Cruising for dolphins in Mandurah

The Mandurah Dolphin Island Adventure tour takes you on a 1.5-hour cruise through the Mandurah Canals into the Dawesville Cut and out into the Peel-Harvey Estuary to see Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins. Dolphin sightings are guaranteed on this cruise, meaning that if dolphins are not seen, you’ll receive a free cruise. However, dolphin sightings are very likely.

We didn’t even have to wait to see our first dolphins, a pair of dolphins next to the boat’s docking space. Once admiring these friendly creatures we headed to Dawesville Cut, a man-made channel between the Peel-Harvey Estuary and the Indian Ocean. There is an entire community of dolphins that live around the Cut, many of them have braved shark attacks or sadly been entangled and injured in fishing line.

We saw about five dolphins swimming about in the water and playing with each other in one section and more in other areas. There was a dolphin with most of his dorsal fin missing named ‘John Edwards’, his fin bitten off by the sharks that plague Dawesville Cut. He is usually seen with his mates, other dolphins called ‘Jack Daniels’ and ‘Jim Beam’.

Here’s a short clip of our day:

Video by Leo Paoliello of @captured_moments42, John Paoliello and Dianne Bortoletto

Upon leaving the Dawesville Cut, we went into the Peel-Harvey Estuary and were told about the important Mandurah wetlands that attracts bird life including the migratory Red-Necked stints, which can be seen from October to March as they fly from North Asia to Mandurah yearly. Whilst travelling, our guide pointed out the artificial osprey nests that tower above the trees. The nests were built to house ospreys, as the trees they were previously nesting in were cleared for residential development.

When cruising through the estuary we encountered ‘Nicky’, one of the oldest of the Mandurah dolphins. She is a grandmother dolphin as her daughter has had a calf.

Our boat then travelled through the rest of the estuary and of the canals at a swift pace, and we were back at the dock. Mandurah Cruises Dolphin Island Adventure tour is a must if you want to experience the vast wildlife of Mandurah.

There is a possibility of seeing whales as the boat travels through the Leeuwin current, a passage that whales travel through as they migrate to and from Antarctica. Even though we didn’t see whales, we saw loads of dolphins in their natural habitat.

Guest blog post by Matt Paoliello (14yo Year 9 student), Travelletto’s nephew 

Did you know….that Mandurah is an island?

dolphin swimming

Fact File

Mandurah Cruises

Book online or call (+61) 08 9581 1242

Mandurah Cruises boat

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Emotions and elation at inaugural Margi Gras

I have spent the better part of the summer working on a beautiful event called Margi Gras.

Emotions were high and the 700-strong crowd elated at Margaret River’s first Margi Gras proudly sponsored by The River Hotel.

Attendees witnessed the region’s first public same-sex wedding on February 10, 2018, when Rebecca Hannan married her long-term partner Sunny Michelle Hannan at the free event that came to fruition as a celebration of equality.

Margi Gras 2017

Margi Gras Sunny Michelle and Rebecca Hannan with Perth Drag Queens. Photo: Jennifer Eliot

The bridal party, along with Perth Drag Queens, arrived in style to the Margaret River Cultural Centre Lawns via a 12-car motorcade that included a 1939 Buick, a black 1950 Mark V Jaguar, a 1955 Mustang, a pink 1960 Thunderbird, a red 1966 Thunderbird convertible à la Thelma and Louise, a grey and white 1964 Chevrolet Belair and a red 1967 Buick Wildcat Sting.

The pair was married under the gazebo in front of the Augusta Margaret River Shire building that was styled with sashes of colour fabric and beautiful fresh flowers and foliage by Miriam Avery.

Photo: Jennifer Eliot

Margi Gras founder Rebecca Hannan said the day could not have been any better.

“The support shown by the community has been nothing short of overwhelming – there were 55 businesses that came on board and a dedicated committee who helped pull it all together,” the professional speaker, coach and trainer said.

“It really made me feel proud to be a member of this community and I’m honoured so many came out to celebrate equality and be a part of our wedding.

“I think Margi Gras has shown that Margaret River is a welcoming place for LGBTI holidays and a wonderful destination for same-sex weddings – I highly recommend it!” laughed Rebecca.

The crowd roared when Sunny thanked all those who voted ‘yes’ during speeches.

