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“8-hour Otago Tour - decent alternative to driving”

Back to Nature Tours
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Dunedin Shore Excursion: Small-Group Tour of...
Certificate of Excellence
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Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: Back to Nature Tours conducts nature based tours of Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula, Catlins and Stewart Island. Join us on one of our world famous cruise ship excursions that include Dunedin's best tour attractions, scenery and wildlife. We also organize private tours for individuals or groups that are tailor made to make your experience in Dunedin one you will never forget. We are a Qualmark Endorsed New Zealand owned business - Qualmark is New Zealand tourism's official quality assurance organisation, providing a trusted guide to quality travel experiences. We are Department of Conservation Permit holders and have a Marine Mammal permit - allowing us to guide visitors legally in some of New Zealand’s most remote and beautiful locations.
Reviewed 22 November 2013

We wanted to see several things near Dunedin but didn't want to drive there. This eight-hour "Back to Nature" bus tour got us near the dock at Port Chalmers, up to the ANZAC Lookout above the town, to the bottom of very-steep Baldwin Street, to the grounds of Larnoch Castle, and to penguin, seal, and albatross areas on the Otago Peninsula. The albatrosses weren't flying while we were there (not enough wind ... not the fault of the tour), but we did see the other animals, and lots of seagulls and other birds.

Our driver and guide was perhaps new. In any case, he was not as full of information and stories as guides we've had elsewhere in New Zealand, and wasn't able to answer some of our questions. But he was personable and his driving along the winding roads inspired confidence. He didn't do a couple of things we'd have liked ... we pass along two hints:

(1) Order the hamburger. If the lunch will be at the Portobello Hotel, you'll have to order in advance without knowing the details. Our guide recommended the local fish (blue cod or something), but also mentioned the "gourmet" hamburger, chicken burger, and vegetarian selection of unknown type. Of course, with his recommendation, all but two in our group went for the fish, and I suspect most of us were disappointed. Rather than two pieces of breaded very-greasy fish, we could have had a massive, delicious-looking burger. Nobody went vegetarian, but that might well have beat the fish.

(2) Get a walking map of Larnoch Castle Gardens. The tour allows people to view the gardens only; entering the castle itself would have been an additional cost, and with less than an hour in total we figured it wasn't worthwhile. The garden was beautiful, especially in Spring, but there were not many name labels on the plants and trees. But we saw that some had numbered markers by them. We should have caught on sooner; there was a brochure (that our guide should probably have gotten for us) that told about many of the things we were looking at. It was too late by the time we saw someone else carrying the brochure.

In general, the tour felt a little rushed, in part because of a late start due to picking up some passengers from a cruise liner. Some of us would have liked enough time to walk up Baldwin Street, spend longer at lunch, see Larnoch Castle itself, etc. But in our eight hours we still got to see a lot, and we didn't have to drive.

1  Thank Chuck360
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
CJ R, General Manager at Back to Nature Tours, responded to this reviewResponded 7 December 2013

Hi Chuck and Betsy,

Thank you for your review and the kind e-mail you sent after we contacted you, I have copied it below my reply:)

Our company has been operating in Dunedin for a long time so we appreciate the feedback, we're passionate about what we do and support tourism and conservation equally. On Monday, we will be conducting a half day hike where we will re-name trap SM05 'chuck-nola' in honour of you both . Our trap line is aimed at controlling introduced predators that significantly affect the recruitment potential of several native species including the Yellow-Eyed Penguin, Sooty Shearwater and Variable Oystercatcher to name a few. There are many businesses and volunteers throughout NZ doing the same thing - we don't just talk the talk we walk the walk. Essentially, you will become a Back to Nature Legend and receive full data on what we catch - Your trap will be protecting the native fauna of the Otago Peninsula, and guess what, you won't have to anything! - we will bait, reset, move when necessary, transport, nest search and assist the Department of Conservation for you - thank you for choosing Back to Natures - Haste ye back

'I'm impressed and delighted that you noticed my review and took time to write back so graciously. I've written a bunch of reviews, positive and not-so-good, about lots of places and you're the first response. It's a little discouraging if they fell into a black hole, but at least they may help other customers in the future.
Maybe I should not have been negative on your guide abilities. We certainly DID enjoy our time with you, and appreciated you (with the penguins, for example) making sure people at the end of the group also knew what was going on . A nice, thoughtful touch.

