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  • The Hollyford & Pyke Packrafting Expedition

    Packrafting is an unique way to experience the very essence of New Zealand’s wilderness and combine hiking and paddling.

    The Fiordland Explorer guided packrafting expedition gives you access to an area normally visited only by very experienced backcountry explorers. It is a truly spectacular part of New Zealand. During this 6 day / 5 night, guided packrafting expedition you will be traveling from the mountains to the sea, up the coastline and back into the mountains. You will paddle the Hollyford River, Lake McKerrow, Lakes Wilmot and Alabaster, and the Pyke River. You will walk along the rugged coastline to Big Bay, cross into the Pyke Valley, and wander past waterfalls on the famous Hollyford track. A maximum number of 6 people and 2 guides makes sure you'll get a very personal experience and have constant support on this breath-taking, challenging, and unforgettable journey.

     

    Hollyford pyke 

    The Hollyford & Pyke from the air

     


    The Hollyford / Pyke Loop Packrafting Experience includes: 

    • Pre-departure briefing
    • Transport with hotel pick ups from Queenstown can be arrange for a small fee of $25.
    • Friendly & professional guides
    • Packrafting down the Hollyford & Pyke river and across Lake McKerrow, Lake Wilmot & Lake Alabaster
    • Track accommodation in Doc Huts or Tents
    • All meals on the track
    • Backpacks & Rain jackets can be hired if required  
  • The Hollyford & Pyke Packrafting Expedition

    Trip sample Itinerary : 

     
    Day 1:  

    Transfer from Queenstown to Te Anau (if required), departing QT at 9 am.  Meet the rest of the group/guides in Te Anau ~11 am before a break for lunch (on your own). Then we’ll hit the river around 1 pm for a few hours of training/river experience.  Pre-trip briefing at ~ 5 pm. You’ll need to sort accommodation in Te Anau for this night, although if you choose to camp at one of the several campgrounds, you are welcome to use our tents!

    Day 2:  

    We’ll get on the road after coffee and enjoy a nice ‘guided’ tour with several stops as we head up along the Milford road towards our destination, the Hollyford River. If we feel that a little more training is in order, we’ll spend an hour or so further sharpening our skills near Gunn’s Camp just before lunch. Otherwise, we’ll jump right in (literally) for a 5ish hour paddle to our first night’s stop on Mckerrow island.

     

    mckerrowhutoutside mckerrowisland350 mckerrowhutinside250

     Day 3:

    We’ll get an early start to take advantage of calmer conditions and bypass the notorious Demon trail with a 16 km paddle across lake Mckerrow. Then we’ll roll up the boats for an 8km walk passing the site of the historic first settlement in New Zealand, Jamestown. Long reef point is a short stroll from the hut and offers opportunities for spotting penguins and sea lions on a rugged west coast beach.

    Lake McKerrow 1 penguine yellow eyed Lake McKerrow

     

    Day 4:

    An iconic 12 km walk around long reef point and along a rocky coastline giving way into pristine sand beaches ends at Big Bay hut. This is real wilderness--no trails, pounding sea, and true isolation.  We’ll start the journey two hours before low tide to ensure that we manage the tricky bits before the tide comes in!

     coastal walk big bay bigbayhut250

     

    Day 5:

    A big day from Big Bay!  The morning starts with a 10km along an old prospecting road (which hardly feels like a road any more!) into the upper Pyke Valley.  Here we’ll inflate the boats again and set off down the Pyke river--flanked by majestic mountains and waterfalls--across lake Wilmot, and to Olivine Hut at the water’s edge.  

    Cablecar olivine Hut250

    Day 6:

    After a lazy start (you’ll have earned it!), we’ll continue paddling the Pyke river to Lake Alabaster.  On the way there are opportunities to check out waterfalls and see the arduous ‘track’ that awaits trampers trying to negotiate this section--some of the markers are actually in the river! The night will be spent either at Alabaster Hut or the aptly named Hidden Falls Hut, 10 km further down the track.

    Lake Alabaster Hiddenfalshut250

     

    Day 7:

    The final day of the adventure takes in the last 10km  (if day 5 ended at Hidden Falls) or 20km (if Alabaster) of the Hollyford track.  Good footing and easy walking through stunning sub-alpine forest and over Little Homer Saddle allows you to get up close and personal with a number of spectacular waterfalls.

     Hollyford roadend

    All told this journey will simply be unforgettable.  It’s the kind of trip that is worth planning an entire vacation around--an opportunity to see a New Zealand few ever experience.  Join our guides on the Hollyford-Pyke loop by packraft and experience what is quite possibly the greatest guided trip in all of New Zealand!

     

     

  • Trip includes :

    • All specialized boating equipment 
    • All meals on the trail are included 
    • Transport from Queenstown & Return can be arrange for $25
    • Training & Group meeting the night before
    • Trip photos free on website
    • All National park and camping / hut fees
    • All DOC ( Department of Conservation fees )
    • If no hut stays ( Tents are included )

    Standard equipment supplied by Expedition x :

     

    • 3/2 mm Wetsuit
    • NRS Foam PFD
    • NRS Helmet
    • 2 split aluminium paddle
    • Alpacka rafts
    • NRS Spray tops ( if needed )
    • Drybags for ( Sleeping bag, Camp / spare clothing )
    • Backpack inliner

    Extra equipment can be hired or purchased ( e.g. our light 4 split Werner carbon fibre paddle )

    For you to bring :

    Please ask us for rental options if you do not have the items below.

