Top 10 Guest Photos 2015

Photo competitions. They’re not necessarily a good thing for an organisation like us to run, because there can only ever be one winner, and we leave hundreds of other people disappointed. But we can’t help ourselves, can we? That’s because it’s just too damn hard to take bad photos on our trips and we’re naturally compelled to share them with everyone. And what’s life without friendly competition amongst family and peers?!

But rather than showcase just the one winner, here’s the top 10, in no particular order, all taken by you guys on our trips in 2015. What a year it was!

We’ll tell you who the winner is also – don’t worry.

1. Aoraki Mt Cook & Lake Pukaki, ‘Rimu’ – Allen Cameron

Aoraki Mt Cook

This is a scene our guides never tire of seeing, no matter how many times they visit the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. There’s always the butterflies that flutter in your stomach as this landscape greets you. As you get closer, the waters of Lake Pukaki become more radiant and the slopes of Aoraki Mount Cook and the surrounding hills become more dramatic. After passing Lake Pukaki you’ll delve deeper into the National Park and get the chance to hike onto Mueller Ridge, where you’ll experience the most mind blowing mountain views in New Zealand.

2. Hiking Siberia Valley, ‘Tui’ – Bob Secor

Hiking Siberia Valley

You step out of the aircraft that has just dropped you into arguably New Zealand’s most isolated and dramatic wilderness area, and there’s just one way out from there; on foot. The plane takes off again and you realise it’s just you, your fellow hikers and the native birds accompanying you through this area of untouched beauty. Not a bad way to spend a couple of days. Well… technically you’ll get to take a jet boat ride down the Wilkin River as well, so it’s not just hiking!

3. Sand Boarding Te Pouahi Reserve, ‘Kauri’ – Bonnie Mullin

Sand Boarding

Sometimes it’s important to just be a kid again. And what better way than taking an old body board (not intended for anything other than use on the water, but hey – it’s fun!) and sliding down a huge sand dune and getting completely covered in sand? It can’t all be too civilised can it?

4. Swimming with a Turtle, ‘Tortuga’ – Charlotte Sherman

Swimming with a Turtle

If you don’t swim or at least see a turtle when you join us on our ‘Tortuga’ trip in the Galapagos Islands, then there will certainly be something wrong with the space/time continuum and we’ll have to look into getting into another business. Here’s the reason why we called the trip the ‘Tortuga’ – they’re everywhere and you never get sick of seeing them, especially in crystal clear water!

5. House on the Svelte, Patagonia, ‘Condor’ – Dennis Wilson

House on the Svelte

Patagonia has many faces, yes there’s the enormous granite peaks and glaciers of Torres Del Paine and Glaciares National Park, fiords and picture perfect lakes. There’s also the windswept plains dotted with grazing cattle and traditional “Gaucho” farm houses (now with solar power!). You find yourself wondering if you’ve stepped into a time machine.

6. Immaculate Forest Walk, Nelson Lakes National Park, ‘Rimu’ – Donal Rafferty

Immaculate Forest Walk

Can you see the hobbit in the trees in this shot? Well, there is no hobbit but you’ll be forgiven for expecting some sort of ancient creature to walk across the trail as you’re hiking in Nelson Lakes National Park. So no hobbits here, but you’ll probably be greeted by a South Island Robin – one of our most inquisitive native birds. They often peck at the ground you’ve walked on as they know your hiking boots may have opened up some soil for worms!

7. Machu Picchu Selfie, ‘Jaguar’ – Jen Risser

Machu Picchu Selfie

Check out how happy Jen Risser is, after hiking for 3 days on the Inca Trail to get to Machu Picchu. We arrive at Machu Picchu super early in the morning before the sun comes up and get ahead of the numerous people who visit the site every day, but when the sun does come out, it shines directly down on the site all day – it’s an incredibly refreshing place to be. The other thing we’ve noticed about this photo is that it’s a reminder of how much of a big job it’d be to mow those lawns, just look at em!

