Milford Sound, New Zealand – World’s Top Travel Destination

October 3, 2015

It all began with a Special birthday

“So what would you like to have for your birthday?” I asked my darling daughter Ketki. After all it was her 21st birthday and a very special to all of us. Having known Ketki for that long I knew she would flash her 24 carrot smile and say in her loving tone, “I don’t need anything, Dad.. I’ve got everything” and exactly that happened. You know… the hardest thing my wife Pratibha and I have ever experienced in our entire life is nothing else but to find the right birthday gift for someone. We always struggled with it. But now the question was my own daughter’s 21st birthday gift.

Luckily, my son Kunal came to my rescue and suggested we should sponsor Ketki a holiday trip to New Zealand with a friend of her choice. However, Pratibha wasn’t comfortable letting Ketki go to a country she has never been before, even with her friend, and said Ketki should visit New Zealand with her brother Kunal. “Good as gold” said I, but the matter was not yet over. Now it was Kunal’s turn to voice his opinion. “Why don’t we all go to New Zealand as a family, Dad and have a lot of fun? It will be our surprise gift to Ketki on her 21st which she will enjoy the most.” Pratibha and I decided to take time to smell the roses. “Let’s go”, we both said in excitement.

The itinerary was planned, bookings were made, and there we were.. on our way to beautiful New Zealand – a place we had never been before but we were all so excited about for some unknown reason. We could have very easily chosen another place like Singapore or Fiji for spending quality time as a family together but apparently New Zealand was a destination chosen for us by Him.

New Zealand is the land of diverse landscapes. As we drove our way from Christchurch – New Zealand’s garden city, and traveled south to Queenstown the country greeted and welcome us with open arms. Melbourne, Australia has been awarded the title “The most liveable city in the world” a few times but New Zealand really impressed us. It was different and unique. We found a very close intimacy with a country which is blessed with nature’s scenic beauty. The air was 100% pure, crisp like anything and the freshness in air increased our excitement levels even more. The one thing which we all noticed on our arrival in New Zealand was the warmth in the hearts of people and the tremendous hospitality they literally showered on us. The staff members at every gas station made me feel very special by filling gas in my car whichever gas station we stopped by. It was just the beginning of a true family vacation which we all were looking forward to after migrating to Australia.
The one thing I would recommend to anyone traveling to New Zealand is either to take a train or to drive through this beautiful country as much as you can, instead of flying by airplane. The 300 miles stretch between Christchurch and Queenstown is an absolute driving treat for visitors. The Westland mountain ranges look stunning and the unique pink & purple flowers on both sides of the road are very catchy – you just can’t overlook them.

Depending on the time you have there are many routes to reach Queenstown, but we purposely took the Lake Tekapo route. As we reached this incredible lake I realized we had made the best decision. Rich golden landscapes bordered by brightly colored lupines paved the way for our arrival into Lake Tekapo. This glacial fed turquoise blue lake is a hive of activity for everything outdoors. Considered a Kiwi holiday hot spot, this lake offers scenic flights, walking trails, guided Alpine climbing and walking, mountain biking, kayaking, and much more.

Queenstown – a blissful experience

The Christchurch to Queenstown driving distance with stopovers is around 7 hours but it’s absolutely worth it. Queenstown, in my opinion, is New Zealand’s best town. It would seem that nature God has poured more blessings on this small country town in comparison with others. Surrounded by majestic mountains and nestled on the shores of crystal clear Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown is a South Island location with immaculately gorgeous surroundings. This adrenalin/adventure capital of the southern hemisphere is an extremely popular stop on the travellers’ circuit, especially in the winter months of July and August when the ski crew are in town.

New Zealand has always been a popular tourist attraction to Australians. But I guess, New Zealand’s sheer beauty was brought to the notice of worldwide audience by the trilogy of “Lord of the rings” – thanks to Peter Jackson. We were fortunate enough to visit a few shooting locations of this extremely popular movie along our way.

