Posts tagged new zealand
Western Australia is really putting itself on the map this year. With the opening of Kuri Bay last month and the multi-million dollar renovation of El Questro Homestead, this once untouched and remote destination is now the exciting new frontier for luxury wilderness experiences down-under.
Olivia in our Australia and New Zealand team will be one of the first ever guests to stay at new Kuri Bay in the Kimberley next week. Her epic Western Australia adventure will also take in Sal Salis at Ningaloo Reef, a luxury tented camp among the sand dunes and home of the world’s largest fish, the whale shark and the onto El Questro Homestead, overlooking the Chamberlain River. Watch out for her blog post on her return!
Accessible only by helicopter or sea plane, Kuri Bay is a Australia’s oldest pearl farm now converted into an exclusive wilderness lodge and soon to become of the must-visit properties of 2012.
With just five rooms, Kuri Bay is not luxurious in the traditional sense with simple accommodation, tucked away overlooking the bay keeping to its roots as a historical pearl farm. Kuri Bay’s exclusivity, however, lies in the uniqueness of the experiences guests will have exploring the remote part of the Kimberley, rich in Aboriginal history and teeming with remarkable wildlife.
Getting to Kuri Bay in itself is a highlight. A spectacular, a one hour and 45-minute air safari from Broome over the Buccaneer Archipelago, rock formations, patterned mangroves, the red rock cliffs of the Kimberley coast and the famous Horizontal Waterfalls, created by the massive tides. Before guests even arrive, the sense of the vastness of the Kimberley wilderness is evident being an area the size of California with just 30,000 inhabitants. The nearest town to Kuri Bay lies 220 km away!
Days will be filled with exploring the dramatic coastline with experienced guides, a highlight being Camden Sound, one of the world’s greatest Humpback whale calving ground between June and October, recently designated a Marine Park. Guests can also take guided whale watching trips and boat trips to Montgomery Reef, Australia’s largest in-shore reef, where the huge tide recedes so fast it creates cascading waterfalls.
The Kimberley is one of the oldest landscapes on the planet, little changed since Gondwana, and steeped in 40,000 years of Aboriginal legends and culture. Wildlife is also prolific, including birds, turtles and enormous crocodiles, and world-class fishing, from Barramundi in the creeks to reef and open water pelagics.
To find out more about Kuri Bay call our Australia specialists on 020 8682 5060.
In 2012, one of the buzz destinations in our Asia Pacific team is Fiji. Amy recently revisited this tropical island nation looking for new hotels and exciting experiences for our guests. Here she shares her highlights.
Bula! This is the word you will hear the most when travelling around this beautiful country… It means many things, but mostly hello, welcome, enjoy – and you know that everyone who says them really means it. Fiji is one of the most friendly, happy and welcoming countries I have ever visited and I can understand why with its beautiful scenery, warm weather and island lifestyle.
With 333 islands scattered in the heart of the South Pacific, Fiji is the perfect place for a relaxing beach holiday, either on its own or after visiting Australia, New Zealand or the USA. White sandy beaches, crystal clear turquoise water and swaying palm trees are the general backdrops and everywhere you go, there is music playing and a laid back atmosphere.
First, I visited Vanua Levu in the far north, where you go to get off the beaten track and to experience the ‘real’ Fijian culture. I stayed at the gorgeous Jean-Michel Cousteau resort where the diving and snorkelling was some of the best I have experienced anywhere.
They have resident marine biologist, Johnny, on site to help you really get the most out of your underwater adventures. There is a tiny private island just off the coast that you can take for the day, to have the proper shipwrecked experience – just you, a champagne picnic and some snorkels to explore the stunning reef at your leisure. What an romantic addition to any honeymoon! However, there is also a fantastic kids club here, so this place is really good for couples and families alike.
Travelling across the main island, seeing remote villages and lush jungle, I then travelled to Nukubati, a real gem of an island where the staff welcomed us with a Meke (local dance) and we ate delicious seafood under the starriest sky I had ever seen.
We were included in the ceremonial Kava drinking session, along with wonderful singing and guitar playing which is certainly an experience and perhaps explains why the Fijians are so laid back! The next day we were invited to the local church service and I have never heard such enthusiastic or uplifting singing. We then snorkelled on the Great Sea Reef – 3rd largest reef in the world – spying reef sharks, sea turtles and a myriad of colourful tropical fish.
Of the many other places I visited, another favourite was Likuliku in the beautiful Mamanucas island chain. Fly in by helicopter and stay in one of Fiji’s only overwater bures (rooms), with incredible views out to the calm turquoise lagoon.
There is even a glass panel in the floor so you can watch the fish at play from the bedroom! This is the ideal honeymoon destination with excellent food, an amazing spa and first class service.
