Eeling on Downunder holidays for the well-heeled

By Yvonne Tahana

Tourism company Ahipara organises holidays for the super-rich, with guests staying in luxury accommodation such as the Bay of Island's Eagles Nest. Photo / Supplied
Tourism company Ahipara organises holidays for the super-rich, with guests staying in luxury accommodation such as the Bay of Island's Eagles Nest. Photo / Supplied

A New Zealand travel agency named on an exclusive list once organised a million-dollar holiday for a super-rich client which included an eeling trip.

Boutique tourism company Ahipara has made it on to Travel + Leisure magazine's A List 2012, a nod to 130 travel agents who've been judged the best in the world.

The publication is part of the American Express Corporation stable and serves up travel stories and suggestions to millions of readers.

Ahipara is a boutique tourism company run by Jean-Michel and Karen Jefferson from their Central Otago farm.

Mrs Jefferson, a New Zealander, met her husband in the UK and in 1998 the pair moved here.

Mr Jefferson said he immediately fell in love with the country and wanted to share Kiwi experiences.

"Basically, not being a Kiwi I was immediately jealous of everyone that grew up here because I thought the lifestyle was the best I'd ever seen. The idea is to get to know whoever's coming and then turn the country on for them."

His company offers experiences such as cooking crayfish on the beach, hunting and trout fishing but it also pairs clients with people who don't work in the industry but are "real characters". Tourists have been windsurfing with Bruce and Barbara Kendall, experienced winemaking with celebrated vintner Grant Taylor or taken guided tours with Lydia Bradey, the first woman to climb Everest without oxygen.

The business organises holidays which cost between $5000 to $800,000, although a few years ago Mr Jefferson organised a million-dollar, 15-day holiday for a billionaire and his party of 10.

"The brief was: 'I've got plenty of cash and I just want the best time possible.' He said to me 'I really want to go eeling.' So I rang up an old friend in Kaikohe and we helicoptered out to this pond near Kerikeri, got some eels, had them smoked... and there was a picnic."

Many of the super-rich wanted ordinary experiences, Mr Jefferson said.

"You get people jumping out of cars saying 'oh my, it's a sheep'. They're not used to hands-on interaction that everyone gets in this country."


Getaways for the rich

Included in Ahipara's $1 million holiday:

*Accommodation: Eagles Nest in the Bay of Islands, staying in the luxury Rahimoana Villa.

*For two nights the website advertises an $11,000 deal but Mr Jefferson said his clients paid $37,500 a night for 11 people. "It was very James Bond."

*Two helicopters daily for $5000 each.

*Powhiri on a beach, plus hangi, guests welcomed by warriors on a waka: $5000. "We used the helicopter to ferry food from clifftop to beach, like a hotel lift."

*Tahr and Chamois hunting in the South Island: $20,000.

*Fiordland helicopter trip: $10,000.

- NZ Herald

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