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Passion10 Electric Scooter – Part 2

If there’s one thing the government of our little island has done well, it’s maximizing greenery and outdoor areas in already fairly congested areas. Of particular note of course are our island’s interlinked network of Park Connectors,  which has not only become an easy and convenient way for Singaporeans to get to and enjoy the multiple parks and outdoor areas, but has also become a way for people to get to places of work even.

Truth to tell, we haven’t really gone on the connectors much. In fact, our Ang Mo friend has spent more time on them in his almost yearly visits to Singapore than us residents LOL. But now that we’re armed with scooters both electrical and kick-typed, we’ve started exploring the PC Networks just behind our Minton home – and over time, we’ll probably starting driving out to explore the rest of the network.

So, after scootin’ for about 20km on the new Passion10, here are more of our pictures and observations.

The 15.5kg Passion10 e-Scooter. I’m not 100% certain of this, but I think the basic model is also rebranded by other manufacturers and resellers, though Passion Gadget’s S$599 price point for this model is likely among the lowest I’ve seen. It can be lifted by adults, but the handlebar stem is rather slippery. Passion Gadgets sells a fabric-type carrying handle though, so I might have to buy that later.

A round color LCD screen shots that shows different information depending on options you’ve set. The master power button and acceleration lever sits on the right of the screen. The LCD doesn’t seem to let me adjust brightness though, and the default brightness level is too dim for easy viewing when outdoors. The scooter supports a cruising mode too, which sets the scooter to coast along at a constant speed.

Kiddie handle bar, with additional rubber stops add-ons that cost 50 cents each. Hannah wanted pink – No Way Jose LOL. The bar can be adjusted to where the protective plate along the handlebar stem stops, and is just about of right height for Peter. Hannah holds onto the main handle bar. The Kiddie bar though gets into the way of cable management when unfolding the scooter from storage.

Vehicle’s front light. Can be switched off with a dedicated button. I don’t intend to scoot at night, so that this light is included is useful – but finally not of any use for me.

Suspension for the Pneumatic 10″ front tire. Both really do help to cushion (somewhat) potholes and small debris like dead branches on surfaces.

Two thick anti-slip strips pasted on the foot board that really do help in providing additional grip to footwear. They’re pretty hard to clean though. The kickstand is also visible from the picture, and while it bears the scooter’s weight just fine, I would have liked it to be a little sturdier. The scooter’s battery and charging port are situated below the foot board. The sales technician advised that it’s necessary to switch on power to the charger adapter first before connecting it to the scooter port. I haven’t needed to charge the battery from flat to full yet, but that’ll take between 4-6 hrs according to the user guide.

Rear tire and dual light reflectors.

The 20km distance we tried the Passion10 on used up perhaps just about 20% of the battery power according to the LCD indicator. But to be sure, we’d set the throttle to 50% of its maximum torque – a maximum of 11km/h – and didn’t push the engine too hard. Both our kids have had a lot of fun riding the scooter with me so far @ Punggol Park and the park connector behind Minton. We’ve since slightly increased the scooter throttle limit to 60% of its maximum torque, i.e. a limit of 15km/h – which is plenty fast enough already for us –  the limit for foot paths and well below the 25km/h limit for shared paths.

In all, there are better machines than the Passion10 – with longer range, lighter, sturdier, faster, better featured etc. – but none that offered the ideal balance of specifications I preferred, and priced so attractively too. More posts to come soon enough when see start visiting segments of the Park Connector Network!

Passion10 Electric Scooter – Part 1

E-Scooters have been around on our streets for some years now, but it’s only been in the last year or two when they’ve really become common both in heartland areas and even retail stretches like Orchard Road on the island. The government here has been trying very hard to ween citizens off cars and get on public transportation. But buses can only run on so many roads, so Personal Mobility Devices – or PMDs – have become the choice of many as a last-mile transportation solution.

