BY RODERICK EIME
When I told my wife I’d been to the Mantra Beach Club at Ettalong and had dinner with Lilly, Sassy, Fluffy and Rosie, the look was priceless and I let the visuals of that churn through her head for a few seconds. Was I cavorting with the cast of some unknown children’s show or taken to frequenting bizarre bordellos for sock-puppets?
“Just where have you been?” she asked with all the delicacy of an Abu Ghraib prison guard, and I caved in.
“Well,” I confessed in a suitably contrite tone, “Lilly loved to climb all over me and nibble on my collar, Sassy had fantastic teeth but fell asleep at the table, Rosie didn’t say much but just looked like she wanted to eat you and Fluffy was about five metres long and gave everyone a big hug.”
As I ducked the flying crockery, I thought it would be a good time to explain.
Our special guests at the “wild” theme dinner were all perfectly adorable baby animals from the Australian Reptile Park brought in especially to further liven up the event. If you hadn’t already guessed, Lilly was a lively ring-tailed possum, Sassy a tiny Tasmanian devil, Rosie a juvenile crocodile and Fluffy a superb ‘teenage’ Burmese python.
I say ‘further liven up’ because as the jungle cocktails were being served, a manic African witch doctor danced and somersaulted through the room in between frenetic bongo drum solos and fire breathing virtuosos that threatened to singe our eyebrows.
This grand finale was the piece de la resistance to a ‘never a dull moment’ PCO famil led by Paul Wilson and his mischievous team of Mantra Group MICE.
Fast rewind to the beginning, and a dozen PCOs gathered at the offices of Sydney Helitours to be ferried in a fleet (yes, fleet) of Robinson 4-seat helicopters to the grounds of Peppers Guest House in the Hunter Valley for a glorious lunch and set of riotous shenanigans in the lush grounds. We spat, stomped, slurped and sniffed our way through a set fun team-building activities devised by Gus and Louise Maher of Hunter Valley Events and Bimbadgen Wines that perfectly matched the vigneron theme. We even blended our own wine, and no, it wasn’t the stuff we stomped out on the back lawn.
After a transfer to the glorious Peppers Anchorage at Port Stephens, a magnificent seafood dinner on the boardwalk was arranged for us. Don’t ask me how many oysters I ate, but at one stage I was keeping up with Jeff, the World Champion oyster shucker. I give credit to the delightful Oyster Bay sav blanc, a most useful lubricant.
A brisk and delightful sail out on the waters of Port Stephens in Captain Alistair’s brand new Beneteau 46 of Blue Water Sailing. You can even match race apparently if you book the second boat too. And when it’s all over, how better to get back to ‘Go’ than with a ridiculously stretched black Hummer limousine with ‘bad boy’ rap blaring and champagne glasses clinking.
If conference delegates could have this much fun over a weekend, then I’d sign up now. But all this fun and no work would make Jack a naughty boy, so be assured we dutifully inspected the impressive facilities offered at each venue. This writer can report that Mantra meetings are able to accommodate pretty much all your wildest conference and MICE fantasies with an impressive attention to detail that, in our case, included pre-delivered coffees to our own personal formula.
Even if you don’t fancy an amorous encounter with a constricting reptile or a rotary-wing, high altitude arrival, Mantra can match your meeting or event to any of the three flavours; Mantra, Peppers or Breakfree.