I better start by explaining the term ‘Bee’s knees’… I’ve been doing a bit of reading (and getting a bit distracted!) and apparently in the 1920’s it was fashionable to use nonsense terms to describe something that was all-round awesome, think ‘the snake’s hips’, ‘the kipper’s knickers’, ‘the cat’s whiskers’, ‘the monkey’s eyebrows’ and so on. Of these, the bee’s knees and the cat’s whiskers are the only ones to have stood the test of time!
So anyway, I think you’re getting the picture. Of course, it’s natural for us to tell you why joining a small group tour is such a great idea, it’s what we do for a living! But I want to give you a personal perspective and share with you a few quotes from our travellers.
Prior to joining the Active family, I spent some years travelling around the world snowboarding, surfing and hiking – generally having a great old time. Like many Kiwis, having thoroughly explored my own backyard, I felt that I needed to experience new cultures and develop my own view on the world. On the one hand, growing up in New Zealand is a huge privilege – having such wonderful nature on your doorstep and being exposed to a pretty relaxed way of life, and on the other hand, you do feel a bit disconnected from all those exciting, colourful and vibrant things happening around the globe! Whilst travelling I tended to do it all independently, through trial and error – and this worked fine – I had time and youth on my side!
So to cut a long story short, by the time I started working at Active Adventures, I really had never experienced a group tour. I guess I ticked enough other boxes to land the job, or maybe it was just luck! So in the back of my mind I thought, well here’s a company that takes folk to incredible places, under their own steam, and get’s raving reviews – reviews that you read and get warm fuzzies over day in, day out. So at the time I thought, maybe I’m not a ‘group tour guy’, but I want to work here anyway! Four years on and my perspective has changed and I seriously do drink the Kool-aid. One of the many perks of working for Active is that you get to go out and experience the trips that we run, it’s essential really. And each time I join one of our small groups, I’m reminded and convinced that joining a group of like-minded travellers is the Bee’s knees.
Why you should consider joining a small group tour:
You get to meet people from around the world. It’s obvious, I know, but there’s nothing better than sitting around the backcountry hut log burner and sharing stories from different world-perspectives.
People you’d never normally meet. If you came to New Zealand and hired a campervan you might meet some really cool people, but you won’t share in the daily rituals, the home cooked meals and the hikes together, the things that create lasting friendships and make the everyday much more fun!
Group dynamics are crazy, complex and brilliant. I often speak to the guides to try to get a sense for what drives them to do what they do. One of the common motivators is the roulette factor. That excitement on day 1 of a 14-day tour, when you get to meet a dozen new faces full of optimism and excitement for their vacation and that satisfaction as you watch and help a group bond and become friends.
Our guides are extraordinarily good at bringing people together. Sure it can happen naturally, but often it takes a touch of magic from our guides. I can’t give too much away, but it’s the little things that count.
Sharing challenges, laughs and sunsets together is the fast-track to life-long friendship. We often get groups who met each other on one of our trips and then plan future Active trips together. That’s cool! When you hike to Angelus Hut in the Nelson Lakes National Park, with a group of people you only met two days ago, you experience something together that nobody else can quite understand. As a group, you overcame the challenges, saw the same views and shared the same jokes. Every experience has a context and that context is shared among your small group of adventurers!
Clearly there are hundreds of small group adventure tour operators out there, so if you’re already sold on the group tour idea, you’re faced with the daunting prospect of choosing a tour operator. Hopefully you’ve already heard about us through word of mouth, so you don’t even need to read the rest, but if you’re new to Active Adventures, then read on!
A couple of things to watch out for…
The size of the group. ‘Small group tour’ is a subjective term! On our New Zealand and South America trips we have a maximum of 14 guests, and our average is around 12. In the Himalayas we run our trips with a maximum of 10 on the Everest Base Camp Trek and 12 on the Annapurna Sanctuary, Mustang and Khumbu Treks.
The guide to client ratio. In New Zealand we have two guides on each trip, unless there are 5 or less people, in which case there would be one guide, but that doesn’t happen often. In South America we have a trip leader and then local guides for each activity. In the Himalayas we have a Kiwi trip leader and a team of local porters and guides for the trek.
I thought I’d finish off with a couple of recent quotes from our guests, which I think sum things up pretty well!
The Pub Trip!
This was our third trip with Active Adventures (2010 South Island, 2013 Peru) and our high expectations were not disappointed. Guides Andrew and Sarah were above and beyond our greatest hopes: encouraging, adaptive, flexible, helpful, knowledgeable, and just plain fun! Our group became great friends, and ended each day finding the closest pub to share and re-live the day’s adventure. Even though the abilities of our members varied, each one was accommodated and made to feel challenged but not intimidated. Nothing but fun, friends, and adventure!
– Robyn Henk, ‘Kauri’, November 2014
The ONLY way to explore South Island, NZ !!!
My wife and I have had a trip to New Zealand on our Bucket List for the past 30+ years. Finally, in celebration of our 30th Anniversary we decided to make that dream a reality. We considered a variety of options when pulling this trip together. Ideas ranged from planning it all ourselves, doing a ‘self-drive tour’ organized by a tour group but where we would handle the driving at our own pace, and going the organized tour-group route. In the end, we opted for the organized group. With only two weeks available for this trip, we didn’t want to risk ruining the experience if we encountered car issues or other things beyond our control. When we decided on the group option, the next challenge was to select a group that offered an itinerary which appealed to our active lifestyle and could do a good job of screening customers so that the activities would be appropriate for the ages and physical abilities of the various group members. I had several conversations – both via phone and email – with Active Adventures staff. They responded quickly to my questions and were very candid with the information they provided. The other groups I contacted were not timely with their feedback and I didn’t get a comfort level that worked for me. We selected Active Adventures and had the time of our lives! Our group was awesome… 7 people with ages ranging from 40-62 – from the US and UK. We ALL became fast friends and shared many amazing experiences. Our two guides (Amanda a.k.a. ‘Button’ and Jasmine) did an incredible job of organizing our group, entertaining us with NZ cultural tidbits, and showing us regions of the country that you won’t find in the tour books. The food was great, the conversations were memorable, and the overall vibe of the trip was simply the best you could imagine. We are already looking forward to our next Active Adventures trip… maybe Galapagos or someplace else where we can go knowing that the trip will be another adventure to remember!
– Roland Schumann, ‘Rimu’, November 2014
Paul McDonald – Marketing Manager – Active Adventures