How do you spell controvery in Tasmania – MONA!

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Sex, death, poop and more not-for-the-dinner-table subjects are the inspiration for art at one of Australia’s most controversial museums.  To truly understand what MONA is all about, you might have to drop by. The museum in Hobart, Tasmania, is not your average history or art stop. Constantly evolving, you never know what you might find, as museum curators freely admit. Instead, they give a long list of quirky clues that ends with the story of the peacock who was banished from the museum for attacking blue cars.

So what is the Museum of Old and New Art, MONA, all about?

Aerial view of Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA)

Founder David Walsh says he was inspired to build the tourist attraction so he could “bang above his weight.” A comment that leads back to MONA’s sex and death theme that states people are primarily motivated by the drive to have sex and dodge death.

“Cement Truck” by Wim Delvoye

The intense, asthmatic art lover and professional gambler is known for being provocative, controversial, and argumentative. If you are lucky enough to meet this outspoken atheist, your conversation is sure to be fascinatingly colorful. The museum is recognized by many as an extension of his loud and bold personality.

You can expect to feel strong emotions that might include amusement, admiration, disgust, joy or confusion. Evoking extreme and deep reactions seems to be at the heart

of the museum’s existence. Most people come through the doors expecting some shock value while the odd traveler stumbles across the museum and leaves with more than they bargained for. Indeed the best vacations gift you with this kind of memorable experience that might be way out of your comfort zone or totally unexpected.

Here’s a little taste of past exhibitions. We couldn’t want to give you any hint of future ones, as it’s anybody’s wildest guess.

  • Cloaca by Belgium artist Wim Delvoye was a smelly machine that needed to be feed daily and emitted poop
  • A wall of carefully sculptured vaginas by artist Greg Taylor
  • A dizzying yellow room full of black dots by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama

“Cloaca” by Belgium artist Delvoye

Critics are vocal about the museum, its art (including some of Walsh’s personal collection) and all that it represents. Similar to blue cheese or kimchi, visitors either love it or hate it. Do you dare to find out what side you are on? While you might think you are open-minded and capable of appreciating art that is contemporary and thought-provoking, you might find yourself fleeing for the nearest exit. Or you might be inspired and impressed. For sure, your emotions will be triggered and conversations will flow for some time after a trip to MONA.

“20:50” by British artist Richard Wilson plays with optical illusions using oil

Regardless of how much outrage it might garner, MONA is considered a cultural asset to Australia, appearing on the Tasmanian Heritage Register. Walsh is famous in art circles and beyond locally and internationally and has boosted the tourism industry to impressive heights. Annual festivals at MONA, including Dark Mofo that includes a winter nude swim, send tourism numbers through the roof.

The building itself, nestled into a rock, is another talking point and part of the memorable MONA experience. Getting inside involves quite the walk with thoughtful use of space and minimalism to clear the mind before you enter the contemporary-looking museum. Notable features of the architecture are a mirror wall at the entrance and several buildings that are joined by an underground tunnel. The work that went into the design and construction of the museum is massive and Walsh worked closely with

renowned architects to achieve his ever-changing vision. It is a vision that is endless and expected to continue growing in all directions. Once inside, staff hand visitors an iPad entitled “art wank” containing info about each expressive exhibition.

If you love MONA, you can stay the night in one of the luxury dens. We would personally fancy settling down in the Walter Den. Inspired by Walter Burley Griffin, who designed Australia’s capital of Canberra, the MONA website says the accommodation includes “TVs all over the place including the bathroom” and a personal security screen “to avoid visitors you don’t like.”

Contact us soon to arrange your vacation to Tasmania. There is a whole world of fantastic travel experiences waiting in the Australian state, including this not-to-be-missed museum that might make all other museums look dull after you recover from your MONA visit.

A portion of “Grotto” by Randy Polumbo

Pat Ogle-CollinsHow do you spell controvery in Tasmania – MONA!
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Strolling Melbourne’s laneways – a total sensory experience!

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Looking for an Aussie destination with character? Melbourne offers a cultural buffet of wonderful choices. Trams chugging through the city center, a vibrant food scene, an awe-inspiring public library, and plenty of historic architecture, including churches and cathedrals amongst the urban landscape create a metropolis always buzzing with activity. In this modern Australian city you will also find Melbourne’s laneways.

The colorful little lanes are famous for bright murals and creative street art that cover a dizzying maze of streets. Pedestrian-only streets mean you can lose yourself in the artwork without watching for cars. There is plenty of pedestrian traffic, though, with many people browsing the boutique shops, local restaurants, and fancy cafes along the way. Fashionably dressed teens bound for school, business people in suits, families shopping, and tourists documenting their travels all move at their own speed through the popular central business district (CBD) instantly recognizable as “Melbs: as the locals affectionately call it.

Melbourne’s culture embodies the laneways, and if you visit a resident of the city they will proudly show you the eye-catching creations while pointing out that street art isn’t graffiti. You will see famous Australian life depicted on the walls with work by local artists covering Aussie life, politics, pop culture, fashion, music, beauty, and love.  Explore almost every theme you can imagine using art on the  Melbournites who can relate to the work and appreciate the bold beauty it beholds.

walls of the lanes to tell a story or message. Perhaps that is why they hold so much meaning for

The history of the lanes goes back to the Victorian era, when horses and carts would clatter along the narrow paths. In the 1990s, the area transformed into a trendy spot for shopping, dining and drinking and street art slowly emerged. Soon the bright surroundings became more popular on a local and international level. The intimate lanes offer a haven where people can absorb the cultural scene, drink coffee, meet friends and

escape, even for a short time, from the bustling city just outside the coziness of the lanes. As you dance down the lanes you will notice a lot of the old architecture is well-preserved, increasing their charm even more.

Meyers Place (formerly Nicholas Lane) is one of the oldest laneways in the city, so a must-visit for true street art fans. Funky eateries and bars line the lanes where you can linger for a while. Lane’s Edge Cafe and Bar is the perfect place for dining outdoors with a laidback vibe. Refuel with dishes paired with local Aussie beer and wine before diving back into the adventures of lane hopping in search of the best mural of the day.

