The sunny side of life - a kayak guides perspective.
Many have heard of New Zealand's Able Tasman national park, and for good reason.
It’s a place where seals bathe in almost constant sunshine, lagoons that are so clear kayaks seem to levitate as if held under its own magic spell.
Sting rays boldly cruise around feeding on the incoming streams of tide, and with native bush as vibrant as you will find anywhere in New Zealand, it truely is a proper kiwi treasure.
Uniquely located in arguably New Zealand’s sunniest corner, the Tasman area is safely protected from the wet low pressure systems that batter the west coast, and far enough away from the wind funnelling effect of the cook straights.
This creates a very sunny, warm and dry climate, with light winds and moderate sea breezes.
It also has beautiful beaches in almost every bay and half a dozen wonderful tidal lagoons. So although the Able Tasman national park is New Zealand’s smallest, it is easy to see why it’s one of the most visited.
New Zealand from a human point of view is a young country, most believe Māori came from Polynesia about 800 years ago, and the first white explorer was a young Mr Able Tasman who arrived here in 1642 with his crew, aboard the ‘Janszoon’.
It was over a hundred and fifty years later that the first white settlers started to arrive and tried to make this unfamiliar land feel like a home.
So if human existence in New Zealand is about 800 years, thats not long, and during that time much damage has been done.
New Zealand has lost about 80% of its native bush and many bird species have been driven off the clean edge of the square earth.
In the last few decades - operation ‘we live in a dam amazing place let’s save the rest of this shit before it all goes’ has firmly been put in place. Many conservation charities and the department of conservation, or DOC for short, all doing absolutely AMAZING work.
So these green jewels that are left are not just protected, but are projected as beacons of hope for the future.
The numerous photos, broachers and articles you can find on line or at any Isite (tourist information) give any ‘kayak adventurer,’ plenty of idea on what is on offer here.
However, I believe there is also a deeper beauty, and that’s the irrepressible New Zealand spirt that has an almost inexhaustible appreciation for what they find themselves custodians of.
I’ve just finished my 5th season working for 'Kaiteriteri kayaks' who guide sea kayak trips in the Able Tasman national park, and have a beach base in Kaiteriteri which is one of the two gateway towns into the national park.
Five and a half years ago when my tired feet first touched down in Kaiteriteri, I met was by Koha, who was working as our operations manager at Kaiteriteri kayaks.
Koha was a beautiful Māori girl who spoke with a genuine kindness for others, and the land she called home, and within an hour she had convinced me that I was certainly in the best place in New Zealand. (coincidentally or maybe not so coincidentally in Māori Koha means ‘gift’).
I think if there is one thing that sets Kaiteriteri kayaks apart from the half a dozen or so other kayak companies in the area it's ‘fun’, not to say you most lightly wouldn't get a fantastic experience from any of the other companies in the area, but Kaiteiteri kayaks was built on fun and the legacy continues.
Extra smiley individuals that work there that will give you a great time, no mater what!
My experience is peppered with the charters that make up Kaiteriteri kayaks.
Harold is one such guy, although he doesn't actually work for Kaiteriteri kayaks anymore, but instead every summer schools holidays pitches his camper van near our beach rental area and teaches his ‘boy’ the wider meaning of ‘life’. This involves getting ‘boy’ dunking gear, helping customers hold the SUP paddle round the correct way and generally being useful.
While Harold always seams to be there at the right moment, if it's helping out loading kayaks or filling hapless tourists in with answers to the inevitable questions like - ‘do you get sharks here?’ and wasn’t it a sting ray that killed Steve Irwin!?! Harolds charm and smile always lightens the load.
For many who come to Kaiteriteri, seeing the world famous split apple rock is high on the agenda, (Yep its quite literally a massive rock spilt in half).
And as any good sea kayak guide worth his or her sea salt, they will tell you a dam good yarn about how it became split, now I’m not going to ruin all that by telling you here, you just have to see for yourself!
Day trips up in the national park are also run and during the peak holiday season which runs from mid December until mid February things can get very busy indeed.
Almost all the trips start from the beach in the morning, where the inevitable ‘check in’ takes place.
Once that has happened and all the kayakers have met their guide, everybody and everything is loaded onto the ferry boat destined for the national park, the day unfolds and at the end of the kayak journey the ferry boat takes kayaking customers safely back to the beach where they started the day, plus big smiles and bigger memories.
So let me introduce to you some of the extra smiley individuals you might find working at Kaieriteri kayaks, that will make your day POP!
Richard aka 'Black Jack' is a living legend if there was one, and totally embodies everything a good kayaking guide should be, ok his time keeping is a bit out sometimes, but hey why let a boat pick up get in the way of a good story eh Richard;)
Originally from the Philippines, he's now a true Kiwi, he drives a Toyota Hi Ace and everything! Richard has been working for Kaiteriteri kayaks for 10 years and at the annual staff party he entertains us with the now very well known ‘slide show’. Please bear in mind this is no normal run of the mill slide show, Richard spends hours on this master piece and the pre amble build up comic routine that takes place leaves us all crying with laughter!
Marcus proudly hails from Methven on the south island, and although few people have herd of Methven Marcus will tell you all about it:)
This year Marcus won the award ‘most lightly to be easily distracted’ as his brain bounds around like a labrador on heat.
What you get from Marcus, could literally be anything and he is a born entertainer with as much energy as is humanity possible. His goofy nature belies the fact that he’s also completing a degree in bio engineering and will enthuiastically converse in many languages including sign. The odd puzzled look is normally gives way to a big smile as Marcus breaks down communication barriers with big smiles and an even bigger heart.
Amber is a solid Brit/ Canadian who can out do all the men, and does so on a daily basis.
If it’s winning customer reviews, technical kayak skills, or heaving weaker men out the way when a ‘job needs to get done’, Amber is your go to lady.
She's also most lightly to be able to take a beautiful picture of you in your kayak, print out a polaroid on the boat trip back, and leaving you planning your next kayak adventure on the west coast of Canada.
Janelle grew up in Grey mouth on the wet west coast of the south island, but made her way up to the Nelson district which is the sunniest part of the south island probably because she's made of sunshine. Her natural environment is on the beach or in the water but occasionally in a kayak too.
Janelle is everybody’s best friend and if she doesn't win you over with her smile your probably made of stone!
Shaq is an Aussie, that has fled the city life of Perth WA to pursue a life of adventure.
Shaq works hard and plays harder, but also is a puppy that likes nothing more than to be rubbed on the belly both literally and metaphorically.
Shaq is also always keen to crack open a beer at the end of a hot and sunny days kayaking, and spin some yarns derived from the days events.
Shaq also competed his ‘Hat challenge’ this year, which if you keep reading all will be revealed:)
Of course the king pin that holds these bunch of crazies all together, all though she's probably just as crazy her self the one and only Kim, our operations manager and absolute sweet heart!
So the ‘Hat Challenge’ came about because the rainbow warriors that are the guides of kaiteriteri kayaks get to earn their prestigious hat if they are lucky enough to get selected.
The challenge could be anything from a spontaneous aerobics work out for un expecting gusts, towing a ferry boat 100 metres with your kayak, doing a lap of Kaiteriter bay fully starkers on a SUP at mid day, to a who host of other entirely embarrassing and down right ridiculous challenges.
This year saw Shaq, Marcus and Arron being crowned with their hats and each made a stand out performance, all worthy of the coveted hat, and in a world where almost anything can be bought or sold these are truely earnt!