The TTWS Top 13 Travel Experiences of 2016

Can you believe it? 2016 is already coming to a close!

The years just seem to keep passing more and more quickly, and this one has truly gone in the blink of an eye. However, despite the year moving quickly, I have managed to pack a lot of interesting travels and adventures into it. So, this will the second and final post dedicated to looking back on the year that was, before starting fresh next year with my new travel project – #7continentsin2017 – so join me this week as I recount my favourite travel experiences of 2016.

1. Snorkelling on Atauro Island, Timor Leste

Talk about the healthiest coral system I have ever seen! The magnificence of snorkelling around Atauro Island was a total surprise and came at the perfect time. My arrival into Dili was less than stellar (understatement of the year) and my time on Atauro was the perfect remedy. I had heard that the snorkelling was good, but I had not expected it to be this good. The reef is by no means enormous, but it is quite possibly one of the healthiest reefs left on this Earth. There is practically no bleaching to the coral, and unlike the Great Barrier Reef – Atauro looks just as good in real life as it does in photos.

I cannot stress this enough, but Atauro is a small slice of totally untouched paradise! However, nothing this good stays a secret for long, so get to Timor ASAP before it gets overrun by tourism.

To read more about Atauro Island, click here, here or here.

2. Kayaking Through El Nido

I think El Nido – a stunning archipelago on the Filipino island of Palawan – will be remembered as one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The thousands of limestone rock formations were like nothing I had ever seen, the water was crystal clear and I discovered that the famous Big and Small lagoons are famous for a damn good reason – they are incredible!

During my time in El Nido, I was based on Miniloc Island at one of El Nido Resorts’ amazing properties. My over-water room was brilliant in and of itself, but the absolute best part of this stay was the location. It is just a short kayak ride from Miniloc to the Small Lagoon, which meant that I was able to visit this otherworldly natural formation without seeing a single other soul. Magical stuff.

To read more about El Nido and the Small Lagoon, click here and here.

3. Hanging With Starfish

Another Filipino adventure here! After leaving El Nido I travelled South through Palawan down to Puerto Princesa. While Puerto Princesa City Proper left a little to be desired, some of the islands in the surrounding Honda Bay were absolutely stunning – and one in particular was rather unique.

Starfish Island is named for the exact reason you would think – it is full of starfish! These bright orange creatures live in huge quantities along the beach of this little island. As long as you are gentle and remember to place the starfish back in the same place you picked it up from, you can touch these creatures without causing harm.

To read more about Starfish Island, click here.

4. Exploring Water Villas in the Maldives

Life really does not get much more luxurious than this. In May I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to visit Maalifushi by COMO – one of the most beautiful resorts in all of the Maldives.

Luxury like this does not come cheap and for many, will be a once in a lifetime experience. Despite the ‘ouch’ factor of the price tag, staying in lodgings such as these really are worth every single hard earned penny. Staying in an over-water Maldivian villa should definitely take up a spot on your bucket list.

To read more about over-water villas in the Maldives – click here, here and here.

5. Maldivian snorkelling

It says something about the majesty of the Maldives that I was ever able to pull myself away from the gorgeous over-water villas long enough to go exploring. It was tough to remove myself from the luxury, but holy crap I am so unbelievably glad I did.

I have done some incredible snorkelling before, but during my time in the Maldives I was able to see an enormous amount and wide variety of marine life – and no scuba cert was needed! The amount I could see with only a mask and snorkel was undeniably impressive, and pretty damn magical. Moray eels, reef sharks, parrot fish, sea snakes, octopus and sting rays are just the beginning of what I was able to see. I am counting down the days till I can return to the Maldives and explore even more of this underwater kingdom.

To read more about Maldivian snorkelling – click here, here, here, here and also here.

6. Pura Lempuyang

I had wanted to visit the Gateway to Heaven ever since I first visited beautiful Bali; however, this temple is a good 2-3 hour drive out of the popular tourist drag that is Seminyak; and time and time again its out of the way location had deterred me from making the trip.

However, after numerous trips to Bali, I finally managed to visit this stunning temple and it definitely did not disappoint. If you have travelled through SE Asia for any longer than a few weeks, temples can become a little bit ‘ho-hum’ and really need to be special to stand out.

Pura Lempuyang is one that truly stands out.

To read more about this unique temple located in on the Bali’s East Coast – click here.

7. Visiting Soneva Kiri in Thailand

Koh Kood is possibly the furthest you can get from Thailand’s well beaten tourist track! So when I had the opportunity to visit this amazing island and stay in Thailand’s most luxurious resort, you better believe I jumped at the chance!

My time at Soneva Kiri was nothing short of bliss and exploring the remote island was wonderful. Get yourself to Koh Kood and do it pronto, before this place becomes the next Phuket.

To read more about Soneva Kiri and Koh Kood, click here and here respectively.

Self timer selfie - an art form for solo travellers!

8. Watching the sunset at Tanah Lot

Much like visiting Pura Lempuyang, I had wanted to see the sun set at Tanah Lot ever since my first visit to Bali. While great distances were what kept Pura Lempuyang and I apart for so long, I had avoided Tanah Lot for an entirely different reason – the unbelievably large crowds of tourists.

Being elbow to elbow with thousands of other people really does sound like a nightmare to me, and thus I had kinda written off Tanah Lot completely. However, on my third visit to Bali for the year, I decided that I had done enough avoiding, it was time to just bite the bullet and do it.

