Zicasso put us in touch with Jillian of this New Zealand travel agency and she was fantastic. With very little to go on (we weren't sure what we wanted to do or how much we would spend, even) she took our parameters and a quick email about things we like to do (that we are in our 50's but active) and put together a really interesting, appropriate trip that all coordinated well. She was prompt and full of information during the planning stages - mostly over email. Plus when we got back we gave her a little bit of feedback and she took it in and really seemed to appreciate it. Takes her job seriously with professionalism - I recommend her highly! She took care of the business side of things so that we could just enjoy our trip.
At first I was trying to put the trip together myself. So glad I found this site and Jillian!
Where to begin? I think the sunrise penguin walk in Dunedin was the most unique and memorable. It was really cold and we were unlucky enough to get a day of driving rain and hail. And we still thought it was the most incredible experience. Would do it again right now - even in the same weather conditions. We saw great sleepy sea lions and frolicking seals as well as several of the yellow-eyed penguins bopping down the hillside and waddle-running across the beach to dive into the wake. Our guide was knowledgeable and helpful and made the experience truly memorable. Other things that really stood out were the jebtoating, white water rafting and the glacier hike at Frans Josef. We rented a car and drove from Queenstown to Greymouth (up the West Coast) and that was a drive like no other on the planet, We made many stops to take short hikes and marvel at the stunning beauty of New Zeland.
We did come back with a few minor feedback items for Jillian. Some might have been our personal preferences - for example we were scheduled into an early morning river rafting which was (fortunately) cancelled and we reorganized the day so that we were rafting at high noon. At the time of year (Spring - and it was a cold spring) that event was much more fun in the warmest middle of the day. This meant that we changed our trip on the TS Earnslaw steamship from an afternoon trip to the evening one with dinner - which worked out great, the dinner was very nice and we would have had to have dinner somewhere anyway! We might have rented a car more and taken a bus less if we had it to do over - the roads were good. The trains were still definitely a highlight of the trip, though.
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