Blog by Laura McWhinnie. This Island life is a blog that follows the summer around the globe to bring you warm weather Inspiring travel, fashion, beauty, surf and photography and adventures. Because its always summer somewhere.
Whenever I’m asked to recommend an island destination, Sri Lanka is always one of the first places I suggest. I visited the teardrop-shaped island for the first time back in 2017 and I’ve been dreaming of going back ever since. What I love about Sri Lanka is the amazing mix of adventures on offer – while the island is small in size, it definitely packs a punch in terms of world class sites and experiences.
There are eight incredible UNESCO World Heritage Sites scattered across the island. I managed to tick off six during my trip, with my absolute favourite being the mighty Sigiriya– an ancient rock fortress with a flat-topped summit that was once home to an ancient civilisation. Sigiriya is just one of the sites that make up Sri Lanka’s famous ‘Cultural Triangle’ – a region in the centre of the island that also includes Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Dambulla, and Kandy.
After getting our cultural fix in the ‘Cultural Triangle’ wandering through temples, ruins and ancient cities, we then jumped on a train to take us from Nuwara Eliya to Ella. The train trip is one of the most scenic in the world with the landscape changing from lush green tea plantations, to a misty mountain backdrop. Ella is a cute little mountain town with a hippy vibe and the spectacular Ravana Waterfalls – it was the perfect place to relax for a few days after our busy sightseeing itinerary.
From Ella, we travelled to Yala National Park to experience safari life where for the first time ever, I saw elephants in the wild – I even got to see a baby elephant. Our trip ended in the town of Galle (another incredible UNESCO site), where we spent our last few days exploring its historical sites and the idyllic palm-fringed beaches on the south coast of the island.
Sir Lanka is also the ultimate destination for delicious food. We feasted on incredible local dishes likehoppers, pittu, rice and curries, all washed down with fresh king coconuts. I’m a huge seafood fan, which is why island life suits my palette perfectly. From crab curries and spicy jumbo prawns, to grilled fish and fresh oysters, Sri Lanka is a foodie heaven.
So when Beyond Dream Travels asked me to share a special offer on a 14-day holiday package to Sri Lanka, it was the perfect opportunity to share my love for the island destination. Beyond Dream Travels is a Melbourne-based tour company that specialisesin crafting unique luxury holidays to Sri Lanka and Maldives, for solo travellers and couples. Right now, they are offering a special price on their ‘Splendid Ramayana Discovery’ tour at just AUD$3,299 per person.
Beyond Dream Travels also offer finance packages through HSBC that are interest free up to 12 months for eligible travellers – call to find out more.
The ‘Splendid Ramayana Discovery’ tour includes:
Return flights from Melbourne
12 nights’ accommodation
Return airport transfers
Fully guided tours
All breakfasts and one lunch
Luxury air-conditioned transportation
This incredible tour also includes accommodation at Jetwing Hotels – a family owned hotel group that offers some of the most luxurious accommodation on the island. You’ll be staying at hotels that include, Jetwing Lake in Dambulla set on fertile plains in the cultural triangle, Jetwing Blue on the sunny north western coastline of Negombo, and Jetwing Kaduruketha which has been designed to resemble a traditional village surrounded by rural Sri Lankan landscapes.
I’m already trying to work out how I can squeeze this 14-day tour into my already jam-packed island hopping itinerary this year. It’s got the perfect mix of beaches, wildlife, history, culture, and a village experience. While I had some amazing experiences on my trip to Sri Lanka, I can’t wait to go back and explore new places like the Hiriwaduna Village where I can ride a bullock cart.Plus, this tour includes visits to some of the most important Ramayana sights in Sri Lanka with an expert tourdirector to offer in-depth knowledge of Ramayana heritage in Sri Lanka.
Ramayana is an epic story of how Lord Rama’s wife Sita was captured by King Ravana and held captive. Rama then enlists the help of monkeys and bears to find his wife. A battleensuesbetween King Ravana and the animals where the King gets killed and Sita is set free. This tour will take you to places that are connected to the Ramayana story such as Sri Bhakta, Hanuman Temple, Divurumpola Temple and Sita Amman Temple.
Find out more about this incredible ‘Splendid Ramayana Discover’ tour here.
With six islands, 13 beaches and three lagoons, Bawah Island has been on my bucket list since it opened in 2017. This private island resort is located in the Anambas Archipelago in Indonesia, which is just a short journey from Singapore. The entire reserve is a marine conservation area with an abundance of marine life including turtles. Island life doesn’t get much better than this!
