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Adventure & Glamping in Sri Lanka – Not Your Average All-Inclusive!

March 29, 2017
Borderlands - Adventure glamping in Sri Lanka

An easy drive from Colombo you’ll find Borderlands, an all-inclusive Sri Lankan adventure camp in Kitulgala, the adrenalin-sports capital of the country.  We normally recoil at the word ‘all-inclusive’ when it comes to our travels but not this time!   Read on to find out why Borderlands should be a must-see on your visit to Sri Lanka…

It’s an amazing thing to leave a place feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

You’ve probably heard about the health benefits of practicing gratitude—how it can boost your mood, help you treat others better, improve physical health, and keep stress and fear at bay. Now, here’s a little trick for how to automatically infuse more gratitude into your life: Spend more money on experiences, and less on material objects.

Real Simple – Amanda MacMillan

Gazing through the shroud of netting out into the Sri Lankan jungle, you just can’t help but feel appreciative.  If experiences are where it’s at, then this one would be hard to top.

Layer after layer of a jungle, from the closest painted in hues of vibrant green, to the last few trees silhouetted against the sky, sitting high on the misty mountain – all laid out in front of us without having to leave our bed. The call of countless birds and lizards, the buzz of insects waking up, the river racing along below us.

How fortunate were we to have spent even a few nights in paradise like this?

Borderlands is about as far from a typical all-inclusive holiday destination as it gets.  Yes, for a set rate you’ll get a roof over your head (and a million dollar view to boot!) and all of your meals included.  Also included are two adventure activities a day with fully trained guides and free WiFi.  Unlike your average all-inclusive resort though, Borderlands has an overwhelming sense of character and a jungle outlook that just can’t be beaten.

Lounging in the chill-out area, we spotted a chameleon in the first five minutes of being there and throughout the day, magnificent eagles soared back and forth.  Even if you’re not on the hunt for adventure, Borderlands is a great choice in Kitulgala – it’s the ultimate in back-to-nature adventure in the true spirit of Sri Lanka.

Our room obviously wasn’t your standard hotel room but it was perfect for the location.  With plenty of ventilation and a fan, we didn’t get too hot and there was a partial sunshade to stop the morning daylight from streaming in – we went with it though, leaving it open so we could see the fireflies and birds out in the jungle.

Attached to our room was a partially outdoors ensuite (with a hot-water shower and toilet) and his and hers hand basins.  We also had a couple of tables, beanbags, fresh drinking water, electrical outlets and lights in our room – though it wasn’t fancy, it was more than adequate.

We’ve sometimes stayed in luxurious hotels and have come away less impressed than we did from Borderlands which says a lot about our experience there.  If you’ve got a good sense of adventure, this place is for you!

Food, Glorious Food!

We arrived at Borderlands a little unsure of what to expect when it came to meals but the food on offer was absolutely delicious!  Hearty and varied, every meal was one to look forward to and served up buffet style, there was plenty to go around.

Adventure is Calling

Though you can stay at Borderlands just to take advantage of the facilities and delicious food, we recommend you book in the full package including activities.  The team is known as being the most safety-conscious in the area (they were also one of the founding companies on the Kelani river) and their care and professionalism really shone through – if there’s one company you want to be pushing your personal boundaries with, it’s these guys.

White Water Kayaking

Our first activity started very quickly with a dunk in the water!  After jumping back in the kayak (and then falling out a few more times) we started to get the hang of keeping our balance in the whitewater.  The whole experience was a blast and with a river that’s currently a grade 2, it was the perfect introduction to kayaking in this environment – the right balance of challenge and security.

Borderlands - Adventure glamping in Sri Lanka kayaking

Advanced Canyoning

Having been on an amazing canyoning trip once in the past we had high expectations from this activity!  Did it stack up?

We started with a hike down to the canyon though gorgeous tea plantations and farmland, our guides stopping to show us a range of local produce (with a few tastings thrown in too).  Once we made it to the river, we received a full safety briefing and made our way to the first obstacle, as double rock slide into the cool water below.  After slipping and sliding down a few rocks we approached the first of our cliff jumps… at approximately 12m high, we decided to save it for the braver souls amongst us and scrambled down the rocks instead.  With another smaller jump (which was much more to our liking) and an abseil our canyoning adventure was almost over.

We had a great time up the canyon with our two guides (we weren’t kidding when we said Borderlands was safety conscious) but wished the experience was a little longer.  Considering they’re making use of the natural environment only 10 minutes from the campsite though, it’s a fantastic introduction to canyoning.

Mountain Biking

From a fitness point of view, mountain biking made the other two activities feel like a walk in the park.

