Take better photos – Brisbane

Snap happy? Yes have to admit I sort of am. Hence the gift of a photo course- Take Better Photos – travel & landscape. Well now I’ve said I attended this course, you will all be expecting professional photos. Hmmm, on that count I will probably disappoint, however I will admit to learning some pretty neat tricks on this afternoon/evening short course.

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Here’s one example of my newly refined skills. Yes I know, the photo itself is somewhat boring but, this demonstrated the zoom in, zoom out on my little camera.

The beauty of the courses offered by Take Better Photos, you can go back any time you want in the next year to attend the same course with the same camera. That in itself is a bonus, the idea being if you are travelling, take a quick refresher course before you leave. Not a bad idea and good value for money.

Another advantage of these courses, you come away armed with these neat little laminated cheat cards, specifically for your camera.

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Now some attending, including my daughter who took me along with her, were armed with cameras and attachments of many different lenses. Some of these cameras could almost make you a cuppa, almost. I did say almost šŸ™‚ .

Me being the “iPhone photo opportunity snapper”, had to take a camera to this course, hence our little underwater camera. No extra lenses, it does not know how to make a cuppa- we are working on that, and the case fits in your handbag. At the end of the day, it did not matter what sort of camera you had, the course and our trainer, catered to all. A big plus.

Prior to this course, I thought you just put this camera underwater and snapped away happily hoping to get at least part of a fish in the picture!

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Now I know all sorts of fabulous little tricks including how to focus on something close before taking a clear distant photo.

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Clear as day graffiti – I’m on a roll here ! But seriously, after the sun set it was time to test a new skill. For these shots, we took the little torches clipped to our cheat cards and jumped around like demented idiots in front of our cameras, to take a shot of the light picture we created, without having yourself in the shot.

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Pretty cool !

End result? Yes I’m happy, however my family now groan every time I whip out the camera for that one opportunist shot. I took the offer of buying the iPhone cheat cards, which I’m still working my way through, but I’m not a pro, just a snap happy amateur who is now armed with some new tips- could be dangerous!

I really would highly recommend these short courses, you will come away with some valuable tips, meet a few new faces and feel somewhat more confident when you aim the camera. As well as travel & landscape, there’s portraits and iPhone camera courses amongst others. Remember to go back in the year, always good to take a refresher.

Watch this space, you never know what photos I may be able to take now. Must admit though to still bring proud of this one….yes here we go again! This one required a trip to Vanuatu + cocktails + sunset + relaxation – work – stress (feeling pretty tipsy), + a quick snap = this photo . Best part of this photo- I actually completely missed the cruise ship I was trying to take a photo of. Now I’m armed with the new knowledge, the next one of these will include said cruise ship.

Check out these courses, thoroughly worthwhile!

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Mystery Island, Vanuatu

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Straight up I will admit a soft spot for this beautiful uninhabited island. There is something about cruising into the area and seeing this tiny little island for the first time, which helps realign your perspective on life. The sun combines with the aqua blue sea closely surrounding the island, to create gorgeous sparkling diamonds, dancing across the top of the water.

Yes uninhabited, also taboo to stay on the island overnight, however there is an airfield running the length of the island. Perhaps not the most upmarket airport terminal around, but most certainly very cute!

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Ni Vanuatu travel by boat from nearby islands to sell their crafts and provide entertainment to cruise ship visitors. Permanent market huts are set up on the island to cater towards the visitors. Kindy children sit in their groups beneath the big shady tree branches, singing songs, while their curious eyes follow the ship passengers. You can tell when someone has stopped to listen, the volume of the singing increases, as the children throw all their enthusiasm into the songs. A delightful sound as you traverse the island.

Photo opportunities with ‘cannibals’ are provided. I must admit a giggle at this cannibal who was having a heated discussion on his mobile phone during our stopover.

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Our second visit to the island was Christmas Day last year. To spend Christmas Day snorkelling these beautiful waters was an incredibly relaxing experience. One of the hardest decisions for the day, do we walk round the island on the whiter than white sand, or wander down the middle, along the grass airfield. Sand tracks meandering through the shady trees thriving on the island, provide another option for exploring.

