Category Archives: Oceania

Travel2 in Australia & New Zealand

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Looking to escape the winter snows this holiday? Book a couple weeks in Australia and/or New Zealand.

Travel2 is one of our favorite vendors in the South Pacific. They offer tailored packages for travelers in Australia and New Zealand, and beyond.

Want to hit the adventure and see the highlights of Down Under, but don’t want to figure out the logistics of a car and hotels? The folks over at Travel2 are your backup team — and Willamette Intl Travel’s got you even more covered!

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On a sample 11-day Sydney, Melbourne & Reef itinerary:

Take in the sights of Australia’s cities–Sydney and Melbourne. See the Great Barrier Reef, a fast-disappearing natural wonder of the world.

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On a sample 14-day New Zealand North Island Explorer Self Drive:

Hit the road and explore Auckland’s City of Sails and the geothermal landscapes of the North Island.

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On an 18-day New Zealand Grandeur Escorted Tour:

Take the Grand Tour of New Zealand, from Christchurch to Auckland. Hike through ancient forests, climb across glacier mountains, admire the historical railway and clear celestial skies.

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On a 22-day Explore Australia & New Zealand Escorted Tour:

Why choose between the two? Combine Australia & New Zealand on a Grand Adventure! Head out on red dirt roads in the Outback, enjoy a sunset cruise on a private yacht, witness the unforgettable glowworms illuminating the Waitomo Caves.

For more information on a trip to Australia, New Zealand or the Cook Islands tailored just for you, call Willamette Intl Travel: 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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Best Day Hikes in New Zealand

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Today’s post is courtesy of the New Zealand Government’s Department of Conservation. 

Fancy a Life-Changing Adventure? New Zealand is world-renowned for its breathtaking landscapes and panoramic vistas of the Pacific Ocean. Hike through ancient forests and rugged coastlines on these amazing Day Hikes.

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Lake Wanaka

ROYS PEAK. 5h-6h, 16 km roundtrip. Challenging.

A steep climb through alpine meadows and tussock grasslands to the summit is rewarded with breathtaking views of Lake Wanaka, Mount Aspiring / Tititea and Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 10.05.19 PMsurrounding peaks. With beautiful Wanaka as the backdrop, you’ll walk from lake level through farmland then up into the tussock tops to the 1,578 m summit.

Roys Peak overs views of the lake and the jagged tussock ridges of The Stack Conservation Area. At the top, take a moment to contemplate the extinct Haast’s eagle / pouakai or hokioi (New Zealand’s largest predator and the largest eagle in the world) and its prey, the moa, which once lived here in a forest landscape.

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Mount Cook

HOOKER VALLEY TRACK. 3h, 10km roundtrip. Easy.

Enjoy the awe-inspiring landscapes of the Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana on this Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 10.05.28 PMshort walk, winding up the Hooker valley past alpine streams and glaciers in the shadow of Aoraki/Mount Cook.

Many different wildflowers can be seen along the way, including celmisia and the Mount Cook buttercup/kōpukupuku, the world’s biggest buttercup. Endangered kea, the only alpine parrot in the world and one of the most intelligent birds, can sometimes be heard along the track.

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Alpine Ridges

TE WHARA TRACK. 5h-6h. 7.5km one way. Moderate to challenging.

Follow in the footsteps of Northland’s Māori ancestors. This challenging track climbsScreen Shot 2017-11-13 at 10.05.33 PMthrough coastal forest before revealing a spectacular 360° panorama. The Te Whara Track follows an ancient Māori trail from Ocean Beach to Urquharts Bay. Once you’ve climbed up onto the ridge, the track becomes undulating and relatively easy-going.

Te Whara was the principal wife of the rangatira (chief), Manaia, of the Ngātiwai iwi (tribe). It was here that Manaia first met Puhi-moana-āriki, an early ancestor of the Ngāpuhi iwi. Manaia’s wife is said to have slighted Puhi and was turned into stone. She stands as the projecting up-thrust rock at the easternmost point of Bream Head, known as ‘Te Wahine iti a Manaia’.

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Tongariro Crater Lakes

TONGARIRO ALPINE CROSSING. 7h-8h, 19.4km one way. Challenging.

