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Family Holiday

DESTINATIONS Information and Inspiration for Family Travel

OFF THE BEATEN PATH IN

THE COOK ISLANDS FAMILY HOLIDAYS

THAT GIVE BACK FAMILY FRIENDLY

SINGAPORE

DISCOVER TURTLES AT

MON REPOS SPOTLIGHT ON CAMPING AT

CARNARVON GORGE Issue 1


CONTENTS

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OFF THE BEATEN PATH IN THE COOK ISLANDS The Hardest Part of Your Holiday is Choosing Which Island to Visit!

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HOLIDAYS THAT GIVE BACK Thumbs Up to These Companies For Providing Memorable Family Getaways in a Socially Responsible Manner

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DISCOVER TURTLES AT MON REPOS A Memorable Experience for the Whole Family on Queensland’s Coral Coast BOOKS FOR KIDS THAT INSPIRE ADVENTURE Check Out These Great Reads For Kids THE PIGGYBACK RIDER Review of the Piggyback Rider, a Unique Standing Child Carrier for ages 2+

FAMILY FRIENDLY SINGAPORE Singapore Doesn’t Brag About Being Family Friendly, It Shows You!

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CARNARVON GORGE CAMPING Spotlight on Camping at Carnarvon Gorge in Outback Queensland

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Top LtoR: Island of Mauke, Cook Islands. Hiking in the Glass House Mountains, QLD. Photos: Jessica Palmer. Above: Cloud Forest Dome, Singapore. Photo: Jessica Palmer Left: Turtle at Mon Repos. Photo: Lauren Bath/Tourism & Events Queensland. Opp. Page: Moss Creek, Carnarvon Gorge, QLD. Photo: Jessica Palmer. © Jessica Palmer No part of this magazine may be reproduced without written consent. No responsibility is accepted for accuracy of advertisements or information. Whilst every care has been taken in the research and preparation of Family Holiday Destinations, we cannot accept responsibility for any loss, hardship or injury arriving from any attempt to follow any of the stories, however caused. When it comes to travel, things change daily and we cannot rake responsibility for changes that occur subsequent to publishing.


Editor’s Letter

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elcome to the inaugural issue of Family Holiday Destinations. I’m Jessica Palmer and I am very excited to bring you useful information and inspiration for family travel. Family Holiday Destinations will publish every other month and will cater to families of all size wallets. As a mother who has travelled regularly with her children since they were born, I have plenty of experience in holidays on a budget. I learned a long time ago that kids don’t care either way. You can expect to find features on both Australian and overseas destinations, as well as tips and resources to make travelling with kids easier. I know that as a parent or grandparent in today’s modern society that you are time-poor, so I will try my hardest to keep each issue to a readable length. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the magazine - what you enjoyed reading and what you would like to see more or less of. Please email me and don’t forget to head on over to our existing website, www.familyholidaydestinations.com and join the mailing list so you don’t miss out on content that doesn’t make it into the magazine. Jessica Palmer Editor travelwithjess@hotmail.com

www.familyholidaydestinations.com

This magazine includes affiliate links. This means that I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using the link. You may also find links to websites operated by third parties. I do not control these linked websites and are therefore not responsible for the content of any linked websites. I provide the links for my readers convenience only. Linked websites are visited at your own risk. For more information on sponsord posts or PR samples, please see: https://familyholidaydestinations.com/disclosure-statement/

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OFF THE BEATEN PATH IN

THE COOK ISLANDS By Jessica Palmer

THE HARDEST PART OF YOUR HOLIDAY IS CHOOSING WHICH ISLAND TO VISIT!

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he South Pacific is well known for being familyfriendly and the Cook Islands are no exception. The people are welcoming, there is endless sunshine, year-round warm water, crystal-clear lagoons and sandy beaches. New Zealanders have been holidaying here for years. I was told by a friendly local that the Cook Islands are to New Zealand what Fiji is to Australia. Well, I think it’s time Australian families are let in on the secret too! Whether your family likes to relax in luxury or prefers memorable experiences over five-star, there is an island for every family in the Cook Islands.

RAROTONGA

For Families Wanting A Bit Of Everything Rarotonga is the island where all international flights land and despite being the most visited island in the Cooks, it’s not particularly busy. The main road circles the island in only 32km, so it’s virtually impossible to get lost. Highlights of Rarotonga include the natural beauty of both the surrounding lagoon and mountainous interior, snorkelling, swimming, waterfalls, dune buggies, hiking, island nights and eating slow-cooked pork belly at the night markets. Surprisingly, the beaches still feel very much like a locals’ beach. One that you are welcome at regardless of your accommodation choice. Just ask Timmy, one of the friendly locals on Aroa Beach. We met Timmy at the White House Apartments, a great family accommodation option on the ‘quiet’ side of the island. He seemed to particularly enjoy socialising with everyone he met on the beach.

