Imagine a cross between Bear Grylls, David Attenborough and a Four Seasons concierge and you’ll get an idea of what our Active Adventures guides are like. Ultimately it’s these guides that shape your experience, leaving a lasting memory and a yearning for your next ‘Active Adventure’. We’re reminded of this everyday when we read the passionate surveys that come back to us. This post is a tribute to our team of guides who live and breathe nature, who inspire countless travellers and who work tirelessly to bring it all together – they’re legends!
So what are those legendary traits that we look for, when hand-picking guides?
Great adventure guides know it’s not about them, they understand that little details matter, they build incredible relationships and of course, they’re passionate! It may seem obvious, but many companies fail to realise that the standard of your guide or trip leader will arguably make or break your adventure trip. 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 sea kayaking, reverse canyoning, an adventure guide is required to adapt when it comes to safety, communications, area knowledge and a whole range of skills associated with working in an 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.
The best guides know it’s not about them
Some of the most interesting people you meet, say at a pub, work do or sporting event, are the ones you walk away from not actually knowing that much about – ironic isn’t it! 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.
Duck (Dan Thomas) was fantastic. He wanted us to have the trip of a lifetime, and he exceeded that. He was a perfect blend of pro, leader, cultural expert, and listened to our needs. I believe he must be one of your best guides. – Chris Samuelson, ‘Kauri’, March 2014
It’s the little things that matter
How nice is it, when a friend remembers how you like your coffee in the morning, that you have a semi-secret desire to tick an activity off your bucket list or that you like to take your time in the mornings. 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 foot forward first. Naturally, it takes a little time to settle into a comfortable relationship with folks on a small group adventure, and a professional guide earns the right to be humorous, rather than playing the clown from the get-go!
Daniel Keys (DK) was phenomenal! He is kind, patient, fun, easy-going, professional, experienced, and everything else good you’d expect from a guide; most of all, he is a GREAT leader. After a few days on the trek, I knew I could trust him with my life. I made it to Annapurna Base Camp thanks to him and for that I am forever grateful. I’d do another trek with him in a heart beat! Thanks, DK, you are the best guide ever! – Violeta Ivanova, ‘AST’, May 2014
Relationships are everything
Spending time in the wilderness with a 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 this type of relationship is a skill that more often than not, comes naturally to exceptional guides, and certainly makes them stand out amongst their peers.
Amanda was amazing! Her attitude was so positive (consistently) and she was a work horse. I never saw her get frustrated or show any lack of energy! Great guide and very attentive to everyone’s needs whether it be meal preparation or any happening that took place throughout the course of the activities. She checked in with people and seemed to genuinely care about their overall experience; she would have done anything to support anyone! – Peggy Peyerl, ‘Rimu’, December 2013
The best guides are adaptable
One size most definitely doesn’t fit all. And this applies to how a guide interacts with a small group, or individual. 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 a different style of engagement than a group made up of travelling married couples. Adaptability is key!
Cynthia is by far the best guide I have been with. She is caring, knowledgeable, and patient. She spent time with the group and with individuals. She spoke highly of her joy of the trip and her passion for what she does. – Mai Lee Eskelund, ‘Jaguar’, June 2014
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, am in experienced or 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 honest and committed to building on their own knowledge. Of course, and you’ll find this out when you travel with us, our guides are impressive when it comes to local knowledge!
YES! Nick was fantastic. He was very good-natured, patient, and eager to answer all of our questions. If he didn’t know the answer, he’d look it up at the first opportunity. He was also an excellent chef and ran a tight kitchen. – Marni Myers, ‘Rimu’, February 2014
An ingrained passion for what they do
A genuine passion for the natural & cultural heritage of an environment is essential. It will be obvious whether your guide carries this passion from the get go. The dynamic of an 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.
We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to see the country through Pablo’s eyes. Pablo was a phenomenal guide – very patient, kind, caring, accommodating, knowledgeable and passionate about his beautiful home! He certainly inspired us to want to continue to share the beauty and awe of the Galapagos Islands with our family and friends! – Jason Bobb, ‘Tortuga’, May 2014