What adventure means to Intrepid travellers

Nearly 70 percent of Australians define “adventure travel” as getting off-the-beaten track, as opposed to adrenaline-junkie pursuits, according to Intrepid‘s inaugural Adventure Travel Index.

The Index, which looked at trends in 2017, also revealed that women are leading the way when it comes to solo trips, while an increasing number of families are opting for more challenging holidays.

“Adventure travel is one of the fastest growing sectors in tourism, and Australians are leading the way,” says Intrepid Group CEO James Thornton.

One of the reasons adventure travel is on the rise is because we’re overworked, according to the findings. Research shows that 51 percent of Australians choose an adventure holiday because they’re tired and stressed. As for the type of vacation, cycling has skyrocketed in popularity.

Age is no barrier, either, with the research revealing that all demographics are keen to head to Peru, Cambodia, Morocco, Cuba and India.

As for Australian travellers’ favourite adventure destinations, the Index found that Iceland, Croatia and China are becoming more popular. No longer is Myanmar on our radars, dropping from Intrepid’s top 20 list, however the United States is slowly coming back in favour.

When it comes to how we view adventure travel, 43 percent of Australians think of it as escaping typical tourist trails, while 26 percent see it as experiencing something new.

Looking ahead, next year we’re expected to see renewed interest in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Moldova, Greenland and Kazakhstan, while millennials and Gen Z will “drive increased demand for responsible travel”.

*The Adventure Travel Index combines Intrepid statistics, external research, studies from Deloitte and Nielsen, and a survey of local tour leaders worldwide.

Sydney Surf Pro kicks off

One of Australia’s iconic surf destinations, Manly Beach, is hosting around 200 of the world’s best surfers from today, for the inaugural Vissla Sydney Surf Pro. Among the Aussie women to be taking to the water are Laura Enever, Macy-Jane Callaghan and Kobie Enright, while the men include World Championship Tour 2017 Rookie of the Year Connor O’Leary, Mitch Coleborn and Dion Atkinson.

All up, there will be surfers from 20 nations, including Brazil, the US and Japan, and they’ll compete in a number of local, junior and World Surf League Qualifying Series 6000 events.

Vissla Sydney Surf Pro is a community-based event, from February 24 to March 4, that celebrates surfing’s unique place in Australian sport and culture. Along with the action in the water, the Pro will also include a Lifeline surfing event highlighting the benefits of the sport for mental health, along with surfboard shaping demonstrations (Feb 27-March 4) and a VW Kombi Rally (March 3).

To keep up to date, check out sydneysurfpro.com.



Perisher invests another $4m

Perisher Ski Resort is spreading early Christmas cheer with the announcement of a $4.2-million investment in new infrastructure and expanded snowmaking. This latest investment at Australia’s largest resort will see Leichhardt T-Bar being replaced with a new quad chairlift, and more snow guns. The work will be carried out over the 2018/19 summer and completed in time for the 2019 snow season.

Leichhardt T-Bar services one of Perisher’s intermediate terrain parks, which is one of the most popular spots on the mountain with skiers and snowboarders lapping the jumps and rails. Home Rope Tow will also be replaced, with the new chair increasing lifting capacity in the area by 75 percent and providing better access to The Cleft, Powder Ridge and Snowy Trails runs, as well as the park.

“Replacing the Leichhardt T-Bar with a quad chairlift is a huge improvement,” says Perisher Mountain Manager Andrew Kennedy. “The area provides some of the best tree skiing in the resort and will be a favourite during the winter storms, giving access to great powder skiing amongst the shelter of the tree-lined terrain on Powder Ridge,” he says.

Leichhardt T-Bar is steep and for advanced skiers and boarders only. The chairlift, however, will be open to children and beginners, giving them another way to access Happy Valley T-bar. The snowmaking operations will be installed from the base of Happy Valley T-Bar to the new lift. Perisher’s Chief Operating Officer Peter Brulisauer says the extra snowmaking means skiers and boarders can enjoy another lift and run as they wait for Mother Nature to deliver natural snow.

“It will ensure we can open terrain in this part of the resort earlier, providing great conditions across the entire winter for our guests,”  Brulisauer says.

The extra snowmaking will take the resort’s investment in man-made snow to more than $25 million in recent years. This investment also follows the installation of the Freedom Quad Chairlift in Guthega in 2014. Perisher Ski Resort is in the New South Wales’ Snowy Mountains. It has 1,245 hectares of skiable terrain, 47 lifts, five terrain parks, two rider-cross courses, and a half pipe.


Astra Lodge wins at World Ski Awards

Astra Lodge, in the Victorian Alps, has been named Australia’s Best Ski Boutique Hotel 2017 at the World Ski Awards in Austria. It’s the second time the five-star property has taken out the prestigious award, having received the honour in 2016. In their fifth year, the awards are highly coveted and honour the elite of the ski hospitality industry.

