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Misadventures Magazine - Interview with Active guide Vanessa Wards

Interview: Vanessa Wards, Active Adventures Trip Leader


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.


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

  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 15889 reviews)

    Condor 2018

    This IS the trip of a lifetime! The itinerary is excellent, including the highlights of Patagonia and more! Trip logistics are well planned and expertly executed. Our guide, Arturo was one step ahead at all times and clearly has developed relationships with all hotels, refugios, restaurants and especially our local guides, creating incredible, seamless travel. The local guides, Cem (Jim) on the W Trek, Christian in El Chaltan, our drivers and specific activity guides were all excellent and willing to share their knowledge and love for their countries. This trip was FUN, Arturo is fun and all the new friends we met on our trip were fun!!!
    Cindy Jacobs Review Image
    – Maine, United States
    Condor, March 2018
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 15889 reviews)

    Outstanding Adventure Vacation

    Our Active Adventures trip was outstanding! The entire process was a tremendous experience. Staff were responsive and friendly during the "sign up" phase. Our guides Jordie and Holly are two of the finest professional, friendly and knowledgeable guides we've had the pleasure to work with. Shout out for both of these wonderful people! They did a marvelous job managing group dynamics to ensure everyone was motivated and individual needs were met. Well trained and both have mastered the skillful art of quality customer service. Keep up the good work!
    Lilly Golden Review Image
    – Texas, United States
    Tui, July 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 15889 reviews)

    One Honey Sweet of an Adventure

    Outstanding tramping with superior guides
    Jim Crookston Review Image
    – Pennsylvania, United States
    Manuka, February 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 15889 reviews)

    Awesome Tui Trip!

    My husband and I traveled to New Zealand for a late honeymoon and our adventure started with the Tui Trip which couldn't have been better! Between the amazing places we visited along the South Island from our unbelievable guides who quickly became friends, the trip definitely exceeded our expectations! We quickly learned how kiwis truly cherish and appreciate what their beautiful country has to offer and are so thankful to have had such a wonderful experience. New Zealand will always hold a special place in our hearts, along with our memories of hiking, biking, cheers-ing, and chatting with new friends. Thank you Koru and Liana, for making our trip so unforgettable!
    Lauren Hussey Review Image
    – New Hampshire, United States
    Tui, December 2016
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 15889 reviews)

    Great Trip

    The naturalists were so informative about not only the local plants and animals, but had rich historical knowledge that really added to the experience.
    Owen Ward Review Image
    – Massachusetts, United States
    Tortuga, January 2017



Why travel with Active Adventures?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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