We recently were on the Celebrity Solstice sailing from New Zealand to Australia. Our first port of call was Pahia in the Bay of Islands.
After doing some research on the internet I found Russell Mini Tours who operated tours out of Pahia. We made a booking with them for a Glow Worm Cave and Kauri Forest tour for $59 NZD.
There was a little confusion when we first arrived at Pahia from the ship as to where we were to meet our guide and we were told to catch the ferry across to Russell. On making further enquiries a kind lady in the local tour office contacted one of the owners of Russell Mini Tours who came and met us. Unfortunately she knew nothing of our booking but made a telephone call and told us that David would meet us back at Pahia.
On arriving back in Pahia we finally found David Fryer, our guide (and co-owner of the business). He met us dressed in shorts and thongs and we could have been forgiven for thinking he was on his way to the beach, not quite how I would expect a professional tour guide to dress. By now we were all of the opinion that David had forgotten our booking and had come to meet us after being prompted by his partner.
After greeting us he led us to Honda Sedan which was to be our tour vehicle for the day(I was less then impressed). I had assumed that we would be taken by mini van or the like. As "mature age" travellers our days of straddling the hump in the rear of a vehicle are well and truly over!
We squished into the car and set off first for a short drive around the town of Pahia. David seemed a nice enough guy but he really lacked the kind of skill sets necessary for a tour guide. His commentary on Pahia (somewhere he had lived for six years) was very limited and there was little to no interaction with his four charges.
I did mention to David that we were not happy about the sedan and his response was that he thought we would prefer it (they do own other vehicles). I think when you are paying for a private tour you should at least be asked your preference beforehand.
After our five minute drive through Pahia we then headed to the Glow Worm Caves at Kawiti. Following the tour through the caves (by a professional guide at a cost of $25 NZD not included) we drove to the Thunderwasser toilets and steam train that drives through the Main Street at Kawakawa.Unfortunately the train was not running that day and the toilets are only worth a five minute visit. David provided no information on the town, the toilets or the train.
From Kawakawa we headed to a local kauri forest where you can walk through a section of the forest via an elevated boardwalk. It was ok but not as impressive as other Kauri forests I have visited. More to the point David told us to tag along with a professional guided tour that had just arrived ahead of us. He offered no information whatsoever on the Kauri Forest and just hung at the back waiting for us to do the loop, very disappointing.
David planned to take us to a local chocolate factory but after being cramped into the sedan we opted out and instead asked that he drive us to the Waitangi Treaty Museum close to the tender wharf.
Throughout the tour David was quite uncommunicative and when asked questions his response was limited. At one point my hubby asked him if real estate was expensive, his reply "yep". And that pretty much sums up the four hour tour. It was just like catching a crowded taxi-cab to each stop, transport only!
David dropped us at Waitangi and was gone in a flash, he obviously did not want to waste time on chit chat.
All in all it was a disappointing day but fortunately the other private tours we had organised in whilst in New Zealand were excellent and very professional. Would I recommend Russell Mini Tours, unfortunately no.
Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.