Boots not required for this Best of New Zealand!

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Known for its diverse landscape, New Zealand’s spectacular scenery makes it the perfect place for exploration of all types of surroundings, from mountains to rivers and even glaciers and natural hot pools by all types of travelers. Spend a day in Tongariro National Park to experience all of these! Established in 1887, Tongariro National Park was the fourth national park

Mt. Raupehu

to be created globally and the first in New Zealand! UNESCO also recognizes the park with dual World Heritage status for both its cultural and natural features.

What makes this national park so unique is its unparalleled scenery. Made up of three volcanoes that dominate the region, Mt Ruapehu, Mt Tongariro, and Mt Ngauruhoe, as well as beech forest, waterfalls, and rivers.  Stepping foot into this park, you’re rewarded with some of New Zealand’s most dramatic landscapes.

A New Zealand Best – the Alpine Crossing!

Located in the center of the North Island, Tongariro National Park is home to one of the best hikes in New Zealand, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.  This hike is around 20km and takes between 7-8 hours to complete depending on how fast you choose to walk. This spectacular hike (that isn’t a loop, so arrange organized transport) takes you over the volcano through different terrains, such as springs, lava flows, volcanic rocks, and the famous emerald lakes.

Hiking track, Tongariro National Park

The best time of year to tackle this famous hike is during spring or autumn when the temperatures aren’t too cold or hot. You’ll need to have a relatively high level of fitness to complete this hike and proper hiking boots.

Although this is the most famous activity in Tongariro National Park, it should not discourage anyone from visiting, as there is still a range of activities on offer.

Magnificent scenery awaits in the desert!

When you picture New Zealand, the desert isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, if you plan to drive from Auckland to Tongariro National Park, that’s what you’ll get.

After you leave sub-tropical Auckland, pass the geothermal areas around Rotorua and crystalline Lake Taupo. All you’ll see is a deserted sandy road with nothing in sight until you reach the three volcanoes that make up the Pacific Ocean’s ‘Ring of Fire,’ Mt Tongariro, Mt Ruapehu, and Mt Ngauruhoe.

Love Lord of the Rings? See Mt Doom up close!

If you’re a fan of the Lord of the Rings series, visiting Mt Ngauruhoe or “Mt Doom” must be on your Tongariro National Park activities list. Standing between Mt Tongariro and Mt Ruapehu, this 2,29m (7,516 ft) mountain is the second tallest in the park and was a big part of the film franchise, drawing in thousands of tourists

Mt. Ngaurahue, also referred to as Mt. Doom from the Lord of the Rings films

every year. However, if you’re not a big Lord of the Rings fan, it’s still an impressive sight to see!

Stunning landscapes and beautiful waterfalls!

As well as spectacular mountain ranges, New Zealand is also home to some pretty impressive waterfalls. Located in Tongariro National Park, Taranaki Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country, and you have to see it to believe it.

The falls are found halfway through the 6km loop and tumble 20-meters into a boulder-ringed pool. There are two viewing points, one from the top and one from the base of the falls. While you’re there, you’ll have stunning views of all three mountains that make up Tongariro National Park.

Taranaki Falls, Tongariro National Park

The walk to the falls is one of the easiest and most impressive in the national park as it takes you through beech forest, shrubland, past the Wairere Stream, Cascade Falls, and manuka forest.

Tea overlooking snow-covered mountains!

If you are more of a slow traveler who enjoys the little things, such as high tea

with a sensational view, then be sure to check out the Chateau Tongariro.  From their High Tea menu, you can choose from a range of sandwiches, scones, and treats, as well as your choice of coffee or fresh tea, served to you at a table overlooking the impressive Mt Ngauruhoe. Located within Whakapapa Village, indulging in this high tea needs to be on your list, especially in winter when snow covers Mt Ngauruhoe!

Bike along the Old Coach Road!

