10 Moments that will want to make you book an African getaway with G adventures

What you might not know about me, is like most from Canada, I am a first generation Canadian. Both of my parents are originally from South Africa. As a young girl, I would go back to visit every other year. Yet as I grew older, life got in the way. The trips back to visit slowed down and eventually stopped. It has been eighteen years since the last time I visited South Africa. Eighteen years since I had seen my family, eighteen years since I had experienced the beauty of Africa, and eighteen years seemed far too long.

A different way to travel to Africa 

This time around though, I wanted to do things a little different. i wanted to explore parts of Africa that I had never been to before and so instead of trying to navigate this country on my own, I decided to do a group tour.

I have done group tours in the past and I feel like they are an amazing way to travel. Firstly they help you get from point A to point B safely. They provide you with excursion ideas and help you set up everything that you want to do. It is also an amazing way to connect with like minded travellers.

I decided to travel this time round with the Canadian company G Adventures. I will get more into this decision a little later on as well as in a follow up blog, but in the meantime I wanted to focus on the amazing experience.

The adventure was 9 days with stops at the Kruger National Park, a private game reserve, and Zimbabwe. During that time I had a chance to get up close and personal to a family of elephants and soar above one of the natural wonders of the world. It was truly a once in a life time trip with memories that will last forever and I am excited to share some of the top moments with you. 

My top 10 moments with G adventures

1) Staying in an adorable guesthouse

Johannesburg definitely gets a bad reputation, but I had the most amazing experience there, particularly at our adorable guesthouse, Malikana. This family run spot had the most amazing wooden deck patio that overlooked a little animal farm. I watched the springbok jump around while drinking my morning coffee.

The best part of our time here was when we were treated to a home cooked South African Braai. Our host Suki cooked us different kinds of traditional meat with pup and veggies on the side and traditional desserts.

2) Driving the Panorama Route

On our way to the Kruger National Park, we drove one of the most scenic drives I have ever seen. The Panorama Route connects several cultural and natural points of interest and offers spectacular views. I was blown away by the depth and beauty of Blyde Canyon. I have seen the Grand Canyon before, and this spot would definitely give it a run for its money. I was also stunned at the amazing views from God’s Window. From this spot, you really feel like you are on top of the world.

3)Muluwa Lodge 

When we went to visit the Kruger National Park, we had a chance to spend two nights at the adorable Muluwa Lodge. The moment we arrived, we were greeted by their resident giraffes. Our quaint tents overlooked the bush and we had a chance to have morning coffee with the impalas. It was absolutely stunning.

4) Driving in the Kruger National Park

 

As a young girl, I remember some of my most fond memories taking place at Kruger, one of South Africa’s largest parks. Now it was time to make some new memories. The first thing that I noticed during our drive was the smells. The fresh spring air lingered on the tip of my nose.

Despite some rainy conditions, we were so spoiled on our first drive. Not only did we spot the big five (lion leopard, rhino, elephant, and buffalo) we also saw a pack of wild dogs. This is an extremely rare sighting as there are only 180 wild dogs left in the Kruger. It was amazing to see the family of dogs running around and playing with each other. A truly special moment.

5) Staying at  Karongwe Portfolio 

 

After experiencing Karongwe, I cannot suggest a private game reserve enough. Not only were we driving around the bush in an open truck, but we also had a tracker following footsteps and we could go off roading to get even closer to the magnificent animals.

We experienced some amazing moments like a family of elephants walking across our path, three cheetahs out of the hunt, a leopard munching on dinner, and drinking coffee with the hippos. Those were just a few of the highlights.

As for the actual resort, it was something straight out of a movie. Our accommodations were stunning, complete with an outdoor shower, beautiful patio to sit and watch for animals, and a gorgeous pool to cool off after a long day. I treated myself to an amazing massage during our stay and had a chance to experience a delicious outdoor BBQ .

6) Learning about cheetahs from the pros 

During our stay at Kerongwe, we were treated to a talk from a researcher from the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Cheetah Metapopulation Project. We sat through a lecture learning more about cheetah behaviours as part of the National Geographic project the Big Cats Initiative. I also found out that a portion of our money was going towards this project and helping keep cheetahs safe in the wild. Just one of the many reasons I loved traveling with G adventures.

7) Experience the local culture 

 

The second half of our trip took place in Zimbabwe visiting one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls. Before even heading to the falls though, we got to experience the town of Victoria Falls. We went to visit the local market and try some unique foods.

