Meet Our Team...
Our friendly team are incredibly passionate about facilitating a once-in- a-lifetime, authentic adventure for all. Get to know more about each member of our team below!
All our guides have current first aid certification and passenger endorsement licenses
Will was raised at Mt Victoria near the village of Ward, 50 km south of Blenheim. Will was renamed ‘James William’ after his father Jim, tragically died of polio when he was only 3 months old. He and his sister Belinda were raised by their mother on the family farm and at the tender age of 9 Will was sent to Medbury Preparatory School and later Christ College in Christchurch.
A turning point for Will was winning an opportunity for youth exchange in Texas through the local Lion’s club. This led to an OE adventure through South America and the UK.
As was customary Will was called back to the farm where he settled and raised a family with his first wife Marsley. Later they moved nearer to Blenheim and Will turned his green fingers inherited from his mother to orcharding.
Will met Rose pruning olive trees at Marlborough Olives. Will, now single started dating Rose after an olive pruning field day brought them together. They discovered many thing in common including a passion for the wetland wildlife around their home east of Blenheim.
This passion, combined with his love for meeting new people has made Will a natural guide and team leader in the Driftwood Legacy. Many of the photographs which grace the website are a result of his many hours stalking through the undergrowth.
Rose Parsons (nee Wells, Leov) was raised in Waikawa north of French Pass in the Outer Marlborough Sounds. Her mother's parents lived at Te Towaka (place of the waka, or canoe) and her father’s parents at Waikawa Bay (bitter water).
Rose, who attended French Pass school with 19 other pupils, was the fourth generation to be raised on the farm, which looked out over Rangitoto ki te Tonga/D’Urville Island - “the most beautiful place in the world”.
Despite telling her grandmother she was going to be a jockey, and certainly not a secretary, she spent nine years as the latter for a former Kaikōura MP. Before that, her varied working life included mustering sheep on the family farm, tending wasabi on the West Coast, graphic design and a decade with Marlborough Olives, where she met Will.
In 2016, she joined Will in his business and they grew Driftwood Eco-Tours, together.
“It’s just marvellous sharing the journey, our love of nature and conservation, and now of our team and our customers - it’s just been a wonderful experience and journey.”
In 2020, ready for a new adventure, the Parsons moved from their home near Blenheim – a property overlooking the Wairau Lagoon, rich in birdlife, with a QEII-covenanted wetland which they planted and fostered – to Kaikōura.
“This was a perfect place to come. We have the sea, the mountains, the bush, the marine wildlife and the birds... we have found it to be a very friendly welcoming community.”
Fiona is the friendly voice on the end of the Driftwood Eco-Tours phone, and who will greet you at our Kaikoura base.
Originally from England, former wildlife photography and filmmaking student’s foray into the southern hemisphere began in Auckland, where she studied dolphins in 2013.
Her plan to get a master’s degree in marine biology and zoology changed when, while working as a dolphin watch guide in Kaikōura from 2014 to 2018, followed by a stint in Tonga as a guide/photographer, she decided to pursue her growing interest in the tourism industry.
Looking for a challenge, she split her time between guiding and reservation work back in Kaikōura, which led to another position in reservations and marketing.
Now, Fiona combines her love of wildlife and tourism in her role with Driftwood Eco-Tours, while also running her own photography business. She’s already experienced a number of Driftwood’s tours, and loved them.
“I love working with the guides, and interacting with people. I sometimes head out on tours to do photography – so, there’s a chance I may be on your tour.”
Sam Rutherford’s rural and farming background is something he loves to share with clients on Driftwood’s tours, particularly those that visit the Molesworth and North Canterbury areas.
Farming a high country property at Hanmer Springs until 1987, Sam is also a fomer president of Federated Farmers.
“I’m very familiar with that area, and the Rutherford family owned the Molesworth back in the 1900s. With my tours, people get some of my personal North Canterbury history and local knowledge.”
Although it’s a hard choice, Sam’s favourite tour is the St James Horse Sale, which occurs every two years.
“I’ve mustered the St James horses, I know the system, I’ve had a lot to do with it over the years. That’s my home patch really.”
In 1988, Sam moved into the IT industry where he remained until 2019 before heading overseas and travelling around the UK for three months in a caravan that he brought back to New Zealand to continue touring.
“That’s my big interest now – exploring the bits of New Zealand that we haven’t got to, and meeting the people along the way. Now you’re meeting New Zealanders who are seeing their own country, and all the little stories you hear from them. That’s really what’s keeping us busy and enjoying at the moment.”
