Two lakes, two lakeside towns – the dilemma!

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If you are planning a trip to New Zealand, there will be much debate on which exciting cities, charming towns and endless scenic viewpoints to visit.  With limited time, you really need a solid travel plan to make the most of this country with its picturesque mountains, lakes, beaches and forest to explore.

Many travelers feel torn between the South Island destinations of Wanaka and Queenstown. The good news is they are both wonderful places to visit and you will have a fabulous time at either one. The bad

Aerial view of Queenstown with Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables (mountains) .

news is, it’s hard to pick. So I’ve laid it all out, like a delicious picnic on the beach, to help you decide between beautiful Wanaka and lovely Queenstown. Or you always have the option of seeing both places if time allows.

Queenstown

Landing in Queenstown, you will look out the plane window and be amazed at the aerial view of majestic mountains and pristine lakes. Then you go from the runway to your cozy accommodation in lightning speed time since the airport is close to downtown Queenstown.

To get your adrenaline going, try a jet boat ride on the Shotover River thru beautiful scenery.

Hiking is a popular activity for Queenstown visitors, with the Queenstown Hike being a rewarding challenge. If you prefer more of a pretty meander, the Queenstown Gardens path is wrapped around Lake Wakatipu and makes a lovely place to take in the fresh air, nature and wildlife without breaking a sweat.

For thrill-seekers, Queenstown is an exciting playground with attractions like bungee jumping, luge rides, jet boats and sky diving readily available. Adrenaline junkies rejoice at the thought of Queenstown’s adventure sports options and even if you are not brave enough to join the daredevils, watching them play can give you sweaty hands. A gondola ride up the Southern Hemisphere’s steepest cable car ride can also get the heart racing.

Excellent dining, shopping, and entertainment such as Kiwi bands playing at cool venues mean you will be kept busy for however long you stay in Queenstown.

Wanaka

By air, you will land at Queenstown Airport then drive for about an hour to reach Wanaka. The scene is more laid back and quieter than Queenstown, but just as gorgeous, with Lake Wanaka being a vision against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains. One of those mountains, Iron Mountain, is wonderful for trekking and reaching the top is exhilarating. Catch your breath, then start taking photos because this will be one of the most photogenic sights of your day. Roy’s Peak is another Wanaka gem if your fitness

View of the South Island’s town of Wanaka on the lake of the same name.

level is reasonable. Diamond Lake/Rocky Mountain is a bit easier and also has the wow factor when you reach the top.

Wanaka, like Queenstown, has plenty of extreme sports and thrilling activities to experience. Hold on tight when the jet boat roars through the chilly Lake Clutha water, then go horseback riding across scenic lands. Not scary enough? You can pretend you are James Bond and bravely cross a jiggly suspension bridge then repel down a powerful waterfall. Another fun-packed experience is taking The Cardrona Bike Park chairlift to the highest point, then mountain biking down.

The Wanaka area is also known for wine with vineyards extending to the shores of the lake.

Wanaka is also home to many wineries and vineyards where you can sample award-winning wines and meet the winemakers who are so passionate about winemaking. Specialty tours for novice tasters and connoisseurs are designed to entertain and educate both the mind and the taste buds.

Hiking, biking, mountain biking and blissful walks surrounded by nature are as easily enjoyed in Wanaka and Queenstown. The accommodation, dining, shopping and facilities are also great in both places and in terms of cost, there isn’t much difference.

So it really comes down to what activities you would enjoy most, how much time you have, and if you prefer a buzzing tourist scene like Queenstown offers or a slightly more low-key experience like Wanaka serves up. The nightlife in Queenstown is hopping, while in Wanaka, you can let the barman give you the last drink before closing and still get an early night.

If skiing is your buzz, then Queenstown is a popular base with world-class ski facilities 30-60 minutes away at Coronet Peak, The Remarkables or Cardrona. You can hit the slopes from Wanaka too, or enjoy leisurely wine tastings.

Again, you could squeeze in time at both places. Using Queenstown as a base and making a day or overnight trip to Wanaka can be a good plan. All good road trips to Wanaka include a stop in the historic mining town of Arrowtown just out of Queenstown. The Arrowtown Bakery has fresh pastries that are legendary.

So Wanaka versus Queenstown – still find it hard to choose? Give me a call and I’m sure you’ll be able to decide after our conversation and it will be only one stop on a trip thru scenic and friendly New Zealand – a trip you will talk about for years to come.

Pat Ogle-CollinsTwo lakes, two lakeside towns – the dilemma!
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Mother Nature makes Australia’s route B100 GREAT!

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In the Australian state of Victoria, get behind the wheel for the scenic drive of a lifetime. The Great Ocean Road tops the list of must-do road trips for visitors to Australia because it’s one of the MOST iconic areas in the whole country.

With your favorite soundtrack blasting, you are free. Locals with surfboards on their roofs and tourists in camper vans will be your new friends on the road. Stop at Split Point lighthouse, enjoy the fresh salty sea air, indulge in fresh seafood meals at local restaurants, and enjoy the views.

