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15 December 2021

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Bright and early we met at Trusted Travel headquarters, all got to know each other, and then we we’re off road tripping to Port Stephens. The sun was shining, the company was great, and suddenly, right beside us were the giant lizards and dinosaurs of the Australian Reptile Park which became our first stop of the trip. We couldn't get the impressive Elvis, a 55-year-old 500kg saltwater crocodile, to sing for us but we  guessed when you are a 500kg crocodile you do whatever you like. After all, he became world-famous in 2011 when he stole his keeper’s lawnmower and has been called “Australia's crankiest crocodile”. We also got to pat wallabies, see Tasmanian devils, koalas, Komodo dragons, alligators, birds and dingoes up close, and some of the biggest slimiest and creepiest spiders and snakes you'll ever see behind glass. After a huge first day we settled into our cabins and had a nice chilled night complemented by takeaway pizza.

Our second day saw us off to Fighter World right next to the Williamstown RAAF base. Fighter World is always good fun and interesting but as we drove up we saw dozens of cars parked nearby with people sitting on chairs and even on the roofs of the cars with cameras and videos and knew something special must be going on. Luckily for us, Australia's fearsome fighter jet the F/A-18 Classic Hornet was being retired after 40 years, and today was a celebration featuring many take-offs, landing and flyovers from the retiring F/A-18s and the new F-35's that cost around $200 million each! It wasn't just a sight to behold but definitely one to be heard as well - those jets are loud! After an exciting second day, we went to the new Diggers RSL at Nelson Bay for dinner, and enjoyed a wide range of choices.

Day three was a bit grey and we got our fair share of rain before we boarded the fabulous Tea Gardens Ferry. Now just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip.

The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed, if not for the courage of the fearless crew... 

Ok, the boat was actually pretty big and we were never going to sink, but it did get a little rough. We saw pelicans, swans, oyster  leases, beaches and loads of beautiful islands before having a great lunch in Tea Gardens before the return trip. It was great fun.

Day Four was huge! We started off in the warm and sunny park pool before heading off to Cook-a-barra Restaurant and Fish Farm. After a delicious lunch, we toured the farm. You might think barramundi look pretty calm and while it's true, they have no big teeth up front, throw some fish food in and watch the frenzy and hear the loud snapping begin. Hold some fish food too long above the water and watch them fly out and take it from you, you won't lose a finger but you'll sure get a shock when you hear a snap as loud as any crocodile! After lunch, we took out the all-Terrain beach chairs at Fingle Bay walked and rolled along the beach and into the water, soaking in the beautiful weather, fabulous views and cool water at our feet. Dinner was at an authentic Greek restaurant Nigronis, set in a great atmosphere with even better food. We loved it and say Yamas! (cheers in Greek).

Our last day was definitely not our least! We went to the newly opened Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters Centre. While most of us are a little wary or nervous about sharks and stingrays, this fabulous experience shows you just how misunderstood they both are. Who would have believed that sting rays can act like puppies, coming up and climbing on your feet, flapping up out of the water to say “feed me” and enjoying a gentle pat? The sharks too are gentle and friendly to touch, we'll never forget being able to stand in the water amongst them and learning so much. Then just like that, it was all over, we heading home and were saying our goodbyes to our new friends and hello to our families!

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