Not only are there amazing hikes throughout Tongariro National Park, but there is also a range of biking trails that you can explore.  One of the best ones to add to your itinerary is Old Coach Road. Located at the southern end of Tongariro National Park near Ohakune, this 15km one-way (2hr 20 mins) trail takes you through a mix of terrains, such as forest, railway relics, and rural countryside. Or, if you don’t have a bike, you can also walk this trail, which takes around 41/2 hrs.

Whatever way you choose to tackle this trail, you will be blown away by the sheer beauty of the landscapes you’ll see along the way.  Without a doubt, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing hike is the park’s most notable visitor draw.  But non-hikers have plenty to see and experience without hiking boots and walking stick.  From bike trails to high tea at Chateau Tongariro, no matter that type of activity you’re into, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this little corner of New Zealand.

Active Mount Raupehu with Chateau Tongariro

So, whether you prefer hiking boots or sneaks, a terrific day awaits you at Tongariro. All you have to do is give me a call!

Pat Ogle-CollinsBoots not required for this Best of New Zealand!
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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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There’s more than one magic kingdom!

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Magical when describing a place – what does that bring to mind?  Fairytale castles?  Misty mornings?  Gingerbread-style houses?  Powdered sugar-covered mountain peaks? If so, places like this don’t exist only in theme parks and storybooks.  A short drive south of Munich, Germany you will find just such a place.

A wonderful destination awaits which will please everyone. During the colder months of the year, winter sports enthusiasts flock to Garmisch-

View  of Garmisch-Partenkirchen

A wonderful destination awaits which will please everyone. During the colder months of the year, winter sports enthusiasts flock to Garmisch-Partenkirken, a beautiful town in this southern area of Bavaria. During the warmer months of the year, activities abound in the surrounding area. And I do mean abound!  With careful planning, you can enjoy the best of the area in a couple of days. For those that want a slower pace or to enjoy nature more fully, one can easily fill up a week using Garmisch as a base. Thus, this picturesque vacation area offers a lot of fun for families, couples, and solo travelers.  What can you do in and around Garmisch-Partenkirchen? Let your journey begin!

Zugspitze

Not far from Garmisch-Partenkirchen you will find the highest mountain in Germany. At its 2,962 meter summit,  breathtaking views from this imposing peak draw visitors from around the world. While there, check off your list that you visited Austria by taking a few steps over the border.

Summit of the Zugspitze

Albspitze

The Albspitze may not be as big as the Zugspitze, but this mountain is a favorite of many.  The striking north face with its pyramidal peak stands guard over Garmisch-Partenkirchen creating an impressive panorama.  Its formidable presence makes it one with the city and its symbol.

Especially in summer, you can hike through the idyllic landscape. With some climbing experience, one of the most popular climbing routes in all of Bavaria awaits you. Not a climber, no problem.  Several cable

cars transport summit seekers to the top. The view from the platform “Alpspix” should be a reason to call this mountain a must-see!

Partnach Gorge

Located about three kilometers to the southeast of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, you find Partnach Gorge, by far one of the most impressive works of art that Mother Nature has given southern Bavarian. Through this rocky gorge flows the Partnach River, which carved its way through the rock over millions of years.

In summer, the gorge will blow your mind with its simply breathtaking landscape. In winter, when snow covers the whole area, a much more spectacular sight awaits. Massive ice formations give the already beautiful gorge the final touch.

Oberammergau

You’ll find the village of Oberammergau about 20 kilometers north of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Although just a very small town, it offers visitors plenty to see. Strolling the picturesque streets of this generally quiet village, you’ll notice the many murals on the houses depicting various scenes from the bible and notably the Passion of Christ.

In addition to its famous woodcarving school and shops filled with the work of these craftsmen,

Quaint restaurant in Oberammergau

Oberammergau hosts the world-renowned Passion Play which takes place every ten years during the late spring thru early autumn.  In thanks to Godfor saving the town from the bubonic plague, the play draws attendees from around the world to see the production by the citizens of the town. During other years you can still visit the Passion Theater for a tour of the theater and stories of how this event is produced that will leave you amazed.

