Education and eco-indigenous tourism company Ki Tai is gearing up for its busiest summer ever.

The young Whanganui collective is developing a male leadership programme targeting intermediate and secondary schools under the guidance of Turama Hawira, and a pilot environmental programme for primary schools centred on inquiry-based learning. The Whanganui River is a feature of both programmes, including cultural and eco-adventure experiences on the river.

Founding members of Ki Tai teamed up 15 years ago during the annual iwi pilgrimage down the river, and continue their involvement today with the celebrated Tira Hoe Waka as guides and leaders.

The company, formed in 2011, expanded its programmes this year to include options for education outside the classroom. As a result, 11 one-day school trips using six-man canoes are already scheduled for the summer, as well as a number of four-day river adventures.

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Ki Tai has just been awarded Worksafe NZ's Adventure Mark safety standard, and members have recently undertaken river rescue training and navigation wnanga.

Four of the team are crew members of the Haunui waka hourua (double-hulled vessel) currently featuring in a Mori Television documentary series.

Rawiri McLeod, Toiora Hawira and Dylan Matthews sailed the Haunui to Sydney in 2014 and Rarotonga in May this year, and Kerehama McLeod will soon be sailing the waka back to Aotearoa. Toiora is working toward becoming a Waka Hourua Navigator and has clocked up more than 20,000 nautical miles of sailing in the past five years.

Ki Tai is investigating building a waka hourua for the river. Founding member Ash Patea said schools wanted to bring classes of up to 30 students and teachers on educational river experiences, and this could currently be achieved using six-man canoes. A waka hourua based on two 15-seater canoes would allow an entire class to be accommodated on one waka.