It wasn’t in our plan for 2011.
We have a busy year coming up, and a detour to New Zealand wasn’t exactly in the cards. The Mongol Rally starts in a few short months and we were already settled in Thailand. We were enjoying the warm weather and planning to work for a month or so to catch up on the backlog of website details that need to be done. We were busy on another adventure with Smiling Albino that Thailand Tourism set up for us and we had to get ourselves home by April to organize our visas for our epic two continent land crossing.
But how could we pass up visiting the Adventure Capital of the World?
We didn’t have the chance to do a lot of research on the Flying Kiwi and we didn’t know what to expect. We simply bought a ticket to Christchurch and hoped for the best.
It almost didn’t seem like it was going to happen when the massive Christchurch earthquake rocked the country two days before we were to arrive. But we rebooked our hotel, made arrangements with Flying Kiwi for an alternate pick up and off we went. The Flying Kiwi staff was a great help at keeping us informed on the situation in Christchurch and by helping us make other arrangements.
To read more about our time in Christchurch just after the Earthquake,
- What a 6.3 Earthquake can do to a City
- Post Earthquake Travel in New Zealand
The Flying Kiwi is a well-oiled machine. National Geographic rated it as “New Zealand’s top rated budget operator for customer satisfaction” in it’s 2009/2010 Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth edition.
The customers seem to really enjoy themselves on the Flying Kiwi. People of all ages join the tour at all different times. There are students and retirees, doctors, professionals and “travel bloggers” all taking part in the Flying Kiwi experience.
What is great about the company is that you can hop off and stay in a destination as long as you want and catch the next bus that comes through every 9 days.
One girl has been traveling in New Zealand for 6 months using the Flying Kiwi. She ended up staying in one place for several weeks before hopping on the bus to catch a ride to her next destination.
As one guest said to us, he likes the Flying Kiwi because it is more organized than the other operators around New Zealand that are similar. Here, meals are provided, campsites are booked and optional activities are suggested at every stop. According to this customer, he has enough stress to deal with at work than to have to deal with stress in his vacation.
As mostly independent travelers, it is interesting for us to observe the other travellers on Flying Kiwi. Some people are here because it gives their families peace of mind to know they are traveling in a foreign country with a company that offers safe transport and accommodation. Others travel with Flying Kiwi because they are travelling solo and enjoy the camaraderie. Some enjoyed their experience so much in the past that they are return customers coming back to pick up the bits. Others are on their first travel outside of their home country and wanted something different than your typical package tour. It is a good alternative for students that are too young to rent a campervan or don’t have the confidence to drive in a foreign country.
Different Travel for Different People
All people travel differently and this is a great way for those looking to see a lot of the country at an affordable price in a short amount of time. It is a non-stop itinerary with very little down time, but it packs every highlight and must see attraction into a compact trip.
It has been fun for us to travel in different styles over the past year. No one-way of travel is better than the other and each has its strengths and weaknesses. Each offers a unique way to explore a country and Flying Kiwi’s unique niche is to give each customer a sense of adventure in a controlled environment.
Everyone that signs up for a flying Kiwi trip is provided with a tent, is assigned cooking and cleaning duties and is given the opportunity to cycle some incredible scenery and to hike through some fabulous and fun trails.
You will definitely go home feeling satisfied that you sampled the best of what the country has to offer. It stops long enough at each tourist destination for you to take part in activities such as bungy jumping, glacier walking, white water rafting and glow worm caving just to name a few.
We are only part way through the experience and are starting to settle in. At first we felt overwhelmed and out of the loop. People that join the tour together tend to bond with one another and it takes a few days to get to know the other customers on the bus. Now that we are making friends and bonding ourselves, we are starting to really enjoy our Flying Kiwi experience; Especially now that we scooped up prime seats on the bus. The newbies are stuck in the seats near the front, but when someone hops off, the people that have been on the tour for a while jump into the prime spots.
No excursions are included in the Flying Kiwi (except for some hikes) and bikes are an extra cost, but if you are looking for an overland tour that will take you through the highlights of New Zealand this is a good alternative. Be prepared however for the cost of excursions. If you want to make the most of all the adventures that New Zealand has to offer, you will have to dig deep into your pockets. Otherwise you will be stuck hiking every day while your fellow travelers go off on tours and adventures.
For More information check out the Flying Kiwi website where you can see if the tour is right for you, what type of tour you should pick and what tours are the most popular choices for travellers.