Experts in Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific


Bay of Islands
Bay of Islands, New Zealand

A day in the life - GreatSights New Zealand tour boat skipper

Posted 18 May 2016
At Austravel we depend on guides and local experts to ensure that your holiday experiences are as informative and exciting as possible. GreatSights New Zealand tours are no exception.

Meet Tammy Jamesen, a tour boat skipper in the Bay of Islands for GreatSights New Zealand.

Here she tells us about her love for the water, what her working day involves and highlights from her years of skippering. 

"I decided to become a skipper because, firstly, I love the water! And secondly both my parents were skippers so it made perfect sense. The best part about my job is being able to show off this beautiful part of New Zealand to thousands of people - giving them the best experience I can along the way.

Tammy Jamesen

Our day tours around the Bay of Islands last for 6 ½ hours, which means it’s an early start for the crew as we need to set up the boat and get to Paihia where the tour departs. We get up to 120 passengers in the busy summer months, so an important aspect of my day involves keeping our guests entertained throughout.

To do this we incorporate several things into the tour, including recounting the history of the bay, helping passengers spot native birdlife, fish and marine mammals, and sometimes we even go swimming with them. We also drop off mail and small supplies to four of the smaller islands in the bay!

One of the highlights of the cruise is the Hole in the Rock. It's a great photo opportunity and if the weather is calm we can even navigate the boat through the hole.

Hole in the Rock

I have hundreds of memorable experiences from the 20 years I’ve been doing this job, but possibly the best was when I came face to face with a female orca at the back of the boat. She was no more than a metre away from me when we looked each other straight in the eye - amazing encounter!

Another aspect that makes my job so enjoyable is the people I meet. I always remember an elderly Italian couple who loved New Zealand so much they had matching silver ferns tattooed on their left arms. He spoke little English but his love for our country and the dolphins really showed. They travelled with us each time they came here and I toured with them three times so we decided to name a dolphin after his wife, Rose.


On a tour around the Bay of Islands, you’ll get the chance to see many kinds of birds, from the little blue penguin, the Australasian gannet and the beach-dwelling dotterel. Various marine animals can be spotted at different times of the year; as well as orcas as, however the most commonly sighted are bottlenose dolphins and Bryde’s whales.

No two days are the same though, and I wake up excited everyday about what I'll see that day. Not many people can say that about their day job!"

To experience this stunningly beautiful and unspoilt region of the world for yourself, make some time for the Bay of Islands on your next visit to New Zealand.