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10 Reasons To Visit Rishikesh | India

10 reasons to visit rishikesh

Rishikesh turned into a second home for me during my time in India. I went for a one month Yoga Teacher Training Course and ended up spending around 5 months in total living there! There are so many reasons to visit Rishikesh and in this post, I’m going to share 10 reasons you should visit Rishikesh.

I fell in love with this spiritual place! Even though it looks a bit shit and there is plenty of things to frustrate you (it’s India!), there is something so special about Rishikesh that kept drawing me back in and holding me tight!

If Rishikesh is the first place you visit in India be prepared for a culture shock! It feels like a chaotic circus when you first arrive. The streets are packed with cows, beeping scooters, monkeys and a ton of Indian and Western tourists.

The streets are hectic and there are no footpaths anywhere. You need to spend some time here to get used to it and to tune in to the magical energy the city holds.

Here are my top 10 reasons to visit Rishikesh!

1. Authentic and Affordable Yoga Teacher Training

Yoga is the most popular reasons to visit Rishikesh! Rishikesh is the Yoga Teacher Training Capital of the World! It’s the Disneyland for Yoga School, with Yogi Soldiers walking the streets!

The cost of doing yoga teacher training in Rishikesh is so affordable compared to almost anywhere else in the world. It will cost you around $1,500 for a 28-day course with everything included. So it makes sense for thousands of Yogi’s to go to the source of yoga to learn for a fraction of the price!

It is true that it has become very commercialised as yoga school owners see the money-making opportunity. The number of schools in Rishikesh has exploded and continues to grow as more and more people jump on the bandwagon!

Some of the schools’ offerings probably aren’t of the same standard as the expensive western schools and the curriculum isn’t very westernised (well duh this is why you came to India to learn!)

But you will learn SO MUCH about yoga and it’s philosophy and history. You will literally be immersed in it for a whole month and your life will be transformed. You WILL meet your soul mates and find a connection with yourself and others like never before.

I did my TTC at AYM, you can read all about my experience here.

2. The Ganga River

The Ganga River runs right through Rishikesh and it is the main feature of this Holy City and is an amazing reason to visit Rishikesh.

It separates the main Rishikesh Market & Tapovan from Ram Jula and Laxman Jhula which are connected by swing bridges. You can always feel the cool air breeze coming from the Ganga as you wander through Rishikesh.

A bit about the Ganga

The Ganga flows 2,700 km from the Himalayan mountains to the Bay of Bengal in northern India and Bangladesh.

The Ganga is the most sacred river to Hindus. It is a lifeline to millions who live along its banks. Hindus worship the river as the goddess Maa Ganga, as she is the mother, the giver of life. Indian Pilgrims will travel long distances to Rishikesh to bathe in the river and to take some of the water home.

There are beaches all along the banks of the Ganga where you can go and hang out, meditate, do yoga or just people watch (or cow watch!). You can bathe in the freezing but refreshing river and get all the amazing blessings from the Ganga. Rafting on the Ganga is really popular in Rishikesh as well.

One of the coolest things about the Ganga is that it changes colour throughout the year. During the monsoon season from June to August the river is brown and flowing very fast (no rafting in these months), after the monsoon, the river calms and by November it is calm and smooth and bright turquoise. It is so beautiful!

Don’t miss Ganga Aarti

Ganga Aarti is a daily devotional ritual practised on the banks of the Ganga in a few places in Rishikesh. The most well-known one being at Parmath Niketan Ashram in Ram Jhula each night around sunset.

Aarti uses fire as an offering to Maa Ganga. It’s usually made in the form of a lit lamp as well as a candle, incense and flowers which are placed in the river.

The lamps are lit and circled around by the Hindu priests in a clockwise manner, accompanied by chanting. The idea is that the lamps acquire the power of the deity. After the ritual is complete, devotees will cup their hands over the flame and raise their palms to their forehead in order to get the goddess’s purification and blessing.

You cannot miss this in Rishikesh! If you need one reason to visit Rishikesh, maybe this is it. It is so powerful and special especially underneath the beautiful Shiva statue during sunset at Parmath Niketan. It is only performed in Haridwar, Rishikesh and Varanasi.

3. The Walk Across Laxman Jhula

This was the most entertaining and most frustrating part of living in Rishikesh and it’s also the one I remember the most!