Perth Drag Queens entertained the crowds. Photo: Jennifer Eliot

Margi Gras’ MC Jordan Bruno who recently won Mr Gay Pride Australia said Margi Gras was a very special event.

“I love Western Australia and Margaret River and I’m really honoured and proud to be involved in Margi Gras, which sends are really strong message that everyone is entitled to be themselves,” said Jordan, an LGBTI activist and ambassador and a semi-finalist on MKR 2016.

“I feel like we’ve witnessed a little bit of history watching the region’s first same-sex wedding – the whole event had such an amazing vibe.”

Margi Gras 2018

Rebecca Hannan, Jordan Bruno, Sunny Michelle Hannan. Photo: Jennifer Eliot

People signed the dedicated Margi Gras Love and Messages wall, ate delicious food by Willow Grill, drank MargiGras-Rita cocktails and Queer Beer and enjoyed the entertainment by Perth Drag Queens, a surprise Elton John act, Bellyvision belly dancers and the Margaret River Big Band. Children’s entertainment included Kaptain Quirk as Bubble Man, unicorn rides and a giant bouncy castle. Ed Scissorhands added glitter to hair and faces to create a Margi Gras look.

The newly weds were given a cheerful send off with attendees eagerly forming a 100-metre long human archway.

Perth Drag Queens Creative Director Scarlet Adams said she immediately said yes when asked to be involved in Margi Gras.

“Margi Gras is such a fabulous event and the crowd at the After Party were one of the best we’ve performed in front of. We had a ball and can’t wait for next year already!”

Photo: Kelly Harwood Photography

The party continued until late at The River Hotel to a near-capacity crowd as the troupe of five from Perth Drag Queens had the place rocking and everyone dancing as they performed numbers that included ‘It’s raining men’ by Gerri Halliwell, ‘Stop’ by the Spice Girls, ‘Turn back time’ by Cher, ‘Get outta my way’ by Kylie Minogue and ‘It’s my party’ by Jessie J.

The River Hotel business partner Phil Thompson said that Margi Gras was a terrific addition to the region.

“The event was fantastic – we’re thrilled to be a part of it and I’m looking forward to future events,” Phil said.

The night ended with local Mick Marlin from Cape Thunderbirds dressed as Dame Edna Everage being crowned the Queen of Margi Gras, winning the competition.

Visit for more information.

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My Italian connection

Dolce Vita Bloggers link up 


My love for Italy, Bella Italia, is the longest love affair I’ve ever had and it’s not about to subside anytime soon. When I was invited by a lovely online friend Kelly from Italian at Heart blog to participate in a monthly blogging link up, I couldn’t say no. Now, I know, I need to get a bit better with time management as this should’ve been posted on the 7th… let’s just say I’m doing this in Italian time! Better late than never, right? This month’s linkup theme is My Italian connection.


Many of you already know that both of my parents are Italian. Mum is from a little town called Lioni, in subregion called Avelino in the mountains inland from Naples. Dad is from Mestre, a town just outside of Venice. My surname, Bortoletto is from Treviso, not far from Mestre, and that’s where my Nonno (Dad’s dad) was born. You can read more about my family here.

Last year I travelled to all of those places with my mum and dad – an amazing experience to see where they came from. They left Italy as 10 – 11 year olds with my grandparents in the 1950s, travelling to Melbourne by sea in search of a better life. Both of my grandfathers went to Melbourne two years earlier to find work and set up a life with nothing more than a suitcase full of dreams (and a couple of shirts), leaving a young family behind in Italy. I can’t imagine what that must’ve been like. Especially back then when Italians were “wogs” and discriminated against by many in 1950s Australia.

About 20 years ago, I backpacked through Italy with a lovely Italian friend of mine Paula – a trip we named ‘The feast and famine tour’ because when we stayed with my relatives or her relatives, it was a feast, I mean we were fed until we couldn’t breathe. In between family visits, we ate little – to save money and give our digestive systems some time off, like a famine. During that trip, I met many of my great aunts and uncles and some cousins. It was a privilege to be able to do that and I’m so glad I did – one amazing thing was that despite my Nonna living in Australia for 40 years, my great aunts both cooked pasta the exact same way as my Nonna – the same sauce and everything.

