Posted by: kiwitravelandtours | March 21, 2011

A New Zealand neighbour -Vanuatu

Culturally diverse, Vanuatu means “Land Eternal”. 80% of its warm and friendly people still live in small villages, headed by the local chief. Because of this, more than 115 different cultures and languages still thrive throughout the 83 island chain. As well as its rich cultural heritage, Vanuatu boasts some unique visitor attractions: Travel to the island of Tanna and walk to the rim of Yasur, a live volcano. Home also, since 1940, to the John Frum cargo cult; a belief system that literally sprung from the arrival of American troops -hence “John Frum” -John from America. Espiritu Santo (the largest of the islands) is rich with World War 2 relics and related dive sites. The SS President Coolidge (sunk by mines in 1942) is accessible from the beach, therefore suitable for beginner divers. Santo is also where James Mitchener lived as he penned South Pacific. Efate is Vanuatu’s main island, with the capital of Port Vila. A strong French influence is reflected here. As well as wonderful seafood, fresh fruits and the excellent local beef, you could get adventurous and try some of the local dishes –such as fruit bat or wood pigeon. Because they are endangered, I resisted the coconut crab –though I was sorely tempted after almost losing a finger to one. A visit to the Secret Garden reveals a truly wonderful outside museum –complete with pictures and stories of cannibalism, warfare and Melanesian fables –we loved that place, but were thankful for the insect repellant we were liberally doused in when we arrived! Several hours in and we hadn’t absorbed it all –macabre fascination made us linger in the cannibal section with its grainy photographs and graphic descriptors –last reported act was in the 1920s –although some claim the practice still continues in the remote outer islands. There is a feeling of time forgotten about Vanuatu –a strange blending of modern day for the benefit of the tourists and a way of life that hasn’t changed much in hundreds of years. Kiwis are used to having liberal access to beaches in New Zealand. However, in Vanuatu, the beaches and their adjoining sea are Kastom owned –traditionally owned by the local tribe. A small fee is paid for the right to access beautiful natural swimming pools and coral strewn beaches and the money is put to good use by the local community. Indeed, a drive around the main island -I should say an anti-clockwise drive as the state of the roads disallows driving the other way –reveals that the villages near beaches and jungle attractions such as WW2 relics –look far more prosperous than others. So a word of warning –apart from being courteous –go very s-l-o-w-l-y through villages. If you run over a scraggy looking chicken it will suddenly and magically morph into being the Chief’s favourite –the car rental company will end up negotiating a settlement and VOILA –that scraggy looking chicken will account for an extra $50 fee on your credit card!

Groomed beaches, jetskis, the 'tourist' attractions

 

Cost us 1000 vatu for 3 of us -and worth every cent!

Nicola

http://www.kiwitravelandtours.com

 

 

Turtle conservation is in its fledgling stage

Posted by: kiwitravelandtours | March 15, 2011

New Zealand Glowworm Caves

New Zealand Glowworm Caves.

Posted by: kiwitravelandtours | March 15, 2011

New Zealand Glowworm Caves

Glowworms are everywhere you go throughout New Zealand.  They like it damp and sheltered, so although many a bush walk taken at night will reveal their little twinkling bottoms, caves and old mining workings are the most likely place to see them.  We don’t recommend fossicking around old mine tunnels -especially at night -so by the far the safer way to see them, is an organised tour of one (or all) of the caves complexes where they are guaranteed to be. Two of the most popular are Te Anau  -in the South Island, a couple of hours away from Queenstown or Waitomo -in the North island, a couple of hours away from Rotorua! The hungrier the glowworm, the stronger its white-blue light shines -all the better to attract its dinner. I’ll be blogging about each cave complex -and what’s on offer -separately but in the meanwhile I thought I’d share a few photos taken inside the caves -with the glowworms shining like stars in a clear nightsky.

