We were assigned two private tour companies. I noticed a stark contrast between them from the start. One of them was “all about they”, concentrating on advertizing how they were featured in international travel journals, the luxury transportation they offer, etc. Although located in the States, they were slow in responding and presented a preliminary travel plan, emphasizing that the time we had was not sufficient to make justice to the country. They did not pay attention to what I was aiming for. I requested a third company but Zicasso thought that it was going to be confusing to work with many agencies.
The second company, this travel company, from Auckland, NZ, was more contained. They listened to what I had in mind, especially my concern that I wanted to build a trip to cater to four adults and a child that would be 9 and one half at the time of our voyage. The preliminary plan showed me that my granddaughter’s needs were taken into consideration and specific activities were suggested for her. These details sold me. A long phone conversation with the owner solidified my interest in working with them.
My decision was correct and the trip we worked out turned a perfect adventure, exactly what I have wanted to celebrate a special occasion in my life.
Arrival was flawless with “meet and greet” service and friendly border officer. Each place was memorable in its own rights, starting at the Potts Point hotel in Sydney. We began our journey totally spoiled at the luxury camp near Uluru. Each step of the daily program was flawless; no details were overlooked. Our guide looked after us with care and efficiency. He was knowledgeable, well informed and deeply respectful of the Aboriginal issues related to the sacredness of the Uluru. The Uluru base walk, the stunning sunset, the Kata Tjuta walk, the lessons on how the Australian continent was formed using props he thoughtfully gathered was informative and creative. He totally caught the interest of my 9 year-old. Our guide was very excited when we spotted a family of wild camels that crossed the highway. The restaurant service was impeccable. The dinner under the stars while gazing the sky trying to identify the constellations, watching the International Space Station move by the horizon is something we usually don’t see on our skies. Sleeping outdoors with a roaring fireplace was very much enjoyed by our girl. The support staff was all friendly, efficient but very discreet.
The dot painting activity was perfect for my little one who told the story of her life using the symbols used by the Anangu Artists shown by the Anangu lady and the workshop leader. Then there is the GBR (Cairns, Port Douglas, Mossman, Daintree National Park.) We had a fun driver/guide. He had quizzes, and comments so quirky the driving time flew by. The accommodations at the hotel in the Daintree Rainforest were good but the restaurant services need a lot of improvement, especially the menu. Waiting for one hour for our order to arrive, seeing other guests that arrived after us being served and leaving while we were still waiting, and our food arrived only after we complained is not acceptable. The guests are captive audiences at the lodge and we depend on the hotel transportation services. At the village of Mossman, a drive away, there are few eateries but they all close by 6 PM! Port Douglas is even farther away. The layout of the dinning room needs rethinking as dark wood steps landing on dark wood floor calls for a missed step. My husband lost his footing on the last step but averted a fall by holding on to a table.
This travel company's staff handpicked the Reef Charter and we spent the whole day at the GBR. WOW, the corals and marine life are still there. I totally forgot to take pictures! Thankfully, the Captain of the charter had set up their underwater camera and my son took pictures and videos of the adventure. The day trip to the Daintree forest, ambling Cooya Beach, interacting with the Aboriginal guide and appreciating how they have incorporated their ancestral way of life with modern amenities and how they venerate the elders was heart warming.
Sydney remains as beautiful as always. We shortened the city tour to give my son and his family a “got lost” in the city adventure and they loved the experience. We all loved the visit to the Taronga Zoo, Featherdale Wildlife Park. Again, my 9 year old was very happy to see all the special animals that exist only in Australia and she collected all the stamps of the unique Australian animals.
My husband and I extended our trip to New Zealand. Another WOW experience with carefully selected drivers/guides and lodges. New Zealand is a very safe place. Walking at night without feeling spooked was a new experience. Auckland surprised us and we loved the Auckland Museum with its magnificent, one of kind woodcarvings. The driving from Auckland to Rotorua with a stop at the Waitomo caves to see the glowworms, stopping at Otorohanga Kiwi House and Native Bird Park to see the elusive, nocturnal live kiwi bird hidden in the dark were special.
The lodge near Lake Rotorua was unexpectedly quaint and lovely. Immersion in the Ancestral Footprints tour with a Maori descendent was very special. We saw the village for the tourists but also a part of the city where the Maori residents live and appreciated the contrast between the Maori and non-Maori sections of the city. Then, there was the boat ride and tour of the Lake Tarawera, the up close visual of the Mount Tarawera, the black swans that came expecting to be fed and putting our toes and fingers in the warm lake waters heated by the geothermal heat are an unforgettable experience.
Getting to the trout fishing a the Tongariro River required boarding a floatplane that landed on the other end of the Lake Taupo, and then driving to the streams and negotiating the river boulders had everything: air, water, dry land and river experience. The travel company owner made sure he secured a fly fishing guide. The guide gave a refresher course to my husband who showed visibly improved casting and actually caught trout!
The geothermal wonders, endless miles and miles of rolling fields with so many different shades of green that resulted from the felling of the trees to make room for cattle ranches were very surprising. Deforestation was done in other places way before the deforestation of the Amazon. Currently, the New Zealanders are reclaiming the bare areas with reforestation efforts and that is reassuring.
I will stop here although each stop was so special, so unique and so enriching I could go on and on.
Nothing. I would contact this travel company and work with them again and again if we decide to visit the Oceania. They understood my needs and wishes and made sure this memorable trip went smoothly and they worked on it as if it were the most important work they were doing. We could see that the owner and staff work together seamlessly, with pride and confidence and they are surrounded by guides, venues that were as efficient, knowledgeable and proud as the company is.
We owe many thanks to dear staff.
Each review is written by a verified traveler who was matched by Zicasso to the reviewed agency. Traveler must have purchased and traveled.
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