The whole family in Positano last year. From left front: mum, John, me, Leo, Matt. Back: Dad, Marnie, Con, Zorba, Katie

My first time

My first time in Italy was in 1996, about 18 months before the feast and famine tour, and it immediately sparked my love for Italy. I’d always had a connection to Italy, I always felt Italian, I certainly looked Italian, but when I finally set foot in the Mother Country, my soul felt like it was home. And every time I go back to Italy, I feel like I’ve come home. Conversely, every time I fly out of Italy, I cry. Every time. I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve been to Italy (not bragging, just go at every opportunity I can) and I always feel the same way.

With those feelings in mind, I decided to go and live in Italy in 2007 (wow, over ten years ago!)

Piazza Navona

Living in Italy

I took seven months unpaid leave from work (a sabbatical) in 2007 and fulfilled a lifelong dream of living in Italy. For six months before the trip, I had an Italian tutor help me learn the language (a basic level but it got me by – thanks Chiara Kinder!) and off I went to Rome, my favourite Italian city. I love Rome for its importance, its history, its chaos and quirks, its food and fashion, the people and their passion – well, everything really.

My intention was to stay forever, find a job, set up a life and become a proper Roman. I found a job teaching English and I hated it with such passion that I barely lasted three weeks. At that particular school, I was teaching Italians to be parrots, not to comprehend English and I felt like a fraud. Plus I was paid 10 Euros per hour and it would take me over an hour by bus to get there from where I lived in Trastevere. For the measly amount I was earning, it was just not worth it, plus it was ruining my experience of living in Rome.

With no job, I had time and I was able to do whatever I wanted. I sat in cafes, I walked, I window shopped, I travelled a little and I started to blog. I was the second person I knew who had a blog (back then) and for me it was a really cool way to write about my experience living in Rome and share photos with family and friends – remember, not everyone had Facebook in 2007, in fact, I opened my Facebook account in Rome then. My biggest surprise came when other people started reading my blog, people I didn’t know (and here we are!).

Blogging in a cafe in Trastevere

I continued to look for a job but without perfect Italian, in fact, my Italian language skills were very basic (I could only speak in present tense and perfect past tense), working in PR or media was out of the question. I could’ve worked for an English speaking company but that would’ve meant living in Milan, something I wasn’t keen on.

Living in Italy is much different to holidaying in Italy. The challenge of dealing with utility companies, phone companies, banks, hell, I even had to allow half a day to go to the post office because I never knew if it would be straightforward or a bureaucratic nightmare – most often the latter. Don’t even get me started on the rigmarole of getting a codice fiscali (tax file number). It was exhausting. I decided to stay the seven months and go back to Austalia to resume my well-paid government job.

In my last week of living in Rome, I was offered a pretty good job working for a low-cost bus company that shuttled passengers from airports to city centres all over the world. It was paying decent money by Roman standards (still about 30 percent less than I was earning in Australia) but it meant I had to spend four days each week at Stansted Airport in England. Have you been to Stansted Airport? Back then, it was the shittiest, cruddiest airport ever – and because it serviced the low-cost airlines, it attracted low-cost passengers in their thousands. The thought of spending four days per week at Stansted Airport did not fill me with joy – it defeated the purpose of living in Rome. It was a tough decision and I was at a crossroads – should I stay or should I go?

In the sweltering July heat, seeing every second business close up shop for summer, I made peace with my lifelong dream of living in Italy. For me, everyday life in Australia was a better option and holidaying in Italy would be something I’d always do.  Perhaps living there one day when I no longer needed to work.

Lago di Como

My Italian connection now

Since that awesome experience living in Rome in 2007, I’ve returned to Italy many times. I’ve also taken up studying, a Diploma of Italian at the University of Western Australia. In semester one I got a High Distinction, yep, 94%, the highest mark of any subject I’ve ever achieved, ever. I’m eagerly waiting for results for semester two. I nerd out big time studying Italian and I love it. I have to thank my Greek sister-in-law Marnie because she enrolled first and when she told me she was going to study Italian at UWA, I thought to myself, “I just have to do this too because I can’t listen to her talk about her Italian studies without going crazy!”. It’s just one unit per semester, very part-time. We’ve got two more years to go. In July we’re going to Bergamo for a university exchange to study there for three weeks – I can’t WAIT!

