Abel Tasman Eco Tours was founded in April 2013 as Golden Future Conservation Tours. Starting on a shoestring with the help of Abel Tasman AquaTaxi, we found a tourism niche delivering high quality ecology tours in the national park.
In 2014, Golden Future became independent with the help of Everton Bed and Breakfast Kaiteriteri, who helped us out by signing over their charter concession in a very generous deal that would kickstart our future as a genuine eco-operator in the Abel Tasman. We moved our vessel to a new location in Marahau, teaming up with Kahu Kayaks and Abel Tasman Stables.
Using our our formal education and vast local knowledge as a foundation, we are committed to enriching our knowledge at every turn. All of our tours have been researched and we have consulted with experts in botany, conservation, ornithology, marine biology and cultural history. Also, we pay this forward by offering all staff in the Abel Tasman the opportunity to come on a tour with us and learn about the ecology of this amazing place. We believe education is the key to change and we have written a referenced intepretation manual on ecology, conservation and history of the park that we provide to anyone interested free of charge.
Also, we founded our social enterprise, Tasman Bay Guardians.Through the Guardians,we employ a team of educators and environmental consultants.We deliver the Experiencing Marine Reserves,Whitebait Connection and Drains to Harbour to schools and communities in the Top of the South.We also sit on various biodiversity forums and are developing reef restorations projects and an integrated marine spatial plan for helping to preserve the marine environment in our Bay.
Aside from tourism, we are also part of the park’s conservation story, assisting in scientific surveys, pest control, research and education as well as our own initiatives. We are committed to supporting the community and conservation groups with raffle prizes, cash donations and providing our resources, time and expertise for the good of the community and environment. Please see our Environmental Policy for a list of our achievements to date.
We love the park and the wildlife that make this such a vibrant place. It is therefore in our interests to protect and preserve it. We are fiercely protective of the marine reserve and keep our eyes on any suspicious behaviour. We discourage the taking of any shells or biological matter from nature on our tours. We have developed our own mammal watching protocols and were the first company to become a DOC SMART operator in the park, responsibly viewing marine mammals.
Our vessel Zeehaen is a rejuvenated water taxi; given a new lease of life by Eco Tours. She is a 7.5m Osprey alloy pontoon boat. Locally made, her sealed pontoons provide a comfortable ride and she is extremely seaworthy and built to withstand the local sea conditions. She is powered by a brand new four stroke 225hp Honda outboard, who’s economy, reliability and quietness make it the only commercial outboard choice in the Abel Tasman. Of course we would love to be the first in the park to pioneer electric and solar propulsion options and will endeavour to do so when the technology meets our requirements. We have done extensive research into these options and have not found any alternative fit for purpost at this point.In fact the electric ferry companies told us to keep on with our current model.You can see our Fuel Consumption Calculator on our Sustainability page to learn what an impact of one of our trips is.
We also founded the Abel Tasman Tree Collective, a group of like minded tourism businesses, keen to raise funds to restore natural environments in the Bay.In our short life we have assisted flood affected communities fix their land, funded a restoration in the Abel Tasman and renovated the DOC community nursery in Motueka, which benefits at least 15 community groups.
Health and safety is one of our primary considerations, and we believe in delivering an impeccable safety culture to customers at all points on our tours. We pride ourselves on our safety record and strive to improve our standards by reviewing our systems twice yearly. We are audited by Maritime New Zealand and Outdoorsmark, to ensure that our safety systems are current and comply with all the relevant legislation. If you have encountered any hazards or discrepancies to this statement on our tours we encourage you to give us feedback so that we can rectify the situation for the future.
Our staff are not just work mates and have known each other for years, we are all great mates that all ended up as colleagues.We love to go on missions and hang out with the wider whanau (family).
We hope you have an amazing time with us here at Abel Tasman EcoTours and we look forward to meeting you and hearing your story.
Golden Future Boat Tour – Golden Future was the original name of our company. A play on the fact that this place has a bright future and the golden sands of the Abel Tasman. A little known fact is that Stew’s DJ handle is The Golden Wonder, which also had a major influence in the name. After two years, we realized that we needed a less cryptic name and so Abel Tasman Eco Tours was born, the Golden name will always live on in this tour.
Promised Land Walking Tour – The place where we embark on our tour in known as Canaan Down’s. This are was Tapu (Sacred) to Maori, as many dark happenings occurred in the region, and it was thought that a Taipo (spirit) haunted it. In fact the groaning sounds were coming from the deep water filled caverns of this kaarst landscape. Some pakeha discovered this area in the 1870’s, describing it as a high country plain, perfect for farming. It became known as the promised land. For the full story, you will just have to go and see for yourself.
Tasman Treasures Van Tour – Our latest offering is a full day trip around the treasured areas of Tasman Bay. Many of the places we go are Tapu (sacred), and highly significant. Not only that, but they are stunning locations. This really is a trip around the top spots in our area, and it was inspired by the little tours we take our friends and family on when they come to visit. Prepare to be amazed, this tour is a Taonga (Treasure).
