Outdoor adventure company Raglan Rock this year celebrates its 10th year in business.
Located on the rugged west coast of the Waikato, right where the surfing is great, over the past decade Raglan Rock has put the area on the map as a leading rock climbing, caving and canyoning destination, complete with glow worms on a special evening tour.
As part of our Mighty Local reporting, Waikato Herald spoke with Raglan Rock's manager, Harry Series, about the challenges the company has faced over the past two years when many businesses have been impacted by Covid-related restrictions – and how Kiwis, including mighty local Waikato residents, have shown their support.
Waikato Herald: What is the drawcard for your key visitor markets?
Harry Series: A big drawcard is our location. We're very lucky to be based in such an awesome spot like Raglan, which is frequented by visitors all year. If the surf isn't on, or you're not a surfer or beach-goer, Raglan Rock is here with a range of adventures. All our activities are flexible – we can cater for families and beginners, as well as seasoned adrenalin junkies and people keen to learn and upskill.
Our expertise in climbing is definitely a strong drawcard, with our rock climbing courses having become really popular over the past few years. It's really cool to see so many people taking up rock climbing – it's our passion, and how the company began, so it's great to know we're building a strong reputation in the climbing world.
WH: What has been the biggest challenge for Raglan Rock over the past two years?
HS: This is an easy one - Covid! Every challenge we have faced relates to Covid… Last-minute cancellations, rule changes, and more recently, loss of staff to isolation. However, we have adapted well, and we worked hard to ensure we ran the business as smoothly as possible – and, as always, kept everyone safe. We also took the downtime to train and upskill to ensure we were more than prepared as soon as we could get back outdoors.
Thankfully some of our outdoor education and school camps still came through, and, despite the huge loss of income with no international visitors, we offered discounts to all Kiwi residents on our adventures. These proved popular and meant we could still share our passion and help people get outside to explore and enjoy their own backyard.
We're really excited to see the light at the end of the tunnel now with international borders opening again. We can't wait to welcome visitors from overseas, as well as even more Kiwis.
WH: What is the most popular of the experiences Raglan Rock offers?
HS: Our most popular adventure is the Karioi Canyoning trip. A variety of people come on this journey, especially those who perhaps wouldn't normally try an adventure like this.
Immersed in the native bush with fresh water flowing over you as you hang off ancient lava flow waterfalls is a truly unique experience.
Our caving is popular too. With multiple trips to choose from, there is an experience to suit everyone – either dry-ish family friendly adventures, or the wet, more adventurous Original Pioneers Tour.
The caves we take our guests into are very much raw and ready, and we like to think we offer the true Kiwi caving experience.
Pre-pandemic when the international borders were open, our Karioi Glowworm Canyoning was by far our most popular adventure with overseas visitors. And it's not underground. Lots of people believe glow worms can only be seen underground; however on this adventure, as the sun sets and with your head torch on, you'll be abseiling waterfalls with glow worms everywhere. It's an awesome adventure and between us, it's our guides' favourite trip too.
WH: Tell us about Raglan Rock's sustainability ethos.
HS: Raglan Rock is a proudly eco-conscious company. Our goal is to share how amazing our natural world is, and how we help to protect it.
We actively teach the importance of conservation on our tours – whether it's showing our guests the incredible native fish whitebait grow up to be, or how we need to respect and leave caves as we find them.
As a company, we're working on being paper free. Admin and training paperwork is now all electronic, receipts are emailed, and our flyers are mostly e-flyers. All our sanitising and washing equipment is natural and eco-friendly, and we look to reduce waste on site.
Together with the Karioi Project we're working towards making the area predator free by trapping in our canyon. Our guides discuss with our guests why we are doing this, and how they might also get involved in predator control work back home.
We like to think we're only guests in this world, and it is our duty to respect and take care of the beautiful environments we play in.
WH: What support have you had from the local community? How much do you appreciate New Zealanders supporting local?
HS: The support from the local Raglan community continues to be incredible and we honestly can't thank everyone enough. We offered local discounts as we knew people were financially impacted, and the icing on the cake was the amazing feedback we got from those who joined one or more of our trips.
Many comments came from locals who have lived in Raglan for a long time but had no idea about the magical adventures here on their doorstep.
As well as our own Raglan mighty locals, Kiwis continue to visit from around the country to try something new and take one of our trips.
It's hard to put into words how thankful we are to every single person who has supported us – and continues to. Raglan Rock (and I'm sure many other tourism operators across Aotearoa) thanks you all!
WH: Tell us your latest news – new product, etc
HS: We're planning two new experiences – one a new cave tour that involves multiple abseils, tight squeezes and incredible cave formations; the other is something completely different and a secret we'll reveal on our social media soon.