Rottnest Paradise

January 11, 2022

PhotographyBobby Bense/Helen Janneson Bense

EditingHelen Janneson Bense

LocationRottnest Island/Wadjemup – Western Australia

To get there/bike and snorkel hireSealink

Outfits – Dress | Swimwear

I still have to pinch myself that this paradise resides within a 30 minute ferry ride from our home in Fremantle. The contrast of azure and turquoise waters will have you mesmerised from the moment your ferry approaches the island shores.

We visit at least 3 times a year, and while I love it in every season, summertime is by far my favourite. The soaring Perth summer temperatures are always milder on the island, and the waters are perfect for snorkelling without a wetsuit.

We spent our day recently aboard Rottnest’s Rolls Royce of ferries Sealink, opting for a more environmentally friendly option of travel. Their state of the art ferries are designed to protect the marine environment and use less fuel per passenger than a small four cyclinder car. It’s become our family’s ferry of choice aligning with our values and has all the modern facilities, luxury and comfort for a smooth and fast ride to the island.

Rottnest is an amazing spot to hire a bike, or bring your own, and explore the islands beaches. You’ll be sure to spot some of the cute local quokkas along the way. There are some incredible snorkeling spots. Our favourites are Salmon bay and The Basin. For a day of beach lounging we love Little Parakeet bay. It’s usually a little quieter, and has the clearest and calmest water for swimming.

It’s always such a special family day for us enjoying the oceans healing magic and exploring the underwater world. I love watching the confidence in my teen kids grow as they challenge themselves with their ocean skills.

Have you been to Rottnest Island? If not then put it on the bucket list as it’s most definitely a bucket list worthy spot, along with so many other amazing places here in WA. If you ever need any assistance building up a dream WA trip, please reach out and I’ll let you know some of the best spots to visit and when.

With love and gratitude,

Helen xx

Family Christmas traditions

December 8, 2021

PhotographyBobby Bense

Creative Direction/EditingHelen Janneson Bense

Location – Fremantle

Creating DIY Christmas Gifts and Keepsakes with the instax mini Link –  instax mini 11 Oh Snap! Instant Photo kit | instax mini Link Printer  instax mini Film

I’m keeping family traditions alive this Christmas and creating new ones as well. I come from a Finnish background where we celebrate a little differently. Firstly, and most importantly, we bake a lot, especially in the month preceding Christmas. Instead of 25th December, we celebrate on Christmas Eve. Now that we are in sunny Western Australia, we have new traditions like spending the day at the beach and enjoying a completely plant based, low waste Christmas. This year we are focusing on giving moments, memories and experiences to friends and family. We’ve been having so much fun creating DIY gifts from the heart using our instax mini Link Printer.

I’ve been teaching my children all of my favourite childhood recipes that my mum taught me. Our absolute favourite Christmas cookies that make the whole kitchen smell like home, are Piparkakku. They are a ‘melt in your mouth’ ginger and cinnamon cookie that remind me of my parents. It’s been such a long time since we’ve seen family and every reminder right now makes our hearts sing. We had such a wonderful, creative time making our loved ones some Christmas cookie gift baskets. Everything from the basket itself was handmade, topped with a little keepsake instant photo  – a reminder of those precious moments together.

Adding prints onto our cookie baskets gave us the idea to create Christmas gift boxes and cards sourcing reusable items we had around our home. We found some brown packing paper, boxes, cotton string, dried flowers, recycled card and began crafting away. Each gift box and card was made extra special, personalised with an instant photo memory that we printed out using the instax mini Link Printer

This time of year brings on so much emotion for me. Christmas together with my whole family is a treasured memory, and sadly something that has become much harder over the past 2 years. While I long to see my family across the globe reunited, I’m grateful for the memories. I’m grateful to have my husband and children to celebrate with, and create some new traditions that will someday be passed down to our grandchildren.

No matter how you celebrate, I’m wishing you all the most wonderful holiday season, full of joy, connection and love.

