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“Unique experience”

Southern Alps Guiding
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Useful Information: Food available for purchase, Lockers / storage, Activities for older children
Lincoln, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
3 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
“Unique experience”
Reviewed 13 February 2014 via mobile

After a short drive and short walk we launched the kayaks on the glacial lake, there were not loads of icebergs, but our guide Ziggy was great and very knowledgeable. What a unique experience to kayak round icebergs, with stunning views of Mount Cook and the other mountains round about.

Visited January 2014
Helpful?
2 Thank jusjon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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103 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
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Date | Rating
  • Chinese (Traditional) first
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  • Any
English first
Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
9 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
“A must-do: The best way to experience Mt. Cook!”
Reviewed 26 September 2013

We reached Mt. Cook at the end of a very long trip, and, as a result, we had become quite jaded about "must-do" experiences, but this was absolutely one of the highlights of our trip. Charlie Hobbs was incredibly friendly and knowledgeable, and we felt very safe and comfortable with him at the helm. He was also fantastically flexible, as we only called to book our trip at the very last minute. While on the lake we got up close to tons of icebergs, and, unlike the motorized boat tours, we got to experience the awesomeness of nature in a very small group and without the roar of a motor. This is by far the best experience available at Mt. Cook, and I would recommend it to anyone of almost any fitness level who wants to really get a feel for how beautiful this place can be.

Visited September 2013
Helpful?
3 Thank babydollkas
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Charlie H, Owner at Southern Alps Guiding, responded to this review, 28 September 2013
Thank you so much for your positive review. It is pretty spectacular out there with all the ice bergs and scenery. I'm thrilled that you loved the whole experience especially getting close to nature.
Regards
Charlie Hobbs
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand
2 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“Must-Do”
Reviewed 14 September 2013

A huge thank you to Charlie Hobbs for being a flexible, knowledgeable and friendly guide. Although this trip had me a bit nervous because it was only confirmed last minute about whether or not we could go (due to being incredibly weather dependent), we were able to be the first kayakers out on the Tasman Glacier Lake for the season. The trip was breathtaking, allowing us to kayak right next to smaller icebergs and view the glacier face from afar. We even saw a few icebergs break off and roll- it was quite the event! We ended the day with some whiskey on the rocks (pieces of 2000 year old icebergs). I couldn't have asked for a better trip. Thank you so much, Charlie! We enjoyed every second. -Cara

Visited September 2013
Helpful?
Thank Cara L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Charlie H, Owner at Southern Alps Guiding, responded to this review, 17 September 2013
Hi Cara
Thanks for your positive feedback. It was a great day out there on the Tasman Glacier lake with you guys. The ice bergs are amazing at the moment and I'm pleased you were able to experience this great trip and also see the ice berg activity as well.
All the best.
Charlie
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London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
26 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 37 helpful votes
“Underwhelming.  I paid good money to get close to icebergs and got the opposite!”
Reviewed 15 August 2013

I regret doing this - it's a bit of a con.  The website claims it's "getting up close and personal with icebergs"  It should really be called "Kayaking away from big cool icebergs you want to be close to into boring empty water to hang with the naff microbergs".  Due to the risk of waves from icebergs rolling over or breaking up, kayakers are strictly kept a huge distance from any bergs bigger than bathtub size, and a whopping 2km from the glacier face.   At Franz and Fox paying guides gets you closer to the ice.  Unfortunately with this kayak tour the opposite is true and whats worse is the bigger the berg, the further you're kept from it which makes for a wholly underwhelming experience.  All the bergs look tiny from their respective safe distances.

I'm all for safety however the outriggers on both sides have ensured no one has ever capsized.  Charlie directed our very experienced group like children, coming across a bit jaded and uninspired - something I put down to him having a monopoly on "kayaking with icebergs" trips in NZ.  Healthy competition has resulted in (IMHO) far superior guides in Milford and despite their higher price there's alot more value to be had from them as they last alot longer.  On Tasman we got an hour in the kayaks for $145.   

