Get to Know Winery Tour Guide Christine Gisby

When Christine Gisby moved back to Waiheke Island — a 35-minute ferry ride from Auckland, New Zealand — she wanted to show others what she loves so much about the place she now calls home. Known as the “island of wine,” Waiheke Island is home to several vineyards, as well as olive groves, café culture and long stretches of white, sandy beach. After working for a taxi company, Gisby decided to go out on her own and start a touring company. Now, eight years later, she’s a successful winery tour guide in New Zealand who owns and operates See Waiheke Tours.
How did you make the transition to becoming a tour guide?

(It was) easy to create my own company and do the tours that I wanted to do. I knew every inch of the island by then, so it was a seamless transition.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Usually I pick up my guests from the ferry terminal at 10.30 a.m. and we go from there. I take people to some of the more isolated bays and inlets so they get to really experience some unique parts of Waiheke. We will stop at a vineyard for a wine tasting, as well as the olive estate to taste some remarkably delicious olive oils. Lunch will usually be at a vineyard where there is another tasting. After lunch we do more sightseeing as we make our way back to the 4 p.m. My niche here is that I personalize the tour to suit my guests’ interests — we can weave in the local art gallery, a visit to the main village or, if people are more into tasting wine, then we do less sightseeing and more vineyards.

Do you have a certain style of guiding?

My tours are quite different from other operators in that I take people to some of the more isolated bays. Waiheke is promoted as a vineyard and wine area, and it is that, but it also has a very unique character in its topography and stunningly beautiful bays. I like to show people the real character of the Island, not just the vineyards. My style of guiding is very personal and I will work with my guests even on the day to create a remarkable and hopefully unforgettable day on the island.

What’s the best part of your job?

By far the best part is that I get to experience everyone’s first view of Waiheke. It gives me the warm fuzzies to do that. It puts a grin on my face and reminds me just how lucky I am to live here and how delightful it is to share this experience with others.

Every job has its ups and downs — is there anything you aren’t keen on?

Hmm, I can’t remember having a bad tour in that everyone is on holiday mode, drinking wine and being looked after! I guess during the summer I don’t get many days off and in the winter I have too many!

Any odd or bizarre requests?

Having to set up a picnic for a guy who wanted to propose to his girlfriend. That was very harrowing in that I had to set up (a picnic) with Champagne on a beach, under a Pohutakawha tree, without her knowing and with him so nervous it was crazy. My thoughts were ‘What if she says no!’ It was a particularly windy day and I had to make all sorts of excuses to her by dropping them at one bay and telling them that I will meet them at the next one. She had high-heeled shoes on, which just didn’t really work for walking along the beach. I got them there in the end and then — keeping out of sight — was more nervous than he was as I waited anxiously to find out the answer. Thank goodness she said yes!

What are the benefits of hiring a guide?

I am completely sold on this way of touring. The experience of being in a bus with 30 or more people and having a tour with a local operator or private groups is (like the) difference between night and day. A local operator is way more passionate about what they are doing. They have more invested in making sure their guests have a great time. Also, the tour can be flexible whereas you are stuck with the group on a large bus.

What makes a good tour guide?

You only need a couple of things: You have to be passionate about what you are doing and about the area that you are showing and, strangely enough, you have to actually like people!

What are some tips for our readers on how to find a guide?

You want to look for private or small group tours that are locally owned and operated. I would note how the guide responds to your email inquiry. Are they friendly, offer you alternatives, give you lots of information? I would not use a company (where) there is no actual one-on-one contact — it means they have set tours with no flexibility.

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