We visited New Zealand after winter, around Christmas – the best time to visit New Zealand. However, we could still experience the crowns of snow on mountain peaks. Kunal said the mountains looked very graceful from the sky. Queenstown is one of the very few places in the world where within a space of just a few days you can quench your thirst of sky-diving and bungee jumping, experience mountain vistas, ancient forests, volcanic landscapes, river jets, cruises, stunning coastline, ride the skyline gondola for iconic views across Queenstown and lake Wakatipu and much more while spotting wildlife found nowhere else on earth. There’s no shortage of things happening around the region with plenty of exciting events throughout the year.

Milford sound

Milford Sound is a fjord (a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created in a valley carved by glacial activity) at a distance of 6 hours one way from Queenstown. It is right in the middle of a rain forest. The journey to Milford Sound is as spectacular as the destination itself. You can also drive to Milford Sound by car but I would highly recommend taking a cruise, just like one shown above.

Famous English story writer, poet, and novelist Rudyard Kipling described Milford Sound as the “eighth wonder of the world”. Milford Sound was carved by glaciers during the ice ages, thanks to nature’s incredible phenomenon. This gorgeous Sound looks amazingly breathtaking in any weather… beauty which cannot be expressed in words. The fiord’s standing-tall cliffs, rise vertically from dark waters and remind you of the strong ancient warriors protecting you from all sides. From the cruise the mountain peak seem to be touching the sky and the waterfalls, some as high as 3000 ft. cascade downwards. It often rains in Milford Sound and these waterfalls multiply with magnificent effect during the rain.

Judged in an international travel survey as “world’s top travel destination”, Milford Sound is acclaimed as New Zealand’s most famous tourist destination. Stunning views all along the journey, the crisp and fresh air, and nature’s majestic beauty offers you a guaranteed “wow” experience. You get a real taste of turbulent water of the giant sea when the cruise enters the sea and makes a “U” turn bringing you back to the origin of the tour. It is only then you realize how difficult sailing in the sea would be for the fishermen who risk their lives every day for making a living.

Bay of islands

After our lifetime experience of South Island, I must admit, we were little biased about it. We were not even sure if North Island will fulfill our expectations. Even if the internet technology these days offers great information and pictures of places there is no substitute to experiencing the nature yourself. The North Island did not disappoint us.

Bay of Islands is the north-west region of North Island of New Zealand not far from the northern tip of the country. We were lucky to get a booking in a hotel at Paihia, a bustling seaside town also popularly known as “Jewel of Bay of Islands”. South Island is more about nature’s majestic beauty while North Island is about enjoying activities and adventures. Both islands are very different to each other and maintain their uniqueness in all respects.

One of the “must do” tours in Bay of Islands is “Hole in the rock” tour. Piercy Island (often known simply as “The Hole in the Rock”) is located off the north coast of the North Island. This 60 feet long and 60 feet high hole at sea level was created over centuries by wind and waves making it one of the most naturally beautiful sites in New Zealand. This half a day jet boat ride offers unique opportunity to watch dolphins and experience the silence in the middle of the sea. When we visited this place the waters were calm and our jet boat went right through the hole giving us the opportunity to look at the rock texture inside the hole.

If you really want to experience the beauty of Bay of Islands you must visit the northernmost tip of New Zealand to see the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet at Cape Reinga. When the torquise blue waters of these two seas mix with each other they create a canvass of unique colors which gives a feeling of tranquility. So how far are you from NZ?

Ninety mile beach

Ninety Mile Beach is the narrow strip of sand that stretches on the west coast of North Island. This beach is officially a highway, but it’s only suitable for 4WD vehicles. Car rental companies won’t allow their cars on the sand due to safety reasons while private cars are not covered under insurance. Beach activities range from surf casting and swimming to body boarding (tobogganing) down the sand dunes. Both Kunal and Ketki enjoyed this.