Expect not only scenic ocean views along the Great Ocean Road but also sights of lush rainforests.

Rent a vehicle in Melbourne or Torquay and head along the southwest coast of Victoria to Allansford. Downunder they drive on the left side of the road, so you’ll be on the ocean side for the most amazing views if you take that route. It’s also easier to pull over for those Instagram-worthy photos of the limestone or sandstone cliffs and endless ocean views.

Loch Ard Gorge is seen in scenes in The Pirate Movie (1982) and Journey to the Center of the Earth, a 1999 television series.

While it can be daunting to be driving on the other side of the road, there is no better place to gain confidence than the Great Ocean Road. You can take your time and there usually isn’t a lot of traffic. It’s also easy to pull over and let cars pass. Well-paved and spacious with many long stretches make driving past the pristine beaches and through green rainforests easy. Best of all, most people driving The Great Ocean Road, built to commemorate the sailors and soldiers who served from 1914 to 1919 in the Great War, are out for the scenic views as well so they drive at a leisurely pace as well.

By the time you arrive at the famous Twelve Apostles near Port Campbell, you will feel happy and confident driving the 244 kilometers trip.

This stunning collection of limestone stacks is an awe-inspiring sight. It is estimated the rocks that rise out of the ocean are over 20 million years old. Sunrise and sunset create spectacular lighting to see the famous rocks (there are only eight still existing from the original dozen) from the boardwalk located in Port Campbell National Park. Explore the Gibson Steps leading to the beach for a new perspective of the rocky scene. Just past the Twelve Apostles discover the Loch Ard Gorge, a location included in several movies, and The Grotto, a photogenic sinkhole. Take a photo under the naturally formed London Arch before hitting the road again.

Plan to be on the road for at least three days if driving. But if your time is unlimited, you surely will want to stop for scenic nature walks, shopping in quaint towns and maybe a dip in the ocean. You might go zip lining, take a surf lesson, hike to a waterfall, go bird watching or fly a drone from one of the many gorgeous lookout points. Of course, seeing some cute koalas in their natural habitat would top off the trip. At Kennett River on the Grey River Road, a number of these cuddly creatures reside, or you might spot them anywhere along the Great Ocean Road, which has an abundance of wildlife and nature.

Other sights that produce oohs and ahhs along the Great Ocean Road include koala bears seen along the Kennett River Koala Walk.

Driving and sightseeing can be tiring so luckily there are many lovely accommodation options to choose from. Spend an evening relaxing in style and comfort with dinner and drinks, scroll through your picturesque photos taken that day, and get ready for another epic day of discovery.

Early rises are more valuable than sleep-ins because the soft morning light is so pretty, especially for photos and videography. This tranquil time of day is also quiet, with less traffic than later in the day. So if you fancy cruising in solitude, this is going to be your favorite time of day to be driving.

Erosion, Mother Nature’s sculpting, creates numerous photo-worthy sights long the Great Ocean Road, including the London Arch.

If you are driving back to Melbourne, try to stop at the Grampians National Park for some of the lushest rainforests you’ve ever seen. You can hire bikes and get some exercise and tourists often report having kangaroos hopping around nearby. You’ve heard of diving with sharks, but did you know cycling with kangaroos was a thing? Expect the unexpected and a whole lot of beauty in nature when you travel The Great Ocean Road, also known as the B100. Spend as much time as you can because there is so much to see and do during this once-in-a-lifetime journey.

Contact me today if this sounds like the trip for which your soul yearns. I’m ready to help you plan your trip to Australia, including a fabulous trip along the Great Ocean Road!

Pat Ogle-CollinsMother Nature makes Australia’s route B100 GREAT!
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This natural zoo boasts no bars, but some amazing walls!

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Picture hundreds of animals going in and out of a gigantic crater, similar to the proverbial Noah’s ark. Lush vegetation, which hosts thousands of animal and bird species, is found in and around the crater. Ngorongoro Crater offers this and more to visitors considering making their first trip to Africa. It is also a natural wonder that earned it a spot on the famous World Heritage List by UNESCO in 1979.

The game species, diverse terrains, and significance in human prehistory make it a “must visit” attraction

25,000 large mammals reside in the Ngorongoro Crater including elephants,  lions, black rhino, wildebeest, and cheetah and more.

for thousands of visitors ready for an exhilarating expedition. If the thought of spending time at one of the few intact calderas in the world excites you, then Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania is your next destination.

The Ngorongoro Crater is the world’s largest inactive, intact and unfilled caldera in the world is 2,000 ft deep and covers 100 sq miles.

Ngorongoro crater is a beautiful sight to behold and is often the first stop when you visit the highland area. The 2000ft deep crater, which would have been one of the highest peaks in Africa, formed after a volcano erupted. The geological landform is over two million years old, covers over 100 square miles, and is surrounded by a conservation area of 3,200 square miles.

