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Blanket Bay Lodge South Island NZ

by on Mar.07, 2020, under Happenings

On Thurs­day, Feb­ru­ary 27 we flew from Hawks Bay on the North Island to Auck­land and then to Queen­stown on the south end of the South Island. We trav­eled by car an hour to the south end of Lake Lake Wakatipu to the Blan­ket Bay Lodge. The lodge is a very impres­sive stone and wood struc­ture over­look­ing the lake and the Liv­ingston Moun­tains. Our suite was at the south end of the hotel and had a patio and win­dows that gave us spec­tac­u­lar great views.

The weath­er changed our plans for Fri­day so we moved the day’s activ­i­ties to Sun­day and enjoyed a day of relax­ing at the lodge and a vis­it to the lit­tle town of Glenorchy for some shop­ping and sight­see­ing in the driz­zle. Sat­ur­day the weath­er coop­er­at­ed so we embarked on our Dart Riv­er Jet Boat Wilder­ness excur­sion. This includ­ed a mini-bus ride through the coun­try­side lead­ing to the rivers enter­ing the south end of the lake, then a hike through the for­est and final­ly a Jet Boat ride up then back down the Dart Riv­er. The Jet Boats are fast and boun­cy able to trav­el with only 8 inch­es draft over the rocky riv­er rapids. We had pon­chos but we still got a lit­tle wet but the incred­i­ble scenery and excit­ing ride made it worth it.

Sun­day was our last day of tour­ing and it was also Joyce’s Birth­day. We were picked up in front of the lodge after break­fast by our heli­copter for the morn­ing. We lift­ed off head­ed across the lake and climbed over the Liv­ingston Moun­tains, through val­leys, over glac­i­ers, tra­versed the val­ley to the next range, the Franklin Moun­tains, and descend­ed into Mil­ford Sound to the beach on the Tas­man­ian sea. A recent “rain event” washed a large amount of drift­wood and a num­ber of boul­ders onto the beach which made for an inter­est­ing walk. We land­ed on a glac­i­er and the beach for a hike as well as on the side of the moun­tain over­look­ing Lake Wakatipu and had a cham­pagne birth­day toast. The sites were spec­tac­u­lar, our pilot Rene was great and when we were done we land­ed back on the east side of the lake at Moon­light lodge the head­quar­ters of a 33000 acre “Sheep Sta­tion” (Ranch). One inter­est­ing obser­va­tion was that the glac­i­ers had a red hue, which was caused by ash from the recent fires in Aus­tralia. The three-hour heli­copter explo­ration of the South Island moun­tains was one of the high­lights of our trip.

We were met by Pad­dy our driver/guide at Moon­light lodge and were intro­duced to John Fos­ter the own­er of the sheep sta­tion. We then took a tour via a Can-Am ATV (All-Ter­rain Vehi­cle). We drove up and down over lots of rugged ter­rains which is where John rais­es his sheep. The area is graz­ing land, native beech for­est, lakes, rivers, min­ing huts, and tracks from the gold min­ing era. Before lunch, we explored pri­mar­i­ly sheep graz­ing land with panoram­ic views of the moun­tains. We then enjoyed a pic­nic lunch with John and Gin­ny Fos­ter and his son and grand­son as well as Pad­dy in front of Moon­light lodge which is also John and Gin­nys home. In keep­ing with our entire New Zealand expe­ri­ence, we were wel­comed and treat­ed like fam­i­ly in the typ­i­cal open com­fort­able sin­cere style of the peo­ple of this beau­ti­ful coun­try. We learned a lot about the busi­ness of pro­duc­ing fine meri­no wool, main­ly that it includes a lot of hard work and the mar­ket for wool is uncer­tain. After lunch, we reluc­tant­ly said our good­byes to con­tin­ue our tour. Pad­dy then took us down the canyon which was a major gold-pro­duc­ing area, with rema­nents of past min­ing activ­i­ty and beau­ti­ful clear streams to ford. We swapped vehi­cles and then toured what was the gold rush town of Arrow­town that is now most­ly shops and restau­rants for tourist. We then head­ed back to the Blan­ket Bay lodge for our last din­ner in New Zealand.

In hon­or of the birth­day, the lodge poured cham­pagne for cock­tails and since it was a beau­ti­ful evening we dined out­doors on the deck with the incred­i­ble view we have enjoyed so much. It was anoth­er exquis­ite din­ner with anoth­er excel­lent New Zealand wine fin­ished with a birth­day cake to cap off a won­der­ful stay.

