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Kayak venture invites people to explore Christchurch from city to sea

3 November 2017

A passionate kayak guide’s dream is now reality with the launch of Christchurch’s newest outdoor venture.

Katarina ‘KT’ Te Maiharoa launched her city-to-sea kayak tour company, Christchurch Sea Kayaking, in October. A flotilla of craft helmed by fellow water enthusiasts came together on the Avon River/Ōtākaro to celebrate.

Christchurch Sea Kayaking invites people to explore Ōtākaro by kayak (clients can choose from ‘Big Red’ and ‘Great White’) with a guide and “see the city from a very different perspective”, Te Maiharoa says.

“We tend to believe that cities are concrete jungles void of nature. Christchurch is anything but. The city is ideally located by the sea, right amongst the rolling Port Hills and the vast Canterbury Plains and is just a short drive to the picturesque Southern Alps – it is a dream for any outdoor enthusiast,” she says.

A typical tour with Christchurch Sea Kayaking involves a ‘how to’ and safety briefing at a jetty beside the spectacular all-ages Margaret Mahy Family Playground in Christchurch’s CBD followed by a relaxing jaunt downstream under bridges and bustling traffic, past regenerating riverbanks and through the city’s residential red zone.

Te Maiharoa says the character of the river changes as it flows towards the ocean and it is a “treat” to hear noises of the city drift into the distance. The bustle is replaced by amazing birdsong in the red zone – an area more than three-and-a-half times the size of Hagley Park that was damaged by the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, where leftover gardens from once-occupied urban sections are visible from the river.

Nature is reclaiming the land and the river is full of local and migrating birds. “I have also seen trout, eels, flounder and whitebait,” Te Maiharoa says.

As the tour nears the estuary, the river widens and lush greenery is replaced by brown reeds. The expanse of the bracken estuary “creates a desolate Mad Max feel”. Kayakers have a great view of the Port Hills as they carry on through to Moncks Bay  not far from the beachside suburb of Sumner.

Te Maiharoa has been a kayak guide all over the South Island – from Abel Tasman National Park to the Milford Sounds, and says she loves showcasing “the hidden nature that is a gem of this rebuilt city”.

“I love living in Christchurch and I love the great outdoors. Now I have found a way to combine the two. After spending so much time working elsewhere, it is nice to be able to settle back home.

“There are so many remarkable places to visit in New Zealand and kayaking is one of the most enjoyable ways to explore our iconic waterways.

“My goal with Christchurch Sea Kayaking is to show locals and visitors a glimpse of what outdoor opportunities exist right in the heart of the city.”

Ōtākaro originates from a spring in northwest Christchurch and passes through several suburbs and Hagley Park, the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and the CBD before heading out to sea.

It is 28 kilometres long and Christchurch Sea Kayaking offers 19km and 14km tours, which take between 3-5 hours.

Te Maiharoa is Maori, from the Waitaha tribe, and starts every tour with a karakia (prayer).

“Waitaha, like all Maori, have always used the natural elements to make sense of the world. [There’s a saying], ‘We are the river, the river is life’. And today it gives me a business – so it is my life.”

No experience is needed on the tours and all equipment is provided.

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