As you descend into  one of the largest intact calderas in the world, you will witness a changing

landscape every few turns. Visitors get to experience ashy marshlands, patchy forests, grassy plains, and savannah filled with different vegetation. For thousands of years, the nature of geography at Ngorongoro has evolved, resulting in a distinct ecosystem. The caldera terrain includes Lake Magadi, a shallow but large lake; Lerai Forest, a thick forest filled with fever trees; Gorigor Swamp, a wetland popular with hippos and open grasslands teeming with thousands of game species.

No trip to Africa is complete without taking a safari, but the one in Ngorongoro is one of a kind. Game drives give you an up-close look of the enormous crater plus the flora and fauna of the area. Safety is guaranteed for visitors as they move around the crater in a safari vehicle while enjoying the serene environment and diverse animal species.

A stopover at Lake Magadi, which is at the center of the crater, is a perfect way to see some of the

Rains change the colors of the Ngorongoro Crater and bring the wildebeest thru parts of the conservation area surrounding the crater.

popular animal species. The vast population of animals that call the lake home includes crocodiles, hippopotamus, and pink flamingoes that add color to the lake. Other bird species can also be spotted at the lake making it a perfect spot for bird lovers.

Lerai Forest, a wooded area filled with yellow or green fever trees, brings you into another world. The straight trees are breathtaking when in bloom, with bright yellow flowers covering the entire forest canopy. Hundreds of baboons and elephants can also be spotted in Lerai making it a paradise worth exploring.

The Lerai Forest in the Ngorongoro Crater provides a shade to elephants and a hiding place for leopards.

Besides the famous “Big Five” you will see thousands of wild animals in Ngorongoro. The area is home to over 25,000 wild species giving you a chance to interact with wildlife you may have only seen online. Wildlife spotting is popular with tourists as they get a chance to see large mammals such as wildebeests, hippos, zebras, hyenas, wild dogs, gazelles, buffalos, and black rhinos. The large population of mammals also attracts predators such as lions, hyenas, cheetahs, and leopards. It is common to come across them feasting on a mammal as part of your safari.

Wildebeest migrations in Ngorongoro are an exciting time and a highlight for visitors from all over the world. If you travel during the right time of year, you can watch them move in their thousands. From afar, the wildebeests resemble a snaking line as they plod along a course that is invisible to the human eye. One unique fact about the famous crater is that you will not come across giraffes, impalas, or topis that find the cliffs too steep to maneuver. Also, insufficient grazing areas in the crater make it unable to feed antelopes that move in large herds.

Bird lovers also have a reason to take a trip to the crater, which is home to over five hundred bird species. The birds which live in bogs, savannahs, and forests are easy to spot using binoculars in their natural habitat. Some species to look out for include secretary birds, ostriches, eagles, weaver birds, kestrels, and sunbirds, among others.

Did you know you originated from Africa? All humans emerged from the continent, specifically Olduvai Gorge located in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area,

Lake Magadi located in Ngorongoro Crater draws wildlife to its shores.

about two hours away from the Ngorongoro crater. The area hosts two archaeological sites within Olduvai Gorge that are important to the evolution theory. Visitors get to explore the area in which the discovery of the first Proconsul skull by famous paleontologists, Louis and Mary Leakey was unearthed. The skull is said to be an ancestor of the Homo Habilis and was unearthed in 1959. Evidence of the lifestyle of the human ancestor, which included scavenging and the use of stone tools, is available at the site.

Monument commemorating the discovery of two species of early man at Olduvai Gorge

Ngorongoro’s Olduvai Gorge is also home to another discovery, the Laetoli footprints, which are over 3.7 million years old. The human tracks discovered in the 1970s, preserved in volcanic ash, are evidence of humans walking on two feet. According to anthropologists, these two discoveries by the Leakey’s remain one of the most important breakthroughs studying the origins of humans. If evolution interests you, then Olduvai Gorge is a “must-see” on your itinerary.

Besides visiting the two archaeological sites, you can also tour the museum and listen to presentations by resident guides. The museum has several sections that provide information about the site and its history, plus details of the fossils. Replicas of the Laetoli Footprints and information of mammals that inhabited the gorge for millions of years are on display. For the latest research taking place at the gorge, you can chat with an archaeological expert stationed at the museum.

Your first trip to Africa can be unique, memorable, and hassle-free. I am your best bet when visiting Ngorongoro Crater and its environs. Call me and let’s plan your trip today!

Pat Ogle-CollinsThis natural zoo boasts no bars, but some amazing walls!
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Dancing lights make these cold destinations a warm delight!

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Although more common than an alien sighting and less dangerous than tornado chasing, the Northern Lights can be elusive. This is part of the thrill of traveling to a destination where they can be seen. If you are thinking of taking a vacation that includes searching the skies for the Northern Lights, there are a lot of factors to consider so you have the best time possible.