Taken inside Te Anau Glowworm caves

Inside Te Anau Glowworm caves

Up close and personal in Waitomo Caves

Posted by: kiwitravelandtours | March 3, 2011

Wild flowers -Loopy about New Zealand lupins!

The South Island of New Zealand always puts on a visual show with its luminous blue glacial lakes; soaring, snow capped alps; rolling green hills; dense, dark native bush and quaint townships. But come October, as winter melts away, many parts of the lower south add to its already vibrant colour palette -riots of wild lupins explode with blue/purple/pink/yellow and if you’re lucky, orange hues.  As an introduced species, I know that the Department of Conservation roll their eyes, as Russell lupins fill river beds and valleys, streams and fields -but honestly, who can resist them -not me that’s for sure. So much so, that they can be a distraction -tempting to forgo the glories of the Milford Sounds -instead going off-road to loll amongst hectare after hectare of lupins that follow the rivers to the Sounds. Luckly, theres always time for both! Here are a few of my photos -none of which do these WEEDS (yes, that’s how they are classfied in Aotearoa)  justice!

Nicola

http://www.kiwitravelandtours.com

Leaving Tekapo. Southern Alps in the background

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Posted by: kiwitravelandtours | January 18, 2011

New Zealand -Zorbing!

Alongside of bungy jumping, the pavlova and the sweeb, sits another New Zealand invention -the Zorb! Invented over 14 years ago, the zorb is a very large plastic globe -basically you get plonked inside, and rolled down a rather large hill -wet or dry!  Although, the company has taken their ‘globe riding’ international, Rotorua -as the first, and still one and only Kiwi zorbing site -retains its status as Zorb Capital of the World. There is an urban myth that if you zorb naked, you zorb free -but that’s between you and them!

Here’s what Elizabeth, Sam and Jaime thought of zorbing -

Zorbing in Rotorua, NZ, was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. I admit the idea of rolling down a hill in a giant inflated ball filled with water in the dead of winter with two other girls sounded daunting at first, but the second Samantha, Jaime, and I started off the top I knew I had found something great. In the 13 seconds it took us to slosh down that hill we screamed, we laughed, and we smacked each other in the face. I could never have imagined how much fun we’d have. After our first time was over, the gorgeous guys that work at the Zorbing place let us go a second time for free. We were soaking wet and freezing, but we immediately said yes. Definitely yes. The second time down was even more fun than the first. I could have Zorbed all day. We all loved it. I’m so glad we got to experience such a fun and unique activity.

Nicola

http://www.kiwitravelandtours.com

Posted by: kiwitravelandtours | October 19, 2010

Coober Pedy -Australia

How many of you remember the often stark backdrops in such films as Mad Max beyond Thunderdome, Red Planet and Priscilla Queen of the Desert? Many of those vistas were supplied courtesy of Coober Pedy, a small township in North South Australia. Most famously known as the Opal Capital of the World, and for its intense heat that has driven many of its inhabitants to live underground, Coober Pedy lies on the Stuart Highway about halfway between Adelaide and Alice Springs, so it’s a natural stopping off point for those who want to explore the Australian Outback.  That’s how we regarded it when we visited for the first time -a one night only chance to sleep underground and rest up before driving onto Uluru.  But not any more, it’s worthy of a longer stay, a chance to try your hand at noodling or fossicking for opals, to explore the underground architecture or maybe to travel out to the Painted Desert. The old argument of journey versus destination comes into play here; if you yearn to visit Uluru but consider the drive too arduous, think again -there’s plenty to see on the way and stop-overs that are destinations in their own right.

Nicola

http://www.kiwitravelandtours.com

Saved from being an eagle's dinner!

On the wall of our hotel room

They suck the opals out of the ground!