The name Ninety Mile Beach is little misleading because it is actually only 55 miles long. When missionaries traveled on horseback on an average a horse could travel 30 miles in a day before needing to be rested. The beach took three days to travel therefore earning its name, but the missionaries did not take into account the slower pace of the horses walking in the sand, thus thinking they had traveled 90 miles when in fact they had only traveled 55. The “Hole in the rock” looks gorgeous from this beach as seen in the background in the above picture.

Another place of interest in this region is Puketi Forest. It is an ancient kauri forest located in Northland near Keri Keri. With the Omahuta Forest it forms one of the largest contiguous tracts of native forest in Northland. The tour guide told us it has 15,000 hectares of kauri, podocarp and hardwood trees and a rich diversity including hundreds of recorded species of plants, some of which are found nowhere else in the world.

The huge trunks of the trees, some of them as big as 12 feet in diameter, blew my mind. I have never seen tree trunks as huge as that. One of the shops in Paihia displays a spiral staircase and a big sitting bench carved out of such massive tree trunks.

Top Travel Spots for Surfing

September 3, 2015

Are you looking for some of the top travel spots for surfing? Perhaps you are searching for a beach with insanely high waves, so you can get the thrill of your life. In any case, there are plenty of beaches which have waves anywhere from 4 to up to 12 feet high. Finding them can be tricky though, if you are not familiar with the area. Luckily, we have put together a travel guide for you to follow.

The Gold Coast of Australia

Indeed, Australia has some wonderful beaches, with some of the top waves available for a surfer. One very popular city in the area is called the “Gold Coast”. The area rests in the corner of Southeastern Queensland. This area is known for it’s tropical, warm climate and has many canals. Although it is expensive to surf here, you will still nevertheless enjoy this attraction. It has about 70km of beach property, divided into categories such as The Spit, Palm Beach and other areas. Many individuals often refer to this place as the “Grand surfing Haven”. There are plenty of other places here, two of my favorites being Burleigh Heads, South Strabroke Island and many more.

The Mentawai Islands of Indonesia

If you have ever traveled to Indonesia before, you already know their beaches are rich and filled with plenty of things to do such as surfing, laying out in the sun, outside snack areas, and so much more. This island is considered one of the top travel spots for surfing in the world and is located just off the west coast of Indonesia. The island is divided into four different categories like the Siberut, North Pagi, South Pagi and also the famous Sipora. In order to reach this island, you need to take a ferry or a boat. If you visit in the months July and September, you are bound to encounter large swells since the waves are in many directions as a result of the wind activity.

Jeffreys Bay of South Africa

Located in East, South Africa – you’ll run into Jeffreys Bay which is one amazing surfing destination that has worked it’s way up to the top surfing spots in the world. Surfers enjoy visiting this place in the winter months to go on some wild wave rides. Every year they have a Billabong Pro WCT which surfers from all over the globe come to participate in.

Top Travel Trends in 2010

August 4, 2015

The holidays next year will be to a great extent affected by the economic recession most countries suffered this year. That however does not mean that people will not go on holiday, but that instead they will be more careful with how and on what they spend their money. Holiday makers will spend more time searching for great deals, such as exploring new travel destinations to find the best bargains and joining Online Travel Agencies (OTA) to gain good discounts. Below are some of the predicted top travel trends for the year 2010.

1 – Looking for budget options

Economical holidays will the key deciding factor this year, with holiday makers searching out the best budget details and discounts. Make sure when you plan your holiday this year, not to just go for what looks like the best rate, but hunt deeper for complementary give-aways, such as a free night’s stay on a multiple night stay, gift cards, spa credits, coupons and free dining etc.

2 – Eco Travel

Humans are slowly but steadily becoming more aware of their impact on nature. Think ‘green’ is the trend these days, with its effects being felt even by the travel industry. Most travelers look for eco friendly holiday options, holidays that cause minimum damage to nature. Eco travel was born out of this need and is a continuing trend for 2010.

3- Mixing business with pleasure

The world is always on the go, with most travelers finding it more economical and viable to mix business with pleasure. Nowadays business travelers look for accommodation options that cater to all their business needs while providing leisure activities as well, so they can enjoy the best of both worlds.

