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  • Writer's pictureFiona Wardle

Meet the Locals of Pelorus Sounds

Updated: Jan 14, 2022

A highlight for many on our Port Ligar Tour is the full day boat tour off the Pelorus Sounds.

Departing from Blenheim, we board the ‘Toroa’ for a private boat charter with Pelorus Tours’ hosts Gary and Ellen Orchard. Gary whose family name is synonymous with the Marlborough Sounds has a bounty of local stories past and present. Points of interest along the way including blue cod fishing, local wildlife and a visit to a mussel farm.

We took the opportunity over lockdown to ask the Orchards a few questions about living in such a beautiful but remote part of the world. Find out more about them below:

Did you grow up in the sounds?

Yes and Gary's generations before that. Gary’s grandfather Jack Orchard, settled in the Kenepuru sounds in 1912. In 1913 he started to operate his vessel with passengers and the royal mail service. Gary’s father, Fred Orchard, at the age of 12 ran the same service for his father Jack Orchard.

In 1920 Gary’s father Fred with his brother Wally Orchard, both ran a passenger and barging service throughout the Marlborough sounds until Fred’s passing in 1975.

Do you have a favourite fact to share with guests?

One of the things that Gary is very proud of was that his father’s phone number in the sounds was no:1. Where Gary lived and was brought up at Nopera, in the Marlborough sound.

How long have you had Pelorus Tours?

We started our business now called, ”Pelorus Tours” , in 1981 and have been operating our classic passenger vessel Toroa for 38 years. We have also built a 6 metre alloy vessel “ Shuttle”, and have acquired an alloy Fishing vessel called “ Western Break”.

Gary and Ellen have a 4th generation of children that have ships master qualifications. The well-known Orchard Family are one of the longest boat transport passenger Family’s operating in NZ.

What services do you offer?

As a business we do water transport with pick ups from Havelock, Portage, Te Mahia. But also various bach’s in the Kenepuru /sounds. With our vessel’s we do cruises, Family Reunions, Birthdays, Weddings, Transporting school groups, etc. and can cater for groups 2- 100.

We run on demand and offer a personalised service to all our group’s.

What is your favourite part of your job?

The most enjoyable part of our sounds cruising, is sharing the sounds and sharing our knowledge. And interacting and showing people the wildlife, talking and explaining how some wildlife is increasing in numbers. When cruising with Gary he knows where to go and show the wildlife in the seasons. The Marlborough sounds is a big place with lots to see.

What is your favourite wildlife species to see?

We have an incredible and diverse amount of wildlife with dolphins being Gary’s favourite marine life to view and see.

Bottlenose Dolphins along with Dusky and Common Dolphins can be found in the sounds. Constantly on the move a little bit of luck is involved

To find out more about our tour to Port Ligar, click on the button below

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