Our Team

A bunch of legends, basically

Zach Johnston

Director
I’m passionate about travel, exploration and adventure. It’s the most exhilarating feeling available, brings us alive and inspires us to connect with ourselves, others, work, family and friends. Travel and Adventure open and strengthen the mind, expanding our perspective to make informed decisions that positively affect opportunities that come our way. I love turning fear of the unknown into curiosity and wonderment.

Zach is a former military officer, Senior Instructor Leadership Development, General Manager in the Tourism Industry; Field Based Outdoor Educator, International Expedition Leader and Operational Ambulance Officer with extensive travel experience in 3rd world, developing and developed countries.

Graham Kinlan

General Manager
Graham grew up amongst the cathedrals and pubs of lively Dublin. The Guinness didn’t get in his way of getting a master’s degree at the Dublin Institute of Technology though. He still loves going back to Ireland for a visit but has been calling New Zealand his home since 2011.

Of course, it’s hard to leave a place like Queenstown, which has so many outdoor activities to get involved with. You can often find him exploring new mountain bike trails, playing a game of ice hockey with his mates or shredding the slopes on skis or a board.

Travel has been a big part of Graham’s life as he has explored most of Europe and took an unforgettable six-month trip around Southeast Asia. Knowing all these countries has been a huge advantage managing travel companies. He has previously been a General Manager for a small group tour company and a Business Manager for a well-known extreme activity company, before taking on Pacific Discovery and Pure Exploration.

Ben Hulance

Admissions Director
Ben was born and raised in the small English town of Bedford but left for the bigger city of Leeds to study Hospitality Business Management at Leeds Trinity University. The rainy days were getting a bit too much for him, so he took a flight to sunny Australia 10 years ago and never looked back.

He is always on the lookout for stunning white sand beaches and found his favourite ones on the untouched and unexplored Gili Islands. Snorkelling in Bali, swimming with whale sharks in Western Australia and exploring the rock formations of Karijini National Park have been some of his highlights while travelling around the Southern Hemisphere.

After 8 years of working for travel agencies in Australia and New Zealand, Ben has joined the Pure Exploration team in Queenstown, which is the prime location for the outdoors way of life but also close to the social life. He loves that it is a small town with big town vibes, and you can feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere after a 15-minute drive.

Hollie Down

Program Advisor
Hollie was born in the UK, but only got to live there when she was about 16 years old. Her childhood was spent exploring and living in the Canary Islands, South Africa and Germany. After living in Hertfordshire for 13 years she'd had enough of the Great British climate and decided to spend her time travelling, and eventually came to settle in New Zealand.

It's safe to say she feels more at home on, in or under the water than on land so scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming and sailing are always her first choice when exploring a new area. Travelling the Galapagos Islands, trekking to Machu Picchu and scuba diving in Fiji are some of her travel highlights as well as making unforgettable trips to Rome - her favorite city in the world!

Travel is in her blood so it didn't take long to start a career in educational travel, which she has found to be extremely rewarding. Hollie has joined Pure Exploration after moving to Queenstown from the North Island and she's loving all the activities on offer here. She can't wait to tick some more big experiences off her bucket list in New Zealand's adventure capital.

Vicky Vleugels

Digital Marketing Manager
Vicky is from Belgium and even though she enjoyed growing up in her beer-loving country, she didn’t stick around after she graduated university with degrees in Linguistics & Literature and Business Communication.

Instead, she wanted to see the beauty this planet has to offer. A 5-month trip around Southern Africa and Southeast Asia, a Working Holiday year in Australia and magnificent trips to Peru, Cuba, Iran and Sri Lanka are some of her more memorable experiences.

Vicky has been lucky enough to use her love for travel in her job for a while. She started off as a Digital Content Creator at a travel company in Amsterdam and is using her writing and marketing skills now for Pure Exploration and Pacific Discovery. Queenstown has been her home for a few years now, but it still feels like paradise to her. From hiking up the many mountains in summer to skiing down them in winter, it’s her kind of place.

Mechi Von der Becke

Program Planning Manager
Mechi was born into a large and close-knit family in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After graduating from university with a degree in Tourism and Hotel Management, Mechi decided to leave the comfort of her family and home for world travel.

Her global repertoire includes South and Central America, Europe, the USA, the Philippines, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Fiji, and Australia. It was true love when, after all that traveling, Mechi landed in New Zealand 10 years ago; she hasn’t called another country home since! Mechi values traveling for allowing her to step out of her comfort zone, build confidence, and develop cultural sensitivity and empathy for others. Since arriving in NZ, Mechi’s zeal for the outdoors has flourished.

In winter, you will find her on the tops of mountains, snowboarding her heart out. In summer, Mechi enjoys mountain biking, hiking, and camping around the beautifully lush South Island of NZ. When she’s not working, Mechi is either at the gym training for her next marathon, FaceTiming with her many nieces and nephews in Argentina and the USA, or planning her next international adventure.

Mechi is bilingual in Spanish and English. She deeply cares for others and is thrilled for the opportunity to combine her love of travel, and passion for bringing the world to reach with the participants of Pure Exploration.

Carla Strong

Program Planning Manager
Hailing from a small town in South Canterbury, New Zealand, Carla developed a love for the outdoors at a young age and jumped into the adventurous lifestyle of studying outdoor recreation after leaving school.

