Life had become a whirlwind for Tamati Coffey. Since a flamboyant wedding in December 2011 to his long-term partner, teacher Tim Smith, the popular TV presenter with the megawatt smile combined two huge roles – hosting the first series of New Zealand’s Got Talent, while enduring months of 3.30am starts as TVNZ’s Breakfast weatherman.
It was time for a break, and in true Tamati fashion, he’s doing it on impulse. There was only one plan – to take off on the voyage of a lifetime and thank his parents Gerald and Rangi for everything they’ve done for him, by taking them too.
“Tim and I worked so hard last year, and although it was difficult to give up the security we had here, we had to get away. “So we booked a one-way ticket to England for ourselves and a two-month return trip for Mum and Dad,” says Tamati (33).
“My parents aren’t travellers – Dad only got his passport last year – but I really wanted to treat them. We’ve had an incredible time and it makes me feel warm on the inside, like I’m paying them back in a small way; redressing the balance.”
Before Tamati and Tim left New Zealand, they decided their trip had to be perfect. For Tamati’s dad, Gerald, that meant a bit more work.
“Dad turns 60 this year and for as long as I remember, he’s never been to the dentist,” explains Tamati. “He smokes too, and the upshot is that he has terrible teeth.” So bad that Gerald had stopped smiling.
“Dad has always had this huge grin – it’s where I get mine from. I wanted him to smile on the holiday, so I visited him in Rotorua and asked how he’d feel if I bought him some false teeth. He was so emotional – he said yes immediately. I’m so pleased we did it, as he hasn’t stopped smiling the whole trip!”
And who can blame him – Tim and Tamati have made their time together truly special. “We stopped off in LA for four days to give Mum and Dad a break and went to Universal Studios which was incredible,” says Tamati, who despite losing much of his tan over the UK winter, looks happy and healthy. It’s all thanks to getting a full 10 hours’ sleep at night, which was unheard of when he was working.
After LA, the foursome continued on to Manchester, England, where they stayed with British-born Tim’s mum Chris, and his stepdad Tony.
Tamati and Tim are renowned for loving a good party, so it’s no surprise the group – which included Tim’s extended family as well as Tamati’s parents – headed to Butlins, arguably England’s most famous holiday park, for New Year’s Eve.
“It was huge. It’s like the Burning Man festival!” jokes Tamati. “Thousands of people all get together, have this amazing party – then one morning you wake up and everyone’s packed up and gone, and it’s a ghost town. I’ve never seen anything like it!”
Even the stomach bug which affected all of Tamati’s group a couple of days later couldn’t quell their enthusiasm. “I thought I had the norovirus, it was that bad!” says Tamati.
As they only had a couple of months with Gerald and Rangi, Tamati and Tim were determined to pack in as much as they could.
“Every day I’d look into Mum and Dad’s eyes and ask if they were up for an adventure. If they were tired, we’d take a break, but most of the time they were really into it. It was amazing to see them so happy,” says Tamati.
And pack it in they did. After a quick trip to London, then Paris, the family embarked on a cruise that took them around the Mediterranean, including Italy, France and Spain. “All for under $400!” marvels Tamati. “There’s much more competition for travel on this side of the world, so you can get some pretty amazing bargains.”
While the pair can’t decide on their favourite spot so far, Tamati says Paris was particularly special for his dad.
“Before we left, he talked so much about eating crusty French bread,” Tamati says. But his poor dad had a shock in store. “His new teeth can’t rip into food like they used to. Instead, Dad had to watch Tim and I enjoying the crusty bread, and Mum chomping through a big steak instead!”
It’s not all bad though. “The thing I love most about Dad’s new teeth is that because he can’t just eat everything like he used to, he’s lost loads of weight,” says Tamati.
“We also walked everywhere and it got to the point that he had to hold up his trousers with a shoelace, because he’d lost so many inches off his waist!”
While Gerald and Rangi are back home in Rotorua, Tamati and Tim are still enjoying their adventure. They recently visited Britain’s Got Talent to check out their version of the show Tamati has grown to love.
“The set’s a bit flashier than ours, but otherwise it’s really similar,” he says. “The big difference is Simon Cowell – he has such presence. Everything revolves around him. He doesn’t even need to press his buzzer – he just holds up his hand and the music stops! One movement and it all comes to a screeching halt. It’s almost like he owns the show,” he jokes.
While he and Tim are having the time of their lives, Tamati will be back, hopefully for a second series of New Zealand’s Got Talent.
“It does feel reckless to be travelling with no agenda, but we figure there’s plenty of time to get serious – for now, we want to explore, stay on friends’ couches and meet people. For us, part of the fun of travelling is having new experiences,” explains Tamati.
“We’ve had great food and terrible food, stayed in luxury and on floors, and broadened our horizons.” And the best bit? “Treating Mum and Dad,” he says without hesitation.
“When you’re a child, they look after you; then when they get much older, often you look after them. Then there’s this beautiful place in the middle where you meet as equals. Enjoying that moment is one of the most beautiful things you can experience.”