South Island guide

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In New Zealand, the word “brilliant” is used frequently as an adjective, as in, “brilliant food, brilliant view, brilliant idea.” My husband and I spent two weeks in South Island in March-April ’05. Our driver/guide, Malcolm Latta, was brilliant. What a superb trip we had.

This is not a day-by-day report but rather an overview, indicating the highlights of our journey among the Kiwis. Hopefully, it will provide inspiration and suggestions for those of you contemplating such a trip.

After reading several references on New Zealand and creating a wish list, I contacted Malcolm based on another ITN reader’s recommendation (May ’03, pg. 76). Through many e-mails, Malcolm and I refined an itinerary.

First, I must warn you that the South Island of New Zealand is magnificently beautiful country with a large range of different terrains. There are the rugged ocean and glaciers of the west coast, the quieter ocean of the east coast, the awesome fjords of Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound in Fiordland, the rolling green hills of the central area and the delightful cities of Christchurch and Dunedin.

Malcolm heard our special interests (wildlife) and tailored a 2-week trip to our wishes. He did suggest I drop “this” and add a “that.” He was right. Not only is he a native New Zealander and extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of the country, but he has “tramped” most of it and deeply loves his country.

Our accommodations were thoughtfully chosen. They were a mixture of homestays and motels. Each was elegant in its own way and each had a great location with striking views of ocean, gardens or pastures. The motels offered suites, each with sitting area, bedroom, full bathroom and kitchen. A feature that we had never encountered before was having a Continental breakfast magically appear in the morning or having it, the previous evening, ready for us to set out in the morning.

Malcolm is not a 9-to-5 driver/guide. Instead, he is a partner on the journey — walking the beach looking for unusual rocks, for example.

One time he took us into a forest after dark by flashlight and told us to close our eyes and turn off the lights. When we opened our eyes a few moments later we were surrounded by glowworms.

The yellow-eyed penguins we saw with a special guide — just the four of us above a beach accessed through private property.

Malcolm knows the schedule of all the tour companies, and we were always ahead of the tour buses before they disgorged their large groups. We shared dinner and breakfast with families and we ate at restaurants, whichever was appropriate for that day.

Two weeks was only enough time to see part of the South Island. One could easily spend more time.

The cost for two of us for 13 nights, from meeting on arrival to transfer to the airport at end of trip, with all expenses and including morning and afternoon “tea” on many days, was approximately NZ$14,000, or about US$10,000. For four persons, the per-person cost would be less (about US$4,500).

Contact Malcolm R. Latta, Brilliant Tours of New Zealand (2/20 Geraldine St., Christchurch, New Zealand 8001; tel. +643-377-2650 office, mobile phone +6427-439-8480 or visit www.brilliant-tours.co.nz).

SUSANNA DAVILA
San Rafael, CA

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

In New Zealand, the word “brilliant” is used frequently as an adjective, as in, “brilliant food, brilliant view, brilliant idea.” My husband and I spent two weeks in South Island in March-April ’05. Our driver/guide, Malcolm Latta, was brilliant. What a superb trip we had.

This is not a day-by-day report but rather an overview, indicating the highlights of our journey among the Kiwis. Hopefully, it will provide inspiration and suggestions for those of you contemplating such a trip.

After reading several references on New Zealand and creating a wish list, I contacted Malcolm based on another ITN reader’s recommendation (May ’03, pg. 76). Through many e-mails, Malcolm and I refined an itinerary.

First, I must warn you that the South Island of New Zealand is magnificently beautiful country with a large range of different terrains. There are the rugged ocean and glaciers of the west coast, the quieter ocean of the east coast, the awesome fjords of Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound in Fiordland, the rolling green hills of the central area and the delightful cities of Christchurch and Dunedin.

Malcolm heard our special interests (wildlife) and tailored a 2-week trip to our wishes. He did suggest I drop “this” and add a “that.” He was right. Not only is he a native New Zealander and extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of the country, but he has “tramped” most of it and deeply loves his country.

Our accommodations were thoughtfully chosen. They were a mixture of homestays and motels. Each was elegant in its own way and each had a great location with striking views of ocean, gardens or pastures. The motels offered suites, each with sitting area, bedroom, full bathroom and kitchen. A feature that we had never encountered before was having a Continental breakfast magically appear in the morning or having it, the previous evening, ready for us to set out in the morning.

Malcolm is not a 9-to-5 driver/guide. Instead, he is a partner on the journey — walking the beach looking for unusual rocks, for example.

One time he took us into a forest after dark by flashlight and told us to close our eyes and turn off the lights. When we opened our eyes a few moments later we were surrounded by glowworms.

The yellow-eyed penguins we saw with a special guide — just the four of us above a beach accessed through private property.

Malcolm knows the schedule of all the tour companies, and we were always ahead of the tour buses before they disgorged their large groups. We shared dinner and breakfast with families and we ate at restaurants, whichever was appropriate for that day.

Two weeks was only enough time to see part of the South Island. One could easily spend more time.

The cost for two of us for 13 nights, from meeting on arrival to transfer to the airport at end of trip, with all expenses and including morning and afternoon “tea” on many days, was approximately NZ$14,000, or about US$10,000. For four persons, the per-person cost would be less (about US$4,500).

Contact Malcolm R. Latta, Brilliant Tours of New Zealand (2/20 Geraldine St., Christchurch, New Zealand 8001; tel. +643-377-2650 office, mobile phone +6427-439-8480 or visit www.brilliant-tours.co.nz).

SUSANNA DAVILA
San Rafael, CA