Neuschwanstein Castle

If there is one castle known all over the world for its breathtaking beauty, the Bavarian fairytale castle of Neuschwanstein stands out. Sitting atop a hill near the base of a mountain, this castle commands the surrounding area.  One of three castles built by the so-called  Mad King Ludwig, this castle inspired the castles in Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.  In addition to a visit inside the castle, allow time to walk or take a carriage ride up the hill to the castle and enjoy the views.  For those with more time, explore nearby Hohenschwangau, the childhood home of the mad king.

Neuschwanstein Castle

Keep in mind that you are not the only one who wants to enjoy the breathtaking sight. Long lines form early and last throughout the day.  With limited time and/or families with children, purchase “skip the line“ tickets in advance for a less stressful visit.

In addition to this fairytale castle, you will also find numerous other castles throughout Bavaria worth a visit. However, if you have a tight schedule, Neuschwanstein Castle, the most beautiful of them all, should be at the top of your list.

Linderhof Castle

Linderhof Castle is the smallest of Neuschwanstein and Herrenchiemsee (located between Munich and Salzburg) castles built by Bavarian King Ludwig II. In this castle, the so-called fairy tale king stayed here most often. Why you may ask?  This castle in the Alps was the only one completed during his lifetime.

Above all, the beautiful gardens and relaxing fountain around the imposing castle will completely inspire you.  The mix of baroque and rococo styles gives this royal residence a flair that can hardly be compared to any other royal dwelling.

And that’s not all!

Of course, you will find plenty of other interesting places to visit in addition to these should you opt for an extended time to explore the area. For example, Höllental Gorge, Ettal Abbey, the Wieskirche, and the town of Fussen are just a few of the other sites in this area jam-packed with things to see and do. If you love the outdoors, literally thousands of trails can keep you challenged the entire length of your stay.

Linderhof Castle

Don’t let the small alpine town of Garmisch-Partenkircken and surrounding area known for skiing lure you into thinking you can see everything in a day or two.  With a well-planned itinerary, you can see the highlights, but to savor the area and all it has to offer, you can plan to spend 4-7 days.  Call me to help you create a perfect itinerary for you!

Pat Ogle-CollinsThere’s more than one magic kingdom!
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Step by Step – The Ultimate Form of Slow Travel!

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When planning a long-awaited vacation, how you want to travel is just as important as where you want to travel. If you are somebody who enjoys culture, outdoor life and a slower form of travel, then taking a walking might be right up your alley. Choose your desired level of activity and have a unique experience, discovering new cities and regions.

Nowadays, you can find walking vacations suited for anyone’s needs and every level of fitness. Many tours combine traditional sightseeing and walking. That means you can enjoy a morning walking thru beautiful scenery and then continue with some less physical adventures, for example, a cooking class, wine tasting or a visit to a craftsman.

Explore the Italian Alps, the Dolomites, and their towering rock monoliths.

The possibilities are endless – book a Spanish culinary tour that takes you through charming villages, or – if you prefer a bigger challenge – spend a week in the mountains. Taking a walking tour may not be what you imagine – it is the perfect combination of comfort and activity. When it comes to accommodation, no sleep bag required-we’re talking lovely inns with fluffy duvets, fresh warm bread or croissants, and lots of hot water!

Contrary to trekking tours, you won’t experience high altitudes or rough conditions. When backpacking, specialized equipment is typically needed, and training is a must.  Not the case with walking tours.  Usually, you only carry what is needed for the day while your baggage is transported to your next hotel. There’s no hassle and no tired backs. If you are somebody who likes to treat yourself after a long day, some tours even offer meals at Michelin-starred restaurants and hotels with spas!  But walking tours offer more than deluxe-style travel.

Literally, you can stop and smell the flowers along the way on a walking tour.

Zipping by not allowed!

When traveling to a destination for the first time, it can be overwhelming with all there is to see and do. Walking tours allow you to focus on a smaller region and travel at a slower pace and even on your own pace. Of course, driving on your own or with a tour means you may see more in terms of area, but walking allows you to see a destination more closely and more deeply.