Walk round the lake first - it's an awesome sight if it has bergs.  It's possible to have an "up close and personal" experience with bergs from the shore, touching and pushing really big ones.  Families with kids may enjoy the supersafe cotton wool experience on the tour but anyone who's a bit outdoorsy will be disappointed and wish they'd put the money towards a once in a lifetime helicopter flight up Mt Cook.  Ideally bring your own kayak theres nothing stopping you from paddling round the lake independently!

My resounding memory is waiting patiently whilst Charlie hacked at a tiny almost wholly underwater microberg with an ice axe, spraying us with ice shards, trying unsuccesfully to get it to roll over.  I wasn't impressed.

Visited April 2013
Helpful?
5 Thank Simonocle
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Charlie H, Owner at Southern Alps Guiding, responded to this review, 27 August 2013
I checked back on the day that you joined our trip and the report on the lake is there were icebergs everywhere. Very big ones!!!! and numerous of all sizes.
The thing with kayaking on a glacier lake with active ice bergs, even with outriggers, in the vicinity of icebergs, is that 90% of the iceberg is below the water, not above and totally hidden from view. The front terminal face area is where all the icebergs come from. Should a boat be in that area when an ice calving occured it could be quite serious. This is why we, and the other boat operator stay a safe distance as per our concession permits. Quite spectacular to see it happen from a safe distance.
If an ice berg decides to turn over, break up or explode and you're as close as you wanted to be, then you would be dead.
If you're not a certain distance from the ice, then that can endanger the lives of all kayaking. I'm taking this review as a backhanded compliment; that our safety measures are professional, that with the knowledge we have we kept our clients safe, and, according to the reviews below, we give them a really great time. I looked over the photos on that day, the 18 April 2013, and the weather was brilliant, the lake was calm and the ice bergs were spectacular. Everyone else on the trip had a great time. The trip is four hours in length for $145. Good value for money.
The trouble with an uneducated person on glacial terrain or on a glacial lake is that they don't see the danger they could be in. It's my job as a guide to do that and to ensure appropriate safety measures. And I stand by my decision. The suggestions you made are ones that would certainly endanger clients safety, including ones on the shore (where he recommends they "pat" the icebergs), as if they turned or broke up, there would be a wave surge that could take them into ice-cold water. Not good.

As an assessor of mountain guides, I'll certainly be checking up on the comments made about "paying guides on the Fox Glacier to go close" to the ice edge. If this is true then there are some serious safety breeches occuring in that area that would be unacceptable and would need to be investigated.
I'm very happy that we stuck to our safety plan and guidelines and weren't persuaded to breach our long standing safety record and concession permits.

Charlie Hobbs - Owner
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Singapore, Singapore
Level Contributor
77 reviews
11 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 157 helpful votes
“Disappointment... ...”
Reviewed 23 June 2013

Understood the restaurant is run by Charlie and his wife. Do read about their stories and the story about how they try to fight to gain a foothold to run their business in Mt Cook. Its awe-inspiring. We had a lovely night in the Old Mountaineer Cafe the last time round in Aug 2012
It was a major disappointment this time round... ...

We made a Tasman Glacier Heli-hike booking with Charlie. Lack of communication, bad and unreliable service. We were informed to confirm with Charlie on the booking a day before the hike. We tried all means to reach him but to no avail. Would appreciate the courtesy to keep us informed. Then we popped by the restaurant which is managed by his wife to check things out. Vague responses. We popped by again on the actual day of the tour again. Charlie wasn't there and his wife seemed to have woken up with a very foul mood. Had our breakfast in the restaurant but certainly do not feel welcomed at all.

I guess the experience u get depends on the mood of the owner. I guess that explains the very varied reviews. Try your luck at your own risk.

Helpful?
6 Thank meixuan w
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Charlie H, Owner at Southern Alps Guiding, responded to this review, 24 June 2013
We are very sorry you were not able to contact Charlie on the day of a hike. Often Charlie is called out in his capacity as a volunteer firefighter in the village, and it seems that it was on one of these occasions that you were unable to reach him. Charlie's wife does not manage the restaurant. She is a writer and would not have been the person you talked to that morning. We are sorry you feel you were given a poor reception by our manager, but before you comment on this it would be appreciated if you would define who you're talking to.
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