With love and gratitude, 

Helen xx

Turquoise Waters Retreat

November 23, 2021

PhotographyHelen Janneson Bense | Bobby Bense

LocationTurquoise Waters Retreat

PicnicPretty Willow | Alma Handcrafted by Nature Plant Based Gift Box

Healing RecsSensate – Use code HELEN35 for 35AUD off | Sunshine | Barefoot walks | Singing | Digestive Bitters | Ear Massage | Cold showers | Meditation | Deep Breathing – especially before eating | Regular Digital Detoxes

Outfits Isla Midi Dress | Farrah Wrap Dress | Willow Kimono | Lolita Pants | Lace Robe | One piece Swim

JewelryAnanda Soul

When it rains it pours is how the saying goes and it couldn’t be more true for me right now with my current health issues. If you’ve been reading my Instagram lately, I’ve been sharing a little more about my health journey. It can be a lonely one at times. Connecting to others going through similar experiences has really helped me and I’m so grateful for everyone who’s reached out to me this past month.

I thought all my problems started with my broken toe in August, or the gastrointestinal virus I had in June, or the paddling injury that spurred on my frozen shoulder in March….what I’m realising is it’s a little of each, plus the stress of the last 2 years piling on. Plus the fact that I’m peri menopausal and going through new changes that are challenging me in many ways. I’ve had multiple breast scares over the past 8 years and I recently experienced another when I found a new lump. It really put me over the edge. I’ve been back and forth with tests over the past month. While I was given the green light at first, it wasn’t long before things escalated and I found myself talking to a breast cancer specialist facing more testing and more waiting yet again. The waiting anxiety feels like the hardest part of it all, but it is really just the tip of the iceberg considering the journey some take when they are diagnosed with breast cancer. I’m feeling very lucky right now, and very grateful. I received the best news ever last Friday that my results are all clear. I have a healing journey ahead, most likely surgery, but there is a deep sense of relief that we’ve finally and completely ruled out the ‘C’ word.

With such an eventful year I’ve really needed a lot more time in self reflection. You may have noticed from Instagram I’ve taken numerous solo staycays this year. One aspect is for work, which feeds me creatively, but the other is my need to be alone with my thoughts, to get to know myself better, and understand my changing needs. I’m beyond grateful my amazing husband Bobby and our children are able to support me through all of this. It’s most definitely not a viable option for everyone. We’ve always faced certain challenges without extended family support, so we all really rely on the support we give to one another, especially through times like this.

My recent solo staycay was thankfully divinely timed so perfectly around the beginning of my breast scare. I stayed at the incredibly beautiful Turquoise Waters Retreat. A luxurious, coastal styled airbnb located in Scarborough that made me feel so at home. Every detail is considered and every space is both comfortable and photogenic. It’s definitely a fantastic space to take some epic photos and relax. And to set up a glorious picnic! Pretty Willow stopped by and set up the most creative, magnificent and relaxing picnic space to enjoy and unwind. Everything about this stay was exactly what my body, heart and soul needed.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time soaking up the sunshine by the stunning pool. Sun-smart sunbathing is known to improve mood and really helps me regulate my nervous system. It’s something I do in short regular bursts, particularly in the cooler months. I’ve also discovered many other hacks for activating my vagus nerve, which is the switch to the calming part of your nervous system. Music, singing, humming, massages and cold showers are all amazing vagus nerve activators. And so are digestive bitters. Particularly good taken right before meals to ensure proper digestion. Since the vagus nerve is intricately involved in controlling digestive function it’s no wonder we get tummy issues when we are stressed. We need rest to digest!

I’ve also got a new hack that I’m a bit obsessed with. It’s called Sensate. It’s a small device you place on your sternum area that emits infrasonic waves that are synchronised and in harmony with the specially composed hemispheric audio which can be found in the Sensate app. It’s so easy to use and it’s immediately relaxing. Sensate can help to calm the fight-flight-freeze response of your nervous system, activate your vagus nerve, induce relaxation, and over time helps to improve the tone of the vagus nerve….also known as stress resilience. This device is particularly good for those who have experienced trauma and suffer with post traumatic stress. I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and it’s helped me amp up my meditation time to be even more effective. If you’re interested in trying it out for yourself, use my code HELEN35 for $35 AUD off.

So while it’s been a year of health hurdles, it’s been a wonderful learning experience, and I find myself growing every day, creating a life that aligns more with my ethos. I’m spending a lot more time in nature, with friends, with family, I’m regularly tuning out of the news and social media, and I’m focused on what I can do, rather than what I can’t. These last fews day I’ve had some small wins with my shoulder which means my dream of getting back on my paddle board this summer is back on the cards. I honestly couldn’t be happier. Finding gratitude when the chips are down means that no matter what life throws your way, you can still thrive, and find ways to enjoy life even when there are immense challenges.

