There are lots of amazing kiwi guides at Rotorua Canopy Eco Tours who are expert zipliners and are filled with knowledge all about our beautiful native forests.
Santraea has been an eco tours guide at Rotorua Canopy Tours for two years and is always smiling and super bubbly. She grew up in Putaruru, a small town in Waikato and studied a diploma in adventure tourism. When she first heard about Rotorua Canopy Tours she thought it sounded like a really cool business and place to work. While she didn't know much about conservation then, she loved all the conservation efforts Rotorua Canopy Tours was making and thought working as a eco tours guide was a great way to learn more!
Photo: Kiwi guide Santraea, ziplining through the forest on tour at Rotorua Canopy Tours.
What do you like about working at Rotorua Canopy Tours?
I love the people - both the staff and the customers are always happy and friendly and we have some really good banter. All the Rotorua Canopy Tours crew make me want to come to work every day and I hang out with a lot of the other eco tours guides outside of work which is really cool. I feel like every one of the team are going to be lifelong friends for me and I know they have got my back.
I also love that it's not all about ziplines but there's an educational aspect to the eco tours too and all the conservation that Rotorua Canopy Tours does. When I first started I got super into all the conservation and I loved going out to the forest and checking all the traps. I've definitely learnt a lot and still learn new things all the time. I've recently found out more about the different mushrooms and fungus growing in the forest.
Photo: Santraea on tour with Rotorua Canopy Tours guests from right here in New Zealand and all over the world
What does an average day at Rotorua Canopy Tours look like for you?
While the structure of the day is similar, every single day is different. We have different customers each day which spices things up. I enjoy learning new things about where people are from and with our international guests I try to learn a new word or phrase to help relate to them, they usually laugh at me when I get the pronunciation totally wrong but it’s all a bit of fun. I even learnt to say I love cheesecake (because its delicious) from a french couple.
I also work with someone different every day and the forest changes too. At different times of the day you can see different birds and if it's raining its totally different compared to a hot sunny day when the sun is shooting through the canopy. I personally love it when it rains in the forest, it kinda sounds like a waterfall and everything flourishes when its wet, the ferns on the ground look stunning!
What’s one of your favourite things about taking people on eco tours?
Hand-feeding the birds is a really cool aspect of our eco tours and I love seeing other people’s reactions to being able to do this. My favourite bird is little Timmy, the wee Tomtit. Timmy is so small and looks like hes wearing a tuxedo, he always comes to visit at the beginning of the tour. Sometimes the kids are a bit scared and people are often surprised they're allowed to feed the wild birds but we're lucky enough to be the only place in the world you can legally feed a Tomtit and one of only two places you can feed a North Island Robin (Zelandia is the other place).
I love taking kiwis on our eco tours, they're super easy going and love to give us a hard time. We have a lot of banter with the them which is nice and I enjoy teaching them about conservation here in New Zealand. When I first started at Rotorua Canopy Tours, I didn’t know much about the pest problem, so it's cool to share my knowledge about their own backyard. I also learn from lots from kiwis too, getting to know lots of hidden gems all around New Zealand and tips and tricks, like using the shuttle bus when I visited Cathedral Cove for the first-time last summer.
Plus, I really love working in the forest, it’s so fresh out there and it's awesome in all weather types. It's a pretty cool office, so I can't complain.
Photo: Hand feeding wild North Island robin birds on a Rotorua Canopy Tours ecotour
What’s one of the challenges about being an eco tours guide?
I've learnt a lot but sometimes knowing all the facts and answers to different questions people have can be challenging. There are so many questions people can ask you, whether it’s about a certain tree or a bird size, and sometimes I have no idea what answers is. With two guides on tour we can often bounce off each other and one of us may know the answer to some of the harder questions but if we're not sure we know there are senior guides who can always help answers customers questions and teach us when we get back to base at the end of a tour.
What’s your favourite zipline?
The third zipline on the Ultimate Canopy Tour is my favourite. It's 220m long and it's the one where you get slowed right down with a special braking system. Up until that point on the eco tours you are right in the canopy and on this zipline it really opens up. This slow scenic zipline gives you a chance to really look around and enjoy the incredible scenery.
Photo: Taking in the beautiful scenery on the Ultimate Canopy Tour's 220m zipline
What do you like to get up to outside of work?
I love playing sport, it’s a really big thing for me, particularly netball and rugby - I play netball for the Rotorua Canopy Eco Tours social team. I also love hanging out with friends and family playing games, watching movies and just having a good ole chat! I love eating and baking food - chocolate chip cookies are my go-to baking thing.
Finally, if you could have a superpower what would it be?
Teleportation so I could travel and go wherever I wanted. I wouldn't have to wait or buy tickets or be stuck on a plane for 20 hours – that would be amazing!
Photo: Santraea having a blast soaring through virgin forest on our Rotorua Canopy Eco Tours