Rather than seeing works of Van Gogh in a museum, walk sites he visited, and the places he painted in Arles and St. Remy in Provence.  Furthermore, some places can be accessed only on foot. Just explore all of the incredible alleys of Fes in Morrocco and gorgeous enjoy panoramic vistas of the Alpine valleys that otherwise might be missed!

Eat that extra dessert!

Walking tours are perfect for travelers who seek adventure but don’t relish the thought of sore muscles.

And better yet, it’s great for those that like to enjoy local food. That walking, it’s burning calories your consumed during wonderful meals!  The level of activity and distances vary. Even those who aren’t athletically oriented can find a tour suited for their abilities. There is truly nothing more wonderful than being outdoors for long periods of time, enjoying nature, and walking through the sunshine (or rain – its own joyful type of experience).

Let others do the work!

Planning might be fun for some, but good luck trying to find a restaurant on a trail in the Bavarian forest or someone to transport your luggage from one village to the next.  All done for you on a walking tour.  These tours also offer some unique sights and experiences that you might not even know exist. Simply follow your guide (or the information provided by the company if you are going on a self-guided tour) and let your worries drift away.

There’s no campfire grub on a walking tour.  Enjoy wonderful local cuisine featuring local farm-fresh ingredients.

The route and distance are mapped out and time to explore on your own is frequently scheduled.  Distances during the day may be as few as a couple of miles to as many as 10.  You may find a short walk during the morning in one town followed by a transfer to another town for a short walk before dinner.

Walking tour companies also know that everyone is different. Self-guided tours allow you to walk the entire tour on your own. However, those who prefer to meet new people can choose a small group tour led by a local guide who knows the area and the culture well. Days spent walking with others allow you to get to know other participants and friendships to grow – lovely for those traveling solo. After all – what can be better than meeting people who share similar interests to you?

When choosing a tour, it is crucial to pay close attention to what is included and the level of difficulty, since the terms – hiking, walking, trekking – may vary by company. You will find walking tours all around the globe – from Europe to Southeast Asia and beyond.

Enjoy the destination and those with you on a walking tour.

There’s a song that may just be talking about walking tours –

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feeling groovy.

Life’s too short and vacations go too fast.  Slow down and enjoy a walking tour.  I’m ready to help when you’re ready to explore.  Call me!

Pat Ogle-CollinsStep by Step – The Ultimate Form of Slow Travel!
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Rollin’ on a river, soakin’ up the culture!

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Know anyone that loves river cruising?  Probably so as river cruising continues to increase in popularity.  It’s easy to say it’s the smaller ships driving this increase.  Yes, that’s part of it.  But for those that enjoy culture, including history, food, wine, architecture, and more, these journeys put all these aspects of a destination front and center.  So if exploring the culture of a destination ranks as a primary driver for your motivation to travel, river cruising might just offer a different style of travel to satisfy that yearning.

The popularity of river cruising continues to increase.

Regionally Focused Itineraries

Rivers naturally allow for more focused itineraries.  You won’t see a river cruise ship traveling anywhere near the speed of a cruise ship.  Also, these smaller ships need only limited docking facilities, unlike their oceangoing counterparts.

Half timbered houses in Strasbourg, France similar to those found in Germany

Slower going and more available docking facilities mean these cruises travel shorter distances over the length of the cruise and between ports, concentrating the focus generally on smaller regional areas.  For example, in France you find cruises focused on Provence or Bordeaux.  Cruises of 7 days usually only cover a couple of hundred miles even when passing thru several countries and the cultures of those countries meld from one into the other.

Step Right Into the Culture

All ashore means something totally different on a river cruise.  First, when departing the ship, you step directly into a town or city rather than on the outskirts, so right from the start, you can enjoy the feeling of the destination immediately.  This access allows passengers to take full advantage of what each stop has to offer – have lunch or dinner in a local restaurant;  enjoy a coffee at a café where you can see the ship;  watch the locals play an unknown card game outside a restaurant in the afternoon; walk thru a local market and take your purchase of a fragile item back to the ship before a bike ride.