The Laxman Jhula Bridge connects Tapovan to Laxman Jhula and is a swing bridge that is just for pedestrians and scooters. It is pretty damn narrow. This bridge and the view of it with the temple is probably the most iconic spot in Rishikesh so it attracts a lot of tourists, mostly Indian, all day long!

The bridge is crammed with humans in hoards stopping to take pictures and selfies, scooters in both directions (the honking is intense). It also boasts large cows and bulls taking their daily stroll or nap on the bridge as well as a whole lot of cheeky monkeys ready to ruin your day!

The monkey’s for me were the worst part, one day I saw a greedy monkey snatch someone’s bag thinking it was food only to realise it was just clothing. He threw it over the side of the bridge into the Ganga! Then he saw me with my takeaway bag of momos (dumplings) and went for them! Luckily I dodged him and ran away!

I have so many memories of going back and forward across this bridge, there is never a dull moment. The madness and the charm of India is in full force and is one of my favourite reasons to visit Rishikesh!

4. Visit Beautiful Waterfalls

One of the best activities to do in Rishikesh is to go chasing waterfalls! They are plentiful up in the lush green mountains surrounding the city.

Neer Waterfall

The most popular waterfall is Neer Waterfall. It is beautiful and has a number of tiers you can keep climbing up to get higher and higher. Go early if you want to skip the crowds, which are a whole bunch of Indian men in their underwear!

The climb up to the waterfall from the main road was really hard! There was also a smaller more quiet waterfall on the way up before you reach Neer which was actually a lot nicer!

Patna Waterfall is another popular spot which is on the other side of the Laxman Jhula bridge about 5kms away.

Vikram Mini Waterfall

My favourite waterfall was a very secluded one that not many people know or make the effort to get to. Search Vikram Mini Waterfall on google maps and you will find it’s the location. You can take a scooter up there (be careful) or just hike up, it’s about half an hour from AYM Yoga School. The water is so beautiful and clear! There are amazing views into the mountains as well.

Bonus there is a little organic cafe nearby where the guy who runs it will literally pick your lettuce from the garden after you order your food! Don’t go starving though as he takes his sweet time. It is such a special spot though and the best way to waste away a sunny afternoon.

5. Experience the Hindu Culture & Spirituality

This is one of the top reasons you should visit Rishikesh and India in general!

You can fully absorb yourself into the Hindu culture and spirituality here, it will literally be in your face all day!

There are so many ashrams and temples you can visit. If you talk to almost anyone who lives there you can learn from them about spirituality and Hindu mythology which I find so fascinating. There are also many Satsangs (spiritual talks) that you can attend for free to learn even more.

Most shops will be blasting mantras all day long! You will see lots of baba’s and sadhus everywhere, you can even go to the banks of the Ganga to meet the babas, smoke chillum and talk to them about life, their perspective and experiences.

6. Attend Spiritual Healings, Workshops & Events

All the offerings available in Rishikesh is a brilliant reason to visit Rishikesh. One of the things I love most about this city is all of the spiritual workshops and events going on! On the cafe and street walls you will find all the flyers promoting what is happening in Rishikesh when you are there.

You should also join the Rishikesh Community & Rishikesh Yogis Community Groups on Facebook to stay up to date with the latest events and workshops.

Some of my favourite things on offer that I saw when I was there included:

  • The Festival of Freedom & Magic
  • Cacao Ceremonies
  • Ecstatic Dance
  • Kambo Ceremonies (psychedelic drug extracted from frogs legs!)
  • Sound healing, Reiki, Reflexology therapy
  • Osho dynamic meditations (must try!)
  • All things occult such as tarot, palmistry & Vedic astrology
  • Tantra workshops 😉
  • Eye gazing event,
  • Laughing yoga & cuddling yoga
  • Starseed Activation sessions
  • Reggae Sound System Healing (10,000 Lions Sound System)
  • Past Life Regression

This is just a fraction of what is on offer! So get to Rishikesh and get involved. You’ll definitely learn something new and meet some awesome people who will give you a new perspective on life!

There is also an abundance of drop in yoga classes on every corner (as to be expected!). Most styles of yoga in Rishikesh are Ashtanga, Hatha and Iyengar and cost 300 rupees per class.

There is also an annual Yoga Festival and Film Festival in March. This coincides with Mooji’s annual Satsang which attracts a lot of people to Rishikesh and is a great time to visit.

Learning to make silver rings!