Increasing PMD ridership has introduced a host of challenges though – from competition between pedestrians, cyclists and now PMD users for space on walkways, to riders with death wishes using PMDs on main roads, residential apartments catching fire because of fault battery management systems in the PMD, and tragic and unfortunately fatal accidents involving E-bike users.  The regulatory authorities seem to be inclined to support the use of these devices, but perhaps also recognized that some regulation was necessary. Among the rules of use include device weight limits (20kg), speed limits (25km/h), and finally that they cannot be used on roads. And the Land Transport Authority of Singapore is clearly ready to throw the book at riders who run afoul of rules.

I’ve been quite interested in getting an e-scooter since the start of the year. But a serious purchase exploration kept getting put off – until we bought both our kids kick scooters from Decathlon. So, why not an adult e-scooter now, if not just to create another opportunity for family activity! There are a lot of e-scooter stores on the island, but perhaps just a handful of especially well-known ones. One particular store is Passion Gadgets, who carries a very wide range of scooters, including parallel-imported branded and fairly expensive scooters, and house-brand scooters priced very attractively.

Truth to tell, while this store seems quite well-regarded online and has been around for years now, I was initially still quite hesitant about stores that do parallel imports. Most of that hesitation dissipated after I checked out their retail store and also service center, housed in two separate buildings in close proximity and also a short 7 minute drive from Minton. The staff working at both places were all quite young – I reckon in their early two mid-twenties – very friendly, and were clearly enthusiasts of what they were selling. There must had been at least two dozen persons working at the service center, not just preparing devices for pick-up and repairing scooters sent in for repair, but also working on what seemed like artwork and publicity materials, answering questions on the web site etc. This seemed clearly a very busy business!

Even though this was going to be my first e-scooter, the thought process went through the same methodology like for every toy I buy – i.e. a spreadsheet detailing the different models I was considering, and specifications for each.

Of criteria:

At this point, the scooter’s main purpose is just for family joy rides and not for long-distance traveling. A power mileage of about 25-30KM would be more than sufficient. Likewise, I wouldn’t be carrying the device up and down public transportation, so vehicle  weight wasn’t a key factor. Though I didn’t think I’d want to handle a scooter that was heavier than 18kg!

The scooter’s foot board would need to be large enough for an adult and a child – i.e. space for me/Ling and H or P.

Safety and stability are of utmost importance: which pretty much meant that the scooter would need to use 8.5″ or larger Pneumatic tires, and offer suspension to provide some cushioning over bumps, potholes and small debris.

Cost no more than $1,000. The scooter is really meant to be used just for recreation, and I didn’t want to spend more than that.

The purchasing process @ Passion Gadgets is a little involved. The retail store front-end is a fairly small shop situated at a ground floor for one building. After choosing your model and initial accessories, you go next door to their twin shop to make payment. And finally, the actual scooter is on the fifth level of another building 3 minutes walk away LOL.

One corner of the warehouse that serves as the service center.

Hannah came along to provide advice!

And what we landed up with – the Passion10, and costing S$599.

Continued in the next post!

Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus – Part 2

And after a week of using the S8+, more comments on it!

We use our smartphones to tell the time a lot, and the S8+’s Always-On Display (AOD) to show that is incredibly useful. Despite Samsung’s promise that there is only minimal battery consumption by enabling AOD, the battery does seem to drain noticeably quicker though. The AOD themes all also seem to always include the battery percentage as a fixed information item, so if you’re one of those persons who get into a fit every time the percentage level drops an additional bit, then the AOD might actually be annoying.

The battery drains about 2-3% overnight without AOD, and twice that when it’s enabled. The power consumption without AOD is roughly about equal to the Mate 9’s overnight drain, but still higher than the Mi Max which routinely drops just about 1%.

There are several drop, bending, freezing and even Coke (?!) tests comparing the S8+ and iPhones on YouTube, which while – admittedly – is fun to see how well these top-line phones can withstand well extraordinary abuse, can also be incredibly painful to watch thousand dollar phones get, well, basically destroyed!

