Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best way to get to the South Island?
Fly into Auckland (Qantas, United Airlines, American Airlines and Air New Zealand offer flights that connect from Los Angeles to Auckland), and then transfer to Christchurch via connecting flights on Qantas or Air New Zealand. Once you arrive in Auckland, go through customs and claim your luggage, even if you checked them all the way through to Christchurch. After going through customs with your bags, go to domestic departures. You have two options to get from the International terminal to the Domestic terminal. A free bus runs between the terminals from 6:00am to 10:30pm. This bus departs from directly in front of the terminals. It stops at both the Air New Zealand and Qantas Domestic terminals. There is also a walkway between the International and Domestic terminals. From Queenstown, flights return to Auckland and then the United States.
What will the weather be like?
New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere; therefore, all seasons are the opposite of those in North America, Europe, and other Northern Hemisphere locations. The South Island has a temperate climate. From January through March, average high temperatures in the South Island range in the low to mid 70s. From April through May and September through December, the highs are in the mid 60s, and from June through August highs are in the upper 50s.
What is the local currency and how do I exchange dollars?
New Zealand’s currency is the New Zealand dollar (denoted as NZ$). The rates float in relation to the US dollar. The current exchange rate is about NZ$ 2.00 to the dollar. There are 6 coins: 5, 10, 20, 50 cents, $1 and $2. There are 5 notes: 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 NZ$. The easiest way to obtain foreign currency, prior to departure, is to visit International Currency Express, Inc. online at www.foreignmoney.com, or call toll free (888) 278-6628; outside the US call (310) 278-6628. You may pay by check or credit card, and you will receive the currency that you purchase by UPS Second Day Air. Once in-country, US dollars and travelers checks can be exchanged at banks and some hotels (with various commission charges for exchange). Banks are generally open weekdays 9.00 am to 4.00 pm. In addition, major towns have ATM cash machines that will allow you to receive NZ$. Some hotels and restaurants will also accept credit cards, such as VISA and MasterCard, with fewer accepting American Express and others. In some smaller towns and villages, credit cards are not accepted at all.
Do I need a passport and visa?
US citizens need only a valid passport to enter New Zealand. Visas are not required. Passport applications and renewal forms can be picked up at any of the 13 US Passport Agency offices and at many post offices and courthouses. It generally takes about four weeks for your application to be processed. The Department of State Office of Passport Services has an information line (202-647-0518). For passport information online, go to www.travel.state.gov
Is Africa a good family destination?
Africa offers outstanding value for families. However, some destinations and establishments cater more fully to the enjoyment of children. In Kenya, children five years and younger are generally not allowed on game drives in the parks and reserves, although they can stay at the lodges. Most lodges have swimming pools and baby-sitting services. Travel to Tanzania is not recommended for children younger than eight years old. In Botswana and Zambia many lodges do not take children under twelve years of age.
What are the entry requirements?
All visitors are required to carry a passport that is valid for six months beyond the intended length of stay. Nationals of certain countries do not require visas–it depends on the country you are visiting. It is advisable to check with the Consulate of the country that you intend visiting for the latest visa and entry requirements. The list below contains the current visa requirements applicable to most North American and European countries.
Botswana: A visa is not required for tourists.
Kenya: A visa is required and costs $50. The visa can be obtained through a Kenya embassy in advance of your trip or upon arrival at the airport.
Namibia: A visa is not required for tourists.
South Africa: A visa is not required for tourists.
Tanzania: A visa is required and costs $50. The visa must be obtained in advance of your trip unless you live in a country that does not have a Tanzania embassy.
Uganda: A visa is required and costs $50. The visa should be obtained through a Uganda embassy in advance of your trip.
Zambia: A visa is required and costs $40. The visa can be obtained at the airport and borders.
Zimbabwe: A visa is required and costs $30. The visa can be obtained at the airport and borders.
How did the “big five” get their name?
The “big five” are: leopard, lion, elephant, rhino, and buffalo. These animals constitute a wish list for many people on safari. The term is a reference that dates back to colonial trophy hunting. Hunters ranked African animals according to how dangerous they were to hunt. This is why hippo and giraffe–despite their stature– are not among this elite, sought-after group.