I can’t even recall the number of times I mentally chanted this saying back to myself as we kept pedalling up that mountain…

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger”

– Nietzsche, 1888

Fortunately, our lovely instructor foresaw what was to come and had the Borderlands truck follow not too far behind us up the hill.  We made it about half way before stopping and hitching a ride with him!

At the top, we stopped for a while in an ancient cave, tried to spot the local bats and admired one of the region’s waterfalls – a gorgeous spot and a great chance to catch our breath!

With the choice of going off-road or following the path we took up, we elected to stick to the ‘road’ – better safe than sorry we decided.  With spectacular views and a comfortable pace headed back downhill, I don’t think there’s any doubt that we made the right choice.

Was it physically hard?  Yes.

Were we pleased we did it?  For sure!

Borderlands - Adventure glamping in Sri Lanka mountain bikingBorderlands is about as close to the perfect jungle experience as it gets.  Tropical and wild whilst retaining a touch of comfort and calm, we really couldn’t recommend it enough to those adventurous spirits amongst us.

Leave your hair dryer at home, come with a can-do attitude and get stuck in – you won’t regret it!


Love a good adventure?  Save one of these pins!

An easy drive from Colombo you'll find Borderlands, an all-inclusive Sri Lankan adventure camp in Kitulgala, the adrenalin-sports capital of the country.  We normally recoil at the word 'all-inclusive' when it comes to our travels but not this time!  Find out why we fell in love with this unique accommodation. An easy drive from Colombo you'll find Borderlands, an all-inclusive Sri Lankan adventure camp in Kitulgala, the adrenalin-sports capital of the country.  We normally recoil at the word 'all-inclusive' when it comes to our travels but not this time!  Find out why we fell in love with this unique accommodation.

Thank you to Red Dot Tours for recommending and organising our stay at Borderlands.  As always, all thoughts are our own.

Activities Adventure Eco Tourism Europe Iceland Mid-Range Reviews

Snorkelling the Clearest Waters in the World in Sub-Zero Temperatures – Incredible Iceland

January 7, 2017
Scuba Iceland Snorkel Silfra review

It’s not everyday you snorkel in water that floats around 2 degrees, tucked into the rift between two tectonic plates but that’s exactly what we got to do in Iceland!

With snow on the ground and a chill in the air, we were promptly picked up from our hotel by Scuba Iceland and after collecting another two sets of guests, made our way out to the Thingvellir National Park (Þingvellir).

Warming up inside the visitors centre, Astrid, our guide, filled us in on both the geographical and political significance of the area.  Much more than just a national park, the rift valley has an interesting history, having been home to the viking parliament in Iceland (where they understandably only met in the summer time!) and now one of the best examples anywhere in the world of the effects that consistent tectonic plate movement can have.  Looking back over the valley, it’s clear where the American and Eurasian plates stop and the gap in between – the rift valley – provides the perfect spot to snorkel and dive in some of the clearest water in the world.

Back in the van, we headed over to another site, only a few minutes away to get suited up.  With water temperatures staying a daily constant 2-4 degrees regardless of the time of year, the same equipment is used year-round.  We stripped down to our base layer of thermals (no need for swimming togs as with any luck, you won’t really get wet!) and donned smooshy marshmallow-like onesies for warmth.  On top of those went wooden socks and then the hard part – getting into our dry suits.  After a fair bit of pulling, squeezing and manoeuvring, we were snuggly in our suits.  With seals checked, we added neoprene mittens and hoods, masks and snorkels and flippers to our outfits and were ready to go.

We began the relatively short walk over to the entry point at the start of the fissure, where a platform and stairs have been built to assist adventurers in getting in.  Good thing too as after waiting around for about 30 minutes in sub-zero temperatures, we appreciated having an easy point of entry to the water!

Tentatively making our way into the fissure, we weren’t really sure what to expect.  It was the first time in a drysuit for any of us and the feeling of water closing in around first our boots and then our legs and torso, whilst remaining dry was an interesting one.  

Before we knew it though, it was time for our hands to enter the water and our faces – suddenly we had first-hand knowledge of just how cold the water was!  Throughout the snorkel, our hands and face/head were the only things exposed to the elements but it was a good thing that was all as I don’t think my fingers have ever been so cold!

After approximately 30 minutes in the water, we curved back into a sheltered lagoon where the option to continue snorkelling around was given.  With hands like ice-blocks, I charged right for the steps and clambered out of the water to begin thawing them out.  Standing there, looking back on the water, I couldn’t help but feel like we’d just experienced something that most people would never get to.

