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Kiwi Home Cooked Meals

Get ready for a metaphor…

It takes all the right ingredients to bake a cake.

Home Cooked Meals
Active Adventures NZ guide Ken on the BBQ

Is this a really bad metaphor? I think so. But sometimes a cliché is a cliché for a good reason (is that cliché?). Thing is, I couldn’t think of a better way to sum up the role that food plays in an adventure in a far away place, or an adventure anywhere for that matter. And people take their food preferences, and meal experiences VERY seriously. I know I do. My own maniacal pickiness when it comes to food is one of the reasons why we pay close attention to preparing home cooked meals on an Active Adventures trip. Life is too short to eat average food, so why do it on the trip of a lifetime? Lets get that cake baked perfectly.

But it’s not just taste that contributes to a food experience while on a wilderness adventure in New Zealand. It’s the source, the preparation time, location, care and personalised attention to detail leading to your plate that makes every bite feel earned, valued and appropriate for where you are, in that moment. There are a few ingredients that we’ve stuck to over the years, that are still making the “Active Adventures Cake” a winner. Here’s what our thinking was, and still is…

The back country is never an obstacle

You’ll be forgiven for thinking that entering the backcountry or wilderness for a few days = cutting back on the creature comforts. To a degree, that’s right. We all know that a sandwich or a slice of chocolate tastes THAT much better when you’re out hiking, biking or paddling. But why limit ourselves to a few little treats? We’ve always made sure that carrying a couple of extra ingredients or items means that we’ll eat like kings every meal. There’s nothing like sitting in a back country hut in Nelson Lakes National Park, looking up to the Angeles Mountain range, and devouring a delicious meal cooked by your guide. There’s a difference between good and amazing.

Kiwi Home Cooked Dessert
Active Adventures NZ Guide Eli, with her home cooked pavlova

It’s personal

We’ve all been there – you’ve been invited to dinner somewhere, you haven’t discussed your food preferences (not your food needs – we’ll get to that!), and then you’re served black bean pie and brussel sprouts (I HATE beans). You get the picture. It’s uncomfortable, awkward and puts a downer on the evening. Unless dessert is a perfect lemon tart.
The point is, we’re generally picky, to a greater or lesser degree. And we should make no apologies for that. That’s why a home cooked meal, combined with knowing what you like before you join us on a trip here in New Zealand, goes a long way. We’ve seen all sorts of weird and wonderful food preferences over the years, so if peanut butter, cheese and chilli sauce on toast is something you just can’t do without at 10pm at night, then that’s no worries. Yes – that’s true, someone really did want that.

We make the most of being a young nation

New Zealand is arguably one of the most cosmopolitan countries in the world, meaning we’ve opened our doors not only to creating a culturally diverse little county, but a gastronomically diverse one at that. That’s not to say that we’ll mix a chicken vindaloo with an enchilada and serve it up at the end of a great days hiking (although that might just work!), but we’re able to bring all the influences from our diverse culture and mix things up a bit to make things “fusion kiwi!”

Kiwi Hospitality
Picnic Lunch, Active Style!

It’s about the love of food

I don’t know about you, but to me there’s something that always seems to be missing when I get a meal from a restaurant and I can’t see the kitchen. I’ll always prefer a restaurant where there is an open kitchen. You can see the flair, energy and passion that goes into the preparation of your meal, and so it’s all put into context, as opposed to it seeming to magically appear 20 minutes after you ordered. It’s better for the chef too. When you join us in New Zealand, expect to hang out in the kitchen, glass of wine in hand, chew the fat with your guide as they prepare dinner, observe the attention to detail, love of the task at hand, and then sit down and share the stories of the activities of the day as they see you enjoying the meal they’ve prepared.

Why ask to see the chef to compliment him or her, when they’re right there, enjoying their meal with you?

Home Cooked Dessert
Active Adventures’ Master Chef

– Phil, Active Adventures Director

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Guest Review… About another company!

We really wanted to share this email (100% un-edited). We love all feedback and to be honest, this particular email made our day! And for the record… YES we are hoping to give you all a new Active Adventures destination by 2016!

I am an Active Alum (Tortuga 2010, Jaguar 2012, Annapurna 2013, Tui/Kauri 2014) and just recently returned from a trip to South Africa using a tour operator other than Active (gasp). I booked the trip with some apprehension as I have never used an active/adventure tour operator other than Active. Were my apprehensions justified? YES! I thought of Active the WHOLE time. Why?


1. The tour operator, based in England, contracts out to local tour guides for all their trips. While the tour operator offers a wide range of tours, those responding to enquiries may/may not have experience with the actual trip– itinerary or country. When asking specific questions about the country or the itinerary, I was often met with vague or incorrect information. I would often consult my old Active gear list or tips when preparing for this trip!

2. The local tour guides were far less ‘professional’ or accommodating than any of the tour guides I encountered through Active– whether it be in South America, Nepal, or New Zealand. My dietary requirements were often forgotten or ignored (and sometimes met with rolling eyes). We were often fed very little or with such little thought in meal preparation. I and other tour members often bought our own food to supplement the food provided to us– not as a snack but as part of the meal! The local guides catered to their own tastes first and left it to us to eat what they liked or buy our own food. Many times, the local guides would eat most of the food!

3. There was no sense of this being “our” holiday. While I enjoyed the notion of participation camping, in which each tour member participated in setting up camp or cleaning up, I often felt that it was the tour guides holiday more than anything else! They certainly had more fun with many of the activities than their clients and did not guide in the true sense of the word. We were expected to be independent in activities like snorkeling, where we didn’t know where all the fish were, and the waters were rough and cold. At times we were left sitting in gale force winds with beach sand whipping our face (I suppose it did exfoliate my skin…). I felt that the guides were excited to be on this trip for their own enjoyment and couldn’t wait to drop us off at the airport at the end of the trip.

4. Safety. I will not detail the erratic driving of our guide but not once, did I feel scared during an Active trip. I could NOT say the same about my experience in South Africa!
Overall, my experience in South Africa was phenomenal. However, I could not help but think of how Active would handle the tour and make it so much better (even with participation camping). While I hope Active expands to cover the world, I recognize how the high quality of Active tours requires expansion to be a slow but steady process. I appreciate all the work Active has done in cultivating local relationships and finding exceptional local guides that LOVE sharing their native country to others.
So thank you for all your work and raising the bar so HIGH!
S Jeng

Kayaking Milford Sound
Kayaking Milford Sound… Place yourself right there!