What types of safari accommodations are available?
There are quite a wide variety of accommodations available while on safari. Depending on the country visited, the types of safari accommodations include: lodges, permanent tented camps, mobile camps, and basic camping. Following is a brief description of each:
Lodges–are essentially hotels in the bush. They accommodate between 100 and 200 people. They provide most of the amenities found in a hotel (e.g., restaurant, lounge, swimming pool, etc.). This is a good choice if you want to be comfortable and have certain creature comforts when you return from game viewing.
Permanent Tented Camps–provide accommodations ranging from comfortable to luxurious. Most consist of large walk-in tents on elevated wooden platforms, with beds, chairs, furniture, and an en-suite bathroom with hot and cold water and flushing toilets. Permanent camps accommodate a smaller size group (20-30 people) than lodges, allowing a more personal interaction with the natural habitat.
In a Mobile Camping safari the accommodation moves with you. There are three types of mobile camping safaris:
1. Luxury Camping Safaris: These safaris travel in the grand style of the great explorers. The accommodations are walk-in East African tents, with en-suite facilities and hot showers. A full complement of staff pre-erect and dismantle the camp and cater to your every need.
2. Semi-luxury Camping safaris: These safaris combine camping nights with lodge nights. Usually, the relocation of the camp is combined with one or two nights at a safari lodge before going back into the camp at a new location. The camps consist of sleeping, dining, kitchen, and staff tents, with toilet and hot water shower annexes. The sleeping tents are completely insect proof, with a high outer fly and small shaded veranda. They are furnished with comfortable beds, bedside table, and chairs. The camp cook prepares meals on an open charcoal fire.
3. Basic Camping safaris: All basic camping safaris are not equal. There are three different standards within this category:
a) Serviced Camping: Accommodation is in 2-person igloo style tents. Shower and toilet enclosures are separate from the tents and are communal. Cots, linen, bedside tables with light, are provided and no sleeping bags are necessary. The camp staff erects and strikes camp and prepares the food.
b) Limited Participation Camping: Accommodation is in 2-person igloo style tents. Shower and toilet enclosures are separate from the tents and are communal. Foam mattresses and all camping equipment are provided, with the exception of sleeping bags, which you can bring or hire. A limited participation camping safari requires that you put up and take down your tent. A camp assistant helps with general camp chores and duties.
c) Full Participation Camping: Accommodations are the same as above. However, a full participation camping safari requires that you assist in putting up and taking down the camp–including your tent–and preparing meals, etc.
How much canoeing experience does my family need?
None. The beauty of the canoe is that paddling can be easily learned. Guides and instructors will show you all you need to know for a safe and enjoyable canoe/camping adventure.
Do we have to worry about bears or wolves while we are camping in the North woods of Canada?
While there is a good chance you will see a black bear and moose (from a distance) and you will hear wolves howling at night, there is nothing to worry about. Your guide will show you how to safely camp in the wilds so that unwanted animal encounters will not happen. Our wild animals are to be kept wild.
Is a canoe trip suitable for young children?
A good provider will design a canoe/camping adventure for the entire family. However, a canoe adventure is best enjoyed by children five and up. Some providers will customize trips that will accommodate children younger than five
1. What is the best time of the year to go to the Galapagos?
There really is no off-season in the Galapagos–any time of the year is a good time to go. The islands, being on the equator, have a pleasant temperature year round. However, equator does mean hot, so it is always best to be prepared to deal with potentially intense sun and heat.
From January to June the weather tends to be slightly milder and drier and the seas are quite calm. The water temperature is quite pleasant, although a light wet suit may be nice for snorkeling.
From June through December the garua (meaning wet and misty) season kicks in and most likely you will experience low-level clouds (and shelter from the sun) but there really is not that much rain. The seas can be a bit rough during this time of year, and the water temperature cooler. A wetsuit for snorkeling is a good idea.