Want something more in-depth or experiential?  River cruises offer numerous excursions at each stop, many included in the price of your cruise.  Wine tours, culinary tours, and history tours as well as tours of famous monuments, landmarks, and castles.  For those more active, guided bike tours in cities and towns, along river banks and thru forests provide calorie-burning opportunities.  Hiking tours to panoramic vistas, historical landmarks, and areas of natural beauty entice many.  There are even yoga tours!

Sightseeing, scenery and winery visits can all be
done on bike tours offered on river cruises.

Cultural Exploration Doesn’t Only Happen Onshore

River cruisers enjoy culture all around them on board the ship as well as onshore.  With frequent stops in areas known for their agricultural products, chefs procure high-quality local ingredients to create exquisite meals.  These meals also frequently incorporate local dishes as well, like Hungarian goulash, Bavarian bratwurst, flaky strudels from Austria, and lusciously rich cheeses from France to enjoy at the end of your meal.

Champagne served on deck of a river cruise.

Agriculture includes grapes and from those grapes come many of the wines and spirits served on board.  Rieslings from Germany and rosés from Provence accompany your meal and you can enjoy Calvados from France, Genever from Holland, and local beers over conversation with friends and other passengers in the evening.

A slow pace and easy access to the ship allows cruise ships the opportunity to engage with people of the area to bring their local culture onboard.

Musicians, dancers, storytellers delight passengers with their onboard performances.  After a busy morning onshore, passengers can opt to enjoy a craft session or lecture onboard in the afternoon to gain additional insights into local life.

And don’t forget the other passengers joining you on your cruise.  Most river cruise passengers have traveled extensively and maintain a wide range of experiences and interests.  With the small intimate nature of the ships, interesting conversations occur naturally among passengers from the United State and countries around the world.  Cross-cultural interaction comes not only from the destination but with the passengers and the crew as well.

The World Awaits

When thinking river cruises, most think of Europe and particularly cruises on the Rhine, Danube, Rhone, Saone and Seine, the Yangtze in China, and the Nile in Egypt.  Yet with civilization developing around rivers all over the world, river cruising will continue to expand.  Now you can find cruises on the Dordogne and Garonne in France, the Po in Italy, the Duoro in Portugal, the Volga in Russia, the Amazon in Peru, and the Mekong in Southeast Asia.  There’s even a river cruise on the Zambezi in Africa!

Local performers offer a view of local culture on board river cruises.

River cruising is becoming increasingly popular on the Mississippi, Colombia, and Snake Rivers in the US as well.   They’re still a significant number of rivers around the world capable of supporting river cruise ships, so that means there will be a lot of cultures left to explore going forward.

With so much to see, so much to do, and so much to enjoy, river cruising is a perfect fit for travelers who are “culture vultures”.  Ready to explore a destination differently?  Call me to float some ideas!

Pat Ogle-CollinsRollin’ on a river, soakin’ up the culture!
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Explore the Kimberly – One of the Last Wilderness Frontiers in the World!

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Very few places on earth are like the Kimberley. This is a dream destination like no other tucked away in northwestern Australia. It’s a pristine, wild, and untouched region of remarkable beauty, filled with a variety of plants and animals, unique physical features, and breathtaking landscapes. The big question is this, what new adventures can you experience when you explore the Kimberley? Read to the end, and you will agree the right answer is, “a lot.”

A Place of Timeless Magnificence

Its beauty is unspoiled – the main reason it continues to attract adventure-seekers looking for extraordinary experiences. Imagine a  remote area of over 162,000 square miles with a 7500 miles long coast filled with nothing but timeless magnificence. In the entire world, this ranks as one of the last wilderness frontiers.  Yet gorgeous scenery and precious natural features abound.