Hardware and Goldie lane features 20th-century warehouses and Degraves Street, named after Hobart merchants Charles and William Degraves, has alfresco dining options for patrons who appreciate the views of the art deco architecture. Hozier Lane near Flinders Street Station is another popular

urban art spot, or you might find yourself rocking out at ACDC Lane. There are so many lanes, and you can rely on your instincts and embark on a bright road of artistic thrills. There is no wrong way for your feet to take you and there’s no predicting what you might

discover. As you weave your way from lane to lane just be sure to take enough photos for invoking memories of this colorful stroll.

Melbourne’s strong coffee culture goes hand-in-hand with the thriving art scene. Rest your tired feet and order a latte at a hip café. Take in the art with the aroma of caffeine and background chatter of socializing coffee lovers for a true Melbourne experience.

Forget about Google maps and get lost in the streets for an inspiring walk that you could probably not make the following day if you tried. Roaming around another day you would notice different details of the artwork adorning the laneway walls. It’s an uplifting place for culture-loving explorers and is free as long as you aren’t tempted to spend at a chic boutique filled with designer garments that are another form of beautiful creative expression.

Enjoy the backstreets decorated with street art by emerging and established talented artists. Watch an emerging work in progress as an artist empties some spray cans. To avoid the crowds arriving early and snap plenty of photos without too many people.

Melbourne’s lanes are a major tourist attraction constantly evolving, with new murals appearing all the time. Embrace the cheery journey as you

Ready to immerse yourself in this outdoor gallery of contemporary art?  Let me design a trip for you that incorporates the laneways and the other wonderful things Melbourne has to offer! walk through a colorful moment in history that might never be the same again.

Pat Ogle-CollinsStrolling Melbourne’s laneways – a total sensory experience!
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Tomāto, tomäto. It makes a difference in South Africa’s Kruger area!

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The beauty and wonder of the Kruger National Park in South Africa are reflected in the visitor numbers that top one million every year. The country’s oldest and biggest national park is home to an abundance of wildlife that shares the vast area. Lions, leopards, elephants, and rhinos are just some of the creatures you might see in this beautiful national park that borders Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Wildlife doesn’t care reserves or parks but you may.

If you are considering heading to Kruger National Park for a safari to see the lions, giraffes, and other amazing wildlife, you might wonder about game reserves, national parks and concessions.  What’s the difference?  It’s all about how you want to experience a safari.

National Park, Reserve or Concession?

National parks, like Kruger National Park, are managed and owned by the government. Individuals or companies own private game reserves. A concession is a lodge, camp or reserve owned by the government and operated by a company.   All have to follow the same rules and regulations set out by the government and local authorities. (Similarly, in East Africa you will find conservancies, equivalent to a private reserves in South Africa, along with national parks.)  The national park, reserves, and concessions form a vital co-existing group that attracts a wide range of travelers worldwide.

Guided safari walks available in private reserves allow you to view wildlife missed when on game drives.

Visiting Kruger National Park is a wildlife experience that is considered one of the best in the world. No wonder millions of people have made the trip boosting the local economy and helping to conserve and preserve the environment and inhabitants of the park. From the park entrance fees that protect the park’s cultural and natural well-being to the jobs it provides, the park is an important asset to South Africa.

To understand Kruger National Park’s major contribution to South Africa, we need to understand the history. It was established in 1898 by conservationist Paul Kruger who wanted wildlife to have a thriving environment to live without being hunted. His legacy can be seen with over 750 species of animals, 1982 species of plants and hundreds of cultural sites within the park.

Difference in Safari Experiences

Now let’s look at how the differences between game reserves, national parks and concessions, can impact your safari experience.

Visitor Numbers

Private game reserves limit the number of travelers allowed to visit at any given time. This prevents stress on the ecosystem and gives people a more realistic safari experience.   National parks don’t have the same restrictions on visitors, so they can be crowded

Bush dinners that can be arranged in private reserves create special memories for romantics or those that just love the outdoors.

with vehicles and people trying to see the wildlife. Also, it’s important to know off-road game viewing isn’t allowed in national parks, so often, you can see more impressive wildlife in reserves where it is permitted.

Visiting Hours

National parks have set opening and closing times and guides need to make sure they have exited the park before the gates close. Private reserves are always open to guests staying within the reserve so tourists have more scheduling flexibility.  Without time limits reserves can offer more options for safari experiences such as walking safaris, longer observation times and exciting night safari drives.

Night drives allow you to see nocturnal animals and those active after their rest during the hottest parts of the day.

Style and Amenities

Relaxing in comfortable accommodation after a long day of safari adventuring in the heat is the perfect end to your day. Accommodation in most of the national parks is nice enough, but there is nothing like the food, amenities and service offered at lodges and camps in private reserves.  Dining by lantern in the bush or sleeping under the stars add special memories in addition to those created by the wildlife during game drives.

Isn’t it Time for a Safari?

I am here to help you decide what safari travel option is best for you and your family and friends. We customize trips with many of our clients reporting back their trip far exceeded their expectations making it truly a trip without equal.

I design South Africa safaris for travelers who enjoy rich and diverse travel experiences with recommendations and suggestions that I hope make this trip of a lifetime the first safari of many. Let’s talk soon so I can answer all your questions about a South African safari and get you dreaming about a trip like no other.

Pat Ogle-CollinsTomāto, tomäto. It makes a difference in South Africa’s Kruger area!
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There’s more than one way to see big game!

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Imagine! A moment when majestic creatures walk towards your jeep only to veer away when their young appear from the bush – breathtaking!

Yet, there are more ways to experience the wilds of Africa than the rear seat of a land rover or overlander. By foot, from the air, or the water, it’s time to explore the wilderness through its various scents, sharp color palettes, and ear-pricking sounds in ways probably never considered.

Traveling by vehicle on safari is the post popular way to see game.

Your Own Two Feet Take You Off Road

Strolling through the bush at the crack of dawn can be a moving experience as all your senses awaken to the environment surrounding you. You can listen to the soft sounds of wildlife that would have been inaudible over the hum of a vehicle’s engine.  You smell the vegetation as you trod over the grass.  Movements catch your eye – from the insect that lights on a branch to the birds overhead, to the giraffe munching on a tree ahead.