 

We had a leisure­ly morn­ing Mon­day pack­ing and one last great break­fast served by the out­stand­ing Blan­ket Bay staff. Our dri­ver picked us up and we were dri­ven back to Queen­stown for our flight back to the U.S. through Auck­land. This was the fifth trip orga­nized by Tony Huff­man for us and again it was anoth­er incred­i­ble expe­ri­ence. Tony and his asso­ciates as well as his part­ners, in this case, Sea­sonz in New Zealand, made the trip effort­less, absolute­ly first class with every detail attend­ed to. Our New Zealand expe­ri­ence was one of the best ever, Thanks, Tony.

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Christmas 2019

by on Dec.29, 2019, under Family

Anoth­er great fam­i­ly Christ­mas, maybe the best ever. The grand­chil­dren are matur­ing and every­one seems to just enjoy get­ting togeth­er and add Christ­mas tra­di­tions and its spe­cial. Jen­nifer, Mike, and Alexan­dra drove from Flori­da on the Sat­ur­day before Christ­mas and we met at the cot­tage at Chechessee Creek. It was relax­ing, with some pre-Christ­mas things includ­ing dec­o­rat­ing the Christ­mas tree. On Christ­mas eve Hei­di, Gary, Brenn, Caitlin, and Kin­sey came over from Savan­nah arriv­ing in time for Christ­mas eve din­ner. Plen­ty of food and cheer with antic­i­pa­tion for Christ­mas morn­ings gift exchange. Christ­mas morn­ing dawned a beau­ti­ful day and every­one was up at the appoint­ed 7:45 AM that had been nego­ti­at­ed the evening before. It was great fun with every­one enjoy­ing the gift-giv­ing and receiv­ing. This was fol­lowed by a hearty brunch, then on to fig­ur­ing out how to oper­ate new things or start­ing new books, etc. There were trips to Spring Island, vis­its to the gym and relaxing.

Christ­mas din­ner prepa­ra­tion start­ed right after brunch with the 15-pound prime rib going into the oven. Every­one did their thing until around 5:00 PM when the ther­mome­ter said the cen­ter­piece was done and we gath­ered and final prepa­ra­tions were com­plet­ed, includ­ing carv­ing the roast. It was a great Christ­mas feast and after the bless­ing was said we indulged. After din­ner, there was Apple and Mince pie and more Christ­mas fun.

The day after Christ­mas, there was some shop­ping by a few brave soles, Brenn and Gary went fish­ing, the gym got heavy good use, there were trips to Spring Island and some read­ing and relax­ing. Brenn, Gary and­Mike sight­ed in Bren­n’s new pel­let gun behind the cot­tage, Mike, Alexan­dra, and Gil went to the shoot­ing range and sharp­ened their pis­tol shoot­ing eye. In the evening, Gary went out and brought the fam­i­ly bar­beque from one of the favorite local restau­rants and we again had more than enough to eat and drink. After din­ner more fam­i­ly social­iz­ing. Fri­day the Mont­gomerys and Prado’s head­ed home. Joyce and Gil had a qui­et din­ner of left­over roast, fresh veg­eta­bles from the Spring Island farm, and the last of the mince pie. The tree came down and great mem­o­ries were all that was left as we head­ed back to Hilton Head. What a great fam­i­ly hol­i­day week!

 

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Thanksgiving 2019

by on Dec.03, 2019, under Family

Joyce and I flew to Fort Laud­erdale Flori­da for Thanks­giv­ing. A beau­ti­ful day and a per­fect flight. By the time we had unloaded and put the cov­er on the air­plane, Jen­nifer was there to pick us up and take us to Casa Mont­gomery a lux­u­ry resort in South West Ranch­es. We stopped for lunch and got set­tled and it was time for cock­tails and a bar­beque in Jen­nifer and Mikes’s new­ly redone out­door kitchen.

Wednes­day was a day of relax­ing, some shop­ping, and ear­ly prepa­ra­tion for tomor­row’s feast. Weath­er was great so we enjoyed the day which fin­ished with din­ner out­side on a per­fect Flori­da evening. Thanks­giv­ing day saw the seri­ous meal prepa­ra­tion get start­ed, some foot­ball view­ing, more relax­ing and a mid-day snack. Alexan­dra showed off her Christ­mas dec­o­rat­ed room and we hung out until it was time. Jen­nifer cooked the turkey in their out­door kitchen, and Mike did the carv­ing. It was a great way to give thanks and enjoy our fam­i­ly over a great din­ner. We enjoyed pump­kin pie, then Alexan­dra enter­tained on the piano. Real­ly, a great fam­i­ly day.

Black Fri­day saw a lit­tle bit of shop­ping and Alexan­dra did some rid­ing, but the main activ­i­ty was enjoy­ing fam­i­ly and relax­ing. The cooks got the night off and we did Asian at a near­by restaurant.