You want to pack your suitcases for somewhere the Northern Lights are frequently seen and where

The Northern Lights meet urban lights for a unique light show.

you will be entertained if don’t see them. While the lights are spectacular, we can never guarantee they will appear, so plans should include other activities that make the trip worthwhile if Mother Nature doesn’t bless you this time.

 

So here are some places that offer a good chance of seeing the lights, but are also wonderful to explore in any case.

The city of Churchill, in Manitoba, Canada, is known not only for the Northern Lights but for the polar bears that migrate thru the area.

Canada and the United States

Bursts of color can be seen at night in Yukon Territory in Canada from August to mid-April. Churchill in Manitoba province is another excellent place to see the lights and polar bears in the natural habitat. For nature lovers, there is also the possibility of seeing animals like Beluga whales, birds, seals and the surroundings are beautiful.

In the United States of America, Cherry Springs State Park is the ideal place to immerse yourself

in nature with the chance of seeing the gorgeous Northern Lights. The Milky Way Galaxy and many stars can also be seen from the area classified at an International Dark Sky Park. You might pack outfits for hiking, ATV riding, swimming, boating, fishing and camping.

 

In Alaska, for your best bet of seeing the lights head to Fairbanks or destinations above the Arctic circle. You might experience the Aurora Borealis during any season, but the best time is November to February, when there are fewer daylight hours and darker nights. Arctic excursions can include fishing, hiking, paddling, nature watching and more.

Nordic Regions

The Nordic region covers Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland. All of these places are amazing to visit.

 

Norway is one of our top picks because from mid-November to the end of February, the country experiences polar night, meaning it is dark 24 hours of the day. So technically, you might see the lights during the daytime. This increases your chances of seeing the lights, especially in Svalbard, a group of islands between Norway and Santa’s place (aka the 

Enjoy not only the Northern Lights, but the centuries old houses and Artic Cathedral of Tromsø, Norway.

North Pole.) You can keep busy with adventurous experiences like snowcat safaris, snowmobile tours, or stay cozy in luxury accommodation complete with spa treatments and fine dining. 

In Finland, the lights are seen an impressive 200 nights per year on average. You can hunker down in a luxury igloo after taking a sleigh ride powered by reindeer or huskies. Horseback riding, hiking, photography, boat trips and Finnish saunas are wonderful outdoors and cultural activities you can enjoy in Finland.

 

Iceland is a glorious place for a vacation with a wild and rugged landscape, rich culture and plenty of history to enjoy. From volcanos to waterfalls to lakes to mountains, you will have the adventure of a lifetime and a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights. 

Enjoy dog sledding, ice fishing, snowmobiling, sleigh rides and more when visiting the Lapland area of Finland for the Northern Lights.

Wherever you go, the lights might dance across the sky in an amazing array of colors. We have our fingers crossed you will see them. Sometimes one of nature’s best shows is only minutes long, other times it goes on for hours.

 

Weather patterns, including the Northern Lights, are unpredictable. We recommend you go for the destination, not the Northern Lights. Of course, we can maximize your chances of seeing them by booking your trip at the right time of year, but we also want to ensure your visit is still memorable if you aren’t lucky enough to see the lights.

Many hotels and resorts are geared towards guests looking for the Northern Lights. You might

find a room with a skylight or be offered a wake-up call at any hour the lights appear. You can also book many tours on arrival at Northern Light destinations that include exciting nighttime activities as you wait for the sight you’ve been hoping for. 

 

Planning epic schedules for our clients is a passion that has been burning since we launched our travel business so many years ago. Contact us soon to discuss your options. We are ready to light up your life!

Pat Ogle-CollinsDancing lights make these cold destinations a warm delight!
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Cairns deserves more than a transit stop to get to the Great Barrier Reef!

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If exploring the Great Barrier Reef is on your bucket list, your next trip should include time actually in Cairns. The Australian destination is a tropical paradise with ample adventure opportunities in a laid-back atmosphere. With temperatures of up to 32°C during summer,  Cairns has a lot you can discover if you are willing to explore the surrounding area.

Of course, visiting Cairns without visiting the Great Barrier Reef is also a no-no. As one of the natural wonders of the world exploring the reef allows you to get a glimpse of its unique features.

Cairns Waterfront

You get to learn about the 900 islands and almost 3,000 individual reefs that make it the largest system in the world. If you are adventurous, consider being part of a snorkeling excursion or scuba diving in its cool waters from one of the many island resorts or take a day long excurions from Cairns. Taking a tour that takes you into the 344,400 square kilometer coral reef system should be on your itinerary but you shouldn’t stop there.

Kuranda Skyway overs ocean views from above the rainforest as you travel 7.5 km journey from Smithfield to Kuranda.

 Discover scenic  Kuranda

It takes two hours to get to the picturesque Kuranda Village by train. But this train journey is unique because of the many attractions you get to see while on the 120-year old train. The village is surrounded by a World Heritage rain forest in full view while the train passes. Other fascinating sights on the Kuranda Railway include a wildlife park and an aviary with lots of beautiful birds. You can decide to spend the entire day on the scenic railway, for a deeper experience and connection with nature.

