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Glacier Valley Eco Tours

 

There’s a fine line between seeing and experiencing. To walk through a rugged, living landscape is exhilarating. To delve below the surface is sublime. 

 

Guidebooks have their place, but local knowledge is different.

 

Cliff and Tash Goodwin own and operate Glacier Valley Eco Tours, a small, local NZ family business in Franz Josef Township. I caught up with Tash just before their 8th summer season began.

  Glacier Valley Eco Tours, West Coast, NZ

 

Why should people join your tours?

 

Tash: We know this area inside and out. When people come out with us, we help them experience things they’d miss if they went alone. 

 

You definitely have a lot of options for people to enjoy. 

 

Tash: We do (laughs). We operate in Fox Glacier Valley, Lake Matheson, Franz Josef Glacier Valley, and Okarito. Our tours come in half or full days. We also offer private tailored trips and packages. There’s something for everyone.

 

Are there any requirements regarding capacity, age, or health?

 

Tash: Our maximum capacity is 10 people, and 2 is our minimum. There aren’t any age requirements. We even provide car seats and baby backpack carriers when needed. Cliff once guided a trip into the valley with a boy who was visually impaired and another with someone who was 90 years old. The only thing we can’t accommodate is a wheelchair. Unfortunately, it’s impossible on the trails. Aside from that, we’ve never turned anyone away. We take our time and keep numbers low to ensure safety, and we’ve never had an accident.

 

Guided Rainforest Walk, Glacier Valley Eco Tours, West Coast, NZ

 

So, Cliff is the Lead Guide guide, and you’re the Queen of Admin, correct? Do you have any other team members?

 

Tash: That’s right, I am (laughing). In the Summer, we run with five staff, and two and a half in Winter. 

 

Can you describe a perfect day on the job?

 

Tash: A lovely West Coast day, summer vibes and heaps of friendly people with good energy. The trips go off without a hitch, and clients come back buzzing and happy. Also, I get out of the office for a bit to drive up the valley. I love working both on and in the business, so a bit of diversity is always nice. Then, when work finishes, getting out to the beach with the family and taking the dog for a walk is a great way to cap things off.

 

And chocolate?

 

Tash: Definitely chocolate! It’s always a great day when someone brings me chocolate (laughing). And red wine!

 

What do you love most about working and living in Glacier Country?

 

Tash: It’s just awesome! Everything! Being close to the beach, water and forest. All the birds. It’s just a really cool place to be. I don’t know where else I’d live and what else I’d do, to be honest. 

 

Lake Matheson Tour, Glacier Valley Eco Tours, West Coast, NZ

 

How about your favourite New Zealand plant, animal or insect, and why?

 

Tash: That’s a tricky question. I have a few (laughs). The Mokopirirakau Ōkārito (Okarito Geckos) are awesome! They’re so elusive and hard to find. Also Kakaruai (South Island Robins). They’re so smart and friendly. They come into our house and know where everything is … including the compost bin (laughing). Other birds, like Pīwakawaka (NZ Fantails), don’t know how to get out. They have a panic attack and end up upstairs (laughing). But Robins have it figured out. I find their poo spots in the same places every day (laughing). They’re so clever! Apparently, they can even count, which doesn’t surprise me. 

 

Anything else you’d like to add?

 

Tash: There’s a lot of pressure for businesses to lower their environmental impact. It’s good but can often lead to greenwashing, where promoting the illusion of making a difference becomes the priority. We run a trapping project in Fox called Project Early Bird. If there wasn’t already a project in Okarito, we’d also be running one there. Not because we operate in these areas but because that’s just what we do. It’s how we live our lives. Even before moving to the Coast, we did volunteer trapping up in Nelson. It’s our way of giving back and making things a bit better for everyone. Being involved in this way means a lot to us. We don’t advertise our conservation efforts much. We just do it because we believe in it. 

 

Project Early Bird Lake Matheson 

 

Any notable positive impacts from your efforts you’d like to share?

 

Tash: Oh yes! Cliff was guiding a group of travel agents from around the world at Lake Matheson not long ago. It was sort of a ‘too good to be true’ moment because he saw Kākāriki (Red-crowned Parakeet) there for the first time and was excited to let them all know. One of them asked if that was just a line he told everyone (laughs). But it really was the first time! It feels terrific to have Kākāriki back as a result of our trapping program. 

 

Are there other projects you’re involved with?

 

Tash: Yes, we do a lot of work between Jobs for Nature and our private volunteering. We’re heavily involved in the Okarito Plant Project and the Okarito Nursery. Cliff has done a fantastic job in the restoration area in Okarito. He’s cut trails, battled bamboo and done heaps of planting. Schoolkids from Franz come every year to help out. They’re so into it! It’s really funny. They have competitions of who can plant the most. “How many did you plant?” “We planted this many!” (Laughing.) The kids recently helped plant 213 native trees! It’s really cool to be part of so many local projects. 

 

Glacier Valley Eco Tours, Okarito, West Coast, NZ

 

 

What are you waiting for? 

 

Glacier Valley Eco Tours can be found at 22 Main Road, State Highway 6, Franz Josef Glacier. They operate rain or shine and have plenty of wet weather gear should you need it.  

 

Drop in to see Tash, Cliff and the team, or get in touch to discover the West Coast through the eyes of a passionate, local family. 

  

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Mike Bilodeau is a freelance writer focused on ecotourism and sustainable travel.