The Maldives archipelago is made up of 1,192 coral islands scattered across the Indian Ocean. Amongst these idyllic islands on the southern-lost tip of Addu Atoll lies the Shangri-La’s Villingili– a private island resort in a world of its own. The only Maldivian resort located south of the equator, Villingili is as exclusive as it gets. Its remote location allows guests to experience mother nature at her best with lush tropical jungle, white sand beaches and clear turquoise waters.
It was almost 1am when we boarded the tiny, but luxurious speedboat. We were making a quick five-minute dash across the Indian Ocean from Gan International Airport to our luxurious five-star island resort. I was exhausted, but nervous with excitement as I tried to make out the island from the tiny dotted lights in the distance. One of the staff must have noticed I was squinting into the darkness. “You should have flown in during the day – it’s very beautiful arriving by boat.” I don’t doubt that it is, but during daylight hours, we were wrapping up the Sri Lankan leg of our trip. And little did he know that I secretly love arriving at a place at night when it’s dark – that way the morning reveal is so much more epic.
We pulled into the jetty, which was more like a luxurious open-air pavilion with sheer white curtains blowing in the night air. It was an Instagrammers dream and I hadn’t even set foot off the speedboat. Once we were off the boat, we were greeted by staff in crisp linen uniforms who handed us coconut shells filled with a delicious fresh juice. “We’ll take you to your villa now.” Gesturing to a white electric golf buggy. Coconuts in hand, we hopped on the back and were on our way to our overwater bungalow.
After a short five-minute drive under a jungle canopy we turned onto a wooden path that lead out over a lagoon and towards our villa. I squeezed Jason’s hand – we were almost there. As excited as I was to see our overwater villa, I also wanted to see what was in the mini bar – we hadn’t eaten since Sri Lanka and I was starving.
Our buggy driver opened the door to our villa but as he was about to show us around, I caught sight of two perfectly prepared meals laid out on the table for us. It was our first instance experiencing the Shangri-la touch and it wouldn’t be our last.
THE OVERWATER BUNGALOWS
This was my first trip to the Maldives so I only had one requirement – to stay in an overwater bungalow. Waking up to the sound of the ocean in an overwater bungalow in the Maldives is the ultimate bucket list experience. We had planned this trip to celebrate my boyfriend Jason’s birthday and with neither of us having stayed in an overwater bungalow before, it was the perfect experience to share together.
“Wake up babe and look at where we are!” I opened my eyes as the warm sunrise light filled the villa. Jason was already out on the deck and even though the sun was so low, I could see that the water was already starting to illuminate into a bright turquoise.
The overwater bungalows at Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort & Spa, are straight out of a tropical daydream. While they are impossibly beautiful and luxurious, they have a rustic castaway vibe – think Robinson Crusoe meets James Bond’s island lair. The huge king-sized bed looks straight out over the Indian Ocean, so you can wake up to a direct view of the turquoise-hued lagoon.
The villas are enormous, even by luxury standards and are some of the biggest in the Maldives. There’s an alfresco shower and huge freestanding bath tub, as well as an indoor shower and the biggest walk-in wardrobe I’ve ever experienced in a hotel room.
Villingili Island is so big, there are three groups of overwater villas. Our villa was in the middle and was surrounded by deep lagoon water perfect for snorkelling (and drone shots), so we could dive straight off our deck into the clear aqua ocean. The Shangri-la told us they chose that villa for us because we were from Australia and they know we like jumping into the ocean. You’ve got to love a resort that can anticipate overwater bungalow needs I didn’t even know I had.
The best part of our overwater bungalow experience, was that every night we had front row seats to some of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen. We had the ultimate pinch-me moments on our deck watching the sky light up in the most incredible pink and orange hues, while our butler delivered and served up chilled champagne.
I’ve owned some beautiful lingerie over the years, but nothing as beautiful as these pieces. While I usually focus on swimwear and resort wear, it’s become apparent that I’ve been neglecting my outfits in the bedroom. Now usually island life calls for little more than your birthday suit, but there’s something so luxurious about slipping on a delicate silk slip on a balmy island evening. So when I was planning my outfits for my trip to Bawah Island in Indonesia, I made sure I had nocturnal adventures covered too.
