Meet our New Zealand Trip Leaders

Whether you’re after beautiful, subtropical beaches, pristine glaciers, dense rain forests, vibrant nightlife or thrilling adventures; New Zealand’s South Island surely has something for you. On our New Zealand: Bike & Walk the South Island vacation, you can discover the wonders of New Zealand three ways: biking, walking and kayaking. And while we could go on and on about how great we think this country is, the best way to learn more about New Zealand is directly from Chris Skilling, who designed this new itinerary, as well as three of our local kiwi Trip Leaders.

Chris Skilling, Vice President of Worldwide Tour Development
Chris, lake matheson, New Zealand, blog

What about the new 2018 New Zealand Bike & Walk the South Island vacation are you most excited about?
Although VBT has been sharing New Zealand with travelers for decades, our newest program really showcases the very best of the country by getting travelers closer to what makes it such a unique and well-loved destination.

How does the biking, walking, and kayaking combination help you see New Zealand better?
We’ve partnered with our long-time New Zealand Trip Leaders to seek out beloved cycling trails, walking trails, and kayaking spots that may be passed over by a guidebook or map.  In addition, instead of spending a week cycling down a single primary road on the west coast, our new program zigs and zags along the west coast to bring truly spectacular New Zealand to our doorstep.  Each day affords a new way to get close to this impressive wilderness.  You’ll never get bored on this tour, and will be surprised at how broad and varied the South Island can be.

Which of the activities (biking, walking, or kayaking) is your favorite, and why?
They’re all wonderful in their own way but personally, I love the pace of cycling.  It’s fast enough to see a variety of things in a single ride, yet slow enough to engage all the senses!

What day are you looking forward to most from the new tour itinerary, and why?
I think the last full day, in Wanaka, is awesome…the triple crown!  We start with a morning walk on spectacular Mt. Iron with incredible views. Then we’re treated to a home-made lunch with a local couple, Alana and Duncan, on their sprawling sheep station. And then we spend the afternoon above Lake Wanaka in the tasting rooms at Rippon, a historical winery set in a remarkable location
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Josey W., Trip Leader

Josey, Leader, New ZealandWhat do you love most about New Zealand, or are most proud of?
I moved to New Zealand ten years ago and fell in love with the landscape and the people. For such a small country, there is so much to do from rainforests, to glaciers to fjords to thermal hot pools and volcanos. There is so much diversity. After ten years, I am still amazed at finding new places and being blown away all over again.

What about the new 2018 New Zealand Bike & Walk the South Island vacation are you most excited about?
I’m so looking forward to our new multi-activity itinerary and being able to mix it up a bit on tour. The new West Coast cycling track is really popular with locals and oversea tourists alike. The hikes offer some spectacular scenery and a chance to see some of our lovely native birds.  I am often thrilled to have a little fantail follow me on hikes and it’s great to have the opportunity to see the birds up close and personal after listening to their lovely bird songs while on the bike.

Which of the activities (biking, walking, or kayaking) is your favorite, and why?
The kayaking offers the most amazing views on a crystal-clear morning and if you’re really quiet you often get to see the trout jump from the water trying to catch a fly.

How does the biking, walking, and kayaking combination help you see New Zealand better?
I think the multiple activities all have their strengths. When you bike you can cover some distances while the hikes and kayaks offer a chance to slow down and appreciate so much nature. I think when life gets so busy it’s great to get immersed in nature and always feel rejuvenated afterwards.  I get so much joy watching how much the guests love it and think I have the best job in the world sharing my love for my new-found home.

What day are you looking forward to most from the new tour itinerary, and why?
It’s hard to pick a favorite day on the trip, but I think a stay at The Wilderness Lodge is a highlight along with their fabulous coastal sea hike. I often get to see seals, the rare Hector dolphins, and when in season the fjordland created penguins, it feels like you’re in a wildlife documentary
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Wayne V.H., Trip Leader

Wayne, New Zealand Leader, Blog
What do you love most about New Zealand, or are most proud of?
Diversity. New Zealand offers travelers the chance to see a wide variety of beautiful scenery and landscapes in a short period of time. Our tour offers the chance for guests to walk away feeling they really got to know this stunning part of our country.

What about the new 2018 New Zealand Bike & Walk the South Island vacation are you most excited about?
The chance our guests will have to feel more intimately connected with nature because of the new routes.

How does the biking, walking, and kayaking combination help you see New Zealand better?
These activities really enable one to “sense” sights, smells, and sounds at different speeds and different perspectives, all adding to the feeling of “complete” grasp of what NZ has to offer.

Which of the activities (biking, walking, or kayaking) is your favorite, and why?
Biking, because it’s the most active of the 3 activities for me
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Jan K., Trip Leader

What do you love most about New Zealand, or are most proud of?jan k, new zealand, leader
I love the laid back and healthy lifestyle that New Zealand provides and I enjoy sharing that with the VBT guests. It’s a great place to wind down, take in the clean fresh air and be wowed by the scenery and opportunities the tour provides.

What about the new 2018 New Zealand Bike & Walk the South Island vacation are you most excited about?
The new multi activity tour is such a fantastic way to take in so many of the diverse elements of the stunning South Island.

Which of the activities (biking, walking, or kayaking) is your favorite, and why?
I enjoy the hiking and kayaking as it provides a great opportunity to see plants and birdlife up close.  The bird life is quite shy, much like New Zealanders, so the kayaking and walking options give you a greater opportunity to hear the lovely singers and see birds in action. A great bonus of the multi activity tour is less chance of sore bottoms from being on a bike too long!!!

How does the biking, walking, and kayaking combination help you see New Zealand better?
I am always excited to showcase the South Island of New Zealand, but I am even more excited about the possibilities the guests will now have to see so much more of our unique flora and fauna with this new tour.

What day are you looking forward to most from the new tour itinerary, and why?
There are so many things I love about this new tour, it’s hard to pin down one specific highlight as each day has highlights which are so different as we travel along !!! I’m excited about the addition of walking and kayaking excursions as it provides a great opportunity to see plants and birdlife up close. Up to 70 species come to the Okarito Lagoon where we spend time kayaking on this tour. While you paddle along you can watch them feeding and get quite close. The kotuku (eastern great egret), is believed to have flown here from Australia, and Okarito is its only breeding ground in New Zealand! The native Maori prized the long white wispy feathers—only those of importance would wear them.

The Lake Matheson walk is like stepping into a fairy land with vibrant moss draping over the ground—you expect a magical creature to appear at any moment. If you look closely you can see hundreds of different species of fern, moss, and lichen. When you look up, you can see our largest native trees, the Kahikatea and Rimu. Early settlers produced beer from the Rimu tree, but it’s even better known for its beautiful decorative wood.

While you’re cycling or walking, keep an eye out for the New Zealand native wood pigeon. It’s the third largest pigeon in the world!

For more information about the New Zealand: Bike & Walk the South Island vacation please click here. If you would like to reserve a vacation or speak with one of our Tour Consultants, please call 800-245-3868. They are available Monday-Friday from 8:30am to 6:30pm EST and Saturdays from 10:00am to 3:00pm EST.