Stew Robertson is the founder of Abel Tasman EcoTours. Originally from Scotland; he has lived and worked in the Abel Tasman area since 2002 and has transformed his passion for the area and the environment into a career. Marahau and the Abel Tasman National Park are the backdrop for his operation showcasing the magic of this incredible region. Stew has many years of commercial boating experience, holds a Diploma in Marine Studies from the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic and a BSc (biological sciences) from the University of Waikato and is a certified scientific scuba diver. Keen to pursue a career in and give something back to his home in Tasman Bay, Stew set up Eco Tours. Merging his fields of expertise, Stew is now an environmental communicator, sharing the wonders of science and the beauty of the Abel Tasman with the public from his boat ‘Zeehaen’. Stew loves nothing more than sharing his passion and knowledge of this idyllic region. Book a tour with Abel Tasman Eco Tours and experience the slice of heaven that is the Abel Tasman National Park. Besides being a tour guide and educator, Stew is also the founder of Tasman Bay Guardians and the Abel Tasman Tree Collective. He also assists in co-ordinating community snorkelling events through the Experiencing Marine Reserves programme. See our Facebook page for the latest news and photos! . He assists in conservation projects such as relocating rare native birds, research and pest control programmes. He also consults with other companies on their ecological interpretation as well as conducting under-water scientific field work throughout New Zealand. He has also co-ordinates clean-up events both above and below the tide in the waters of the Abel Tasman.
Stew sits on the board of:
Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust
Tasman Bay Guardians
Wilderness Canoe Trust
Nelson Biodiversity Forum
Outside of work, Stew loves hanging out with his wife and kids, snorkelling and diving and getting in the water, kitesurfing, fitness wherever possible, mountain biking, yoga, DJ’s at parties and generally loves having any sort of fun with his mates. Stew has made it onto the prospectus’s of both Bay of Plenty Polytechnic and University of Waikato.
We were very excited to welcome Fay MacKenzie to the crew in 2015, our first ever member of staff. You will meet Fay on ‘Promised Land’ and ‘Tasman Treasures tours. She is an amazing guide with vast outdoor experience. The park is her playground and she has also worked in the Wainui Valley as an outdoor education teacher at Motueka High School. We are very lucky to have a guide of this calibre, helping to take us to new heights in the eco-tourism world. Fay also works as a Department of Conservation ranger and Whitebait Connection co-ordinator, delivering freshwater education to school aged kids. Outside of work Fay loves getting into the outdoors with her family, mountain biking, is a soccer coaching advisor, RPM fitness instructor and a top jammer in the Sirens of Smash Roller Derby team. So don’t mess with this chicky.
Stew’s wife and best mate, Helen is a force to be reckoned with. She expertly balances managing EcoTours and Tasman Bay Guardians with her family, sports and hobbies. Helen has a Health Science degree majoring in environmental monitoring. She is also a qualified naturopath and personal trainer. She balances the books, manages the finances and man’s the phone. It is probably Helen you will speak to if you give us a ring. Helen is also the manager of Tasman Bay Guardians, looking after all the financial side of things for the Guardians and Abel Tasman Tree Collective, she edits all of of our videos, does photography and is also the Whitebait Connection Regional Co-ordinator. In fact she is known as the whitebait whisperer, due to her uncanny knack of being able to find their spawning sites, and she is employed by the Tasman District Council, to do just that. Outside of work Helen is most happy when on holiday in some hot country with snorkeling and nice food, in the garden, running all over the place or doing pirouettes on her roller skates. She is an amazing roller derby players, and is a star of the Nelson Sirens of Smash A Team. She has quite a huge pile of trophies to her name. Also, she loves mountain biking and has just recently taken up kite surfing.
Stu began working for Abel Tasman Eco Tours in the summer of 2018-19.
He is sometimes known as Hairy Stu to distinguish him from all the other Stus and Stews who’ve
worked in the park. He grew up beside the sea and has lived, travelled and worked on the ocean
ever since. Beginning in hospitality, Stu’s career developed towards sea-related tourism among
Pacific islands and coral reefs.
He first kayaked in the Abel Tasman NP in 1990 then returned in 1995 to work as a kayak guide. Stu
has since worked many summers in the park, alternating with winters in North Queensland, Australia
and the Yasawa Islands in Fiji running multi-day expedition kayak trips.
Stu gained his skippers ticket in 2003 and drove water taxis in the park. He also worked on the Great
Barrier Reef skippering dive and snorkel vessels based on Heron Island. After living and working on
the Reef, he was inspired to learn more about the marine environment. While completing a Diploma
of Marine Studies at the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic, Stu reconnected with Stew, who he had first met
when working in the Abel Tasman.
Stu enjoys sharing his favourite “office” with you, recounting stories from the past and exploring
current issues that are shaping the future of Abel Tasman National Park. He is passionate about the
park, the marine environment and its wise management. His off-season winter work is also based on
When not working, Stu can be found on a bike, in a kayak or in the kitchen turning out delicious