Posted by: kiwitravelandtours | September 29, 2010

Study Abroad in New Zealand

I don’t have to extol the virtues of the Study Abroad experience; travel is a time honoured way to broaden horizons figuratively as well as literally. So it is a marriage made in Heaven, to combine travel with the opportunity to gain course credit and to use another country as a classroom! We’ve taken a number of British and American study abroad groups around New Zealand (plus Australia) over the past few years.  Each group has had a unique experience, as we’ve tailored their itineraries to match their course content.  With my background (of far too many years’ experience!) of secondary, tertiary teaching, tertiary course development and principalship; developing study abroad itineraries using teaching content in combination with our New Zealand and South Pacific local knowledge works beautifully and gives us, personally, an enormous amount of pleasure. This is an article about one of our more recent Study Abroad Groups, studying kinesiology -http://www.lsu.edu/departments/gold/2010/09/abroad.shtml

Another recent College were here with a different agenda.  They attended a literacy conference, followed by a trip around New Zealand and Australia during which they visited various schools and colleges. One of the visits I arranged for them was to Te Puna Kohungahunga, a 80% Maori immersion preschool programme.  We had a wonderful time visiting with the children and teachers, and this is what Chris had to say about it -

“NZ is filled with beautiful scenery that is indescribable and a must see!”-Chris M, Texas, USA

“As a teacher it is exciting to have the opportunity to visit, observe, and provide help at different schools, especially in a different country.  New Zealand is known for their innovative and successful literacy programs, which made me, realize how great it was to participate in my University’s study abroad trip to New Zealand. 

 The first school we observed was Te Puna Kohungahunga.  This school was based on the Maori Language and Culture.  The purpose of this school is to expose students to the Maori life by having students understand and participate in traditional songs and dance, practicing respectful relationships and fostering relationships that allows them to look after one another, stand confidently in a bicultural nation, have pride in who they are, love and feel valued and special, have a sense of belonging, self confidence, and a desire to learn.

 These principles were vividly modeled throughout the day of our observation.  Before entering the school we were greeted with a traditional Maori welcome.  The men of the group led the women into the school because of their traditions.  While we were welcomed I felt as if we were being greeted with love and support. It was neat to see how charismatic the teachers and students were towards their learning. 

 While we observed, the teachers had us participate in many of the Maori traditions.  Everyday the students and teachers meet in the middle to tell each other what mountain they are from, what is the closest body of water, what is the name of their IWI, family name, etc.  It was evident that cultural roots influence their lives.  I believe it is important for everyone to understand and know where their roots came from because this helps develop true identity. This visit made me realize how important it is to live the philosophy within your heart because this will promote a positive learning environment that will help, support, and guide students.”

Pack light -but always pack a willingness to try new things and a JUST DO IT attitude!

Nicola

http://www.kiwitravelandtours.com

Posted by: kiwitravelandtours | September 16, 2010

Antarctica -Sightseeing flights

Whatever your opinions on causal factors for global warming -most of us agree that the planet is heating up.  Down here in New Zealand, proof of the effects of this comes in the form of chunks of the Antarctic continent breaking off and floating up for a visit! Last November, over 100 icebergs, some measuring more than 200 metres wide, bore down on our most Southern shores, threatening shipping lanes and prompting entrepreneurial Aussie boys to plan Berg Booze Parties. When a similar event occurred in 2006, and brought icebergs to within 25 kms of our shores, the wool industry had a sheep shorn on one -unfair when you think how cold it was!

For those Kiwis who would like to see Antarctica in her own backyard rather than ours -Mike and I have arranged a great deal, working in conjunction with an Australian Charter Company experienced in running Antarctica sightseeing flights. Footage of a flight was shown on Campbell Live last night (15 September) so take a look here -

http://www.3news.co.nz/Seeing-the-southern-sights-of-Antarctica/tabid/367/articleID/176259/Default.aspx

You can read more at our website -http://www.kiwitravelandtours.com/AntarcticaFlight.html

Antarctica is the world’s highest, driest, coldest and windiest continent.  During the flight, expert lecturers are onboard to talk on the polar environment and video screenings depict life on the ground. Sit back, relax and watch the majesty of this extraordinary land and its varied scenery unfold beneath you during the experience of a lifetime.