    • 65l - 70l backpack
    • Sleeping bag
    • Sleeping mat
    • Head torch
    • Personal hiking gear
    • Personal sleeping gear

    For a full list of recommended equipment please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

  • Fitness

    Expedition - Fiordland Explorer - Preparation 

    Fitness Requirments in short:  

    • 15kg - 20kg backpack up to 8 hours 
    • Paddling legs of up to 6 hours 
    • Reasonable water confidence /swimming ability
    • You don't need to be a pro but we need some paddling experience

    The Fiordland Explorer is a real 6 day wilderness expedition - it can be relatively easy or it can be a challenge depending what the weather throws at us. Please read the requirments and make sure you understand the demands. It is one of the best guided adventures you can do in New Zealand, are you fit / tough enough ?

    On your Fiordland Expedition you will be carrying an approximately 20 kg backpack for up to 8 hours a day (mostly 4-6 hours) and some paddling legs may take between 4-6 hours. Your fitness will have a big impact on how much you will enjoy this unforgettable adventure. Even though paddling experience is not essential it will certainly help. We will assess and train you to make sure you are prepared for the challenges ahead.

    Nobody, unless carrying a backpack every day, will be used to the different load on your shoulders and you will feel tired after a long day. And for the paddling section on our trips, unless you are paddling on a regular basis, you will feel your muscles burning in the evenings. This is all part of the adventure.

    We understand it can be difficult to prepare for a specific adventure, but you should give it a try and we promise you will enjoy this trip even more.

    Your goal is to walk with a backpack (around 15-20 kg) at a very easy pace for 3 – 5 hours. You should start with flat and easy walks and gradually build up to more hilly terrain.

    It can be hard to prepare for the paddling demands unless you actually paddle. If you have the chance, great go for it – if not, replace the paddling sessions with arm strength/core training sessions.

    TOP TIP: Wear your hiking boots that you plan on wearing for the trip on all training walks. This will make sure they are properly worn in and gives you a chance to find any hotspots or blister areas that might need attention. Also appropriate socks are as important as shoes if we talk blisters.

    Our personal (guides) training plan (4 – 6 weeks)

    Week 1 : Easy Terrain

    1 – 2 days walking with your pack (15 – 20kg) for about 1h each.

    If you have access to a gym, general fitness is always good ;-) and if you can find a kayaking machine do a 20min session 2 x week with a steady but slow pace.

    Week 2 : Easy Terrain

    1 – 2 days walking with your pack for about 1:50h each.

    Kayaking machine or kayaking on lake or water (if you can) 20min x 2 slow steady pace.

    Week 3 : Moderate Terrain

    1 – 2 days walking with your pack (increase weight a little bit ~ 2 -3 kg) 1h each.

    Kayaking machine or kayaking on lake or water (if you can) 20min x 2 slow steady pace.

    Week 4 : Moderate Terrain

    1 -2 days walking with your pack (with increased weight) 1,5h each.

    Kayaking machine or kayaking on lake or water ( if you can ) 20min x 2 slow steady pace.

    Week 5 : Moderate to more challenging terrain

    2 – 3 days ( if you can ) walking with your pack (reduce weight to start weight) 1h each.

    Kayaking machine or kayaking on lake or water (if you can) 20min x 2 slow steady pace.

    Week 6: Easy Terrain

    1 day only with a 20kg pack for 2 -3 hours (try to do this about 4 – 6 days before start of the trip)

    Kayaking machine or kayaking on lake or water (if you can) 20min x 2 slow steady pace.

  • Rates / Departures

    Please Note:

    • A booking form and a $500 deposit per person is required to secure your booking.
    • The balance of payment is to be paid four weeks prior to your departure date.
    • For cancellations prior to your departure date the following refund applies:
    • Within 3 weeks = no refund applies
    • 3 – 6 weeks = deposit non refundable, 80% of balance paid refunded
    • 7 – 12 weeks = deposit non refundable, 100% of balance paid refunded
    • More than 12 weeks = full refund including deposit
    • Once your trip has commenced no refund applies due to any circumstance.

    WE STRONGLY RECOMMEND that you arrange personal travel/medical insurance at the time of booking to guard against loss of fares paid caused by any eventuality necessitating cancellation of your trip within our cancellation period. Cancellations could be due to reasons beyond your control such as: falling ill prior to your departure / a sprained ankle whilst partaking in another activity / a family bereavement / missing a flight and therefore, missing your departure etc..

  • Weather

    Weather

    The Hollyford / Pyke is a somewhat remote area in the Fiordland national park in will be affected by weather.

    The weather in Fiordland in general can be very unpredictable and change dramatically, very quickly; the close proximity of towering mountains and the ocean makes for conditions and temperatures that can vary markedly during the course of a day. Fiordland is one of the wettest places on the planet.

    Summer months average around 20°C but the evenings can be a little cooler. Winter temperatures average around 10°C on the coast with the evenings much colder.It is not unusual to experience both summer and winter conditions and temperatures on the same day!

    It is important to be prepared for the worst conditions carry the appropriate clothing at all times. In the event of extreme weather your safety is our priority and parts of the day may need to be changed. Any decision to do so is a professional decision made by your guide, please respect their decision as it is based on experience and with your safety in mind.

    Regardless of the conditions you experience, sun, rain, a combination of the two, or anything in between, your experience on the Hollyford / Pyke Loop will be a memorable one.

     

  • Briefings

    Pre Departure Briefing

    Whilst we will send you all the information you need to prepare for this expedition, we also conduct pre-departure briefings the evening before your departure, which you are required to attend.

    Pre-departure briefings provide an opportunity to meet the other guests in your group, with whom you will be spending the next six days, and will cover the details you will need to know for your departure the following day. We will also check your personal gear to make sure you have the appropiate equipment for the expedition, itinerary breakdown, supply food and any shared items like tents,stoves and emergency items . This is also the opportunity to ask any questions and to pick up any extra items you may need e.g backpacks, drybags etc if required.

    Pre-departure briefings are conducted the night before your departure date at 5:00pm in Te Anau