Created by new Australian lingerie label Ms. Kensington, each piece has been exquisitely designed and handcrafted for the pleasure of the viewer and the wearer. The ethos behind the label is about enjoying your body, embracing your sexuality and enhancing your sex life – something I’m all for celebrating.
I’m usually straight into a bikini when I wake up, but on Bawah Island, all I wanted to do was swan around my beach bungalow in this silky ensemble. Each piece of Ms. Kensington lingerie fits like it’s tailor made and this slip and robe combination was no exception. The silk slip is lined and darted at the bust and bias cut for the most flattering shape, it skims all the right places and falls just above the knee. The silk cotton robe features a flattering ¾ length bell-shaped sleeve, internal ties and French seams, and falls to the knee for maximum impact. Best of all, Ms. Kensington is ethically made in Australia.
Ms. Kensington is generously offering TIL fans 10% off each purchase using the code ‘TIL10’ – happy shopping island lovers!
While I have a swimwear collection consisting of more than 300 bikinis, there’s one I just keep coming back to and it needs no introduction. This pinky-nude bikini from Aloé Swimwear has been featuring heavily on my Instagram since its maiden voyage to the Seychelles almost a year ago.
Like all Aloé pieces, this bikini is reversible -the solid pinky-nude tone that reverses out to a white striped design. It’s also hardware free making it crazy comfy, which is why it’s always my go-to bikini whether I’m at home in Sydney or island hopping somewhere exotic like this private island in Indonesia’s Indonesia’s remote Anambas archipelago.
I couldn’t have picked a better morning to wear my new snakeskin print bikini in a tan-enhancing palette of sun-blush orange and white. It was looking pretty cloudy as we walked up the beach to this beautiful sandbar to try and catch the morning light. But as we got closer, the sky started to light up in the most beautiful soft pastel pink and orange hues.
Designed by Heidi Klein Swim, this exotic snakeskin patterned bikini reverses out to a solid sun-blush hue. So you can mix it up on your hammock-swaying, cocktail sipping and sunrise swim island adventures. With rope luxe rope halter straps trimmed with glistening gold bamboo sliders, island life has never looked so luxurious.
Beach days have never looked so good. I recently travelled to Bawah Island in Indonesia – an exclusive eco-resort in Indonesia’s remote Anambas archipelago where I was in tropical heaven lying on these luxe 100% organic cotton velour beach towels by Swedish brand Bella Collins Beach. I mixed up two geometric printed towels in the same colour scheme to create this eclectic beach vibe look.
If a palm-fringed, tropical island was a scent it would be ‘Hibiscus Palm’ by AERIN Beauty. I’m not usually drawn to floral fragrances, but this isn’t your usual floral scent. Accords of lotus flower and hibiscus palm mingle with ylang-ylang and exotic ginger to evoke golden beaches, lush palms and exotic wild flowers. These top notes are combined with middle notes that include frangipani and fragrant white blossoms, wrapped in warm base notes that include coconut milk, vanilla and musk.As soon as I discovered this fragrance, I knew it was destined to become my signature scent.
I bought this fragrance just before my trip to Bawah Island, so I wore it every day on this exclusive island set on Indonesia’s remote Anambas archipelago. I love buying a new fragrance before a trip because scent has the ability to evoke past feelings and memories. So now every time I wear this tropical scent, I’ll be reminded of the beautiful experiences and moments I had on this stunning island paradise.
It seems like Aerin Lauder had the same intentions in mind. Each fragrance in her collection provides an escape to a difference experience. So it was only natural that I was drawn to the one that encapsulates island life. Aerin Lauder sums it up perfectly…
Memories of a magical tropical island escape — a sun-kissed beach and exotic fragrances — were the inspiration behind Hibiscus Palm.
AERIN Beauty is a luxury fragrance brand created by Aerin Lauder – her grandmother was Estée Lauder so she knows her way around exquisite fragrance. ‘Hibiscus Palm’ was my first AERIN fragrance, but with ‘Mediterranean Honeysuckle’ and ‘Aegea Blossom’ on my wish list for my upcoming summer in Europe, it definitely won’t be my last.
I recently flew to Singapore to visit Bawah Island – an exclusive eco-resort set in Indonesia’s remote Anambas archipelago. The private island is everything you’d expect from a five-star luxury resort. There are overwater bungalows, a fine dining restaurant in the treetops, a luxurious day spa, and friendly staff on call. The island itself isn’t the only drawcard – part of the adventure is the journey and your arrival, which is as luxurious as it gets.