The winners were announced at a special event at one of Europe’s most famous alpine towns, Kitzbuhel, in Austria’s Tyrol province, on November 18. Astra Lodge owner Rosy Seaton says the awards are the “Oscars of global ski tourism”, and are voted for by leading ski tourism professionals and ski consumers from around the world.

“Personally, we felt incredibly proud to accept the award on behalf of all the Astra team who have worked tirelessly to achieve a remarkable standard in the ski industry, not only in Australia but within the international ski industry community,” Seaton said following the awards.

“We feel that what sets Astra apart from our peers are the five-star facilities we have on offer but, more importantly and above all else, Astra offers our guests a sanctuary with world-class services and where our guests are always at the heart of what we do.”

The annual World Ski Awards is an international initiative to recognise, reward and celebrate excellence in ski tourism. Businesses and resorts from Australasia, the Americas and Europe compete across a number of categories, including Best Ski Resort, Best Ski Travel Agent and Best Ski Tour Operator. Astra Lodge, located in the heart of Falls Creek Alpine Resort, was also a finalist in the Best Boutique Hotel in the World category.

Astra Lodge is one of Australia’s premier ski-in ski-out properties. Over the 2016/17 summer, the owners completed a major three-year renovation, which included an additional wing of studios and family rooms.

WILDfest launches in style

The inaugural WILDfest, Australia’s first wilderness festival, has successfully launched in the New South Wales Southern Highlands. The three-day event in Joadja, (held from October 27-29) attracted nature lovers and foodies from around the state, with the highlight being WILD Native Feast. The feast had a “top hats and tiaras” surprise theme and featured live entertainment and a seven-course meal by Damien Monley, head chef and owner of Grand Bistro, Bowral. But WILDfest, the brainchild of Southern Highlands local Amanda Fry, is more than an indulgent weekend away. It’s a festival designed to encourage a greater appreciation of the outdoors.

“This is intellectual tourism but I’m trying not to make it so obvious,” Fry told The Adventure Journal.

“I’m trying to teach you without teaching you, and that’s really what intellectual tourism is. You just don’t hit people over the head with it; you just get them excited enough to want to ask the questions rather than feeling like they’re being dictated to.”

Fry has been an animal carer for years and says she decided to start WILDfest because of her love of wildlife.

“I wanted to do work in Australia and say to people ‘you can go to the Northern Territory and have one of the most amazing experiences, but if you don’t have seven hours on a plane and you don’t have the time, look what we can show you an hour and half from where you live’.”

Joadja was a fitting location to achieve Fry’s objectives, given its cultural significance and location in a somewhat hidden valley at the end of a rutted clay road. Founded in 1850, Joadja was a shale mining town made up of mostly Scottish immigrants. At its peak, there were 1200 people living in the isolated valley before the Australian Kerosene Oil and Mineral Company ceased mining operations in the early 20th century. Subsequently, the workers abandoned Joadja and now native vegetation is reclaiming the ruins of a village that’s become home to mobs of eastern grey kangaroos.

At daybreak, those kangaroos greet WILDfest’s overnight guests who stay in a “pop up wilderness hotel” consisting of stunning glamping tents from Avant-Garde Camping Co. These guests were joined by festival day-trippers on hiking and mountain-bike tours of Joadja, and on kayak excursions in nearby Kangaroo Valley. Local conservationists and animal carers also called in with an eastern grey kangaroo joey and koala as part of an educational talk on the importance of maintaining healthy habitats for Australia’s native wildlife.

*WILDfest will be held annually at Joadja, with pop-up events across Australia. For more, visit wildfest.com.au.

World Expeditions acquires NZ cycle tours

World Expeditions has expanded its presence in New Zealand by acquiring a majority shareholding in Trail Journeys, one of the country’s most popular self-guided cycle tour operators. World Expeditions CEO Sue Badyari says the move is designed to cement World Expeditions as a major player in the NZ cycle scene.

“Trail Journeys are the ideal complement to our well-established cycle brand, Adventure South, which runs fully-supported, guided cycling holidays primarily on the South Island, from its base in Christchurch,” Ms Badyari said in a statement.

“New Zealand is a highly desirable destination for active travellers seeking an immersive experience,” she added. “We are very excited to be offering a fun, affordable product to people keen to see the country’s stunning natural landscape via its network of cycle trails, enjoying quality accommodation, great food and wine along the way.”

Trail Journeys has a more than 400 bikes for hire and has bases in Clyde and Middlemarch, at either end of the famous Otago Central Rail Trail.

As part of the acquisition, World Expeditions has also become a shareholder in Trail Journeys Nelson, which offers guided and self-guided cycling tours from its bases in Nelson, Mapua and Kaiteriteri, paving the way for it to become the leading operator on the Tasman Great Taste Trail.