View the rainforest from the sky 

Booking a seat on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is an exciting way to see the popular World Heritage attraction. The glass bottom gondola provides an aerial view of the entire rainforest and the

nearby Barron Gorge National Park during the 7.5 km in the air. You can relax while traveling in style with the forest underneath your feet. At the end of the aerial trip, pass by the Rainforest Interpretation center to learn fascinating facts about what you saw or join a cultural tour of the Aborigine people. If you are interested in a more fulfilling trip, consider combining the Kuranda railway and the cableway activities in one day.

Walk through a rainforest

An abundance of vegetation, stunning scenery, and scenic sites is what you can expect in the Daintree rainforest. It is one of the oldest rainforests in Australia with one of the largest populations of butterfly and bat species. If you are a nature lover, hiking through the forest will lead you to incredible sites, waterfalls, amazing walking trails, and coastal views. Delight in different aspects of the ecosystem that has evolved in isolation for many decades resulting in an unspoiled Australian rainforest. Luckily, several tours are available for visitors interested in exploring Daintree, giving you a chance to be part of a guided excursion.

Explore the Crystal Cascades

Just outside Cairns is the breathtaking Crystal Cascades, a waterfall perfect for cooling down in the summer. It takes about

Walk thru the canopy of the Daintrain Rainforest.

twenty minutes to reach the area and another half-hour walk to reach the hotspot nestled within the expansive rainforest. The waterfall drops into a deep hole filled with clear freshwater, perfect for swimming. Snorkeling is another popular activity at Crystal Cascades with the clear water allowing you to swim safely and see different types of fish underwater.  If you prefer to stay out of the water, you can lay out a picnic nearby and enjoy the scenic view offered by the surrounding forest. Remember to carry insect repellant to be safe from the many flying insects that call the forest home.

Explore Aboriginal culture at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Park.

Experience Aboriginal Culture

The Australian aboriginal people are an interesting community and one of the oldest cultures globally. Its 40,000-year-old culture is worth exploring when visiting Australia at the famous Tjapukai Aboriginal Park. At the park, which is only 15 minutes from Cairns, you get to be part of the Aboriginal culture through storytelling, dance, live performances, and music. Visitors to the cultural park participate in several interactive experiences like throwing a boomerang, playing, riding a canoe, playing the

didgeridoo, or taking part in a corroboree at the fireside. For a wholesome experience, you can sample traditionally prepared bush foods at the park.

Go up the Atherton Tablelands

If you are looking for a quiet and peaceful spot, head to Atherton tablelands, half an hour from Cairns. The highland region attracts fewer tourists and I filled with several small towns with several activities you can be part of. It’s also cooler than Cairns during the summer making it the perfect getaway spot. At Atherton Tablelands, you can choose to ride the Express steam train, visit the Chinese temple Hou Wang Miau, Tyrconnell Gold mine and Gallo Dairyland Farm. You can also sample coffee and tea at the Coffee Works roastery and Lake Barrine Tea respectively.

See lava tubes at Undara National Park

Lava tubes crisscrossing an extinct volcano is the major attraction at the Undara National park. The volcanic park is safe and gives you a chance to get up close to some of the longest lava tubes in the world. Although the journey from Cairns to the volcanic park is about a day, it’s worth it for many people that make the trip. Besides, visiting the national park, you can also be part of a sunset tour to watch wildlife or book a pioneer hut, or “glamp” in a tent village for an overnight stay.

Explore lava tubes at Undara National Park.

Although Cairns and its environs have a lot to offer, the city also has great spots to explore as you wind up your trip. Check out Cairns Esplanade which hosts several shopfronts with various facilities and grassy areas for sports activities. The botanical gardens are a great place to take a break from the city and is perfect for taking strolls while enjoying various types of trees and local plant. Remember to stop by the Aquarium to interact with aquatic wildlife common in the Great Barrier Reef and other World Heritage Sites in the area.

Ready to explore beyond the Great Barrier Reef?  I have years of experience planning memorable trips to Australia and its environs. Talk to me today!

Oh, and the picture of the rocks?  They’re known as Gatz Rock Piles found south of Wangetti on the beautiful Captain Cook Highway between Cairns and Port Douglas.  No one knows how this got started but these mounds of rocks or cairns, are proving to be a hit on social media.  Now aren’t you glad you read to the end?  🙂

Pat Ogle-CollinsCairns deserves more than a transit stop to get to the Great Barrier Reef!
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See Victoria Falls but make sure you do Victoria Falls too!

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You first hear the roar and then see the majestic waters falling from 108 m high to the Zambezi River below. Victoria Falls, located at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, is one of the most incredible natural sights you’ll ever see. Its position as the largest waterfall is here to stay, and when you travel to the UNESCO World Heritage site, you’ll see why.

Aerial view of Victoria Falls and the mist that can be seen for miles.

