Missy Skoog’s visit to Ayers Rock (Uluru), Australia

Ayers Rock is one of the most impressive landmarks in Australia. A huge chunk of sandstone and a ‘true’ monolith, it resides in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Ayers Rock is located down towards the southwest corner of the Northern Territory and close to the geographic centre of Australia.

The rock is huge, jutting up about 350m from its barren surrounds. And more interestingly, Ayers Rock extends even further than this amount below ground. Although there are other, similar entities to Ayers Rock – most notably the nearby Olgas and Mount Augustus in Western Australia – it is the only singular monolith with its composition.

A World Heritage site, Ayers Rock also goes by the Aboriginal name of Uluru. Aboriginal tribes were living in the area 10,000 years ago. White men did not come onto the scene until the 1870s, when William Gosse named it for Henry Ayers, the then-South Australia Chief Secretary. Ayers Rock is sometimes incorrectly written as Ayres Rock, Ayes Rock, Ares Rock, Eyers Rock, Eyres Rock, Aires Rock and Airs Rock. The Pitjantjatjara Aboriginals own the land around and about Ayers Rock today

Cheers to Uluru!

Cheers to Uluru!

Beautiful aboriginal woman showing us symbols in the sand drawing

Beautiful aboriginal woman showing us symbols in the sand drawing

"on" Uluru

“on” Uluru

"the bush"

“the bush”

Punu – trees Puti – shrubs Tjulpun-tjulpunpa – flowers Ukiri – grasses

Punu – trees
Puti – shrubs
Tjulpun-tjulpunpa – flowers
Ukiri – grasses

Close up of one section of Uluru

Close up of one section of Uluru

Morning sunrise tour to Uluru. Rose on the opposite side of the rock. Amazing!

Morning sunrise tour to Uluru. Rose on the opposite side of the rock. Amazing!

My favorite sales rep from Travel2 Ward!

My favorite sales rep from Travel2 Ward!

Entered into the Australian Tourism Hall of Fame, Sounds of Silence offers the best of the Red Centre distilled into four magical hours. An evening of dining under the sparkling outback sky

Entered into the Australian Tourism Hall of Fame, Sounds of Silence offers the best of the Red Centre distilled into four magical hours. An evening of dining under the sparkling outback sky

Sounds of Silence

Sounds of Silence

Australia & New Zealand Sep 2015 276 Australia & New Zealand Sep 2015 267

Me with the president of Travel2

Me with the president of Travel2

I told them they were all hunks. As I was walking away the one man said I should be careful what I say or I would have to stay in the bush with him. RUN!

I told them they were all hunks. As I was walking away the one man said I should be careful what I say or I would have to stay in the bush with him. RUN!

Australia & New Zealand Sep 2015 245

Traditional dance

Traditional dance

Australia & New Zealand Sep 2015 229

Little friend

Little friend

Camel riding at sunrise is very popular. Although this was at night..just thought you might like to no that.

Camel riding at sunrise is very popular. Although this was at night..just thought you might like to no that.

Cutest cowboy on the ranch

Cutest cowboy on the ranch

sunset at Camel farm

sunset at Camel farm

Yee-haw! Having a great time at the Camel farm!

Yee-haw! Having a great time at the Camel farm!

We are defiantly not bush woman!

Australia & New Zealand Sep 2015 218

Rocking the outback hat!

Rocking the outback hat!

Client Review of New Zealand December 2014

I went on an Adventure! The entire time I imagined I was a Hobbit on an epic adventure across Middle Earth but discovered so much more to the country of New Zealand than what I had known of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies. Auckland was a diverse city and I immediately threw myself off the sky tower like a good tourist. While staying in Auckland I took day tours to incredible sights outside the city like the beautiful bay of islands where I got to see a pod of dolphins and even more amazing orcas.

The black sand beach of Piha was one of my favorite tours, which I added on once I arrived. One of the best things about my itinerary was the great balance of scheduled tours and free afternoons to potentially add additional tours or discover less well known attractions recommended by the locals.