Mitchell Waterfall, Western Australia

Hemmed in by the Timor Sea on the northern side, the Great Sandy desert on the southern stretch, the Northern Territory to the east, and on the west, the Indian Ocean, this expansive wilderness almost the size of California, is characterized by contrasting, but stunning natural features such as the Horizontal Waterfall that forms when huge tidal currents rush through narrow, parallel gorges or the incredibly gorgeous Mitchell waterfall, splashing down 4 steps in pink, yellow and blue hues.

The Spellbinding Scene at Montgomery Reef

You will also find the Montgomery reef that turns into a spellbinding scene when it transforms at the tide-fall.  Because of the size of the tidal change, the ocean appears to rear up with large torrents of water, containing a multitude of reef sharks, dolphins, and octopuses, cascades toward shore. Rare animals like giant saltwater crocodiles, hundreds of bird species, and more abound here.

Home to a Very Busy Delivery Room

The entire coast of the Kimberly provides the largest nursery in the world for the over 40,000 humpback whales that travel to the area from Antarctica to enjoy the warmer waters from June to October.  While summering off Australia’s coast, the whales give birth to calves before making their way back to the cooler waters.  Often pods of three to four whales up to 15 meters in length along with their calves drop by to say hello to those on whale-watching excursions, often slapping their tales on the water or breaching to garner some attention.

But that’s not all, Kimberley is rich in awe-inspiring vistas of sparkling, powder-soft, silica sand beaches, azure blue waters, and vast open skies through which showers of shooting stars streak at night. And for one more surprise, dinosaur footprints, some as large as 1.7 meters in size and over 130 million years old can be seen when the tides recede outside of Broome!

Camel caravan at sunset, Broome, Australia

Spectacular Camel Trains and Golden Sunsets

Other scenes guaranteed to snatch your breath away include the more than 2600 islands along the coast whose marvelous attractions can be seen only from the luxurious comforts of a cruise. At the prestigious Cable Beach at Broome resort town, you will enjoy the spectacular sight of a camel train that daily trails along the beach on the backdrop of golden sunsets.  You can also go snorkeling, scuba-diving, or pearl hunting at Roebuck Bay.

Bungle Bungle Range, Western Australia

An Interior with Spectacular Sights to Explore As Well

The interior of the Kimberly provides sights equally as beautiful as the coast.  One of the most visited being the Bungle Bungle Range.  Located in the southern end of the Purnululu National Park, these domes of sandstone only became known in the 1980s.  Walk among the black and orange striped domes formed millions of years ago when sand and gravel that flowed thru the area compacted.  Later, when the area uplifted the domes were formed.  Continue on your walk and you come to the Cathedral Gorge.  200 ft red rock cliffs tower around you as you pass thru the area helping visitors feel the awe of nature at its best.

Not to be outdone, the Windjana Gorge, boasts 300 meter high walls and historical significance for the armed rebellion against European settlers in the late 1800s.  During a walk thru the gorge, you will find fossilized marine life and freshwater crocodiles.   The Tunnel Creek Cave system is one of the country’s oldest.  Visitors can walk 750 meters inside surrounded by beautiful rock formations while wading thru freshwater pools.

Karijini National Park brims with gorges all unique in their own way. Then for for a different kind of view, Mount Bruce, Australia’s second highest mountain resides in the park.  At just over 4000 feet and with a number of short walks, expansive views await providing numerous different perspectives of the surrounding landscape.

This is just a snapshot of the fantastic Kimberley where startlingly picturesque, tranquil beauty is in abundance; and there is so much more.  Want to talk about other possible sights or options for a trip to the Kimberly?  Give me a call to talk more!

Cliffs of Cathedral Gorge, Western Australia

Pat Ogle-CollinsExplore the Kimberly – One of the Last Wilderness Frontiers in the World!
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The often missed “winterless North” of New Zealand!

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When you travel all the way to the Land of the Long White Cloud, you should also go all the way to the tip of the North Island. New Zealand’s Northland, also referred to as the Far North by New Zealanders,  is a place of cultural significance, boasts some of the most beautiful scenery in the country with a subtropical climate and lots of sunshine.

