• My Hols: Greg Norman

    The ‘Great White Shark’ has dived with his brethren and had a spiritual awakening in Bhutan

    • Veranda Magazine
    This article appears in the September 1, 2019 edition of The Sunday Times. Click the image above to view.

    Growing up on the Great Barrier Reef, I spent my holidays scuba-diving, learning to drift dive or spear fishing. We’d go to any of the reef systems east and north of Cardwell, in the north of Queensland. It was always my favourite trip. I’d normally go with a friend whose dad had a boat, the Hay family. We’d spend six weeks catching everything from bottle fish to trout.

    On family holidays, we’d stay in Australia. We had a house on the beach, so it was pretty hard not to have an ocean lifestyle. We’d also camp in the outback of Queensland or up in the Daintree forest, north of Cairns. My father would pack up the car and the four of us — Dad, Mum, me and my sister — would just take off to a waterfall in north Queensland, or something like that. We didn’t have devices, so it was an educational trip. I was a big proponent of education with my children, too. My father is 93 and my mother 89, and to this day they still get in the car and drive for weekends together in the countryside.

    My first trip out of Australia was to Palm Springs, in California, to play in the 1976 World Cup golf tournament. I’d been on planes internally, but it was my first passport and my first time overseas. I was ready for it. I wasn’t intimidated, as I was off to do a job and represent my country, but it wasn’t really a holiday.

    I have a yacht called Aussie Rules and enjoy spending quality time on it with my wife and children. They gravitated towards scuba-diving, fishing and boating as well. My daughter is now a dive instructor and we’ve had some incredible trips. I’ve seen oceanic whitetips [sharks] and a pod of melon-headed whales in the Tuamotus archipelago, in the middle of the South Pacific, and dived with tiger sharks, hammerheads and great whites.

    We’ve tackled challenging and interesting spots in the Bahamas, from caves to wrecks. There’s not a whole lot of fear between us. I have kept my boat in the Exumas and at Sandals Emerald Bay, as it’s a great spot for diving. Breathtaking. You have to go a long, long way to find somewhere better than that.

    Some of the most visual spots are in America. Just above my ranch in Colorado, there’s the magnificent beauty of the southern Rockies. It’s one of my favourite places. You aren’t allowed a mechanised anything within the area, so you have to go in by horse or on foot. We go by horse and camp, sometimes for five days.

    Seeing African wildlife up close on a three-week trip to Tanzania was incredible. In South Africa, safari parks are fenced in, but in Tanzania, the animals have the freedom to roam. I was with my son and two friends. We saw hippos, crocodiles, lions, hyenas and dugga boys [buffalo], all in their natural habitat. We stayed in different camps, but there were no lodges. We camped on the banks of the Luego and ventured into the Selous.

    I’m not a spiritual person, but four years ago my wife convinced me to go on a hiking trip to Bhutan. I wasn’t sure about it at first, but I came away gobsmacked at how happy the people are, and by the quality of their lifestyle. It’s only a small country, so we visited as much as possible, from Paro and Thimphu, the capital, to Punakha, in the Himalayas.

    I spent six hours writing about the holiday on my iPhone, and I’ve never done that before. Spiritually it got me. There were moments in temples when I was just completely overwhelmed by something. I still rave about it now.

    Interview by Kate Leahy. Courtesy of The Sunday Times