New Zealand is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places on earth. It offers everything your wanderlusting heart could hope to see in one place. You can slide down sand dunes, explore hidden coves from a kayak, hike a glacier, fly over break taking alps, tube through caves and play in the snow. It offers the rich culture and history of the Maori people, adventure activities and amazing food and wine too. It really has it all!
It’s no surprise NZ is on many people’s bucket list and, trust me, one trip will never be enough. If you’re thinking of visiting New Zealand, whether it’s a return trip or your first time, I recommend a tour. You get to see so much more than you would by yourself and, thanks to your tour leader, will learn, see and do a huge amount.
Before you read on… The guys at Haka have offered for me to run a tour of New Zealand through them. How would it work? Well, you’d jump on a tour with me and a max. 14 other travel lovers (16 of us total) and we’d spend it exploring NZ’s South Island together. I’d also teach you some pretty cool things about photography and blogging if you like, or I can just shut up and we can have an amazing adventure together. I’m gauging interest, so if you think you like the sound of this let me know in the comments below (totally not a commitment, just a ‘Hey, yeah, I might like to do that’ expression of interest) and I’ll keep you updated.
WTF is a Haka Tour?
An excellent question, my travel-loving friend. Haka is a New Zealand born and bred tour company specialising in freaking awesome tours with small groups. Rather than cramming a big coach full of 50 tourists and whizzing them across NZ, the guys at Haka keep things personal by capping tour groups at 16. Why is this important? Because, amigo, you actually get to know every person on the tour and, trust me, it makes for a really fun, memorable experience!
The cool thing about Haka is that it’s a personalised experience. When you book the tour, you pay a base rate for the tour itself. Then, you can opt to add-on experiences, like skydiving and bungy jumping. If ya broke (me) you do less activities. If ya rich (not me) you do as many activities as you like! While we were on the tour our guide, Andy would show us the upcoming activities and, if we wanted to do them, he’d sort it out on the road for us. Read my tips on things to know before doing a group tour here.
24 days of New Zealand awesomeness…
I jumped on Haka’s ‘Epic NZ’ tour because I figured if I was going over there, I wanted to see as MUCH as possible. The tour started and ended in Auckland, taking us to the very best spots in the North and South Islands of NZ. Thinking about the tour, I don’t really know where to start to tell you how much fun I had. Fun is the right word to describe it, that’s for sure. Every day was packed with big laughs, big adventures and amazing sights. It single-handedly has reignited my love for group tours and how much freaking fun they can be! You can read more about what I learned from my tour in this blog post about why solo travel is SO damn important.
Not just a booze cruise…
Yes, there is booze and yes, there’s a whole lot of fun that goes down each and every day. But, we also learned a heck of a lot on our tour, which is really important to me. If I’m visiting a place, I want to learn about the history and culture too. We visited Waitangi, where we learned about the Waitangi Treaty and the history of the Maori people, their culture and how New Zealand was formed.
We also took a visit to the amazing Mitai Maori Village, another chance to learn about Maori culture and history and see an incredibly powerful Haka. I gotta say, the trip to Mitai will stay with me forever, it was a fantastic experience and gave me so much appreciation for the Maori people’s traditions and culture.
Things I worried about
I’m 28 and, to be really honest, was worried I’m a bit too old to be staying in hostels. I was also a bit nervous all my tour mates would be all 18-year-olds wanting to get really drunk every night and I’d be the random old lady in the corner Skyping my cat. My third worry was that I may not get on with my tour mates, I was so nervous I wouldn’t make friends! Turns out, all my worries were very quickly dismissed.
Rolling into a hostel as a group meant we pretty much dominated! Andy would tell us how many to a room, we’d divide up and go settle in. Every night was like a sleepover with your friends and it was really, really fun. Each night we’d jump into our beds and spend a few hours talking and laughing about the day. The hostels we stayed at were fantastic and it reminded me how fun a hostel can be because of the hilarious people you meet.
My tour group was a great mix of ages, with plenty of people my age and a few younger ones. Everyone got on so well and we became close friends really quickly. We’d get together at night to cook dinner and share a few drinks. Granted, there were the occasional big nights out (if you follow me on Snapchat you’ll know exactly what I mean!) but for the most part, everyone was on the same level, wanting to mix fun evenings with big days of adventure and sightseeing.
My trip highlights!
There are so many highlights from the trip, I struggle to choose my favourites! I really think the people on the tour made it even more amazing than it already was. We bonded and became a group of good friends quickly, which made our days extremely fun and filled with laughs. A few of the nights out we had were some of the best nights out I’ve ever had, I’ve honestly never danced and laughed so hard before.
My favourite places we visited would have to be Cathedral Cove along The Coromandel and the incredibly beautiful Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki. Of course, Wanaka and Queenstown deserve their own mentions because they’re always stunning. A few of my favourite activities were the insanely cool scenic flight to Milford Sound, which you can read about here. I also L-O-V-E-D heli-hiking the Franz Josef Glacier, underworld caving and tubing in Punakaiki and my day trip from Paihia to 90 Mile Beach.
Why go with Haka?
There are a lot of tour companies who run tours around New Zealand, so why would you go with Haka? What makes them so special and worth choosing over other tour companies?
I loved my tour with Haka because it’s built around the idea that small groups are better, which is dead right. The size of our group made all the difference! I was able to get to know the guide and my tour mates really well, really quickly. Once this happened, I felt like I was there with friends, which meant I relaxed and a lot of fun. There was never a moment where I felt alone or home-sick, I was always with friends.
Haka choose great spots to stop and visit, they organise and offer amazing activities to make your tour an absolute blast. It can be as adventurous or laid-back as you like, there’s never any pressure to keep up with a hectic schedule. Our whole tour had a laid-back, anything goes kinda vibe that meant it was relaxing, not a stressful itinerary run like a military operation. If we wanted to stay longer somewhere, we could. If we all looked bored, our tour guide would pack us up and we’d head off.
If you’re planning a tour of NZ or tossing up between different companies, I recommend Haka because it’s extremely fun, you visit amazing places, form lifelong friendships with the small group and come away with memories you’ll cherish forever.
Don’t forget, if you like the sound of jumping on a tour of New Zealand with me, let me know in the comments below! With enough interest, I’ll be able to look at dates (probably NZ summer), tour length (7 or 12 days in the South Island) and what I can offer you beautiful people (adventure, fun, photography & blog tips). Fun!!!
Phoebe Lee is a travel writer and award-winning blogger with a love for storytelling. Phoebe creates practical, fun and engaging written content designed to inspire and energise travel-lovers and dreamers. Follow her and Matt’s adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box and through Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.