The curved screen also makes it very hard for tempered glass screen protectors to be pasted onto it without experiencing a range of issues – whether it’s inadvertent edge bubbles or loss of touch sensitivity – with The Verge having a good write-up about the difficulties here.

The phone is also water-resistant up till 1.5m for 30 minutes. So, according to specifications at least, this phone can survive a drop into a shallow puddle of water too. Not that I’m ever going to try that sort of test, but it’s nice to know that the phone will very likely easily live with rain.

The S8+’s navigation bar occupies the bottom bit of the tall screen, but – ingeniously – can also be set to auto-hide, like Windows’ taskbar, and brought back up with a flick of the thumb. This means that applications can use the full 6.2″ screen if need be. Like other phones with onscreen buttons, the ‘back’ and ‘recent’ buttons can be swapped. It’s also possible to unlock the phone by long-depressing the ‘home’ button, and in a very nice touch, the sensitivity of this button can also be adjusted.

There’s a dedicated button on the S8+’s left side to start-up Bixby, and the button cannot be natively disabled or remapped to do something else without relying on third party apps – and no guarantee if Samsung will not implement low-level changes to disable those customizing apps. Some reviewers have reported that they’ve frequently accidentally pressed that button and starting up Bixby when they do not intend to. It was indeed an annoyance in the first day or two of my use, but I’ve since gotten used to gripping the phone somewhat less tightly in my hand, just so that I don’t accidentally trigger Bixby.

The speaker and audio jack volume levels are adequate but aren’t particularly high. So, if you like music blasted out loud through your head/earphones in noisy environments, you’d need either a separate personal amplifier or a third party app to drive up phone volumes.

The S8+ is USB Type-C, and charges up quickly via cable, and it also charges as expected using a Samsung wireless charging pad and also Xpower’s wireless charger, albeit more slowly.

News cards on Bixby, Samsung’s personal voice assistant. Attractive visual layout.

Though Bixby Vision clearly still needs a lot more work! It thought the Microsoft Mouse I’m using is anything but LOL.

More in Part 3 later!

 

Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus – Part 1

If I had to name one characteristic of the Huawei Mate 9 that’s both great and also annoying at the same time, it’d be its rear fingerprint sensor. The sensor is located at the camera’s back and where one’s forefinger naturally rests. It hasn’t been just unfailingly accurate in recognizing my fingerprint, it’s also extremely sensitive – to the point that lightly brushing my finger over the sensor will instant-unlock the phone. The Mate 9 frequently unlocks in this fashion without my being aware, with all manner of functions also accidentally also triggering from the touchscreen as a result.

My phone plan was up for renewal this month, so I took the opportunity to not just continue with a new 2 year contract, but also migrate over to Singtel’s Corporate Individual Scheme – one of the nice perks of working where I’m at. The new plan approximately bumps up the tier of my current mobile plan to the next higher tier at no cost. Even better, there was also a hefty seasonal discount during the first week of July for selected phones – including SGD200 off the Samsung Galaxy S8+. So, the Huawei Mate 9 goes back in exchange for Samsung’s current top-of-the-line phone plus a small top-up fee.

The S8+, and before the trade-in value of SGD300 for the Mate 9, and another SGD30 discount for an online order.

And my comments after several days of usage of the new Samsung Galaxy S8+:

The S8+ has an usual aspect ratio, and the relatively skinnier girth of the S8+ also makes it slightly easier to hold than all three of my last phones – the Huawei Mate 9, Mi Max, and Samsung Galaxy Note 5. The taller than normal screen, coupled also with the QHD+ screen resolution and 6.2″ of screen estate, lets you see more web page content – though the ratio is also less effective for viewing photos and videos.

The phone feels very dense, and as is the current fashion for many top-line phones coming out of manufacturers these days, no creaks and joints are observed in the phone’s chassis. Like the Mate 9, the S8+ is begging for a case. Not having one is going to mean a high chance of the phone slipping from your grip and kissing concrete.

