The Day in the life of a Fiordland Based Sea Kayak Guide

Kia Ora, my name is Charlotte. I am a third season sea kayak guide in the beautiful and challenging Fiordland National Park.

A little bit about me. I am a kiwi girl who was brought up in the Mackenzie Country where my love for the outdoors and adventure started. In my later high school and University years, I became a proficient whitewater kayaker which has led me into a sea kayaking career.

This is my third season in Fiordland guiding day and overnight experiences. I also take part in training new guides and assisting with operations.

Go Orange Kayak Milford Sound Experience

Now, the average working day for me is pretty rad. I arrive at kayak base in Te Anau at 6 with a coffee in my hand. Thankfully we have epic base staff which means all my gear for the day (thermals, jackets, spray skirts, PFD’s, etc) are packed and ready to go the night before. All I have to do is fill flasks with hot water for the guests, pack my guiding gear and load the van. I then start the commute into either Milford or Doubtful Sound.

The drive to Milford takes around two hours depending on road conditions. This is our opportunity as guides to mentally prepare for the day, consider the weather forecast and jam out to whatever tunes we’re vibing that morning. Doubtful Sound starts by driving to Manapouri, meet the travellers before taking a boat across Lake Manapouri. The boat takes us to West Arm where we climb aboard a coach and drive over the Wilmot Pass to Deep Cove. I never get bored on these commutes, every day can look so different depending on the weather.

Once I have arrived at either one of the Fiords this is my last chance to assess weather conditions, meaning check the wind conditions. Fiordland is a temperate rainforest so we often kayak in the rain. The wind, however, can make kayaking unsafe and unenjoyable so sometimes we have to cancel if we deem it unsafe. Fiordland is a very dynamic environment, especially when it comes to weather. As guides, we learn over time how to understand and read Fiordland weather. It is not just as simple as asking google what Doubtful Sound weather will be like on a given day.

When I have decided the weather is suitable for kayaking it’s time to get guests ready for the day. All guests are required to have is shoes they’re willing to get wet. YOUR FEET WILL GET WET KAYAKING. The hype is real as we hand out the clothing. Kayaking is all about fashion. Our clothing is purpose-built to keep you as dry and warm as possible and we will always aim to ensure our guests are comfortable and excited!

Before we start our adventure all travellers are inducted through a paddle and a kayak brief so all understand and feel safe in our double sea kayaks.

Every day is different. We spend anywhere between 2-6 hours on the water, the weather, what you see and where you go will never be the same. Part of what we love about being sea kayak guides. Some of my best times have been in the pouring rain.

Go Orange Kayak Milford Sound - Rainbows

Once we get back to shore, all the gear gets packed away, we say our goodbyes and start the commute home. This is usually a time where guides share their stories and chat about the day. Once we get back to base, we clean all the gear (clothing) we’ve used, complete any paperwork and debrief about the day.

Come hang! Fiordland is our playground.

It will be rad.

Charlotte & the Fiordland kayak team.