Everywhere I went - whether it was more simple and off the beaten track, or super luxurious and more accessible – I was amazed by the incredible cultural and outdoor activities possible, over and under the water as well as the laid back atmosphere and wonderful welcome. If you fancy a tropical hideaway in the most beautiful island paradise, surrounded by smiles, music and sunshine, this has to be next on your list of must visit destinations!
Here he shares his experiences of life under canvas in New Zealand’s high country.
There is camping and there is camping. There’s the lumpy sleeping bag, communal toilets, horrid food usually eaten by the light of a flickering oil lamp and itchy ants type of camping and then there is Minaret Station camping. If you, like me, like your canvas and stout shoes getaway to be all about massive comfort, the open air accessed in splendid style and with accomplished guides and only six fellow guests then Minaret Station camping is for you.
This is champagne camping where you can have a massage on top of mountain and where the food, wine and outdoor activities will knock your socks off. New Zealand’s Southern Alps are where I am heading to check out whether I might be turning in to a glamper. Being a picky writer who favours glamour, high-end and sharp service but who does quite enjoy a bit of dirt I knew I’d soon be packing my (useless) outdoor boots, a couple of thick jerseys and a decent weather proof jacket when Minaret Station opened in 2010. They said to bring warm clothes and I always obey instructions when it comes to the weather. So it is off to stunning New Zealand.
I arrive at Minaret by helicopter (the only way in and out) 45 minutes from the lovely town of Wanaka and spread out below me as we land on a small wooden platform are four large tents, a cavernous main lodge, some outbuildings and further up the side of the mountain another building which I learn later houses a generator and water pump and all interconnected by a series of wooden walkways.
Matt Wallis, the owner of this 50000 acre sheep property, brings the chopper down gently and it is off to check out my tent. Ultra luxe camping I have read. OK. Canvas – check, umm flaps to enter - check and a big noisy zip. This is camping I discover, without the nasty stuff most usually those ants and terrifying holes in the ground. The tent is what is known as a static tent, constructed around solid timber frames so if the wind whips up – which it does – you won’t wake up in the small river that courses through the valley. Double ply canvas insulated by five mls of wool, separate bathroom complete with powerful shower, fat Sheridan towels, heated towel rails pumping out waves of delicious heat, fragrant accessories, thick woollen carpets, queen bed, crisp sheets, writing desk, comfy chairs and all heated (they love heat at Minaret and why wouldn’t they, it can be freezing) by externally flued gas to keep out any annoying cold air that might sneak in at night.
I head up to the main lodge via a wooden walkway and am met by Gerry and Shirl, no-nonsense Kiwis, who manage Minaret. We talk helicopters as I am quite taken by the way they are used here for virtually anything. Everything, literally, is dependent on them. We are far up a glacially-made valley and perched on the side of a mountain, snow capped peaks surrounding us. It would be a rather torturous hike to get out of here.
The main lodge, set above the four tents, is all about comfort and cosiness. Open fires are ablaze as the sun sets, canapés are served with a delicious Pinot Noir and I quickly come to realise that this is a very special place. It is the first of its type in New Zealand. There is a snug library with television and internet connection and deep sofas – perfect for aching, hike-weary legs. The owners, the Wallis’, are local farmers who decided to share this gorgeous, hidden albeit massive valley and so built this tented complex where there used to be a shepherd’s hut. Each of the tents is positioned with enough distance between them to allow for complete privacy. A wooden deck surrounds the lodge and I lean on the handrail and stare up the Estuary Burn valley to just glimpse lofty Mt Aspiring. It is breathtaking, especially as shadows cloak the valley at sunset. Minaret Station was named after the similarity of the highest peak on the property to eastern minarets and this station was named thus because as Matt explains, the stations in this rugged, isolated part of New Zealand are always named after the highest peak on the property.
The food and wine at Minaret leaves you in no doubt that Matt and his team are determined to present only the best. Crayfish is served. Prior to an exquisite Rippon Estate Sauvignon Blanc I try a local Wanaka beer called Brewski. Goodness, even brewing is proving a wonder when these whip-smart Kiwis put their mind to it. I am told the crayfish are the result of one of Matt’s expeditions – by chopper of course - down to the coast where he knows of some crayfish hidey holes.
The next morning it is off hiking or tramping as they say here. On go my gripless boots which as soon as they hit the snow slide sideways and send me tumbling. Gerry lends me his brand new boots and without delay Matt and I head off up the valley. The weather is on our minds. His keen eyes spot eagles, Chamois and other wildlife, largely unseen by my city eyes. Even with a telescope I find it tricky to pick out the difference between a deer and a slab of rock. The valley winds and bends toward cold, blue Lake Wanaka and after a couple of hours we stop at a shepherds’ hut, derelict and lonely and decide to turn back as the sky looks rather threatening.
The lights of Minaret appear tiny yet bright on the mountainside and soon we are shaking the snow from our boots and deciding that the aromas coming from the kitchen almost too much to bear.
