That’s One BIG Fish – A School Camp with a Fishy Twist

“On a Mish” #290 That’s One BIG Fish. Deep Cove (Patea / Doubtful Sound). Fiordland National Park. 3.7.2021. We (New Zealanders) are lucky to live in a country of outdoor adventures amongst great beauty. Working in some of the best parts of the country is an outstanding way for me to not only pay the bills, but also relay my love of the outdoors to others. If you had told me in my twenties that I would be teaching young Kiwis about the outdoors one day I would have rolled around in laughter over your outrageous statement….

Over my time exploring I have collected many photos and memories, and was often told I should do a blog. I have also had people tell me I should share my experience with the younger members of society. As strange as it sounds, an accident made both things happen. My hip accident in 2020 not only started my webpage and blog, it also meant I had to change jobs and with that came the opportunity to be the nature guide for the Deep Cove school camps.

Not really knowing what to expect, I immediately began to enjoy the job and I now look forward to each camp and wonder what excitement it will bring. The kids on the camps come from all over Southland and Otago, and range from city to farm kids and everything in between. The difference in the schools make the experience completely different, and of course each camp is in the stunning setting of Patea / Doubtful Sound. Definitely a cloud with a silver lining or falling on my feet or however you want to say it, I didn’t choose to do this job, fate did!

I had to hide my nervousness as work in this part of the world is rare and I seek the jobs that encourage me to show how much I enjoy the environment I work in. This was a key thing to focus on as my first school camp drew near. I had nightmares of running into a difficult kid like me and not knowing how to deal with it. Funnily I never really had to deal with too many ratbags, and the enjoyment of the job has always outweighed the negatives.

On one particular school camp after the drive over Wilmot Pass(671m) I got myself ready to meet the group. These guys were in for rare rainless weather for their whole camp. The weather never bothers me, but if you’re a little dude who hasn’t really spent much time in the hills it can be a day-ruiner.

A collection of small country schools made up the 22 kids in the team plus the 13 adults keeping them in line. These little fellas were far from a clean tie and tucked-in shirt mob, and with what Fiordland dealt them I’m very happy that they weren’t!

The weather meant we made the most of the day and hiked up to Huntleigh Fall in the sun. After dinner I took the team up to see the impressive patch of Titiwai / Glow worms that is only a stone’s throw away from the hostel in Deep Cove.

The next morning we had some free time before our cruise around Patea / Doubtful Sound with Real Journeys so we took to the water to do some experiments and learn about fiords and glaciation. Much like me at their age, the notion of ‘water studies’ sounds very boring, but it was during our ‘studying’ that the camp got really interesting.

That’s one BIG Fish!

Near the end of our water science experiments we headed over to the other Deep Cove camp dingy to see how their fishing was going. With two dinghies available some go fishing and some join me to do some real outdoor education. We puttered over for a fishy yarn when almost as soon as we exchanged some words with the other boat one of the kids got a ‘big fish’ on his line. Everyone got very excited. The excitement levels turned to laughter when we saw his line was just tangled in another person’s fishing line.

After a laugh another rod twisted under the strain of another ‘fish’, and at first we just thought it was another tangle. But we soon could see that by the movement that this wasn’t another line tangle, this was alive! It became apparent that the fish was too big for the little lady who hooked it so one of the adults jumped in and grabbed the reel before it disappeared with the little lass still attached.

As the line was reeled in with great difficulty the boat spun back and forth as the fish towed it on a journey around Deep Cove. The team had to think quickly as, when we got our first glimpse of the Seven Gill Shark on the line, we knew there was no way it was going in the dingy.

With boat one clearing the way ahead boat two towed the beast to shoreline near the school hostel. I jumped out and joined the adults from boat two and we then wrestled our catch up onto the rocky beach.

Catching a fish that is nearly twice your size is an experience every fisherman dreams of and at the ripe old age of 12 this young lady had a catch that wouldn’t need any exaggeration when retelling the tale. A 2.1 metre shark is an amazing sight!

After an on-the-spot biology lesson we cut the monster into giant steaks, which were then cooked up with potatoes for a feed of real ‘fish and chips’ that I’m sure everyone would never forget!

Not long after the epic feed we all headed down to the Deep Cove Wharf to wait for our cruise around the fiord. As it began I had time to take in how awesome the whole outdoor adventure had been. I was there to show the kids (and parents) a place I had a real passion for. And the kids showed me that all little humans aren’t as annoying as I once thought!

The opportunity I had when working in Deep Cove was an experience I will never forget. Even now when looking back I still can’t believe that for a while a dude who looked at education as something that prevented him from doing other ‘more enjoyable’ things had the opportunity to be on the other side of the fence and be the educator. Sometimes life takes us on a mish we never ever thought we would ever go on…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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