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I watched in amusement as he found some young women relaxing in the sun and made himself at home on the corner of their towel. They looked on in horror as he paused his heavy breathing to scratch himself enthusiastically. Timmy, of course, is a dog. And he definitely doesn’t have fleas. In fact, he’s quite clean! I should know, I checked before I let the kids pat him. Rarotonga is the perfect blend of modern niceties without the annoying chaos that goes with it. Chickens roam freely, yet the cars and scooters that maneuver around them are modern. Nobody drives over 50km per hour, and even slower in ‘town’ areas. As soon as you turn off the circle island road, you are blessed with the lush greenness of the islands interior. This is where you experience the real Rarotonga. It’s where you find great hiking tracks, a waterfall to swim under, and locals that happily share their fruit tree’s bounty with you. For families on a budget, renting a house for the week can be a lot cheaper than a resort and you will also have the added bonus of being able to save money by selfcatering. We recommend the White House Apartment which is within 100m of Aroa beach, one of the most beautiful on the island. If budget doesn’t allow flying to the outer islands, you will not be disappointed with a week spent in Rarotonga.

ATIU

For Adventurous Families Who Love Nature The island of Atiu is ideal for adventurous families who would prefer to spend time in nature. Taking less than an


INFORMATION Ummm ... Where Are The Cook Islands? Well, they’re actually closer than you think! Located northeast of New Zealand in the South Pacific Ocean, there are 15 major islands spread over 2,200,000km2 of ocean. Flying time is around 6 hours from Sydney, 4 hours from Auckland or just over 9.5 hours from LA. Will They Take My Money? Only if you’ve swapped it for some New Zealand Dollars! When Should I Visit? The Cook Islands enjoys a year-round tropical environment. The best time to visit depends on your personal preference. Many Australian come in June to August to escape Winter but we think April and May are great as the wet season is just finishing up and it’s not yet peak season

hour by plane from Rarotonga, a sign at the airport reads: ‘’Would passengers please hand in their AK47’s, bazookas, grenades, explosive and nukes to the pilot on boarding the aircraft. Airport Management thanks you for your cooperation.” Being that airport security is almost non-existent, it seems the residents of Atiu have a sense of humour! The coastline is characterised 4 by makatea (fossilised coral), rising over six metres in spots. Nestled between these cliffs are completely deserted, white sandy coves to explore. Families can hire either scooters (kids double on the back) or a car, and drive the circle island track exploring the many deserted beaches. Unlike Rarotonga, Atiu’s reef is fairly close to shore (no more than 50m wide) resulting in a shallow lagoon teeming with marine life. It’s incredibly dramatic and unique. With a resident population of around 400, peak hour traffic consists of two scooters passing each other with a friendly wave. It’s possible to drive around the whole island and not see another vehicle until you reach the harbour, where you will find the local kids doing flips off the concrete walls into the ocean. You do have to watch out for wild pigs, goats and falling coconuts though! Adventurous families will love a tour to Anatakitaki Cave, surrounded by thick jungle and banyan tree roots. The cave features stalagmites, stalactites, a high chambered natural cathedral and a freshwater underground cave pool that you can swim in by candlelight! It’s also the only known home to the very rare Kopeka, a fascinating bird that never lands outside the cave and basically thinks its a bat.

Opening Image: A deserted cove on the island of Atiu. Above top: Arriving at Atiu’s small airport. Above: Electric Tuk-Tuk tour of Rarotonga with Tik-e Tours.

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Atiu is an unspoilt paradise with fresh air, clear ocean water and squeaky clean sand. There is no large township and no light pollution dulling your view of the night sky. We recommend staying at the Atiu Villas, giving you the perfect blend of getting off-the-beaten-track yet still staying somewhere comfortable.

AITUTAKI

For Families Who Want A Slice of Paradise The island of Aitutaki is often touted as having one of the world’s most beautiful lagoons. As you first catch sight of its turquoise waters from the plane window (less than an hour from Rarotonga), you will understand why. A lot of people visit on the popular Air Rarotonga day tour from Rarotonga, but all who do wish they had planned to stay longer. Most of the activities on Aitutaki centre around the lagoon, which is so large that Rarotonga, the largest island in the Cooks, can fit inside it. Aitutaki is dwarfed by it at just 18 square kilometres in size. Highlights include snorkelling, swimming, day trips to stunning motus, getting your passport stamped on One Foot Island and hiking up to Aitutaki’s highest point for 360 degree views of the lagoon. If you were to ask my kids about the highlights, they would tell you it’s the crab racing! We raced crabs on every island we visited but for some reason, the ones on Aitutaki seem to be on steroids. Basically, you draw a circle in the sand, place your chosen hermit crab in the middle, and wait to see which crab makes it out of the circle first. After a brief argument (which I lost) on who was naming their crab ‘’Speedy’’, I settled on ‘’Crabby McCrab Face’’ and we all stood around cheering our crabs on.