Walking in the bush allows you to see small animals and insects as well as big game.

Excited but fearful? Don’t worry, they are completely safe because trained guides accompany you. This type of safari provides a more immersive and intensive experience. You are now in the environment of the animals rather than a vehicle.  Definitely exciting when you come upon a lion or a family of elephants.  While animals are always unpredictable, your guide’s first concern is always evident -the wildlife’s safety, and you, his client.  Listen to their instructions and enjoy the moment!

Walking allows you to appreciate all kinds of species, both plant and animal. In many areas, vehicles must stay on the designated roads, so plants, insects, and small animals only a few feet from you might as well be invisible.  Walking provides close encounters with them while minimizing the impact on their environment.

Walking safaris vary in length from an afternoon activity provided by your lodge to multi-day walks operated by specialized safari operators.  Whatever the length, bush walks like these create special memories.

When the Wildlife Comes to You

Now, picture this. You’re floating down on a peaceful river, gazing at a herd of hippos lazing in the water as you pass about 15 yards away.

Walking safaris can be as short as an afternoon to multiday trips.

Spotting animals is way easier and safer on boat safaris as animals are not typically concerned by nearby boats; wildlife become accustomed to the watercraft, so they don’t get disturbed at the first sight of tourists. It’s an aesthetically pleasing experience— watching exotic frogs as they sit on a wavering reed, listening to the calming birdsong of winged creatures as they wait for the return of their mate, observing the nearby animals splashing around as they have a little fun.  Photographs capture the action from the close to the same perspective as the wildlife being observed.

All wildlife need water so game congregates near rivers and waterholes making them easy to find.

On most bike safaris, you ride between parks and reserves, but you never know when you will see game.

Whether from a canoe or a multi-passenger pontoon type boats, enjoy the quiet as you explore the mighty and the minute on the rivers, marshes and deltas of Africa!

Wheels Go Round and Round in the Bush, too

Visualize pedaling through the bush, adrenaline pumping through your veins as you spot an elephant. Like walking, the cycling safari causes little noise, and  offers you the opportunity to observe plenty of wildlife. On a cycling tour visiting parks, you typically switch your bike for a safari vehicle when it’s time to view the  ‘big five’ animals: lions, buffaloes, rhinos, leopards, and elephants.  On other tours, you may find that you cycle in the morning and use vehicles in the afternoon.

Not the level of the Tour de France?  No worries. The average age of safari cyclists ranges in the 40s and several companies offer e-bikes. One commonality exists on all bike safaris – you burn a fair amount of the calories consumed during those delicious meals served at your lodge or camp!

With a small group of participants, camaraderie develops between participants and the trained guides. Much like the guides on walking safaris, the first priority of cycling safari guides is their guests’ safety so grab a helmet and enjoy the view!

It’s not just zebra, wildebeest and giraffe that gallop across the savannah

Those that love horseback riding – there’s a safari for you too!  You’ll ride where vehicles can’t reach, galloping through the African plains as the giraffe galloping beside you tries to get ahead.

Horseback safaris can also range from a morning outing to a multiple-day trip. You follow the trails made by the wildlife itself, making spotting the animals easier. You can wander and wind through the bush with the hooves of horses providing no more

For those that love horseback riding, could there be any better way to see wildlife?

damage than the wildlife you seek so that you can get closer more easily.   You and your horse become one in the eyes of the animals and, therefore, avoiding encounters with horse & rider is key to survival in their mind.

Like the other safaris, you are accompanied by experienced guides and other staff there to serve and ensure your safety. When on horseback, you will typically spend 4-7 hrs each day exploring the bush. For those that love riding, there may be nothing better!

You Can Even Safari by Air

The mist hovers as you ascend. Tangerine rays of light touch your face as you drift higher on a breeze in absolute silence. The pilot fires the burner of your hot air balloon, and nearby zebra, giraffe, and rhino make nary a move.

An early morning balloon safari allow you to see game from a different perspective when the animals tend to be most active.

Oh, what an enjoyable way to cover distances similar to a vehicle.  While you can’t control the direction, your aerial 360° view provides visibility far further than any ground-based mode used on safari.

Like game drives, you rise before dawn, and the views of the landscape and the wildlife can’t be compared. Plus, after you return to earth, you often enjoy champagne and breakfast in the bush. Amazing!

Kickstart Your Adventure on a Quad Bike Safari

Safer havens where predatory animals don’t roam allow you to explore from the seat of a quad bike. That doesn’t make it any less exciting. Be it dry riversides, empty lakebeds, deserts, or the plains among Africa’s mountain ranges, they all offer wildlife and fantastic scenery! Imagine waiting for giraffes as they cross the path or following a flock of ostriches as they run.

Great for families, quad bikes combine the thrill of exploring your on your own bike with the enchanting beauty of untouched landscapes.

Seeking unique family memories? Nothing can beat watching a giraffe as it gives birth to its young before you head to your elevated camp on your quad bike to sleep out under the stars!

As each safari destination is unique, so too is how you can experience your safari.   I’m an expert in helping you achieve the safari of your dreams. Call me and let me help your safari dream come true!

Safari by quad bike provides a memorable experience for the entire family that will be remembered for years.

Pat Ogle-CollinsThere’s more than one way to see big game!
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Even a Scrooge can’t scowl at glüwein and twinkly stars!

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Walking through a European Christmas market feels like being in a romantic winter wonderland movie. As the aroma of spiced wine mixes with the cool breeze, you will experience a feeling of joy and happiness as you roam a fairytale holiday market filled with festive treats.

Germany, Slovakia, Poland, Belgium, Austria, and Hungary are a few countries that put on a Christmas market that would impress the socks off Santa and all his elves. Every country has a unique market with various winter displays, events, parades, and food.  Picking a favorite one is simply impossible.

