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Glacier Valley Eco Tours is a proudly New Zealand-owned family venture, nestled in the heart of Franz Josef Glacier. At the helm are Cliff and Tash, a dynamic husband-and-wife duo who have called this majestic landscape home for 17 years, alongside their two children. They're not just a family; they're a team, intertwined with the natural beauty of their surroundings and living in the essence of New Zealand's wilderness. 

Tell us about your business and journey to today 

“My husband Cliff was working for Franz Josef Glacier Guides as a Glacier Guide for 11 years. He trained new guides on flora/fauna and history interpretation, and was very passionate about the forest in the valley.  After walking access straight onto the glacier ceased (in 2010) and helicopters became the only means of access onto the glacier, Cliff dreamed of buying Glacier Valley Eco Tours off the current local operator, and in 2016 the opportunity came up to buy it.” 

Now eight years later, Glacier Valley Eco Tours offer easy- moderate half day guided walking tours, to more challenging full day walking tours in Franz Josef, Fox Glacier & Okarito areas of Glacier Country in West Coast NZ.  “Most of our shorter walks are for all ages & abilities, including families with small children. We offer a high level of information on conservation, local history, flora/fauna, glaciology, geology & local stories.” 

Guests are provided with firsthand information relating to the positive impacts of Predator Free South Westland. “We provide visitors with an opportunity to learn about predator control and experience the rebound in biodiversity which is actively taking place in South Westland forests. Guests are equipped with an ability to contribute to the health of nature whilst on holiday.” 

Cliff and Tash also run their own predator trapping project at Lake Matheson, Fox Glacier, a UNESCO World Heritage area. “We started this in 2018 and recently have had Kakariki come back to that area – we would like to think it’s due to our trapping project.” 

 How do you keep staff inspired? 

“The last four years we have been heavily involved in the Jobs for Nature program.  This has been invaluable to both us and our staff, with rare opportunities for our staff to get up and close with kiwi, lizards & plants. This year, we took on a special project studying & cataloguing endangered Bull Kelp, which one of our team finished just recently.  Our staff also participated in a beach litter survey with DOC (down to Okarito 3 mile lagoon) river crossing, helicopter loading & first aid training.” 

“We have a few BBQ’s at home, as well as a few staff dinners out supporting local restaurants throughout the summer season. This year our staff got massages at the end of the season from a local massage therapist, as well as books for Christmas in whatever they are passionate about (i.e. plants & storytelling). They are considered part of our family and invited to spend Christmas day with us, as they are normally far from home during the busy holiday season. We also have regular staff meetings to discuss any issues they may have, and when clients have lunches on their private tour then the guide does too.” 

What is the Ōkārito Plant Project and how can businesses get involved? 

“The Ōkārito Plant Project is a business lead sustainability initiative in South Westland. The project was initially founded by Glacier Valley Eco Tours along with five other partnering businesses who recognise the uniqueness of South Westland’s environment. The businesses have shared values and a strong sense of responsibility to preserve and protect the environment in which they live, work and play. 

The project provides a platform which empowers businesses and communities to be involved in the restoration and protection of natural ecosystems. This involves collaboration to foster an increase in biodiversity and regenerate waterways, and wetlands.” 

Businesses can get involved in the Okarito Plant Project by signing up to a corporate member of the project.  

“Through their involvement with the project, corporate members benefit by having their staff and visitors able to actively participate in a planting & restoration activity. Businesses involved in the project raise their sustainability credentials and attract visitors who are interested in immersive experiences. These visitors are committed to supporting businesses that actively contribute to the enhancement of biodiversity and sustainable tourism. 

In turn, these businesses not only enrich the visitor experience and help to build awareness of environmental challenges, but also assist landowners in creating habitat which supports biodiversity and high standards of water quality. A collaborative effort on behalf of businesses, communities, landowners and visitors fosters stronger connections to the environment, of which all people are dependent on for their livelihoods.” 

To find out more and get involved, please click here. 

What positive changes would you like to see in the tourism industry within the next decade? 

“All tourism businesses proactive in engaging with an environmental project (or start their own) that enhances and strengthens their brand, but also ‘gives back’ and enhances the environment that they are working in. Whether it’s predator control, tree planting, or education - taking local schools out for free to educate them about our natural environment & how to look after it for generations to come.” 

Cliff & Tash are hopeful to see an increase in support for operators to reduce their environmental footprint without it “costing a fortune” for small businesses.  

“We are seeing an increased interest in nature-based activities, & a connection to nature & local people from our visitors, with a desire for more information about local conservation efforts.”