Category Archives: Oceania

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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Filed under Cook Islands, Europe

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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Filed under Antarctica, Australia, Brazil, Europe, Hawaii, New Zealand, South Africa, South Africa

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

5 Things to Do on a Rainy Day in Wellington, NZ

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It’s Autumn in Wellington, and due to rain later this week! Do you happen to be on the South Island of New Zealand, wandering the streets of its favorite metropolis, looking for a place to huddle and keep out of the rain? Lucky for you, there’s an abundance of museums and indoor sites to check out.

1. Weta Cave & Workshop. If you’ve seen a movie this past decade, you’re sure to love the Weta Workshop, the big name behind the special effects and props of The Lord of the Rings. Sign up for a tour of the studio and check out behind-the-scenes magic to countless movies including Mad Max, Avatar, District 9, The Chronicles of Narnia and TV shows like Xena. Stop by the Weta Cave Shop and its mini museum and troll sculptures—don’t forget your souvenir. Open every day 9am to 5pm.

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2. Te Papa Museum. The country’s best museum is a fantastic way to spend a rainy afternoon and learn all about New Zealand history, geology, art, wildlife and culture. You can spend hours playing with the interactive exhibits; or join a tour on Maori culture and Gallipoli. What’s more—it’s all free. Open every day from 10am to 6pm, and on Thursdays to 9pm.

3. Coffeeee. Do as the locals do and pass your rainy morning at a Wellington cafe. CNN recently named the city as one of the top 8 coffee capitals in the world. Drop by The Waterfront or L’Affare for some locally roasted beans. Or go all in with cupcakes at Floriditas.

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4. Foood! One of the best things about Wellington is the covered food stalls at Capital Market. Take your pick of Asian bowls, gluten-free deli, BBQ, fish and chips and a juice bar.

5. Catch a film at an Arthouse Cinema. Wellington has plenty of old theaters, throwbacks to the golden era of cinema. The Paramount and The Penthouse are all old world nostalgia. The Roxy is a shining star of art deco, fully restored to its former glory. For something a bit more state-of-the-art, stop by the Embassy Theatre, 1920’s art deco that was restored by Director Peter Jackson for his The Lord of the Rings premieres.

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Filed under New Zealand, News

Conscientious Traveler: Goway

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Welcome back to Conscientious Traveler—our monthly series in which we showcase one of our fantastic partners with projects that support the environment, wildlife and local communities. This month, we feature Goway

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Goway is one of our favorite trusted vendors specializing in fully customizable trips around the world. We have worked with them for years organizing trips for our clients to Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, Japan and more.

Goway has supported many foundations over the years, donating to causes that benefit local communities, cultures, wildlife and the environment. Here are just a handful:

tourismcareslogoTourism Cares. Goway participates in Tourism Cares initiatives that preserve and enrich the travel experience of travelers worldwide through giving back and volunteering.


logo_top_enChildren’s Wish Foundation of Canada.
A nonprofit that helps Canadian children diagnosed with a life-threatening illness realize their favorite dreams. In 2015 & 2016, Goway received a Valued Partner Award for their efforts to support Children’s Wish, and last summer raised $10,000 for one child’s wish at their annual fundraiser.

canadianbloodservicesenglishlogofinalcolourrgbCanadian Blood Services. Goway had their first annual blood drive last month, during which staff donated blood to the clinic.

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Wildlands Conservation Trust. Goway has made two sizable donations to the Trust’s “Looking out for Rhino” campaign, supporting the latest tracking technology fitted for rhinos.

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So you can combine Travel with a Good Cause! Call your agent at Willamette Intl Travel and let us arrange a remarkable journey for you! Call 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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Filed under Asia, Australia, Cambodia, Conscientious Traveler, Goway, Laos, News