One of the most common questions we are asked is “How did you come to live in Okarito?” . Remember, this is a village of only about 30 full time residents! So we thought we would share our story with you here.
“Swade”, born and raised in Titahi Bay near Wellington, NZ, has been living on the West Coast of the South Island for over 30 years. He spent 10 years as head guide at the Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki south of the glaciers near Haast. Prior to that, he spent many years deep sea fishing in Alaska as well as crayfishing in the most interesting fashion off the West Coast of NZ with long time friend Barry Wyber (ask him how they launched the boat – that’s a great story!) Guiding at the Lodge he spent much of his time with guests from around the world, showing them the rare Fiordland Crested Penguin, leading them on walks through the magnificent rainforest and entertaining them in the evenings as he transformed into chief bartender!
Paula Sheridan, born and raised in the extreme climes of Canada, came to New Zealand as a tour guide. Having spent some years in a remote part of British Columbia working at a luxury Helicopter Ski Resort, her interests moved to guiding guests through the Canadian Rockies by bicycle. She arrived on the shores of NZ in 2001 and she, along with many guests over the years, travelled by bicycle around the South Island, spending time at the Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki along the way.
The quiet, remote village with its long stretches of beach along the wild coast was a haven for two guides to relax and plan a future together with common interests in nature, wildlife and conservation.
She and Swade soon seized the opportunity to work together when the small eco-tourism based business of Okarito Boat Tours came up for sale. Running Okarito Boat Tours keeps them both in the guiding business sharing with their guests the magnificence of the scenery of the west coast and the birdlife on the Okarito Lagoon and River.
She and Swade round out their busy schedule with managing the local native plants nursery in Okarito – helping to maintain this pristine environment for all for the future.
They also manage a few of the local holiday homes and can help you find accommodation to base yourself and explore this quiet little village and the wonderful experiences it offers up. They welcome you to come and explore this “magic” part of the coast of New Zealand and maybe even learn where “Swade” got his name – and that’s another story!
Stop in and see them at their newly built home and office, 31 Wharf Street, just across from the lagoon as you enter the village of Okarito – look for the white heron sign.