Picturesque landscapes: New Zealand

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New Zealand has to be one of my top five destinations not because it is on the way home for me when I travel back to Fiji Islands but the terrain truly is breathtaking. From spectacular glaciers, rugged mountains, vast plains, rolling hillsides, subtropical forests, volcanic plateaus to miles of coastline with beautiful sandy beaches.

New Zealand has two main islands, the North Island and the South Island and many smaller islands lie offshore. The country enjoys varied landscape and dramatic geographical features and is a popular location for tourists as well as the production of TV programmes and films, including The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy.

Maori Culture is an integral part of New Zealand society. Perhaps the most well known piece of Maori culture is the Haka, a Maori war dance that is performed at many important events, including before each All Blacks game of rugby. It is captivating and one of the things we look forward to during the Dubai Rugby 7s.

Like Fiji, Maori culture has roots in the Polynesian islands but Maori natives have their own particular style developed over centuries. Maori people still consider family and community to be paramount and aspects of this can be found in their art, music, dance and dress. Maori men and women are known to tattoo their faces and bodies with beautiful intricate patterns throughout history.

Nature has blessed New Zealand with some spectacular geothermal areas and relaxing hot springs, as well as providing electricity and heating in some areas. Rotorua is the centre of geothermal tourist activity, with plenty of mud pools, geysers, and hot springs in its active thermal areas–not to mention its trademark ‘Sulphur City’ smell.

First settled by Maori who used the hot springs for cooking and bathing, Rotorua soon attracted European residents. The reputed health benefits of its hot pools quickly earned the area the name of ‘Cureland’.

In addition to Rotorua, you can enjoy hot springs and other thermal activity in most regions of the North Island north of Turangi, as well as in Hanmer Springs and the West Coast in the South Island. The sandy beaches on the coast are perfect for swimming, surfing and sunbathing.

If you love nature, visit the Abel Tasman National Park to explore the most beautiful beaches, bays and lush forests NZ has to offer.  The Abel Tasman is quite like paradise and New Zealand’s only coastal national park. Enjoy long stretches of deserted golden beaches, turquoise clear waters with a fantastic variety of adventure activities.

 

For extreme adventure, adrenaline attractions are plenty in New Zealand. You can leap from an airplane for a sky diving experience, get dropped off by a helicopter on unique and rugged terrain and ski the slopes at a dizzying altitude, jump off a bridge or suspension pod attached only by a bungy cord to your ankles, or ride the Nelson Fly by Wire reaching speeds of up to 100 kilometres per hour.

 

New Zealand’s Southern Alps have a number of glaciers, the largest being Tasman glacier, which you can view by taking a short walk from Mount Cook village. New Zealand’s most famous glaciers are the Franz Josef and Fox on the South Island’s west coast.

 

Health resorts and spas are ideal for spiritual retreats, rejuvenation, beauty treatments or as a getaway to improve your health and well being and New Zealand has plenty of these on both main islands.

 

If you are in Auckland, drive or take the ferry from Auckland City to historic Devonport, explore the naval caves at North Head, and admire the city view. Spend some time at Cheltenham or Devonport Beach. Browse through the boutique shops and cafes and visit the Torpedo Bay Navy Museum, the official museum of the Royal New Zealand Navy.

 

If you have kids, they may enjoy the Kelly Tarltons SEALIFE Aquarium. An all-weather visitor attraction, you can see the world’s largest penguin colony, over 30 exhibits and more than 80 different marine species.

 

For a self-guided tour of Auckland City, visit the Aotea Square, which is used for a myriad of activities including festivals, parades and community events. Auckland’s newest waterfront neighbourhood Wynyard Quarter provides free activities for families in the weekends and school holidays as well.

 

Weather in New Zealand can change unexpectedly. As New Zealand observes daylight saving, during summer months daylight can last up until 9.30pm. Which can be a good thing, as you do need more hours in the day to explore the many attractions New Zealand has to offer.

Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts gets between the sheets with launch of new ‘Sleep individually different’ room concept on World Sleep Day

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The world’s first pocket spring bed with adjustable firmness is the star of the Swiss hotel company’s all-new ‘Sleep individually different’ room category, launching on 17 March

  • Personalised comfort
  • An individually different bed
  • Complete darkness
  • Total silence

Ivarsson added: “The rooms offer a tailor-made sleep like no other. The new beds and our customised rooms adopt the latest technology to help guests personalise their environment, creating optimal conditions for deep sleep. As the first global hotel operator to introduce a room category that offers a bespoke sleep experience, we are an industry pioneer, catering to consumer demand for personalisation to a level never witnessed before.”

Mattias Sörensen, the founder and CEO of YouBed also believes that Mövenpick’s new room concept is revolutionary within the hotel industry.

“Studies reveal that nothing has a greater impact on customer satisfaction than a comfortable bed. Given that all guests have different comfort needs, it is groundbreaking that Mövenpick now offers rooms with a one-bed-fits-all solution. Each guest can also fine tune different parts of the bed, to achieve a really perfect personalisation”, he said.

The ‘Sleep individually different’ rooms, which are priced at just €15 more than a standard room, offer several complimentary amenities such as sleeping masks, ear plugs, lavender pads and black-out stickers that cover lights on electronic devices. Guests in ‘Sleep’ rooms can also tuck into free slumber-inducing goodies such as herbal teas and Mövenpick chocolate.

To create the ideal environment for rest, the rooms are located in quiet areas of the hotel and are kitted out with night curtains for total darkness and special high quality natural bedding. Neck pillows and allergy-free bedding are available too.

More information: www.movenpick.com/sleep

Incredible Iguazu: A stay at Mercure Iguazu

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A few months ago, we ventured to Argentina to get up, close and personal with the famed Iguazu Falls and while there were some great hotels closer to the natural attractions, I spent my nights in Mercure Iguazu surrounded by nature.

The hotel is located in the middle of a natural reserve and built with natural wood and stone that blends in with nature and offers guests a warm ambience. The best part of my stay was a relaxing massage at the spa and relaxation time by the infinity pool surrounded by a forest after a long day at the Cataratas.

After a good nights rest, I spent a full day at the Iguazu National Park which is a total of 55,500 hectares. Surrounded by a lush subtropical rainforest, I enjoyed the majestic Iguazú Waterfalls, the most important and spectacular waterfalls which is also one of the seven wonders of the world.

It is taller than Niagara Falls, twice as wide with 275 cascades spread in a horseshoe shape over nearly two miles of the Iguazu River. It is the most dramatic waterfalls in the world with panoramic walkways. Via different footbridges, we visited the heart of the waterfalls, appreciating them from different angles and refreshed ourselves with the waterfall drizzle at the bottom.

On the upper circuit, we enjoyed the different viewpoints until we reached the balcony at Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat). Without doubt, this is the most amazing of all falls where water falls down from 80 meters.

At the end of the excursion, we ventured to the border, which is a stone’s throw away from Brazil and Paraguay. It is incredible to be able to step foot into three countries in one day if adventurous visitors wanted to experience it.

After a long day of exploring nature, it was a delight to come back to the comfort of the hotel. The hotel is located at the heart of the Iryapú Jungle, just 20 minutes from Puerto Iguazu International Airport and close to the region’s main tourist attractions. All the rooms offer free WiFi, balconies, LCD TVs with satellite channels, minibar, room service and hair dryers to guests.