A tour guide can make or break a tour, as Heather Simpson found out during a Marlborough Sounds excursion.
Did you hear the one about the lesser known Mingmingi island in the Marlborough Sounds or the dolphin-cum-gynaecologist?
Funny anecdotes can be the lifeblood of any tour guide trying to engage the interest of a passing tourist. They can be the difference between a snoresome tour and a group of laughing sight-seers.
Last month I was on a tour of the Marlborough Sounds where the tour boat captain specialised in cracker stories.
"For a number of years a team-building company has been taking young people out into the Marlborough Sounds," he told the party.
"Part of the challenge is one person is sent out into the bush for three days on their own and has to survive. Unbeknown to the organisers as the ‘survivor' travelled through the bush they could hear the loud hailers of nearby passing boats regaling tourists of a plush nearby hotel . . . the un-trepid explorers followed the sound of the boats to the nearby hotel and spent three glorious nights. For years the company was oblivious to the antics being played out."
Former zoologist Natasha Luxton is a guide with Dolphin Watch Eco-Tours.
The case of the medically minded dolphin has proved an office talking point.
"Last season we had a swim with dusky dolphins and they were quite frisky around one woman in particular," she said.
"We always joke dolphins can see through the body and can detect a foetus and a woman should get a pregnancy test if she is drawing their attention. We received an email a few weeks later from the shocked woman saying she was pregnant which we had a laugh about."
During swims clients have sang everything from AC/DC songs to mimicking a mooing cow to attract a dolphin's attention, she said. "The more curious sound, the better the interest from the dolphins. Others have been clicking their fingers expecting [the] dolphin to jump up even though we remind them it is a wild dolphin tour."
The tours are educational but humour is very important to the company she said.
Wilderness Guides owner Juliet Gibbons said their guides had a passion for Maori and European history of the Sounds as well as its flora and fauna.
However one guide had a memory lapse during a tour.
"One guide many years ago was normally excellent on interpretation but on one occasion he had a mind blank. He was asked what the name of the island was when looking out towards it from the third day of the Queen Charlotte Track towards Picton Harbour. He for some reason became geographically embarrassed and answered without thinking ‘That's Mingimingi Island'. Much to his chagrin, the client responded ‘Well, that's strange but my map says Allports Island'. The guide, quick thinking, responded ‘Oh yes, but Mingimingi is the Maori name'. Mingimingi is actually the Maori name for a small leaved shrub or tree often seen in the Sounds. Not something we encourage but we saw the funny side of it at the time," she said.
Tourists too have tickled the funny bones of tour guides.
"Guides on our kayak trips do get some entertaining questions or comments at times too such as ‘this is a nice lake' or ‘why is this water salty' or ‘how do these brakes work' in reference to the rudder steering system on the sea kayaks we use. Once or twice we have had mountain bike customers, trying to do the right thing, giving their bikes a ‘wash' in the ‘lake' to get the mud off. Let's just say that salt water and bikes do not mix," she said.
- The Marlborough Express
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