Christmas Market in front of Town Hall in Vienna, Austria

Prague’s Christmas Market in its Old Town

Shopfronts are decorated in cheery festive Christmas themes that are so beautiful it’s hard not to stop at each and every one. Historic architecture makes the perfect backdrop to this dreamy annual event. Many stalls line the streets with welcoming cafes and rustic restaurants everywhere, so it is easy to rest when you get weighed down by all your shopping bags.

Christmas mugs, handmade knick-knacks, souvenirs, ornaments, toys, decorations, fabrics, fashion, sweets, and more are just some of the buys you will

want to take home. Christmas decorations are probably one of the most exciting items at the markets because local artisans make beautiful decorative pieces that you will never find anywhere else.

If you are obsessed with Christmas decorations, save a whole section in your suitcase for wooden sleds, nutcracker creations, handprinted trees, sparkly stars, and Santa decorations that are irresistible. Delicate snow globes are not easy to travel with but are worth the effort.

When it comes to Christmas shopping, the European markets have something unique for everyone, even that most hard-to-shop-for person who has everything. Even if you travel to the markets this year during the holidays and delivering your gifts after your trip or even next year, nobody will mind if they get a gorgeous Christmas-inspired gift from Europe.

Nuremberg’s Christmas Market is known for its traditional decorations and ornaments.

Children aren’t the only ones that look forward to the sweet treats at Christmas markets throughout Europe.

Sweet treats are a big part of the European Christmas markets which are loaded with delicious temptations. Indulge in iced sugar cookies, crepes, cake, donuts, chocolate, and candy. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, there’s plenty of other scrumptious options like roasted chestnuts, dumplings, soup, and gingerbread cookies. You might even discover reindeer sausages or Töki pompos (cooked dough with bacon, onion, and cream toppings a favorite in Hungary). Drinks with a dash of spice, peppermint, or something stronger are great to carry around as you roam the markets.

The daytime and nighttime atmospheres at a Christmas market are quite different, so make sure you explore the markets at both times. During the day, there is a busy vibe as everyone shops and enjoys music with festive food and drink. At night the glow of the lights adds a romantic feel, and the pace of life seems to slow down a little. Locals and tourists linger over meals of traditional Christmas fare and soak up the holiday atmosphere that surrounds the whole village or city.

An ice skating rink filled with happy children is a breathtaking sight and the little ones will also love to see puppet shows, Father Christmas, and live Christmas performances with all the classics being played. Even if you don’t have children with you, your inner child will be thrilled to feel a level of excitement about Christmas that you might not have felt since your youth. Every corner seems to be another picturesque scene of festive yuletide cheer.

Nativity sets fill the Aix-en-Provence Christmas Market.

Find the nearest church or cathedral near the market because they are sure to be in the holiday spirit with nativity scenes, twinkling lights, and Christmas carols. Spend time reflecting on the rich history of the traditional Christmas markets that originated in Germany hundreds of years ago.

The market in Munich takes place under the watchful eye of its famous Glockenspiel on Marienplatz in the center of the city.

As the snowflakes fall, it is time to dash indoors for one more hot chocolate, glühwein, or eggnog next to a Christmas tree adorned with pretty fairy lights. Make sure you take plenty of photos and videos to remember this once-in-a-lifetime Christmas holiday experience.

Call me today to discuss what city might be calling your festive soul to visit. While December probably isn’t a month you usually travel, this year can be different.  I can arrange an amazing European

winter vacation, with the highlight being the Christmas markets, faster than a 10-year-old can rip open a gift-wrapped box on Christmas Eve.

Pat Ogle-CollinsEven a Scrooge can’t scowl at glüwein and twinkly stars!
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Small ships lead to magnificent wonders on the Kimberly Coast!

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The Kimberley region in Australia is world-famous for offering some of the most spectacular cruising experiences. Expedition cruises into this remote Western Australian coast are in no way ordinary. Apart from its isolation and an overwhelming sense of tranquility hard to find anywhere else, this region is packed with over 1 billion years of history, splendid natural sceneries, and wonders such as dinosaur footprints over 200 million years old.

Mitchell Falls

Situated on the west side of Kimberley, Broome, an outback beach town is the gateway into this vast coastal area containing a variety of natural marvels that are simply mind-bending. From steep ochre-colored cliffs, unique rock formations, the Mitchell waterfalls splashing down 4 steps to crystal clear lakes, etc., all cruises to Kimberley offer tours and excursions full of intimate views.

Boating at the bottom of King George Falls

Up-Close Encounters with the World’s Greatest Natural Wonders

On any single day, there are multiple cruises with each covering an almost similar itinerary departing from Broome, Darwin, or sometimes Kununurra. Expedition cruising offers extraordinary experiences focusing on the environment and nature-friendly excursions. This form of travel is preferred by most clientele who are interested in where they are going and how they get there as well.

Small ships take guests to remote locations brimming with wildlife and natural wonders that impart intimate experiences. Cruises along the Kimberley coast go where few other ships can. Apart from being able to flexibly respond to things like the weather, the voyages on Kimberley cruises get you to serene beaches and shallow bays.

All cruises get as close as possible to fascinating features on the coast. Smaller crafts usually launched from the mother ship can reach sites deep into the coast, enabling the passengers to observe interesting wildlife and to witness some of the greatest natural wonders in the Kimberley, such as the Horizontal Waterfall.

There is no better way to discover the awe-inspiring gorges, reefs, and coastlines than by ship. The close encounters enhance the sense of adventure for every traveler in

With tides of over 10 meters, the Montgomery Reef emerges with deep crevices, waterfalls and a plethora of marine wildlife left behind.

a uniquely personal way that translates every single moment into an authentic travel experience.

Travelers Rather Than Tourists

While cruising the Kimberly, another key aspect of the voyage is the emphasis on learning. To most expedition cruisers, the opportunity to learn is more important than relaxing by the pool with a drink.

The Gwion Gwion rock art, formerly referred to as the Bradshaw paintings, provide sophisticated depictions of life over 12,000 years ago.

Experts give lectures and briefings about each destination developing passengers’ sense of each place before arrival. Along the way, passengers can then step ashore for exploratory excursions while listening to those with specialized knowledge and expert opinion adding a new dimension to the voyage.

