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The standard of your guide or trip leader will arguably make or break your adventure in New Zealand. A good guide will ensure your experience is great, but a first class guide will turn ‘great’ into an unforgettable trip of a life time.
From wilderness hiking to white water rafting, an adventure guide in New Zealand is required to adapt when it comes to safety, communications, area knowledge and a whole range of skills associated with working in New Zealand's outdoor environment. These guide attributes (Some of which are naturally engrained and others are taught and developed) are par for the course for any reputable adventure tour operator.
It's not about them
It seems ironic, but some of the most interesting people you meet at a dinner party, conference or gathering, are the ones you walk away from not actually knowing that much about. That's because they've probably found out all about you! A first class adventure guide will say very little about themselves, because they understand that this is YOUR adventure, and you're not here to find out about how many peaks they've climbed, rivers they've run, or how glamourous their outdoor life is. Humility speaks volumes, and an incredible guide will focus on you, and the qualities that you can bring to the adventure as a participant.
It's the little details that matter
There's nothing like it when a person remembers how you like your coffee in the morning, an important date or if there's something small you'd like to tick off your list while on your adventure in New Zealand. The best guides in the business know that it's all the little things that mean a lot when you're far from home or in the wilderness. Acting on this can make a huge difference to your experience.
It's not entertainment
A common trap that many a budding guide will fall into, is the mind-set that they are somehow required to be funny, or entertaining. Comedy is best left to stand ups. That is not to say that a guide should be humourless. Those in the know will tell you that a true professional puts their serious & uber professional foot forward first. It takes a little time to settle into a comfortable relationship with folks on an organised adventure, and a professional guide earns the right to be humorous, rather than playing the clown from the get-go!
Relationships are everything
Spending time in the New Zealand wilderness with a complete stranger for a few days through to a couple of weeks is – when you really think about it – quite a leap of faith. That's why the very best guides will take whatever time they have while on the trip, to develop a warm, personable, professional and friendly relationship with you. In fact, if we're to take all but one attribute from the list here, this is the one that would remain. Developing these types of warm professional relationships is a skill that more often than not, comes naturally to exceptional guides, and certainly makes them stand out amongst their peers.
One size doesn't fit all. And this applies to how a guide interacts with a group, or individuals. So a guiding guru will adjust their style depending on the make-up of a group. A group of ice hockey players travelling through New Zealand will require slightly different modes of engagement than a group made up of travelling married couples. Adaptability is key!
Knowing EVERYTHING is impossible
We all have a million questions going through our heads when we're travelling through a new environment, and your guide is an obvious first port of call when your curiosity is aroused. All too often, a mediocre guide will dance around the subject matter of a question they don't know the answer to, as opposed to simply saying "you know what – I'm not sure about that, but I'm going to find out!". This simple and honest assertion goes a long way and you'll know you have a guide who is super honest and committed building on their own knowledge. Of course, you should also certainly have your radar out for a guide who knows their stuff!
An ingrained passion for what they do
A genuine passion for the natural & cultural heritage of an environment is essential. As soon as you and your group begin the journey it will be obvious whether your guide carries this passion. The dynamic of a New Zealand adventure tour can often depend on the energy that a guide brings to the table. It's the stuff that will make a guide go the extra mile to make your experience go from great, to life-changing.
Written: 8 articles
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