Whale watching in Australia

I had posted earlier about Whale watching in Byron bay, Australia. Recently came across a nice Google map-based feature on the Greenpeace site which helps you track actual whale movements in the oceans around Australia & New Zealand. Here is the link.

Here are the links to all my Australia posts as well as posts on Beach Vacations.

Online booking : Travelocity vs HotelClub

I booked all my hotels online, sitting at my desk in Bangalore, for my recent Australia trip. 2 hotels in Sydney on Travelocity and one place in Byron bay on Hotelclub. Here is the analysis.

The great thing is about Travelocity is that they have an India site, with prices quoted in INR. I have a suspicion they also have “Indian” (read : cheaper) prices for a few hotels to attract the Indian market. Also, it was comforting to have a Delhi/Gurgaon phone number to call if needed. The booking was smooth – even the second Sydney hotel I did just 3 days before stay. But when I landed up at the second hotel (Oaks Maestri Towers, in Sydney), the reception informed me that thy had no record of my booking. One serious negative strike against Travelocity. Fortunately, they had vacant rooms and I got a a free upgrade. But this will make me do some double-checking with the hotel the next time I use Travelocity. I would say Travelocity gets a 70% approval rating.

HotelClub had a few options for Byron Bay, whereas Travelocity had practically none (in fact Travelocity did not have Byron bay listed as a separate destination). The booking process on HotelClub was smooth too and there were no hiccups in getting the booked accommodation. But of course, HotelClub is not a India site & does not have an India contact centre. Also, I would have liked it if HotelClub could have had a few more options listed. On the whole, HotelClub gets a 75% approval rating from me.

Byron Bay

Seems this is the best-known “undiscovered” place in Australia – so I decided on a dekko. In any case I had wanted to try out Virgin Blue, so booked with them for the one hour flight north from Sydney to Ballina/Byron Bay.

Byron Bay used to be a hang out for hippies, so it still retains the charms of an ageing hippy. Long hair & wispy beards complement a distinct undertone of vaguely “eastern” influences. But since the 80s, yuppies and international back-packers have discovered Byron Bay. So, yoga classes and spiritual sessions mix easily with hordes of surfers and whale-watchers.

Almost everyone I met in Byron Bay was relaxed & friendly. It could be that I went in the Winter there and without too many tourists, locals had a chance to stand & converse. Or it could be that I had 3 days of no work all, making me a relaxed person to talk to. Either way, they were friendly.

The sea in Byron Bay has this extraordinarily blue colur of water. Jutting into the water is the cliff face of the Cape Byron Headland Reserve. Hiking up & down the trails of the Reserve, along the seaface, with the water on one side and dense tropical coastal forest on the other is something I would earnestly recommend.

Byron Bay is the eastern-most point of Australia and a great place to watch for whales, while they migrate to & back from The Great Barrier Reef.

I spent a blissful 3 days in Byron Bay, wandering up and down. Couldnt get to meet Olivia Newton John though; she owns a resort there and was in town while I was there. Munching battered fish & chips in The Fish Heads was great too. Sure beats getting my head chewed by the rush hour traffic in Bangalore.

Click here & here to get a couple of interesting perspectives on Byron Bay. Or click here for all my posts on beach vacations.

Also, here is a Byron Bay video I found in Youtube