The journey begins in Singapore, where you’re greeted by a chauffeur and then taken to the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. After a short 30-minute ferry ride to the neighbouring Batam Island, you’re then met by a private seaplane. The highlight of the journey is touching down on the island in the clear aqua lagoon in front of a palm-fringed beach. All in time for a gourmet lunch made using locally caught seafood and produce grown on the island.
With such a luxurious journey and island destination ahead of us, it was only fitting that the rest of our airport travel be the same. Luckily, travelling with a Priority Pass membership is like flying business class, even when you’re flying economy. So flying out of Sydney and Singapore was a relaxing, stress-free and enjoyable experience – I actually look forward to my time at the airport now.
See how I arrived in Singapore and back in Sydney in style, with experiences that rivalled my luxury island destination:
Priority Pass at Sydney International Airport
Mach2 and Peroni Bar – Terminal 1
While it may look like I’m constantly travelling, I live in Sydney and always return to my home base in between trips. So with Sydney Airport being my main airport, I always make sure I arrive a little early so I can take advantage of the Priority Pass Membership benefits. What I love about using my Priority Pass Membership at Sydney International Airport, is that you don’t just get you lounge access. Priority Pass also partner with a range of restaurants and bars at the airport to give members the best value. Rock up to your favorited restaurant or bar, show your Priority Pass Membership card and you’ll get AUD$36 credit off the final bill. With my boyfriend Jason also having a Priority Pass membership, we had a combined credit of AUD$72 at each dining partner to work our way through.
I have the same routine before every flight. I try to avoid eating food, so sitting down to a delicious meal before my flight is a top priority. After checking-in, we always head straight to Mach2 – it’s at Terminal 1 before customs near check-in counter H. Mach2 is an offshoot of Bar Machiavelli in Sydney’s Rushcutters Bay – they’ve got a great menu and wine list. We enjoyed an early dinner of grilled snapper with steamed broccolini, and penne with chicken in a tomato sauce before taking on the often hectic customs and security screening process.
If you’re a regular follower of my blog and social channels, you’ll know that I have a very important pre-flight ritual. Once I’m through security and I’ve made those essential duty free purchases, I always celebrate the start of every trip with a glass of Champagne. The best place to do that at Peroni Bar – it’s positioned near gate 56 right next to the window, so you can toast to upcoming adventures while watching the planes take off.
Priority Pass at Singapore Changi Airport SATS Premier Lounge – Terminal 1
After spending a magical weekend on Bawah Island in Indonesia, it was time to head back to Singapore and back to reality. But with our Priority Pass Memberships, reality could wait. Instead of killing time around the airport waiting for our late night flight back to Sydney, we headed straight to the SATS Premier Lounge – a 24-hour lounge equipped with all the pre-flight essentials you could need.
There’s a buffet with a delicious range dishes on offer, as well as an amazing range of drinks including wine, beer, spirits, juices and soft drinks. But what really caught my eye (and stomach) was the make your own Fishball Kway Teow Soup station. A hawker staple in Singapore, Fishball Kway Teow Soup is a soup dish with the most flavoursome chicken broth. They serve it in the lounge as it’s the perfect dish to prepare your stomach for a flight ahead. It’s special touches like this, that makes airport travel so much more enjoyable. I paired my delicious bowl of soup (and second and third servings!) with a glass of Chardonnay while Jason enjoyed a French red.
The Fishball Kway Teow Soup isn’t the only special touch on offer. In the SATS Premier Lounge, it’s all about the massage chairs. With only three on offer, you might have a short wait. But let me tell you, no matter how long the wait, it will be worth it. These massage chairs are some of the best I’ve ever experienced. I’ve never boarded a flight feeling so relaxed in my life and with it being an overnight one, I was asleep before we even left the tarmac.
With so many exciting overseas trips on the horizon for 2019, I can’t wait to see where we’ll be travelling with our Priority Pass Membership next.
I’m thrilled to introduce one of my favourite artists, Danielle Cross. Not only is Dani an incredible artist, she’s also extremely well travelled, and has amazing summer style. I stumbled across her work on Instagram a while back, and I’ve been crushing on it (and her!) ever since. With her recent exhibition ‘Provocateur’ revealing some of her best work yet, there was no better time to sit down for a chat to find out more about Dani, her art and her love of island life travel.
Laura: I’ve been a big fan of your art for a while now, but I’m particularly excited about your latest work ‘Provocateur’. How would you best describe this collection?