Hobbiton was by far the highlight of my trip, it was a beautiful day and even if you are not a fan of the movies it is something to see with all of the beautiful landscaping and little gardens. Plus you can grab a steak and ale pie and a cider at the Green Dragon pub.

Weta Workshop was also a must see for me and I actually ended up going twice and jumping tours, since everyone is so accommodating and genuinely excited to share their knowledge of Tolkien facts as well as native history of New Zealand.

Queenstown was my favorite of the cities and I was happy I got to spend so much time there. I fell in love with the south island and hope to return sooner rather than later. Paradise and Glenorchy have breathtaking views and the city of Queenstown is always full of activity. The country is full of activities and adventures and I’ve already started a list of places to see and things to do on the next visit.

 

 

Missy Skoog visits Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island Australia

Twenty-one luxe suites commanding mesmerizing views of the Southern Ocean cantilever along the coast, creating the ultimate fusion between a breathtaking wilderness setting and unbridled creature comforts.

Interiors feature lavish king beds, sunken lounge, dramatic glass walled bathroom featuring Southern Spa amenities and outdoor terrace with occasional seating and daybed. Other features include; walk-in robe, complimentary room bar, twice daily housekeeping, optional climate control

Heated floors,internet, music system (with MP3 input), safe and telephone. Televisions are in selected suites only.

Signature design elements such as sandblasted limestone floors and recycled spotted gum feature walls, as well as contemporary bespoke furnishings and artworks commissioned from local Kangaroo Island artisans harness the natural theater of this dramatic landscape.

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Missy’s Skoog visit to Adelaide, Australia!!

This elegant city is known for its colonial stone architecture, expansive parklands, lively festivals and incredible sense of space. Explore the museums and libraries of North Terrace, dine on dedicated ‘eat streets’ or picnic in gardens that sprawl over almost half the city.  Go bike riding in Botanic Park or row past rose gardens in Rymill Park. Swim with dolphins or learn to sail in Glenelg or fish from the jetty in Henley. Just beyond the city centre you’ll find the picturesque Adelaide Hills and the world-class wineries of the Barossa Valley.

Kangaroo Island is a jewel and the best place in Australia to see native animals in the wild. It also has pristine beaches, dramatic coastal scenery,  awesome sunsets, quality fresh seafood and a “drop” of wine. Don’t miss this iconic destination, just a 30 minute flight or two hours’ drive and a short ferry ride south of Adelaide.

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Missy’s Skoog visits the Great Ocean Road and Twelve Apostles in Southern Australia

The Great Ocean Road is one of the most spectacular scenic ocean drives in the world, with impressive natural formations such as the Loch Ard Gorge, London Bridge, and the famous Twelve Apostles taking the spotlight.  The Great Ocean Road is second only to the City of Melbourne for being the most visited region in Victoria.
In 1864 the State of Victoria identified the need for a road along the south-west coastline, however, the idea was not to be initiated until 1914, with the creation of The Great Ocean Road Corridor Strategy.  The planning process lasted from 1914 until 1918.   In 1918 surveys of the area were completed, and construction began in 1919 employing returned servicemen from the First World War.

The official Great Ocean Road was opened in Lorne on November 26, 1932 by Lt. Governor Sir William Hill Irvine.  From 1932 to 1936, the Great Ocean Road was a toll road, with vehicles stopping at the Fairhaven toll gate.  Fares were 2 shillings and 6 pence per car and driver, and 1 shilling and 6 pence for each additional passenger.

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Missy Skoog trip to Melbourne Australia!