After making the relatively short walk back to the vans, we got out of our gear (which was a heck of a lot easier than getting into it!), warmed up in our own clothes and enjoyed a delicious treat of the most amazing hot chocolate (complete with cookies to dunk).

Snorkelling through the Silfra Fissure was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  We were mesmerised by the beautifully crisp, clear water and the rock formations surrounding us.  Jumping in was a real adrenaline rush and as we snorkelled along, it was hard to believe that we were in the middle of two tectonic plates, swimming through an Icelandic fissure that was covered in snow with crystal-clear water that hovered just above freezing – one for the bucket list for sure!


Save this post for later – why not pin it?

Scuba Iceland Snorkel Silfra Rift Review

Thank you to Scuba Iceland for allowing us to join them for the purpose of this review.  As always, all thoughts are our own.

Europe Food Iceland Mid-Range Reviews Reykjavík

Wake Up Reykjavík – The Foodie Tour With a Difference

January 2, 2017
Wake Up Reykjavík Food Tour Review

With food being such an important part of our daily lives and culture, is there a better way to get to know a new city than to eat your way around the most delicious and unique spots?  We don’t think so!

When we decided to forgo driving Iceland’s Ring Road, instead mostly basing ourselves in Reykjavík, it was entirely down to the number of fantastic options based in and around the capital city, including the Wake Up Reykjavík food tour (which consistently ranks top on Trip Advisor).  We knew that if we were to spend a fair bit of time in town, we’d want to know the best spots to eat at so booked onto a Wake Up Reykjavík food tour on our first full day in Iceland.

Tip:  Try to book your Wake Up Reykjavík food tour towards the beginning of your visit if you can so you’ve got plenty of time to revisit your favourite spots over the rest of your trip.

From our initial emails with Egill, it was clear that this wasn’t your ordinary foodies tour.  The Wake Up Reykjavík team are serious about fun and incredibly passionate about what they do.  Started by two local friends keen to show visitors the very best of Icelandic cuisine (and we’re not taking about the traditional sheep’s head and fermented shark – though there is an opportunity to try the later should you choose), the team will help you eat your way around the capital city, munching on the very best Iceland has to offer.

As instructed, we met our host, Gabríella at the entrance to one of Reykjavík’s most beautiful buildings, Harpa.  The city itself is relatively compact so makes for an easy walk, even in the snowy, windy conditions we faced.  Be sure to rug up warm with lots of layers though as you’ll be in and out of the weather as you duck into each new location on the tour.

We started the tour with one of my favourite stops of the day – an amazingly flavourful lamb soup which was served with with delicious fresh bread.  This soup is a traditional favourite in Iceland, varying depending on the part of the country you’re in – some areas serves it as a broth whilst in other parts of Iceland it’s more like a stew.  This one was somewhere in the middle and the lamb melted away instantly – it was the perfect start to our afternoon!

Next came the opportunity to try the very traditional fermented shark.  Due to the long, harsh winters Iceland used to face with limited resources, eating all manner of things became a necessity and fermented shark fell into this category – maybe not the tastiest thing around but nutritious and somewhat a right of passage for visitors to the country.  Described as being pungent and somewhere between fish and cheese, everyone in the group tried it but me (someone had to take the photos, right?) and the reactions varied from “well, I wouldn’t do that again” to surprise at how good it tasted.  I don’t think anyone was in a hurry to have a second nibble but it was great to be given the chance to try something so unique to Iceland.

On we continued to our next location where we sampled a range of local cheeses and meats.  Not traditionally a cheese making country, Iceland is proud of how far it’s come in a short space of time and their cheese speaks for itself – gouda, brie and blue, all creamy and delicious.  

They are better known for their high quality meat though and it didn’t disappoint – lamb, goose and horse (the later of which I didn’t try but Nathan loved) were all served up in bite-sized portions.

With a beautiful view of the iconic Hallgrímskirkja church, we again sat down, this time to the most surprising dish of the day.  Without telling us what it was, Gabríella encouraged us to dig in and though we had no idea what we were eating at first, we all agreed that it was delicious.  It turned out to be an unexpected combination of bread and ice-cream – that’s right, rye bread crumbs baked again and mixed in with freshly made ice cream, topped off with fresh whipped cream and rhubarb syrup.  It sounds like a strange combination (and it’s face it, it is) but it was amazing – flavourful, sweet and a little chewy – yum!

