Let’s suppose you want to spend a day exploring Tauranga Harbour by kayak and you’re not a complete novice – you’ve been on a few paddles. But you don’t really fancy the whole guided gig, and would rather have a bit more freedom.
Ever innovative Blair and Charlotte Anderson of Waimarino Adventure Park on the Wairoa River - pioneers of the well known glow-worm trips on Lake Mc Laren - have launched a new tour where you go at your pace, anywhere you want (fitness permitting of course). Their aptly- named Freedom Sea Kayak Tours were launched after the couple realised people wanted more flexibility to go and explore the ‘perfect playground’ of Tauranga’s big harbour.
‘We decided to provide “un-guided” ours, arming people with enough tuition, advice and equipment beforehand, to cope with any tide and wind difficulties they might encounter,’ says Charlotte. ‘The place they finish is tide and wind dependant, and depends on the skills and fitness of the customers.’
The formula is pretty simple, she says. There are four or five standard departure and finish places, such as Waimarino itself, the Omokoroa boat ramp, Fergusson Park, the Yacht Club at Sulphur Point and even Sebel Trinity Wharf hotel. All these spots are easy to access by road and also quite recognisable when you’re out on the water. ‘We give customers a harbour map with all those points, a GPS marked with the points as well...a phone if they don’t have a cell phone so they can txt us where they are, and when they want to be picked up.’
People are really happy, says Charlotte, because they are able to kayak in their own time and land ‘wherever the tide is pushing them.’ Once they’ve made contact, Waimarino staff head out with a vehicle and trailer and pick them up from their landing place.
Charlotte cites as one example two women who set off from the Sebel hotel where they were staying, with the aim of returning to the same spot. They pair returned from their paddle and said somewhat surprisingly, ‘oh wow, we made quite a bit of distance and it was easy.’ They were probably helped by an incoming tide, says Charlotte, ‘but if you’ve got everything in your favour, sea kayaking is easy, really enjoyable.’ The pair were elated with their achievement, going all on their own and at their pace.
People on the freedom tours have found departing from Waimarino’s base on the river an appealing way to start their paddle. After leaving Waimarino it’s a ‘real river landscape,’ then you paddle through a lot of mangroves, and an open area at the river mouth, before encountering wide open harbour scenery.
The tours are most suited to people with a ‘little bit’ of kayaking background, but not complete novices who wouldn’t be advised to attempt them. But Waimarino still provides full tuition covering a range of topics such as basic paddling strokes, how to read the wind, tide and weather, and deep water rescue.
‘Tauranga Harbour is really easy but it can be daunting when you don’t know it, and the winds pick up a bit. But there’s always a shore not that far away, and you’re never alone for a really long time.’ If it’s too gusty, they don’t send people out.
The freedom tour is priced at $95 per person and there are no time limits (within reason). The sum covers all the gear and tuition, and transport to and from the departure and landing spots.
‘We launch them and go and pick them up and whether its two hours or six, it doesn’t really matter.’ But Charlotte adds chuckling, that of course, ‘we try to see where they are if we haven’t heard from them.’
Waimarino is at 36 Taniwha Place, Bethlehem, tel 576 4233, or online at www.waimarino.com