7. You Will Meet Your Soul Mates

Rishikesh is a soul mate breeding ground and a land of synchronicity, trust me! You will meet some amazing people here and they will become your life long friends or lovers!

I don’t know what it is about Rishikesh but everyone here is so open to connecting, unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. In 3 months the number of people I met here who I love like family and will be in my life forever is insane!

I was constantly meeting new people, reuniting with people I knew from before I came to India, then reuniting again & again with people I met in Rishikesh. It’s never ending, especially if you stay in Rishikesh for as long as me!

I’m not the only one either, it is a very common phenomenon for many visitors to Rishikesh. This is why many people end up staying for much longer than expected and keep coming back!

8. Chill In Cafes All Day Guilt Free!

This is the place where you might meet some of your new best friends! Cafe chilling in Rishikesh is my favourite past time At first I struggled with doing nothing but sitting on my ass in a cafe for hours, but I learnt to love it!

It became a ritual with what food I would order to who I would go with to all the amazing people who work in the cafes. I loved this SO much.

In August when the monsoon is in full swing you have no choice but to do this all day. It forces you to go inward and connect to yourself and others. It’s a really great opportunity to teach yourself a new crafty skill too like macrame!

My favourite hangout spots in Rishikesh were:

  • Royal Cafe
  • Tat
  • Sunset Cafe
  • Shambala
  • Dream Cafe
  • Eat Story
  • Ira’s Kitchen

There are so many more amazing places to hang out but these ones, in particular, became part of my daily routine!

9. Pet Baby cows!

I just had to include this! The cows in Rishikesh were one of my favourite things about this place and I fully fell in love with all the sweet babies everywhere!

Cows are sacred to Hindus and in this holy city, they are left to roam the streets freely. It can be a little disturbing to see them munching on rubbish and plastic (there is no waste system in India unfortunately, so a lot of rubbish everywhere), but for the most part they are well cared for by locals and visitors.

The calves are everywhere and are so friendly you can pet them and feed them. I loved the naughty cuties that hangout by the fruit stands! If you love the cows and want to look after them you can buy them food and feed them yourself.

10. You Can Take a Course In Almost Anything!

All of the places I mentioned in point 6 will most likely offer a course and teach you how to do whatever they are offering, which will give you even more reasons to visit Rishikesh.

You can take courses in so many things, Rishikesh really is a spiritual training ground and a place to learn for so many people.

Courses include:

  • Reiki
  • Sound Healing
  • Crystal Healing
  • Vedic Astrology
  • Reflexology & massage
  • Ayurveda
  • Tarot & Palmistry
  • Jewellery making
  • Indian Art
  • Indian cooking
  • Music lessons

And so much more! You can look around in the facebook groups and for flyers and signs on the street in Rishikesh.

Another bonus is taking these courses in Rishikesh will cost a fraction of what it would cost for you to train at home, so if there is a skill you would love to learn Rishikesh is the perfect place to do it!

Rishikesh Tips

reasons to visit rishikesh

How To Get There

The fastest and easiest way to get to Rishikesh is to fly into Dehradun airport and get a 20 minute taxi from there to Tapovan, which should cost 700-1000 rupees. The airport is domestic so you will need to get a connecting flight from Delhi or another airport depending on where you fly into.

You can also get a bus from Delhi to Rishikesh. There are local buses running all day (very cheap but uncomfortable and long) or you can book an overnight bus with a private company. This is my preferred method of getting to Rishikesh! The bus will drop you in Rishikesh market where you will need to get a tuk tuk (20 rupees shares 100 rupees private) to Tapovan from there you will need to walk to your accommodation.

Another option is to catch a taxi which will cost you around 3000 rupees, depending on the kind of deal you can get!

About Rishikesh

There are 4 main parts to Rishikesh. The first is Rishikesh Market, which is actual Rishikesh. This isn’t where any of the tourism is and is purely local. You probably won’t spend too much time here unless you want to visit some different markets and get some more authentic, cheap Indian eats.

The next is Tapovan. This is part of the touristic area in Rishikesh and in recent years is developing more and more like the hub for yoga schools. The main road is connected to Tapovan.

The next is Laxman Jhula, which is across the bridge from Tapovan. Laxman Jhula is disconnected from Tapovan by a bridge. Only pedestrians and scooters can cross the bridge. Here you will find many clothes and souvenir shops and cafes all along the bank of the Ganges. This is the best place to chill, shop and hang out in cafes. There are many hostels and guest houses in this area. It is the most expensive part of Rishikesh. This area is more catered towards Westerners.