Trek across a volcanic alpine landscape of dramatic contrasts – steaming vents,Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 10.05.40 PMglacial valleys, old lava flows, alpine vegetation and vivid crater lakes. The track climbs the Mangatepopo valley to the saddle between Tongariro and Ngauruhoe, through South Crater before climbing again to Red Crater, the highest point on the crossing at 1,886 m. You will then descend on a volcanic rock scree track to the vivid Emerald Lakes. After passing Blue Lake, the track sidles around the northern slope of Tongariro, then descends in a zigzag track past Ketetahi Shelter and down to the road end.

Tongariro National Park is a UNESCO dual World Heritage Area and the first in the world to receive cultural World Heritage status. The alpine lakes and peaks of the mountains are sacred to the local Māori tribe Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro. Respectfully, they ask that peaks are not climbed and waterways are not touched.

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Gannet Colony in Cape Kidnappers

CAPE KIDNAPPERS WALKING TRACK

The journey along Māui’s fish hook takes you to the world’s largest mainlandScreen Shot 2017-11-13 at 10.05.46 PM gannet colony and past rugged cliffs etched with history. The area is home to distinctive native wildlife, including the largest accessible mainland Australasian gannet/tākapu colony in the world.

History tells the story of Te Kauwae-a-Māui, the tip of the fishhook of Māui, which he used to pull up the North Island/Te-Ika-a-Māui (the sh of Māui). After an incident between local Māori and Captain James Cook’s crew on the Endeavour in 1769, it became known as Cape Kidnappers.

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Basic Guidelines: 

  • Plan your trip. Make sure you know where you’re going and have looked at a map of the track – consider taking a photo of it. ensure you have enough time to complete in the daylight. A wrong turn can create an unexpected night out.
  • Stay on the track – you have less chance of losing your way or injuring yourself and this protects the wild environment.
  • Tell someone your plans. Message someone – text, social, email – where you’re going and when you’ll be due back. Make yourself easier to be found if something goes wrong.
  • Take home everything you bring with you, including rubbish.
  • Check where the toilets are placed on the track and use them–it’s not allowed to use the outdoors as a bathroom!
  • Never feed wildlife – it can harm them and their young.
  • Leave gates as you find them.
  • Be considerate of others using the track
  • Be aware of the weather. New Zealand’s weather can be highly changeable. Check the forecast – Metservice.com – and expect changes throughout the day. Always prepare for wind and rain as it can, and o en does, happen suddenly.
  • Know your limits. Challenge yourself within your group’s limits. Consider the group’s ability to deal with the changing weather and the physical nature of the hike. stick to the marked track.
  • Take sufficient supplies. What supplies you need for each hike will vary, but you should always have a waterproof jacket, water, food, hat, head torch and sturdy footwear – consider hiking boots. Cell phone signal is o en not available in the outdoors. Place items like phones and maps in a plastic bag to waterproof.
 Willamette Intl Travel can arrange a perfect New Zealand adventure for you and your family. Ask us how! 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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The Cook Islands: Hawaii’s Quieter, Overlooked Cousin

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Tropical Bliss…

The Cook Islands are a fantastic destination for travelers looking for a secluded tropical island experience.

Named after Captain Cook, the 15 islands boast stunning lagoons, moderate tropical weather, and a friendly “Ki Orana” spirit.

Most folks head to the Southern Cook Islands, especially Rarotonga and Aitutaki. The country is still undeveloped and the beaches uncrowded, even in peak season. They’ve have been compared to what Hawaii used to look and feel like 50 years ago.

At the Punanga Nui Cultural Market, sample the music, dance, cuisine and songs of the islands. Plus learn how to make local crafts like hat-weaving, lei-making, ukulele-carving and more. Open weekdays 8AM to 4PM, but the best events are on Saturday.

Cook Island Fun Facts

– It’s forbidden for any building to be higher than the tallest coconut palm!

– Local currency is the New Zealand dollar — great value for the cost

– Even though they’re technically part of New Zealand, the islands are self-governing

– Just 30 minutes from the plane to the beach

– Languages: English and Maori

– Only 20,000 inhabitants!