Right now I’m taking it one day at a time, knowing I will heal, and taking extra special care of myself as I navigate this bumpy part of my road.

With love and gratitude,

Helen xx

Springtime at Smiths

November 9, 2021

Photography/EditingBobby Bense | Helen Janneson Bense

LocationsSmiths Beach Resort | Yallingup | Castle Rock | Lavender Tea House

To do – Surf lesson at Yallingup Surf School | Picnic at Windows Estate | Cape to Cape Luxury Guided tour | Whale watching | Cape to Cape trek day tour | Lake Cave Tour | High Ropes Forest Adventures

Outfits – Isla Sol Sunset Kimono | Gemini Mint Paisley Maxi Dress | Jasmine Maxi Dress | Spell Folksong Dress

Hats | Picnic | Swimwear

In WA right now we’re enjoying Kambarang, the Noongar season, signalling the return of warmer weather. There’s an abundance of colour, vibrant wildflowers are popping everywhere, reptiles are emerging from hibernation, and Koolbardies (magpies) are singing and swooping, protecting their nests.

What a magical time of year it was to visit Smiths Beach. This makes our sixth visit to Smiths Beach Resort and it was by far one of the most unique and best family trips we’ve had. After months of hefty rainfall nature was exploding with colour, vibrancy, health and beauty. Situated right by a national park, with the most beautiful beach on it’s doorstep, we had front row seats to nature’s magnificence. We woke up to pastel sunrise skies, double rainbows, and watched the golden rays of sunset sparkle over the ocean.

While the weather was oscillating between sunny and stormy, we made the very best of our time. Our children are adventurers and wild at heart like their parents, so we had no trouble motivating them to brave the wild weather with us. From snorkelling to surfing to rock climbing we did it all, rain, hail or shine. Our children are enthusiastic indoor rock climbers and they absolutely love this place because there are so many perfectly formed boulders that are just the right kind of challenge to climb without the need for a harness. Jade is also a keen surfer and had a wonderful surfing lesson with Crystal from Yallingup Surf School, who was such a kind and skilled surf instructor. Yallingup lagoon is a beautiful and safe spot to learn to surf. The kids all had a blast and caught some great waves :)

We always make sure to pack wetsuits and snorkelling gear no matter the time of year and head to our favourite spot, ‘The Aquarium’, a natural, large mermaid pool just a 20 minute hike from Smiths beach resort. It’s great for a snorkel, and the walk itself is breathtaking. You’ll spot wildflowers and wildlife along the way, and have the best ocean views you could dream of. Another spot we love to hike along the cape to cape track is at Castle Rock. It’s also another great bouldering spots for the kids. There were loads of wildflowers on this walk and so many rainbows! It also happens to be a great place to whale watch too, as migrating humpbacks head back south this time of year.

We lucked out with some beautiful sunshine too and enjoyed a glorious picnic by the lake at Windows Estate. It’s a signature Smiths Beach Resort experience that I highly recommend. We were surrounded by nature, soaking up the the ambient sounds of wildlife, warmed by a toasty, crackling fire, indulging in the most delicious plant based feast. It was so cosy and a lovely balance to our adventure filled days. We all had such a fun afternoon. It turned out to be such a great family bonding experience.

When the sunshine came out we headed poolside for some relaxation at Smiths Beach Resort. It’s the most comfortable, luxurious place to return after a day of forest and ocean adventures. Everything is so easy, effortless, the rooms are so well designed, and the beds feel like you’re floating on a cloud. My favourite moment is at sunrise, making tea, popping the fire on, opening the blinds and soaking up that calm sunrise stillness from the balcony, my excitement for the possibilities of the day brewing.

In every season Smiths Beach has something magical to offer. It’s full of experiences for all; wild adventure, relaxation, nature, food and wine, history, culture. Every time I visit I fall more in love with this region of WA and look forward to the next trip!