Lastly, there is Ram Jhula. Ram Jhula is between Laxman Jhula and Rishikesh market. This area is more geared towards Indian tourists and ashrams. It is cheaper and more hectic with more street food and plenty of babas and sadhus. This is where the famous Parmath Niketan ashram is that holds Ganga Aarti every night.

reasons to visit rishikesh

Where To Stay

There are so many great hostels and guesthouses you can stay at in Rishikesh with dorms starting around 250 rupees per night and private rooms in guesthouses starting from around 500 rupees per night.

I would recommend to either stay in Tapovan or Laxman Jhula. Tapovan is convenient because it is connected to the main road and has all the ATMs as well as a lot of local food. It is developing quickly now so also has many cool cafes, hostels and guesthouses.

Laxman Jhula is also a great place to stay, you can’t get a tuk tuk or taxi to this side of the bridge so to get there you will have to walk or jump on someone’s scooter. On this side, you will have access to many shops, Ganga front cafes and amazing hippie vibes. This also connects to Ram Jhula where you can go to the Beatles Ashram and to Parmath Niketan for Aarti.

I recommend the following hostels:

  • Shiv Shakti (Laxman Jhula)
  • Travel Dreams Hostel (Laxman Jhula)
  • Blue Jay Hostel (Tapovan)
  • Indian Culture Hostel (Tapovan)
  • Live Free Hostel (Tapovan)

Staying in a guesthouse is ideal if you want a private room (private rooms in hostels are way too expensive). I’d recommend searching for a guesthouse once you arrive, looking for one that you like and negotiating the price with the owner. This is how you get an amazing place for a good price as booking sites are more expensive and not everyone is on there!

Withdrawing cash in Rishikesh

Withdrawing money is notoriously difficult in Rishikesh. There are only a couple of ATMs in Tapovan that work for international cards. This means they are often out of cash and sometimes not working at all. You may need to get a tuk tuk into Rishikesh market where there are plenty of ATMs or get a cash advance from one of the tourist shops in the market.

ATMs usually limit each withdrawal to 10,000 rupees ($140).

Get a prepaid travel card

Get a prepaid travel card before you go and save money on exchange rate and ATM fees. If you are in the UK, Europe or Australia I recommend Revolut. You can open an app-based account in minutes. Hold and exchange 29 different currencies and spend anywhere with no fees in over 150 countries with a contactless MasterCard or Visa. I have used their online account and prepaid MasterCard for over three years and I love it. I have saved a fortune on fees.

You get £200 of free ATM withdrawals a month (only 2% after that) and the exchange rate they give is the market rate

You also will get individual GBP and EUR IBANs auto-savings, cutting edge budgeting and analytics, which is so useful I even use Revolut for all my transactions at home when I am not travelling.

There is also a Premium plan which offers exclusive card designs, overseas medical insurance, £400 free monthly ATM and unlimited FX transfers.

Revolut has a 24/7 live chat in the app so if you have any issues someone is there to help you with your questions. 

Packing tips

One of the great things about Rishikesh is that almost everything that you can get at home is available here thanks to the organic stores. In saying that here are a few things you may want to bring with you.

  • Yoga pants from home if you are wanting to practice a lot in Rishikesh. You will be using these a lot and sweating a ton if you are going in summer. Buying quality yoga pants in Rishikesh is hard and expensive so bring enough.
  • Tampons and/or a menstrual cup. The options of tampons are limited in Rishikesh and they aren’t cheap so bring what you need from home.
  • Earplugs! The street dogs love to bark all night long which can definitely keep you awake.
  • Light full coverage clothing and shawls. In particular long pants and skirts that can cover you but keep you cool. You can wear any top, but just cover your shoulders with a shawl if you are going out in the street. If you are visiting in winter bring a thick jacket, shawl and socks to wear at night. The day time temperatures in winter are still warm! All of these things you can buy in Rishikesh so don’t worry if you don’t have them at home.
  • Healthy snacks and natural toiletries are readily available in Rishikesh thanks to all the Ayurvedic products in the country so I wouldn’t worry too much about not having access to these items in Rishikesh.

When to visit Rishikesh

The best months to come to Rishikesh are from September to October and March to April. These are the months where the weather is the most comfortable, it is sunny and not too hot during the day and not too cold at night time! These are the months that are most active with foreigners and you will find a lot of stuff to do.