Let’s look at some of the places in Northland that should be on your list of must-see Kiwi destinations. Get ready for wild beaches, quaint towns, enchanting Maori legends, endless lush forests filled with Kauri trees and waterfalls, and probably more sheep than people. You might even see an endangered Kiwi in these parts!

Cape Reinga Lighthouse

Cape Reinga

Start at the top of the North Island in Cape Reinga, where the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea join, and the Maori believe that deceased spirits of their people jump from an 800-year-old pohutukawa tree (a tree covered in red blossoms referred to as the New Zealand Christmas tree or bush) into the sea to return to Hawaiki, their ancestral home. This spiritual place is as far north as you can travel and is an inspiring place to be.

Visit the lighthouse where the ocean views are spectacular and if you catch the sunrise or sunset, you might crown Cape Reinga your favorite place on earth.

Ninety Mile Beach

Ninety Mile Beach

Technically the beach is less than 90 miles long, but who is counting when the sandy shores are so gorgeous? You can see waves and sand for as far as the eye can see and perhaps a lone farmer walking his dog or brave surfer with seagulls for company. If you want to explore this remote beach on the western coast, the town of Kaitaia makes a charming base. Fresh mussels and fish from the Kaitaia Fish Shop should not be missed because you’ll be hungry after all that sea air and walking around the beach and its dunes.

Kerikeri

Known for its farmer’s market, Kerikeri is the largest town in Northland and a vibrant little place to visit. Rainbow Falls, where you can take a dip in the water hole, is blissfully photogenic. You will find many gorgeous walking tracks through forested areas lined by quaint streams and rivers here and all around Northland.

Step back into the fairly young colonial history of the country by visiting The Kerikeri Mission Station, also called Kemp House. Under the protection of a scary Maori chief, this house built in 1821 for missionaries, to whom he was kind, stands as the oldest surviving European building in the country.

Hokianga

Hokianga Harbour is where the first war canoe landed when Kupe, a Polynesian leader, arrived in New Zealand by using the stars and ocean to guide the waka hourua (large double-hulles oceangoing canoes) from Hawaiki (the original home of Polynesians) to Hokianga. Many people believe taniwha (sea monsters) protect the entrance to the harbor.

Rainbow Falls, Kerikeri

Hokianga is a beautiful spot with little settlements like Omapere and Opononi to explore. Enjoy a lunch of fish and chips at a cafe in Rawene, then catch a ferry to the seaside town of Kohukohu where you can see historical buildings from the kauri gum (fossilized resin of the kauri tree used in crafts and jewelry) mining days.

Walk through the scenic Waipoua Forest and see Tane Mahuta, called the God of the Forest, the biggest kauri tree in NZ, with an estimated age of 2,000 years old. Stop to see rare rock formations at Wairere Boulders, a geologic phenomenon created by acidic erosion. The trails are easy to walk and you can kayak the Waipoua River that cuts thru the park.

Dargaville

Heading south, you will discover the town of Dargaville, where you can take a rail and river tour which is run by locals who give you the real low down on farm life in rural NZ. It’s an adventure through farmland and tunnels, over old railway tracks and bridges.  Hot cheese scones and tea are part of the package.

Ngātokimatawhaorua, Maori war canoe, Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Bay of Islands

In 1840 over 500 Maori leaders and British Crown representatives gathered to sign the Treaty of Waitangi. When you visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds’ sacred site, you can see a Maori meeting house, war canoes, carvings, and a traditional haka performance (traditional Maori war dance). You can also view a replica of the treaty (the real one is archived in Wellington).  As the most important historical site in New Zealand, understanding the importance of the treaty and the events leading to the treaty reveal so much about the culture of the country.

By spending time in Northland, you gain a perspective on the entire country, while enjoying its warm temperatures, sunshine-filled days, and uniquely quaint small towns. Kiwis enjoy life at a much slower pace.  Visiting the Northlands provides time to adjust to this slower pace while learning about the culture and history surrounded by beautiful scenery!