Then we had the chance to have a local meal at a homestead. We sat down with our amazing host Flatter and met her extended family. She made us a traditional Zimbabwean dinner with produce straight from her garden. During the meal she shared with us what a daily life is like and taught us more about the traditions and cultures in Zimbabwe. It was a truly special experience.

8) Take a walking tour of the falls 

Victoria Falls is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, but just walking around doesn’t do it justice. There is so much incredible history here and it was amazing to learn all about it on a guided tour. We learned all about the falls, how it was discovered by David Livingstone, how the locals refer to it as ‘The Smoke that Thunders’, and how you can hear the falls 40KM away. Those were just a few of the incredible facts. It was also amazing because we got to see the falls from sixteen different angles.

9) Experience the falls from the sky 

Seeing the falls from the ground is one thing, but seeing the falls from above will take your breathe away. I had the chance to take a helicopter ride above the falls and it was a truly magical experience. You could see the entire length of the water fall and the beautiful colours of the Zambezi River. 

10) Bring out your inner daredevil by living on the edge 

Our last stop in Victoria Falls is not for the faint of heart. We went swimming at the very top of the falls at Devil’s Pool. After thousands of years of erosion, several rock pools formed around the falls, one of them at the very top. We were able to actually swim in a pool above the falls and even take in the views from the very edge. It was exhilarating.

Why G Adventures 

This trip with G adventures was one of those that was too incredible to be true. From learning about local communities, to watching a leopard pounce at a water buck each day offered new and unforgettable experiences. A reminder of how beautiful this world truly is.

The reason I loved traveling with G Adventures, was their focus on responsible tourism. I have travelled with other companies in the past, but this was the first one that organized local excursions, worked with local companies, and helped us really learn about the places and the people we were visiting.

I later had a chance to learn about their Ripple Score program, which monitors how much of our money stays in the local communities. I was excited to find out that on my trip in particular, 100% of the money stays locally. Not only did this trip give me something incredible, but it felt good knowing that I was able to give these communities something back in return.

I will have more on G Adventures in a later blog post, but in the meantime if you would like to learn more about their Kruger and Victoria Falls trip visit their website; https://www.gadventures.com/trips/explore-kruger-and-victoria-falls/5747/

Happy traveling my friends,

xo

Mia

 

Top places to visit for fall hiking

Now that the smoke from the wildfires has cleared,  it is time to get back outside and enjoy the beautiful outdoors before the rain starts. The fall weather is already in the air and before we know it, the leaves will start changing colours and create a whole different kind of beauty in B.C.

My absolute favourite thing to do outdoors is go for a hike. There is nothing in this world that can compare to looking out over the top of a mountain, seeing beautiful glacier lakes, and breathing in the fresh air. Now add in the changing fall colours, and you have a picture perfect outdoor activity. 

Don’t know where to start when it comes to your fall hike? Well I have a few ideas for you,  especially since I have officially reached my one year mark living out in B.C.

Top 5 day hikes near Vancouver

Here are my favourite five hikes that also aren’t too far from Vancouver that I have discovered so far.

1) Garibaldi Lake

 This one is my absolute favourite hike in B.C. because it holds a pretty special place in my heart. This is where I got engaged and let me tell you, with the beautiful lake and greenery at the top, it was the perfect spot. When you get to the top you can opt to pass through Taylor Meadows, which I highly recommend. Stop and smell the trees and the beautiful flowers on the path before making your way over to the lake. When you see the lake for the first time, you will stop in your tracks. It is a beautiful deep blue. The colour will stun you, even on a cloudy day.  Take a walk around, there are plenty of benches that look out on to the lake and scenery.

Difficulty: This hike was a little more difficult than I thought it would be. It is 9KM up to the lake and it is all slightly uphill switchbacks so be prepared for a bit of a burn.

Pro tip: Go early! A lot of people know about this beautiful gem and so it can get pretty crowded. We started our hike at around 6am and it was perfect.

2) Joffre Lakes

 If beautiful glacier lakes, endless trees, and waterfalls are your thing, then make your way out to Pemberton for a day of hiking Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. The first lake is  an easy 5 minute walk and its crystal blue colours and mountain views will truly be spectacular. Guess what? Somehow it only gets better from here. Each lake sparkles in the light, and the hike to the top has you twisting through all of the colours of fall. 

Difficulty: This hike has moments were it is a really steep climb but over all pretty balanced. It is long so prepare to spend all day but I would say it would be medium difficulty.