– A great alternative to the more expensive Tahiti

Willamette Intl Travel has sent clients on unforgettable holidays to the Cook Islands, and some even come back for their 2nd or 3rd time!

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Suggested Itineraries:

Plan your trip to the Cook Islands around a New Zealand and/or Australia getaway!

6 nights/7 days on the Cook Islands:

Spend a romantic vacation under palm trees, fishing, swimming and motorcycling — the ideal recipe for an idyllic getaway.

OR

12 nights Cook Islands + New Zealand:

Fly from Vancouver, San Francisco or Los Angeles into the Cook Islands for 4 nights. Get used to the jet lag and lie on a tropical beach; Soak your skin in the sun and your toes in the sand! Then hop on a plane over to Auckland for a trip in Kiwi central.

OR

16+ nights Cook Islands + Australia:

Spend the 4 nights / 5 full days then fly on to Sydney on the nonstop Air New Zealand flight. Spend as many nights exploring the Land Downunder, then fly over to New Zealand in a spectacular Pacific Adventure.

When to Go?

The Cook Islands are gorgeous year-round, but the shoulder months of April, May, September and October are optimal.

Before you Go: An Adorable Video

We absolutely adore this 12-minute video from Tourism Cook Islands! It will tell you everything you need to know about why you should visit the Cook Islands soon!

Read More:

Our Overview of the Cook Islands

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Travel News: Lights Up Down-Under

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Lights Up Down-Under
A round trip flight from New Zealand just for the view the Southern Lights. Otago Museum Director Ian Griffin came up with the idea. An astronomer, Griffin said he was inspired after seeing the Southern Lights while flying as a guest on a NASA observatory plane. A charter plane that left Dunedin, New Zealand, late Thursday flew close to the Antarctic Circle to give the eager passengers an up-close look at the Aurora Australis, or Southern Lights. He says the 134 seats on the chartered Boeing 767 sold out within five days and one man traveled from Spain for the trip. He says he could have filled the plane several times over, although they were only selling window seats and seats immediately adjacent, leaving the middle of the aircraft empty.“I thought it was absolutely brilliant,” Griffin said. “We were right under it. There were beautiful streamers, auroral streamers. This green-colored stuff that moves quickly, it looks like you’re looking into a green, streaky river.”
 
Viking Cruises Launches New Resident Historian Program
Viking Cruises has announced the roll-out of its new onboard Viking Resident Historian program. Launching on Viking Star, Viking Sea and Viking Sky this month, a faculty of historians will provide an enhanced level of enrichment for guests onboard all of Viking’s ocean cruise ships,” said the company, in a statement. According to the cruise line, the Viking Resident Historians will provide guests with a high-level historical and cultural education that is specific to their journey, offering a framework for understanding the major chapters in world history. They will also conduct seminar-style roundtables.
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Large Sections of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Are Now Dead
The Great Barrier Reef in Australia has long been one of the world’s most magnificent natural wonders. But the reef, and the profusion of sea creatures living near it, are in profound trouble. Huge sections of the Great Barrier Reef, stretching across hundreds of miles of its most pristine northern sector, were recently found to be dead, killed last year by overheated seawater. More southerly sections around the middle of the reef that barely escaped then are bleaching now, a potential precursor to another die-off that could rob some of the reef’s most visited areas of color and life. The damage to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s largest living structures, is part of a global calamity that has been unfolding intermittently for nearly two decades and seems to be intensifying. The state of coral reefs is a telling sign of the health of the seas. Their distress and death are yet another marker of the ravages of global climate change.Australia relies on the Great Barrier Reef for about 70,000 jobs and billions of dollars annually in tourism revenue, and it is not yet clear how that economy will be affected by the reef’s deterioration. Even in hard-hit areas, large patches of the Great Barrier Reef survived, and guides will most likely take tourists there, avoiding the dead zones.
 
