Having guided with Flying Kiwi for 3 summers now we were lucky enough to get to take a group of exchange students on a 2 week, student only tour around the South Island of New Zealand during the month of July, Winter! Obviously you can imagine camping would be a bit ridiculous in those temperatures so we stayed in carefully selected lodges and hostels throughout the tour.
A highlight for both myself and my guide partner, Tom, was staying at Unwin Lodge, right up in the heart of Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. During summer this location is both one of our favourites by far and the mountain tops are always covered in a dusting of snow because of their high altitude. But boy did we get lucky on this trip! The whole park, down to the road got absolutely covered in a dumping of about 30cms of snow from when we arrived and continued to snow over night, One of our students, Alejandro, was from Mexico and had never seen snow before! So it was a very exciting day for him and to just see the joy in his face was something quite special.
Making sure the kids were all dressed up nice and warm we ventured out from Mt Cook Village to the first swing bridge of the Hooker Valley Track before the weather turned a bit and we decided to head back, but wow, what a time to be at Mt Cook - something I'm sure a lot of those kids will remember for a life time!
Staying at Unwin Lodge in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park with snow falling outside and the rise on almost felt like Christmas! The massive oven baked lasagne wasn't bad either
Quote by - Tom Judd
Memory by - Shannon Higgs
My very first day on the Ultimate Explorer trip with Flying Kiwi Adventure Tours. We took off from Auckland in the morning, heading up to the sunny Bay of Islands, with Paihia being our final destination where we got to spend 2 nights of relaxation.
Not even 2 hours into the drive, and having not even been in New Zealand for more than 24 hours I am about to go for my first swim in New Zealand!! At the beautiful (and funny named) Uretiti Beach. By the end of my first day on tour, I have been for 2 refreshing swims in the Pacific Ocean and am currently setting my tent up for the evening with beautiful views across the bay, bliss.
These are the views from my tent in one of the campsites facing Lake Hawea. Nothing but breath taking scenery! I remember every single campsite as a unique and amazing place to stay. Every morning I was amazed just unzipping my tent and seeing the beautiful landscape.
A drive that no matter how many times you've driven it, it will still amaze you just as much.
I remember the first time i visited Milford Sound, I was blown away with, not only 'Milford Sound' itself, but the whole drive since entering Fiordland National Park. It's like a barrier you cross and giant Native Beech forest instantly towers above you like you've entered a different world. Views are around every corner from grassy plains, mountainous peaks, glacial running rivers and massive glacier carved valleys that disappear off into the distance. You soon find yourself driving towards a mountain range and then realise that right at the bottom is where the famous "Homer Tunnel" lies and that you're about to drive right through it. The tunnel sits at 945m, and Milford sound is at sea level, so it's a long steady downhill until you reach the wharf.
Coming out of the Homer Tunnel was a whole other experience in itself. You are way up high with the road twisting its way beneath you and surrounded by either magical and misty clouds or, on a clear day, looking up at the peaks of these mountains somewhere 1000m above you. As Milford Sound is known for heavy rainfall you are always blessed with amazing waterfalls cascading from the heights above, no matter what the weather. A little more rain and you get extra waterfalls - so it's a win win in either weather situation i feel.
Boarding the boat and beginning the voyage some 15km out to the Tasman sea, You are first greeted by the iconic image of Mitre Peak, standing at 1692m, you start to feel very small in the Fiord surrounded by the sheer cliffs that tower either side.
If you are lucky, you may spot bottle nose dolphins, NZ fur seals, little blue penguins and the Fiordland yellow crested penguin. And if not, then you are still lucky because you are in one of the most beautiful destinations in the country.
As a Tour Guide, I have been into Milford Sound more than i can count on my own hands and toes, I've seen it in all weather conditions - rain, sun and snow, and I've been lucky enough on different occasions to see a range of wild life whilst visiting too.
And even though I have visited so many times, I get the exact same feeling driving in that I had the first time I ever went, which is a memory i will never forget.