Melbourne is a maze of hidden laneways, opulent bars, exclusive restaurants and off-the-beaten-track boutiques. Here you can soak up culture, hit the sporting grounds, taste the dynamic food and wine AND AMAZING COFFEE, dance til dawn or wander the parks and leafy boulevards.  Visit Federation Square, the city’s landmark cultural space, and enjoy a sunset beer on the St Kilda promenade. Shop till you drop on funky Brunswick Street or upmarket Chapel Street. Wander Southbank’s cafes, bistros and bars and get a world tour of cuisines in Carlton, Richmond and Fitzroy. Take an Aboriginal Heritage Walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens and cheer with a capacity crowd at the Melbourne cricket ground.  I loved my visit here to Melbourne!!!

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Missy’s visit to Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Lizard Island is truly secluded from the rest of the world. Our Great Barrier Reef resort is the northern most resort located directly on the Barrier Reef, with 24 powdery-white beaches and 40 luxurious suites. Enjoy secluded picnics on private beaches, five star cuisine and indulging spa treatments. Little wonder your island consistently makes the Top 10 Hotels of the World list. This will be a Great Barrier Reef holiday unlike any other.

Lizard Island is a National Park covering 1,013 hectares with 24 sandy beaches and a lagoon. Lizard Island is accessed by air from Cairns Airport in northern Queensland, Australia. Cairns Airport is accessible from all major Australian airports and directly from some cities in Asia.

Lizard Island presents elegant, yet understated Barrier Reef accommodation.
Choose from a range of rooms and suites offering relaxed luxury.

With 24 powdery white private beaches to explore, and access only by private plane, there are no day trippers here – the island is reserved for a fortunate few experiencing an unforgettable holiday on the Great Barrier Reef. Relax in style in premium accommodation, or take in the wonders of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef – right on your doorstep.

Enjoy 5 star dining from dawn to dusk at Ospreys Restaurant – the idyllic setting to take full advantage of the views along the seascape for a special dining experience on Lizard Island. You may also choose to enjoy private beach picnics and sunset beachside degustations – with an exclusive menu created by our Executive Chef.

At Lizard Island we take pride in helping our Great Barrier Reef resort guests to have an experience of a lifetime. So, we are proud to be consistently ranked as one of the world’s best resorts. In the 2010 US Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards (Category ‘Top 20 Resorts Oceania’) Lizard Island ranks 8th. Lizard Island was voted second in the category ‘Best Australian Resort’ in the 2009 Gold List Awards. In 2008 Lizard Island was voted as the top hotel in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific and one of the top 100 hotels and resorts in the world at the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards. Read more in the Awards section.

Azure Spa offers a range of treatments inspired by nature to nurture the mind, body and spirit using LI’TYA products a high performance range of natural Australian spa care products that integrate the potent qualities of the Australian earth and spirit

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Missy Travels to Port Douglas north of Cairns Australia!

Port Douglas Australia is just an hour’s drive north from Cairns via a spectacular coastal road that is surrounded by forest and the Coral Sea.

It is the only place on Earth where two World Heritage listed jewels exist; the Great Barrier Reef and the rainforest of Daintree and Cape Tribulation.

We all need time out now and again, enter a laid back tropical oasis with sophisticated worldly comforts offering a small friendly village atmosphere. Go from business suit to barefoot and frantic to free. Refresh, restore and revitalise, in the aquamarine reef waters of the Coral Sea, the crystal creeks of Mossman Gorge, and the palm fringed golden sands of Port Douglas Four Mile Beach.

Discover the breathtaking northern tropics of Australia through pristine Daintree Rainforest walks and safaris, diving and snorkeling the reef and sailing the waterways. Be inspired by the amazing array of nature and wildlife and glorious simplicity.

The climate is seductive. Balmy days dissolve into tropical evenings with velvet starry skies. The tropics are a feast for the senses; the sights, sounds and tastes; you will never want to leave!

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Missy’s stay in Sydney Australia!

Home to the largest population in Australia – called “Sydneysiders” – the capital of the state of New South Wales has come a long way since its 18th-century days as a British penal colony. Sparkling clean and beautifully manicured, the modern-day city takes pride in its lush parks and botanic gardens, wide beaches and 1800s architecture. And with the distinctive Opera House as its icon, Sydney serves as the cultural center of the entire continent.