Above: Hermit crab on the island of Aitutaki Right: Beach front in Aitutaki Next page top: Finding the shipwreck on the island of Mauke Next page below right: Swinging from the South Pacific’s largest banyan tree on the island of Mauke

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‘’Go Crabby McCrab Face! … Go Speedy! … Go Lightning!’’ My son was jumping up and down in excitement in nothing but swimming undies. His crab had a shell about the size of my fist as he was convinced that bigger meant faster. I had chosen the smallest crab, selected because I figured it was too small to nip me. Crabby McCrab Face was by far the most energetic and was out of the circle and making a break for freedom before the other two had even hit the halfway point. So racing crabs probably isn’t high on your bucket list, but it is a great activity to occupy the kids while you relax on the white sands of tropical paradise. We recommend Are Kapakapa for a holiday home or Kuru Club for an eco-friendly beach front experience. The luxurious Pacific Resort Aitutaki seem to be only welcoming children over the age of 12. This is really disappointing because families with younger kids like to splurge sometimes too. Now you can save the splurging for activities instead!

MAUKE

For Families Who Want To Go Off The Beaten Path Mauke is perfect for adventuring off the beaten path. With a coastline similar to the island of Atiu, expect to find numerous deserted coves as you set off to explore the 18km circle island track either by scooter or car. Families can trek through the jungle to swing from the roots of what is possibly the South Pacific’s Largest Banyan Tree, jump from harbour walls into the ocean, swim in a saltwater and freshwater cave pool and visit one of the most unique churches on the planet.


You can even go in search of a shipwreck! “Trust me, I’ve been swinging from this tree since I was a little boy!” said Clem, our charismatic tour guide on the island of Mauke. Clem is nearly 60, so his decades of experience swinging from this tree gave me confidence it wouldn’t break! I leaned back and pushed my legs out in front of me before I could talk myself out of it, moving about a metre. It turns out I’d forgotten how to swing from a tree. Clem came to the rescue by giving me a push, and away I went gliding slowly through the huge root system of the giant tree. The kids yelled out encouraging words such as, “Don’t let go, it will really hurt if you fall off!” Having old fashioned fun is a requirement here as TV reception is virtually non-existent and if you want to check emails, you will need to stand in front of the telecommunications shop in ‘‘town’’. There are no pesky signs forbidding you not to swing from trees, jump from the harbour walls into the ocean, or demand that footwear must be worn. In fact, most of the kids here don’t wear shoes. Why would you need shoes on an island that has no snakes? Out of the 15 islands in the Cooks, Mauke is referred to as the garden island. Wild flowers grow unchecked,

and we were told that our welcome lei is likely to be particularly beautiful. I am happy to report that our goodbye lei was even more impressive and was given with firm instructions to one day return. After five days, our new friends would not accept a goodbye, and insisted we would see them again. We recommend staying at Ri’s Retreat or Tiare Cottages. There is no such thing as five-star on Mauke but accommodation is comfortable, clean and your hosts will be welcoming. Accommodation can be booked independently through Island Hopper Vacations or via a 2-night flight and package deal with Air Rarotonga.

GETTING THERE • Virgin Australia, Jetstar and Air New Zealand have multiple flights per week from Australia via Auckland. Direct flights are available from Auckland, Sydney and Los Angeles through Air New Zealand.

GETTING TO THE OUTER ISLANDS • Air Rarotonga is the Cook Islands’ domestic carrier and offers packages to the outer islands which are ideal if families are short on time or just want someone to take care of the details. More information ocan be found on the Air Rarotonga website.

MORE INSPIRATION More inspiration on the Cook Islands can be found on Family Holiday Destination’s Cook Islands Blog Page and on the official Cook Islands Tourism website.

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THUMBS UP

FOR HOLIDAYS THAT GIVE BACK

INTREPID TRAVEL

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ntrepid offers a range of family holidays and tours that strike the perfect balance between group time and family time. Smaller groups are a specialty with only three to five families, big enough to create a good social vibe for both kids and adults. Families looking to keep costs down can opt for a Basic trip style, alternatives include Original and Comfort styles. Single-parent family trips are also available!

Intrepid Deserves a Thumbs Up Because ... As the world’s first travel B Corp, Intrepid Travel follows strict ethical standards on sustainability, supply chains and social responsibility. They’ve been carbon neutral since 2010, and offset carbon emissions from their global business offices and trips by supporting various projects all over the world. Becoming B Corp certified is no easy task. Companies must pass a minimum threshold of 80 points in their assessments of how well they are governed, how well staff are treated, and what they do to benefit communities, customers and the environment. Intrepid not only treads lightly but makes a real difference by investing in local communities, human rights initiatives, the environment and wildlife conservation projects. A goal was set to double their number of female leaders by 2020, which has now been achieved. Female leaders make up almost 30% of all leaders. Watch Becky’s story on Intrepid’s YouTube channel, the first female to be employed as a truck driver in East Africa.