Having known Will since they were both 13 years old, when they attended school together, Sam was planning to ring his old friend to ask if he could do some guiding for him – but Will, having had the same idea, got in first.
“I absolutely love it. I’m very much a people person and it suits me down to the ground.”
Nic Nation is the newest member of the Driftwood team. In her previous job as a Marlborough wine tour guide, she met Will while waiting to pick up clients from a cruise ship and was thrilled to be asked to work with him and Rose. Her first tour was to D’Urville Island, where she learned as much as the clients.
“Their different itineraries incorporate all the things I am interested in and love doing. I have a working knowledge of New Zealand flora and fauna but always new things to find in the different areas!”
Nic grew up on Mt Albert Station, a high country property near Wanaka, then spent 28 years farming and raising a family in Hawke’s Bay before moving to Taupo in 2000, where she worked for an outdoor adventure company.
There, she crewed on large charter boats, which took clients from all over the world trout fishing before enjoying their catch no board, cooked on the bbq or as sushimi. Besides fishing, Nic also did clay bird shooting, bar, food and general hospitality work.
“As well as being crew on the boats, hiking guiding was also part of my job description, including bird watching walks. I spent time too as camp mother cooking for hunters at a private lodge out on the Wairarapa.”
In 2018, Nic relocated to Marlborough and found part time work doing trips with Marlborough Wine Tours.
Her interests include photography, hiking out in the hills and bush, boats and fishing, gardening and being involved with two of her children and their families who live in Marlborough.
Bob originally from Christchurch, started working life in the family wine and spirit business, Fletcher Humphreys.
After 12 years in the intense role of marketing and sales, the business was sold and Bob with his wife Mary started farming at Toppesfield, in Waiau, between Kaikoura and Hanmer. They lived, worked and raised their family on the sheep beef and deer farm for an impressive 36 years.
Bob and May have recently sold their beloved farm and have now retired to Kaikoura.
Will and Rose were quick to seize the opportunity to bring Bob into the fold of the Driftwood family. Bob’s pursuits when not guiding for Driftwood are playing golf, biking, fishing and spending time with friends and family; including his 7 grandchildren.
Lance started learning about the Clarence Valley (part of the Muzzle Station) as a school boy with his cousin Paul Hislop. His father, an apiarist, managed up to 700 hives in the valley and Lance and Paul would walk over the high ranges after school to join him.
Growing up Lance leant to drive ‘Roaring Meg’ his father’s 1975 pivot steer John Deer 8430 tractor, eventually becoming expert at rebuilding the roads which were regularly washed out by the river or closed by slipping in the winter.
Working in a variety of jobs Lance has built a resume ideal for is current full time position on Muzzle Station. Auto electrician, government pest culler and a guide for a local trophy hunting company.
Lance is now an indispensable member of the team at the Station, with his extensive first-hand experience of the quirks of working in an environment that can turn hostile if you do not know what you are doing.
We are very privileged to have Lance lead our Muzzle Tours. His warmth and generosity, telling stories of his life there, has delighted many visitors.
Penelope was raised in Hamilton. Her first job as at the L’Aroma Café Frankton. On the encouragement of her parents, she attended an 8 week course in Barista, graduating with the much sort after ability in the art of making a lifesaving coffee. This skill later was to become an ‘essential service’ for ED doctors at Waikato Hospital when she managed a mobile coffee truck. “Where are you Penelope!”
Working in a range of hospitality businesses from niche cafes to high end restaurants, Penelope completed a management course and went on to run the popular Café Nina on the Esplanade at Whitianga.
Moving with her family to Kaikoura in 2018, she has two fast growing boys Codey and Flynn who keep her on her move.
Penelope hopes to visit Bali again, a place she visited annually when she was a child.
“I am still trying to make that perfect curry”.
Penelope is an essential member of the team, keeping vehicles and the headquarters running in ship shape fashion. Often the cry is heard “Where are you Penelope!"
Bonnie is an enthusiastic member of the Driftwood Eco-Tours welcoming committee for guests to our Kaikōura home.
She is a tricoloured heading dog from North Canterbury, and makes it no secret that she aspires to be a high country farm dog. Bonnie continues to wait for the day when she is allowed to join our high country tours. In the meantime, she’s a truly average guard dog but excels at rounding up her flock of 10 Arapaoa sheep in the paddock, a skill she practices daily.