The Big Tiki (Auckland to Queenstown - Until October 2014) » Review by joakes
Deciding to go to New Zealand on Contiki was by far one of the best decisions i've ever made! The only thing i'm sorry about is not choosing to do the full tour and end in Christchurch - because you just don't want the trip to end, nor do you want to leave the people that you've met but if you can't go the whole way then i reckon Queenstown is a pretty great place to finish not only because it's stunning and theres so much to do but because a lot of people tend to finish up here too, at least on my tour. I know some found it a little depressing finishing in Christchurch because of the atmosphere there at the moment. I would definitely recommend staying a few extra days in Queenstown because although you get 4 nights, as opposed to 1 or 2 nights in each other place you visit on tour, there is still so much to do and see. What i did like is that on this particular The Big Tiki tour you get to start at the Bay of Islands which is absolutely stunning and such a great place to begin, many others on my tour started in Auckland after getting back from the Bay of Islands. These extra few days at the beginning allow you to begin to make friendships earlier. Basically, the earlier on you get on the tour the better because of the way the New Zealand Contiki tours are structured. I felt a bit sorry for those who didn't get on until the South Island because most people had already been on tour for over a week which made it harder for them to find their place in the group. The best experience by far for me was the 30 minute heli ride in Franz Josef - had the weather been better i would've loved to have done the heli hike but if you have to choose between the heli ride and the hike i would recommend the heli ride because you get to go right up to the top of the glaciers and get to stop for photos and a brief walk around. I'd also recommend doing white water rafting in Rotorua, Funyaks in Queenstown and the dolphin encounter/sailing combo in the Bay of Islands . Whilst its always great to be doing activities in a group with everyone i'd definitely stress that if there is something you really want to do that maybe isn't what most people are doing still do it because at the end of the day it's your trip. The included tour around the Maori village, Ohinemutu in Rotorua with tour guide Shiloh was one of those experiences that didn't expect to enjoy all that much but it truly was incredible and i definitely found a new level of appreciation and respect for the maori people and their culture. Our TM Laura and coach driver Monkey were absolutely fantastic and added so much fun and energy to our trip all the while being extremely organised and helpful and always ensuring everyone was okay throughout the trip. In terms of phones/communication etc. a couple of people bought either a cheap phone or NZ sim card, but unless you are staying in NZ for a considerable amount of time i think 17 days relying on wifi is very doable. All of the places you stay have access to wifi (a few places had free wifi but most required you to pay and some places had better/faster connections than others) and many places eg. cafes, museums, libraries, the bus (if yore lucky), and trusty maccas, have access to free wifi. Ultimately this trip was the most amazing experience EVER!!! You get to see and experience so much and meet amazing people along the way. All i can say is do it, do it, DO IT!!!
Review written Feb 2014event 0.3