The new Berlin Welcome Card
The card covers admission to 30 attractions across the city as well as public transportation, and is commissionable. Among the highlights is access to selected national museums such as the Pergamon Museum and the Bode Museum, and private museums such as C/O Berlin, the Jewish Museum, and the DDR Museum. A hop-on, hop-off bus tour and a boat cruise are also included as is admission to Berlin’s TV Tower and Madame Tussaud’s. The city guide that comes with the pass provides insider tips and the city map points the way to all of the participating sites. The Berlin WelcomeCard is all-inclusive and is available for $84 for adults and $52 for children ages 3 to 14 and is available for three durations: 48 hours, 72 hours, and four calendar days. The Berlin WelcomeCard all inclusive includes public transport in the city of Berlin and the surrounding region. It will be sold at Berlin Tourist Information centers, at berlin-welcomecard.com, at turbopass.com, and by travel agents and tour operators. The Berlin WelcomeCard all inclusive is being offered in partnership with Turbopass. 
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New Orleans breaks tourism records
A new study says New Orleans has broken a tourism record set before Hurricane Katrina, with nearly 10.5 million visitors in 2016. The record had stood at 10.1 million since 2004, the year before the hurricane struck. University of New Orleans’ Hospitality Research Center says last year’s visitors spent US $7.41 billion dollars. That’s 51 percent more than the amount spent in 2004, and 5.1 percent above the spending record set in 2015. Mayor Mitch Landrieu says in a news release that he’s looking forward to 2017 being even bigger.
Museum Of Ice Cream Announces Its Opening In Los Angeles
Museum of Ice Cream opens its doors to the West Coast this April claiming sunny Los Angeles as its highly anticipated second location. Stationed in DTLA’s burgeoning art district, Museum of Ice Cream welcomes visitors to enjoy an experiential ice cream journey. Museum of Ice Cream captivated a global audience with its unprecedented 2016 launch in New York City, selling out in five days and attracting a waitlist of over 200,000. The Los Angeles location is four times larger than the New York City incarnation and showcases 10 completely reimagined installations. Interactive highlights include a “banana split” comprised of ten thousand “bananas”, a mint “grow house”, a room dedicated to California, a melted popsicle jungle and more. The iconic swimmable sprinkle pool returns filled with one hundred million sprinkles that were custom designed and produced by Museum of Ice Cream! Museum of Ice Cream is open from April 22 until May 29 from 11 am-10 pm, Wednesday-Monday. Tickets include two curated ice cream tastings and surprise edible treats!
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Off the beaten track in Mexico
Isla Holbox (pronounced “ole-bosh”) has just been added as a “hidden hotspot” among vacation destinations in Mexico. Part of the Yum Balam Natural Reserve, the island offers vacationers a pristine tropical haven away from the hustle and bustle of more well-travelled tourist hotspots.Comprised of sandy-white beaches and home to a diverse and protected ecosystem, Isla Holbox is a popular island destination for bird watchers, snorkelers and beach lovers. Along with a variety of land and water sports excursions available, travellers in the summer months can also opt to join a snorkeling or boat tour to view the annual migration of the whale sharks that takes place close to the island between the months of June and September. There are two quaint hotels on the island to appeal to a range of travelers. At both properties complimentary kayaks and bikes are available to enable independent explorations of the island and windsurfing, kite surfing and fishing are also offered for an additional fee. Villas HM Palapas Del Mar, is a small, oceanfront hotel where guests can watch romantic sunsets from their infinity pool overlooking the beach.Those looking to adopt a slower pace can opt for Villas HM Paraiso Del Mar, with a  large swimming pool surrounded by lush vegetation, buffet meals, and unlimited national drinks and cocktails. Offers include packages where guests can enjoy four nights on the peaceful Isla Holbox, and three nights in Riviera Maya at Reef Coco Beach or the cosmopolitan HM Playa del Carmen resort—both of which are quite close to shopping, nightlife, and the exciting attractions of Playa Del Carmen’s 5th Avenue. Call your travel agent to discuss week-long packages. 

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Filed under Europe, Mexico, New Zealand, North America, USA

Infographic: 6 Destinations to Spot the Southern Cross in 2017

We at Willamette Intl Travel love tried and true destinations like these! Interested in one (or more) of the places below? Give us a ring! 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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Conscientious Traveler: G Adventures

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Welcome back to Conscientious Traveler–our monthly series in which we showcase a fantastic travel organization that supports humanitarian and/or environmental work. January is all about G Adventures!

