Te Ara Whakatipu

The path of discovery

Te Ara Whakatipu is a journey of self-discovery and connection to Ngāitahutanga set in the heart of Fiordland in the majestic Whakatipu Waitai/Hollyford Valley.
This kaupapa is led and facilitated by whānau who make up an experienced and legendary facilitation crew. Join the team on a once in a lifetime adventure to explore your own cultural identity while immersed in nature in the places of where our ancestors not only survived but also thrived.

What’s it about?

This hīkoi provides an opportunity for Ngāi Tahu rangatahi to explore their connection to Ngāi Tahutanga, connection to the natural environment, and connection to themselves within a whānau environment with a group of their peers.

A founding belief of Te Ara Whakatipu is that engagement with Te Ao Tūroa (the natural world) enriches connection to place and self. The cultural framework adds a strong platform to connect with iwi and an enhanced a sense of Ngāi Tahutanga.

Delivered by a whānau of experienced facilitators, professional guides and Ngāi Tahu leaders this programme weaves rangatahi outdoor leadership with Ngāi Tahutanga. It was developed by Kara Edwards and Mike Talbot and is funded by the Ngāi Tahu fund.

The hīkoi is generously supported by Ngāi Tahu Tourism particularly the Hollyford Track, who enable the use of their lodge, jet boats and wonderful staff.

The programme includes a 20km walk in and out of the valley, outdoor bush skills, Te Reo Māori, waiata/haka, whanaungatanga, whakapapa and rongoā.

This eight – day hīkoi includes one day of travel to the start of hīkoi, in Te Anau and one day travelling home. The other six days are spent immersed in the beauty of Whakatipu Waitai/ The Hollyford Valley – an important traditional pounamu trail linking Te Tai Poutini with Ōtākou and Murihiku.

Te Ara Whakatipu acknowledges and thanks the manawhenua of both Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio and Ōraka-Aparima Rūnanga as well as all rūnanga with interests in the Whakatipu Waitai area.

Next intake

Please stand-by for further information regarding intakes for 2020 in May and Sept-October.


We welcome applications from pakeke / rangatahi who:

  • Are a registered member of Ngāi Tahu
  • 16-25 years of age
  • Fit and capable of safely hiking 20km (six hours+) with a pack
  • Have a passion for learning about their Ngāi Tahutanga
  • Interested in learning about, and giving back to, the natural environment
  • May also be thinking about a career with their Papatipu Rūnanga, a career with Ngāi Tahu, or be interested in tourism study/working for Ngāi Tahu tourism.



For any further information you can contact the team who are delivering this kaupapa directly.
Kahurangi Wilson-Mahuika
Project Co-ordinator | Lead Guide
Whaia Te Tika
Phone: 027 975 4664
Email:[email protected]

Fitness, health & safety

The programme management actively look to manage all health and safety aspects and will endeavor to implement correct management procedures to eliminate, isolate or minimise those hazards where possible. However, there will still be inherent risks on the programme, including:

  • Te Haerenga: A supervised 20km hike (40km hike return + daily smaller walks) through the exposed outdoor elements crossing forests, ledges, large hills, bridges, creeks, coastal landscapes, etc.
  • Mahi (service) & ringa wera ringa kaha (kitchen work)
  • Te reo me ōna tikanga (language and culture)
  • Respectfully listening to tribal leaders, ngā hau kāinga, kaimahi who support the hīkoi, manuhiri/guests, and other rangatahi
  • Various jet boat excursions with a commercial operator
  • Optional swimming on a remote coastline or river swimming (supervised, weather permitting)
  • Exploration of Ngāi Tahutanga and open discussions
  • Mahinga kai (food gathering).

A medium to high level of fitness, and the ability to walk with a pack for 20km, is strictly necessary and required as there are no alternative transport options.

The consent part of our application form outlines more detail around health and safety.


All rangatahi will be expected to conduct themselves in a respectful manner at all times. It is critically important that everyone listens and follows instructions. This is especially important when out on the track and or undertaking outdoor activities whereby adhering to expectations and rules are essential for the health and wellbeing of the hīkoi participants.

The following code of conduct, which ensures an enriching experience for all, applies to the course:

  • Being respectful to the natural environment
  • Taking care of one another and being respectful (to rangatahi, kaumātua, tribal leaders, ngā hau kāinga and manuhiri) at all times
  • Listening to, and following, instructions and participating in all activities as part of the rōpū (e.g. mahi/service, ringawera/kitchen work, hīkoi/on track safety, te reo me ōna tikanga/language and culture, horoia te whare/cleaning the house or kitchen etc.)
  • Communicating concerns, especially physical ailments/discomfort/limitations, to staff immediately, if they occur

Those not adhering to the above will be issued two opportunities to improve behaviour. In the unlikely event that misbehaviour continues and is having a detrimental effect on the individual and or the rōpū health and wellbeing, then unfortunately the rangatahi will need to return home at the expense of the family. This cost could be substantial and therefore we ask that you ensure that your son/daughter is well aware of the consequences of their behaviour.

Te Ara Whakatipu is a cellphone, technology, smoking and alcohol-free kaupapa.

Costs and koha

There is no cost to whānau for this hikoi as we are fully funded by Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu via the Ngai Tahu Fund and other partners including the Department of Conservation. It is important to recognise that participation on the program is a rare opportunity and the investment the tribe is making significant.

While there is no requirement, we do ask you to consider how you might like to give back in some way. This could be in the form of baking for the hīkoi, petrol vouchers to assist with travel or by other means.

Hīkoi transport

Hīkoi transport will be provided from Queenstown to the Hollyford Valley and return. The logistics and cost of getting to and from Queenstown will be up to each whānau.

In case of emergency

If there is a need to make emergency contact with whānau, there is a satellite phone at Martins Bay lodge which can be used to call out. Alternatively, in the event of an emergency, whānau can call the Hollyford Track team via;

Katharine Franey
Customer Services Manager / Tumu
TEL: +64 3 442 3000
M +64 21 832 226