Our guides always make sure cook group is a fun time had by all. A great time to bond and get to know other travelers as well as putting on a delicious feast for everyone to enjoy!
Some of my favorite memories were making dinner together with the whole team, and how much we laughed throughout preparing the meal
As well as getting to visit an amazing country for 4 weeks and getting the opportunity to take part in some pretty epic activities, it's not all about 'what' you are doing, but 'who' you get to do it with. The people that you get to meet and spend this time with, is sometimes what really makes the trip...
I must say the best memory I have with Flying Kiwi are the people. Not just the Kiwis and of course my awesome tour guides Shannon and Tom, but the 20 to 30 people from 15 different countries that joined us along our 4 week journey. The comradery that happens when a group of people live together, pitch tents together, prepares food together, eats together, listens to each other's stories and supports each other only happens when you are part of a family. I would say the average age of the group on my tour was 20 to 30 years of age. I was 2 months shy of my 71st birthday but felt 21 again at the end of the journey. Some of us still follow each other on Facebook. OH, I also enjoyed the sand-boarding, whitewater rafting level 5, the 15,000 foot tandem skydive, hang-gliding, the caves with the glow worms (keep your mouth closed when doing this), watching the dolphins and the whales, the Shotover-Jet experience, etc., AND HOW COULD I FORGET TO MENTION THE 134 METER BUNGEE JUMP (440 feet for us Yanks). I know, I'm bragging now. "AN EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME!" - Bob Weinreich, Flying Kiwi Memory
As you know, going around NZ for a month involves a bit of time spent on the road. I am forever grateful for my group's affinity for 90s through current pop music. We sang through the long stretches. hahaha I couldn't have been with a group more suitable to my style of travel and music. And if that's not enough, I just love how REAL people are on an outdoor trip involving many nights of camping. People crawl out of their tents in the morning and one gets to see who they really are at that time of day. Grouchy, sleepy, quiet, chatty, desperate for their coffee to kick in, hungry, not hungry, super duper perky--we had it all! And I loved it. Real people. Real experiences. - Laura Jamison, Flying Kiwi Memory
We were lucky enough to round off an amazing travel experience with a couple of weeks a la Flying Kiwi. We loved it. The people were ace - to get together with a bunch of fabulous people of all ages, to laugh and laugh and laugh, to see amazing places and do wonderful things. We loved the canyon boat trip, the horse riding and the brewery. The sea fishing trip with the family-with-zero-sea-legs was particularly memorable. But some of the simplest things were our favourites - the bike rides, the running, swimming in that freezing but oh-so-pure lake and the beer-garitas. We'd love to be back again some day – Ali Moore, Flying Kiwi Memory
A trip for all people who want to see the beautiful country from a unique perspective, for example; opening your tent to a view of a crystal clear lake and snow capped mountains - priceless!!
Iris Valk - Flying Kiwi Memory
A great in-sight for us guides, and one of the reasons why I love my job so much! Getting to greet everyone on day one and seeing that they are a little shy and nervous, then getting to watch them slowly come out of their shells throughout the tour , making new friends and having the whole bus as one big family! That's what really makes the trip for me
On the tour you meet so many cool people and by the end you make such a great team with them that you never want it to end! - Meike Wisser
Shannon Higgs, Tour Guide - Flying Kiwi Memory
We reached some really remote locations. When we arrived at the bush camp in Lake Pukaki, for example, we were so blown away by the regal mountains and the bright blue dazzling glacier fed lakes, we all went slightly crazy and jumped directly to the freezing water! Imagine being so far from the proximity of any city that the sky was clean and air crisp for world class star gazing. Lying with the Flying Kiwi crew on matts under the stars, I felt completely absorbed in holiday mode. Being away from the world was no problem. Utterly refreshing!
Josh Lawrence - Flying Kiwi Memory
I think many of us thought exactly the same!!
Arriving to Punakaiki and being blown away by the prehistoric limestone sheer cliff faces that look like they belong in the movie Jurassic Park
Flying Kiwi Memory by Marcel - Flying Kiwi Tour Leader!