It’s summer in the Southern Hemisphere, the perfect time to visit the Land Downunder and catch a glimpse of the Southern Cross! G Adventures hosts a variety of escorted tours (both luxury and backpacker-style) in Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, and spectacular expeditions to Antarctica. Call Willamette Intl Travel (503-224-0180 | info@wittravel.com) to find out more about the fun and affordable tours G Adv that offers.

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G Adventures is also the founder and close partner of the Planeterra Foundation, a nonprofit designed to enrich communities touched by tourism in a sustainable way. G Adventures sees tourism as “a force for global good,” and we at Willamette Intl Travel agree. Though we’ve covered Planeterra on our blog before (way back in 2012!), we’re happy to feature them again!

Planeterra works directly with G Adventures to minimize harmful impact on destinations, promote economic growth and small local businesses, and ensure that all animals encountered on G Adv tours are treated humanely. They are working in over thirty projects empowering women, encouraging craft cooperatives, conserving cultures.

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In the “Oodles of Noodles” project in Hoi An, Vietnam, G Adventures works with STREETS International. This curriculum is a way for Vietnamese students to lead a noodle-making class with travelers, practicing their English and presentation skills.

In the “Moshi Mobile Mamas” project in Moshi, Tanzania, Planeterra works with a free and women-only business school. Their curriculum includes business management, accounting, and English, plus a seed fund for graduates to start their own business.

In the “Mayan Community Homestay,” in San Juan la Laguna, Guatemala, Planeterra works with the local communication in Lake Atitlan to develop a homestay program for travelers. They also promote local businesses centered around tourism including an art gallery, a medicinal shop, weaving co-ops, and a Temazcal steam bath.

Go to planeterra.org to find out more or to donate. There’s no question about it–G Adventures certainly is a Conscientious Traveler!

Thinking of going on a G Adventure? Call Willamette Intl Travel at 503-224-0180 or info@wittravel.com and we can get started on your adventure!

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Filed under Australia, Conscientious Traveler, Europe, G Adventures, New Zealand, Oceania

First-Ever Drone Footage of Uluru, Australia

Uluru, or Ayers Rock, is a massive sandstone monolith in the heart of Australia. People travel from around the world wake up at sunrise for some gorgeous views. But have you seen the first-ever drone footage of Uluru in Australia?

Willamette Intl Travel has sent countless of clients to their ideal destination in Australia. Margaret River, Melbourne, Great Barrier Reef, Kangaroo Island—the list goes on. Uluru is just one of the many incredible sights on this wild and ever-changing continent. 

Check it out! Footage is courtesy of Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia.

Read what some of our friends said about Uluru:

“We were literally up at the crack of dawn, actually before that, as we wanted to see the sunrise on the giant monolith at 5:46 to be exact!  We arrived exactly then at the “sunrise viewing” area. We were the ONLY folks there at first! The idea is to watch the colors go from black to the varying hues of browns, oranges and reds, looking quite different than at sunset. 

William Gosse, the first white man to see this rock in 1873, wrote: “An immense rock rising abruptly from the plains….this rock is certainly the most wonderful natural feature I have ever seen”. This is considered by some accounts, to be the largest monolith in the world and recognized by UNESCO on 2 lists, quite rare.  The first is its geological listing in 1987 and 10 years later, they added it as a cultural site due to its sacred value to the local aboriginals.

After seeing what we wanted of this experience, we drove closer to the rock to give it a different close up perspective, which I liked better.  So many crevasses, water lines colored black, large moon-like holes, really fascinating and really old!  It’s thought to have been created by the chaotic upheavals on earth about 700 million years ago!  How’s that for old!”

— Mary W., Dec 2015

Did You Know? While not illegal, climbing on Uluru is highly discouraged. The indigenous tribe, the Ananou, believe that climbing path crosses a highly sacred dreamtime track—a spiritual place beyond time where past, present, and future all exist together.

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Filed under Australia, Day Trips From..., Oceania