The phone’s thumbprint sensor has been widely criticized by many gadget reviewers, but I didn’t find it that bad. Sure, a larger fingerprint sensor and also one that’s not quite so close to the camera lens would had been better, but putting the phone in a case helps my forefinger feel where the sensor is.

The S8+ comes in different colors: black, blue, gold and grey. Unlike other Samsung phones, the front plate is a generic black in color regardless of the back plate color one chooses.

The phone supports PIN and iris recognition too. The face-recognition works so well though that that’s my default method of unlocking this phone now. Unlocking isn’t quite as instantaneous as the Mate 9, but a second lost from delay in exchange for not having the phone unlocked from accidental finger brushes is a good trade-off.

Many reviewers have remarked that the S8/S8+ super AMOLED screen is the best screen there is for smartphones, and I wholeheartedly agree! The Mate 9’s screen is no slouch, but the S8+ combination of color rendition, resolution, and contrasts in its screen – blows it right out of the water, and not even the current gen iPhones, good as they are, can match the S8/S8+. Like the Note 5, the maximum brightness level on the S8+ makes the display legible even in direct sunlight.

I really rather a bezel-less but flat display screen like on the Mate 9 and Note 5 than the curved one on the S8+. But oh well.

Samsung’s much talked about Bixby – their Google Assistant/Siri personal voice assistant equivalent – is gimped at the moment, as the voice client hasn’t been activated yet for local users LOL. But the image recognition module is lots of fun to play with. Basically, you use the phone’s camera to scan an object, and Bixby will attempt to recognize it and then produce a list of web sites that are related to that object. Pretty cool!

The S8+ beside still one of my most favorite phones ever, the S5 Note.

The Samsung Galaxy S8+.

Next post here!

Western Australia – Equipment Comments

Just a few more posts in our WA series – honest! And this one is for tech junkies – comments on how various gadgets and toys fared during the trip!

The Olympus E-M1 continued to perform admirably on it’s third major overseas outing. Oddly though, the camera occasionally required a few seconds to power-up from a cold-start. Might be something to do with the age of the battery – one of the two BLN-1 battery is about 5 years old now, and its internal circuity might be starting to fail.

The Panasonic GX85 did amazing well in its first major overseas trip! The GX85 was mostly coupled with the 40-150mm f2.8 with 1.4x converter throughout the trip, and I was able to get pretty good picture retention rates, with the C-AF modes able to track moving subjects. There was some minor annoyances though: the camera seems to have its own mind sometimes by selecting its own aperture against what I really want to shoot at. Specifically, I can set aperture on the Olympus m4/3 bodies set on Aperture-Priority and don’t ever worry about it again. But the GX85 will sometimes change f-stop on its own even on Aperture-Priority. I’ll have to read up a bit more about how Panasonic m4/3 bodies treat A modes.

Two batteries accompanied each of the bodies, and on most days, the one battery apiece for the E-M1 and GX85 was able to last for an entire day of shooting on most days. That is, excepting the really heavy days during the day tours, though the batteries were also routinely nearly drained by the day’s end. Sill, the weather in WA wasn’t cold enough at usually between 18 to 7 degree Cs for either the E-M1 and GX85’s batteries to discharge faster.

Shooting sunsets with the E-M1 and Sirui T-24X @ Margaret River.

The number of exposures I triggered on the E-M1 and GX85 was about 3,250 and 2,251 respectively, about 227 using the Samsung 360, and another hundred or so using  Huawei Mate 9 – a total of about 5,828 pictures. And of that, I processed and finally kept about 3,331 of them – a keeper percentage of about 57%. This WA trip goes well past the 5,013 exposures I took for the 23 day New England trip in 2010 (still the most memorable trip ever!) but I kept 4,327 of them then – or a much higher 86% retention. A huge number of shots for this WA trip were on burst mode – particularly the animal feedings – while the ones in New England were of a lot of scenery, which don’t require shooting on drive modes.