The focus is on travel, not tourism, so cruisers are keenly interested in the native people and their way of life.  And to help the locals preserve the pristine conditions, the Kimberley expedition cruises are

operated in environmentally friendly ways that limit the impact of each visit into a sensitive area so that the destination remains protected.

Helicopters are available on some cruises offering an alternative view of the Kimberly while also providing transportation to Kimberley’s inaccessible and hard-to-reach places. Guests can be whisked over cliff edges, waterfalls, or across remote islands. Helicopters provide easy access to wildlife viewing while ferrying guests to narrow waterways, terrestrial sites, and fishing spots away from the ship.

Ready for a remote adventure to the other side of the world? Call me to assist you in finding the right expedition cruise for you!

Pat Ogle-CollinsSmall ships lead to magnificent wonders on the Kimberly Coast!
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Uncork your way thru Australia!

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From palate-awakening chardonnay to sharp-tone shiraz, Aussie wines have it all.  Tourists looking to sample some of Australia’s wide variety of offerings during an afternoon or as part of a longer wine-focused journey may feel a bit overwhelmed with their choices.  Every state, except the Northern Territory, produces wine and lots of it. Australia has roughly 2000 wineries. You can bet that if you don’t find a wine pleasing to your palate, head down the road to another winery or move on to another region.  You know what they say, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!”

Tastings may draw you to one of Australia’s many wine cellars, but the scenery may make leaving harder.

Victoria

Located along the southern coast of Australia, Victoria is known for being the cultural hub of the country as well as the home to the Great Ocean Road and the Yarra Valley, one of Victoria’s top wine regions.  Cooler temperatures and high-quality volcanic soil contribute to the lighter fruity and floral wines coming from this area.

Twenty wine regions now call Victoria home including the Yarra Valley, Bendigo, Mornington Peninsula, Gippsland, Rutherglen, Swan Hill, Red Hill, Goulburn Valley, and many more.  The most common wines produced in these regions vary between white wines like Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay and red wines like Pinot Noir, Shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon from over 800 wineries!

Yarra Valley led the way in Victoria with the introduction of vineyards in 1838, well before wineries spread across Victoria in the 1860s.

Victoria’s Yarra Valley

One of the best wineries in Victoria is the Helen and Joey Estate, situated in Gruyere, in the heart of the Yarra Valley.

This winery started producing wines in 2010 after purchasing an established vineyard.  Now 65% of their vineyard is made up of a variety of reds and the rest is a variety of whites.  The Helen and Joey Estate prides itself on its award-winning Chardonnay.

While the Helen and Joey Estate, known for its stunning views may be hard to leave, some of the other sights and tastes of the Yarra Valley like the following may call you.

  • Take a scenic walk on the trail around the Maroondah Reservoir Park
  • Pick some delicious, fresh cherries at the Cherry Hill Orchards
  • Visit the Healesville Sanctuary to see many native Australian critters, like the koala
  • Eat a delicious meal at the Dixons Creek Cafe Bar & Grill

Western Australia

On the western side of Australia, crystal clear waters of the Indian Ocean,  remains of ancient Aboriginal sites, the natural beauty of the remote Kimberly, and the many luscious green vineyards of world-class wineries, provide great incentives to explore Western Australia.

Western Australia has twenty wine regions, including Margaret River, Swan Valley, Great Southern, and Geographe with 503 wineries spread throughout.

Quinninup Falls, an ocean-facing waterfall, located in the Margaret Valley of Western Australia.

When visiting Margaret River, the most well-known wine region in Western Australia, spend time at the world-known Vasse Felix winery located in Wilyabrup. This beautiful property occupies 20 acres of land only 2.5 miles from the ocean, so you can drop by the winery in the afternoon and then go for a picnic on the beach and a swim in the evening!

Vasse Felix has four different locations, including Wilyabrup, Karridale, Gnarawary, and Wallcliffe, all located in the Margaret River wine region (try saying these after you have tasted a couple of wines). This winery produces some of the finest wines, including Cabernet Sauvignon,  Chardonnay, Shiraz, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc blend wines.

But don’t just spend time at the winery.  Nearby you can:

  • Eat some gourmet chocolate at the Margaret River chocolate company.
  • Try Rústico’s award-winning tapas.
  • Watch the sunset at Injidup Beach.
  • Explore Quinninup Falls, an ocean-facing waterfall surrounded by beautiful scenery.

South Australia

Home to the famous Kangaroo Island, the top wineries in Australia also call South Australia home.   Adelaide, South Australia’s capital city, known for being the hub of festivals and delicious food, means you can always find something exciting happening in the city and nearby.  It’s the best place to make the most of your Australian wine trip.

South Australia boasts almost as many wineries as the rest of Australia. With 28 wine regions, including Adelaide, Barossa, Limestone Coast, and Clare Valley, these regions lay claim to roughly 989 wineries today.  If you visited wineries every day, it would still take you a year often visiting more than 2 wineries a day to visit each winery!  That’s a lot of wineries!

Barossa Valley, home to some of the oldest vines in the world, also produces what many consider to be Australia’s best shiraz.   With quaint towns, lovely scenery, and great restaurants, a couple of days may not be enough to enjoy all it offers.

South Australia’s Barossa Valley wineries line Seppeltsfield Road.

Known for its wine, foodies enjoy the area’s shops specializing in cheese, jam, salami and many shops will prepare picnic baskets to enjoy.

Jacob’s Creek is a great place to start any wine tour in the valley. One of the world’s largest-selling brands since 1973, the winery exports to countries around the world including the United Kingdom, the United States, China, and over 45 other countries.

With its start producing table wines, good value wines rank as some of Jacob’s Creek most widely sold. But the winery produces a wide range of reserve and classic wines such as heritage reds, double-barrel Cabernet Sauvignon, cool-harvest Pinot Grigio, and many more.