A word of warning should you choose the airfield option, this airfield us in regular use, you may need to duck for cover as a plane comes in for landing. Even on Christmas morning, two flights arrived and departed, somewhat unexpected on an island like this.

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Definitely a place for snorkelling, you will no doubt find the beckoning of the gorgeous aqua sea, very difficult to resist. A nice quiet area is located down the opposite end of the island to where you land. Fewer people make the five-ten minute trek down there, preferring to stay close to the landing dock. Leaving you to enjoy a peaceful uninterrupted snorkel. You may even find yourself in middle of a school of darting fish.

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Be sure to take a cruise stopping off at Mystery Island, you won’t regret your decision.

Crystal Blue Resort Marine Conservation Park

Pacific Ocean was pounding the beach the resort sits upon the day we visited. Amongst the crashing dark blue waves, lay an aqua blue calm strip of water. I have no doubt the snorkelling in this area is good, but the idea of snorkelling in between the thunder of the sea, didn’t appeal to us resulting in a polite decline on the invitation.

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This is a nice area which exudes a somewhat isolated feel. Maybe it’s the drive down the track to the resort, or perhaps the long frontage, then again it could have been the waves rolling in from open ocean to pummel the shore.

Whatever the reason, the feeling of isolation was further enhanced by a lack of people. The only human life around, were those who worked at the resort and conservation park. Given this is a large, sprawling resort, slowly being restored, the size was magnified by the small handful of people.

Lack of people was a good thing though, with a personalised tour, just for us. We were guided around the resort area to view the concrete tanks with different age turtles being grown until they reached their release, back to the wild, size and age.

Iguanas’, flying foxes, chickens, all were on display in their own enclosures, Although we did wonder if they were aware they were also on the menu in the restaurant! Iguanas were happy to socialise and pose for the camera.

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Between the resort/park and the pool of sharks mingling with the three oldest turtles, there lies a village where Ni Vanuatu who work at Crystal Bay, reside during their work tenure.

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Pigs, from little tackers through to a couple of massive ones, live in their own pens at the edge of the village.

The final stage of the tour, is the pool of massive turtles and a lot of reef sharks and a ray. The opportunity exists to swim in this pool, which apparently some people take. The number of sharks was a little off putting

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I did negotiate the steep steps down to the pool to meet the turtles, the biggest around 80 years old.

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Our guide demonstrated sand drawings, which he completed in no time at all. Outlines were neat, tidy and cleverly put together.

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There is an entry fee here, around AUD 20 each which included the tour, snorkel and feeding the big turtles. Swimming with the sharks, ray and turtles did cost more and is available at high tide if you are interested. Families will find plenty here of interest to the kids, when you stop by for a tour. The resort itself still looked a little run down and basic, making a stop on an island tour probably a better choice than staying on site.

Keep in mind also, this is not the location of the blue lagoon, which is a different area on Efate altogether.

Mele – Cascade Waterfall

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Cascading water twisting yet seamless, runs next to and below your feet whilst negotiating a path on non slippery rocks, your goal being the ultimate last big waterfall.

Breathtaking. Yes there is an uphill walk involved, however, if you have been to Efate and not visited Mele, then your travels were not complete. The water here is unbelievable as shown to us on leaf, by our guide.

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However you visit this memorable part of Efate, maybe by tour or on your own, just be sure you do it. This is a truly stunning landscape.

Upon reaching the top waterfall you can indulge in a massaging free shower, wallow in the rock pools, use the rocks and water as natural slides, or simply enjoy the beauty. There is a lot of uphill in this trip, you do not have to be an athlete, just be prepared for some exercise before your evening cocktail!

I will say, this is worth every step. Surprisingly the rocks are not slippery, even with water cascading over, you can keep a good footing.

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Our guide could fold a leaf, then, with a few well placed bites, produce some amazing artwork.

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This is a case you may find a guide or personalised tour is worthwhile. The information on medicinal plants, history or anything else you may learn, is most definitely worth it.

The right spot on your walk will give you an uninterrupted view of Hideaway Island.

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Mele is definitely worth a visit, I recommend this area.