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Top left & top right: Morocco Family Holiday/Intrepid Travel Top middle & above right: Egypt Family Holiday/Intrepid Travel Right: Peru Family Holiday/Intrepid Travel

The Intrepid Foundation (their not-for-profit arm) matches all donations dollar-for-dollar and covers all administrative costs, so 100% goes directly to the grassroots projects they support around the world. Since 2002, the Intrepid Foundation has donated over AU $7.5 million. More Information can be found on the Intrepid Travel website. Make sure to click on ‘themes’ and then scroll down to ‘family’ to explore all the family options.


DISCOVER CORPS

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iscover Corps offers family vacations with purpose across different trip types: Nature and wildlife adventures and cultural explorations. Nature and wildlife adventures will see your family join conservationists and researchers working to protect some of the earth’s most beautiful and endangered species. Whether releasing baby sea turtles into the ocean in Costa Rica or bathing elephants in their natural habitat in Thailand, these intimate encounters will never be forgotten.

Each trip differs in the amount of volunteering offered so depending on the trip you have chosen, families may find themselves spending two-hours collecting data on a walk with conservationist in Kenya, or 16 hours volunteering to build bottle homes in the Dominican Republic. More Information can be found on the Discover Corps website. Click on either ‘trip types’ or ‘Our Destinations’ for inspiration and to narrow down your search.

Discover Corps Deserves a Thumbs Up Because ... Like Intrepid, Discover Corps is also certified B-Corp, meaning that unlike traditional businesses, they meet comprehensive and transparent social and environmental performance standards. Their trips combine volunteering with cultural exchange opportunities, but all are designed to be fun for families and friends. There is flexibility to explore on your own and the experiences can be enjoyed without sacrificing comfort by staying in unique lodges that welcome families. Trips are built on sustainable travel principles so your family will not only experience an authentic and inspiring journey, but it will improve the lives of the people you visit. When travelling with Discover Corps, feel good knowing you are supporting small-scale entrepreneurs to channel resources to local communities and preserve their cultural heritage. Top left: Thailand The Baby Elephant Experience/Discover Corps Top right: Tanzania Safari & Service/Discover Corps Right: Kenya Safari & Conservation/Discover Corps Right top: China Panda Conservation Adventure

‘‘We believe you can savor authentic experiences without the rough conditions.’’ (Discover Corps) 8


Discover Turtles at

MON REPOS By Jessica Palmer

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Memorable Experience for the Whole Family on Queensland’s Coral Coast!

‘’Who remembers what kind of turtle this is?’’ the ranger asked the kids, the majority of who were sitting on their knees in the sand around her. It’s past bed-time for most of the kids here, but despite this, my seven-year-old quickly recalled the answer. ‘’A Loggerhead!’’ he yelled out excitedly. Shuffling over to me, he asked in a whisper, ‘’Do you think I’ll get to hold one of the eggs?’’ Before I could answer, my daughter (aged four) whispered excitedly, ‘’Can I hold one too?’’ Luckily for them, they did indeed get to hold a turtle egg! The mother turtle laid all 145 of her eggs a little close to the high tide line so to maximise the chance of survival for the hatchlings, the rangers decided to move them higher up in the dunes. We all had the opportunity to carry an egg about 15 metres further up the beach. The checkout operator at Aldi, the fuel station cashier and countless other random strangers were all treated to random turtle facts by the kids for weeks afterwards. Heading out on a nightly turtle encounter tour at Mon Repos is a memorable experience for the whole family and should definitely be added to your Australian bucket list! Each year, from November to March, you too can join Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service Rangers at the Mon Repos Turtle Centre near Bundaberg on a guided tour to watch nesting and hatching marine turtles. The nesting occurs from November to January and the hatchlings emerge from January to March. Mon Repos is a globally-significant site, supporting the largest concentration of nesting marine turtles on the eastern mainland of Australia. As the most significant loggerhead turtle nesting population in the South Pacific region, the success of the nesting and hatching at Mon Repos is critical to the survival of this endangered species.

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Top & Right: Hatchlings - Photo: Tourism & Events Queensland

What to Expect on the Night A shuttle bus will take your family from the Mon Repos car park to the new $22 million world-class turtle centre where you will be placed in your Turtle Encounters group for the night. The rangers go out to “do the rounds’’ and when turtle activity is found, return to take the groups out one-by-one. While you wait your turn, there is plenty to do in the Mon Repos Turtle Centre. Here you can learn about turtles with interactive exhibits or just enjoy the cafe and gift shop. The interactive exhibits are family-friendly, modern and feature a Junior Discovery zone. The kids can also read books or play with kinetic sand in a standup sandbox. The adventure really begins when the ranger returns for your group! Feeling your way down a wooden boardwalk to the beach in the dark is all part of the adventure. It’s important to turn off all lights, including mobile phones, as the light confuses the turtles. In the nesting season from November to January, you will witness the mother turtle lay her eggs, averaging 120 130 at a time.