With love and gratitude,

Helen xx

Shift of the tide

August 20, 2021

PhotographyHelen Janneson Bense

Locations – Coconut Well | Coconutz BnB | Gantheaume Point | Cable Beach | Bali Hai Resort – Broome, Western Australia

Outfits

House of Harlow 1960 Danna Kimono | LPA Gretchen Crochet top | Tularosa Berklee Skirt

Tigerlily Lunara Lenora Midi Dress | Tigerlily Lunara Mirella Maxi Dress | Spell Folksong Sundress | Spell Folksong Robe

Accessories

Ananda Soul Dare to Shine Angel Mala | One Day at a Time Necklace | Daydreamer necklace | Truth of my Soul Ring | One Day at a Time Ring | One Day at a Time Hoop Earrings

Maxi House Thea hat

This ancient, wild land calls to me, it draws me in like the changing tides. My heart sings with joy as it heals my woes, soothes my soul, and connects me to nature, bringing me home deeper into my heart.

Is there a place for you that feels like this?

I recently took a solo trip to Broome, a sunshine filled, wild land in the north west of Australia. I didn’t realise it until I was there, but I needed this trip for my mental health. It was on my first day it hit me out of nowhere. After a slow morning soaking in the sun, I was enjoying an outdoor bath, and I found myself in a flood of tears. The overwhelm I was feeling, yet somehow holding onto so tightly, had all the space and safety for release. It was a little bit of everything really. The pain and trauma in the world felt heavy in my heart. The intensity of motherhood and the juggle of running a business and feeling constantly behind the eight ball. The mother’s guilt of feeling like you just can’t do it all. The exhaustion of living this busy life where we strive to accomplish so much, yet damage our mental health, and our planet in the process. The trauma that lives in my cells, that can be triggered by unknown stimuli, sometimes a look, a tone, a smell, a song, a feeling. It was here in this bath I started to deeply breathe through every little bit of grief. I allowed it in, to wash over me, and to diminish in it’s own time. Like the tides of the north west, it came in fast and strong, and without my resistance, it shifted just as quickly.

I felt such a wonderful release after this cry. It was just what I needed. And joy quickly moved into it’s place. I spent the day hiking to the Coconut Well rock pools. Imagine a place where you can have your very own rock pool. Well this is it! While I do recommend a 4WD for this adventure in the hot sun, it’s possible to walk. You’ll need appropriate footwear as the limestone is super sharp. And ensure you check the tides before going. If you have a 9+metre high tide the lagoon at the beginning of the walk will be full. It’s a beautiful spot to float and swim. It’s rare over the dry season (May – Oct) to see crocodiles here, but there is a very small possibility. You want to head to the rock pools as the tide is receding. They’ll be exposed and full of beautiful turquoise water. On the day I visited there was no-one else around. I couldn’t believe I had the entire beach to myself. It was incredible! And during a time when Broome was beyond capacity too.

I chose an eco tent at Coconutz BNB for my first stay of this trip. It’s walking distance to the Coconut Well lagoon, so it made an ideal spot to stay. I had no idea how much I would fall in love with this place. The whole glamping situation is so well set up. Everything was easy and comfortable. There’s a kitchen, a bathroom, a dining space, and its really simple to prepare your own food here. I felt so close to nature as I listened to the bird song and watched the sunset over the ocean from my hammock. Lisa is the most generous and helpful host, and I would gladly visit this place again. You’ll have access to the main pool too, which is beyond luxurious.

My next stop was to Bali Hai resort and spa. This was my second stay here and it won’t be my last. It’s one of my favourite places to stay in Cable beach. I love the tropical Bali vibes, the smell of incense, the lush gardens, the villa design, the glistening pool, and the beautiful spa. It has a wonderful restaurant with delicious vegan food (the curry is the best!)

From here I adventured to Gantheaume point, less than a 10 minute drive away. I visited multiple times to hunt for rock pools as there were big tides happening while I was in town. The first day I missed it by just 30 minutes and it was emptying. On my second visit I broke my toe right as I was turning the corner to see it! Talk about timing! It was so full and it was beautiful. I didn’t know my toe was broken and chose to ignore it for awhile and enjoy the pool and views. It didn’t take long before I realised it was turning black and blue and swelling. I spent the rest of my trip poolside, foot elevated, on ice. It was probably just what I needed too. I get a bit crazy when adventuring solo, always pushing my limits. I feel like a little kid searching for treasure. The joy completely overtook the pain.