2. How long should we plan to be there?
There are three and four day trips, even five- day trips. But, if one is going this far, and has the time, it is best to commit to a seven day voyage in order to experience as much as possible. Most people book a seven-day trip.
3. What will we see in the islands?
Some of your Galapagos experience will take place on land and some will take place while snorkeling in the water. The variety of flora and fauna in the archipelago is astounding. Often people return home finding it hard to put into words the experiences they have had in these active volcanic islands! Depending on the itinerary you choose, you most likely will see some, or all, of the following: sea lions, land and marine iguanas, blue-and red-footed boobies, penguins, frigate birds, flightless cormorants, turtles, giant land tortoises, short-eared owls, sally light foot crabs, mangroves, cactus, lava cactus, cactus trees, and some of the most spectacular scenery from beaches to mountaintops and volcanoes. Do some reading ahead of time. There are lots of great books available.
4. What should we bring along?
Most importantly, pack light. Try to bring clothing that can be hand washed and is quick drying. The Galapagos tend to be a very casual destination and everyone dresses accordingly. Although the following is by no means a complete list, it gives you an idea:
– a couple of pairs of trousers (zip off legs are great!)
– 2 or 3 pairs of shorts
– swim suit
– a couple of short sleeved shirts (t-shirts are fine)
– short sleeved shirt / long sleeved shirt
– a tank top or two
– one or two pairs of sturdy walking shoes
– one pair of shoes for wet landings
– supply of socks and underwear
– for ladies, a loose lightweight dress is nice for the evenings
– good sun hat (one that covers your ears)
– sunscreen (lots of it and a high factor)
– lots of film
How are rapids rated for difficulty?
The International Scale of River Difficulty is as follows:
Class I- Easy. Few or no obstructions; fast moving water with riffles; risk to swimmers is slight.
Class II- Novice. Wide clear channels; occasional maneuvering; rocks and medium-sized waves are easily missed by trained paddlers; swimmers are seldom injured; assistance is helpful but rarely needed.
Class III- Intermediate. Rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid and capable of swamping a canoe; complex maneuvers in fast current and narrow passages require good boat control; large waves, holes, and strainers may be present but are easily avoided; powerful current; scouting advisable; swimmers are unlikely to be injured but assistance may be needed to avoid a long swim.
Class IV- Advanced. Intense, powerful rapids; turbulent water; may involve long, unavoidable waves, holes, or constricted passages demanding fast maneuvers under pressure; may require “must” moves above dangerous hazards; risk of injury to swimmers is moderate to high; assistance to swimmers requires practiced skills.
Class V- Expert. Long, obstructed, turbulent rapids; drops may contain very large unavoidable waves, holes, or steep congested chutes with complex demanding routes; several of these factors may be combined at the upper level of this class; rescue is extremely difficult; above average rescue skills are essential.
Class VI- Almost Impossible. Difficulties of Class V are carried to the limits of navigability; very dangerous; risks are high and rescue may be impossible; for teams of experts only under favorable conditions.
What if I cannot swim?
Many rafters cannot swim. Most providers issue Coast Guard-approved lifejackets, which must be worn. On advanced trips it is recommended that you have basic swimming skills.
Do I need to be physically fit?
You do not need to be an athlete. However, good physical condition is recommended. Lifejacket limitations are a maximum girth of 52″. For any medical conditions that may be affected by strenuous activity please consult your doctor. Most providers do not allow pregnant women to raft.
He narrowed his eyes against the scorching noon day sun as he topped the hill and, looking off across the endless sea of sage, caught the movement of the ornery stray he’d been pursuing since dawn. Spurring his bay, the catclaw scratching hungrily against his chaps, he galloped down …
Any vacation begins with a fantasy and a ranch vacation is no exception. It surely follows that the closer you can come to fulfilling your fantasy, the more satisfying the vacation will be. One way to start a successful search for your dream ranch is by understanding what’s included in your delightful vision. To do this, simply answer the questions that follow. Make a list of your answers and use it as you talk with the ranches that seem to interest you.
Questions to ask yourself.
