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David Walmsley

Guide at a Glance

  • Company

    Lake Tarawera Water Taxi and Eco Tours

  • Locations

    North Island, New Zealand

  • Activities

    Boat Tour, Eco Tour, Nature, Sightseeing

  • Guiding Experience

    11 years

  • Languages


  • Favorite Trip

    Eco Tour

Guide Bio

Get to Know N.Z. Guides Karen and David Walmsley

Husband and wife team David Walmsley and Karen Walmsley offer unique perspectives of New Zealand through Lake Tarawera Water Taxi and Eco Tours. Karen is a descendant of the Tuhourangi Ngati Wahiao tribe and lives on the same lands as her ancestors — and enjoys the opportunity to host visitors and share her culture. David is a skipper extraordinaire, offering boat trips on Lake Tarawera, as well as nature tours, trekking and geothermal soaks.
How did you become N.Z. guides?

Karen: I was a late bloomer when it came to guiding, but it’s very much part of my family history back to my great-great grandmother, so it’s a historic connection. … We moved here in early 1998, so now it’s been 20 years. David and I were designers and graphic artists. Eight years ago, we started taking family and friends (around the area) to connect with the lake and the mountain; then it became clear to me that international visitors might enjoy this.

David: We started at the same time a cultural lodge … and it was a natural progression to take them out into the forest and show them the old trails.

What types of tours do you offer?

Karen: We have packaged experiences that give us a little bit of structure all based on our guests spending time with us. For me, the packages are all focused on our ancestor footprints. It starts here at Lake Tarawera and ends up at the village or goes the other way around.

David: Karen decided she wanted to have a walking trek … so the young people would come back out here and learn the stories from the old people. We actually bought the water taxi business to bring people back and forth, so we started running an eco-tour business. I take people out; we take them to a (geothermal) pool in the bush.

What’s the best part of your job?

Karen: It’s very much about making a connection with people and the land. What I found is most often with people there’s not too much difference between us — we all have families.

David: I suppose I’m a storyteller and entertainer. I love the storytelling part of it. It’s reading my guests and being able to tell stories, and every time you do it, it’s like doing a show. You might be repeating it but you read your customers and adjust. … The natural beauty is one thing that really blows most people away. The small population — they come out on the lake and don’t see another boat. The thing about people who live in cities, because we don’t have snakes and crocodiles, they’re blown away they can walk in bare feet through the forest to a hot pool. As a guide you take for granted the beauty of your place but it always (gets) reinforced (when you’re guiding).

What qualities should a guide possess?

David: Integrity. If it’s just a job, it comes through pretty quickly. If you love the place or love what you’re doing and honour what you’re doing, I think it comes through.

Karen: For me a guide needs to be able to connect at some level, and in some way, with whomever they’re hosting. Guiding is a form of hosting; I become an ambassador, if you like, for my tribe but also for my country.

What does a guide offer that a guidebook can’t?

Karen: This is my standing place. My family has lived here 560 years; I’m a descendant of that. There’s a different conversation I can have based on it being passed down to me in stories and daily adventures. … I’m a storyteller as well but mine gets woven in with my great-grandmother’s experiences. When you meet my family in the village, they are my family … if it was anyone else, that connection would not be so natural. I also have things that I love to share that have been handed down to me — a lot of that is based around food and cooking, so people eat with us, we have them in our home. It’s a very personal experience.

David: You can drive past a place on the lake, (where) a village was destroyed during the eruption, and you can bring a story so much (to life) by showing them what happened — 200-kilometre-an-hour winds drawing across it and how it would have been for the people. It’s in that storytelling — by not having a guide you don’t get the opportunity to open up what those places (are about).

Karen: I try to draw them into being with me rather than me being with them, because I’m very much focused on what I call my place. When we talk, we talk as if everything surrounding me belongs to me; I take ownership of it. I think that’s my style — I own it, but not in the sense that I’ve gone out and bought it.

David: She gives reverence to it. It’s more than just a place to take people; it’s a place of great spiritual power. People sense that honouring.

If you like this, you might like: Explore New Zealand and Explore Rotorua


Skipper extraordinaire, he will take you on a boat tour and show you areas of Lake Tarawera that he knows  like the back of his hand. This is his backyard. He loves people, he loves sharing, he is passionate about this area. David is a fifth generation New Zealander whose family stems from the far north of New Zealand which has fostered his love of the sea, and his passion for the land.

David Walmsley's Reviews

  • tarawerataxi

    As seen on TripAdvisor: We really enjoyed our afternoon with David and wish to thank him for being such an informative and engaging guide. The more we travel, the more we appreciate the authentic stories and life experiences of people in the places we visit. The best travel experiences involve local people interpreting the significance of what you are seeing. David exemplified this approach perfectly and conveyed his and Karen’s story in a passionate manner. Thank you! Visited May 2014

  • tarawerataxi

    As seen on TripAdvisor: My Mum and I thoroughly enjoyed our trip with David on Lake Tarawera. We were the only passengers on the boat and David made us feel extremely welcome. David is clearly very passionate about the work that he and his wife do in the area, and as New Zealander’s we are so very grateful that people do step up to maintain, protect and share the heart of our beautiful land. I found the trip to be very relaxing and educational. The scenery off the boat is exceptional and David is very knowledgeable about the area. David’s boat was very comfortable and the access onto and off the boat is very good with a small ladder off the front, suitable for all ages. I highly recommend this trip to both New Zealanders and over seas visitors. Thank you David for your time, I hope to be back again another time soon. Visited July 2014

  • tarawerataxi

    As seen on TripAdvisor: We booked the water taxi to collect us from Hot Water Beach after our 4 1/2 hr energetic hike to the beach. David was right on time and in the half hour trip back to The Landing he discussed the history of the area and plans for extending the track around to the Tarawera Falls track in the future. He is a great guy and we definitely recommend this service. Also recommended is the cafe/restaurant at The Landing – the coffee ranks with the best we have had anywhere.

  • tarawerataxi

    As seen on TripAdvisor: We took our family on the hot water beach round trip (my parents, brother and young kids). It was really one of the highlights of our trip back to NZ. Great commentary from David, great swim and fantastic scenery.

Lake Tarawera Water Taxi and Eco Tours

Lake Tarawera was the home of the Tuhourangi people prior to 1886. With the eruption of Mount Tarawera on June 10th 1886 every thing changed. Karen and David Walmsley are passionate about this area and now that Tarawera has healed from that long ago eruption they are both dedicated to bringing the Tuhourangi people back to this area to do what they once did so well, guide and extend hospitality to visitors from all over the world to this area.

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