So while I navigate these changing tides of my life, I’m picking up a lot of great tools along the way. A little solo time is essential. So is exposing myself to sporadic bursts of sunshine during winter. Breathing through everything helps me regulate my nervous system. Barefoot nature walks always ground me, as long as the terrain is flat! haha! I’m a huge fan of cold showers/baths and singing/chanting/humming to activate my vagus nerve and calm my nervous system. I’m creating safe space for loving compassion to allow myself to feel and release. And while I do this and become the best version of myself, I’m sending a whole lot of love, healing and prayers out to all those in need right now. While I experienced some hiccups on this trip, and face my own personal challenges, I am so grateful for all I have, for my privilege in this life, and that I have a safe and loving home.

With love and gratitude,

Helen xx

Follow the Sun

August 6, 2021

PhotographyBobby Bense | Helen Janneson Bense | All drone imagery captured with permission and license from DCBA

Locations – Coral bay | Exmouth | Abrolhos Islands | Carnarvon | Kalbarri | Pink Lake | Geraldton – Western Australia

Where to stayCoral bay Bayside villas | Yardie Creek homestead chalets | Carnarvon Beach retreat | Wittecara Beach house

What to doSnorkel Coral bay | Ningaloo Discovery Whale Shark tour | Kalbarri/Abrolhos Island Scenic flight | Coral Bay Kayak Snorkel Trails | Kayak/SUP or Cruise Yardie Creek Gorge | Glass Bottom Eco Turtle tour | Carnarvon Food Trail | Kalbarri Skywalk | Kalbarri Natural Bridge

Each winter we follow the sun north to the warmer waters, to journey with the migrating humpback whales, to snorkel with turtles, to spend our days salty and sun kissed from sunrise to sunset.

We started our migration to beautiful Coral bay, where you can snorkel the fringing reef right from the beach. It’s the kind of place where you soon forget what day it is. We enjoyed the slow pace of beachside life with the company of our good friends who holidayed with us. This year we stayed in the Bayside villas which were comfortable and convenient being so close to the reef. The outdoor deck was the perfect spot to enjoy sunset views over the reef each day.

There are so many awesome spots to snorkel in Coral bay. One of my favourites is the Lavender patch, a vivid, healthy, 50m long patch of lilac coral, located very close to the beach. From Bill’s bay just head south past Purdy point towards the 5 knot sign in the water. Drift snorkel north from here around 20+m or so out into the reef and you won’t miss it. It’s such a large area of coral and incredibly vibrant. If you have any trouble finding it, take a tour out in one of the glass bottom boats and they will take you there to view it. We did both, and nothing beats being able to dive down and see it close up. Another really amazing spot to see is Ayre’s rock, a 400 year old porites bombie. It’s approx 300m from shore so you’ll need to kayak and tie off on one of the kayak moorings. From the mooring it’s close by, about 60m in a westerly direction. Ensure you don’t touch or kick the coral as it’s very close to the surface of the water.

Our next stop was a 2.5 hour trek to Exmouth. We stayed at Yardie Creek Homestead park in one of their chalets. While it was very basic, it had absolutely everything we needed. It was a very comfortable stay and provided the best vantage point for us to quickly get where we wanted to visit. We spent most of our time outdoors exploring Cape range national park. Turquoise bay is by far my favourite snorkelling spot along Ningaloo reef. Each snorkel we saw multiple turtles, unicorn fish, sharks, vibrant corals, and some unusual fish we weren’t even able to identify. It was absolutely teeming with life. We explored the Yardie Creek gorge, an amazing spot for kayaking and paddle boarding. Look closely into the ancient red limestone cliff faces and you’ll see the cutest faces of the rare and tiny black footed wallabies and huge osprey nests. We were lucky enough to see both during our visit. Unfortunately I was unlucky losing my phone along the hiking trail. While it caused some stress, I quickly grieved the loss, and ensured I enjoyed the rest of my trip phone free, which was a very liberating feeling.