If she lays them in a spot that the rangers feel make them vulnerable, they will be carefully transferred to a more appropriate location a little further up the beach. Your group may get the opportunity to help! Rangers will take measurements of the turtle and record data. If she has been previously tagged, they will radio back to base to get information on the turtle’s age and history. There is a small opportunity to take photographs but for the most part, devices are packed away for the sake of the turtles. When our turtle had laid her eggs and covered them back over with sand, the ranger indicated for the group to part and the massive loggerhead slowly made her way back down the beach to the waters edge in the dark. We followed quietly at a safe distance and lit only by moonlight, she could easily be mistaken for a large rock when she paused to take a break. My kids held hands as they followed her down the beach, a little afraid of the dark and keeping close to the ranger.

Light Pollution is a BIG Problem for Turtles At night, hatching find their way from the nest to the ocean by moving towards the lightest horizon they see. If a landscape is untouched, this will be over the ocean and the hatchlings will travel quickly in the right direction. However, nesting beaches are often found near camping areas, towns and resorts and the artificial lights on the horizon can confuse the turtles. The hatchlings can head in the wrong direction and as dawn approaches, chances of survival are minimal. They become exhausted from wandering around, overheat or become a meal for a hungry bird. We can make a difference by cutting the glow of lights during the breeding season. Whether you are a visitor, business or local resident, switch off unnecessary lights, close the curtains, face lights away from the beach, plant vegetation to create a light barrier and only use a small torch on the beach.

I was very aware this was a special moment for both them and myself ... to have the privilege of witnessing such a wonder of nature. The mother turtle, who at 39 years weighed around 100kg, made the journey from the sand dune to the waters edge look hard. When she reached the depth of water that allowed her to move easier, she disappeared under the water and quickly moved out of sight. I like to think she heard us clapping and cheering as she reappeared and quickly disappeared back under the water one last time. Back at the visitor centre , we had one last look around before the shuttle bus took us back to the carpark. By now, it was a couple of hours past the kid’s usual 7 pm bed-time and both fell asleep in the car, only to be carried to bed in the day’s clothes. Top - Left to Right: Mon Repos Beach Access - Photo: Tourism & Events Queensland. Hatchling on Beach - Photo: Jewels Lynch/Tourism & Events Queensland Right - Left to Right: Mother Turtle and Turtle Eggs - Photos: Lauren Bath/Tourism & Events Queensland

INFORMATION Where is Mon Repos? It’s just over four hours north of Brisbane and 15 minutes east of Bundaberg on the east coast of Australia. (Yes, home to THE Bundaberg Rum). I need baby turtles in my life! How do I get tickets? The guided turtle encounters run seven nightsa-week during turtle tour season from November to late March. Bookings are essential and can be made

online through the Bundaberg Visitor Information Centre, or by phoning 1300 722 099. Aim to arrive no later than 6:30 pm for shuttle bus transfer to the turtle centre.

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Books For Kids That Inspire Adventure

Inspire Them To Travel Our Wonderful World One Story at a Time ... Books give us the opportunity to show children about the people and places that are currently outside of their own experience!

Babies - 4 Years

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ood night world is a cute

bedtime story that introduces many of our planet’s fantastic places in a trip across the globe. It’s ideal for parents who want to share a love of nature with their children.

Ages 4 - 7 Years

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he Snail and the Whale is one of

my all-time favorite picture books about a tiny snail who longs to see the world. He hitches a ride on the tail of a humpback whale, becoming unlikely friends and travelling to far-off lands where they see amazing things. The Whale ends up beached in a bay and it’s up to the tiny snail to save his friend.

Ages 8 - 12 Years

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lat Stanley’s Worldwide Adventures 6 - The African Safari Discovery is one of my

favourites in the series as Flat Stanley visits Africa and finds himself on an exciting safari adventure with his family. The world was first introduced to Flat Stanley in 1964, and now over 50 years later, Flat Stanley can be used to introduce your child to the world. In the original book by Jeff Brown, Stanley Lambchop gets squashed flat by a falling bulletin board. This turns out to be not so bad, as now Stanley can easily travel around the world by being posted in an envelope! Kids can jump online, print out a ‘Flat Stanley’ and take snaps of him on your own adventures.

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etters From Felix is about a cute

P

enguin’s Big Adventure is an

adorable board book about trying new things. Penguin sets out on an adventure to become the first penguin to explore the North Pole. This book is ideal for parents who want to gently encourage their children to try new things.

stuffed rabbit who gets lost at the airport when returning from a family vacation. Sophie, his owner, is upset at the loss of her favorite toy but soon starts receiving letters from Felix from abroad. Sophie receives five letters, which readers can remove from envelopes within the books pages and read.

Authors Note: This article was originally written for Discover Corps, one of our ‘‘Thumbs Up’’ features on page 8. This page features a selection of books from the original article however you can read the full article on their website here.

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Piggyback Rider Standing Child Carrier

The last piece of kid gear you need to buy! So... What Exactly IS the Piggyback Rider?