Sat­ur­day after break­fast we left Fort Laud­erdale Exec­u­tive air­port on anoth­er per­fect day for the two and a half hour flight back to Hilton Head. Anoth­er great flight and by twelve-thir­ty we were hav­ing lunch at our favorite Mex­i­can restau­rant on the Island. Anoth­er great Thanks­giv­ing with min­i­mum stress and max­i­mum fam­i­ly fun.

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Patty, Suzy and Tina’s visit to the Low Country

by on Nov.11, 2019, under Family

My three sis­ters from Ore­gon came to South Car­oli­na at the end of Octo­ber for a short vis­it. We did a lot of tour­ing includ­ing Hilton Head Island, Savan­nah, the cot­tage at Chechessee Creek, Spring Island, Beau­fort and Bluffton. The Pra­do fam­i­ly joined us while we were at the Chechessee Creek cot­tage and treat­ed our vis­i­tors to a boat tour of the riv­er and marsh­land sur­round­ing Spring Island. We did a trol­ly tour of Savan­nah includ­ing a tour of the Mer­cer House famous from the book and movie, Mid­night in the land of good and evil. They also toured Beau­fort by car­riage as well as dip­ping their toes in the Atlantic ocean ” I can’t believe the water is so warm”.  We also did a lot of eat­ing of local dish­es and even saw a Man­a­tee at the dock where we had lunch on Hilton Head Island. What fol­lows are some pic­tures from the visit:

Hilton Head Island Touring

Tour­ing Savannah

Tour­ing Beaufort

Chechessee Creek, Spring Island

Bluffton and Hilton Head Island

The weath­er was per­fect and we caught up on fam­i­ly hap­pen­ings and were re-intro­duced to the Low Coun­try of South Car­oli­na. We thor­ough­ly enjoyed the com­pa­ny and vowed to get togeth­er soon and hope­ful­ly include more of the family.

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Family trip to Africa 2019

by on Jul.31, 2019, under Family

We depart­ed our home air­ports on Sun­day, July 14, met in Atlanta where we board­ed our fif­teen and half hour flight to Johan­nes­burg, South Africa. We were met after clear­ing cus­toms by the Aber­crom­bie & Kent rep­re­sen­ta­tive and escort­ed across the street to the Inter­con­ti­nen­tal Hotel where we would spend the night. The next morn­ing after break­fast, we were escort­ed to our char­tered flight to Botswana, with a stop to clear cus­toms in Maun, then on to our des­ti­na­tion, Sanc­tu­ary Chief’s Camp.

We arrived at the camp and were met by the staff singing a native wel­come song. We dropped our bags in our room, had lunch on the deck, and we are off on our first game drive.

Every­one was excit­ed about our first dri­ve and we saw lots of inter­est­ing ani­mals, but there was antic­i­pa­tion to see some of the big cats and oth­er big animals.

That evening we set­tled in and then were treat­ed to a show put on by the local tribe mem­bers on the staff. Cock­tails and din­ner are excel­lent and we were off to a great start on our adventure.

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Sanctury Chief’s Camp

by on Jul.31, 2019, under Family

Sanc­tu­ary Chief’s Camp is sit­u­at­ed on the pri­vate Mom­bo Con­ces­sion with­in the More­mi Game Reserve, at the core of the Oka­van­go Delta. The area is a mix of mature wood­lands, the biggest island being Cheif’s island on which the camp is built and ver­dant flood plains that become inun­dat­ed from as ear­ly as April every year. The camp gets its name from the deceased Chief More­mi III’s wife under whose lead­er­ship in 1963 estab­lished the More­mi game reserve. It is the only offi­cial­ly pro­tect­ed area of the Oka­van­go Delta and has result­ed in an amaz­ing con­cen­tra­tion of diverse Africa species. The Sanc­tu­ary Retreats orga­ni­za­tion owns and man­ages a num­ber of high-end camps and lodges in five African countries.

The camp itself is made up of the main lodge with lux­u­ry Pavil­lion Rooms on either side of the lodge fac­ing a dried lake bed with a water­ing hole in front of a deck. Dur­ing the rainy sea­son, the lake is full, dur­ing the dry sea­son it hosts a parade of all kinds of ani­mals com­ing to drink or wallow.

We had five Pavil­lion Rooms that includ­ed a bed­room, sit­ting room, ful­ly stocked bar, deck, pool, dress­ing room and bath­room with an indoor as well as an out­door show­er. Recent­ly refur­bished every­thing was mod­ern, except the roof was thatched (wood ceil­ings in rooms). When the ear­ly morn­ing wake-up calls (knock on the door) start the baboons would jump from roof to roof mak­ing a huge racket.