4 – Latin adventure

Latin America is finding itself growing more and more popular with travelers as a luxury travel destination.

5 – Train Travel

Rail travel in Europe has grown popular, as this is an economical way of traveling while enjoying the wonderful scenery on the way. This has become even more popular with the new high speed rail links into Spain and Italy.

6- Going Mobile

With the growth of mobile applications and capabilities, it is now even easier to plan your travels, such as tracking flight information and planning itineraries. Mobile phones now play a very important role for travelers in helping them with their travel planning. They are used to receive information from travel agents etc and are fast proving to be invaluable to travelers.

7 – One platform for travel plans

With the busy schedules most of us have, it is easier to have one central platform from which to plan your travel details. This way you can keep track of everything happening in the travel industry, be up to date on the latest happenings and not just make one off purchases. The Internet offers strong travel centric sites where such central services are offered, so that people can plan every aspect of their travels, from creating the trip, to searching for accommodation, getting advice about the intended trip, finding the best deals down to updating profiles so as to keep friends and family informed.

8 – Adventure Travel

The year 2010 will find people looking for holidays with more action. Most now look beyond the standard and look for adventure such as jumping out helicopters, skiing, safaris, bungee jumping as well as more personalized holidays with private tours of museums and art galleries. For the more adventurous a growing trend is to take a high-speed car tour around major cities!

9 – Seeking out new hotspots

As with everything in this world trends change. As travelers expand their travel horizons, China, India and the Gulf States find themselves growing into the latest hotspots. This trend will grow more in 2010 as travel to the ever popular European destinations at the moment for most, is not economical. So traveling to China, India and the Gulf States gives the traveler an exotic holiday while being easy on the purse, with favorable exchange rates and low travel costs.

Top Traveling Tips

July 4, 2015

Traveling is an interesting hobby. Travelers have the benefit of learning and gathering knowledge about different places. Not only that they see and explore different places but they also learn about those places intentionally as well as unintentionally. I must say traveling is not an easy hobby. If you love traveling and have the passion to see the world, stick around because I have something great to share with you.

Top traveling tips of all times

1- Always plan before traveling. Do proper homework. Do research about the city, country or place where you are heading. Find out as much as you can before choosing a place. This is very important for several reasons.

2- Always keep maps with you. Whether it be a digital map or a scratch map or simple map. Map is a must. I suggest using GPS, but most of the times you have to go to places where GPS does not work. So alternately you can use traditional maps. You can use scratch map travel edition as well. A scratch map travel edition will make things easy for you at places where GPS does not work.

3- Give high importance to weather reports. Make sure to keep an eye on weather reports for the city where you are moving. If heavy rains are expected or hurricanes are expected, it is better to postpone the trip because you might not be able to enjoy or visit the place as you are expecting. Bad weather can ruin your trips. So plan according to the weather.

4- It is strongly recommended not to travel in off-season. Most of the people visit various cities and places in off-season to avoid rush. But on the other hand, you do not have access to all the features, services and places in off-season.

5- Keep an eye at your pocket too. Do not overspend. Always keep a small amount as reserve with you. I am not saying not to spend where it’s needed rather I am trying to say not to spend money when there is no need for it.

6- Make a list of all the cities where you want to go. Prioritize them. This way, you can manage things easily. You can control your budget too. In fact, you will save money for the next trip. I have found this technique very useful when it comes to saving money.

7- Buy a digital camera if you do not have one. However there is hardly any traveler who does not have a camera. Use your camera as much as you can while moving. Take pictures of special things. Try to record healthy and happy moments. I suggest maintaining a diary. Whenever you go to a place, take a photo of it and paste it in the diary. Also, you can write a short description as well about the place. This way, you can save your trips and memories quite easily.

Nest time when you decide to visit a new city, a new country and a new town, do not forget to follow these tips – and I am sure you will have a wonderful journey.