April to June the weather is dry but extremely hot and sunny, temperatures get to over 40 degrees during the day. You can still visit these months but just be prepared to sweat!

From around the end of June to mid-September is when the monsoon comes. This is a very challenging time to be in Rishikesh, it is hot, humid and always raining at some point in the day. Your clothes never dry and mould gets in everything, plus there is no real drainage system so you are constantly walking through rivers! This is also the most popular time of year for Indians to come to Rishikesh for a pilgrimage to the Ganges so it can be extremely hectic and overwhelming.

In the months of November to February, it gets quite cold in Rishikesh especially at night time and in the morning. The weather during the day is usually beautiful and sunny and the Ganga goes bright green, however, the days are short. Pretty much nowhere will have any heating so you have to keep warm with blankets, clothes and bonfires.

Rishikesh is busy all year round regardless of the weather, there will always be travellers around, things to do and people to meet so you definitely can come to Rishikesh anytime but it is definitely good to know what you are in for weatherwise!

Get a SIM

This should be the first thing you do when you arrive in India! You can get a SIM card at arrivals in Delhi airport. For around max 1000 rupees ($14), you can get a SIM and a 90-day package which gives you 1.5gb per day (YES PER DAY) and unlimited calls and texts within India.

This will make your life so much easier and it means you won’t worry about shitty Indian wifi. My SIM card is with Airtel who have the best coverage in North India. It is best to get a SIM from an authorised Airtel store as the guys in the street shops will try and rip you off. You should be able to get a one month package and SIM for 250 from an Airtel store and top up each month for 200 rupees. This will not be an option in the street shops.

Note that if you plan on staying in India longer than 3 months your SIM card will be deactivated after 90 days and you will need to get a new one. This is the rule they have for foreigners.

Download Redbus

Redbus is a bus ticket booking app that you can download onto your phone. You can book buses easily all throughout India and it accepts foreign card. It is so helpful for trip planning and it gives you all the available options. It also saves you going to an agent and they always have discounts and cashback offers going.

You could download this app and book yourself a bus to Rishikesh from Delhi before you even arrive! When you are ready to leave Rishikesh you can book buses to so many places directly from Rishikesh or Haridwar like Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh & Agra.

Because of the mountains, the bus is preferable in this region, it is also easier to book buses much closer to the date you want to leave than trains which require you to book really far in advance (unless you want really expensive AC tickets).

The buses are also way less intimidating when you first start travelling in India especially if you are alone. If you are a female they will not allow a male to book a seat next to you to help you feel safer. 9/10 you will be the only female on the bus and the only Westerner.

This post contains an affiliate link for Revolut. If you decide to purchase through these links, I receive a percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you

There you have my top 10 reasons to visit Rishikesh plus everything you need to know before you go!

I seriously love Rishikesh and I hope you love it as much as I do!

Have you been to Rishikesh before? Let me know if you have been to Rishikesh and what reasons to visit you would add!

The post 10 Reasons To Visit Rishikesh | India appeared first on Chasing Coconuts Travel.

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Macquarie Island is a wildlife paradise

Have you ever wondered what you might find if you headed south of New Zealand? I had wanted to visit Macquarie Island for just about forever.

Well, even if you have the slightest knowledge of geography, you’ll know that you won’t fall off the edge of the map but rather you’ll eventually reach Antarctica and the very bottom of the world.

But what about what’s in the middle? Open ocean? Atlantis?

Few know about the smatterings of islands that exist here, in between New Zealand and Antarctica, and let me tell you, they will blow your mind. New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands are uninhabited and redefine remote, few every visit, but those who do, become totally enamored.

An introduction to New Zealand’s subantarctic islands

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Wild and remote islands are kinda my thing. Give me a rocky windswept beach covered in seals over a white sandy tropical beach. And guys, I totally mean it.

Sure, I love a good relaxing holiday in the sun as much as anyone, but where my heart truly soars is at sea and empty, forgotten lands, usually accessible only by ship.

Here you won’t find a wifi signal or see another person, and birds often outnumber humans by the tens of thousands.

Expedition voyages are now one of my favorite new travel adventures, and when the opportunity presented itself to voyage to New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands earlier this year with Heritage Expeditions, I couldn’t stuff my duffel bag fast enough.

