Going on a bush walk or hiking trip in New Zealand has been on your list for years. But, you’ve heard from friends about how much you’ll have to carry, how much planning was involved and how going on your own makes it a little bit riskier if the weather changes or you find yourself in an emergency situation.
There’s no need to go it alone.
This post will look at the different things you should consider when looking for your guided walk operator and how to prepare for the big day.
Why a guided walk?
Depending on the type of traveller you are, the idea of roughing it in a shared hut (without hot water) might be your ideal trip. For others it can be a little daunting to give up the comforts of home.
Here’s what an independent guide company can offer you:
- Specifically appointed lodges booked in advance
- Bedding supplied (no need to carry your own)
- Comfortable beds
- Hot showers
- All meals provided (no need to carry your own food and cooking utensils)
- All transport to and from the start and finish of the walks provided
- A group of people who can support each other. You may even make new friends.
- Smaller backpacks than those who do the walks independently and,
- A knowledgeable guide on hand to give you an educational experience and ensure safety on the walk
Though this may sound like the height of luxury, at least as far as tramping goes, there are some downsides to taking a guided walk that you should at least be mindful of before making a decision.
On a guided walk, you are restricted to walking at the pace of the rest of the group. This means you can’t rush ahead if you’re keen to get through some of the difficult parts more quickly. You also can’t linger behind where you would like if you feel like taking in the sights or walking at a slower pace.
Be aware that some walks, such as the Milford Track, sell out months in advance. These walks can handle larger group sizes and as such can have as many as 50 people per group; not quite the relaxing experience you may have envisioned.
It may go without saying that the group you start with is the group you finish with. If you hike independently you can break away from large groups and set your own pace, chatting with people when you so choose to.
With a large group, however, you are going to be with the same people day in day out. If Chatty Kathy decides you’re her new best friend, that’s it. Consider your ability or willingness to socialise with the same people for the entirety of your hike.
Considerations when choosing your guide company
When choosing your guide provider, look for answers to the following:
- Transport – how will you reach the start of the walk? Will someone collect you at the end?
- Group size – How many will be in my group?
- Meal arrangements – Will I need to cook or carry any food?
- Will huts be booked in advance?
- Will I need to collect permits from the Department of Conservation or will this be taken care of?
- Safety guidelines: will your guide also have first aid experience? How will they handle an emergency situation?
- Which walk will I find most enjoyable based on my fitness level and the time I have available?
It may seem like a lot to organise, but no trip of a lifetime can be guaranteed without some planning. If this is your first great walk in New Zealand or you’re just looking for a different experience, a guided tour is bound to exceed your expectations and leave you itching to plan your next trip to Fiordland.