I am so bloody glad I made that decision! By buying a cheap Filipino San Miguel (allowing me to park myself at a cliffside bar with phenomenal views) I was able to enjoy the sunset relaxed and at peace.

To read more about catching a sunset at Tanah Lot, click here.

9. Exploring Australia’s backyard

Before this year, it was not at all uncommon for me to get emails and comments asking me why I never wrote about Australia, which was a valid point! Why was this Aussie gal never writing about her incredible home country?

I always had a ‘grass is greener’ way of thinking. I thought, ‘why bother exploring Australia now – after all, it will always be there waiting for me when I return home from another overseas adventure!’

But, after packing up and moving my home base from Adelaide in South Australia to Darwin in the Northern Territory, I started to understand Australia’s appeal. While I may not have needed to use my passport, a 3.5 hour flight had brought me to somewhere completely foreign. Where Adelaide is a decent sized city, Darwin is more like a big country town. Where Adelaide has a bustling small bar culture, Darwin has one nightlife street where you’d be lucky to see a guy wearing both shoes AND a shirt. Where Adelaide is dry, Darwin is wet. Where Adelaide has sharks, Darwin has crocs. In Adelaide I almost never encountered Indigenous Australians (the true owners of the land), but in Darwin, every day at work I was caring for women coming from some of the most incredibly remote communities.

The Northern Territory is Australia’s outback state, and though it isn’t more than a short flight from any of the countries other major cities, it is like visiting an entirely different country.

This massive change of scenery prompted me to make a much bigger effort to explore more of my home country, with bloody awesome results.

I have fallen in love with Australia’s Top End, to learn more about why, click here.

10. Travelling Via Seaplane

Yet another amazing Maldivian experience! I mean, if the incredible snorkelling, luxury lodgings and azure blue water weren’t enough, seaplane travel is just the cherry on top of an amazing travel destination.

If you ever visit the Maldives, travelling via seaplane can cost a bit more than regular flights or boat trips, but when considered as an experience rather than just a mode of transport, they are worth every single cent.

To read more about seaplane travel in the Maldives, click here and here.

11. Visiting Okunoshima in Japan

Visiting Okunoshima has been on my bucket list for years. Ever since I saw a Youtube video of a girl being chased by hundreds of fluffy buns, I have dreamed of having my own such experience.

Okunoshima is more commonly known as ‘Bunny Island’ due to its high numbers of buns that call the island home. Not only is being accosted by all the fluffs an experience like no other, the island is also incredibly interesting from a historical point of view. If you are at all interested in WWII, a trip to the island is well worth it, even if you aren’t a bunny person.

To read more about Bunny Island, click here.


12. Exploring Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Though Kyoto has so much amazing stuff to offer travellers, Arashiyama was for me, the true highlight. This incredible bamboo forest may not stretch on for miles and miles, but that in no way makes it less stunning. The trees and packed densely together, rise high up towards the sky and truly do feel like the entrance to a magical wonderland.

This forest is easily reachable from Kyoto Station and is free to enter, so if you have the time, it is definitely worth the trip.

To read more about amazing Arashiyama, click here.


13. Clambering Around At The Remarkable Rocks

Ever had a place that is literally so close to your home that you really have no excuse not to have visited but you have just never really gotten around to it?

For me, this was Kangaroo Island. I little island not far from my home town of Adelaide, it is famous for its abundant wildlife, beautiful beaches and truly stunning geology.

The Remarkable Rocks are one such example. These rocks sit on a stony outcrop by the ocean. Wind and water have warped them into some truly magical shapes and formations. These rocks are iconic, and one of the most famous sites on Kangaroo Island.

I finally got around to visiting KI in the latter half of this year, and finally seeing these stunning rocks was well worth the wait. If you are ever on KI (or South Australia for that matter) a detour to these rocks should definitely be on your agenda.

To read more about the Remarkable Rocks and Kangaroo Island, click here.



From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who has followed along on my adventures this year. It has a pleasure to encourage, inspire and connect with so many of you. I hope 2017 brings all the new adventures you could possibly wish for, and I cannot wait to share so many more of my own travels with each and every one of you.



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30-something year old Australian backpacker writing her way around the world.

45 thoughts on “The TTWS Top 13 Travel Experiences of 2016

  1. I loved this post! I love reading your adventures. Great blog. Thanks to you, I came to know what an amazing location East Timor is 😀 I will try to make it there sometime. Happy New Year to you too, Ellen! Can’t wait to read your 2017 travel stories! 🙂

    1. That is so awesome to hear! I love sharing destinations with people who had never thought to visit them before! Happy New Year to you too – i cannot wait to share my adventures!

  2. The photos are breathtaking! What camera are you using? As I’m trying to save up for a proper one instead of using my phone or normal digital camera to take decent photos xx

  3. You have been on some exciting trips and adventures. Just like the photos this must have been agonizingly hard to figure out the top ones. Have a great New Years Eve and some wonderful adventures in 2017.

  4. Beyond jealous of your adventures in the Maldives! It looks like it was amazing and is definitely on my short list. Happy New Year!

      1. Sadly no. My husband has very limited vacation time and with how long it takes to get there we would want to be able to spend some quality time there. A bit of a logistical challenge…

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