Not for the faint-hearted: Being chased by polar bears was par for the course while Tara Mulvany kayaked around the Arctic


Super-long kayaking expeditions and mountain traverses are a staple diet for Te Anau-based adventurer Tara Mulvany, who’s speaking in Queenstown at the upcoming New Zealand Mountain Film and Book Festival.

The 32-year-old — who’s speaking during a ‘Women in Adventure’ session on July 3 — was the first woman to circumnavigate NZ’s three main islands by sea kayak.

Due to waiting out bad weather and the shorter winter days, her South Island  circumnavigation in 2012 lasted almost five months, though she only paddled for about 60 days.

After circumnavigating the South, North and Stewart Islands, she and two teammates completed the first kayak circumnavigation of the Svalbard Archipelago — 2200km — in the high Arctic.

She later returned to the Arctic Circle and did a solo 3600km paddle along Norway’s coast from the Russian border to Sweden, which took 89 days.

On her kayak trips, Mulvany says she’s seen great whites and whales and been chased by swimming polar bears and sniffed by a curious walrus.

Explaining the buzz she gets from adventure, and particularly sea kayaking, she tells Mountain Scene: ‘‘I enjoy getting away on longer trips and being in remote places, so a
sea kayak is a good vessel to do that in.

‘‘You can carry months’ worth of food and stay away for a long time.

‘‘I also think long trips are a good challenge, and it’s nice to be away doing something exciting where you never really know exactly what will happen each day.’’

High adventure: Tara Mulvany toughs out the Southern Alps in shorts

Having climbed Mt Aspiring at the age of 11 and Mt Cook a year later, Mulvany’s also
enjoyed on-land adventures, particularly in the mountains.

In 2017 she spent 25 days with three friends doing a traverse from Arthurs Pass to Mt Cook then, wanting to go all the way to Fiordland, completed a solo traverse of the Southern Alps this past summer.

‘‘I guess with Covid and being trapped in NZ, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.’’

The NZ Mountain Film and Book Festival runs in Queenstown from July 1 to 3.