Pro tip: Just like Garibaldi, it can get really crowded so go early. Also, while I found the second lake the prettiest of them all, I would highly recommend taking the time to explore all three. Each one of them is slightly different but absolutely beautiful.

3) Dog Mountain

Looking for an easy hike really close to Vancouver but also offers spectacular views? Then Dog Mountain is the spot for you.  This hike is located on Mt. Seymour. It will take somewhere between an hour and an hour and a half to make it to the top. Don’t let the short hike fool you though, the views from the top are spectacular. You get the full city on one side and the mountains on the other. There are plenty of picture perfect spots along the way, included a cute little lake.

Difficulty: This hike can get a little muddy since it is a pretty narrow path, but it isn’t too difficult. If you love hiking, you will make it to the top no problem.

Pro tip: pack a little picnic for the top of the mountain and stay to enjoy the views from one of the rocks at the top.

4) St. Mark’s Summit

St. Mark’s Summit is also pretty close to downtown and on the Howe Sound Crest Trail. I love this hike because it truly offers a little bit of everything. There is a beautiful meadow about half way up the hike. Once you get to the summit you are in for a real treat. It is a pretty steep hike, making the vertical views from the top both frightening and majestic. It is amazing to look down at the blue ocean. You will honestly feel like you are on top of the world.

Difficulty: This hike once again has its moments. Be prepared for a fairly steep hike and quite a few switch backs near the top. Again another medium hike.

Pro tip: This is an awesome hike because it isn’t too crowded and offers some amazing views. It is also a dog friendly hike so it is a great date for you and your pup.

5) Lynn Loop 

For those that really want an easier hike with beautiful views then this is the spot for you, especially in the fall months. Take moments to breathe in the fresh air and marvel at the beautiful large cedar and hemlock trees. Just be careful of aggressive bears along the trail. It seems to be an issue lately.

Difficulty: This 5km hike is quite easy (there is just one little steep part that will get your heart pumping). It is a great hike if you don’t have the full day.

Pro tip: Since the hike is a pretty short one, put some time aside for the other beautiful spots in the area. One of my favourite stops is the suspension bridge. Less busy than the Capilano bridge and definitely worth the views.

There you have it, some of my favourite hikes to discover this fall. I would love to hear if your top hikes made the list or if you have some others that I should give a try. In the meantime I hope you all get outside to enjoy the beautiful fall weather.

xo,

Mia

My first Women Who Explore getaway fuelled by Hippie Snacks

This summer, I was able to experience one of the most amazing, gratifying, and incredible experiences of my life. I was able to host my first getaway for Women Who Explore. Let’s take a step back real quick and find out more about the Women Who Explore community. The group was founded by two sisters and was created for women to feel comfortable and safe while exploring the great outdoors.

Women Who Explore Getaways 

Recently, the team started to great getaways all across North America. The getaways are for amazing women to get together and check things off their bucket list in a non-judgemental and affordable atmosphere. The getaways have included everything from dog sledding in Alberta to a week long road trip around Iceland. Not only do these getaways allow you to experience a once in a life time opportunity, but they also allow you to meet eight strangers that soon become life long friends.

My bucket list getaway this summer was a surfing trip to Tofino B.C. I arrived in Tofino and greeted by a room full of amazing women ready to have an amazing weekend. We spent the first day of our trip getting to known each other a little bit better, went for a delicious dinner, and then had an early night to get ready for the adventurous that awaited us the next day.

Starting the day with delicious breakfast provided by Hippie Snacks 

We started the day with our delicious Hippie Snacks Granola. Hippie Snacks is a local BC company made with whole food ingredients and taste delicious. The company got its idea in 2005 and came up with the name Hippie in celebration of the 1960’s movement of eating natural foods and keeping real foods in our diets. They have several tortilla chips, granola, and snacks.

Their Maple Quinoa was the perfect start to the morning to get us set for our fun filled day. You can really taste the natural ingredients in the crunch in the ancient grain granola filled food. After a breakfast fill of delicious food and great conversation we were ready for our adventure.

Stop #1: A secret hike 

The first stop of our day was searching for a hidden plane wreck on a hike in the Pacific Rim National Park. The Royal Canadian Air Force Canso crashed shortly after takeoff on February 12th 1945. The remains of the plane still sit on the side of the hill in Tofino. The plane was amazing, still main intact despite the crash. We stopped for plenty of pictures before making our way back to the house.

