Interviews People

My Town with Carmen Ellis, Founder of Majestic Whale Encounters

Splitting her time between the idyllic locations of Tonga and the beautiful country town of Macksville in Australia, Carmen Ellis has created a life for herself that allows her to be close to nature and enjoy the beauty of two homes. We find out what she loves about her lifestyle in two unique countries.

1. Tell us about the area that you live in and why you chose to make it your home

I live on a property in a beautiful country town just west of Macksville along the river, but due to my whale-watching tour business, Majestic Whale Encounters I also have somewhat of a second home in Tonga. Each year during the whale season, my whole family comes along on the Tonga tours and we spend most of the season on the island of Uoleva. 

We have been doing so for ten years now and are always welcomed by our Tongan friends as part of their extended family. Our love for Tonga and wanting to constantly be surrounded by animals is one of the reasons we chose to make Macksville our home in Australia. The property is home to a menagerie of animals including horses and chickens, which means we spend plenty of time outdoors, making it a peaceful way to escape the busy work days. 

Where are your favourite places to eat and shop?

For eating and shopping near our Australian home, there are some beautiful lifestyle and homeware boutique stores in Nambucca Shire, although restaurants can be a little harder to find. We live 30 minutes north of Sawtell so will often visit here for greater dining options, our family favourite is Lime Mexican particularly as I am a huge fan of good Mexican food. 

My favourite part about our home in Tonga is that it’s back to the simple life as there aren’t many cafes or shopping spots where we stay. One of our new tours is called Off The Grid and that is precisely how we like to showcase this beautiful destination – as remotely and undisturbed as possible.

How would you spend a perfect day in your town?

I find my perfect day in both my Australian home and Tonga don’t differ too much, starting with enjoying a spectacular sunrise and making the most of being outdoors. In Tonga, this of course includes swimming all day long in crystal clear waters with incredible whales. At the end of the day, I’m basking in what I claim to be the world’s best sunset in the South Pacific. 

Similarly, when I am back home in Australia I will take in the sunrise with a beach walk and swim with our dogs at our local beach, Scotts Head, followed by a yoga or Pilates class. Lunchtime would be spent enjoying a delicious feed at the local pub with friends. Next, a massage and salt therapy session by one of the most amazing massage therapists in town. No day is complete for me without a long horse ride packed through the hills and bush tracks, I often bring along some ciders to sip on as I take in some of the incredible views of the mountains and valleys. Finally, I love to finish off my day with a home-cooked dinner where the whole family sits around the dinner table to play one of our many favourite card games. 

What is your favourite thing about your town?

My favourite thing about my home in Tonga would have to be the warmth of the locals and the way that the destination can just make you feel completely at ease and relaxed. This is one of the reasons why we decided to introduce a new female-only wellness tour where you can indulge in daily yoga sessions and connect with nature and its magnificent creatures. The same goes with my home in Australia, beyond the scenery, it is the sense of community and quietness that stands out. Despite the small population, the locals are like one extended family that is always willing to help out with one another.

Any other local insider secrets we should know about?

A hidden local secret in my home near Macksville would have to be the pebble creeks and swimming holes scattered around the outskirts of the town – it is something that only the locals know about. A secret about the island we are on in Tonga is called “the secret beach”. It’s a stunning white sand, palm tree-lined beach that sits on a long pristine fringing reef that not many know about. The beach is accessed via a winding path, the path has so many butterflies that they sometimes land on top of you. When we visit here, we’re pretty much guaranteed to be the only souls on the beach, pure magic! 

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