three people kayaking

Soaring Across New Zealand: A Father-Daughter Heli Trip


Hear from Pelorus Co-Founder Jimmy about his trip to New Zealand, hosting a father-daughter duo on a whirlwind tour of the country, from volcanoes in the north to glaciers in the south and everywhere in between.

For dramatic landscapes and action-packed adventure, few destinations equal New Zealand. From soaring mountains and glaciers to sparkling lakes and verdant parks, there’s a little bit of everything. So, when designing a recent trip for a client whose brief was nature and outdoor adventure, New Zealand was a natural fit. But rid your mind of the typical adult you may be imagining would request such a trip. Instead, this one revolved around a 12-year-old girl.

The planning process

While originally directed by the father, Travel Designer Ruari - the creative brain behind this trip - wanted to ensure that the daughter was also brought in on the discussions. As Jimmy explains, “We wanted to make it relevant to her and what she’s learning at school and her interests so we started to ask her for her feedback on the trip plans, what she thought about it, and certain areas that she would like to see more of. The daughter loves wildlife, and her aim was to see as much of this as possible, as well as the great outdoors as she’s hugely adventurous. She doesn’t spend much time with her father, either, so it was about their bond and them being together as much as possible.

"When she realised that she could edit and add value to it, then she began to open up a lot more. The key part was that this was a trip she and her father were doing together, so it wasn’t going to be dictated to her by him but should be a mix of things that they both enjoy and have input into. And that really unlocked the doors.”

North Island

Starting in North Island, the adventure began in the Bay of Islands: “We were out on kayaks and exploring with an archaeologist, cutting our way through vegetation to find a World War Two bunker. We then went night-time Kiwi spotting on Rotoroa Island using a thermal imager from our partners Leica Camera, which would record the videos and pictures to the camera on my phone.”

Before coming to New Zealand, the clients had spent time learning about Māori culture and they wrote speeches which were presented to the Māori in a welcoming ceremony (pōwhiri). In return, the father was given an intricately carved staff before sharing a traditional Māori cooked lunch.

two men fly fishing


Fishing was a central part of the trip, and they were in the company of an expert fly-fishing guide. While originally only planned for one or two days, the clients decided to spend extra time with the guide which was seamlessly added into the itinerary thanks to Jimmy being there on the ground and able to rearrange the plans.

“Because of the nature of how we work at Pelorus, we were able to adapt and change the programme, and that allowed us to build a lot more fishing when we were there on the ground. Fishing in New Zealand is incredible as you have such a great mix from being high in mountain rivers, deep in fjords, and then the coastal mouth as well. The landscape is massively dramatic and the majority of rivers can only be accessed by helicopter, so we were able to spot somewhere, drop down, go and fish an area for half an hour, and then get back in and fly somewhere else. And when you're flying, you're flying over some of the best landscapes in the world.”

South Island

Moving down to South Island, the seamless blend of nature and adventure continued. With so many helicopter rides – a key part of the itinerary, allowing for quick transportation to areas otherwise inaccessible – it was important to keep the daughter engaged. To add a dynamic element to this, Travel Designer Ruari built in small treasure hunts and interactive challenges which allowed her to take navigation into her own hands and ensured that we were constantly hitting the brief and providing points of intellectual stimulation.

group walking towards helicopters landed on a glacier

“When we got down to the south and the glaciers, we had a free diver go down and catch giant crayfish which we framed as a surprise rescue mission. We told the clients that we could see someone stranded on the rock so we landed to offer help, but as the doors opened they could see he was carrying this big box with seven or eight crayfish in it. I said “This is your lunch”, and he was so surprised! To keep the crayfish fresh, we covered them in snow to keep them fresh and we took them up to the glacier where we had an incredible lunch.”

After a fuelling crayfish lunch, the clients spent time fully exploring the exceptionally beautiful Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park. Home to New Zealand’s highest mountains, as well as glaciers galore, they embarked on glacier hikes in the company of a prominent female mountaineer and learned how to ice climb with crampons and ice picks.

Ending the trip on a more relaxed note, and taking in mind the daughter’s love for dogs, Jimmy was able to arrange an incredible experience with a search and rescue dogs charity. This wasn’t originally on the agenda, but the advantage of having a hosted trip is that nothing is off limits and things can change on a whim. “We made her [the daughter] go and hide and the dogs had to find her, showing their skills at finding people in avalanches and mudslides. We met the handlers and spent time talking to them and petting the dogs, and the client ended up making a big donation to the charity which will play such a key part in training more rescue dogs in the future.”

helicopter landed

What was your highlight from the trip?

“I think the adaptability, because the trip changed fundamentally. We added new elements that weren’t originally in the plans, like the rescue dogs, and we also moved between the properties at different times and even stayed in lodges we hadn't booked. So the adaptability was phenomenal.”

glacial lake

What makes a Pelorus trip to New Zealand so special?

"This is where we pull in people. As with all our trips, we challenge our partners and push them. We ask them to bring in different subject matter experts and specialists who can dial up the experience and present a different perspective. On this trip, we had incredible people join us, from glaciologists and volcanologists to marine biologists. We even had a female silver medallist Olympian from the New Zealand team come in to inspire the daughter."

"Hand in hand with this is the attention to detail and logistics, which are especially important when you're trying to cram in so much. And then when you're on a hosted trip, as this was, it's our adaptability that I believe no one else can go out and do. Whilst you can have an amazing bespoke programme built for you, next-level luxury is when you're hosted and your curated programme can then adapt and change. For example, we can’t control the weather but the host can make the most of it. If it’s raining in your location, you don’t want to be sitting in a lodge waiting it out when you could potentially go somewhere else and do something which is really kickass. And that flexibility and those quick changes are made possible by the host being there on the ground.”

What makes a hosted trip so incredible?

“If you've got the budget, hosted trips aren’t just the gold standard, they’re double platinum. As the host, you can see and read the client's emotions, you can see when they're getting tired, you can see when you need to inject some enthusiasm, and you can see when you need to build them up. You can speak to everyone on the ground instantly and aren’t constrained by time zone differences. Add to that, we'll film and photograph it. Or, in particular cases, when the father was fishing I'd be with the daughter and we're telling stories, we're looking at some of the vegetation or trying and find some wildlife on the coastline or the banks of the river. So you're playing a multi-hatted role as the host.”

What would you recommend to anyone thinking of visiting new zealand?

“The best time to go is from November till April, and when you're there, give it as much time as possible – a minimum of 10 days but ideally two weeks. The landscape changes so drastically from the tip of the North in the Bay of Islands down to the South Island glaciers. These are some of the most beautiful and dramatic landscapes you'll ever see and you need to immerse yourself in that.

"You need to see it as well in three dimensions, from the air, on the ground – in a vehicle, walking, cycling – and then subsurface – getting into a cage to see glow worms, scuba diving, snorkelling. This is what will give you a truly different perspective on New Zealand. And the people! The Kiwis are phenomenal, they’re so friendly and they love to tell stories and are passionate about their country."


Get in touch with Jimmy and our Travel Team to start planning your own unforgettable experience in New Zealand.

More stories