This Herald Travel series focuses on Māori tourism businesses around the country, showcasing who they are, what they do, and what they have to offer Kiwi travellers.
Don Allardice (Ngāti Kahungunu):Riverbug, Welcome Bay, Bay of Plenty
Why should Kiwis choose to do one of your tours?
Kiwis are well known for their pioneering spirit. We offer our guests a fun new way to experience whitewater and become a "riverbug pioneer".
Being inflatable (like a raft), and manoeuvrable (like a kayak) you get the best of both worlds to experience the thrills of whitewater from the riverbug perspective. It's safe and easy to learn, and run on fun low-risk whitewater (up to Grade 2), so even families with children as young as 5 years enjoy the experience together.
What can they expect on a tour with you?
A unique fun cultural adventure off the beaten track, with great guides and top equipment. In small groups we offer an experience with personal attention, and the rivers we use are not the usual tourist traps so often we're the only group on the river.
Most of our guests are first-timers and are amazed to be riding whitewater rapids in their own funky inflatable riverbug. They'll discover hidden gorges with cascading waterfalls and lush moss-lined walls cascading into the river, encounter wildlife and learn about the local stories.
How do your tours celebrate te ao Māori?
"Whitewater adventure with a touch of culture" probably best describes what we do. We weave some basic te reo Māori into our kōrero, with an explanation of the relevance to the activity – things like: mihi (greeting), karakia (blessing) and whakataukī (proverb).
We'll share some of the history and local stories, and acknowledge the mana whenua (territorial rights) of the rohe (area), promoting our core values of kaitiakitanga (guardianship), manaakitanga (hospitality) and oranga (wellbeing). We aim to give our guests a great time on the water and some knowledge and experience of te ao Māori that they can take with them.
What do you love most about your job?
Being out on the river and sharing my passion. Helping people learn how to riverbug in whitewater is a blast. It's awesome to see people immersing themselves (literally!) in the experience – embracing the challenges and gaining skills during the trip – enjoying the river environment.
It can be taking guests out on a tour, training riverbug guides, or running courses… it's a buzz to pass on knowledge and show people how to be safe and have a good time on the river.
What are some of your other favourite things to see and do within your local region?
Off the beaten track experiences: soaking in the Maurie Kjar Memorial Swimming Pool thermal baths in Kawerau (free entry!), visiting waterfalls, camping at the Lake Aniwhenua Camping Area (koha), hiking in the Whirinaki Forest Park, swimming at the Poripori Water Holes on the Wairoa River, picking organic blueberries at Redwood Lane Blueberries in Tauriko.