Three lenses came along for the trip: the 12-40mm f2.8, the 40-150mm f2.8 with 1.4x teleconverter, and the 17mm f1.8. The approximate picture distribution was 65% 12-40mm, 34% 40-150mm, 1% 17mm. Yep – just a small handful of pictures taken using the prime!

I was really happy with the videos taken on the Huawei Mate 9, despite the initial trepidation before the trip. Between that and Ling’s Samsung Note 5, we took about 79 videos, most about a 1 to 3 minutes long each. The 4K videos coming out of the Huawei Mate 9 did take a bit of processing though as the Dell XPS 13 wasn’t able to handle the 4K videos well. A comparison between the 2K videos taking in Melbourne using the Samsung Note 5 against the 2K downsized from 4K videos on the Huawei Mate 9 showed that despite the lower frame/s – the Note 5 can shoot at 60fps – there was simply a lot more visible resolution and detail for videos taken using the Mate 9, and less obvious jello-effect too when panning the phone around.

Sirui T-024X CF tripod/C-10S Ballhead: were instrumental in enabling some of our family photos and doubled-up also as the tripod for the Samsung Gear 360. It was light enough also for our 8 year old daughter to help carry around. Call me a traditionalist – but I simply don’t think smartphones take very good wefies!

Samsung Gear 360 (2017): already posted separately on this. The pictures were so-so, videos disappointing – but I got perspectives that traditional cameras simply cannot obtain, and the camera was purchased on the cheap.

But the most valuable item that accompanied us this trip was:

Best camera bag ever – the Billingham Hadley Pro.

Hank – our guide at Margaret River – was quite interested in this camera bag too. Despite it being more than 4 years old now, it still looks as good as it did on the first day. Dirt simply rolls off it!

 

Samsung Gear 360 (2017) – More Notes

We took just a small number of 360 videos and photos using the Samsung Gear 360 (2017) I acquired just a few days before starting on our trip. The Billingham Hadley Pro bag at any one time contained the iPad Air 2, the Xiaomi 15,000mAh powerbank, the E-M1, GX85, three lenses (17mm, 12-40mm, 40-150mm + 1.4x converter), straps, the circular polarizer filter, spare batteries, and this 360 camera. Between the two cameras, the Huawei Mate 9 which did the lion’s share of work for videos, I just didn’t have enough hands anymore to also fish out the Gear 360 as much as I wanted!

Still; my comments on the Gear 360 2017 edition after the 11 day trip to Western Australia:

The gear’s very smooth plastic surface makes the device a tad slippery to hold. While it doesn’t give the sense that you’re holding a bar of soap – like what the most recent Samsung Galaxy phones can feel like – I still found myself having to very consciously hold the device lest it slipped out out of hands and kiss hard concrete on the floor.

The battery easily offers enough juice for a day of shooting. Charging using the USB-C port didn’t take long either (about an hour at most each time for a fully flat battery?)

Processing stills and video using ActionDirector, the Samsung-supplied software, is pretty easy, and without needing a Samsung Galaxy phone either. You connect the 360 camera into the PC, transfer files to say a desktop folder, then drop that entire folder into ActionDirector. The software program immediately starts processing them in the background and will save them into a working directory that you can easily take out from later.

Stills-wise, the camera does reasonably well in strong daylight. But as the sun goes down, so does the quality of images – significantly.

Video fares don’t look as good after processing in ActionDirector, and YouTube further compresses them until they look like a pixelated mess.

There are obvious imperfections in the stitching – particularly for video, somewhat less so for stills.

Limitations of the current consumer-level technology aside, I still have a long way to go technique-wise too. Specifically:

This thing desperately needs its own good and dedicated tripod. It was too much of a hassle to bring out even the Sirui tripod that’s designed for traditional cameras, so a number of videos included my fingers and thumbs. It’s also very hard to keep the camera level when holding it high above your head!