Already feeling pretty chocka, we were presented with our next treat as we walked back down town.  Skyr is a local milk-based product, similar to greek yoghurt but when flavoured it tasted a bit like a creamy strawberry yoghurt.  It’s high in protein and a real Icelandic staple for many families – when you visit Iceland, be sure to pop a tub in your trolly at the supermarket (or even better, join this tour!) but don’t be fooled into picking up the original flavour unless you like things on the sour side.

Marching on, we visited Reykjavík’s first fast-food stall where they dish up incredible hotdogs.  There was an obvious line even when we visited mid afternoon and people there just to take photos so we knew we were onto a good thing and man were we right!  Lamb hotdogs, fresh bread rolls and a combination of delicious sauces (one which was similar to a honey mustard and another almost like mayonnaise), what isn’t to love?  When offered a second one almost all of us excitedly said yes – they were really that good!

If you haven’t figured it out by now, Icelanders love their lamb and for good reason – it’s amazing!  They’re not just about their lamb though – puffin, whale, reindeer, stingray, goose – there’s not much they won’t eat.

One thing the locals are known for is lobster soup and of course our food tour swung us by one of the local spots known for this dish.  Piping hot, served in a broth with lots of fresh bread and butter it was the perfect warmer everyone needed having braved the cold all afternoon.

After wandering through a gorgeous part of town, complete with Christmas lights and an iceskating rink, we arrived at our last stop for the day – a converted old pharmacy designed by Guðjón Samúelsson, the same architect that created the iconic church at the top of town.  There we were served hot chocolate, tea and coffee along with the most amazing dessert concoction which combined apricot with caramel mousse and a hazelnut base alongside passionfruit and mango sorbet.  At first it sounded like an odd pairing but our tastebuds were easily convinced otherwise.  What a way to finish!

Throughout our tour we learnt a great deal about Iceland’s history, tourism industry, produce, education and political system and about what it’s like to live in Iceland.  My favourite of all though were the stories from Iceland’s past – gods, trolls, elves and all sorts of mythical creatures add a touch of magic to a part of the world that is obviously filled with it.

Our guide, Gabríella, was knowledgeable, approachable and had a great sense of humour.  She did an excellent job of bringing the group of us together and was incredibly considerate our our needs (she even surprised us with an Icelandic chocolate bar each at the end of the tour)!  She was an awesome example of what we found Icelanders to be – warm, friendly and keen to share their passion for their beautiful country.

We whole-heartedly recommend Wake Up Reykjavík for foodie fun in Iceland’s capital.  Together with other like-minded travellers you’ll visit the best restaurants, delicatessens and and food stalls around and with their their expert help, you’ll be set up with delicious dining options for the rest of your visit.


Thank you to Wake Up Reykjavík for so warmly welcoming us as their guests on this tour.  Nathan came away saying that food tours are one of his favourite things to do on holiday now, so you know we were well and truely sold!  As always, all thoughts are our own.

Accommodation Europe Mid-Range Norway Reviews Travel

Hello Norway – Hiring a RV and Hitting the Road

December 29, 2016
RV Hire in Norway Touring Cars

After the most amazing week in Iceland it was time to begrudgingly pack up our things and make a move.  Of course we didn’t have anything to complain about as we were off to a new destination for us both – beautiful Norway.

After an uneventful flight (which is exactly what you want in a flight!) we arrived in Oslo and were promptly picked up by Touring Cars.

For the next eight days we’ve been entrusted with an absolute beauty of an RV.  Before hitting the road, there was a fair bit to learn though and Touring Cars did an amazing job of ensuring we understood the ins and outs of both driving and camping in Norway.  After watching an introductory video, having everything demonstrated to us and trying our hand at the tricky parts, we felt relatively secure in our ability to keep her ticking over the next week.

Fortunately for us, Kris at Touring Cars Norway put together a suggested itinerary and differing to his expertise, we made a move for our first stop.

After a quick snack at a service station we continued on for about an hour and a half until we reached the gorgeous hill-side town of Lillehammer.  This quant spot was home to the Winter Olympics in 1994 and more recently the 2016 Winter Youth Olympics and thanks to its sporting heritage, there are plenty of wintery activities on offer, including ski-jumping, tobogganing, bobsledding, skiing and snowboarding.

Though we had plans to camp under the ski-jump, we decided to head back down to the lake and in the morning awoke to this spectacular view.

Does it get any better?

In Norway, you’re allowed to camp pretty much anywhere – there are rest stops just to the side of the road all over the country and you’re welcome to park on public land as long as you’re not preventing access.  

As we’re self-contained in our RV, we can just pull into one of these rest stops for the evening, cook our dinner and wake up to the most spectacular views in Norway, all at no extra cost!  I think we’re well and truely being converted to #vanlife.

