It’s easier to get to my favourite Asian country – Malaysia

As readers of my blog and book know, Malaysia is my favourite SE Asian country so had to pass on this tidbit about flights from New Zealand, just in time for the Visit Malaysia Year 2014 year, with Malaysia Airlines’  flights daily from Kuala Lumpur to Auckland starting March next year. (Check out all my blogs under the category “Malaysia” on the right – i have lot more to write too after my recent visit to Sabah and Sarawak)

The press release  reads:

“Zalina Ahmad, director of Tourism Malaysia in New Zealand, says 2014 is a year in which New Zealanders can expect an extremely hospitable welcome from all Malaysians and find a huge array of things to do.

“Malaysia is well known for its food and shopping, but New Zealanders can just about think of anything they would like to see and do and they will find it Malaysia,” she says

For active Kiwis there is the whole gambit of water sports, including international tournaments in sailing and fishing, world class diving locations and white water rafting, a myriad of golf courses, extreme 4WD and mountain biking tracks, Formula One motorsports, motorbike racing and car rallying and jungle trekking.

For families there are fun parks and theme parks like Legoland and Hello Kitty World, Kuching’s Cat City and opportunities to stay in traditional Malaysian long houses and explore the differing aspects of the many cultures that make the country so colourful.

Malaysia covers not only the main peninsular with world renowned beach resorts like Langkawi, but also Borneo with the states of Sabah and Sarawak.  Some of Malaysia’s beaches are considered the best in the world.

“The announcement by Malaysian Airlines is the beginning of what will be an exciting year,” Zalina Ahmad says. “For New Zealanders who have thought about a holiday in Malaysia, Visit Malaysia Year 2014 will certainly be the time to make that dream come true.”

For information about visiting Malaysia go to ”


So like the Nike advert .. just do it … and I’m sure you’ll love it just as I do.

PS: I have an e-book on its way about Borneo Malaysia which will be available late January 2014

Te Wao Nui, Auckland Zoos’ latest development

Te Wao Nui,  Auckland Zoos’ latest development opens in one month (Sunday, 11 Sept. 2011) and, one of the benefits of being a travel writer is you can get off the beaten track – or in this case, behind the fenced off area! With my ‘high-vis’ jacket on, I’m taken on a mini tour of the area by Jane Healy who is enthusiastic about the project.   

“Much of the work the zoo has done with native species has taken place behind the scenes. The Archey’s frog, for instance was housed off-display. Now, with Te Wao Nui, people will be able to see them and many more New Zealand native species” she tells me.

Covering one fifth of the Zoo, the area gives locals and tourists a unique experience of New Zealand with over 100 New Zealand native plant species and around 60 different animal species through six habitats’

I cross over the Old Stone Bridge and can see most of the area which is very close to completion and have the birds move in and settle before the public come to see them.   Here is a little of what is saw … in no particular order!

Jane tries to duck from the camera as we enter one of the areas of Te Wao Nui

The Islands area has a large Kauri Dam (originally a working one that has been moved here) and a large aviary where Tuatara, the Campbell Island Teal and Antipodes Island Parakeet, skink and geckos will live.

Wetlands has a large walk-through aviary, backed by a high mock-rock wall,  will hold: native eels, Kotuku, Pied Stilt, Kingfisher, Ducks  such as Shovellers,  Scaup, Grey Teal, and one of my favourites, the Paradise Shelducks.

The Night Forest is a large shed and will house the North Island Brown Kiwi, Ruru, and Short-tailed Bats. Its great people will be able to see these natives up-close, in the middle of our largest city.

On an island like New Zealand, the Coast is highly important. In this area of the zoo, Sea Lion and Fur Seals will be on show, while in the refurbished shore-bird aviary, Little Blue Penguins, White-faced Heron and Spotted Shags will be resident.

The Forest is the old walk through aviary (upgraded and re-fenced) which I well remember as that is where I first saw the beautiful black and tan saddleback (tieke). Evidently, Kokako, Kakariki, Brown Teal and kereru will be just some of our wonderful birds that will live in there.

Waiting for the whio!