Besides being a natural wonder with mists that can be seen from many miles away, the cascading waterfall has plenty of activities for travelers to do. The best way to enjoy your visit to Victoria Falls is to embrace the various experiences available at the site.

Even at the falls, start with a safari

A trip to Africa without going on safari would feel incomplete. Luckily, the banks of the Zambezi River are home to several animal and bird species worth checking out. A cruise on the river will have you spotting crocodiles, elephants sunbathing, antelopes, giraffes, and rhinos lapping the cool waters. The cruises explore the river channels, savannah-lined shores, and islands for about two hours. Whether you prefer a morning or late evening cruise, your experience will be spectacular.

Enjoy viewing crocodiles, hippos and more on a cruise on the Zambezi above Victoria Falls.

If your love for wildlife is insatiable, plan a day trip to surrounding wildlife parks or reserves. Close by is the Zambezi National Park which is home to various antelopes, buffaloes, zebras, elephants, and giraffes. Further ahead is the largest park in Zimbabwe, Hwange National Park, home to the biggest population of elephants. The elephant-rich park has half the population of elephants in Zimbabwe, which is about forty-four thousand.

Add some extra drama

Adventure activities at Victoria Falls are many and are suited to different tastes. The Victoria Falls bridge slide is the best way to see the majestic waters while gliding across the Zambezi River. The 300-meter zipline begins at Batoka Gorge and goes over the rapids to the Zimbabwean side. If you don’t feel brave enough to go on the zip line alone, you can be accompanied by one of the guides allowing you to enjoy breathtaking views.

Bungee jumping at Victoria Falls is for daring souls and the perfect activity for adrenaline junkies. The jump takes place from the Victoria Fall Bridge and leads to a plunge of over one hundred meters below towards the Zambezi River. For many, the incredible views when getting ready for the jump and on the way down makes it a “must do” activity. If it’s your first time, you can request a tandem jump as you build up confidence for a solo jump.

Enjoy the thrill of bungee jumping from the Zambezi Bridge near Victoria Falls.

Boasting some of the best white water rafting sections, the Zambezi River is perfect for a rafting adventure. Gliding on the water gives travelers a chance to see a different viewpoint of the river and surrounding gorges. The adrenaline rush on the challenging stretches and relaxation on the calm stretches is a combination worth experiencing. Even so, the best time for white water rafting is between August and December when the river is at its lowest.

View not only Victoria Falls but the Batoka Gorge on a scenic helicopter tour.

An aerial view of Victoria Falls allows you to see all you know about the majestic waterfall in one swoop. Taking a helicopter ride with a designated guide gives you a chance to appreciate the massive size of the UNESCO site and scenic views. The guide will point out key sites such as the Batoka Gorge and Zambezi National Park during the shorter 12 minutes or more

extended 25-minute trip. Some guides also give a history of each site as a way of enriching the airborne journey.

Time for a history lesson

The Victoria Falls scenery would be incomplete without the iconic Victoria Fall Bridge. Known initially as Zambezi Bridge, it is one of the oldest connections between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Visitors get to learn its history since its construction in 1905 to date through an informative presentation. The bridge tour includes a walk underneath the giant steel structure or getting harnessed up to view the falls fully. If you are lucky, you may catch a glimpse of a double rainbow formed by the water spray.

Livingstone is a historical town that opens up to Victoria Falls and other attractions from the Zambian side. Retaining much of its colonial architecture, the town provides a glimpse of what life looked like during the time of David Livingstone, its founder. Strolling down the town’s streets is a great way to interact with locals while exploring famous sites like the Livingstone Museum to learn more about their past. Other

Architecture from bygone times help give Livingstone, Zambia a special atmosphere.

activities to engage in while in the town are visiting pavement cafes and colorful markets that offer several cultural merchandise, perfect for gift items for loved ones back home.

End on a nostalgic note

Sailing on a classic 70ft riverboat dubbed “The African Queen” is a great way to wind down your day. With the start of tourism in the area in 1905, your cruise can create a connection to those that enjoyed their time on the Zambezi River years ago as the trip-deck boat allows you to enjoy the golden hour while sipping cocktails and taking in the gorgeous sunset.

The colonial British influence can still be felt during afternoon tea at the Victoria Falls Hotel.

Check out or check into The Victoria Falls Hotel, built by the British in 1904, and set up to accommodate Cecil Rhode’s workers. Enjoy high tea on the veranda overlooking Victoria Falls and the famous 156 meters long Victoria Hills Bridge. Enjoy the five-star experience that includes exceptional facilities, luxurious accommodation, and impeccable service if you decide to stay.

For an unforgettable experience at the grandeur hotel, you will have to book in advance.

Is Victoria Falls your next destination? 

These are just a few of the many activities and experiences found in and around Victoria Falls.  My job is to learn about you and recommend activities for you in Africa and at Victoria Falls that will result in an amazing trip that will not only be fun but memorable. Call me today and leave all the work to me as you dream about your upcoming trip to Victoria Falls.

