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  • The Curious Traveler

A Conversation with Nicky Snoyink, Boundless Journeys’ New Zealand Guide

Guests of Boundless Journeys trips often rave about how our guides really set our trips apart from our competitors. This interview is part of a series designed to showcase the amazing people that make traveling with Boundless Journeys so special. 

Nicky, you have been the heart and soul of Boundless Journeys’ New Zealand operations for many years. Can you please tell us a bit about yourself, and how you found your way into the world of outdoor recreation?

After finishing school (last century!) I studied Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, then began working in the ski industry as a ski instructor. This was a wonderful way to combine my love of being in the mountains, skiing, and travel! After a few back-to-back winters traveling between New Zealand & Austria to work in ski schools, ready for a summer, I sought a park ranger job with the Department of Conservation or DOC. DOC is the New Zealand Government agency that cares for the national parks and reserves, the native plants and animals, and recreation facilities like backcountry huts, tracks, and campsites.

After a few years working as a park ranger, it seemed a natural transition into guiding nature and walking tours in these parks I had come to know so well, which launched a twenty (plus) year career of guiding visitors around these special places in New Zealand!

You are currently pursuing a degree in natural resource management. How has growing up exploring the natural beauty of New Zealand affected the life you are living?

In 2016, I graduated as a mature student with a Master’s of Environmental Policy. New Zealand’s native plants and animals, many of which are found nowhere else in the world, had me captured early on, particularly the plants and animals in the alpine areas and the braided rivers of my homeland, Canterbury.

Over the years of observing subtle changes to the natural environment (increased water pollution and native biodiversity loss, both compounded by climate change) as a result of changing land use, particularly a shift to industrial agriculture, my Master’s studies included a research project interviewing land managers seeking to understand how native species and their habitats, were considered in their land use activities.

My research revealed that very few land managers, in the quest for increased productivity, considered the impact of their activities on native species; and while New Zealand environmental regulations to protect native species were generally quite poor, alarmingly they are even poorly implemented. This knowledge has led me to my current work, as an advocate for New Zealand’s largest environmental non-government organization, the Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society of New Zealand (Forest & Bird for short).

As an advocate, the job includes writing submissions on environmental processes, giving presentations to hearing panels and lobbying politicians and industry, for stronger environmental policy and better implementation. Sounds dry I know… however I also get to do some fun stuff and spend time in nature as part of the job. Working with Forest & Bird CE, I recently helped host US Ambassador Tom Udall and Diplomats Allison Waters and Phil McKenna on an afternoon in one of Forest & Bird’s own local nature reserves for some bird watching! I have an arrangement that allows me to lead Boundless Journeys trips each summer, which is a great way for me to share my knowledge with visitors from across the world. So, to answer your question, a lifetime of exploring nature and combining this with work has meant that the line between work and leisure is very often blurred!

Many visitors to New Zealand choose to rent camper vans and drive around the country. How does that experience compare with the Boundless Journeys experience, and what are those tourists missing who choose to see the country without a native Kiwi guide?

While free independent travel is fun and adventurous, there is only so much a map and a guidebook can give you, particularly if your time is limited and you are doing the driving yourself! New Zealand roads can be narrow and windy, and you have to concentrate on keeping left. So driving can be quite stressful, particularly if you are being “tail-gated” by a big truck or an impatient driver.

A trip with Boundless Journeys takes away the stress and leads you off the beaten path to authentic and genuine local experiences, all the while in the company of informed New Zealanders during the waking hours, who are keen to chat about anything and keep you safe while they are at it!

It’s been said that other companies sometimes don’t have Kiwis leading their trips – is that true?

Yes, that is true, for example, Backroads often have only US guides.

Nicky, you had a heavy hand in designing Boundless Journeys New Zealand South Island Exploration trip. Why is this trip so special?

The route traveled provides a superb variety of scenery and cultural experiences, from “the top of the south” at Abel Tasman National Park, to the alpine heart of the island at Arthur’s Pass National Park with its mountains and braided rivers, traveling west to the infamous Pancake Rocks into the subtropical Paparoa National Park, then down the rugged southwest of the island into the UNESCO Te Wahi Pounamu World Heritage Area of mountains, rivers, jungles, and remote beaches.

The journey offers a glimpse into the many contrasting landscapes of the South Island and a chance to get to know some of the local inhabitants (human and animal – but remember… other than fur seals and bats, NZ has no native mammals!) before finishing the journey in the self-professed adrenalin capital of the world (Queenstown). This is perhaps the most stark contrast after 10 days exploring the nature of the South Island! 

Our New Zealand Alpine and Coastal Hiking tour is meant to showcase some of the most remote places in New Zealand while leaving plenty of room for customized independent travel both before and after the trip. Why is it a good idea to join a group trip through the more remote sections of the South Island?

Being part of a group with experienced local guides who know how the weather behaves and the infrastructure works, will keep you safe and make sure that you have the best possible experience.

Finally, where is next on your travel bucket list?

Oh… I have dreamed of the Mont Blanc hike for many years – I don’t know if I will ever get there. For now I am pretty content with staying in New Zealand, however, a bikepacking trip on the Western Australian Munda Biddi Trail next spring (October 2023), is on the cards! 


View the New Zealand Alpine & Coastal Tour

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