The Piggyback Rider in Action

The Piggyback Rider is a standing child carrier for toddlers older than 2 years and up to 22kg (50lbs). It’s an alternative to strollers and bulky backpack carriers.

What’s it used for? Hiking, travelling, shopping, beaches, zoos, amusements parks and crowded places. Anywhere your child is likely to ask to be carried or anywhere you would like to keep them close.

Why I love it It takes up about as much space as a rolled-up towel and is easy to use. I’m onto my second child and it shows no sign of wearing out. The Piggyback Rider is a great solution for a young child that can’t keep up on hikes, or manage a busy day at the zoo without asking to be carried. It gives them the independence to hop on and off as they please and allows me to explore further with them. I personally love it for hiking, peace of mind and better views in crowded places such as parades, and crossing hectic roads in foreign counties (I’m looking at you Vietnam).

What I didn’t like The whistle on the kids backpack. I know its a safety feature but a toddler with a whistle is not fun.

More Information www.piggybackrider.com

Above: Visiting Bich Dong Pagoda in Ninh Binh, Vietnam. Photo: Jessica Palmer Left: Climbing stairs in Vietnam. Photo: Jessica Palmer. Far Left: Hiking in the Glass House Mountains, Australia. Photos: Jessica Palmer.

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Family Friendly

SINGAPORE By Jessica Palmer

Singapore Doesn’t Brag About Being Family Friendly, It Shows You ...

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t shows you with clean public restrooms and kid sized toilets and sinks. It shows you with a clockwork public transport system, clean streets and free attractions. From the taxi driver who didn’t want to charge us because my husband bonded with him over rugby, to the bag stealing monkeys on a little time-warped island ten minutes off the coast, Singapore turned out to be absolutely fantastic! Families will find it comforting to know that SafeAround, a website that assesses risk levels in more than 100 countries and cities worldwide, lists Singapore as the fifth safest country in the world. To compare, Australia comes in at No. 12 and the U.S. comes in at No. 49.

Go Back in Time on Pulau Ubin Island “Mum look, that monkey has a bag!” yelled my son. Sure enough, the little long-tailed macaque monkey sitting in the middle of the dirt road was up to his shoulder rummaging around in the bag. Not a fancy one, but the reusable fabric kind you get from the supermarket. I suspect that someone had put the bag down fully expecting their lunch to be waiting for them upon return. I couldn’t help myself. I started laughing. He didn’t look in the slightest bit guilty that he had just been caught red-handed stealing.

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Top: Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay. Right: Chek Jawa Boardwalk on Pulau Ubin Island. Photos: Jessica Palmer

We were on the island of Pulau Ubin, and despite being only a ten-minute boat trip from the Singapore mainland, it’s nothing like modern Singapore. Pulau Ubin is best described as rustic, although many will tell you it’s reminiscent of Singapore’s Kampong (village) life six decades earlier. The most popular activity for visitors on Pulau Ubin Island is to hire a pushbike and spend an enjoyable morning exploring the islands back roads. Like many others before us, we headed to Chek Jawa wetlands to experience nature at its best. Here you can take a stroll over two different wooden boardwalks, one of which weaves through the mangroves and the other which heads out over the ocean where at low tide, the marine life can be viewed underfoot. Expect to see monkeys, lizards, birds, and all sorts of weird and wonderful wildlife. Also, don’t believe anyone who tells you it’s a ‘flat’ ride to Chek Jawa. It’s not!


Spend a Morning at the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden

Visit Singapore’s Premiere Attraction

Although mainland Singapore is green, it’s about as far from rustic as any city or country could possibly get. It’s not often families can enjoy an extended city break whilst surrounding themselves in nature. I make it my mission to visit the Botanical Gardens of every city we visit, enjoying the native plants and landscaped gardens. The fact they are nearly always free to visit and usually have plenty of space to let the kids loose is a huge bonus. Singapore has taken it one step further and created the first garden in Asia dedicated to children. The Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden is located in Singapore’s Botanic Gardens and is hands down, one of the best places to visit in Singapore with kids. It’s completely free to visit and the gardens feature lots of interactive activities such as a hedge maze, zip-line, obstacle course, playground, waterplay area, plant potting and a sensory garden.

‘’What did you think of the lights?’’ I asked my son as we sat on the MRT, aka the Mass Rapid Transport system or Singapore’s rail system. ‘’It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in my life!’’ he enthusiastically replied. My daughter had fallen asleep in my arms but had enjoyed the night-time light and sound show at Gardens by the Bay just as much as her older brother had.

Chill With the Locals at the East Coast Park and Beach Singapore’s East Coast Park is one of those great places the locals know about but isn’t really on the tourist radar. The beach is no French Polynesia or Cook Islands, but it’s still a pretty 15 km stretch of beach and park area that doesn’t cost a cent to visit. The massive playground ensures there are other kids to play with and like many coastal parks, there is sand, grassy areas, restaurants and great walking paths which double as skating and cycling paths.

