As I organised my group of 20 to the Chatham Islands, I was told to just “chill”.

Things have a way of working themselves out.

This was as I put travel pieces together of a flight, accommodation and tour puzzle to the Chathams for a rather large group of good Canterbury buggers (and JJ and I from Oamaru!).

Being the busiest time ever in tourism on the Islands made it difficult at times. So while at one point I was told “sorry we are full and cannot squeeze you in”, Hotel Chathams owner and Island legend Toni said “I don’t know how but we will make it work”.

And so it did work. Toni even gave up her room above the hotel for a night to ensure my group was hosted in the best way possible.

Rob the plumber, from Christchurch, had a similar, but different, experience on arriving at Tuuata Airport.

His welcoming party did not turn up and on ringing the hotel he was advised “Oh, you’re a day early mate, we were not expecting you until tomorrow – and we are chocker at the moment, no bed in the hotel for tonight, sorry”.

This was not the response Rob wanted on his virgin visit to sort out the plumbing on the biggest build project on the Island.

“But by the time you make it into town we’ll have your accommodation sorted and it’ll be hunky dory” was the continuing reply from the hotel.

So for Rob, it was a matter of getting into town as the airport was vacated – and he had no idea of which way to go!

“Grab a rental car out front” came the reply from the friendly hotel receptionist.

“But which one, and where are the keys?” Rob asked.

I think you know the rest from here: “Just grab any car and the keys will be in the ignition. Follow your nose into town – you can’t go wrong”.

He grabbed the best-looking 4WD ute (standard Island issue) and the keys were in there ready for him to kickstart for the 20 minute drive to town.

As an aside, Rob said he had three or four calls before he even arrived on the Chathams from locals for private jobs. He had not given out his number, but was told by his first Chatham Island caller that “everyone on the island knows there is a plumber coming and don’t expect this to be the last call”.

Rob figured out, like me, that not getting stressed and trusting things will work themselves out is the only approach on the Chathams.

Clocks, rosters and orders do not necessarily dictate the patterns over there. It is the weather, the moon and the tides which have just as much influence.

And always have time to chat to anyone at any time. Things get done, just not in the way we are used to, maybe.

The boat from Timaru that calls monthly was in dry-dock late last month, due to an engine failure, so supplies got low, but they get used to that and improvise and put up with it. These are not unusual sorts of occurrences.


One day, we had blue cod for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The best blue cod I have ever tasted.

The boys reeled them in like never before on their fishing charter and bigger than they had ever seen.

And I’m talking hardened Canterbury fisher-hunter types in the main.

The crayfish was divine and plentiful and the paua gathering was more like “Hi, I’m a paua on a rock, come get me – you won’t get wet past your ankles” sort of gathering.

There is some trepidation on the island about visitors’ expectations to return with chilly bins full of seafood and starving the islanders of “their” resource.

Advice is to visit the MPI office if you are thinking of scavenging from local spots and, of course, if you step on to private land you can expect the same reception as you would anywhere on the mainland, too.

I returned with a few paua, well under one day’s catch and you can be assured Mr MPI will check you on the departing flight.

The Chathams are a haven for fishing, but get local advice and book with renowned local operators.

Like the hotel, they always make things happen and never disappoint!

See you soon, Floyd – trip booked for June 22 to 29 ex Dunedin, Oamaru and Christchurch.

  • Ralph Davies is the general manager of Headfirst Travel