8. Milford Sound Kayaking, ‘Rimu’ – Jim Lane

Milford Sound Kayaking

Believe it or not, photos like this are EXTREMELY rare. Not because it has captured a truly perfect moment in time for Jim and his son Ben Lane, in the world’s most spectacular fiord, but because it’s captured a person in a double sea kayak who isn’t engaged in an argument with their fellow paddler… For that reason, this photo is our winner! Who needs flat horizons anyway…

9. Blue Duck in Repose, ‘Manuka’ – Joyce Barbour

Blue Duck in Repose

Our native Whio (Blue Duck) are known here in New Zealand as the “whitewater duck”, as when they’re spotted, they are often seen riding the rapids in our streams and rivers. They are also extremely rare. Contrary to how it appears in this photo, they do actually have heads, and two legs.

10. Hiking Amongst Giants, ‘AST’ – Marjorie Pilli

Hiking Amongst Giants

Almost there! In this shot, you’re only about 30 minutes from arriving at the Annapurna Sanctuary – a spectacular alpine amphitheatre that has to be seen to be believed. That’s our guide DK in the picture, pointing out the surrounding peaks but clearly not holding the attention of the other guy in the photo. It’s OK – we’re working on his presentation skills… :-)

Adventure stories – tell me yours, I’ll tell you mine!

When you’re based in the ‘adventure capital of New Zealand’, you don’t have to look far to appreciate how much excitement sits on our doorstep. Looking around the room right now, I can see hikers, mountain bikers, road cyclists, sea kayakers, white water kayakers, paddle boarders, rock climbers, skiers and snowboarders…. just to name a few! So it’s fair to say, there’s never a shortage of Monday morning adventure stories here at Active HQ.


Amazing views of the Gibston Valley from the summit of Mt Rosa

It’s the end of the ski season down here, so everyone’s making the most of the final days of spring skiing… while the mountain bikers, climbers and hikers are flooding into town. This week I came to work, looking forward to sharing my weekend’s worth of adventures with my work buddies. It was a solid 2 days of climbing Mt Rosa on my mountain bike, and fly fishing down at my local spot (sorry fellow fishermen, I can’t disclose that location, it’s a winner!).


Fly fishing at sunset, near Queenstown

It wasn’t long before I ate a nice slice of humble pie, as I bumped into Fiona at the coffee machine. She’s one of our New Zealand and Himalayas travel gurus here at Active, and she’d spent the weekend competing in one of New Zealand’s biggest women’s rogaine events in Wanaka (just an hour’s drive over the hill from Queenstown).


Fiona (centre-left) and team mates

If you’re not familiar with it, rogaining’s a sport of long distance cross-country navigation. Competitors are given a map of their surrounding area before the race starts – this can be the night before, or only an hour before… so you never know how long you’ll have to prepare. The race is made up of teams of 2-5 people, who decide which check points to visit in order to maximise their score, in a given time frame. So it’s a match of mental and physical endurance, navigation and tactic.


Midway through the run, with views of Mt Aspiring national park, and Lake Wanaka in the distance

Fe and her team (Lady Torpedo Wolf Pack) pushed their bodies to the limits in some of the most stunning high country New Zealand has to offer. With front row seats to the snow-capped mountains of Mount Aspiring National Park, and the stunning blue waters of Lake Wanaka, they completed the 12km leg of white water rafting, the 33km mountain bike ride, 12km run, topped off with another 21km mountain bike ride to the finish.

Optimized-Fe - SC Biking (Cropped)
“The biking section was hot, and tough!”

The physical battle was met with a game of psychology, bluffing away challenging teams when they had discovered a check point, then navigating your way to the next point. It was a stunning spring day and Wanaka turned the heat on, so every navigational decision they made was going to affect their hydration and food supplies… and luckily they were spot on. I guess the years of guiding through Fiordland National Park have given Fe an incredible internal compass, as she’d accurately navigate her way through the most rugged and challenging countryside on a daily basis.

Optimized-Fe - SC Nav
Fe putting her navigation skills to the test

Broken and triumphant, her team came in 35th out of 232 teams that were competing… and I could see the fire in her eye when she said she’s shooting for a top 10 finish next year!

Optimized-Fe - SC Finish(cropped)
Smiles for miles, we made it!

So go ahead and put yourself by the coffee machine… tell us what you got up to this weekend, we’d love to hear from you!