Snack time with Hippie Snacks 

At the house, we grabbed some organic Hippie Sesame Snacks. Don’t be fooled by the size of these snacks. They are full of flavour and will definitely get your energy up again. They are made with crunchy white and black organic sesame seeds and sweetened with coconut sugar. Satisfying and nutrient packed we were ready for the next stage of our adventure weekend.

Surfing the waves in Tofino 

Our next stop of the day was to the beach where we met with the team from Tofino Surf Adventure. We went through a quick on land lesson with the girls before hitting the waves. It was amazing because it was such a mix of experience, but every single one of the girls had a smile on their face and got up on the board. It was amazing to be on the water and take in the beauty of the beach around us. By the end of the day I must say all the ladies were pretty darn good surfers. 

From strangers to friends 

The whole weekend was amazing. From going on beautiful hikes in the Pacific National Rim to trying our hand at surfing some of the best waves in Canada we had so much fun. Yet the best part of the whole weekend was getting to meet 8 strong, beautiful, and incredible women. These women come from all backgrounds, ages, and stories and what started off as a room full of strangers quickly became a room full of friends.

I am so thankful for my Women Who Explore family who have taught me not to be afraid of the outdoors. They have taught me not to be uncomfortable in unfamiliar territories. They have taught me to open up my heart, and soul, and go out and explore.

A Beginners Guide to Back Country Camping

It has been nearly a year since I moved from Toronto to Vancouver and during that time, I have tried to explore as much of the B.C. as possible.

They don’t call it beautiful B.C. out here for nothing. From the mountains, to the ocean this place is filled with such beauty.

Since moving here I have experienced the mountains through hiking and camping, the ocean through paddle boards and kayaks. I have seen whales and bears. Every inch offering some spectacular view. It is hard to believe that this is now home.

Over Canada Day long weekend though, I decided to experience something I have never done before; back country hiking and camping at Elfin Lakes.

The Experience 

We left early Sunday morning and made our way up to Squamish. Squamish is abut 45 minutes from downtown Vancouver. You really feel like you have left the city and entered a fairy tale. So much greenery and nature.

We then started our hike. 11KM up the first day, and part of me wanted to turn back for the first 5KM. It was extremely steep and pretty difficult with my backpack, but trust me it is worth it. During the first half of the hike we observed hundred year old trees and waterfalls. The air was so fresh, the views stunning. It wasn’t like any experience I have ever had.

The second half of the hike was gruelling in a different way. I don’t think I was quite prepared for the amount of snow we would have in July. My shoes weren’t quite as waterproof as I had hoped and navigating through the snow while rolling over hills was difficult, but again the views from here were magnificent. Snow capped peaks in the distances, clear blue water peaking out through the iced lakes.

 

We eventually made it to the top, and were lucky that we were one of the first ones there because they only had a few uncovered sleeping decks. We set up our tent with an open view of the endless mountain range. I couldn’t believe that would be my morning wake up.

Then we opened up the grill and started cooking outside in the wilderness while playing card games, drinking from the lake, and cracking open our boxed wine.

We watched the sunset while dancing to some music. Watching the colour disappear behind the mountains was magical. A sense of accomplishment came over me.

An early wake up call, some oatmeal and coffee, and then we started our decent back down. 11KM to go, and again plenty of snow stuck in my shoes.

This was one of the greatest experiences of my life to date. Back Country hiking really puts you out in nature, really forces you to put your phone down and appreciate the beauty that is all around you. I cannot wait to experience more hikes and camps like this.

 

Preparation 

As a relatively new hiker, I wanted to make sure that I was as prepared as possible. I knew that I wanted to make sure I had all of the necessities, but also wanted to pack light because I had a 22KM hike ahead of me. It was difficult finding the balance and hard to know exactly what to bring and what to leave at home. Here is a list of some of the essentials that I found helpful if you are hoping to try Back Country hiking and camping yourself;