Nicola

http://www.kiwitravelandtours.com

Antarctica sightseeing

Posted by: kiwitravelandtours | September 7, 2010

Great Barrier Reef -Australia

Mike and I also arrange tours around Australia as well as New Zealand.  If groups have the time, we encourage them to do both countries -although New Zealand first!  It makes sense when travelling down to the Antipodes to try for ‘ a contrast’ that a combination of New Zealand and Australia (or any of the Pacific Islands) can offer.  Chris was a member of a recent group that travelled with us.  After their wonderful New Zealand experience, we sent them to Sydney and Cairns and arranged various activities around each location. Of course when in Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef is the primary attraction.  This is how Chris found the Barrier Reef cruise we sent the group on -

“We sure did go on a Reef Experience!  I had a blast! I can’t believe I went snorkeling and scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef is known as The Seven Natural Wonders of the World.  I was so nervous before jumping into the ocean because I know I use both my nose and mouth for breathing. Since I was attached to a air tank all my breathing had to come from my mouth.  I was scared, but I kept telling myself to relax. The girl who was ahead of me went in the water, but then soon came back up.  That made me more nervous.  The scuba instructor pointed to me saying it was my turn to give it a go.  Seeing someone not being able to stay underwater made me more nervous, but I kept telling myself to relax and enjoy the views.  I go underneath the ship and I saw Rachel. I held on to the bar as we were instructed.  Well not instructed, since you can’t speak underwater.  The scuba dive instructor pointed to the bar and I could tell he wanted me to hold it.  The instructor had to use lots of facial expressions and gestures to relay messages on what he wanted us to do.  I finally got use to breathing underwater and we explored the Great Barrier Reef. It was magnificent to see the living organisms under the sea.  I saw a baby white reef shark, amazing coral life, schools of big and small fish, a turtle, two huge clams.  I tried to take pictures with my underwater camera, but it was hard because we were connected to our fellow divers by our arms to helps us stay at the same level.  Twenty minutes went by fast and I can’t believe I went scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef. Afterwards, I joined the rest of the group to snorkel.  It was also beautiful.  The reef was so close to you that everything was visible.  We had to be careful to not touch and disturb the reef. While snorkeling several of us got to touch Gus, a sea turtle.  After all the water, sun, and fun the Reef Experience staff treated us with free wine and cheese. This was a great way to end the trip!”

The Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier ReefGreat Barrier Reef

Thanks Chris -glad you had a blast!

Nicola

http://www.kiwitravelandtours.com

Posted by: kiwitravelandtours | August 30, 2010

Hobbiton -New Zealand

Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit filiming location

Jaime recently toured with us.  Because she is in love with the Lord of the Rings trilogy she wanted to visit Hobbiton in Matamata. She took a day tour from Auckland and these are her thoughts -

“Hobbiton was a really wonderful experience for me. Its definitely something only a fan of the movies would enjoy because the tour is basically of a construction site at the moment. All of the set is being rebuilt and changed for The Hobbit. The farm itself was beautiful and the rolling green hills were straight out of the film. We had a small walking tour of the whole area where a tour guide told us all of the information about the filming, cast, and set. It was the cherry on top of the trip for me : ) It was definitely expensive because I had to pay the fee to be picked up in Auckland and driven there, but it was absolutely worth it to me. It would probably not be worth it to your average LOTR fan. It takes some love for the film for that amount of money to be worthwhile.”

During the course of their Study Abroad tour of New Zealand, we took Jaime’s group near or past many of the LOTR filming sites.  As well as this, they were also given the opportunity to speak to one of the Black Rider actors. Jaime travelled privately on a Hobbiton tour which is why it was more expensive for her. Thanks Jaime.

Nicola

http://www.kiwitravelandtours.com

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