Welcome to the Turquoise Travel Diaries, a collection of interviews, stories, and excerpts from our fabulous team, as they travel around the world. Here at Turquoise, we pride ourselves on unrivaled knowledge of the destinations in which we specialise, so that we can provide honest, expert advice to all our guests and fellow travellers. This week, our New Zealand specialist Stuart has returned from an incredible research trip to the land of the long white cloud, and has brought back some unique knowledge on what makes this enchanting country such a stand out destination…
“Way back in 2002, I first took the long flight down to New Zealand and instantly fell in love with the place. Arriving in Auckland, we were met by some friends, who had already gone native by then. They whisked us off on a whirlwind “Tiki Tour” of the North Island, taking in such delights as: the Coromandel Peninsula, Rotorua, Taupo and the Glow Worm Caves at Waitomo… From that moment I was hooked! I stayed another 2 and a half years and explored the country from top to bottom, finally settling in Christchurch. Eventually, though, my partner called time and dragged me back home. In 13 years I have only managed to get back twice, once for a friend’s wedding in 2010 and most recently on a Luxury Turquoise research trip in May this year.
As soon as I stepped off the plane, I felt like I had arrived back home! It had that same familiar warm feeling that I had grown to love 15 years ago. Of course, things have changed and like everywhere else in the world, cities and towns are expanding. But it just doesn’t seem to have the same impact in New Zealand. It doesn’t take you very long to find wide, open, empty spaces, which feel untouched by human hands.
On my first day back, I experienced this: We left the hustle and bustle of Queenstown behind to take an exhilarating jet boat ride up the Dart River. On an unusually cold day in May, we shot upstream to an area called Paradise. A very apt name! I’ve seen it in the summer with clear blue skies and towering mountains surrounding you and this time the snow was falling, making the wilderness even more silent. The thing that New Zealand does so well is offering these unique experiences, which will stay with you forever. This trip was a short one, but in 8 days we managed to cram in so many different experiences!
On day two we were whisked away by helicopter from Queenstown. The weather looked bleak, but we broke through the cloud and the awe-inspiring splendour of the Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound stretched before us. Our pilot made a quick pit-stop to pick up some Crayfish from an isolated beach on the west coast… Only in New Zealand would they think of using a helicopter to go fishing! From there we were then landing in the snow to have a spot of lunch at Minaret Station, high up in the mountains above Wanaka, and only reachable by air. With the log firing roaring, we enjoyed the morning catch, washed down with a delightful glass of Marlborough Pinot Noir!
These types of experiences continued through the week, as we flew over sperm whales at Kaikoura and rode mountain bikes through the vineyards in Marlborough. If I had to pick a real highlight though, it would have to be the most perfect morning we had at the Bay of Many Coves. Following an over-indulgent dinner the night before, a small group of us decided to take the kayaks out to help blow away the cobwebs. By mid-morning the sun was out, the sky was blue and the water was like glass. We took a minute to stop and just take it all in. At that precise moment, we had the absolute privilege of being joined by two magnificent bottle-nose dolphins. They literally popped up in the middle of us and kept us company for over an hour. Each time it seemed like they had moved on and we turned to head back to the lodge, they would break the surface with a puff of air. It’s almost like they kept coming back for one more glorious encore!
That morning pretty much sums up New Zealand for me in a nutshell. It’s breath-taking scenery and experiences that you never want to end. Unfortunately, like all good things though, the trip had to. It was with great sadness that I boarded the plane home, having fallen in love with the place all over again. This time I won’t leave it quite so long before I go back though!”