  • A good backpack: I went with the MEC Mistral 55 Backpack. It was lightweight but had plenty of room to fit my needs. I loved the padded straps to make for comfortable hiking. I also loved the cross wind back, so that it doesn’t rest directly on your back and allows air to flow while hiking.
  • An all season lightweight tent: It is important to have a tent that can withstand the elements, but one that isn’t going to be too heavy during a hike.
  • A sleeping mat: You are going to be sleeping on the ground, so to make the experience as comfortable as possible, you may want a mat to lie on. Having that extra layer also makes for warmer conditions. I went with the MEC Deluxe Sleeping Pad. Light weight, but also extremely comfortable. Easy to inflate and deflate.
  • A sleeping bag: I used my Topquilt sleeping bag. You can find more info on what makes this the perfect sleeping bag in my previous blog post.
  • Layers: Canadian weather can change in an instant and so it is important to bring minimal amount of clothes, but clothes that can be used in the elements. Make sure you have warm socks and layers in case it gets cold at night. Also make sure you have enough dry socks. I learned that lesson the hard way.
  • Bear Spray: You definitely want to be prepared in case you run into any trouble.
  • A whistle: Again, a great way to be prepared in case of a dangerous situation.
  • Food: I packed some instant food from MEC. All you have to do is add water and you have a delicious meal that is easy and light to carry. Way easier than trying to bring a ton of different ingredients.
  • Matches: No matter what kind of hiking trip you are going on, you are going to want to have something that can light a fire.
  • Flashlight
  • Swiss army knife

For a full list of hiking essentials check out MEC’s awesome list. It really helped me prepare for my trip.

 

Safety first

I cannot wait to experience more of B.C. through these excursions and trips, but a reminder if you are going to go hiking and camping be prepared. Know the area, know the route, and let someone know where you are going. Because while the wilderness is beautiful but dangerous all at the same time.

You hear stories of people getting lost and hurt and you never think it can happen to you, but trust me if you aren’t prepared it most definitely can.

Have you every been back country hiking? I would love for you to comment below and share your experience!

Happy traveling my friends,

xo

Mia

 

Topquilt Review: Making camping more comfortable

Since I moved out to B.C. I have been enjoying the great outdoors. I mean with the mountains and the ocean, how could you not want to be outside. Along with my new found love of exploring, has come a passion for camping. Before moving out west, I had never camped in my life and so I will admit it was hard at first. Learning how to pitch a tent, eating food out of a bag, going to the bathroom outside, packing light, and finding the right equipment.

One of the hardest parts was finding the right sleeping gear that would make the experience comfortable and enjoyable, but that was also easy and light to carry. I am a 29 year old female who is still relatively new to camping and hiking. The thought of carrying a heavy bag up the mountain petrified me. So I reached out to some experienced hikers, and some had recommended gear from Outdoor Vitals. I was pretty impressed with their selection, and decided to give their topquilt sleeping back a try.

After doing a bit of research, I found out that the founder of the company had one goal in mind, to lighten his pack and stay comfortable while in the backcountry. I trusted this brand right away because it came from someone that understood what camping is like and has experienced the difficulties of camping first hand. I knew this product was coming from someone who really understood camping and was excited to give it a try.

About Topquilt 

This weekend, I took it on my first camping trip to Bowen Island and I really did love this sleeping bag. The three best features for me was the fact that it was super light but also durable, it was waterproof and comfortable, and that it could be used for multi purposes.

Extra lightweight  

What I learned was hat this sleeping bag was actually originally designed as as hammock with an under quilt to cut the weight. It was extremely light and didn’t make my bag extra heavy. I was able to carry it up the mountain with ease and didn’t really have to stop for any breaks. It was also very compatible and easy to pack in my backpack.

 

Feels like a down

The second part that I loved was that it was really comfortable. As someone who definitely enjoys my down comforter at home, I had found it tough in the past to get a good night sleep while camping. From the noises of nature, to sleeping on the ground. What I loved about this sleeping bag, was despite it being really light weight, it is a pretty thick to sleep in. The company uses exclusive LoftTek imitation down that acts like an insulation. This is lighter and more compressible, but is still able to insulate even when wet because of the synthetic insulation. No matter what the weather is outside, stay warm, dry, and comfortable even when you are in the middle of the forest.

Since the camping trip, I have found so many other uses for the Topquilt sleeping bag. I take it with me to relax on the beach, for outdoor concerts and festivals, and for cottage weekends. It is so much more than just a sleeping bag for camping trips.

Your personal discount code

Now for the best part, if you use my Outdoor Vital code, you can get 10% off your order of a TopQuilt sleeping bag today. Just head over to their website and use the code “MIAWGORDON” at checkout and make your camping experience so much more enjoyable.

Get outside and enjoy the summer in comfort with the Topquilt sleeping bag. I know that mine will be getting plenty of use camping around beautiful B.C. over the next few months. I cannot wait to see what else there is to see, explore, discover in my new home.

Happy traveling my friends,

xo

Mia