With a new video series just finished and a 23-page gift guide to roll out, it’s amazing we’ve had time for anything else this week. somehow though, we managed to spend a whole day at Taronga Zoo and get some solid socialising done too!

Over on Hair Romance, Christina’s series of daily Q&A videos (you can see them all here) has finally finished. All the way through November, she was answering questions on hair maintenance, styling and general trouble-shooting. It was a fun project and one she’s looking at doing again soon.

We’ve also released our latest free gift guide for Christmas called hint (you can find that here btw), which is full of terrific ideas for presents to put under the tree.

To finish the week off, I was at one of Sydney’s most popular restaurants for a shindig with some of the most prolific and respected travel writers in the country. Of course, we ended up in the pub down the road!

We hope you enjoy this weekly Edition.

Cheers – Jim & Christina xx

Today we’re at Sydney’s incredible Taronga Zoo to check out a brand new exhibit they’ve installed for the summer. rise of the Tarongasaurs is a really clever idea to bring more people to this amazing zoo. even big kids – like us!

And the only way to start a day out at the zoo is with a glass of bubbles! Cheers.

The staff at Taronga play such an important role in this zoo. They not only share their knowledge, but they’re also incredibly friendly. Cathy on the right is one of the zoo’s volunteers and does such a terrific job entertaining the little ones – both human and dino!

Scattered through the zoo over the summer are some really impressive dinosaurs to experience. Recreated to stand full size and animated with animatronic tech, the Tarongasaurs like this feathered yet fearsome Utahraptor move, roar and even spit water at passers-by.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a dino-show without the T Rex, would it? I’m just glad the real thing isn’t around anymore. I think Christina feels the same.

These kids seem somewhat less impressed – even the incredible view isn’t doing much for them!

We’re just in time to catch the legendary Taronga bird show, which is a nice segue from the dinosaurs, famously the prototype to today’s birds.

This owl’s eyes are incredible, aren’t they?

But one of the animals I want to see out and about is this – the mighty condor. With one of the world’s widest wingspans, the condor is amazing to see in flight.

On the ground though, it’s a bit more comic. This one’s following the zoo keeper around like a dog – I think it’s quite hungry.

But the best of the show is right at the end with a flying finale well worth the entrance fee on its own.

There are some magnificent things to see here at Taronga – not least the blue Mountains enclosure, which has so many native birds (including the regal honeyeater, which is endangered), rock wallabies and even platypus.

We make our way down to the bottom of the zoo and hop on a cable automobile to take us back to the top. The views over the harbour and down onto the zoo are so good.

I’m always worried about how elephants are kept in zoos. especially when you hear horror stories of how they’re kept and used in places like Thailand – check out our tips on spotting good elephant sanctuaries in Thailand here by the way. but the elephants at Taronga have lots of space and water, and seem pretty happy.

One of the eperiences you can have at Taronga is to climb up onto the platforms above the elephants and watch them from a very different perspective. Such a good idea.

My mum would love it here. She adores giraffes, so getting this close to them and feeding them would be her thing 100%.

Quite jealous – how can you still look elegant even when you’re licking your own nose?

At full stretch, a giraffe can stand up to 6 metres! I think this one’s at full stretch.

Christina’s favourite enclosure – the meerkats – always brings a crowd. They’re so cute, aren’t they? and this one knows all the moves!

Tucked right out of the way in a rocky crevice, the red panda at Taronga Zoo is absolutely beautiful. I really didn’t think we’d see this shy animal, but Christina’s on fire today spotting everything!

In the nocturnal animal house, the lights are down low so the occupants are more active. This bilby is so cute – you might have seen in the news recently that they’re releasing more of these into the wild in new South Wales, where they were all but extinct.

It’d be terrific to see one of these in the wild, but for now, this will definitely do.

We didn’t know what to expect when we stepped into the Sumatran tiger experience. spaces are limited so it doesn’t get too crowded at any one time, but it’s worth the wait.

There’s a fun ‘flight’ to Sumatra to start off, and you learn a bit about the Indonesian island and the problems the tiger’s faced in recent years. You then step out into a mock-up of a Sumatran village and finally come to a couple of enormous enclosures where these stunning big cats live.