After sipping some wines, wondering what activities and attractions there are to do? In the area you can also,

  • Visit other wineries in the area like Elderton wines or Rockford Winery.
  • Visit the Hentley Farm Restaurant for a delicious meal paired with their award-winning wines.
  • Spend a night at The Villas in Barossa for a special evening in a bush setting.
  • Order a picnic basket full of local goodies, like cheese, jam, salami and more, to enjoy on the grounds of one of the vineyards or other scenic site.

Sample the views of Hunter Valley wineries by hot air ballon.

New South Wales

Visiting Australia, and more than likely, your itinerary will include a stop in Sydney.   The city ranks as the #1 most visited in the country for its iconic landmarks:  the Sydney Opera House, the Harbor Bridge and Bondi Beach.

New South Wales may be big on landmarks but ranks as the fourth-smallest wine-producing state in Australia, with 24 wine regions calling the state home. These regions include Canberra, Hunter Valley, Central Ranges, and Cowra, where 634 wineries make their home.

While smaller among wine-producing states, Hunter Valley stands as the oldest region in the country and one of Australia’s major wine regions.  The region began with Semillon and Shiraz grapevines in the early 1800s.  Hunter Valley today has roughly 150 wineries producing delicious wines for both Aussies and wine lovers around the world.  Hop in the car or take the train from Sydney to visit these wineries.

Great wineries to visit in Hunter Valley include Brokenwood Wines. Started in 1970 by a group of weekend wine hobbyists, it’s now regarded as one of Australia’s most reputable wine labels.  Brokenwood Winery produces many varieties of wine such as Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Semillion, Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, and is noted for its famous Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz, ILR Reserve Semillion, and Cricket Pitch Range.

Spend a day or two in the Hunter Valley so you have time to enjoy other activities in the area.  You can:

  • Book a hot air balloon and view Hunter Valley from above.
  • Taste some delicious French chocolate at Cocoa Nibs.
  • Try out a tiny home for a night at Tiny Away.
  • Visit other Hunter Valley wineries such as De Bortoli Wines or Wynwood estate.

Queensland

Roughly 200 national parks showcase the scenic beauty of Queensland. These parks cover over 25,000 sq miles of the state and the coastline stretches nearly 4500 miles on the northeast side of Australia.  With so much coastline and parkland, it’s no wonder Queensland has the second smallest number of wine regions in Australia, with only five, including Darling Downs, Queensland Coastal, South Burnett, Granite Belt, and Queensland Zone, and only

Enjoy the granite rock formations found in Girraween Park, located in the Granite Belt wine region of Queensland.

116 wineries.  However, wine is growing in importance due to the increasing global demand for wine.

When traveling to Queensland, visit the Granite Belt, the holy grail of wine regions.  Located in the center of Stanthorpe, in southern Queensland, your journey could easily include wineries and a stay on nearby Hamilton Island on the Great Barrier Reef or one of the many beaches along its coast.

The Golden Grove Estate in Ballandean within the Granite Belt region provides a great introduction to Queensland’s wineries.  Mario and Nita Costanzo purchased land in Ballandean in 1946 to grow stone fruits and a variety of grapes, evolving into a vineyard and winery over several generations.  Their cool weather wines encompass both reds, including Tempranillo, Shiraz, and Merlot, along with whites,  such as Sauvignon, Vermentino, and Semillon that are fresh and elegant with a natural acidity not found in wines from other areas of Australia.

The Granite Belt offers more than just wine.  After you sample some, enjoy other activities.

  • Take a walk-through Girraween National Park.
  • Book a night or two in the vineyard cottages.
  • Eat a delicious meal using fresh, seasonal fare at the Barrelroom restaurant in Ballandean.
  • Visit other wineries in the area, such as Jester Hill Wines or Tobin Wines

Vineyards surround the Tamar River in Tasmania’s Tamar Valley.

Tasmania

On the northern central coast of Tasmania, the Tamar Valley is the oldest of the 8 regions on this island located off Victoria’s southern coast.  Although Tasmania is tiny compared to other states, it is a fantastic location for traveling and, of course, winemaking. With the cleanest air in the world and the coldest wine regions in the country, Tasmanian wines receive awards for their delicious sparkling

wines, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay.   Seven wine regions on the island contain 184 wineries that produce some of Australia’s best wines.

The Tamar Valley is the oldest wine region in Tasmania, due to its cool climate that makes the wines crisp and unlike no other.   Where there is wine,  you often find award-winning restaurants and the Tamar Valley is no different.   Based on locally grown ingredients, farm and sea to table are the norm here.

Dreamed of opening a business with friends?  That’s exactly what friends from two families did with the founding of Goaty Hill Winery near Kayena.  There are no goats at Goaty Hill but Rieslings and sparkling wines are top choices here along with their gourmet platters and cheese plates that also get rave reviews.  In line with their community focus, they frequently sponsor live music and art events to go with your wine.

With its clean air and fresh locally made products, there’s plenty to see do and eat after your visit to Goaty Hill.

  • Pick some strawberries from Strawberries at Littlewood.
  • Taste the local produce at the Richmond village farmer market such, as Harvest Market.
  • Taste some of the Richmond Bakery’s world-class hot pies.
  • Stay a night or two in the historical 1800s Richmond Oak Lodge.

With the extensive winemaking across Australia, time may be the greatest obstacle when exploring.  State by state, region by region, we can create a plan that can keep you returning to Australia for years to come.  Give me a call and let’s talk.

Pat Ogle-CollinsUncork your way thru Australia!
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Embrace adventure! Drive thru New Zealand!

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Referred to as the Land of the Long White Cloud, New Zealand defines long.  Stretching over 1298 miles from north to south (about the distance from New York City to Miami and only 194 miles wide at its widest point), no wonder the locals like to call a trip around the country the great Kiwi road trip.   There’s a reason.  The only way to get to most destinations around the country requires a car.  Some might call this a particularly exciting adventure because, yes, the Kiwis as the locals are called, drive on the left side of the road.

Driving thru the Southern Alps of New Zealand.

You could do a tour that visits the major sights of the country, but when you self-drive, you have freedom to go where you want, when and for how long. You can stop at the many quaint New Zealand towns to go shopping, see tourist attractions, enjoy traditional food and buy souvenirs as you please. Stopping to buy local products like fruits, vegetables, wine, cheese, and honey will be a highlight of your trip. You will meet local farmers and gather delicious flavors to enjoy during the leisurely days of your trip that follow.