Are you considering a trip to Norway?  Stay tuned for information about the cost of visiting this beautiful country.  You can check out the fun we had in Lillehammer here too!

Thank you to Touring Cars for loaning us our gorgeous RV for the week so we can experience camping in Norway’s winter.  As always, all thoughts are our own.

Dubai Food Mid-Range Middle East Reviews United Arab Emirates

Catch 22 – Dubai’s Newest Addition to JBR

December 21, 2016
Catch 22 JRB Dubai

Located in JBR (Jumeriah Beach Residence), one of our favourite parts of Dubai, Catch 22, a newly opened casual-dining restaurant has opened its doors.  Eclectically decorated, with a beautiful, big teared deck that faces that ocean, it’s a fantastic place to sit and enjoy the comings and goings of the area.  

With a focus on seafood and quality meet and with menu items that take inspiration from Asia and Mexico, you’re sure to find something to suit your tastes at Catch 22.

As we were invited to sample the Catch22’s new menu, we were given the choice of three set options – seafood, meat lovers or vegetarian.  Nathan loves seafood, but I’m not such a fan so it was an easy choice to go with the meat-based menu and a lot of it really impressed us.

We started with the most delicious drinks – a virgin pina colada and a berry and mango smoothie.  Both were a treat, but the pina colada was especially tasty.  In the UAE most restaurants serve a great assortment of non-alcoholic cocktails which is great news for us as we’re not big drinkers.

When it came to our food, the plates were brought out to us on the deck as they were ready and were perfectly presented for sharing.

We started the night off well with their filet minion sticks; these were tender and cooked beautifully and best of all, came with the most delicious, soy based sauce (which we kept aside to enjoy on some of our other dishes – it was that good).

From there we moved onto the cheeseburger quesadillas.  Cut in three, they were exactly what you’d imagine – burger patties sandwiched between wraps and toasted, served with plenty of cheese, sour cream and guacamole.

The largest dish of the night was the double stack angus club sandwich, which, served with wedges, was also our favourite.  Delicious slithers of steak came cooked in a subtle BBQ sauce with capsicums and onions (which I promptly removed – anyone that knows me, knows that I’m not a fan).  The bread was nicely toasted and slathered in a tasty sauce, served with melted cheese.  Sometimes the simple options really are the best – this dish was delicious and not at all sickly as dishes that contain BBQ sauce can sometimes be.  One to return for, for sure!

Nathan finished his meal with the C22 short rib roll – an enjoyable fusion of sushi and deboned short rib steak.  It was a nice, light ending to the savoury part of our meal.

Almost undoubtedly though, the highlight of any meal for me is dessert and checking out the menu, they sure did look delicious!  We were tossing up between an amazing sounding fruit crumble and the popcorn chocolate ganache which we eventually decided on.

It looked fantastic when it arrived but, as with any restaurant, the odd teething problem might be expected.  Though we ordered it with vanilla ice cream it came out with pistachio ice cream (which it turns out, we’re not fans of) and though the idea of the dessert was good, it didn’t quite stand up to our expectations.  The filling was too chocolatey (I would have questioned whether there was such a thing prior to this – turns out there is) and the cookie undercooked and floury tasting.  On the bright side though, the raspberries were fresh and juicy and the dessert did look impressive (plus, we’ve since read awesome reviews of it so maybe it just wasn’t out night).

We’ve heard fantastic things about the lotus french toast and it comes in a generous portion so that would definitely be our first pick next time around!

Would we return to Catch 22?  Absolutely!  We really enjoyed our entrees and mains and the location can’t be beaten.  We liked the casual, quirky feel of the restaurant and the prices were very reasonable for the food on offer.  We’d certainly recommend it as a relaxed place to meet friends for a bite to eat!


JBR Review Catch 22 Dubai

Thank you to Azur Blue and Catch 22 for welcoming us as their guests.  As always, all thoughts are our own.

Accommodation Dubai Mid-Range Middle East Reviews United Arab Emirates

Roving Around Dubai – The City’s Funkiest Hotel

December 17, 2016
Rove City Centre Dubai review

Sometimes you stay somewhere that is the perfect fit for you – the newly opened Rove City Centre Dubai was exactly that for us.  If I had a hotel soul mate, it might just be it!

From the moment we drove into the massive basement carpark to the last minute when we begrudgingly checked-out, we only have positive things to say.

The staff throughout our entire stay were friendly, attentive and approachable, without being even a little over-bearing – it was clear that all guests to Rove are welcomed in as friends first and foremost, which, for us, is what it’s all about.