The rou­tine at Chief’s camp was a six A.M. wake up call, break­fast buf­fet with served entres to order, morn­ing game dri­ve leav­ing at sev­en A.M. with a cof­fee break in the bush mid-morn­ing then return to the camp for a sit down served lunch from the menu. The after­noon game dri­ve left at three P.M. with cock­tails served in the bush around sun­down and the return to the lodge for more cock­tails and din­ner served from the menu. The food, wine, cock­tails, ser­vices were first class and the staff was extreme­ly friend­ly and well trained includ­ing the two dri­vers, track­er, guides assigned to our group.

 

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Sanctuary Chiefs Camp, July 17th.

by on Jul.31, 2019, under Family

Our first full day at Chiefs Camp starts off with an African sun­rise then an incred­i­ble leop­ard pho­to op. A male and female, thought to be broth­er and sis­ter were fin­ish­ing off their impala kill. The male was eat­ing but the female was pos­ing and what a job she did.

We then get treat­ed to an Ele­phant show, first at the water­ing hole while hav­ing lunch in camp, then lat­er out in the bush.

We enjoy view­ing a num­ber of addi­tion­al species in addi­tion to the ele­phants in the after­noon. includ­ing a Baboon perched on top of a ter­mite mound to scan for predators.

 

 

 

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Chiefs Camp, Thursday July 18th.

by on Jul.31, 2019, under Family

Thurs­day was our last full day at Chief’s camp and it turned out to be a full one which includes, a Hye­na fam­i­ly and Rhi­no pho­to op in the morn­ing along with some oth­er inter­est­ing species.

When it was time to return to camp for lunch we had a sur­prise. The chef and staff had set up a stir fry to order lunch, of course with a bar, in the bush.

Tomor­row we will fly on to Singita.

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Last Day at Chiefs Camp then on to Singita

by on Jul.31, 2019, under Family

Joyce and I decide to have a leisure­ly morn­ing as every­one else decides to take one last game dri­ve on the way to the airstrip for our flight in the same King Air that brought us. It’s cool and we have break­fast with our fam­i­ly then see them off. We say our good­byes to the won­der­ful Chiefs Camp staff, then are dri­ven to the airstrip for our flight. It’s a short flight to Maun to clear cus­toms out of Botswana, but this time they decide to do it the hard way and it takes us an hour and a half because they inspect every bag. We con­tin­ue the hour and forty-five-minute flight land­ing at San­gi­ta lodge where we are met by our guides and track­ers. Our Host­ess wel­comes us to our com­pound, our chef has pre­pared lunch and we still leave for the after­noon game dri­ve at three-thir­ty. We come upon a small heard of Rhi­nos wal­low­ing in a water hole with both Black and White species, which is an impres­sive start. We then view some ele­phants and start to get the lay of the Sin­gi­ta land.

The first evening we join the oth­er lodge guests at the main lodge for a bar­beque. We are intro­duced to the excel­lent Sin­gi­ta wine col­lec­tion, and a won­der­ful meal cooked over the fire. We are then enter­tained by the local tribe who per­form a tra­di­tion­al dance, that includes par­tic­i­pa­tion by some of our fam­i­ly. It was a very aus­pi­cious start to our stay at Singita.

 

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Singita Ebony Lodge a magic place

by on Jul.31, 2019, under Family

Sin­gi­ta Ebony Lodge is the orig­i­nal loca­tion in the 19 lodge San­gi­ta col­lec­tion of top-end lux­u­ry “camps.” The pri­vate prop­er­ty is set with­in the 160,500-acre Sabi Sands Game Reserve adja­cent to Kruger Nation­al Park in north­east­ern South Africa. San­gi­ta Ebony Lodge sits on a bluff over­look­ing the Sands Riv­er, where we had a two-fam­i­ly suite (four bed­rooms) plus com­mon area and a sep­a­rate suite for Joyce and me. Our sep­a­rate com­pound had its own Host­ess, Chef, serv­ing staff and we had two track­ers and two guides assigned to look after us. The main lodge was a five-minute walk away.  Our rou­tine was to rise at six A.M. have a light break­fast and leave on the game dri­ve at sev­en. We would stop around nine A.M. for cof­fee, cocoa or tea, and a bis­cuit, then con­tin­ue our morn­ing game dri­ve. We then would have a large breakfast/brunch around eleven and then relax or par­tic­i­pate in activ­i­ties until three P.M. We then would leave for the after­noon game dri­ve, stop for a glass of wine or cock­tail before return­ing to our lodge, where we would have a gourmet din­ner pre­pared by our chef after cock­tails. Sin­gi­ta is one of the biggest buy­ers of pre­mi­um wines in South African and they served out­stand­ing wines at every oppor­tu­ni­ty. Our Track­ers and Guides were superb and became part of the fam­i­ly quickly.

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