Once the camera starts recording, keeping at least one meter away from the camera is a very good idea.

As with spherical lenses, objects look a lot further than they really are. I incorrectly judged the positioning of the camera in several video recordings.

The Samsung Gear 360 (2017) sitting on top of the Sirui tripod.

H helped loads!

In summary, consumer-level 360 cameras are still a long way off from what the really expensive 360 cameras are able produce. But that said, they do provide very unique perspectives that traditional camcorders and digital cameras are unable to record. Compared to the other consumer-level 360 cameras that cost between $500 to $900, we got the Samsung Gear 360 (2017) comparatively cheaply at just SGD284. I recommend that if you must get a 360 camera to record these types of stills and videos to get this model. Don’t spend more than that, and recognize the limitations of what the devices at this stage can produce.

 

 

Western Australia – Day 8 – Lake Cave

There are perhaps about half a dozen well-known ‘show caves’ in the Margaret River region, each having its own special look, feel and accessibility into the cave itself. We were uncertain which one would suit H and P best, and especially the latter since the thought of having to carry him up as down several hundred stair steps was unappealing. We would be doing one or more caves with Hank on Day 8, so left it to the actual day to decide which best to visit, and also depending on weather and the rest of the itinerary along with that.

Day 7 had seen a heavy downpour from the early afternoon onwards, and the first half of Day 8 experienced light drizzles still, but Hank was able to work an itinerary around that, and after some discussion, we decided on Lake Cave on account that this cave is the only one with a permanent lake in it and casting beautiful reflections, though you’d have to climb 300 or so steps down (easy) and then back up later (ouch!). So, after checking out Surfers Point, we raced back to Caves Road and arrived just in time to join the 11:30AM guided tour.

The cave is reportedly one of the deepest in the region – about 62m below the surface – and is reached by walking down well-constructed wooden steps supported by steel beams (i.e. safe and rock solid) around a spectacular ‘doline’ – a large cavity in on the surface. The guided tour itself takes about 35 minutes, with great commentary that provided insights into various interesting structures inside the cave. The cave also has illuminated board walks with railings on one or more sides. And at various points, lights came on and off to showcase different parts of the structure – including one spot at the far end when the guide switched off all lights to give us a sense of what it would be like to be in total darkness.

The boline. There are various viewing platforms and also rest stops for those who get tired with the climb down and up.

The still waters casting a beautiful reflection on the stalagmites. The famous suspended table formation is on the right.

The cave is well-known in the region as it’s the only one in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge with a permanent lake that flows out to the ocean via Margaret River.

It was a full-guided tour group for the 11:30AM, but a very well-behaved group who were all respectful of the environment we were in.

The cave itself isn’t very large, but the itself is level once you get inside (i.e. no more climbing up and down).

A close look at the Suspended Table formation. The cave is also a little different from others: that it’s possibly one of the most child-friendly ones in that it’s a steep but doable climb down via stairs, then level all the way through the cave. You only need to climb back up when leaving (which was a lot more exhausting LOL).

The almost perfectly still waters cast mesmerizing reflections on the stalagmites. The cave has some ambient lights to showcase the interesting bits and also for the board walk. But all the pictures here were taken handheld at about 1/4s. The m4/3 sensor stabilization worked incredibly well in this series!

I was the last in the group to exit the cave, so took my time to take shots sans humans.

We didn’t have time to check out the caves, but if we’re again ever traveling to this area, we’d want to.

P.S. Peter could handle the steps going up – albeit slowly!

Western Australia – Margaret River – Exploring the Town Center

The Margaret River town center certainly looks a lot more developed today in 2017 than I remember it from 2003, with lots more shops and eateries, and also more human and vehicular traffic than before. We had plenty of opportunities over the five days we stayed to visit shops and check out restaurants. There are plenty of carparking lots littered throughout the center especially around the side roads, in addition to those that lie along the main road parallel-parking styled.