From there, she embarked on international adventures guiding and working in outdoor education centers throughout New Zealand, Australia, and Malaysia until she realized that it was too hot - she missed the cold weather, and the South Island of New Zealand was calling! After dabbling in personal training for a few years, she again felt the pull of the outdoors and returned to the nomadic lifestyle, this time as a Program Instructor, leading month-long programs in developing countries. Over a number of years, she led 16 of these expeditions in amazing places such as Nepal, Southeast Asia, Tanzania, Central and South America.

Wanting to again put down some roots, she returned to New Zealand's South Island again, this time to the small skiing town of Wanaka where she worked with Aspiring guides, at first doing some guiding but then slowly moving into the office roles and over the course of eight years eventually working her way up to management! This year, Carla, her partner and their cat, have decided to jump over the hill to Queenstown where the Pure Exploration Headquarter is located.

Maddy Moore

Program Instructor
Maddy was born in Singapore and grew up in Wellington, New Zealand. Her multi-national family (American mum and English dad) then moved to the United States where Maddy did most of her education. She got her Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Natural Sciences from the University of Pennsylvania before coming back to her first home of New Zealand in 2021. Keen to do something that genuinely made her happy, Maddy joined the Queenstown Adventure Guide Program, where she got her guiding qualifications.

Maddy has always loved adventure and travel, with over 20 countries under her belt, and took the leap into the travel industry after her Pure Exploration graduation. Since 2021, Maddy has worked/trained in four countries with diverse groups of people from all corners of the world. When not traveling for work, Maddy loves running, solo-adventuring, illustrating, and working as a graphic designer on the side. She is so excited to be working with participants at Pure Exploration and is eager to share her journey post-graduation with them.

Adam Cotterell

Program Instructor
Originally from the Sunshine Coast in Australia, Adam spent his youth surfing, ocean swimming, and scrambling the volcanic plugs known as the Glasshouse Mountains.

Post high school, he moved to Brisbane to undertake a Bachelor of Biotechnology at UQ which eventually saw him working in the lab as a molecular pharmacologist. Adam used his time in science to fund his many travels across the globe with a focus on big adventures like completing a 37,000 km loop of South America on a 125 motorcycle and a solo cycling trip through the United States.

After spending five ski seasons in North America, Adam decided it was time to give the science gig away and live full-time in the mountains. Adam relocated to the stunning mountain town of Wanaka, New Zealand where he would embark on a new career in guiding.

During his first summer in Wanaka, Adam landed a job as a Trekking Guide and never looked back. He eventually became the Lead Trekking Guide while also working as a rock climbing instructor and Via Ferrata guide. He’s now an NZMGA Ski Guide, NZMGA Alpine Trekking Guide, NZOIA Rock Instructor, and an active member of Wanaka Search & Rescue.

Adam has run both the Queenstown and Patagonia Adventure Guide programs for Pure Exploration and looks forward to running a bunch more after spending an incredible summer crack climbing in British Columbia!

Scott Bickley

Program Instructor
Scott is 28 years old and hails from Central Otago in New Zealand. He has worked in the outdoor industry for around 7 years in a variety of roles, with a focus on outdoor education and guiding.

He is always up for going out hiking, biking, kayaking, and skiing around his beautiful backyard in Queenstown, also called the Adventure Capital of the World. When looking out onto the mountains, Scott can’t help but have a smile on his face. Sharing these places and his sense of excitement with people is something that he finds truly rewarding.

Jamie Marr

Program Instructor
Jamie moved South from Auckland 9 years ago, settling into Aoraki Polytech which grew his interest in the outdoors. Since leaving school he has worked as a glacier guide and climbed in America, France, England, Australia, and of course New Zealand.

His early years in Queenstown started with a lot of local rock guiding and managing Climbing Queenstown. Now qualified with Rock 2, Alpine 1, and ARML5, he has his sights set on the New Zealand Mountain Guides Association (NZMGA). He is also a member of the Wakatipu Alpine Cliff Rescue Team.

Jamie is passionate about delivering high-quality instruction that challenges and encourages people to get the most out of their outdoor experience, whether it be mentally, physically, or spiritually.

Ivor Levin

Program Instructor
Ivor hails from Scotland where he received a bachelor's degree in Economics and a post-graduate Masters' degree in Outdoor Education from the University of Edinburgh. His life changed in 1995 when he first visited New Zealand, spending six months tramping and traveling before moving here permanently in 2000. These days, he’s Kiwi as.

Ivor draws from nearly endless experience operating in the outdoors. He holds British Mountaineering Council qualifications and has a log book stretching for miles. He’s all about ski mountaineering, technical alpine rock climbing, and multi-method travel missions in the mountains.

After owning and operating a successful rock climbing gym and guiding company, he spent several years teaching at the Poly Technic in Nelson. There he trained countless outdoor professionals, greatly enjoying the snow safety and avalanche training, mountain biking, and rock climbing training modules. Several times a year, he takes groups to the developing world, bringing him to Nepal, Mongolia, Ecuador, Tanzania, Peru, South East Asia, and India.

When he’s not busy on course training the next crew of outdoor badasses, he’s swinging around on geo-technical industrial rope access jobs, trad climbing in the Remarkables, and linking up mighty missions around the South Island.