Pat Ogle-CollinsThe often missed “winterless North” of New Zealand!
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Vast, remote & desolate create amazing scenery in Namibia!

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Have you checked off destinations like Italy, France, perhaps a safari, and others from your list and itching for a bit more adventure?  Namibia located in southern Africa remains largely unexplored by most travelers and by man.  So before the rest of the tourism world discovers this gem, add it to your shortlist.

Expect to be wowed by large desert dunes, stunning national parks, friendly locals dressed in tribal clothing (English is the official language), and wildlife scenes that look like they came straight from the pages of National Geographic.

Aerial view of the Namib Desert

Namib translates to a vast place and the Namib Desert fits that description to a T.  Sand dunes stretch for miles with the tallest dune, referred to as Dune 7, holding the world record at 1,256 feet, just 6 feet taller than the Empire State Building! In addition to vastness and size, light and color creates an ever changing picture just waiting to be taken.  Near Sossusvlei, the white ground of the salt pan, along with the changing colors of the sand from orange to red and the dark contrast of the dead camelthorn trees create a surreal landscape just begging to be photographed.

Giraffe in Namibia

Wildlife like cheetah, leopard, elephants, and zebra exist here through their unique adaption to the desert that stretches across a good portion of the country.  Also, over 700 species of birds, from colorful European bee-eaters to giant ostriches, wait for bird lovers.  While there is considerable wildlife and most see some particularly further north, wildlife should take second place to the scenery when planning a trip.

The coastline of Namibia extends over 1,000 miles.  Along the northern portion of the country lies the Skeleton Coast because of the whale and bones once found here. Now, shipwreck remains are the skeletons of the area numbering in the thousands due to the rough seas from the currents and strong winds.

One wreck, the Eduard Bohlen wreck, stranded in 1909, now lies several hundred yards inland as a result of shifting sands.  With this area being so remote, the scenic flights from Swakopgmund provide the best means for seeing the beauty of the most untouched and uninhabited area.  For a more intimate close-up view, several camps allow you to experience the area and the incredible night sky.  For more dark skies, visit the Namib Rand Dark Sky Reserve near Sossusvlei.

Shipwreck of Zeila on Skelton Coast, Namibia

From the Skeleton Coast head northwest to Etosha National Park home to lions, rhinos, antelope, hyenas, lizards, zebras, and birds. One of the best ways to see them is at a waterhole as they come to drink. Okaukuejo Camp is a luxury accommodation with a flood-lit waterhole so you can view the animals after dark, including the rare black rhino.   Etosha also boasts the largest population of free-roaming cheetahs in the world.

Wildlife around waterhole in Etosha National Park

Damaraland, also located in the northern area of the country between Sossusvlei and Etosha, a semi-desert region yields yet another very different landscape with hundreds of years of erosion forming mountains of granite and boulders the size of trees. Here you will find Twyfelfontein, home to more rock engravings than anywhere else in the world.  From 1,000-10,000 years old, the area became a national monument in 1952 and a World Heritage site in 2007.

When traveling around Namibia to exotic locations like the Namib Desert, Damaraland and Etosha National Park, you will find the whole country is environmentally aware. Most places are eco-friendly and sustainability a key objective of many businesses. Protecting the local culture, wildlife and natural environment is very important to the people of Namibia, and you will be encouraged to recycle and reuse items during your adventure. Over 40% of the country is under conservation management, and it was the first African country to introduce environmental protection into its constitution.

Ready to get off the beaten path and feel like an explorer?  Namibian tourism increased from 1 million to 1.6 million visitors over the last decade, compared to neighboring South Africa’s 16.7 million in 2019.  Today you can still feel like an explorer.  Who knows for how long.  Let’s make sure you get there before everyone else finds out about this land of striking landscapes.  Call me to talk more about this amazing very different destination!

Namibian night sky

Pat Ogle-CollinsVast, remote & desolate create amazing scenery in Namibia!
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