The next day of our adventure was by far the best and we ticked off a bucket list item that I had long dreamt about. We set off sail aboard Windcheetah, a 60 ft catamaran, with Ningaloo Discovery in search of the majestic whale sharks. We couldn’t have wished for better weather conditions, with low wind, sunshine and calm, glassy waters. It made spotting humpback whales super easy. While it took us awhile to find our whale sharks, we spotted multiple humpback whales along the way, swimming so close to our sailing boat. We saw turtles, sharks and even a sea snake! Finally we reached our destination just outside the reef on the other side of Turquoise bay. Swimming with whale sharks was definitely worth the wait. It brought me to happy tears as I swam alongside these graceful beings. Our children said it was the best tour they have ever experienced. And I would have to agree. Due to conditions being so perfect, we also lucked out with a back of reef snorkel. From the moment I entered the water I spotted my first turtle, and then onto the next and the next. It was so amazing to be snorkeling outside the reef, secretly praying a whale or manta ray would swim by us.

Our time in Exmouth was so wild and joyful and definitely a place I want to spend more time at on our next migration north. We slowly began our journey home with a refuel and refresh pit stop for supplies in Carnarvon. A must stop along the food trail is Morel’s. It’s one of our road trip family traditions to stop for dried mango and mango ice cream (vegan too!). We stayed right on the water at Carnarvon Beach Retreat in the captains quarters. A beautiful spot to take your kayak or sup straight out onto the water from your outdoor deck. Be aware during low tide you may get stuck so stay between the boat markers. There’s a local turtle named Tommy, and stingrays to be seen here. It’s such a peaceful, calm spot to enjoy sunset and sunrise views from your balcony.

Onwards we traveled to one of my favourite spots, Kalbarri. I love the ancient red cliffs, the abundant wildlife, the wild ocean, and above all how close we are to the migrating whales. From Natural bridge on the coastal cliff drive you will definitely be able to spot whales here between July and October. If you hang around until sunset you’ll see the local red kangaroos, the Bigurda, confidently jumping along the sheer face of the cliffs. Some beautiful spots to explore are the Kalbarri skywalk, Nature’s window, Blue holes, and kayak along Murchison river. I find that every time I visit I’m so drawn to whale watching. It’s mesmerising. We stayed at Wittecara Beach house, right on the beach and edge of the national park. We could see whales breaching from our kitchen table! This house was by far the best spot we’ve stayed in Kalbarri and I would highly recommend a stay.

To end our magical road trip with an absolute bang, we took a scenic flight from Kalbarri to the Abrolhos islands with Kalbarri Scenic flights. We soaked in the views of whales breaching and tail slapping along the way, the 400 million year old coastal cliffs, the pink lake, and the incredible turquoise vista of the Houtman Abrolhos islands, made up of 122 islands spanning 100 km of ocean. It’s one of WA’s most unique, biodiverse, marine areas, an ocean hope spot, and home to Australian sea lions, bottlenose dolphins, Tammar wallabies, green sea turtles, dwarf bearded dragons, ospreys and 90 different species of seabirds. We were lucky enough to spot some wallabies with their joeys during our visit.

Abrolhos is famously known for the Batavia shipwreck in 1629, one of the earliest known landings of Europeans, which led to months of horrific mutiny and murder. Your your guide will no doubt have a wild historic story to share. You can dive to view what is left of the shipwreck and view the fort, which was built by the soldiers during the mutiny. The reconstructed remains of Batavia can be viewed at the Shipwrecks museum in Fremantle.

As our road trip holiday came to a close, we had one more stop, the mesmerising Pink Lake in Port Gregory. We explored multiple locations along the pink lake from north to south and right by the ocean to enjoy all the varying colours. The colours ranged from pink, red, lilac to purple with patches of orange/yellow. The colour of the lake is created by the presence of carotenoid-producing algae, Dunaliella salina, a source of beta-carotene and vitamin A. Depending on the light, angle and cloud coverage it will appear differently every time you visit.

It’s the moments that take your breath away that truly linger, that become a part of a new you, and bring us closer to nature, closer to our hearts, closer to our true self. I live for these moments of pure joy and there is no price tag that can be placed on the freedom and transformation that comes with experiencing nature at it’s finest. I’m so grateful for such an enriching journey, laughing with my family and friends, facing challenges together, building resilience and confidence within ourselves, sharing memories that will never be forgotten. While I’m already dreaming of next year’s trek, I’m integrating all this magic we experienced and grateful for what nature has given to us.

With love and gratitude,

Helen xx

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