Also, I’m on the lookout for Italian clients – any Italian companies that would like PR representation in Australia – ideal clients would be anything to do with motorsport, tourism (Italian Tourism Board!), travel industry, food and wine 😉

Join in

Do you have an Italian connection or are you an honorary Italian you love it so much? If you want to participate in Dolce Vita Bloggers monthly link up, click on the badge below (also on the right hand side column and be sure to check out the hosts’ blogs:




Grazie mille! Buona giornata xx

Orvieto, Umbria


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Things are looking up for Northam

If you’re looking for something different to do, perhaps a drive into the country, then look no further than Northam, where the skies above will be adorned with 30 beautiful hot air balloons for the National Ballooning Championships.

For one week from Saturday 2nd to 9th September, international, interstate and local hot air balloon pilots will descend on the Avon Valley, testing their skills at varying winds and altitudes. It’s also the perfect opportunity for boost your Instagram account with stunning photos of golden-hour skies dotted with colourful balloons.

Northam is 97 kilometres east-northeast of Perth, or about an hour’s drive. Situated on the banks of the Avon River, Northam was gazetted as a town in 1836, making it second only to Fremantle in terms of numbers of significant historical buildings. The visitors centre runs a bus tour of the historical buildings too.

Public festivities for the National Ballooning Championships commence at 4pm on Saturday 2 September with the Northam Balloon Fiesta followed by the visually stunning Balloon Glow after dark at the Henry Street Oval, weather permitting.

The free Fiesta will include a live stage show, balloon discovery zone, carnival rides, game zone, markets, food and drinks and show bags.

The competition balloons will fire up in all their glory with musical accompaniment at approximately 7.30pm with a fireworks finale.

Each day enthusiasts can see the balloons flying across the rolling hills and valleys at dawn and again in the afternoon if weather conditions are suitable.

Spectating opportunities are available at various locations around Northam. Balloons will launch at around sunrise each morning and fly until approximately 9am.

Another highlight is the Key Grab competition on Saturday 9 September. This is a flying task for the balloons departing from the Northam Airfield at first light. Pilots fly from point to point, collecting foam ‘keys’ from the end of 10metre poles in several locations.

For more information visit, email or receive updates on Facebook – and Instagram @northamnationals.

The 2017 National Ballooning Championships is proudly supported by the State Government through Tourism WA’s Regional Events Program, The Shire of Northam, and other local sponsors – this is just one reason by the Government’s Royalties for Regions funding is so important for Western Australia, it supports so many terrific regional events including the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro, the Argyle Diamonds Ord Valley Muster and Taste Great Southern.

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Video: Epic family holiday back to our Mother Countries by Leo Paoliello

The epic Zorbaletto trip back to our ‘Mother Countries’: 32 days, 10 people, 4 countries, 3 generations, 2 families, 1 epic adventure

Our epic Zorbaletto trip of a lifetime – the bucket list items we ticked off was travelling back to our ‘Mother Countries’ with our families. Yes, that’s right, both of our families. Sadly not both of our entire families – my sister Susie and her husband Ben and kids Indi and Sam couldn’t join us.

What started off as ‘sitting in a Greek village for a month’ to celebrate a milestone birthday of Zorba’s, morphed into an epic family European odyssey to Cyprus, Greece and Italy with Zorba’s mum Katie, his sister Marnie, husband Con (Italian) and their 11-year-old triplets sons – Leo, John and Matthew, and my mum and dad, Gina and Walter. Ten of us travelling together for 21 days (with the Greek side departing then; my parents stayed on for another 9 days).

Nephew Leo Paoliello (11.5 years) created this video that captures so many happy moment of the trip – grab a cuppa and relive our trip with us.

To read about how we found a cousin in Cyprus, one we weren’t even looking for that involved several 90+ years residents, the town’s mayor, and a school teacher who had been jailed for killing rabbits. Click here for the full story.

Pretty Positano just took our breath way – it really was a huge bucket list moment to stay in a luxurious villa for a week right in the heart of the Amalfi Coast town – here’s where we recommend you eat when in Positano click here.

Thanks Leo!

Leo Paoliello

Leo Paoliello


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