As a Cantabrian, I was of course interested in The High Country. This will house the cheeky, and intelligent Kea, and the Blue Duck (Whio) – in its fast flowing ‘mountain stream’. The Whio is a unique and threatened species of waterfowl endemic to New Zealand. It is the only member of its genus and has no close relative anywhere in the world. Curious weka will also be here: a children’s playground is sited here too – a great place for parents to sit and chat while kids burn off some energy and natural surroundings.

I look forward to returning to the zoo to see the birds (and others) in their new, reproduced ‘normal’ native habitat. Te Wao Nui will be an asset to Auckland Zoo with its current and future conservation efforts on behalf of New Zealand’s native species.

Have a short break in Auckland

Fancy a short break in Auckland? I’ve just had one, and before I get those stories written, here’s a brief overview of my few days before the stories are written.  I’m happy to recommend all the choices I made. Bookmark this page so you get to hear about them in more detail very soon – some in the print media, and some online on this blogs pages.

My little holiday started with a train trip on the Overlander, a 12-hour journey from Wellington to Auckland. What fabulous scenery is hiding from those who usually drive up there!  Paul Theroux says ‘trains are the only way to travel’ – it certainly was relaxing.

My choice of accommodation was the Quadrant Hotel  in central Auckland. With four stars, green goals and very handy (often walking distance) to many of the places I wanted to visit. For the others, it is also close to the Britomart transport hub and wharf.

So, as well as the train and hotel, what else will I be writing about?  Well, Kelly Tarlton and the Auckland Zoo are ’must-sees’ for kids and adults alike.  Also, the zoo has its fabulous new Te Wao Nui opening in September (2011) so make sure you bookmark this page as that’s the first story I will be writing. The Auckland Museum is a traditional museum with interesting flourishes – it seems it’s also the only place in Auckland where you can experience a Maori cultural performance daily.

Local Maori also host guided walks (Tamaki Hikoi) and I had a Prince show me around the volcano that the museum sits on the rim of (well, not exactly A prince, but Prince by name!) This was the perfect way to start an Auckland trip with family and local tribal history – it sort of set the scene!

So, there’ s a taster of what’s to come . . . in the meantime check out the links above and come back here soon.

Editors are of course welcome to contact me for stories about any, or all, of these topics.


visitor numbers both down and up in New Zealand

Auckland visitor numbers plunge 8pc in new stats (from  NZ HERALD)

A 14 per cent fall in international visitors staying in Auckland has pushed total guest nights across New Zealand down one per cent for May.

A rise in overseas visitors staying in Canterbury and Otago helped limit the fall in nationwide guests nights in May to 1 per cent, compared to a year earlier.

Figures released by Statistics New Zealand (SNZ) today domestic visitors staying in Auckland accommodation were also down, but by a lesser 3 per cent.

The 2 million guest nights in short-term commercial accommodation in May, while down on a year earlier, were up 4 per cent from May 2007, SNZ said.

Despite the overall fall, the 800,000 guest nights in the South Island in May were 2 per cent higher than a year earlier.

International guest nights accounted for 46 per cent of the South Island total at 366,000, up 16,000 or 5 per cent from May 2008.

In Canterbury international guest nights rose 8000 or 6 per cent, while in Otago they were up 8000 or 7 per cent

A fall of 34,000 guest nights in Auckland, a change of 8 per cent, skewed the overall results, with the nationwide fall in May being just 13,000 from a year earlier.

International guest nights in Auckland fell 27,000 or 14 per cent, while domestic guest nights were down 8000 or 3 per cent.

Of 12 regions, eight recorded more guest nights in May than a year earlier, with the West Coast up 7000 or 10 per cent, Taranaki/Manawatu-Wanganui up 4000 or 4 per cent, and Wellington up 4000 or 2 per cent, SNZ said.

While the trend for total guest nights appeared to have been increasing in 2009, after falling in 2008, more data was needed for the direction of the trend to be confirmed.

Hotels recorded 18,000 or 2 per cent fewer guest nights in May than a year earlier, while caravan parks/camping grounds recorded a rise of 13,000 or 5 per cent.


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