There’s rarely a weekend in town without a splashy sporting, cultural or dining event, sometimes accompanied by fireworks over Sydney Harbour and its eponymous bridge. The coastal allure of Bondi and Manly beaches may be strong, but don’t miss out on the fascinating natural history of Down Under displayed at the Australia Museum, or the multi-media works at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, highlighting artists who are rarely seen outside the Antipodes.

British influence lingers in Sydney’s traditional pubs, and Asian cuisines compete with espresso drinks for popularity, but for a simple, tasty lesson about Aussie produce and Sydney’s exciting organic food scene, just wander through the stalls at Eveleigh Market. Sydney’s pleasures are colorful, leafy, windswept and simple, with a cosmopolitan flair.

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Missy’s Aussie adventure Brisbane Australia!

Brisbane is a city for the senses; walking under impossibly blue skies around this foot-friendly city opens up a world of experiences. A well planned series of paths and bridges connect the city center to South Bank, as well as many of our urban villages that tease the river’s edge as it bends the city, its parks and gentle skyscrapers.

Our adventure took us to the Australia Zoo, located an hour north of Brisbane on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, is a team of passionate conservationists working around-the-clock to deliver an animal experience like no other. Cuddle a koala, hand-feed our kangaroos, walk with a Sumatran tiger and watch a crocodile launch from the water’s edge. Australia Zoo is the ultimate wildlife adventure delivering conservation through exciting education.

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New Zealand

Maori welcome to New Zealand in the Auckland Airport.

 

Christchurch – The city is working extremely hard to rebuild after the earth quake of 2011.  They are still taking down ruined buildings and making temporary buildings out of shipping containers.  There are more hotels and restaurants being opened all the time.  They have a five year reconstruction project going on.  With that being said, it is a beautiful city and a must see on a trip to the South Island.

 

Lake Tekapo – Being part of the Southern Alps, this is a stunning area for viewing and hiking, biking, etc.  The scenery is breathtaking.

 

Mount Cook – Sunrise is spectacular.  This is a view from the Hermitage Hotel.  Sitting in amongst the mountains, it gives you the opportunity to hike, bike or just sit back and absorb the beauty

 

Wanaka – This is a fantastic location especially if you would like to be close to Queenstown, but not stay in the hustle and bustle.  The Edgewater Hotel, with all rooms facing the lake is quiet with fantastic views, but close enough to town if you would like to walk around the lake and into town.

 

Queenstown – Sunrise brings many colors over Queenstown, though all times of the day are beautiful.  This is the adventure capital for almost anything you can think of – bungy jumping, zip lining, hiking, skiing, snow shoeing, jetboating, whitewater rafting, and the list goes on.  A high adrenaline location, but it can also be as calm as you would like.

 

Skippers Canyon – Today I went on the Skipper Canyon Tour with Nomad Safaris from 8-12 noon.  It was great!  We were in 4WD vehicles and followed the gravel road that the government had built over a seven year period, which was completed in 1890.  It is very rough and runs right along the canyon walls.  You can see the trail where the gold miner’s walked and took their pack mules (which only lasted about three months) until the road was completed.  The area is beautiful, but they explain where the miner’s worked and flattened the different areas.  The miner’s also brought in trees to plant and these trees have taken over the area.  They are now trying to destroy the trees and bring the countryside back to the original type of landscape.  After going over the suspension bridge, you end up at Skippers Point.  The canyon and Skippers Point were named after ‘Skipper’ Malcolm Duncan, who discovered gold in the canyon in 1862.  The town had about 1000 people initially.  The pictures you can look at in the restored schoolhouse and farmhouse, the girls wore white pinafores, the ladies wore Victorian dresses and the men wore suits on Sunday.  There was a hotel, stores, homes, church, a telegraph and a school.  They played cricket and rugby.  They did have electricity here for the telegraph and eventually to have power driven mining

 

