is (if your'e with someone over 25, if not don’t bother) because it is absolutely worth it. Ideally I would come back here with more money than we had but we were able to do everything we wanted to apart from eating out.

Tours: We did a lot of research on tours before we went because we wanted to make sure we did the right tour.

We read that there are two islands where the pigs swim but that one of them isn’t the original. Therefore we did the highest rated tour, Exuma water sports. This is a half day tour and it takes you to see the pigs, iguanas, and various other beaches/snorkeling spots including blow hole island which was very cool.

However, the second we arrived where the pigs are we knew it wasn’t the original island. From what I understand the actually swimming pigs are quite far from where the boats leave so they (Exuma Water Sports) moved pigs to an island closer for half day tours. It kind of worked out because these swimming pigs included babies as well.

For lack of anything better to do since we didn’t have a car, we decided to do another tour but this time a full day tour so we could swim with the sharks, and see the original island for the swimming pigs.

We did this tour with Coastline Adventures and while the advertisement was a bit deceiving for some things (diving for starfish was just the guide diving down a getting one for us to take pictures of etc), it was all over a good tour. The vibe at the place to swim for sharks was a bit strange (fyre festival stranglers sitting on old mens laps and watching us swim with the sharks), the experience itself was amazing.

The tour guide on Coastline Adventures really didn’t seem like he wanted to be there at all but the guides on Exuma Water Sports were more enthusiastic and seemed to be enjoying themselves. Thunderbolt grotto is another place you get to go to on the full day tour and that was really cool, so all in all I’d recommend the full day. Since the half day tour brings you to the swimming pigs that have babies I’d say thats the only disadvantage to skipping that one.

I hope this persuades everyone who reads it to start planning their trip to Exuma, before it gets too busy! It really is a unique and beautiful little island with so much to see. I also recommend taking a drone if you have one because the aerial views capture an even more stunning perspective of the island. 😊

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After spending a few weeks in Florida with my mom recuperating and planning our next trip, my boyfriend Dan and I discovered it was going to be quick and easy for us to pop over to Cuba for a week. We couldn't be more thankful we did because Cuba is without a doubt one of the most unique places either of has ever been!

Even getting there was unique in and of itself because Cuba currently requires tourists to have a reason for visiting and the visa process can be a bit confusing because they don't allow people to go just for tourism. We got a people’s to people visa which is under the education section of the visa. We got our visa through Spirit Airlines, and the health insurance comes with the ticket as well. We booked our ticket pretty last minute so we

paid 160 round trip from Ft. Lauderdale and the visas were $75 each. It’s also really important to note that despite what we read on some blogs- we did not find one single ATM that worked with American debit cards. Luckily Dan is Scottish so we were able to use his card but without it I’m not sure what we would have done because Abby, James and I hadn’t brought enough money with us.

Another thing to remember is that the exchange rate with the tax on top is absolutely wild. We exchanged $435 USD and we got $370 USD (or CUC) back. We never took out Cuban Pesos (CUP)

but sometimes it was given to us in change and it was often the only currency the street food vendors accepted (the sandwiches cost as little as 10 cents but I have a bad stomach and opted against it, but James and Abby survived so if you're skint then it’s a good option).

We landed at the airport in Havana with the intention of renting a car to pick up our friends Abby and James in Old Havana to drive to Veradero. But there were none available so we took a taxi (we paid 30 USD because the staff was giving us a hard time and later learned we only should have paid 20).

Once we were in Havana we went to the nearest hotel to work out what would be the easiest/ cheapest way to get the Varadero (which is about 2 hours from Havana). James spoke the best Spanish and ended up making friends with the guys who worked at the valet and they simply just called a friend with nothing better to do to drive us there himself.

He picked us up in a red 1961 Buick (pictured above) and we paid 25 each to get there, which we later learned was pretty much the standard fee. Our driver didn't speak any English but he was a really cool guy and he stopped at all sorts of pits stops with views and delicious pina coladas!

We checked into our air bnb in Varadero which was simple and cheap but in a great location. Varadero was one of the most beautiful beaches any of us as ever been to, so many different clear beautiful blues in the water and relatively uncrowded.

You can also rent a small sailboat which was 20 per person for the four of us and it takes you to a good snorkelling spot about 20 minutes from the beach. As far as food in Veradero, we went to the grocery store in town (we only saw two the entire time we were in Cuba and even then options are limited) and bought food to cook at our air bnb, but we ended up realising it would cost the same to go out.

There’s a really cool place near the beach called La Bodeguita del Medio and its hard to miss because the whole place is covered in personalised messages written in sharpie by past customers. It’s reasonably priced authentic Cuban and a live band plays Cuban music all day.

