Our guides' experience, dedication, and enthusiasm make them ideal ambassadors for your destination. They chart the course, finesse the details, and speak the language (English, as well as the local language). They also possess a truly rare skill, knowing when to let serendipity and inspiration take the lead.
Born and raised in New Zealand, Jan Kirkpatrick grew up with the outdoors as her playground and received a diploma in Outdoor Recreation and Management, which allowed her to steer her career into the environment she loves. Involved in setting up outdoor programs for people over 50 and running programs for woman over 30 to ‘give it a go’ in outdoor adventure, her passion has always been tramping (the term used for “hiking” in New Zealand). From here, it was a natural progression to move into guiding where she is able to share her Kiwi culture and love of the flora and fauna unique to New Zealand. In addition to tramping, Jan enjoys many other active activities with her family such as biking, paddle boarding, sea kayaking, motor biking, and snow skiing.
A New Zealand native, Lauren Stokes has traveled and guided extensively around the world but for her, the uniquely raw and un-populated scenery around New Zealand can’t be beaten. With 10 years of guiding under her belt, Lauren’s passion for New Zealand’s South Island beauty continues to shine as she loves sharing her native country’s wonderful and contrasting scenery with other enthusiastic travelers. When not guiding, you can find Lauren teaching Hatha Yoga, meditating, and spending time in nature.
Mark Brinsden is an avid adventurer and outdoor enthusiast. He has a diverse background having worked in financial markets and bio-science but it is in tourism were his passion lies. A proud ambassador for all things Kiwi, he enjoys nothing more than sharing the wonders of his home country with fellow travelers and visitors from the world over.
Rene Schwaller moved to Queenstown from Switzerland in the 1980’s and was a pioneer heli-ski and rafting guide. He then brought the first paragliders into New Zealand and manufactured his own brand of glider – Renegade! Rene spreads his time between leading hiking and cycling tours and working as a tandem paragliding pilot in the summer and heli-skiing in the winter. Rene’s long history of adventuring in New Zealand means he is often running into friends who are local characters during his travels.
Having grown up on a farm in the North Island, Vanessa Wards, or Ness, loves all things involving the outdoors, including many adventure sports common in New Zealand. After completing a degree in Sport and Recreation Management at the Auckland University of Technology, she went on to work in an array of occupations before a love of travel and adventure took her across the globe, visiting Ireland, France, Germany, Sweden, and Morocco, among other places. Upon returning to New Zealand, she has been able to share her passion for introducing the scenic landscapes of the South Island by guiding adventures throughout her home country.
Raised on a sheep and cattle farm on New Zealand’s South Island, Brenda George began her guiding career working as a trekking guide on the Routeburn Track while attending Lincoln University. Following graduation, Brenda moved to the alpine town of Wanaka working on ski patrol at Treble Cone Ski Resort in winter and as a trekking guide during the summer. Brenda has been guiding for Country Walkers for more than 10 years and loves to show off her favorite places on the South Island.
Yvonne Cook has worked as a guide, interpreter, and educator for small groups on adventurous expeditions in the polar regions in addition to being a kayak and trekking guide in both New Zealand and internationally. A university education in natural sciences combined with wide-ranging guiding experience has given her a broad knowledge base with her main areas of expertise being geology, glaciology, oceanography, meteorology, marine mammals, and botany. As a South Island local she is committed to understanding and protecting New Zealand’s natural environment. In addition, she has three decades of managing national and international field projects and personal expeditions that have all provided extensive experience in risk management, team work, and interacting with people from a variety of cultures.