Top Left: East Coast Park and Beach Top Right: Inside the Cloud Forest Dome at Gardens by the Bay Left: Walking on a break wall at the East Coast Park and Beach Above: Entering the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden Photos: Jessica Palmer

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ardens by the Bay is 249 acres (101 hectares) of world-class nature park. In my opinion, families need to visit Gardens by the Bay twice. The first time during the day to visit the two spectacular domes, wander around Supertree Grove and gardens, and let the kids play in the zero-depth water-park. The second time at night, to watch Supertree Grove light up with sound and music in a world-class show. Although this is a popular nightly event, there is still plenty of room to move despite the crowds. This is absolutely worth keeping the kids up past their bed-time for. Gardens by the Bay is free to visit, but there is a cost to enter the two domes or walk on the OCBC skyway high up among the Supertrees. Both are worth the additional costs, especially the domes which are cooled to a sublime temperature which sees families escaping Singapore’s humidity.

Take in the Views From the Singapore Flyer It was a blustery afternoon when we boarded the Singapore Flyer, a giant Ferris wheel in the heart of Singapore. The grey clouds were looming, the humidity was oppressive and the kids were at the end of their patience. It seems we chose the busiest time to visit, so the line to board the 30 minute ride took longer than the ride itself.

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All was forgiven when we stepped into the glass-walled capsule. The Singapore Flyer is a world apart from any carnival-type Ferris wheel you have ever ridden, this is both sleek and modern with a large bench seat in the middle and a decent amount of standing room. There are two i-pads mounted on opposite sides of the capsule, allowing families to learn more about different areas of the city. I feared the kids would miss the view as they were engrossed in the technology, but when we reached the highest point at 165m they tore themselves away to take in the views of the Colonial District, Marina Bay, and the South China Sea full of giant ships. Luckily they did, as the heavens finally opened and the flyer’s descent featured heavy raindrops racing down the glass dome, mostly obscuring our view.

Marvel at the Beautiful Mosques in Little India and Kampong Glam For a healthy dose of atmosphere and culture, head to the Little India and Kampong Glam areas of Singapore. Masjid Sultan (or the Sultan Mosque) is one of the country’s most impressive religious buildings and judging by the street leading to it which is overflowing with restaurants and nik-naks, it’s also one of the most visited. Head to the Tekka Centre in Little India to buy some beautiful Indian style dresses, or organise a tailor to custom make something special.


Little Princesses will find Disney themed dresses and little men will find brand names and superhero-themed clothes. Judging by the low prices, I doubt the brand names are the real deal.

Splurge on Sentosa Island It’s easy to burn a hole in your wallet in Singapore, but despite popular belief, it’s actually easy not to as well. Unfortunately, paying a visit to Sentosa Island is not one of the places that’s kind to your wallet. Sentosa Island deserves its title of ‘’The Island of Fun’’ and if you’re going to splurge in Singapore, this is the place to do it. There are lots of attractions packed into this small island, including Universal Studios Singapore, SEA Aquarium, Wave House, Adventure Cove Waterpark, Kidzania and more. Although the beaches are man-made on Sentosa, once Singapore’s humidity kicks in, you won’t care one bit. Head to Palawan Beach for its family-friendly playgrounds, parks and beautiful lagoon.

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Enjoy the Greenery at Fort Canning Park and Macritchie Reservoir After a day or two spent on Sentosa, pay a visit to Fort Canning Park or Macritchie Reservoir to give your wallet a break. Fort Canning Park makes for a shady, green retreat and features a fascinating war history within the bunkers located inside the hill the park rests on. Families are able to tour the underground bunkers throughout certain times of the day. It’s an ideal picnic spot with green grassy areas, a spice garden and museum, historical buildings and steps to wear the kids out. Macritchie Reservoir is another green retreat, although this one is popular with locals looking to keep fit. It features hiking tracks, exercise equipment, canoe hire and bike trails. Families can stroll around the reservoir or if up for a decent hike, could aim for the Tree Top Walk, which will see you traversing a 250m long suspension bridge 25 metres up in the air.

More Than a Stopover …

FACTS

Singapore is so much more than a stopover en-route to somewhere else. Despite its small size, families can easily spend a week here and still have plenty to see and do. You can forget about the oppressive concrete jungle feeling that usually goes hand in hand with cities, it just doesn’t exist in Singapore...

GETTING TO SINGAPORE:

...Singapore is perfectly clean, green and family-friendly! Opp. Page Top Left: Garden by the Bay. Top Right: Historical building at Fort Canning Park. Middle Right: The Sultan Mosque or Masjid Sultan. Right: Jellyfish on display at SEA Aquarium on Sentosa Island. Photos: Jessica Palmer

Qantas, Virgin and Singapore Airlines fly regularly from Australia. Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Qatar and Etihad fly regularly from the USA.

