November 13th, 2015

Facts about Travel Insurance

‘Freebies’ are designed by clever marketing people to make us feel valued. Credit Card companies are a classic example of offering something for nothing – but do they? We get a nice “gold” or “platinum” card with added bonuses, air-points and, you guessed it, Travel Insurance! But if you’re paying for overseas goods/services by credit card, you’ll probably get (a) the worse possible exchange rate (b) an additional exchange rate conversion fee and (c) you may be charged a merchant credit service. So far you’re paid between 7-10% for your freebies!

Credit Card Photo2

Credit Card Travel Insurance

When it comes to Travel Insurance, I’m cautious about how effective credit card insurances are. We all believe that if something untoward happens, we’ll deal direct with our credit card company. Wrong. Most credit card companies outsource their travel insurance to third party insurers. Do I really want to deal with a third party?


Is your travel insurance adequate?

When travelling overseas, it is absolutely crucial to have a solid and reliable travel insurance. Health issues and serious accidents can happen to anyone, not to mention the enormous cost of being repatriated home. There are ghastly stories of travellers suffering massive financial losses because their travel insurance did not cover essential medical services. Here’s some interesting reading:


NZ Herald – Be cautious with credit card travel insurance – When good time turn bad – Can you rely on credit card travel insurance?


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How to choose Travel Insurance?


So how do we choose travel insurance with adequate coverage?  First of all, read the fine print – there’ll be lots of it. As a frequent traveller, I’m happy to part with a few hundred dollars by using my local health insurer (many of them do offer overseas travel insurance). I know I’ll get full hospital and health coverage and be covered for personal liabilities, cancellations, interruptions and luggage. Peace of mind is important to me.

Air New Zealand2


Do you have a different opinion and experience of travel insurance? Feel free to air your opinion in the comments field below. We’d love to hear about it!


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October 20th, 2015

What to do in Waitomo

There are stunning regions in New Zealand which in tourism terms, could be described as ‘underdeveloped’. For serious travellers, that’s a good thing. It means you’ll be away from mass market tourism in the more populated hotspots. The beautiful rural ‘King Country’ has much to offer. Here’s just a few tips on what to do in Waitomo.


Waitomo Caves

There are a number of different caving tours from Spellbound, to Black-Water-Rafting to 4 or 7 hour Abseiling tours. Could you imagine yourself doing this?

Waitomo Cave Abseil2


Kawhia Beach

Fabulous scenery, dramatic black-iron sand beaches, fishing, boat trips & the amazing Hot Water Beach (Te Puia Hot Springs) on Kawhia’s Ocean Beach. Remember, go at low tide – you’ll get a spade to dig your own hot pool!


Lord of the Rings

The Hobbiton Village is nearby (1.5 hrs drive), but hidden away, is the less known Mangaotaki Valley site  no jostling for space here. There is a company aptly named ‘Hairy Feet Waitomo‘ tours. This is a small group tour and if you’re a Tolkien fan, you’ll love it.

Hairy Feet Tours2


Marokopa Falls

A 20-minute return walk to the spectacular 36-metre waterfall, 2 kilometres past the Piripiri Cave off State Highway 37. The Marokopa Falls is one of the most beautiful in the country. Don’t forget your camera!

Marokopa Falls2

Otorohanga Kiwi House & Native Bird Park

Otorohanga Kiwi House & Native Bird Park – See New Zealand’s iconic kiwi birds, plus daily talks by the keeper and feeding displays (kiwi, kea & kaka, kakariki and longfin eels). Enjoy the great range of native birds & reptiles in a peaceful park setting.

Otorohanga Kiwi 2


Kamahi Cottage – Farmstay Accommodation

Waitomo has it’s own 5-star Farmstay located near the Waitomo Caves and the Village of Otorohanga. Liz and Evan run a farmstay style cottage in the Waikato area – rustic on the outside with soft comforts inside (a gourmet breakfast you’ll love). This was a great little find – a hidden gem owned by real New Zealanders in rural heartland.

Kamahi 5-star farmstay.3


Farm Tour

Evan from Kamahi cottage also takes visitors on a great scenic farm tour & drive through a family farm. ($50 per tour – subject to Evan’s availability). August to October are the months for new-born lambs.

Kamahi Cottage view2


Ed Hillary Walkway – Otorohanga

A ‘gallery’ of Kiwiana displays showcasing NZ’s popular culture, history, heroes and icons. A great free attraction right in Otorohanga’s main street.



This charming seaside village is a famous hang-out for surfers and artist with a vibrant cafe scene. Classic NZ lifestyle.



These are just some of the ‘highlights’ for the Waitomo Caves area and the wider King Country. Staying a few days is highly recommended. You’ll be wowed by the beautiful North Island landscape, plus you’ll get plenty of space to enjoy some very special moments.

Happy Travelling!

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October 13th, 2015

Rotorua Canopy Tours

As a visitor to New Zealand, you may find yourself jumping (willingly) out of a plane or off a bridge. With a nature guide leading the way, you’ll probably see those cute little penguins. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll want the whole combo – adventure, fun and a nature experience. Rotorua Canopy Tours provide all three.

Canopy Group Photo

Check-in takes place at the Canopy Tour base in the Rotorua’s city centre. Everyone gets an iPad to type in important details, including medical conditions and curiously enough, if you have a fear of heights. I’m impressed. This is such an efficient way to gather essential details for the guides, before the tour actually begins.

Canopy Tours ipad

First, we’re taken by tour van to an original nature forest in the Department of Conservation park.It’s chilly in the forest so everyone’s dressed warmly. During our first few metres stroll into the forest, Shane and Scott discuss the different tree species – many of them Rimu’s (NZ Red Pine).