Blue Lagoon, Efate

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Photo really doesn’t do the gorgeous colour of the wonderfully blue water justice. A popular spot with the kids, especially with a tarzan rope to jump into the water from, making for some huge, and at times painful sounding, swinging leaps!

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You may visit this on one of the island tours, it’s certainly worth having a swim, even if only to say you’ve swum there. Overall we found it to be a nice little set up with seating areas dotted around, and change huts available for use. There are a few rocks to walk on as you go into lagoon, which may be easier with reef shoes, doesn’t last long though as water does get deep very fast.

Consider an early visit if you are travelling separate to a tour, as this area can fill up pretty quickly. There were a few fish around but not enough for snorkelling. However that was probably due to the jump rope, I doubt many fish would be hanging around waiting to be a target for jumpers! Maybe early with no-one else around you would see more. There was an reasonable entry fee of around AUD 5., handed over at the rustic little entry hut.

These gorgeous local children were fascinated with seeing themselves inside the camera, As always it was heartwarming to see such a simple thing become a huge source of amusement.

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Sunset Bar & Cafe, Iririki Island

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Who does not enjoy a swim up bar? This area is part of the Iririki Island complex. At the opposite end of the island to the Bali Hai Bar & Micheners restaurant, this area of endless lagoon style pools, waterfalls, and seating areas are nested in among the swaying coconut trees and surrounded by the gym, cafe, tennis courts, games room and the bar.

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This area is aimed towards families, with a playground and poolside apartments incorporated into the area. Happy hour is in place down this end of the island too, between 4-5pm and 8-9pm daily.

I for one enjoyed sitting on one of the concrete stools in the pool, sipping a wine, very relaxing whilst one cools off from the humidity. If you are staying near the Bali Hai end, be sure to take a wander down this way, you won’t be disappointed!

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World War Two Museum – Vanuatu

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Tucked away on the island of Efate in Vanuatu is an interesting World War Two Museum. Yes the photo shown above is the museum. 500VT or AUD6 entry fee unless you include this visit on a tour, whereupon entry is sometimes included. Ernest will open the door to this museum to enable you to view the relics left behind by the US soldiers during WW2.

For those interested in snorkelling, the opportunity exists to snorkel and view an intact corsair WW2 fighter plane. We didn’t snorkel to the plane, however Ernest described the plane and the location to us. For the snorkel tour including museum, was around 2500VT or AUD30.

The museum itself is small, with a number of relics including propeller blade, a rusty Japanese helmet, various other relics and bottles, all of which have been dug out the US dump site. For those interested in war memorabilia, you will find this slice of history, appealing. Keep in mind this is not the usual air conditioned, white walled museum you are used to. This is basic, genuine with Ernest more than happy to share his knowledge with those interested. He is most proud of the relics they have uncovered.

Again this is Vanuatu, if you don’t make the first move and ask questions, you will learn nothing. However, if you ask questions you will find Your guide more than willing to part with information.

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Micheners Restaurant-Iririki Island, Vanuatu

Micheners is part of the Bali Hai Bar complex. A balcony has been added to the front of the restaurant, overlooking the sea. Not only has this given the restaurant a much roomier feel, it has provided a wonderfully romantic style setting for dinners or a gorgeous sunny spot for breakfast.

Since breakfast is the first meal of the day, we’ll start with that one. There can be nothing better than being welcomed with the hugest smiles from the staff every day. It most certainly sets the tone for the day! Keep in mind too that breakfast is included as part of the accommodation package.

Breakfast is buffet style with a choice of breads (including gluten free and banana breads), selection of pastries, accompaniments for the breads, includes vegemite! Fruits, yogurts, muesli, cereals, juices, hot drinks, hot buffet, and at the end of the hot buffet, the always smiling beautifully natured Amos to cook your eggs or omelettes, or smiley Sam if Amos is away for the day. Either way you will enjoy eggs cooked the way you like them.

Should you prefer a barista coffee, this will be ordered for you by the lovely friendly staff and charged to your room. There is even a coffee card with the sixth coffee free. With a couple of coffees every day, hubby enjoyed the odd complimentary latte, without complaint!

Theme dinners are dotted throughout the week. Tuesday night is the dancing display, kava tasting and the Melanesian feast, where you taste lap lap and other local foods. Definitely worth the experience!