Gibbston Valley Winery, Queenstown – If you enjoy wine, the Wine Trail Tasting Tour is wonderful.  You will visit a number of wineries on a tour or on your own, and be able to do tastings at each winery.  The Gibbston Valley Winery also offered a restaurant where you could sample some of the wines with your meal.  They have many different wines from Pinot Noir to Sauvignon Blanc.   We had a great time tasting the wines and New Zealand has some wonderful choices.
Mirror Lakes on the way to Milford Sound – The drive to Milford Sound is stunning and the Mirror Lakes were so beautiful.  Mirror Lakes offers a good place to stretch your legs during the drive to Milford Sound.  Small lakes provide stunning reflections of the Earl Mountains. Water fowl and wetland plants can be seen against a backdrop of beech forest.  This is an easy walk suited to all ages and accessible to wheelchairs.

 

Mirror Lakes on the way to Milford Sound – The drive to Milford Sound is stunning and the Mirror Lakes were so beautiful.  Mirror Lakes offers a good place to stretch your legs during the drive to Milford Sound.  Small lakes provide stunning reflections of the Earl Mountains. Water fowl and wetland plants can be seen against a backdrop of beech forest.  This is an easy walk suited to all ages and accessible to wheelchairs.

 

The Chasm on the way to Milford Sound – Wow!  There was a fantastic waterfall and 20 minute walk around the area.  The Chasm is an impressive hole where a series of waterfalls have sculpted and scoured the granite over thousands of years.

 

Milford Sound – It takes about three hours travel time from Te Anau to Milford Sound with stops along the way at Mirror Lakes and The Chasm.  Milford Sound is by far the best known of all of the fiords and the only one that can be accessed by road.  It is approximately 10 miles from the head of the fiord to the open sea, which means you can comfortably travel the length of the fiord in 1½ to 2 hours cruising time with Real Journey’s.  We had a buffet lunch on board during the cruise.  The captain is very familiar with the area where the fur seals and waterfalls are, so he can direct the boat close enough for everyone to have a chance to see.  It was spectacular.  We then returned to The Distinction Te Anau Hotel & Villas.

 

Hobbiton Movie Set – Discover the real Middle-earth on the most picturesque private farmland near Matamata in the North Island of New Zealand, where you can visit the Hobbiton Movie Set from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film trilogy in a fascinating two-hour guided tour.  The set has been completely rebuilt and can be seen as it appeared in the films. During the tour, they explain how the location was chosen for the filming, how they prepared the location and then the set itself.  The Green Dragon Inn is now open and is a special feature of the tour.  All tour groups visit the inn as part of their tour and receive a complimentary refreshment.  There are spectacular views across to the Kaimai Ranges from the rolling green hills of the movie set, which is still a working sheep and beef farm.  Even if you have never seen the movie or read the books, you will enjoy taking a tour of the movie set.

 

Kiwi Haka, a live Maori Cultural show – We had the opportunity to see a few different Haka shows which provides you a little insight into the Maori Culture.  The Maori’s are the native peoples of New Zealand with the majority living on the North Island.  Journey through the mythical legends and step into the world of the Maori.  Feel the spirit of their proud history celebrated in traditional song & dance.  Experience the fearsome haka and the stunning poi display.  A unique live show performed by Queenstown’s leading Kapa Haka group.

 

Shotover Jetboat –From the mment the accelerator hits the floor, your adrenaline hits the roof as you speed within mere centimetres of water along the famous Shotover River and deep into the spectacular Shotover River Canyons. It’s an amazing white water ride, as the Shotover Canyon walls tower over you, your expert driver puts your ‘Big Red’ Jet Boat through its paces and skillfully whips it past rocky outcrops, skims around crags and boulders, and speeds through the dramatic and narrow canyons. Rock faces blur in your peripheral vision and the water sprays into myriads of white water crystals with every turn as you speed in your state of the art ‘Big Red’ Jet Boat at up to 85kph (53 mph) over crystal clear water as shallow as 10cm (3.9 inches) deep.  This is a real adrenaline rush – and I did it!