Canopy Tour Bus

We arrive at the first platform, surrounded by the forest canopy and the purest oxygen.

Canopy Tour platform

Our guides Shane and Scott are meticulous in explaining every aspect of the equipment we’re about to use, but it’s also a fun exercise. Group interaction is encouraged and being able to have fun with fellow travellers really does promote trust and friendship. I like that the tour party is a comfortable size with a mere 10 people, Based on my weight, I’m fitted with a harness and given the Smile-of-Bravery award.

Canopy Tours Harness

Ok folks, here we go…lights, camera, action!!

Canopy Tour jump

As well as an educational walk in the forest, this tour provides the adrenaline rush with zip lines between trees. It’s such a cool concept to get people a little out of their comfort zone and to provide awareness of nature’s challenges especially when it comes to conservation.

Canopy Tours conservation

I’m stunned to hear that each day, 70,000 birds are killed in New Zealand by stoats, rats and ferrets. Each day! So the conservation philosophy of the Canopy Tours project is to use traps to combat some of this carnage and give New Zealand birds, especially endemic species, a chance to survive.

Canopy Tours Stoat traps

There are 6 zip lines and two bridges to cross during the journey, which generally takes about 3 hours. The longest zip line is an enormous 220 metres. This map should give you a pretty good idea of what to expect:

Canopy Tours Map2

This experience is close to flying like a bird, held by a steel rope through the forest canopy. Naturally, there’s a lot of shrieking going on, but in a happy way and hopefully you’ll come away with a heightened awareness of New Zealand’s precious native birdlife. Plus you’ll get to be a kid for a while.

Canopy Tour fun

Happy travelling!

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October 11th, 2015

White Island helicopter tour

In the ‘land of the long White Cloud’ the magic of White Island, New Zealand’s most active marine volcanic, is hard to beat. The island is located in the North Island offshore from Whakatane in the Bay of Plenty. There are 2 ways of getting there. One is by an 80-min boat ride one-way from Whakatane, the other is by helicopter only a 35 min fly from Rotorua. Today, I chose the latter, a White Island helicopter tour.

White Island Oct

White Island by Helicopter

With 3 others, I boarded the Squirrel helicopter owned and operated by Volcanic Air Safaris. Our pilot, Chris, swept us away, flying smoothly over farmland and the Pacific Ocean to the centre of White Island, which is about 1 kilometre in diameter. Truly, we felt as though we’d just landed on Mars!

White Island landing

Exploring White Island

What a contrast to the rest of New Zealand. No plants, just rocks, steam, sulphur and other mineral sediments. Chris handed out helmets and a breathing mask. We all looked at each other…would we see our families again. Chris assured us that we were absolutely safe, thousands of visitors had gone before us and returned safe and sound.

White Island helmets

The helmets and masks are just a precaution and a good sign that safety is paramount to the Volcanic Air Safari team.

White Island helmets2

As expected, the pungent smell of rotten eggs was everywhere. The visual impact was huge as we viewed all those rocks and cliffs created by an undersea eruption approx. 150-200,000 years ago. The scientists reckon that about 16,000 years ago, a ‘double crater’ blew up again and that accounts for the island’s current shape.

White Island Boulders

White Island Crater Lake

We then entered the crater lake area filled up with highly toxic “mineral water”…basically acid and deadly serious stuff. We stayed a respectful distance from the edge. The smell almost unbearable here and suddenly we found our gas masks very useful.

White Island Crater Lake

Next came the fun part… throwing sulphur rocks at each other…just kidding. Chris led us the most active area with huge amount of yellow sulphur material and blow holes.

White Island Sulphur rock

This sulphur was and is widely used for fertiliser, gun power and medicine. This is why business ventures came to White Island to mine the mineral. Those workers had up to 2 months on the island and all supplies, including drinking water, had to be brought in. White Island was probably not such a fun place in those days.

White Island sulphurM

White Island Factory Site

Near the end of the trip, Chris showed us around the former (and last remaining) factory site, which was abandoned about 1934.

White Island factory site

Expect the Unexpected!

On our flight back to Rotorua, we thought we saw a large group of fish. Chris took the helicopter down for a closer look. These “large fish” were actually 25 Orca Whales! Wow, what a sight. We kept some distance away, as there were a number of calves with their mothers. We also spotted 5 massive male Orcas. Sorry Folks, I can’t believe I’m telling you this, but in the excitement of the moment, I forgot to take photos. Sometimes you have to put your camera away and be in ‘real time’. Seen it, admired it and forever in my heart – this has been a very special trip.

Happy travelling!


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October 8th, 2015

Best Time to Travel the Coromandel

I’m currently enjoying an explore of the beautiful Coromandel Region in the North Island and there’s no better month to be here than in Spring. It really is ‘teashirt’ weather.

Michael at Coromandel

The New Zealand Spring season begins from mid-September through to November. The further north you go in New Zealand the warmer it gets. So visiting the Coromandel Peninsula in Spring or Autumn means you can unpack your swimming gear. Seriously!

Coromandel Peninsula

I will never understand why most international travellers still visit New Zealand during the busiest months between December and February (during the peak New Zealand summer season). In my opinon the most glorious travel months are in spring and the beginning of the autumn season (March, April, May). Why? In Spring there’s a beautiful energy in the air but more importantly, accommodations are not continually booked out

Coromandel accommodation

Just look at this photo shot today at ‘Hot Water Beach’ and ‘Hahei Beach’… where are the crowds?

Hot Water Beach

My advice? Plan a New Zealand holiday outside the peak summer holiday months. Travel in spring or autumn instead! This is especially the best time to travel the Coromandel Peninsula. You’ll get to lay your towel out on an empty golden beach and…sorry, gotta go and unpack the speedos!

Happy travelling!

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