The Real Pasifik Banquet is held at Micheners whenever there is a function at Iririki’s Watermark Restaurant. This has been reviewed separately and is highly recommended to those looking for a full gastronomic experience, including drinks, market and cafe tours. Numbers are limited so you will need to book.

Friday night is a seafood feast, however the a la carte menu is also available. Still having a little issue uploading photos however they will be added soon. The feast for two was huge, we did however valiantly struggle through to end, to be rewarded with a superb coconut tart for dessert. Nice sweet to finish with.

We dined our last evening on Iririki, at Micheners to enjoy the a la carte menu. As this was Saturday night, you are treated to an awesome fire dancing display. Menu choice is certainly well rounded, catering for a wide variety of tastes. Food was once again, delicious. Not a restaurant we have ever had a bad meal or experience at. I’m sure you will enjoy as much as we did when you next visit Iririki!

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Real Pasifik banquet – Iririki Island

Wow! To join in this most awesome banquet experience, you do not need to be staying at Iririki. The day begins with a 10am food market tour to showcase the food which will be used in the banquet that night. Our tour was conducted by Stanley, Chef Amos and Bernie.

Chef Amos taught his small class of pupils the differences in many different types of food. For instance, we learned which varieties of bananas are for eating, whilst plantain bananas are for cooking only. The difference between the cooking and the eating peanuts, types of fruit and vegetables, all accompanied with an insight into the life of the locals. Bernie’s interjections along the way were received with much laughter and hilarity.

I do have some photos of the markets however will upload at a later time when Internet allows. Some have uploaded onto our Facebook page Dine Live Travel as well as dinelivetravel on Instagram.

We were the inaugural tour to be taken to Lapita Cafe after the markets. I would say this topped off the tour beautifully. A review of a Lapita Cafe has been provided separately however I really urge everyone to visit this beautiful lady and her staff.

After the cafe everyone dispersed to spend the day however they wished. That evening we came together for the most amazing evening. The group is limited to around 16 which was an ideal number. Drinks are included, now the best part here is it was any drink you were drinking. Certainly making a change from the usual basics only inclusions we have found at other restaurants who advertise all inclusive meals.

A large screen tv, played the show filmed in Vanuatu featuring Robert Oliver and the lovely lady from Lapita Cafe, whose name no one was sure how to spell!

First on the menu was a banana soup. Right now I totally understand if you are raising the eyebrows a little, however we were assured by Chef Amos and Bernie in the morning the soup was devine. There is no denying they were correct. One really does need to try this, a description does not it justice.

A copy of the full menu will follow later. We would encourage everyone to try this. Remember even a coeliac can eat everything on this menu. Internet restricts the upload at the moment, I will however add to this blog in a couple of days time. Enjoy the banquet !!

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Lapita Cafe

This tour was the inaugural visit to the cafe following a walk through the colourful markets. A delightful and interesting experience. This beautiful chef has worked alongside Robert Oliver, ( a NZ chef voted the top TV chef in the world only three weeks ago), to promote natural foods in Vanuatu.
Unfortunate photos will not upload at this time, will add some at a later date.

For those who are gluten intolerant, this may very well be one of the only cafƩs you can eat everything. We tasted pizza, sausages and relishes, as well as some crunchy ginger cookies.

The flour here is manioc flour, produced directly from the manioc root. The flour is wheat & gluten free, high in fibre with no preservatives. It does not come any more natural than this. Not only that, finally we have tasted something which ensured the food tasted ‘normal’. The first small shipment if this flour was exported to Sydney last week. If anyone would like to know more, feel free to leave a comment or contact via Facebook Dine Live Travel page.

I will be the first to admit, I won’t spend extra $ on organic in Australia as I don’t believe it is organic. However in Vanuatu everything is. No sprays are used anywhere in the country. Pretty much as described to us, you dig a hole, plant a plant, then leave until it is matured. A cafe like Lapita is a place which needs a lot of promotion to showcase what they available.

There is the opportunity here to look through the small factory, or, you can check the local native kitchen which was used by Robert Oliver in the TV show he did in Vanuatu.

Photos will follow!

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