Travel Tuesday: Visit South Pacific wonders with Mary Curtis

Geothermal area, New Zealand, date not specified | Photo by Mary Curtis, St. George News

FEATURE — Mary Curtis, a travel consultant in my office recently returned from a tour of New Zealand. Mary will be hosting an informative seminar about her tour at the Marriott Courtyard on Thursday. However, since New Zealand is on many bucket lists, I could not wait to interview her about her experience.

Flying to the South Island, date not specified | Photo by Mary Curtis, St. George News

Have you been to New Zealand before?

I’ve never been there and it was (and still is) on my bucket list. I already had plans to go with some of our clients on an escorted tour next spring. When this opportunity arose for a fast and furious trip to acquaint travel agents with New Zealand, I jumped at the chance!

Not only did I learn a lot, I returned with a different opinion on where I wanted to take our clients. I had originally considered just the South Island but there are things in Rotorua on the North Island that shouldn’t be missed, and I can’t wait to go back for more!

What type of trip was it?

This was an example of what escorted tours are like. Unlike a cruise experience with thousands of people, I was traveling with just 40 passengers. It is so convenient because we had a knowledgeable tour guide, a comfortable motor coach, accommodations, meals and several activities included. I just had to pack my bags, and everything else was taken care of for me.

What were your favorite activities or destinations?

I enjoyed being exposed to the Maori cultural experiences provided on the North Island. The Maoris were wonderful and so proud of their heritage. We were treated to an authentic Haka type ritual of one tribe greeting another tribe as they were welcomed. I have to admit, it didn’t look very welcoming to me!

Lake in New Zealand, date not specified | Photo by Mary Curtis, St. George News

What is a fun fact you learned about the area?

I’d always heard about New Zealand being a country of adventure, and it certainly is. The Shotover Jet Boat was amazing, and I’m so glad I did that. The bungee jumping bridge was closed for the season, so we didn’t get to see anyone take that plunge this time.

Before the Europeans arrived on the shores of these two islands, there were many species of birds including the Moa, which is now extinct. Even the kiwis are having a difficult time surviving with the non-native predators thriving.

How was the food?  Did you try anything unique?

They have fabulous meat pies that are sold everywhere. I split one with one of my companions on the last day of our trip, and it was amazing. I wished I’d tried it sooner at one of our lunch stops.

Several breeds of sheep are raised all over New Zealand. Some are incredible for their wool and others for their meat. I’ve never been a fan of lamb, but I had it on three occasions and I have to say, it was wonderful.

I don’t know if it was just the season, but they served a lot of pumpkin flavored dishes which were great. The soup was exceptional. Pavlova is their traditional dessert and was served with every meal. It was very tasty, and I’m sure I gained a few pounds from just that.

Who should take this type of trip?

Safari of the Rings Tour, New Zealand, date not specified | Photo by Mary Curtis, St. George News

This is the perfect trip for someone who has always wanted to go to Australia and New Zealand – it is the trip of a lifetime. If you’re only going to do it once and want the convenience of having everything taken care of for you, an escorted tour is the way to go.

Any advice for someone considering this trip?

I would highly recommend traveling with a group. Whether it is a group of friends or strangers, it makes it much more fun. Of course, it is more comfortable traveling with a tour guide and a driver than trying to drive on your own on the “other” side of the road.

Mary is hosting an informative seminar about her tour to Australia and New Zealand Thursday at 10 a.m. at the Marriott Courtyard, 185 S. 1470 East in St. George. Attendees can RSVP by calling 435-628-3636 or email mary@stgeorgetravel.com.

Written by CELECE KRIEGER, The Travel Connection

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