Someone with a real eye for detail was obviously put in charge of the interior design and they hit it out of the park.  The little details in the communal spaces were spot on making them a pleasure to spend time in.  We’re not normally ones to sit in a lobby but with the amazing aromatherapy smells drifting about (honestly, a hotel has never smelt so good!), the gorgeous decorations and the comfortable seating, it was impossible not to.

Rove City Centre is perfectly positioned near the main Dubai airport (DXB), making it a fantastic choice for stopovers and people looking for a place to stay before/after their flights.  

As a base, the whole city is easily accessible by car or one of Dubai’s affordable taxis.  Dubai itself is incredibly spread out along Sheikh Zayed Road so wherever you find yourself in the city, you’ll cover a fair few kilometres as you work your way between the airport, Burj Khalifa and the Burj Al Arab (though if you’d prefer, Rove also have a Downtown property right beside the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall, famous for its dancing fountains).

Everything about Rove City Centre has been thoughtfully considered.  

Looking to unwind in the city?  The rooftop pool and sundeck will see you right.  Alternatively, challenge your travel partner to a game of table tennis, get in some putting practice on the mini-golf green or see how quickly you can solve a rubies cube.

Keen to work off all of the glorious food on offer in Dubai?  See you in the gym, where you’ll find a full range of machinery, weights, the biggest TV you’ve ever seen and plenty of workout towels on hand (we told you they’ve thought of everything).

In town for work?  They’ve got a range of funky and functional conference rooms and facilities ready to take care of your business needs.

Need to touch base with home or keep up with what’s happening in the world?  You’ll find complimentary (and fast!) wifi in all of the rooms and hotel spaces and iMacs on hand should you forego travelling with your laptop.

Hungry?  Potentially the only place we’ve ever stayed that has a fully-stocked mini-mart open 24/7 (with affordable pricing to boot).

Coming from another holiday destination?  They’ve got both self-wash and serviced laundry facilities so you can be ready for your next stop.

Do you have a late departure?  Rove will give you a 2pm checkout without even needing to ask.

The rooms themselves are of a good size – more than enough for us to relax in and spread ourselves out.  With a comfy king-sized bed and good quality linen getting a good nights sleep was easy, and thanks to the incredible black-out curtains, we both slept in longer than we’d planned – not that we were complaining!

After freshening up (in our powerful rain shower) we made our way down to The Daily for breakfast – make sure you set your alarm as I promise, you don’t want to miss it!

Freshly baked croissants and chocolate pastries, banana bread, assorted toasts, fresh fruit, yoghurt, hot dishes and a selection of more exotic breakfast fare (labneh, bircher musli, soft cheese, nuts, seeds and more) was just the start. In addition, a range of cooked-to-order meals, including omelettes, shakshuka, a full farmers breakfast and paneer bhaji, were available.  

Sometimes when we travel we find breakfasts largely catering for locals – that wasn’t the case here though with plenty on offer to cater to all palettes.  For the two mornings that we were in Dubai, breakfast literally became one of the highlights of each day!

In addition to their delicious food, breakfast included barista coffees, an assortment or fresh juice and, our personal favourite, strawberry and mango smoothies (if you visit Rove, go for the mango – it’s out of this world!)

Regardless of whether you’re passing through Dubai briefly or are spending more time in the city, Rove offers great value for money, a warm and welcoming environment, all the facilities you could need and a funky, modern style.  We couldn’t have asked for more from our first Rove experience and are pleased to say, we’re definitely Rovers now!


Rooms at Rove City Centre will generally set you back a very reasonable AED250 (room only – AED340 if you want to include breakfast, and we recommend you do).  We’ve stayed in three other Dubai hotels around this price-point and can say without doubt, that we believe Rove offers the best value in the city.

Dubai's Best Value Hotel The Rove City Centre

Thank you to Rove for so generously hosting us for the purpose of this review.  All thoughts are our own.  Rove really is as good as it sounds!

Activities Mid-Range New Zealand Oceania Reviews Tours

Not All Those Who Visit Matamata Are Lost: A Visit to Hobbiton

December 9, 2016
Exploring Kiwis Hobbiton review Matamata

What better way to kick off my debut travel here on Exploring Kiwis than with Hobbiton? After all, for many foreigners, Lord of the Rings is probably the first thing that springs to mind when they think of New Zealand – and I don’t blame them.

In truth, this isn’t my first visit to Hobbiton either – but I could never turn down a second trip! The first time was with my loving partner, Michael, as a birthday gift in winter. This time, I was doing the gift giving, with my family taking my nana for her birthday. Both trips were equally as thrilling, although with it being Summer in NZ now, this time around was a whole lot warmer. You won’t find me complaining about that!