Specializing in expedition travel to remote areas and based out of Christchurch, near where I live here in New Zealand, Heritage Expeditions are leaders in my kind of travel.

Heritage Expeditions was founded in 1985 by Rodney Russ (a kiwi biologist working for the wildlife service), as a way of increasing awareness and conservation of the natural world through responsible expedition travel.

After spending years dedicating his life to work protecting endangered species like kākāpō and the Black Robin and working down in the subantarctic, Rodney learned that by sharing these special wilderness areas with others, they might become “ambassadors” advocating and supporting conservation efforts.

He has long held the view that conservation and responsible travel are partners, that together can achieve what might otherwise be unachievable. Totally agree, Rodney! Thanks for leading the way.

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Over Christmas last year I spent several weeks at sea deep in the Southern Ocean with Heritage Expeditions exploring the subantarctic, and one of the biggest highlights had to be stopping at Macquarie Island.

Roughly 1500 kilometers south of Tasmania, it takes about 3 days sailing to get here in fine weather.

Unfortunately, the weather down here is never fine.

Past the Roaring Forties and deep into the Furious Fifties en route to the Shrieking Sixties, the prevailing weather in the Subantarctic can only be described as Windy As and on Macquarie Island is no exception.

“the most wretched place of involuntary and slavish exilium that can possibly be conceived; nothing could warrant any civilised creature living on such a spot.” Captain Douglass in 1822 

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Part of the Subantarctic Group of Islands, Macquarie Island is home to a research base and it is looked after by the Australian Antarctic Division. Lovingly dubbed “Macca,” it’s small, only 34 kilometers long and 5 km long at it’s widest point on the main island, and it’s positively teeming with wildlife; a real bucketlist spot for my fellow bird nerds, everyone on board was fizzing for our arrival.

Also I reckon everyone was equally excited for some sheltered bays, land and not the wild southern ocean seas that had many spewing in buckets.

I was fine and couldn’t wait to land and explore!

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

For any geology nerds out there, Macquarie Island is also extremely special because it’s the only place on earth where rocks from the earth’s mantle are actually exposed about sea level.

Recap from middle school science class: the mantle is normally 6 kilometers below the ocean floor and therefore not something we ever see except in that dissected and well-labeled globe from school, showing it to be the thick layer of molten rock between the crust and the core of the earth.

Macquarie Island is actually the exposed crest of the undersea Macquarie Ridge, raised to its present position where the Indo-Australian tectonic plate meets the Pacific plate. This one of a kind feature nabbed Macquarie Island a world heritage status over 20 years ago.

Also it’s a place of both outstanding natural beauty and wildlife. And a fuck ton of penguins.

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

The history of Macquarie is a fascinating one, thought to be first discovered in 1810 by Captain Frederick Hasselborough on a trip from Sydney by accident on an commercial expedition looking for seals to slaughter for skins and blubber.

Perhaps early Polynesians visited long before because he reported seeing a shipwreck of an “ancient design” on the island – oh my! My historical nerdy brain is a aquiver with that!

And he was in luck, as there were probably close to half a million seals around Macquarie before they were decimated over the next decade. Even now you can see the remnants of the sealing industry on Macquarie with rusted bits of machinery used in the industry still decorating the beaches.

A grim reminder of a terrible past. Only now are the seal populations recovered. And in a beautiful piece of irony, often these historical sites are covered with enormous elephant seals, happily tooting and roaring at us as we scrambled past them.

visit Macquarie island

Though perhaps what drew me the most to Macquarie Island were the enormous bird colonies here. Home to more than 3.5 million seabirds, this wild little island stinks of glorious poo, and I love it!

It’s covered in birds! I knew it would be similar to South Georgia, which is one of my favorite places on earth.

For example there are around 850,000 pairs of Royal Penguins on Macquarie Island, which is enormous! Millions of birds visit Macquarie Island every year.

There used to be heaps more but they were hunted for decades for their oil after the sealers made their way through the seal populations.

What to pack for a trip to Antarctica

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Lucking out with the weather we were able to make multiple landings and zodiac cruises around Macquarie Island with Heritage Expeditions.

We got to visit the base at the Isthmus on the island and visit the researchers and scientists working on Macquarie and learn about what life is like on a place that is windy and rainy pretty much every day, and hazards include being chased by elephant seals.

Only just a few years ago after seven years of pest eradication, was Macquarie Island finally free from invasive species like rats, rabbits, mice and feral cats which had been brought over by humans and were quickly destroying the bird populations.

