Find out about some of the operators our Travel Ambassdors met on the journey.

Feature Host



Lee Ann Jago, Owner & Guide

Waka Abel Tasman

I descend from Ngāti Māhuta, Ngāti Pou, Ngāti Raukawa and my husband Todd is Ngāti Raukawa. 
The most important thing for our business is to help our manuhiri (visitors) feel connected to each other, our beautiful culture and, environment. This is enabled through a paddling experience held in tikanga māori (māori etiquette).  I love it!

Waka (Māori canoe) are the living expression of our tūpuna (ancestors) who sailed the Pacific Ocean for thousands of years. As the only form of transport across oceans and waterways, waka were vital to travel and trade. By paddling in our double-hulled (waka tuarua) or single-hulled outrigger canoes (waka ama), you share in New Zealand's treasured heritage.

Waka is an inclusive experience where everyone can feel the joy of working as part of a team. We begin and end all our trips with a karakia (blessing) for protection. You will learn the tikanga (etiquette) associated with waka before becoming familiar with the boat and embarking on our haerenga (journey).

Our whole family loves waka, the outdoors, tikanga Māori and sharing these things with others. Community is at the heart of what we do, and we are passionate about uplifting rangatahi (young people) and supporting healthy lifestyles. We invite you to join us and to help support our community's growth and empowerment.

I have 20 years' experience in guiding, instructing and managing adventure tourism enterprises and have also competed in waka ama at both national and international levels. Todd is heavily involved in training rangatahi (young people) for waka ama competitions.  
Come join us for a truly unique cultural experience that's suitable for all ages.

Instagram: @wakaabeltasman



Nelson Operators


Wine, Art and Wilderness

Noel Kennedy, Owner & Guide

Wine Art and Wilderness is a proud family business that has turned passions, interests and hobbies into a thriving business. We provide premium access into all our National Parks as well as Art Galleries, artisan Wineries, Craft breweries and food producers. We revel in the challenge to spark interest to absolute fascination by our guests and to encourage return visits.

Instagram: @wineartandwilderness

Grand Mercure Nelson Monaco

Tabatha Kingi, Hotel Administrator

Iwi: Te Aitanga Mahaki and Tuhoe

The Grand Mercure Nelson Monaco is a sea-side boutique, village-styled hotel 5 mins drive from Nelson airport and 15 mins drive from the central city. 
I oversee the reservations/reception departments and works closely with the food & beverage, accounts, housekeeping, maintenance and sales/marketing teams. I enjoy surprising and delighting our guests with a warm friendly welcome that is at the heart of manaakitanga. I am tangata whenua (Māori), I speak Te Reo Māori (but not as fluently as I would like), and I’m originally from Gisborne in the North Island. 

Instagram: @grandmercurenelson

Abel Tasman Kayaks
Josh Keenhouwers

Abel Tasman Kayaks was established in 1986, realising a vision to bring visitors into the glorious Abel Tasman National Park. I am now a senior guide with the company. I love guiding in the Abel Tasman because I can live in the place I love and still have a sphere of influence around the world.  
There’s no bigger buzz than seeing guests’ eyes light up or a massive smile across their face or just that moment where they stop from their busy lives, breathe and take it all in. 


Wilson's Abel Tasman

Darryl Wilson, Darryl Wilson, CEO, Wilsons Abel Tasman National Park

People, Place and Passion define the Wilson family’s commitment to sharing their eight generations of experience in the Nelson region. Starting with a single passenger launch in 1977, the Wilsons now offer award-winning choices to visitors in Abel Tasman National Park including boats, beachfront lodges, walking and kayaking.

Instagram:  @abeltasmankayaks

Awaroa Lodge

Nona Jackson, Capstone Hotels Director of Sales

Awaroa Lodge is a wilderness retreat nestled in the smallest, but most visited National Park in New Zealand. The team is passionate about sharing their corner of paradise with international and local visitors alike.  Whether guests arrive on foot after a long day tramping or by water or air; a
warm welcome, great food and comfortable beds await.  
At Capstone Hotels I work with a range of boutique accommodation and activity providers throughout New Zealand with an emphasis on quality experiences in special locations. I love introducing great sellers to authentic and passionate suppliers.

Instagram: @awaroalodge

Golden Bay Air

Lisa Sheppard, Owner

Golden Bay Air is a scenic and scheduled air service based in Takaka, Golden Bay. We offer regular scheduled services off the beaten track between Wellington – Takaka – Nelson and Karamea as well as scenic flights from Takaka and Nelson. Add in our shuttles and rental cars and we are a one stop shop for transport in the North West South Island! We can’t wait to show you how magnificent the top of the South is from above!

Instagram: @goldenbayair