10:41am 01/11/2022
Have a taste of experiential travel
By:Lee San

The “fun” of traveling lies very much with the degree of hands-on participation, actual experience and even some unexpected sensory stimulation!

Careen is a fresh medical graduate in the Australian state of New South Wales.

Since young she has been helping out at her family’s oyster farm in the north Sydney suburb of Brooklyn, from where she has picked up a good deal of expertise and experience in this field.

She always grumbles that her family’s oyster farm has constantly come under the assault of bad weather and contamination by unknown bacteria that will invalidate all their efforts overnight.

As if that is not enough, the ex-farm price of raw oysters is very often hijacked by the owners of massive hypermarkets, leaving the family with paltry profit to feed everyone at home.

More than two years into the pandemic, the sale of oysters has become stagnant, prompting Careen to think of ways to add value to the family venture.

Everyone loves oysters, but few know how they actually come about. So why not…An idea suddenly flashed past Careen’s mind: Why don’t I drive the tourists to our oyster farm at the bay and tell them more about oyster farming and how to strike an ecological balance? Perhaps they even get to crack open a freshly caught oyster and savor its sweetness!

She jumped into action once the idea descended on her, and indeed this is her character!

She immediately sold her idea to the city government and managed to secure the country’s first permit in this particular sector.

Like any other farsighted people around the world, Careen knew how to maximize the void in the midst of the pandemic to advance her conception, especially with Destination NSW continuously helping local travel operators promote and market their creative travel products overseas.

At nine o’clock sharp this morning, Careen personally manned the 20-seater flat-bottomed boat to welcome 17 of us at the jetty. And as a matter of fact, we were the first group of foreign tourists to join her oyster farm experiential camp!

The boat slowly cruised into the quiet Pentaloon Bay abounding with oyster farms for as far as the eyes could see.

Careen said: most of the oysters you find at Sydney’s seafood markets come from here!

After that, she started delivering her lessons, talking eloquently about the process of oyster farming. She said an oyster spat would only cost RM0.25 but after four or five years, a mature oyster typically fetches the price of… (sorry, trade secret!)

That was followed by the day’s climax. We put on the specially manufactured waterproof fisherman gear and went down to the seawater at hip level.

In the middle of the water there were dining tables covered with white cloth, and with tiger prawns and other marine delicacies spread atop, playing a supporting role to Careen’s home bred raw oysters.

Each of us was given 18 oysters which we had to crack open ourselves, with white wine to wash down with. What an unusual fresh oyster dining experience in the sea!

You’re right! Our theme today is experiential travel, not unlike the glamping experience gaining popularity in Malaysia during the pandemic for a taste of Mother Nature.

Besides, our Musang King durian is also well known in the global Chinese diaspora, and if we harness the durian harvesting season to take foreign tourists to the farm and stay overnight, they would be able to partake the joy of listening closely for the sound of falling durians early in the morning in great anticipation, and then help the farm owner pick up the fruit lying on the floor. Isn’t that a win-win formula?

Another similar instance: Hunter Valley in NSW is one of the most celebrated wine-growing regions of Australia boasting over 150 vineyards grown with a wide variety of vines from across the world that are nevertheless brewed in unique Aussie ways into “proudly made in Australia” brands.

Here, the old generation winemakers will dump the freshly harvested grapes into a big wooden barrel, that will later be trampled on by two barefoot men in a bid to squeeze out the juice for brewing.

We had a lot of fun practicing this traditional wine-making process that has been passed down for generations!

In Port Stephens, there is also this uniquely themed experiential aquarium where we can soak ourselves in the 10-meter deep seawater tank complete in diving suit and goggles, as we swam and frolicked with dozens of stingrays and sharks.

Those preferring to stay dry can opt to sit on the man-made beach and listen to the guide’s narration while lightly touching the stingrays inside the water. Another valuable lesson for us!

Such participative experiential travel products are becoming increasingly popular among new generation travelers. They are not only something new and novel, but also educational and inspiring!

To be honest, the conventional way of traveling that typically includes a visit to a heroes’ monument, a church, some sightseeing attractions followed by a group dinner, is beginning to lose its appeal among modern travelers!

Back to Australia, the land of vast emptiness, unparalleled natural beauty and rich resources.

Australians are known for their exceptional civic-consciousness and are also very creative people. Even the brunch culture that took its root in England has found a fertile ground here to flourish!

Notably, Sydney Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera House are the two most iconic landmarks in Australian tourism.

The New Year Eve fireworks extravaganza at Sydney Harbor every year has drawn countless of people from all corners of the world to come here and count down with the Sydneysiders, a spectacular show simultaneously watched on TV by the world’s nearly 7.8 billion people, who might dream of traveling here one day to scale the legendary Harbor Bridge or enjoy a show at the incredible Opera House for a lifetime experience!

And the wonders of NSW do not end just here! For 23 consecutive days from May 26 every year, the Sydney Opera House will come alive with a splash of colors as laser images and patterns are projected onto its external walls during the Vivid Sydney light and music festival.

The NSW spring vacation this October makes everyone wonder how fun the Land Down Under could be! Sure enough you will have an unforgettable experience here!

In reality, the “fun” of traveling lies very much with the degree of hands-on participation, actual experience and even some unexpected sensory stimulation!

Now that you have had a foretaste of the wonders of experiential travel, why not call us today and start packing?

(Lee San is Founder and Group Executive Chairman of Apple Vacations. He has traveled to 132 countries, six continents, and enjoys sharing his travel stories and insights. He has also authored five books.)


Lee San
Apple Vacations


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