After three nights in Varadero we got a regular cab back to Havana for the same price. Our first night back we stayed in Old Havana which was great because it was really easy to walk everywhere and the place itself was quaint and felt very authentic. We ate at a place called D’ilirios down the street right across from the Capitol building which I would definitely recommend. There are actually three floors to this restaurant, D’ilirios is the first and the second floor is Spanish food and the 3rd is Italian. It was definitely the best meals any of us had in Cuba and the place itself was really classy, with a hired singer and an incredibly professional staff.

Havana is a really cool place to just explore because there are so many unique places to see. The best way to see Havana is to hire one of the old cars for about 30 dollars an hour to drive you around the city. Havana really does feel like you're in the 1960’s for a few reasons. The first and most important is the cars. We were under the impression before we arrived that there would be cool vintage cars that were more of a tourist attraction than anything, but we had no idea that they would actually make up the majority of transportation. There were loads of different makes and years of vintage cars and it really never got old checking all of them out.

Another part of Cuba that makes you feel like you’ve gone back in the time is the communication. WIFI is pretty much exclusively available in hotels and even then it doesn't work very well- and its quite expensive. In Varadero the only way to get it was to go to the shopping centre to get a wifi card for two dollars that lasted for an hour, then go to a place called Casa de Musica. It didn't even work for me because I have an iPhone 7 and newer phones have a hard time connecting to their old systems. It’s quite a bit easier in Havana, the Hotel Nacional is a great place to sit and get wifi (Obama stayed there!), because they have great drinks and a nice outdoor area with a view of the city. In the end it was too much effort and we only connected to wifi a few times and it was usually just to book an air bnb or change flights. Another aspect of communication that might be a concern for some people is the language barrier. I was actually shocked at how many locals spoke absolutely no English. Specifically cab drivers and our air bnb hosts; however, as I mentioned James spoke good Spanish and the rest of us spoke enough to get by. I can't be sure but I think it would be quite easy to get by if you stayed in one of the big hotels but they are quite expensive.

Our last three nights we stayed in Rio Mar which I would definitely recommend because its about 20 minutes from Old Havana and its right on the water. Our air bnb was perfect and had an incredible view (pictures above) with a very helpful staff. The place even had its own jetty and we ate breakfast there every morning prepared by the staff and since the Hemingway Marina was down the street so we got to watch beautiful boats sail by.

About 15 minutes from our place in Rio Mar is a place called Fábrica de Arte (FAC), and you really can't do Havana without checking this place out. It's half art gallery and half club. Between checking out the art and listening to the music, there’s so much to do it's hard not to lose track of time. As someone who doesn't know a lot about art or spend a lot of time in art museums it’s hard to take my word for it but I actually enjoyed the art although it was incredibly strange (probably why I enjoyed it). There is always a line outside but we got there at 9 and it moved super fast; however, people who showed up at 11-12 were supposedly in line for a long time.

One strange and unique about this place was that they give you a card and when you get a drink the bartender marks the price on the card. At the end of the night you bring the card to the other side of the building (this place is huge) and he takes your money then stamps the card so you can leave. If you lose the card, you have to pay 30 USD. It didn't take long to realise there is a huge flaw in this system and that you can simply just lose your card and pay the penalty fee. The beers were 1.50, drinks were 4.50, and shots were 5.50. The prices didn't really make sense but most people we spoke to at the bar had also caught onto this and were just paying 30 dollars anyways.

I think there are a lot of misconceptions about Cuba, some good and some bad. One thing I found surprising was how friendly people were when they found out we (James, Abby and I), were American. On top of that, the majority of the tourists that we met were American so it also makes you wonder about what places like FAC were like before the sanctions on travel were lifted. In retrospect, that’s probably why they like Americans, seeing as tourism is a big part of their economy now.

We did run into some not-so-kind people but the same goes for every place. Another misconception was price. Everyone we talked to said how cheap Cuba is but we did not find that to be the case. In fact, had there not been four of us to share cabs and air bnb’s we wouldn't have been able to afford this trip at all.

We even had to change our plans to go to Vinales because we couldn't afford the transportation to get there. And as I mentioned, wifi was absolutely outrageous and shopping at the grocery store wasn't cheap. That being said, we could have taken the local bus (just by looking at it I would not recommend), eaten street food, and stayed in smaller air bnb’s but the trip wouldn't have been as enjoyable.

As a whole, I recommend Cuba to anyone who wants the perfect mix of the tropical caribbean and a city full of culture. 😊

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Here is, as promised a video from Rottnest island.

Want to read the full story of my trip to this beautiful island outside Perth in Australia? Click HERE .

And as usual, if you liked this video and want to see more videos like this please hit that subscribe button and give it a thumbs up, would be very much appreciated! 😊

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