You drive on the left in New Zealand.

The scenery is spectacular in the land of the long white cloud with rolling hills, vast mountain ranges, wide-open fields, and stunning lakes. You can also expect to see breathtaking fjords, pristine beaches, unique geothermal activity, and lots of sheep. Any time you want to stop for a photo, you can.

Driving on the left side – it’s not as scary as it sounds. After a few days of driving carefully on the left side, your mind will adapt and you will relax and be just fine. Start your road trip with short legs so you can gradually build up your confidence.

Phone apps can help you navigate your way around. For directions, you can use Google maps as you would at home. Weather apps are great, so you can see if bad weather is looming and plan your travel days accordingly to avoid driving in inclement weather.

Road conditions in New Zealand are good. Highways are similar to our state roads, not interstate highways; those are found only around Auckland and Christchurch. Roads are signposted well and there are many passing lanes or areas to pull over to allow traffic to pass. There are gravel and narrow roads in some rural areas.  On coastal roads, you can expect winds that require additional caution.  That is why it’s important to map out a travel plan in advance, so you are only driving in areas where and when you will feel comfortable.

On your great Kiwi road trip, you can explore areas like Cape Kidnappers that aren’t included on tours.

Reflective signs and road markings guide the way during evenings and at night. The maximum speed in any area is 100 km/hour (about 62 mph) and you need to slow down on approach to towns and school areas which is always signposted. Perhaps one of the trickiest things for NZ visitors (apart from driving on the left) is the roundabouts that many towns have on the outskirts and town centers.

Often you and maybe one other car will be on or entering a roundabout in New Zealand.

Before you rent your vehicle to travel to New Zealand, you’ll normally be shown a road safety video or given a road rule guide. You can also find them online to study before your arrival. Insurance is included and compulsory, as is showing the driver’s license issued in your country or international driving permit.

During your journey thru rural areas, you might come across some nature crossing the roads. It could be a farmer moving a herd of cows or a wild rabbit on the move. You might also see law enforcement along the way.

Police patrol the roads and there are numerous hidden speed cameras.   if caught speeding, your ticket will await when you return your vehicle or could arrive by mail many months after you return home.

The towns in NZ are quite close together. Even though many are small communities, you don’t need to go too far before finding a place to seek directions, fuel up or take a break to stretch your legs. It’s not difficult to find a public bathroom and restaurants and cafes have bathrooms for use by customers.

First-time driving on the left can be nerve-wracking initially.  But driving in New Zealand is quite easy because there just isn’t much traffic on the roads, except during peak times in the major cities. Even then, it’s quiet compared to many other metropolitan cities in the world. In some rural areas, you may drive for 10-20 min or more before you see another car.

You’ll be a confident driver after a day or two on the road. It is easy to find your way around and locals are very friendly and helpful should you need assistance.

Spend time in New Zealand.  Enjoy all the gorgeous scenery of both the North and the South Island.  Get to know the Kiwis.  It all becomes so easy and relaxing by car after a day or two. Drop us a line if you would like more information on travel in New Zealand and/or questions about driving the quiet Kiwi roads.  Oh, and if I can do it, you can.

With a car, you can see Lake Wakatipu on the South Island from so many gorgeous vantage points.

Pat Ogle-CollinsEmbrace adventure! Drive thru New Zealand!
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A day on safari unfolds typically; it’s what you see that continually changes!

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Safari life is exciting, and every day brings the possibility of seeing African creatures up close in their natural inhabitant. The thrill of seeing animals in the wild is the main reason that draws travelers to the beautiful countries in Africa. But you might be wondering what a typical day on safari looks like. 

 

Your experienced guides know how to read the movements of the bush and will plan safaris, so you have the best opportunities to see magnificent creatures in the wild. You can expect early morning wake-up calls, set meal times, and strict rules regarding safety. 

Ol Doinyo Lengai, the only active volcano in East Africa

Every day is different, and the season, weather, and other factors like migration and mating come into play when your guides are planning your days. 

 

Following is a general timeline widely used by lodges and camps designed to maximize your time to enjoy the environment and see all the wildlife that lives there, from the bugs to the birds to the buffalo. 

5 am – 6 am

Rise and shine! This vacation isn’t for travelers who love to sleep in and do brunch more often than breakfast. Many of the animals are active early in the morning and late afternoon when the temperatures are cooler. Splash some water on your face and grab a coffee and a roll or piece of fruit because the lions won’t wait for anyone.  Note:  Game drive times vary through the year and location with sunrise and sunset.

Ballooning over Masai Mara at sunrise

6 am – 9 am

It may be early, but as they say “the early bird gets the worm.”  By air or by land, early morning is when you will find wildlife active.  Trackers and guides will be looking for signs of wildlife.  Some are obvious.  Others are very subtle and easily missed by the untrained.  While wild most animals are accustomed to seeing vehicles and know they pose no danger in normal circumstances, guides provide specific instructions to ensure the safety of their guests.

9 am – 10 am

You earned breakfast and it’s usually a feast of fruit, cereal, toast, and maybe bacon and eggs – with more coffee, of course. Depending on your location, you might be enjoying a bush breakfast or be dining at the lodge with birds singing in the background.

Heading to another lodge or camp?  After breakfast, your bags will be loaded and off you go.

10 am – 12:30 pm

This is your free time to relax, reflect and enjoy the atmosphere of the camp or lodge. Your guide will tell you it’s against the rules to wander around the bush, so find a good book, do some writing, or settle in the shade for some bird watching. If your camp has a waterhole, you might want to lay low in a hide and wait for a visitor of the wild kind. 

Overlooking a plain in Zimbabwe.

12:30 pm – 1:30 pm

Lunch is served. Meager morsels are not what you will find for lunch.  It’s a full meal with a main dish, fresh salads, fruit, and desserts. As everyone gathers around to eat together, you are sure to make new friends with others from around the world as you share stories and hopes for the adventure ahead.