There’s a serious side to this exhibit though. With fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild, these amazing animals represent perhaps the species’ last hope: survival in captivity. With palm oil plantations and deforestation destroying their habitat, and poaching a still serious issue here, the Sumatran tiger is in dire circumstances.

In the tiger compound, some are sleeping on platforms of bamboo like this one, but another has climbed onto the roof of a pickup. Their eyes are amazing and their markings are just stunningly beautiful.

Taronga is an interesting zoo – not just because of the range of animals they have here – but also because they put conservation so far forward in their mission statement. The breeding programmes they have here and at the Western Plains Zoo out near Dubbo are working hard to keep species that are struggling to survive on the planet.

It’s just sad that they have to do it at all.

We are so pleased with our latest gift guide – Hint. It looks terrific and reads well, but best of all, the ideas for Christmas presents this year are just brilliant. All stuff I’d love to find under the tree with my name on.

These whiskies are a good start, I reckon. Japanese single malt from Matsui Distillery, a brand new release from Aussie distillers Starward and the most awarded Bourbon in the world from Buffalo Trace. read more about them (and a lot more booze) in hint here. It’s free!

Another gift idea we really love is this belt from Buckle|1922. This Aussie company has been around for almost 100 years and was started as a father-and-son outfit.

Its workshop is still in Sydney – Stanmore in fact – and this handmade belt has gone through 21 different processes with a team of 13 working on it.

Check this out in hint too.

One last item on the Christmas shopping list I want to show you (and you can find out more in the gift guide here) is this limited edition liqueur from the brilliant mind of Ian Glen – owner-distiller at stone pine Distillery in Bathurst, NSW.

We love what Ian makes, and he’s come up with some outstanding spirits, like the black spiced rum he calls Dead Man’s Drop or his seasonal special black truffle gin.

This Cabernet brandy liqueur is perfect for Christmas – bright, full of Cab Sauv berries and body, this distilled wine has been aged in oak since 2012 and pepped up with grape juice to liven up the flavours. It’s so delicious. simply delicious.

I’m flying solo today and am in Surry Hills to the much-lauded Chin Chin Sydney. I’m here for the Christmas luncheon with the ASTW – the Australian society of travel Writers, which we were both accepted into earlier this year.

I’m in a room full of some of the most impressive, well-respected travel journalists, photographers and broadcasters in the country – quite humbling really. but it’s a lovely, welcoming group and I’ve got a feeling today’s going to be a lot of fun.

We’ve all been brought together here at Chin Chin for a good feed and a chat, but also to learn more about what’s been happening in north-eastern Queensland – in the stunning Whitsundays: 74 islands well-known for having the whitest sand in the world.

Representatives from tourism Whitsundays tell us all about incredible renovations to places like Daydream Island, Whitehaven beach and the mainland town of Airlie Beach. It’s been a while since we were there last, but it’s made me want to get back there asap!

We also hear from a very amazing company called Go Bareboating, which hires boats to people to skipper around the Whitsundays by themselves. We’re talking 30′ catamarans – not pedalos! how good would that be? load up your own yacht and cruise one of the most magnificent coasts in the world on your own agenda.

My kind of travel.

But now comes the serious part of the party: the food!

Chin Chin has a reputation, so the room’s excited to see what comes out. The restaurant levels its sights on an Asian-influenced menu, with delicacies like kingfish sashimi, slow-cooked pulled pork peking style pancakes, grilled eggplant Penang curry…

And this exquisite twice-cooked beef short rib with shaved coconut salad.

The meat is so perfectly cooked you can cut it with a spoon!

And for dessert, Chin Chin’s homemade Magnum ice creams come out. What a terrific way to end a Christmas lunch.

Actually, it’s not the end. As you’d expect from a group of grizzled journos, things carry on to the nearest pub… but that’s all strictly off the record!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this weekly Edition. only a few more sleeps now before Santa does a bit of home invasion, so make sure you block your chimney and lock your doors!

Cheers – Jim & Christina xx

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