So what is it about this place that has me coming back? I’m not a huge fan of tacky tourist spots, and while reading all of the books (sans Silmarillion) and watching the extended cut of all the movies might make me sound like a mega-fan, I’m actually not crazy about Lord of the Rings. No, it’s not the mere sight of a tourist attraction, nor a fangirl experience I’m looking for. When it comes down to it, Hobbiton really is just a magical experience, and a gorgeous part of New Zealand to explore – with a little production trivia in there that the film degree sitting in my room is very excited about.

It’s a gorgeous spot, that provides both a look into a hugely detailed film set, as well as a beautiful miniature town, that has you enjoying both the scenery, quaintness, and sheer dreaminess of it. It truly makes you wish this place was real – just so you can spend more time there!

I’m always impressed by the detail that went into it – and without spoiling any of the surprises, I can promise you’ll find yourself looking intently at each little hobbit hole!

It’s also fairly interactive at times – it’s not a museum, you can touch almost everything! There’s even a party field where you can play around with some of the party games. But only if the weather’s good.

But more than that, this is a great experience for those hoping to see a slightly embellished version of the Kiwi country life. There are streams, bleating sheep, and a gorgeous mini lake – in fact there’s even beer and meat pies at the end of it all!

It’s not all gravy though, I will say this, I wish you could have more time in Hobbiton. The sheer numbers of people who go through the site means that the tour is sped through, and there is little time to dawdle. If it were possible, it would be absolutely wonderful to be able to go at your own pace, and stay in the Green Dragon to drink your pint of mead as slowly as you’d like, or even kick your feet in the lake if you want to. It’s a serene spot – but the speed you have to go through it is anything but!

Unfortunately, if we all had the time to stay as long as we’d like, they’d find themselves overcrowded within hours. Logistical nightmares aside, it’s still a dream I like to contemplate.

So would I recommend it? Absolutely! It’s kid friendly (my 3 year old nephew had a BLAST even though he hasn’t the faintest idea what a hobbit is), it’s full of details and film trivia, it’s beautiful, and it’s a great little bit of excitement in a region of New Zealand where you might be wondering, what should we do today?

This was my second trip to Hobbiton, but I’m sure it won’t be my last!

Practical Information to Help You Plan Your Trip to Hobbiton

If you’re interested in hopping over to Hobbiton yourself, it takes around two or so hours of driving through the gorgeous New Zealand countryside to get there from Auckland.  Tour tour itself costs $79 for adults, $39.50 for kids 9 and up, and a gobsmacking $0.00 for anyone younger than that. I’d also recommend getting the tour that starts in Matamata – it’s the same price, but during the bus ride you’ll hear some solid Matamata and Lord of the Rings trivia, which is always nice!


Hobbiton Review Exploring Kiwis Worth the Visit

I hope you enjoyed reading my first travel post!  Granted this isn’t technically my debut blog (you’ll find that one here) but I’m excited to bring my travel experiences to Exploring Kiwis and to get to know you all better.  Happy travels.

Activities Dubai Mid-Range Middle East Reviews Tours United Arab Emirates

Exploring ‘The Palm’, Dubai – Xclusive Tours Review

December 5, 2016
Palm Boat Tour Dubai Xtreme review

Looking for a different perspective for your Dubai sight-seeing?  Check out our review of the Xclusive Tours Palm boat tour…

Dubai is known around the world for its countless unique sky scrapers; these marvels of engineering dominate the skyline, making the city unlike any other.  The tallest building in the world, the tallest residential tower, the only seven star hotel in the world – the list goes on – if Dubai had a motto, it would surely be ‘go big or go home’.  With so many people living and working in the city, it’s no wonder that traffic can sometimes be an issue so when you’re looking to sight-see, why not blow off the motorways and hit the water instead?

Not far from Dubai Marina Mall, Xclusive Tours leaves on guided trips through the largest man-made marina in the world, ducking in and out of the main highlights around the iconic Palm.

Safety is paramount with life vests being handed out before leaving the dock (and if I do say so, they were pretty stylish ones!) and staff that are obviously highly trained.  Though we’re comfortable around water, I’d imagine anyone would feel at ease on one of this tours.

After slowly making our way out of the marina (and turning back to admire the view), we sped out to the first major stop on our tour, a picture-perfect view of the infamous Atlantis hotel.  The ride out was quite the adrenaline rush and we were surprised by how much power the RIB had – it sped through the water with ease and provided us with a comfortable and thrilling ride out to the point.