The speed limit slows to 60km/h nearing the center, 50km/h within the center itself, and 40km/h at the further end where there is a school-zone, and there are numerous side-roads that branch out from the main road (Bussell Highway). It’s an easy drive but do it’s was still necessary to keep our eyes opened for vehicle doors opening!

The Fudge Factory, which produces chocolates and candies.


We arrived at Margaret River on a sunny day 5 of our stay.


Wide pavements.


Stopping by the town center’s outlet of Millers Ice-Cream. It’s cheaper here than in the farm some 15 minutes away. Odd!


Cafe with a sense of humor? LOL.


A small mall that houses a gym and some sports shops. Didn’t see this before in the last trip.


The well-reviewed Southern Crust pizza had closed for a winter break, so we settled for Kappadokia Kebabs which was just next door.


The lamb (top) pide, and chicken pide, both about AUD15 each.


Chicken and lamb pides for dinner – yummy!


The ubiquitous Target store. We stocked up on children’s clothes here again.


Squid Lips – what a name for a restaurant! This one’s tucked a little beside the Target: Country department store.


We had the Barra and Snapper Fish & Chips at AUD16 each.


Dinner @ Morries Anytime: The adults had the Half roast chicken, with Israeli couscous, pine nuts, turmeric yoghurt and chermoula butter. Priced at AUD44 – but Ling said it’s worth every penny!


The kids had the cheese burger from the children’s meuu and love it too.

Not all the eateries are opened past 6PM though, but there are sufficient places to have dinner – quite unlike Pemberton. In the worse scenario, both Coles and Woolsworth are opened till the early evenings, so you won’t starve.:)

Western Australia – Day 6 – Whale Watching @ Augusta

The first whale-watching experience I with our Ang Mo bud had was in Gloucester in 2010 – site also of the famous disaster fictionalized in the year 2000 George Clooney The Perfect Storm – and I had a second trip out a few weeks later but traveling out from Boston. It was the first trip from Glouscester though that left me with an incredible memory – that of whales breaching, though as the second Boston trip and now this one in Augusta showed, you’re more likely to see the whales just rolling lazily and diving than breaching.

Still, whale watching has long been one of the key highlights of our just over 11 day trip to Western Australia, on account that this would be the kids and Ling’s first such. And from all accounts, whale watching off Augusta won’t be anything like what Matt and I suffered: we spent 2 hours traveling out and searching in vain for these ocean-going fellows. And right when the boat pilot just above gave up to turn the boat around, we finally spotted a few who breached for us, making the entire trip worth it. Matt has a hilarious retelling  of it still here on our blog from 7 years ago. There are a few whale watching charters traveling out from Augusta, but as guests of the Margaret River Hideaway & Farmstay, we would get a small discount from one of these companies – so we went with Legend Charters.

The operator’s reporting-time was 10:15 AM, but we took a few more minutes trying to find the right place: do note – the start point is in Augusta Boat Harbor, which is several minutes away from Augusta town center itself. The boat can sit around 20, so we were nearly full at 19 persons: four Singaporean families, with a Aussie couple. We could have just as well sung Majula Singapura for in-boat entertainment LOL.

I’m not sure what kind of boats the other operators used, but the Legend Charters boat was luxurious for what we paid (about AUD225). The main seating was carpeted, had tables with comfortable and cushioned chairs, and the crew offered in-boat beverages and Lamington cakes. As reported on several reviewers and unlike the trips in Gloucester and Boston, it didn’t take long for us to spot whales in Augusta – just 15 minutes and right out of the harbor! And not just a pair, but several dozens across multiple sightings in the about two hours we spent out in the waters.

The waters were anything but perfect though: it was choppy, and possibly because the boat we were on was much smaller than the previous two I were on, it took an hour before I got nausea and was knocked out: and thus missed the best part of the trip: 4 whales swimming beside the boat. But Ling took a video of it that we’ll post up soon.

Many boats docked at Augusta Boat Harbor. The registration counter is where the main entrance past the boardwalk is, so you can’t miss it even though there’s no large sign that says “Legend Charters”.