And certainly you know lots about the Dunedin area, and explained well what you told us. I should also add that I have trouble hearing and appreciate your using your microphone. Some other guides and drivers didn not do so, and especially when I was near the engine in the back of the bus it was really hard to hear. And we were amazed you walked right into the mud and caught crabs for us to admire. Wonderful! I should perhaps have mentioned these things in my review, but (as you can see) tend to go on at too great a length and probably end up with few readers.
My comment was based on other guides who were able to talk just about the entire trip, and when people asked questions they didn't know in some cases looked up the answers (using on-board books, iPads, whatever) and got back to us later on the tour. As for not mixing boat and non-boat passengers, we messed that up by booking so early, but wouldn't have wanted to miss the trip by waiting until the cruise had filled it up. And we were interested in seeing the boat itself (which we at first mistook for a huge office building). Thank you also for dropping us on the way home, before the harbour.

Anyway, we really did enjoy your tour and wish you and your business well. -- Chuck (& Betsy)

Thank you Chuck and Betsy, you're a lovely couple.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Write a ReviewReviews (120)
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"chris roberts"
in 12 reviews
"baldwin street"
in 15 reviews
"cruise ship"
in 18 reviews
"royal peninsula"
in 3 reviews
"otago peninsula"
in 28 reviews
"new zealand"
in 38 reviews
"larnach castle"
in 17 reviews
"yellow eyed penguins"
in 16 reviews
"penguin place"
in 11 reviews
"guide mark"
in 2 reviews
"steepest street"
in 10 reviews
"his knowledge"
in 7 reviews
"port stop"
in 3 reviews
"sea lions"
in 13 reviews
"great tour"
in 10 reviews
"penguin reserve"
in 5 reviews
"railway station"
in 10 reviews

111 - 115 of 150 reviews

Reviewed 29 October 2013

Excellent service & my wife & I got to see the wildlife which was the most important part. We arrived in Dunedin the night before our tour & I rang Cliff to confirm our booking. He replied from Wellington. There had been some atrocious weather which had caused cancellation of flights all over NZ & he was stranded in Wellington. However, he said would call back with alternative arrangements & later that night we got a call to say he had secured a flight to Invercargill and would bus up to Dunedin in the morning so we would cancel the morning section of the tour and be refunded but that he would continue with the afternoon section. So we got to see Lanarch Castle and grounds and Yellow Eyed penguins. (What a lot of effort has gone into making the hides where you can view the penguins in peace). And to cap it all off Chris bought us dinner.
Chris is very knowledgeable & went that “extra mile” so that we did not miss out on the penguins.
We cannot rate his service highly enough.

Thank Paddy W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 25 April 2013

I have never experienced anything close to what we did. We headed over to New Zealand for our Gold Duke of Edinburgh which consisted of a four day hike on the Kepler track which was incredible. Especially because we had the privilege to see the first snow for the year. We also had the opportunity to go swimming, glow worm hunting and so much more. The nature cruises that followed were breathtaking and the weather was perfect. A big thanks to Chris who drove us everywhere and everyone else in the Nature Tours Group.

1  Thank Jackie L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 16 April 2013

We had a school group of 32 (27 students, 5 adults) incorporated in this trip was a tour of Dunedin, including the town, the steepest street and a nature tour to Otago Peninsula. On our tour around Dunedin we were shown around and given a history on the town. We also went and ran / walked up the steepest street and the students has lots of fun doing this. We were then transported to the Otago Peninsula where we had a lunch break and then proceeded down to the headland and on the walk to the beach. We saw (in the distance) some penguins on the rocks and up the headland. On on our walk up the beach we came across a sealion on its way back to the water. We then visited the Albatross Centre and saw some Albatross flying around, some seals in the water and a whale swimming in the bay in front of us. We enjoyed the commentary that was given to us by Chris as it was very informative. Chris was also very friendly and nothing was too much trouble.
Chris then drove us from Dunedin to Te Anu for the rest of our adventure. When this was completed Chris met our group again and took us back to the Dunedin airport for our return flight to Brisbane.

I would highly recommend anyone visiting Dunedin to contact Chris and the Back To Nature Tours Group.

2  Thank Jackie L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
See more reviews
Reviewed 16 April 2013

From start to finish, it was really enjoyable and amazing. Chris did such a top job of showing us some spectacular sites, and his knowledge of the area was impressive. Light hearted atmosphere, the whole group loved the experience.

2  Thank suzfaulks
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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