With seabirds surrounding us and a sea of sail boats out on the water, it was such a pleasure to be away from the madness of the city and out on the water – there’s nothing like a little sun and fresh, sea air to make you feel awesome!

Once everyone had snapped their photos, we continued on towards the Burj Al Arab – perhaps one of the most recognisable buildings in the world and a true symbol of luxury.  As the only seven star hotel in the world, complete with  impressive aquarium-view rooms and a heli-pad-come-tennis court, there’s absolutely no doubting where you are.  In the background, the Burj Dubai towers over the rest of the city – all 830 unbelievable metres of it.

From the Burj Al Arab, we made our way around the other side of the man-made Palm, swinging by a private island and a number of palaces owned by the Sheikh’s before passing underneath the first monorail in the Middle East which connects the mainland with Atlantis out on the top of the islands.

No matter how often we visit Dubai, we’re always blown away by the level of construction (it’s no wonder then, that Dubai has more cranes than any other city on earth!) and the Palm didn’t let us down in this regard with beautiful new hotels popping up everywhere we looked.

With our tour wrapping up, we made our way back into the marina, past the Cayan Tower (which was once the tallest building in the world with a 90 degree twist, surpassed now by only one building in China) and the Princess Tower (the tallest residential tower in the world) – this city does not do things by halves!

We had a fantastic afternoon out on the water and really enjoyed seeing Dubai from a different angle.  It was a pleasure to escape the crowds and cool off and no matter how many times we see them, we continue to be amazed by the incredible engineering and architecture that we find in Dubai.

Next time we have guests, you can guess where we’ll be taking them!


Xclusive Tours boat trip Palm Dubai

Thank you to Xclusive Tours for inviting us along to review their Palm tour; of course, all thoughts are our own.  

If you’re heading to Dubai and would like to join them, check them out on Facebook and Instagram!

Dubai Food Mid-Range Middle East Reviews United Arab Emirates

Busaba – The Answer to Your Thai Cravings in Dubai

October 8, 2016
Busaba Eathai JBR Dubai review

It’s hard to beat a good Thai curry but over the last year in the UAE our Thai-food intake has drastically declined.  There are lots of fantastic food choices here in our corner the Middle East but we’ve struggled to find a stand-out Thai option – that is, until now.

We were invited to join the team at Busaba to sample their new menu and when we read that they served amazingly authentic dishes in a location that people travel the world to visit, it was an easy decision; my friend Tracey and I booked in a girls night!

Jumeirah Beach Residence (known locally as JBR) is a 1.7km stretch of prime waterfront in Dubai.  It plays host to a huge collection of high-end restaurants, cafes, retail shops, entertainment offerings and beautiful beaches.

Not far from the world-famous Palm, a visit to this part of Dubai feels totally surreal – sometimes it’s hard to believe that we actually live here, where a visit to a breath-taking spot like JBR can happen with such ease (and on a school night, no less!)

Busaba itself is located on the Southern end of JBR, just back from the water.  The restaurant is tastefully furnished and the combination of aromatic curry and incense drifts through the air, inviting you inside.

Throughout the evening we were treated to plate after plate of delicious Thai food – perfectly cooked seafood (so I’m told, I must admit I don’t generally eat seafood myself), tender lamb chops ( a real surprised in a Thai restaurant), the most amazing pad Thai.  Everything was fresh, perfectly seasoned and served hot from the kitchen.  I’m not sure who’s working their magic back there but they certainly do a good job, paying attention to every little detail.

The surprise of the night for me came in the form of a vegetarian dish.  Everything was delicious but those of you that know me well, know that I would never generally order the veggie option; the aromatic pumpkin curry was one worth writing home about though!  Served with coconut rice (seriously, they think about every little detail), I could have happily munched away on it all night.

After feasting on what was easily the best Thai food I’ve had in the UAE, we finished up the meal with a personal favourite of mine – mango sticky rice.  After learning to make it in Chiang Mai and standing amongst the hustle and bustle of Khao San Road in Bangkok whilst enjoying this Thair dessert treat, whenever I eat it, I’m transported right back there.

So, after driving for an hour to Dubai, was it worth making the trip?  It certainly was!

If you’re looking for tasty Thai food, generous portions, a sophisticated but unpretentious environment in one of the most striking parts of Dubai, be sure to check out Busaba Eathai.


best thai dubai busaba

Thank you to our friends at Azur Blue and Busaba Eathai for hosting such a fabulous evening out.  All thoughts are our own – like we’d do it any other way!

PS: Don’t forget to have your parking validated after dinner too – that way you’ll get three hours of parking for free.

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