Tom Loughlin Interview
GUIDE Q&A: Tom Loughlin
The Maori-Irish guide takes us through some of the cultural curiosities of New Zealand and what to expect during one of his trips
By: SANDY CUNNINGHAM
Q: Tom, tell us a little bit about your history in New Zealand. When did you start guiding?
A: My father is of Ngati Tuwharetoa descent, and my mother is Ngapuhi descent. These two Maori tribes define who I am and where I come from. I grew up in the township of Taupo, Ngati Tuwharetoa, in the center of the North Island of New Zealand. My professional life has mainly been as a chef, cooking in different countries in both hemispheres for around 20 years. I have been back in my hometown of Taupo for some years now, and I have thrown the anchor overboard. I am home to stay and loving it!
I first started guiding in 2000 as a favor to a close friend who was looking for a Kiwi tour guide. The combination of a career in hospitality and a strong background on the New Zealand outdoors made it a natural transition. I did manage to confuse a few of my friends when I decided to leave the restaurant trade and “head into the bush, bro!” What was I thinking? Once they got over the shock, they soon realized that I was in my happy place, doing what I love.
Q: What should Outside GO guests expect on a day with you?
A: Kai Waho—kai (food) waho (outdoors)—is an interactive outdoor food experience. The key thing here is the detail and the location. The drive to Tamau Pa is an experience in itself, a total of 30 kilometers on back roads and a great opportunity to get to know our guests. The groups are small and personalized and are the only inhabitants we typically see on a 5,600-acre piece of untouched wilderness still owned by Maori. Here we share both a spiritual and conventional view of their traditional foods and cooking methods, and take a look at contemporary foods and cooking methods. We explore some quite groovy contemporary recipes with traditional delicacies and nutritional values in our native plants.
Like so many indigenous peoples around the world, the Maori have always been deeply connected to the natural world. We discuss this during our bush walks, and the level of detail we go into is determined by the level of inquisitiveness of our guests. This is where things become very special and true connections are made.
What else is there to Kai Waho? Activities like one-on-one traditional weaving lessons, fishing for eels at night, sustainable hunting programs based on a Maori philosophy, a multitude of guided and non-guided walks, mountain biking, and horseback riding are all available during your time in New Zealand.
"Spending time in the outdoors with interesting people from so many different backgrounds is a very cool place to be."
Q: Who are the Maori?
A: The Maori, or the tangata whenua, are the indigenous people of New Zealand. They’re of Polynesian descent and are experienced navigators of the Pacific with an especially colorful culture. Their ethos is centered upon respect for the natural world. Ceremony is also important and is still attached to all things Maori to this day. The key with the ceremony is about acknowledgement of those who came before, both in a spiritual and ancestral sense.
Q: What are the most important things to you when guiding our guests?
A: The team you’re working with and attention to detail are two key things that determine a good experience for guests. I was fortunate to meet the Outside GO team face-to-face in the Santa Fe office. Because we were able to meet in person, the attention to detail required when meeting a guest’s expectations is set in place by the time they arrive in New Zealand.
"At the end of the day, we are sharing our lives with people; lovely human beings who want to learn and connect not only in an adventurous sense, but an emotional sense as well."
The opportunity to share my culture is very important to me on so many levels. It keeps our culture alive and keeps me connected to where I come from while sharing an essential part of Maori life. There is a saying here in New Zealand that resonates with what is unique to this place: “He tangata, he tangata, he tangata,” meaning “It is the people, the people, the people.”
Q: Tell us a funny anecdote about one of your trips.
A: Recently a couple joined us for a day trip during middle of the manuka flowering. I broke a small branch and passed it to the lady to show her the flower—at the same time explaining to her husband that I was only showing her, and not hitting on her. His response was worthy of an Oscar! Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, all rolled into one, if you get my drift! Has anyone seen my horse?
Q: So Tom, are you Maori or “Irori”?
A: Way less than half, but I consider myself Maori. That’s the trouble when you whakapapa [trace your ancestry] to the Emerald Isle as well and have kissed the Blarney Stone! A few generations back, two brothers jumped ship in Dunedin and dropped the O off O’Loughlin. That must be where I got all of my mischievous traits.
Learn more about our New Zealand itinerary or give us a call at 1.888.870.0903 to chat with one of our specialists.
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Tom Loughlin Interview
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