New Zealand does high country outdoors like nowhere else. Maybe it is the pure, cold-snapped air, possibly the welcoming nature of Kiwis or the abundance of fresh produce and remarkable quality of the wines. What ever it is they do it well….. especially here at dazzling Minaret Station.
As for those woollens. I’m glad I bought them as New Zealand was lashed ruthlessly by a ‘Polar Blast’ the day before I left and I got out in the nick of time. But that is another story.
Minaret Station is featured in the Tatler Travel Guide 2012 out now in the January issue.
We love New Zealand and we love it even more from 5,000ft.
Olivia, our New Zealand specialist, just returned having tried out some new heli-adventures including mountain landing.
Here’s her top ten things to do in a helicopter in New Zealand!
1. Helicopter flight to Milford Sound
Get up close with some of the most spectacular mountains and glaciers in the Southern Alps before landing at Milford Sound. Before returning to Queenstown, take in the beautiful glacial formations as you land upon Ngapunatoru Plateau of Mt Tutoko.
2. Heli Wine Tasting
Start your day of wine tasting with a scenic flight transporting you to an alpine landing high above Queenstown. From there, you will fly with your knowledgeable guide on your private, chauffeured journey, visiting three fantastic Gibbston Valley vineyards.
3. Helicopter to White Island
Words cannot express the experience that is landing on the active crater floor of White Island. This unique lunar landscape is an integral part of the Pacific ring of fire. White Island’s active volcanic vents, steaming Crater Lake, bubbling hot streams and desolate mining ruins combined create a surreal experience.
After a spectacular flight over the famous Remarkable Mountains you land on the summit of a mountain. Then it’s on your bike. Rolling ridge lines and single track trails bring you down an awesome descent.
New Zealand is renowned as a world class trout fishing destination and a helicopter flight to some otherwise inaccessible rivers and streams is a must for the avid angler, regularly landing trophy fish in excess of 10lb. The locations and crystal clear waters make this an unforgettable day out, even if you don’t land the big one.
6. Heli-hike on the Franz Josef Glacier
A heli-hike is the perfect way to view the natural masterpiece of Franz Josef Glacier, landing high on the glacier and following your guide to walk amidst the beautiful blue ice caves, pristine peaks and jagged seracs.
In the back country its just you and the elements, surrounded by endless peaks you fly to altitudes of 2300m and ski untouched powder with your expert guide. The scenery is breath taking and it’s an exhilarating way to view the amazing mountain environment.
8. Wonders of the West Coast
See wild New Zealand and take a helicopter to the south-west coast where you can try your hand at heli-surfing or even scuba diving to catch your lunch for the day. If radical is not your thing and you love beautiful scenery, you’ll have the opportunity to see a vast range of unspoilt wilderness and wildlife.
9. Helicopter flight-seeing trip to Cape Reinga
The northern tip of the North Island, Cape Reinga, is hugely sacred to the Maori people and a helicopter flight here to see the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea meet and mingle is truly magical. Land on a sugar-white silica beach on the way home for a swim.
10. Stewart Island
Now a National Park, Stewart Island is a destination that epitomises natural New Zealand. Virgin forest, deserted beaches, rugged coastline, undisturbed birds and marine mammals thrive here in abundance and a helicopter flight to New Zealand’s smallest and southernmost island is a unique experience.
There is a buzz about Air New Zealand at Scott Dunn today. With the arrival of their new aircraft (777-300ER for the plane geeks) coming soon to the London-LA-Auckland route this April, we are all really excited about their swanky new cabins including the revolutionary Economy Skycouch and even the new loos!
We thought we’d share with you one of the best inflight safety videos we have seen in a long time… if this doesn’t make you sit up and pay attention, we are not sure what will!
Come on the All Blacks!
Our New Zealand specialist, Olivia, shares favourite memories from her latest adventure to the other side of the world.
Where did you go? I started my trip in the North Island, beginning in Auckland then visiting Rotorua, Wellington and the Wairarapa Valley before catching the ferry to South Island to visit Blenheim, Kaikoura and Christchurch. Then a short hop on a plane over the Southern Alps to Queenstown.
Best moment? Walking through the native bush to a waterfall where wild baby seals spend the winter months. They hop up the stream from the sea to the waterfall in the middle of the forest just outside Kaikoura. I sat on a rock watching them play for an hour at dusk.
Another highlight was finding myself in a lift with four of the All Blacks team in the Intercontinental in Wellington before seeing the entire squad in the lobby!
Favourite hotel? Staying in a Tree House at Hapuku Lodge in Kaikoura is an utterly unique experience! The Verandah Suite at Otahuna Lodge, just outside Christchurch, is stunning, with an enormous private verandah perfect for taking in the amazing views, or curling up in a chair with a good book and glass of fantastic New Zealand wine.