GETTING AROUND SINGAPORE: Download the MoovIt App for public transport directions. If you prefer Taxis, the Grab App works a treat in Singapore

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Spotlight on Camping at ...

Takarakka Bush Resort to Explore

Carnarvon Gorge By Jessica Palmer

“Carnarvon Gorge deserves to be listed alongside Australia’s other great icons such as Uluru and Kings Canyon.’’

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y son yelled excitedly, “Look Mum. That ones got a baby in its belly!” I had given the kids the important job of spotting wildlife and so far, we had only walked about 50 metres from the car park. “How do you know it’s not just fat?”, I heard their dad ask from behind me. “Cause I can see it’s head!” came the quick reply. We all turned and looked as the beautiful mum looked back at us curiously. I got the feeling if I took another step closer she would turn and bound away, so I quickly snapped a few photos. As well as being full of cute wildlife, Carnarvon National Park is incredibly picturesque. Carnarvon Gorge deserves to be listed alongside Australia’s other great icons such as Uluru and Kings Canyon. Yes, it’s that unique and awesome! And much like Australia’s other beloved icons, it’s also located smack in the middle of no-where, in this case, Outback Queensland! Carnarvon Gorge is best explored on foot and fortunately, all of the tracks are signposted, making it hard for even someone like me who gets lost regularly, to lose their way.

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Walks range from short and sweet to long and aweinspiring and everything in between. Although the longer walks will be more suited to those families with older children, there are plenty of fantastic tracks suitable for younger kids or adults that just don’t feel up to it.

Top Walks at Carnarvon Gorge Under 7km The Nature Trail 1.5km return from the visitor area Taking around an hour at an easy pace, this walk is ideal for younger kids and a great introduction to hiking. There are shallow creek crossings that involve picking your way across using small boulders and plenty of wildlife spotting to keep the kids occupied. Mickey Creek Gorge 3km return from the Mickey Creek car park Partway along this trail the path splits in two. If you take the path to the right, you will find yourself in an off-track adventure with some easily managed rock hopping and narrow gorge walls that you can touch with a hand on each side. If you take the path moving forward, the track stops at a picturesque spot on the creek with plenty of boulders to chill out on.


The Rock Pool 600m return from the Rock Pool car park The Rock Pool is a peaceful retreat with turtles basking in the sun and shy platypus that you may catch a glimpse of around sunset. Surrounded by fig and casuarina trees, this is one of only two places you can go swimming. The Moss Garden 7km return from the visitor area The moss garden walk is simply just stunning. Rock hopping over shallow creeks and wildlife go a long way towards keeping the kids from asking, ‘‘Are we there yet?’’ When you reach the actual Moss Garden, you will find a seating area that looks toward a small waterfall tumbling over a rock ledge, surrounded by ferns, liverworts and lush carpets of moss. The moss garden is the perfect example of nature at its prettiest. More Walks! Don’t discount the longer walks as they are particularly fascinating. Other walks include the Amphitheatre (8.6km return), Wards Canyon (9.2km return), Art Gallery (10.8km return), Cathedral Cave (18.2km return) and more. Top Tip for Families Have a plan in place for carrying younger children when they are tired. I love the ErgoBaby carrier for babies, the Kathmandu Hiking Carrier for older babies and the Piggy Back Rider (featured on page 12) for independent little ones. Opp. Page Top: Carnarvon Gorge Landscape - Phone: Tourism & Events QLD Opp Page Left: The Moss Garden - Photo: Jessica Palmer Top L-R: Kangaroo and Joey - Photo: Jessica Palmer. Creek crossing at the beginning of the Moss Walk - Photo: Jessica Palmer.

Stay at Takarakka Bush Resort!

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akarakka Bush Resort is incredibly family-friendly, open all year round and located less than 4km from the mouth of Carnarvon Gorge. The location features natural surrounds, plenty of wildlife and a beautiful creek with platypus. The reason we love Takarakka Bush Resort for families is because they go above and beyond when it comes to offering that little ‘’extra’’ for those travelling with kids. During school holidays, there is free entertainment such as crafts, activities, pop-corn and movies. The entertainment centres around the bush-bar, where visitors gather at 4pm for a spot of socialising. Takarakka Bush Resort is set on 100 acres surrounded by Carnarvon Creek and is also home to one of only two places you can swim in all of Carnarvon Gorge. There are powered and un-powered sights for tents and caravans or if you’re not set up yet, choose from self-contained accommodation or a glamping Taka Safari Tent. Kids have space to ride their bikes and there is even a well-stocked general store with souvenirs, beer and wine. The two-course roast dinner on offer a few nights a week is a real highlight.

Facts Getting to Takarakka Bush Resort: Takarakka is halfway between Roma and Emerald, just off the A7 Carnarvon Highway. It’s 700km northwest of Brisbane and 400km southwest of Rockhampton. The small towns of Rolleston and Injune are the nearest places to get fuel. BOOK EARLY DURING SCHOOL HOLIDAYS!

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