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Lusitania Bay is home to upwards of 150,000 pairs of king penguins, the second largest penguins in the world and some of my favorites.

We lucked out big time with the weather and spent a long and beautiful afternoon in the sunshine at Sandy Bay. I’d die to visit Macquarie Island again.

Still and beautiful and warm enough to peel off some layers, we spent hours exploring the beaches and walks around Sandy Bay, taking in all the different bird and seal colonies and enjoying being in the presence of abundant, care-free wildlife.

It truly was an experience I’ll never forget.

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Even now I can close my eyes and immediately be transported back to that magical day at Sandy Bay on Macquarie Island. I can hear the calls of the penguin colonies, recall the smell of the seals and the sounds of the ways. Even remembering to watch where I walked to make sure I didn’t squish a penguin by accident.

How many places are like that in the world that we have the chance to experience firsthand? Visit Macquarie Island, and you won’t be disappointed.

Have you heard of Macquarie Island? Are you a wild beach lover too? Is this the kind of place you dream of visiting too? Spill!

Macquarie Island Expedition: Galapagos of the Southern Ocean

visit Macquarie island

Many thanks to Heritage Expeditions for taking me to the Subantarctic Islands – like always, I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own – like you could expect less from me!

The post Macquarie Island is a wildlife paradise appeared first on Young Adventuress.

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Going to Southeast Asia? Please be kind and don’t ride elephants.

It’s World Elephant Day, August 12th, which means it’s time for some real talk about riding elephants. Are you ready?

There was once a time, not even a decade ago, where riding an elephant in Southeast Asia was a pinnacle accomplishment in one’s travel diaries. The dreamy pictures of exploring the jungle on the backs of these massive wild giants.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s something that was always on my list to do one day, and live out all of my colonial safari fantasies.

It’s an idyllic image that has appealed to hundreds of thousands of tourists for a long time, me included, and no one really questioned it. Where did these elephants come from? How were they being treated? What was their quality of life?

riding elephants

In the late 1980’s, after logging was banned in Thailand, local elephant trainers turned their talents to tourism, inciting the elephant tourism boom we’ve seen on all of the travel blogs and in our Instagram feed today.

To the untrained eye, it looked harmless. You’d ride an elephant just like you’d ride a horse right?

How different can it be? What’s so different? If you’re like me, you grew up going to the circus and visiting the zoo, interacting with animals was fun and exciting, not many thought much further.

Even now, many of what we see online is slated with a “conservation” agenda designed to deter us from digging further. But how many baby elephants or lion cubs are really in need of rescuing?

In June National Geographic launched a massive exposé around the cruel reality of wildlife tourism.

riding elephants

The truth is what you might expect if you begin asking questions, hard and cruel.

For example, elephants who are broken in a process referred to as “the crush,” are trained to parade tourists around in a circle, receiving some of the worst treatment of all captive animals in the world. If you’ve done what I’ve done and gone down a rabbit hole of videos of this, you’ll be beyond shocked.

There are only 40,000 Asian elephants left in the wild, and more than half of Thailand’s 7,000 elephants still live in captivity, enduring daily beatings. So why do tourists continue to ride on the backs of captive elephants?

The main culprit is simply lack of awareness.

riding elephants

As travel has become more and more accessible over the past few decades, tourists and travel industry leaders have come face to face with the ethics of visiting a foreign country and what activities cross the line of being irresponsible and exploitative.

How is cuddling a lion cub or playing with an elephant or posing with a tiger anyway ethical?

In 2010 Intrepid Travel took the lead against standing up against elephant cruelty by partnering with World Animal Protection (who conducted extensive research on the treatment of captive elephants).

The results were shocking and Intrepid Travel became the first global travel company to ban riding elephants on their trips. Intrepid used to make a lot of money riding elephants until they realized how cruel a practice it was, and they stopped, heralding in a new era of responsible travel.

I really admire how Intrepid has owned up to this mistake; it speaks volumes about their ethics and backbone as a company. And hundreds of others have followed in their footsteps since and have banned riding elephants too. Talk about inspirational.

riding elephants

So what’s all the fuss about? Are elephant rides really that bad? 

I’ve been privileged enough to experience wild elephants on safaris in Africa and Asia, and trust me, you can’t get near them. In fact, elephant – human conflict is still a very real issue in many parts of the world.