Afternoon walk near safari camp

1:30 pm – 3:30 pm

It is time to have an afternoon nap during this hottest time of the day. The locals take a siesta and this includes all living creatures – travelers, trusty guides, and the wildlife. Or you might like to take a dip in the pool or just relax. Some camps and lodges may offer walks in or just outside the camp.  Visits to local villages, schools, or markets may also be available.  Staff will let you know about the options available each day.

Typically new guests arrive in time for the late afternoon game drive to maximize your game viewing while there.

3:30 pm – 4:00 pm

Afternoon tea or a mid-afternoon snack and beverage helps get you through the long day with scorching temperatures as you prepare for round two of viewing local game and wildlife.

4 pm – 7:30 pm

Get the binoculars ready again. Your guide will have a plan mapped out to look for a herd of animals or flock of birds, and usually, your group will settle in a picturesque spot to be as the sun slowly sets over a “sundowners,” frequently a gin and tonic or another beverage (alcoholic nor non-alcoholic) of your choosing.  As the sun goes down on another glorious day, there is often significant animal movement and a great chance to see some game in action. It will get dark quickly and you may use floodlights to see wildlife as you make your way back to your camp or your lodge.

Trackers know where to find the best views of wildlife for guests.

7:30 pm – 10:30 pm

You arrive back at your accommodation and have time to get ready for dinner. Chat with fellow guests and compare elephant photos around the campfire before the candlelit dinner is served in the dining area. This is the main meal of the day and a leisurely affair.  The food is the level of fine dining with options that take into account dietary requirements.

Table set for dinner at a lodge in Botswana

10:30 pm to bedtime

Nightcaps around the campfire and colorful conversations under the starry African sky end the day perfectly. Tomorrow is another new adventure that could bring sightings of lions, hippos, hyenas, and wild dogs. Get some rest because the knock on your door will be coming very early!

Is the call of the wild temping you with a trip to Botswana, Kenya, or Uganda yet? There are so many wonderful locations to choose from. We will help you decide on the best safari.   It should be noted the main difference between safaris in East and Southern Africa is how near to the animals you can get.   For example, in Kruger, Botswana, and Zimbabwe, off-road game viewing is permitted, but in most parks, off-road driving is not permitted barring some private conservancies and reserves.

 

For more information on an African safari to remember, send us an email today and I will contact you to offer up ideas and suggestions around the wildlife that you want to see!

Pat Ogle-CollinsA day on safari unfolds typically; it’s what you see that continually changes!
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A South African Nature Reserve with No Big Five Game?

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Unlike most typical Safari lodges in Africa mainly focused around big game watching, Grootbos Private National Reserve in South Africa offers other wildlife equally as captivating – exotic plants, and marine wildlife. This privately owned property is a paradise for nature lovers. The National Geographic proclaims it as one of the “most enchanting nature reserves worldwide.” Located where the Atlantic meets the Indian ocean, it is a marvelous place in which several ecosystems co-exist in perfect harmony.

Grootbos villa

Being home to over 800 plant species some of which exist in no other place on the planet, it is the richest floral heaven outside the tropics. The splendor of its varied natural vistas is simply breathtaking. The reserve is undoubtedly a different universe where the focus is absolutely on plant life and green living. Working with nature toward self-reliance is the norm.

A Panorama of Enchanting Scenery, Brilliant Sunrises, and Orange Sunsets

A misty haze covers the horizon every morning to create enchanting sunrises that give way to bright days of uninterrupted views to the Cape of Good Hope.  Evenings are clothed in the most glorious sunsets in hues of orange, pink, gold, and brilliant-red visible from the open decks of private villas, each with one wall entirely made of a glass window.

Outdoor dining area or boma at Grootbos Nature Reserve

The innate beauty of these dwellings oozes out of their local stone and traditional thatch constructions. These, however, do not detract from the feeling of living luxuriously in a modern space. A combination of crackling evening log fires, dim lights, and rain softly strumming on the thatched roofs make up a natural melody, creating moments of pure ecstasy guaranteed to fire up your spirits.

In the evening, dine outside in the boma with caressing evening breezes filled with spicy, energizing floral scents invade your senses to give you a euphoric experience of total tranquility, perhaps only broken by tinkling crockery. The full-service, self-sustaining kitchen prepares cuisine that is a fantastic visual spectacle of culinary sophistication.

Ocean Trips and Guided Nature Safaris through Lush Greenery

Boat rides through glassy waters with an unimpeded view of what lies at the ocean bottom take you on water safaris to Dyer Island, just a short distance from the coast. There is an amazing plethora of dolphins, sharks, and thousands of seals around Geyser Rock – a great spot for white sharks and their unique seal hunting behavior.

Expert naturalists provide guided plant safaris into the forest of Milkwood trees aged more than 1000 years. Land trips take you across expanses of a stunning landscape of lush greenery interspersed with flowers blossoming in a rioting profusion of colors. After a drive across this vast terrain of beautiful, wide valleys and craggy mountains seeming to gracefully roll and tumble into the bluest waters of Walker Bay, you return to the lodge.

Southern Right Whale swimming under whale watching boat

4×4 flower safari thru the Cape floral kingdom

Bath overlooking Grootbos down to the coast

A Reserve Focused on the Guest and the Community

Providing employment, the reserves’s Grootbos Foundation trains members of the community on research-backed environmental science and hospitality management.  The Foundation, including its Siyakhula and Green Futures programs, seeks to empower local communities and individuals through ecotourism, enterprise development, and education.

Guests enjoy products grown and raised on the Growing the Future Farm organic farm which are sold to the Grootbos lodges.  The Green Futures program provides education and training in horticulture and hospitality with participants working on the reserve behind the scenes and directly with guests.  Upon completion, participants are placed locally with other employers or assisted in establishing their own small enterprise.

When coming to South Africa, the big game safari is a must, but missing out on a stay at Grootbos means you will miss an experience combining the sea, the unique flora, and the local people that will stay with you for years!  All it takes is a call to start you on your journey.

Pat Ogle-CollinsA South African Nature Reserve with No Big Five Game?
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