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Bula! – Rachel’s review of Fiji

A review of my most recent trip – FIJI!

I have taken a handful of cruises and done a number of ship inspections but I have never had the opportunity to explore a small ship! When the opportunity came to be able to go to Fiji and experience a small ship cruise, I had to go!

We flew with Air Pacific, on their Boeing 747-400.  They were very excited to announce that they will be returning to their 1951 name of Fiji Airways in June of 2013.  We were greeted at 5am with a warm welcome into Fiji!  After passing by here, we proceeded to the customs station to have our passports verified.  From there, we went to claim bags.

It did take a bit of time for our bags to come through, only because of the number of people/size of plane.  While we waited, we were able to go over and exchange our currency.

$100 in USD was approximately $166 Fijian dollars. 

We cleared customs easily, there were two lines, one for guests visiting (left) and one for Fijians returning home (right).  They ran our bags through the Xray machines, verified our documents and we were on our way.  As soon as we exited the area, there was a waiting area for those who had shuttles arranged.

We all joined our shuttle and made our way over to Sonaisali Island Resort.  Once we arrived, we were taken by boat (with our luggage) over to the resort.  It was a nice resort, only 123 rooms (a mix of hotel rooms and bures).  They have a lot of activities right on the property which is great because you are literally on an Island and cannot just walk into town.  You can enjoy paintball, jet skiing, horseback riding, kayaking or if you are looking for a more relaxing atmosphere you can relax at the spa or lagoon – style pool.

From here we joined the Captain Cook Reef Endeavor for a 4 Night cruise through the Yasawa Islands.  The islands were so beautiful and the snorkeling/scuba was amazing!  When they call it the “Soft Coral Capital of the world” they are serious!

We sailed around the Yasawa Island’s visiting villages, a local school, snorkeling a couple of times each day, enjoying the beautiful beaches and enjoying the wonderful Fijian people!

You will want to bring a good supply of sunscreen as the sun is very strong!  I brought 45SPF and I still managed to get a bit of a sunburn (the one morning I forgot to cover my shoulders) and came back with a number of additional freckles.  NO sunscreen left behind!

I would suggest bringing two camera batteries.  One for the camera and a back up because inevitably, the battery will die right when you want to snap a great picture!

Along with a spare battery, an extra memory card couldn’t hurt either!

The crew was fantastic, they performed for us on our last evening.  Their songs were beautiful, their spirits contagious and genuine.  A wonderful experience and I look forward to going back!

Vinaka Vakalevu!

 (Thank You Very Much)

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June 15 the reason they call it “THE” Great Barrier Reef

This is the day for which I personally have been waiting for the entire trip.  Our day literally on the Great Barrier Reef.  And this was probably the day that  put forth the biggest decision.  There was no doubt that we were going to do a day snorkeling at the reef but the question was with whom.  There are so many different companies to choose from and the more we looked the more uncertain we became.  I can tell you now there is one all important determination that you must make and that is strictly related to the expectations of the person.  If you are like me and it is all about reaching the outer reef and snorkeling several sights then choosing a company like Poseidon is ideal.  Poseidon has an excellent craft holding about 85 passengers, great personnel, good for snorkelers and for divers as the day includes 3 separate stops to  snorkel/dive.  On the other hand,  if you are less interested in moving around or your group is made up of people with different interests then I highly recommend opting for a day with one of the tour operators like Quicksilver or Reef Magic that take you to the outer reef to their own platform stations.  These operators offer additional options such as glass bottom boats, semi submersible vessels and even helicopter rides over the reef.

When all is said and done.  I can tell you that snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef surpassed my expectations!   The sights you see pictured in movies and documentaries are for real.  The coral is colorful, the fish are even more colorful. And wouldn’t you know that my little underwater camera ran out of film right when the “big shark” swam right below me!  I am telling the truth!

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