Camping – with style

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ALL DONE: Mac Martin and Sonia Ferguson are ready for the summer reopening of this wilderness glamping venture. Photos Louis Klaassen D5959-116

A WILDERNESS glamping venture in Opotiki is bringing its owners unexpected results.
Sonia Ferguson and Mac Martin, who opened Waterfall Mountain Glamping this year, say social media brought a cascade of interest to the property that they weren’t predicting.

When photos of the glamorous camping site were posted and shared on Facebook over winter, Sonia says interest in their tourism venture went crazy.

Recently completing preparations for summer re-opening, the two friends say the coming warmer months are going to be busy. “We’re not open in winter because the site doesn’t get enough sun, though people still try,” Sonia says.

Nestled alongside a fresh-water stream amid the pristine bush of Opotiki’s Pakahi Valley, Waterfall Mountain Glamping opened earlier this year.

The brainchild of Whakatane friends Sonia and Mac – and Sonia’s late husband Jim – the concept was kick-started when Sonia lost both her husband and mother in January. “I needed something to focus on, so I suggested to Mac that we get the venture going.”

As a long-time friend and former business partner of Jim’s and support person after Jim developed multiple-sclerosis, confining him to a wheelchair, Mac says he thought “why not? I’m old and silly enough to give it a go”.

The digger driver, who continues to run the portable sawmill business he once shared with Jim, chose a spot on his 500-acre block of native bush, and work soon got under way. A bridge was built over the stream, a small building housing a kitchen and bathroom constructed, and foundations for the glamorous round tent that would provide a “glamorous camping” experience.

Inside the tent, home comforts are everywhere, and guests can stoke up the aptly-named Little Honey fire if the night is cool, though Mac laughs when he says, “they always light the fire, even when it’s not cold”. An outdoor bath has also proved popular, Sonia says. “I don’t think we’ve had any guests stay who didn’t use it”.

Though little is left wanting in terms of home comforts, the location remains a bush experience. Mac says their aim was to provide guests with a New Zealand experience that they won’t forget.

With stands of 800-900-year-old rimu on the property, miro, totora and rata, and an abundance of native birds, the venture certainly appears to do that.

Though named for picturesque waterfalls a short walk away, the site could easily have been named after its twinkling night life. “There are glow worms everywhere. They make for a beautiful sight,” Sonia says.

Months of work was required to create what the two friends had envisaged. With Mac responsible for construction, Sonia says her two sons and daughter-in-law have also played a role in bringing the venture to fruition. “They’ve been a big support and opening this year has been very satisfying.”

Guests so far have come mostly from Gisborne, and the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions, though Sonia says there have been overseas visitors too. “And they have all just loved it,” she says.


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