GOURMET KOSHER TRAVEL FEATURE- FOCUS ON “DOWN UNDER”- Australia and New-Zealand
The name Australia evokes images of Crocodile Dundee, waltzing Matilda, cricket, the Sydney opera house, and of course, kangaroos.
Boasting some of the world most remote wilderness and some of its most developed cities, it is at once both modern and wild, civilized and primitive.
From the world-class new-age architecture of Melbourne and Sydney to the red sands of the great Outback and rain-forests of tropical North- Queensland, Aussie is all about contrast, and truly has something for everybody.
Best appreciated by helicopter, The famed Great Barrier Reef is not just a world-class diving and snorkeling site- it forms a protective barrier around almost the entire East coast of the continent, explaining the historical absence of major cities along some of the planet’s most fertile land, in a time when access by ship was no luxury.
Its famed coral structure also forms the world’s largest known single living organism!
Few Americans would fly 3 hours just to see a rock, but Ayers Rock, known to the locals as “Uluru” is not just a rock- it’s the largest single rock of its kind on Earth, with the dimensions of a free-standing mountain, in the middle of the “flat as a pancake” Australian desert Outback, and seeing it briefly light up in a bright red hue as the sun rises and sets while enjoying kosher champagne and canapes is certainly one of the most spectacular sites I have merited to enjoy.
The Magnificence of Sydney Harbour gives Australia’s most famous city one of the most gorgeous natural backdrops in the world, and paired with that wonder of human creativity, the Sydney Opera House, makes this one of the most visited cities on the planet.
Sydney also boasts a vibrant and diverse Jewish Community, and a Shabbos in the Jewish heart of Bondi Beach is an experience in itself- from the world-class Chazanut/Carlebach fusion of Central’s Synagogue’s Cantor Shimon Farkas and his incredible choir, to the “Young-Israel” style Jewish learning Centre of Rabbi David Blackman, a leading student of the famed Rav Aharon Lichtenstein zt’l, it has something for everyone.
The Melbourne region certainly doesn’t lack scenic beauty or wildlife, and even has its own resident penguin colony, but whereas Sydney’s claim to fame is its views, Melbourne is about architecture and culture. It is an eclectic trendy city which regularly tops the world ratings for best quality of life.
Melbourne is also the home to Australia’s largest frum communities, which range from Mizrachi and Modern Orthodox through to the long-established Chabad institutions, the later being the leading force for decades in the city’s religious life.
West of the city, the Great Ocean Road stretches for hundreds of miles along the Southern Ocean, with some of the best coastal views and formations on Earth, a well as an abundance of wildlife including koalas, parrots, and kangaroos.
Further South, cooled by the Tasman Sea, New-Zealand’s green mountainous terrain is famous for some of the best scenery in the world.
The geysers and thermals of Rotorua gives Yellowstone a run for its money, and the unique Maori culture and history transports one back to a time where massive Polynesian canoes ruled the Pacific, covering mind-boggling distances from Hawaii to Milford Sound without any modern technology.
One of the highlights of my own varied travel career, it is impossible to do written justice to the magical world of glaciers, lakes, sea, and snow-covered peaks revealed by a low scenic flight over Mount Cook and the Southern Alps, and a cruise past high cliffs and waterfalls on the great fjords of Fjordslands National Park comes straight out of the “Lord of the Rings.”
An unmissable highlight for those with the extra budget is a helicopter tour over the Pacific to White Island, a live volcano- passengers don gas masks, land on the volcano’s alien surface, and enjoy a walking tour of this unimaginably unique world.
Being located the other side of the international dateline from Australia according to a minority of halachic authorities creates interesting halachik questions regarding when to observe Shabbos in New Zealand, and how to do so, and those who have an interest in both contemporary and practical halacha will find these discussions and how we address them on our trips most fascinating.
In truth- there is SO much to see in Australia and New Zealand, that many months are required to see all its main attractions, and one visit is simply not enough.
However, our Gourmet Kosher Safaris has a winning 2 week package that highlights some of the best experiences of the region, in a luxurious, strictly kosher, and Shabbos friendly environment, and we would love to be able to use our immense passion and experience down under to show you the highlights of this gorgeous region in true GKS style.
See you soon “Down-Under”