Dani: A thought provoking concept of connections, desire, passion, temptation and imagination. Commitment and infidelity. Affairs of the heart, affairs of the head.
Laura: What was the inspiration behind ‘Provocateur’?
Dani: Mirrors were the starting point for ‘Provocateur’, what we see and what we choose to see. Our connections, our desires, our urges. The taboo subject matter of infidelity be it, emotionally, sexually, intellectually or spiritually. The notion that an affair is more about turning away from the person that we have become, and looking for another self. Manifesting the other parts in us. Mirrors see our reflections, flaws, strengths, weaknesses, desires and wants.
Laura: What was your creative process developing these works?
Dani: There are lot of creative, manic moments, brainstorming. The storytelling and emotions of the concept are played out in my mind first. The art is all about evoking a feeling or emotion in the viewer. In order for my role as the artist to work, I need to take on the character from all viewpoints. I interviewed a lot of people, while they were unaware they were being interviewed! I ask lots of questions and observe people’s interactions.
Laura: The ocean plays a big role in your work, especially this latest collection. How does it inspire you creatively?
Dani: Water is the ultimate contradiction. All is not what it seems. What appears on the surface can be the total opposite underneath. It is also a constant with strong grounding factors. The perfect storm. Full of shadows, movement, complexities, changes and reflections. Our human smoke and mirrors.
Laura: If you could have your art hanging on the wall of anyone’s home, whose would it be?
Dani: DR DRE. For his genius and the way he literally sees music. Creating artistic Intrigueiwithin his layered musically intrigue. Music plays a prominent role when I create my concepts and art. It transports you and can also keep you still in time. The silences in between the moments. Nothing else can silence my mind sometimes!
Laura: How long have you been a visual artist for and was photography always a big part of it?
Dani: Seriously over the last 8 years. My background was interior design having studied at Enmore Design Centre. I have always used my painting as my creative outlet. After living overseas and interstate, I did a one-off art exhibition in Sydney which lead me to where I am today. Sliding doors moment.
Photography was a personal outlet during a difficult time losing one of my best friends. It came at a time when I lost the passion to paint, I suppose that is what grief can do to you. Painting felt so raw and exposed at a time when I was fighting just that. Photography has a lightness to it that made me comfortable in the uncomfortable moments. The fluid nature of being able to digitally edit gave me a freedom escape. The way the camera captures light and shadows, much like the human element in it. The camera became the paintbrush.
Laura: What type of camera do you shoot with?
Dani: Currently it is the Canon EOS M6.
Laura: How important is Instagram for promoting your art?
Dani: Instagram has changed the goal posts for artists and the industry. It has created a constant curated visual grid and storyline. Art needs to speak a language. Instagram has created the perfect platform for art and the artist who creates it to reach a far wider audience. The viewer can take a glimpse into the artist world, you can feel as though you know the artist and what makes them tick. It is powerful.
Laura: You’ve travelled extensively throughout Asia, Europe and Australia. How much does travel inspire your work?
Dani: Travel is the perfect antidote for our realities. Travel creates storylines. Travel takes us to foreign places and foreign mindsets. This is when the senses take over and the real magic happens. These experiences are felt and transported back into the studio and into my art concepts. Through visually seeing new perspectives in the places you visit, new emotions are formed and that is what comes back to the studio with me. How you feel when experiencing those places is where all good concepts are formed.
Laura: What are your top three island destinations?
Dani: Karma Kandara- Ungasan… cliffs and Beaches… BALI
Taling Ngam Koh Samui- a world away… THAILAND
Isola Bella (Taormina)… SICILY
Laura: Your studio is based in Sydney in the beautiful Eastern Suburbs. Do you have a favourite local beach?
Dani: My all time favourite beach is Clovelly, it must be the Italian in me as I love swimming off the concrete! Having made a move south I also call North Cronulla beach home where I love to stand up paddle board out the back. It really is my quiet place to think about nothing. Good for the soul and hard for an Aries artist!
Laura: What’s your go-to summer drink?
Dani: Aperol Spritz and a good French Rosé.
Laura:I follow your Instagram @danielle_cross not just for your art, but also for your amazing summer style. What’s your favourite swimwear brand?
Dani: That is a hard one, my standard rotation is Fella Swim , Zulu & Zephyr and Billabong, Ripcurl. I am continually mixing it up from solid colour bikinis, the patterns, to high cut one pieces, Love the 90’s look!