Flight of the Hobbit

The Hobbit-inspired plane.
The Hobbit-inspired plane. Photo: Lawrence Smith

New Zealand's new Tolkien point

On the back of Air New Zealand's YouTube safety video hit - 10 million views and counting - starring cast members from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the airline has launched a flying billboard devoted to the movie.

The 777-300, depicting characters from the fantasy flick that premiered in New Zealand on November 28 and will open in Australia on Boxing Day, will fly between Auckland, Los Angeles and London.

The sight of jets landing at Kai Tok Airport will be replaced by cruise ships.
The sight of jets landing at Kai Tok Airport will be replaced by cruise ships. Photo: AP

It's hoped The Hobbit effect will again weave its magic on a city that now runs movie tours daily to sites such as the Hobbiton Woods, the Frodo Tree, and Shortcut to the Mushrooms.

Most recently, a Hobbit-inspired artisan festival in Wellington's Waitangi Park showed the talents - prosthetic demonstrations included - used in the making of The Hobbit trilogy.

International visitor arrivals into Wellington increased 50 per cent in the decade from 2001, the year of the first The Lord of the Rings release, to 2010, and the city's feature film industry generated $NZ495 million ($390 million) in revenue in 2011. See wellingtonnz.com.

The sight of jets landing at Kai Tok Airport will be replaced by cruise ships.
The sight of jets landing at Kai Tok Airport will be replaced by cruise ships. 

From hair-raising to cruisy

Arrivals at Hong Kong's former Kai Tak Airport, with high-rises and mountains to the north and runway jutting into Victoria Harbour, are likely to be far less hair-raising when it opens as a two-berth cruise terminal. Set for completion in mid-2013, the site at the southern tip of the runway will include up to 17 hotels and a heliport.

The two-berth Ocean Terminal at Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon Peninsula will continue to operate.

Constructive ways to travel

While Nepal is best known as a destination for mountain trekking, hard hats and work boots will be de rigueur on a housing project in the south-east of the country next March.

During the seven-day build led by Habitat for Humanity in Itahari, which has a population of about 41,000, travellers will finish construction of 10 houses learning traditional Nepalese techniques, such as bamboo weaving, in the process. Accommodation will be in simple hotels about an hour from the build site.

It costs from $2350 and includes accommodation, meals, ground transport and a donation to the project.

See www.habitat.org.au.

One Borneo every minute

For travellers keen to skip Kuala Lumpur on the way to Borneo, Malaysia Airlines has put Perth to the Sabah capital, Kota Kinabalu, back on to its schedule.

Starting December 10, the once-weekly five-hour, 25-minute flight on a B737-800 will depart Perth on a Monday and Kota Kinabalu on a Sunday. Flights from Melbourne and Sydney to Perth take about four hours and five hours respectively. Flight time from Melbourne and Sydney to Kota Kinabalu via Kuala Lumpur is about 10 hours. See malaysiaairlines.com.

And in time for the peak ski season, Air Canada will increase its non-stop flights between Sydney and Vancouver to 10 times weekly starting December 14.

The flight arrival time to Vancouver at 2.10pm allows connections to ski destinations, including British Columbia's resort communities in the Okanagan Province. See aircanada.com.

No Barriers to fun

Observation of corals, black noddy chicks and nesting turtles will be all in a day's work for children in the junior rangers program on Heron Island this summer.

Developed by the island's marine biologists and naturalist guides, the program's nature-based activities on the Great Barrier Reef coral cay focuses on exploration and care for the environment. For ages seven to 12, it costs $30 a day. Rooms on Heron Island cost from $398 a night, twin share. See heronisland.com.

The ride just got Greater

Riders will see the Twelve Apostles and Otway Ranges from the saddle during the 610-kilometre Great Victorian Bike Ride in 2013.

In a first, the classic Great Ocean Road route, chosen to mark the 30th year of the ride, will start in South Australia at Mount Gambier's Blue Lake with overnight stops at Nelson, Port Fairy and Torquay, and finish in Geelong.

The Bicycle Network Victoria event, last held on the Great Ocean Road four years ago, will be capped at 6000 riders.

Entries open in May 2013 with the nine-day ride fully catered and tent-based, with back-up including luggage transport, a licensed cafe under canvas, massage, a medical team and bicycle repair facilities.

One- and three-day tickets are also available. From November 23 to December 1. See greatvic.com.au.

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