Pat Ogle-CollinsSee Victoria Falls but make sure you do Victoria Falls too!
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The friendliest warriors you will ever meet!

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Stick your tongue out. Way out.  Go ahead.  Now bulge your eyes. Move around a bit. You have just performed a typical move of the Haka, an ancient Maori ceremonial dance. The Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand with a unique culture preserved for many centuries. They arrived from Polynesia and settled in the country in the mid-1300s creating a treasured part of New Zealand’s identity. Often referred to as the original New Zealanders, the Maori culture is worth exploring for anyone looking to expand their knowledge of cultural legacies.

The best way to learn about a culture is to be part of their daily activities. In Maori culture, some activities are open to everyone while others require an invitation. Luckily, there are several ways to immerse yourself into the culture of the Maori and understand its ins and outs.

Maori facial expressions are important part of ceremonial dances.

Become a Maori

You can be part of the Maori culture when in New Zealand by stepping into their shoes and becoming one of them even for a day.

Say hello using the hongi. This style of salutation is an up close and warm but may feel out of the norm for visitors used to the regular handshake. It involves the two people greeting each other pressing up against each other with their foreheads and noses touching. The Maori believe that the greeting unifies two souls as they share the breath of life. Try it out when meeting locals to see their reaction.

Maoris use tattoos now to reflect an
individual’s family and personal history.

Ever thought of getting a tattoo?  How about an authentic Maori tattoo? The drawings on the face of a Maori have a deep meaning and not just a simple tattoo. It comprises spiral patterns and curved shapes drawn on the entire face to symbolize power, prestige, rank, or social status with their location conveying specific information.  Backs, chests, arms, shoulders, and legs can be tattooed as well.  Maori-inspired designs are available to those not affiliated with the people, but make sure to have a full understanding of the design and seek the services of those knowledgeable in this style so your tatoo is culturally sensitive.

Live like a Maori

Maori culture is still alive in New Zealand with many of its tribesmen practicing its cultural beliefs. One of the best ways to experience life like a Maori is to visit the Tamaki Maori Village. The village is a recreation of a traditional homestead in the Tawa forest, which is 200 years old. At Tamaki, you will be ushered into the daily

routine of a Maori community before they came into contact with the outside world. Indulge in their food, songs and stories as you tour every corner of the intriguing homestead.

Celebrations are an integral part of Maori life as you will see at the village. Take part in a welcome ceremony known as the pōwhiri, which is one of the

The marae of the Maoris provide communal space for meetings, celebrations and other Maori community events.

most famous cultural attractions in the country. The dance is open to visitors who would like to join the locals as they guide them into the village.  If you are up to it, watch the cultural performers reenact the use of taiaha, an ancient method of killing their cultural enemies. Maori warriors used to strike and twist the head of opponents to expose the brain, which was a delicacy.

Hangi is a traditional meal cooked underground featuring a variety of meats, fish and vegetables.

Eat like a Maori

Sharing a meal with someone of a different culture is one of the best ways to experience their way of life. For the Maori, being a part of the hangi meal is a great way to celebrate your time with them.

Prepared and cooked in a hole underground, the delicious food has lots of variety. The culinary technique involves the use of a hole lined with aluminium foil, hot rocks and sometimes wire baskets.  Some of the foods cooked hangi style include potatoes, vegetables, chicken and fish.

Besides enjoying the delicious food, you can also take part in the cooking. Although hangi method sounds easy, it’s quite strenuous but the community aspect of it, makes it worth it. Participating in hangi has a two-in-one benefit of learning a new cooking method while interacting with locals as you cook together because the food preparation takes time.

Dance like a Maori

If you are a rugby fan, you have probably seen the New Zealand All Blacks team perform their famous Haka dance. The dance, whose famous composition Ka Mate was written by an ancient Maori chief, celebrates life triumphing over death.

Being part of dances like the Haka, is a great way of indulging in the Maori culture. You don’t have to get the steps right the first time, but your willingness to try will be a step in the right direction. The Maori culture is filled with actions such as rhythmic movements, gestures, poetry and a combination of dances. It may be hard to believe but most dances

The haka performed by the Maori as a ceremony or challenge displays the pride, strength and unity of the group.

are hinged on verbal expressions with little or no singing. Although most dances, were performed to scare off opponents, they are now more symbolic than threatening. The focus is on demonstrating the warrior spirit of the Maori people. It is believed that this spirit is the reason for the preservation of their robust culture to this day.

Are you interested in travelling to New Zealand for your own Maori experience? Are you wondering where to begin planning your trip? I am an expert in curating personalized trips to New Zealand to see and interact with the Maori. Call me today and let’s begin to plan your trip for a cultural experience of a lifetime.

Pat Ogle-CollinsThe friendliest warriors you will ever meet!
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On safari tents and four poster beds do go together!