1. What time of year do you want to go?
This will be determined by which ranches are operating and open to guests. Due to snow conditions, the northern ranches of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and those at higher elevations, often open later in the spring than more southern ranches in Colorado or those at lower elevations. On the other hand, many Arizona ranches are open through the winter months but less active during the summer. Some ranches are open all year but have different activities to fit the season.
2. Do you have a specific geographic region, location, or type of terrain in mind?
The background for your fantasy may be the wide-open sagebrush country, the hills and cactus of the Southwest, or the lodgepole pine forests of the Rocky Mountains. It may also include a side trip to visit Aunt Marie or one of the marvelous national parks that are sprinkled throughout dude ranching country.
3. Who is included in your fantasy trip?
Are you a couple, single parent, or a single? Do you have small children or teenagers? While anyone can fit in at almost all ranches, you may have particular preferences. For example, if you have children or teens, you may want to select a ranch with organized activities for the kids. If you are single, you may wish to locate a ranch that is more adult oriented.
4. Do you prefer a program that is more or less structured?
Larger ranches are usually able to offer more organized options and scheduled entertainment programs, while smaller ranches often can offer more personalized riding activities but fewer non-riding programs. Are you more comfortable in small groups or when blending in with the crowd?
5. What type of riding experience are you looking for?
All ranches focus on horseback riding as the main activity, but the programs differ. Some ranches are working cattle ranches that also accept guests. Many of these allow the guests to assist with the ranch chores. Others offer actual cattle drives during specific periods. Of course, you are on vacation and are never obligated to do any work!! Some ranches offer only walking rides while others allow trotting and loping as well. Most ranches offer instructions for beginners through experienced riders. Many ranches offer overnight pack trips, often at an extra charge, while others may focus on pleasure riding in breath-taking country. Whether you are a beginning rider wanting lots of support or an old hand looking for a challenge, there are ranches that can meet your needs.
6. What activities besides horseback riding are you looking for?
Is one of you an avid fisherman or just dying to experience the thrill of white water rafting? Do you need a ranch with a children’s program, a hot tub, swimming pool, or one that has evening programs? There are ranches that can meet your specific needs.
7. What type of accommodations and meals are necessary in your fantasy?
While the fantasies of many include a rustic cabin or historic mountain lodge, some may prefer the adobe of the southwest or the smell of a canvas tepee on a cattle drive. Ranch accommodations range from a simple room in the main ranch house to elegantly appointed cabins with moss rock fireplaces. Regardless of your preference, most ranches offer comfortable beds, private baths, and daily maid service. Specifying what you expect will help you find and get what you really want in accommodations. The same is true of meals. Almost all ranches offer hearty ranch breakfasts of eggs, pancakes or waffles, bacon, ham or sausage, coffee and juice. Some will have homemade granola, fruit platters, Eggs Benedict or similar fare. Most offer late risers fruit, cold cereal or muffins. Lunch and dinners range from basic meat and potatoes to gourmet candlelight dinners.
8. Does anyone in your party have any special needs?
Do you require a special diet or an extra firm mattress for a back problem? Do you need any help or assistance in getting around? Do you have a little one that may require baby-sitting services? If you have a special need, be sure to ask if the ranch can accommodate it.
9. Call or write the ranches for their brochures.
After contacting the ranches that seem right for you, review the material they send you. Narrow it down to the three or four most likely candidates. Next, call these ranches and use your answers to quiz each ranch about their location, programs, accommodations, and meals. Be specific about what you want. The ranchers won’t be insulted — they know from experience that repeat visitors tend to be those who have found just the right match to their fantasy. They would rather deliver more than you expect, than to have you leave feeling your vacation didn’t meet your expectations.
10. If all else fails!
… and you just can’t seem to decide, ask the last candidates for references (former guests) you may contact.
Once you’ve found your perfect ranch, don’t delay in making your reservations. Ranches have a limited number of guests they can host at any one time, so, if your vacation time is limited, plan ahead. Many ranches begin booking a year in advance. Following these simple steps should help you find the perfect ranch for you. Good Riding!