Boarding the boat. There were three crew members: the pilot, his experienced helper, and an understudy who looked like he’s still in his teens!

The charter boat was luxurious and clean and new. Carpeted even. Coffee for mommy, Milo for the kids.

This Augusta Boat Harbor bird takes sentry duty very seriously.

Anything for fishing. These four fellows were perched on some rocks.

Though the weather was beautiful, the waters were anything. We could see exactly how choppy it was with another whale watching boat about 200 meters ahead of us looking like it was going to topple at spots.

Our kids first whale watching experience, and we saw dozens in close proximity. Most surfaced, flipped about etc. though none of them breached like what I saw several years back with whale watching @ Gloucester in New England.

As the guide explained, some of the whales were showing off – not to us but potential mates! Ling has a video of whales swimming beside the boat (didn’t get any photos of that by the second half I was down with nausea LOL).

All in – recommended and a must-see if you’re in the right month and the right area!

Western Australia – Day 6 – Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse

Day 6 and we’re went south. The Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse sits at the most south-westerly point of Australia, but it’s also a little different from many of the other lighthouses we’ve visited not because of that. Rather, this one’s a working lighthouse. Interesting as you’d expect ships today to benefit from modern navigational equipment, GPSes and the like that seem to make lighthouses redundant. But as the guide explained it, in this age of digital attacks and hacking, you can never not benefit from having some good old-fashioned equipment.

We arrived early and well before the opening time, though there was another Singaporean family ahead of us. Why am I not surprised LOL. In any case, the extra time afforded Ling lots of time to get the kids ready with their heat packs, while I could explore the area a bit and managed to catch some beautiful photos of white horses along the rocky coast line, thanks also to the 40-150mm f2.8 lenses which gave me the reach I needed the breaking waves. The other family opted for the audio tour, while we were the only family on the guided tour – so we had pretty much the entire lighthouse to ourselves.

Hannah was able to climb the approximately six floors of the tower, while Peter could also do so though more slowly. The view up-top is as incredible as I remember it, though as soon as we’d climbed to the top, we had to scurry over to the side where we would not face the full-blast of the ocean winds. The guide was informative, though at spots he sounded like he was also on auto-mode. Must be tough sounding fresh when you’re doing this every hour every day.

The area has also seen quite a bit of development since I was last here in 2003: including the new cafeteria, and also the viewing gallery (more on that later).

There are several spots along the road to Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse where you can stop for pictures with the tower in the backdrop. And it’s cold – not so much because of the 4 degree celsius, but ocean winds blowing at you!

White horses on the coast line just beside the lighthouse. There is a clearly marked-out small trail from the car park that you can take for some really nice views of the shoreline.

Cow with eye-patch, hook, eye-scope, a parrot perched on the shoulder says MoooAaarrr…?

We opted for the guided tour too. Coincidentally, we had the same guide (who has been working the lighthouse tours for the last 18 years now) as when we were here in 2003! He looks like he hasn’t aged!

Hannah said it’s csary up there! Guide wasn’t kidding when he said hold onto your glasses – you receive the full blast of ocean winds on the unprotected sides of the tower.

We were again blessed with a beautifully sunny day and clear blue skies.

Tried doing a couple of long exposure shots up top, but it was just too windy up top!

The lighthouse casts long shadows @ early morning sun of 9:15AM.

Coming down is easier than climbing up!

The back of the lighthouse against the morning sun.

This viewing gallery was built just a few years ago (3 years?). Apparently there were too many visitors climbing out to the rough rocks ahead to take pictures, so the gallery helps give them that opportunity without risking their lives.

Yikes!

The drive to Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse is an easy 45 minutes from Margaret River without any tricky spots. Highly recommended: and if you’re visiting, go for the guided tour, if nothing else to be able to climb the tower to the top for magnificent 360 degree views! Next stop: Whale Watching @ Augusta!