There’s rubies in those hills


My name is Sam de Reeper, I am currently the owner of a sea kayak company, Rippled Earth. I started guiding on my parents horse trekking stables, High country horse treks at the age of 13. I’ve worked all over the country from Abel Tasman to Milford sound. I have studied Conservation and Ecology at Lincoln University and shortly after started my kayaking company in 2007, I have been guiding ever since.


The guides responsibility is customer welfare, not only are you out there to entertain your clients but their safety while you are on tour is your responsibility as well. The company you are working for will have a safe operational plan but there are many aspects to guiding that may not be part of that plan, such as group management. The company may also have an interpretation plan however this will usually be the minimum requirements of what you are telling your clients and conversation while you are conducting your tour can go far outside your interpretation notes or even your personal range of knowledge.

Group Management

When you are on your tour the safety of your clients will always be at the forefront of your mind. Keep the ‘what if’ scenario’s going in your head, I.E. what do i do if that person falls, twists their ancle, gets caught up in something, chokes, breaks their hand. This helps to keep you focused on hazard identification, how to reduce the risk of that hazard and what your response is going to be if the incident occurs.

A big part of managing your group will be the control you have over it. When you first meet your group discuss the safety aspects of your trips, just a short safety brief, this can include a brief on what equipment you have and how to use it as well. During the brief the clients are shown that you are in responsible for their safety and are in authority, simply by them acknowledging the safety procedure, you can get the whole group to participate in some small role, putting on a lifejacket, paddle instruction, ect. This helps with group bonding and stops one or two people in the group from challenging you as they will want to be a part of the group and the activity.

The further away your clients are from you the less control you have and slower your response if an incident occurs. In any activity you are going to have a range of abilities, meaning some of the group are going to lag behind and some are going to push forward at the front. The larger the group the bigger the spread. You can manage that spread in a couple of different ways.

Be interesting, keep talking and engage the members of the group who are prone to wander. If they are interested in what you are saying they will stay within listening distance.

Break the trip into sections and make the people in the front stop at defined locations for a talk or brief. Each stop brings the group back together again, the longer the distance between stops the more the group will spread.

Remember as the guide you are there to help and encourage so you should spend most of your time at the back of the group as that is where the clients who need your support are going to be. Anyone at the front is obviously doing well and has the ability to stop and approach you if needed.


This is just about public speaking or the art of conversation. We all know the guy who spends the whole time talking about their selves so try not to be that person. You have information to pass over but keep it interesting. Do this by making it relevant to your clients, engage them on their own knowledge of the subject and try relate it back to their country, region, job ect. If you have facts and figures try incorporate it into a story or into something people can relate to, for example Stirling falls in Milford sound is 150m high, thats 3x the height of the Niagra falls on the Usa/Canada boarder.

Know your subject. This means read the company notes then go to the library or web and work out how your going to tell it, who was there, how old were they, where did they

Come from. Make the story real.

When you are on the tour your clients are going to ask you questions. If you don’t know the answer its ok to say you don’t know, try be a little glib and talk around it or break it down and talk about certain points in the subject but after the trip research it and find out what the answer was, as you will be asked that question again during another trip. Over time you become pretty good and know all the answers to all the questions that people ask.

Small talk

Try get to everyone on the trip and ask a little about them. Try make sure that no one was ignored or could feel left out (don’t spend your time just talking to the pretty ones) The usual questions are What is your name? Where do you come from? What do you do for a job back home? You can ask about their holiday as well but of the information you get back pick a topic that you know about or would like to know about and discuss it with them. You can learn a huge amount from your clients, they come from some amazing places and do some really interesting jobs.

At the end

No matter how bad you felt the trip went finish on a high note. I have a Maori legend that i like to use just to finish the day and a “thanks for coming out guys its been great to be here”. People can be really hard to read and you may think that the silent scowling person hated your trip but come up to you after and say they loved it.

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