A virtual sojourn to New Zealand brought Cheryl Ong to animal paradise on a lifestyle farm, making for a nice nature getaway from the comfort of home.
A flock of Romney sheep leisurely grazing in their paddock of undulating greens backdropped by majestic mountains is a sight to behold. One gazes up curiously, clueless as to the over 40 pair of eyeballs staring back at her.
Our virtual sojourn on this Sunday morning is to a lifestyle farm in New Zealand, run by Singaporean banker-turned-farmer Arthur Chin – Singapore-based agency Monster Day Tours’ latest virtual tour offering, introduced to give those missing travelling during the June school holidays a therapeutic escape.
Nestled in the city of Palmerston North, a two-hour drive from the capital city of Wellington is the postcard-perfect, unspoiled oasis that is New Zealand Nature Highlights. Founder Chin started hosting virtual tours since the pandemic last year to introduce his farm to the world amid global lockdowns.
During the online experience, live-streamed via Zoom, we got up-close to the farm animals – sheep and lambs, kunekune pigs, and red shaver chickens – learnt about the back-breaking work that goes into running the 25ha property, and found out how Chin plays cupid for his ewe lambs during breeding season.
Much of the fun of the tour stems from how Chin deftly sandwiched riveting anecdotes between farming tidbits. There is an inspirational moment where Chin shared how he left his banker job after 15 years to pursue a PhD in animal husbandry and start his own farm. Equally gripping is Chin’s recount of how he once performed CRP on Oliver the lamb to bring him back to life.
Tourism practitioners and corporate groups may be keen to take a leaf out of Chin’s sustainability playbook. Green practices he adopts on the farm include rainwater harvesting, and the utilisation of a septic system that compost waste into fertiliser.
Perhaps, the most surprising takeaway from the virtual tour was learning how Chin employs technology to achieve economies of scale in his one-man operation, such as the usage of RFID tags for sheep tracking and a drone deployment strategy for farm surveyance.
Our session was attended by over 40 participants, with many joined by young kids. Several opportunities were made available to pose questions to Chin, who expertly fielded all queries.
As part of the interactive element, participants were kept engaged through pop quizzes based on what was shared by Chin, with attractive prizes to be won.
Participants can join the tour as part of a group, or book a private session with family and friends. Virtual vacations make for an interesting way to bond and celebrate special moments, like birthdays and graduations. For private tours, there is a minimum requirement of 20 participants, and prizes can be customised.
For 1.5 hours, we found ourselves whisked away from our routine and transported to a grassy oasis of bucolic bliss. The virtual farm escapade will make for a welcome respite for homebound city dwellers who, like us, are looking to escape to greener pastures, literally, amid ongoing travel restrictions.
Rate: S$20 (US$15) per person
Dates: June 13 and 27, from 10.30 to 12:00
Tel: +65 87497346