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Misadventures Magazine - Interview with Active guide Vanessa Wards

Interview: Vanessa Wards, Active Adventures Trip Leader

Misadventures Magazine Active AdventuresMisadventures Magazine, November 2015: I was quick enough to nab an interview with Vanessa Wards, a guide at Active Adventures, between her travels for work and for fun — though I have to say it’s hard to tell which is which.

Active Adventures is New Zealand’s premier outdoors expedition company. They take small groups on week to two-week long biking, snorkeling, backpacking, kayaking, and caving trips all around New Zealand primarily, but also in Nepal, Peru, Patagonia, the Galapagos Islands, and Ecuador. Sounds like a pretty sweet gig Vanessa’s got. 

Normally, I shy away from group trips because, duh, I know everything there is to know about the outdoors (not), but these trips are tailor-made for outdoorsy travelers who want the most out of their time and who want to share the experience with like-minded people. The ‘active’ in Active Adventures is not just clever alliteration; it’s real. If you are the type of person who would rather be an explorer than a tourist, these trips might be for you.

So, without further ado,

When did you start working for Active Adventures?

I only started in October of last year, but I’m not stopping anytime soon.

Before this I was doing outdoor adventure work on the west coast of Ireland. I got a one year work visa there and worked at an outdoor adventure camp. But I’ve done lots of things: community health promotion, working the mines of Western Australia…

Since I left high school I haven’t stayed in one town or city for more than two years.

Is that exhausting?

I think it’s just me. I love seeing new places, so this is the perfect thing for me.

What attracted you to Active Adventures?

The job description. It was my dream job, and here it was written out to me like, ‘this is my destiny.’ I hadn’t planned on leaving Ireland, but there it was. Originally I’m from north of Auckland, so it was sort of like a homecoming.

What is your favorite trip to lead?

I’ve only led the New Zealand trips so far, and because of the language barriers and the extreme amount of expertise needed, I don’t think there’s a chance of me leading in South America. Active Adventures is serious about having experts in their fields lead these trips.

I’ve mostly been leading a two week trip called the Rimu. It’s the best of the best. It’s such an amazing trip around New Zealand, and because you’re with local guides, you see these incredible places that you wouldn’t normally just stumble upon.

But my favorite is an eight-dayer, called the Tui. It adds in this place called Siberia Valley. We fly in on a small plan, do a hike up to glacial lake, stay overnight in a hut, and boat out. It’s amazing.

What’s next for Active Adventures?

Our plan has always been to grow, and come this summer we’re going to have the busiest season yet. It’s exciting to see.

What’s a place you’ve never been but you want to see?

Oh, everywhere. The more I see the more that list increases. Alaska sounds beautiful. Canada — all the hiking there looks amazing — or kayaking or just a cruise up some of those fjords. I’d like to do all of that.

Mountains or the beach?

I grew up at the beach, so beach by heart, but something about the mountainous, alpine landscape has got me. That’s why I love the South Island. We’ve got it all.

Honestly, before Lord of the Rings you could ask a lot of people and they wouldn’t know where New Zealand was.

Really?

I bet so.

Sadly, I think you’re probably right.

Favorite food? And what do you eat on trips?

A Kiwi classic: roast lamb. We have amazing food on Active Adventures trips. People think they’re going to lose weight because of all the activity but I think they might put it on because the food’s so good. And it’s all local to wherever we are that day, whether it’s fresh salmon, venison, local produce — really good stuff.

What are the best things to see in New Zealand?

Go on a trip with us. Seriously, they’re the best. I love working for Active Adventures because I can say things like that and I really, truly believe it. The trips are incredible.

You’ve also just got to go to Queenstown. It’s the adventure capital of the world. Anything you want to do you can do there, plus the best wining and dining ever. It’s such a cool town, from alpine ski season to summer. You know the 9 Great Walks in New Zealand? It’s the hub. All the trails lead you straight there. What’s better than that?

To see the original print and for more articles like this, visit the Misadventures Magazine website.

Trip Reviews

 4.50 out of 5 (from 14318 reviews)

Whatever the dream, if its New Zealand, find a way!!

“Where do I even start?!?!? NZ has been #1 on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. It wasn't until I realized I couldn't wait forever for that perfect time, to have X amount of money saved, to have a companion to go with me...that I decided to JUST GO ALREADY! And I suggest you do the same! Don't wait another moment. I went alone but found the most wonderful companions I could have ever hoped for! Even got a great roommate. The guides, Claire and Jess were PHENOMENAL! I started crying off and on a few days before the end of the trip because I became that attached to them and knew I would never see them again. Leaving at the airport, I couldn't even speak I was so upset and saying goodbye. So wonderful and beyond knowledgeable! I miss Jess' cooking and Claire's coffee already and I just got back yesterday!!! But seriously folks, the Manuka was beyond what expectations I could have ever dreamed. Yes it was indeed physical, so be ready for that; but there were some flatter, easier options for those that chose to not exert so much energy. There were a couple of times I wanted to just quit, but Claire and/or Jess kept me going saying it would be worth it (for the view AND the accomplishment) and MAN WERE THEY RIGHT!!!

The food, the company, the knowledge, the laughs, the comradery, the views, the EXPERIENCES....all of it was TOP NOTCH! I have my memories that will last a lifetime; best money I have EVER spent.

Don't wait! GO! I plan to go back in a couple of years to do the entire Milford Track. That's my only regret is that I didn't spend the extra to do that. But that's on me, not AA!”
June Vidrine's Review Image
– Texas, United States
Manuka, March 2017
Read Reviews

Why travel with Active Adventures?

Legendary Kiwi Hospitality

Above all, we aim to be amazing hosts. We're proud of our kiwi roots, and our professional, warm and relaxed style of running trips around the world is unforgettable.

Expert LOCAL Guides & Trip Leaders

We're VERY picky about who we select to work in our team, and we have people from all over the world lining up to guide our trips. So we get to hire the absolute BEST in the business.

Everything is Included

As soon as you get off the plane, we've got all the details of your vacation covered – top notch meals, comfortable transport & accommodation, amazing guides and INCREDIBLE service.

A Sense of Achievement

Whether you’re new to adventure travel, or you’ve never travelled in a group before, you’ll find yourself arriving home positively different from when you left.

Small Groups

With our small groups (no more than 14), you'll get to know our team, your fellow travellers, and have the flexibility and freedom to do as much (or as little!) as you like.

Diverse Experiences

It's all about getting there under your own steam – on foot, in a sea kayak, or by bike. What better way is there to experience mind blowing scenery? If it's your first time, no worries – our expert guides have got you covered.

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