Having grown up in the outdoors, Chai feels very much in his element guiding guests through bush and over mountains. His father was an avid adventurer, often taking him up cliff faces, down rivers and across lakes.
Nowadays he finds great reward in sharing New Zealand’s outdoors with friends and visitors alike. Chai’s broad experience in the outdoor industry has traversed the New Zealand and Nepalese whitewater kayaking scene, to employment as a hiking guide.
He has a genuine love of learning and affinity with Tourism New Zealand’s Tiaki Promise - to care for people and place, for now and for future generations.
What do you get up to when you are not guiding?
I live in an intentional community where my growing focus is on self-sustainability.
Lately I have been collecting wild edibles and am blown away by how much food is readily available in my environment. The community is on the edge of the Abel Tasman National Park, where the nights are clear and the sea often still and reflective. Lately I have been setting a net at night to catch fish, and loving the wide expanse of our starry sky.
As a guide what’s a top tip you’d pass on to our hikers?
Layer up! New Zealand's weather can be a bit of a ‘mish mash’ at times, so the more layers you have with you the more combinations are possible to suit a broader range of conditions! Also, don't bother about what the weather might do while deciding what to wear... Simply dress for the present conditions, and make a change whenever needed!
Sharing a laugh is such a benefit of group travel, share with us one of your funny moments on a trip.
Once my partner's toy dragon decided to come on a tour, unbeknown to her. 'Aniwaniwa' became quite a hit with the group, regularly having her action photos taken, and sent back home. Tragically she went missing however, lost to the mountainous wilds! News of her disappearance quickly spread, even to the local conservation department, and after a week of peril in the wilderness two hikers recaptured her! She returned to civilisation to find a group of fans clambering to get a selfie with her!
What is one of the things you love most about your job?
I love sharing traditional Maori stories and perspectives with clients. I find it inspiring how connected Maori were with the elements, I'm also fascinated at the interconnectedness that they felt with their environment.
They had a different reason and motive for telling stories, and I enjoy how telling them to clients can highlight how they saw their place in the world, and how they related to it.
Favourite place to hike and why?
Walking up to the Ballroom in the Paparoa National Park is always special. River-crossing, backcountry-style (no bridges), adds an extra adventurous element which makes reaching the beautiful, natural shelter for the night a real treat.
There's something very connecting, comforting and also enlivening about sitting around a campfire together while chowing down after a big day too! A good cuppa from the billy, warmed by the fire is perfect to finish with.