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If images of a remote location, small tent, and strange animal noises are all that come to mind when you think of a safari, think again. Safari accommodation which was always known to be in tented camps now includes a variety of types of accommodation for travelers. Whether traveling on a budget or want to experience luxury in the African bush, you are covered.

Enjoy a tented camp classic safari experience

If your dream is to experience the real African

The Sleep Out Platform at Dinaka Safari Lodge, Botswana

wilderness and stay as close as possible to the wild animals,  a tented camp is for you. With tents, you enjoy the surroundings, take in the natural rhythm of the animals while enjoying the fresh air. Your safari experience will give you a real connection to the outdoors behind the canvas while your security is guaranteed.

Karisia Walking Safaris Mobile Safari Tent in Kenya

Tented camps are not all the same. While a mobile tented safari camp is more expensive, it does get you near the real wildlife action. They are fitted with modern amenities such as a verandas, furnished bedrooms, and en suite bathroom. Guests get personalized service from staff to ensure they enjoy exceptional service. The fun part of staying in such tents is that the camp location can be easily moved. If you are looking for a Victorian-era type of Out of Africa adventure, be it basic or luxurious a mobile tent is a perfect option for you.

The migration of animals like wildebeests or exotic birds is one of the reasons to take a safari. If game viewing at the peak of migration sounds like an exciting idea, then a seasonal camp with a few more comforts is the perfect accommodation option for you. These semi-permanent tents are set up at a single location for a couple of months and have all the amenities so you don’t feel like you are roughing it.

Imagine living in a canvas tent tucked in between trees and lush vegetation overlooking flowing rivers. The raised tents are elegantly designed with campaign-style furniture made from copper, brass, and rich leather. Under the canopied ceilings are a king-size bed, sitting area, and an en suite bathroom with a copper bathtub perfect for a relaxing bath. A large private veranda gives you a chance to view the savannah surroundings or starry skies at night using high-end binoculars offered as a complimentary for guests. Meals are served in a tented dining area and their services are at par with permanent tented camps.

If you prefer staying at one place with more amenities but still in a tent, go for the tented lodge. The permanent structures have canvas walls but the interior resembles a hotel room. You can expect wooden floors, running water, porcelain fixtured bathrooms, and attentive staff to cater to your needs. But don’t worry, you still get to experience hear the animal noises in nearby bushes and stare at the starry sky before you drift off to sleep in your large wooden bed.

Governor’s Camp, a permanent tented camp, in the Masai Mara

For those that want more than canvas between them and the bush

Sleeping in the bush doesn’t have to be your first experience when going on safari, you can choose to stay in a lodge instead. Safari lodges are solid and large structures constructed using local materials so that they blend well with nature. Most are located in reserves, national parks, and remote areas giving you a chance to enjoy luxury on a safari. If you are looking for basic comforts you can book a lodge that meets your needs with most offering amenities such as bathrooms with hot water, flushing toilets, and running showers. The service and style may vary but with high-level professionalism.

Outdoor bush dinner at Lake Manyara in Tanzania

If you want safari lodge accommodation that goes a notch higher, consider those that offer luxury or ultra-luxury amenities. You can expect spacious rooms, incredible services, and magnificent views from your room. The extra amenities include gyms, spas, swimming pools, fire pits, gourmet meals, and entertainment. Some even offer personalized services like room service for those that prefer staying away from their world-class restaurants. Many guests are awed by the professionalism and level of comfort offered in the luxury safari lodges.

Get comfortable with the familiarity of  hotels

Most safari hotels, operated by hotel companies like Serena, Fairmont, Legacy and Legend are near or within reserves and game parks with an African bush decor. Many, but not all, are larger but less personal than smaller lodges and tented camps with amenities and service that provide familiar hotel-like comforts. For those that like familiarity in terms of accommodation, safari hotels are a good option.

Luxury hotels, life Fairmont, and  & Beyond  with five-star services are also available and ideal for first-time safari-goers. You can enjoy modern amenities such as Wi-Fi, comfortable beds, gourmet meals, spas and business centers while still going for game drives.  Hotel loyalty club members can also earn points from these hotels – an added bonus.

Sirikoi House, a villa on the Lewa Conservancy in Kenya

The comforts of home and more

For those seeking privacy and seclusion when on safari, you are in luck. You can book a villa with lots of space and ultra-luxurious amenities. Some common amenities at the stand-alone villas include butler service and private pools ideal for those seeking personalized services.  Often located on hotel or lodge properties, villas are generally located away from the main facilities to provide that remote and private feel.

A villa is perfect for families and groups.  What a way to celebrate a special occasion like a wedding, retirement or milestone birthday, a family reunion, or enjoy a safari with a group of friends.

In summary, safari accommodations are many with the choice pegged on the country, planned activities, and your budget. With my experience, I can help you make the choice of accommodation best suited for you and your family. Call me today for guidance on the best places you can stay while on safari!  I promise – an African safari will change how you look at the world!

Pat Ogle-CollinsOn safari tents and four poster beds do go together!
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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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