Aussie ski resorts extend season

Australia’s leading ski resorts will stay open for an extra week, closing on October 8 instead of the usual October 1/2. Perisher, in the NSW Snowy Mountains, was the first resort to make the announcement, boasting the best snow conditions in five years. Mt BullerMt Hotham and Falls Creek, all in Victoria, will also offer skiing for an extra week.

Perisher management made the call on the back of more than two metres of snowfall through August and a forecast for more in September. The natural snow depth in the Snowies currently sits at 233 cm.

Mt Buller, 3.5 hours’ drive from Melbourne, also decided to extend its season following “the best recorded September snowfalls since 1992”. At the start of September, the resort received a top up of 50-plus centimetres of snow.

“We have 180 cm of deep and good quality snow cover on our ski runs and more cold and snowy weather in the forecast, so it’s an ideal opportunity to keep the lifts rolling and invite snow lovers to enjoy this very wintry September and ski for another week,” says Buller Ski Lifts General Manager Laurie Blampied.

It’s been 17 years since Hotham has stayed open past the October long weekend but, with 420 cm of snowfall (throughout the season), the decision was a no-brainer.

Meanwhile, Falls Creek management says with 100 percent of terrain currently open and a snow depth of around 1.5 m, the resort has “the best combination of spring-like weather with winter-like snow”.

Mt Buller buried under fresh snow in September 2017. Credit: Mt Buller


NZ island named Dark Sky Sanctuary

New Zealand’s Great Barrier Island has become the first island in the world to be designated an International Dark Sky Sanctuary. Located off the north-eastern coast of Auckland, the island’s night skies will now be officially protected.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says the island community is focused on protecting and preserving its stunning natural beauty.

“Great Barrier Island is a place of rugged beauty and untouched wilderness,” he said, “and is one of the most tranquil and unspoilt places in the wider Auckland region.”

Already, the island is ‘off the grid’, meaning light pollution is minimised. According to Tourism New Zealand, the definition of a Dark Sky Sanctuary is public or private land that has an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights, and a nocturnal environment that is protected for its scientific, natural or educational value, cultural heritage and/or public enjoyment.

Great Barrier Island is only the third place in the world to receive this designation, following New Mexico, in the United States, and Chile. Also known by its Māori name, Aotea, the island has a population of 900 people, and more than 60 percent of the 285 sq km is public land administered by the Department of Conservation. The destination is popular among adventurers and nature lovers, with walking trails through native forest, natural hot springs, fantastic scuba diving, fishing, surfing, kayaking, mountain biking, and camping.



Aurora Expeditions introduces Antarctic skiing

Travellers to Antarctica will now be able to go skiing, with Aurora Expeditions introducing the classic winter sport to its tours. The polar cruise specialist is also adding snowshoeing to its list of activities for the 2017/18 season.

The skiing in Antarctica tour option means Aurora passengers have the chance to ski glacial slopes, traverse remote areas to iceberg-studded bays and even follow in Ernest Shackleton’s footsteps across South Georgia. With unpredictable snow conditions and terrain that varies from gentle slopes to crevassed glaciers and alpine bowls, this is an excursion for the true adventurer.

Passengers will travel in small groups with experienced ski guides, and can expect to learn mountaineering and ski-touring skills, including how to use an ice axe and crampons, what to do in the event of an avalanche, and how to build emergency shelter.

Snowshoeing in Antarctica, with Aurora Expeditions. Credit: Tarn Pilkington.

If you prefer soft adventure, snowshoeing in Antarctica runs for up to three hours and is a great way to see more of the pristine continent. A reasonable level of fitness is required and, as with the ski touring, the aim is for six excursions or more per voyage, depending on weather and landing sites.

The two new activities are available on selected 2017/18 itineraries, including the In-depth South Georgia & Antarctica and Spirit of Antarctica expeditions departing in November and December (2017).

Mt Buller opens with free night skiing

Mt Buller, in the Victorian Alps, has also announced it’s opening ahead of the official start to the Australian ski season, beating Perisher, in NSW, by one day.

Buller will have lifts turning on Friday, June 2, allowing skiers and snowboarders to hit up the main run, the beginner-friendly Bourke Street, during a special and free Friday twilight session from 5:30pm to 8:30pm. Bourke Street will remain open into the weekend, as well as next week, with the Blue Bullet lift turning from 9am to 5pm daily. Beginner “Discover” lessons will also be available at the ski and snowboard school.

“Everyone is excited to get on the snow as soon as possible, so we’re inviting everyone up for a free night ski this Friday,” said Buller Ski Lifts General Manager Laurie Blampied on Wednesday.

“We’ve invested in new stadium-style lighting on Bourke Street that turns night into day and this is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the early snow and get out for a Friday night slide.”

From Saturday, lift passes will be $60 for adults and $33 for children.