People often think that an elephant in captivity is domesticated, and so somehow it’s okay to have them under human control.

But the reality is that elephants never have been domesticated. Even if born in captivity, they are still a wild animal and need to be ‘broken’ to accept human control.


If “breaking” an elephant sounds harsh to you, you’re not wrong. Baby elephants are taken from the wild and begin training immediately. Many times their mothers are killed in the poaching process, and if you’ve observed elephants in the wild you’ll see how cruel it must be to separate them – elephant babies stay with their moms for years, and the herds are incredibly social.

They are tied up and beaten with bullhooks until their spirit is broken and they obey their trainer to avoid more injury.

riding elephants

They spend their days carrying humans around on a tourist path which is not nearly enough exercise for these giant animals. Despite their large size, their anatomy is not suited to carry humans on their backs and many sustain long-term spinal injuries.

When the elephants aren’t working, they are usually kept in shacks and they’re bound by chains that can be so tight they can barely move. These social creatures are kept isolated from other animals and kept in solitary confinement until their next job.

Is it surprising some of them go berserk?

riding elephants

How can you help?

It’s truly an awful practice but as travelers, we have the power to change this.

You, right there, reading this blog. You hold the power. Elephant tourism simply cannot exist without the tourists so if it’s on your travel bucket list, it’s time to remove it.

Know a friend traveling to Thailand? Gently inform them of the severe cruelty captive animals face.

riding elephants

Most people who have ridden on the backs of elephants simply didn’t know anything about the animal’s treatment. Spreading the word works. Just 10 years ago riding elephants was incredibly commonplace but now, most seasoned travelers know the cruelty that lies behind the practice.

The more we talk the better. Many of my friends have ridden elephants in the past and regret it now. Many didn’t know better, and we’re not here to shame people, but rather use our collective voices to try and change how elephants are treated now and in the future.

riding elephants

So what to do if you’ve always dreamed of seeing elephants?

Keep this one rule in mind: If you can ride or touch an elephant, or watch it perform, chances are the elephant has been subjected to cruel training and is living in poor conditions and you should not further encourage the practice.

Thankfully, public awareness of cruelty to captive elephants has increased but unfortunately, many attractions are trying to dupe tourists by adding words such as “sanctuary,” “rescue center,” “refuge,” and “retirement facility” to their names.

riding elephants


But the abusive training methods and deprivation are often the same and make the elephants follow the trainers’ commands to let people ride, feed, touch, or bathe them.

All those trendy Instagrammers standing by elephants at sunset? Think what it took to have that mighty creature beaten into submission to allow a person to stand there with them peacefully.

Do you research before visiting these places; riding elephants is cruel.

riding elephants

What can we do?

It can be hard to truly pin down the ethical tourism operators from the frauds but trust me, it’s worth doing the research.

Intrepid Travel is an industry leader when it comes to prioritizing animal welfare during their programs and if you still really want to have elephants be apart of your Southeast Asia trip, they offer programs that do so ethically. They are also inspiring many other tourism operators to follow in their footsteps, and they’re trying to change an entire industry.

Intrepid works with places like Elephant Valley Thailand, Mahouts Elephant Foundation (MEF) and Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary (BLES), three of the high welfare venues doing great things for captive elephants.

At these venues, you can observe elephants from afar, where they are free to just be elephants and not performers.

Trust me, the best way to see an elephant is when it’s wild and free, just being happy funny creatures. I mean, elephants are hilarious! I love watching the babies trip over their trunks and getting scared by birds. They are so smart and fascinating to watch.

Consider joining safaris that are responsible and traveling with operators that put animal welfare first. I’ve seen elephants in the wild many times on my travels in Asia and Africa, and it never gets old. These are old and special creatures, with wise eyes that deserve respect.

We are living in an era when animal cruelty is being tolerated less and less and while we have made significant progress in the past decade, there’s still so much more work to be done with riding elephants.

riding elephants

Help us spread the word today on World Elephant Day by using #StopElephantRides and #WorldElephantDay but most importantly, speak with dollars by only supporting organizations who prioritize animal welfare and want to #BeKind.

Spill – have you ridden an elephant before and would you now? Have you seen some of these dodgy wildlife sanctuaries on your travels? Are you committed to protecting elephants too? I would love to hear more. 

riding elephants

The post Going to Southeast Asia? Please be kind and don’t ride elephants. appeared first on Young Adventuress.

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