Monday, April 12, 2010

Adventure Tourism in New Zealand

Bungy Jumping

Where it all began...

Bungy jumping is one of the most well known New Zealand adventure activities and is really where it all started for the adventure tourism industry in New Zealand.

Of course we can't claim to be the absolute inventors of bungy jumping. That honour goes to the people of the Pentecost Island in Vanuatu who tied vines to their ankles and threw themselves off towers.

Bungy jumping as we know it was refined and the first recorded jumps using modern day techniques were made by the Dangerous Sports Club in Bristol, England jumping off the Clifton Suspension Bridge, but the men who made commercial bungy happen in New Zealand and globally are A J Hackett and Henry van Asch. They are credited with starting the adventure tourism revival in New Zealand with the opening of the Kawarau Bridge Bungy.

From humble beginnings the A J Hackett enterprise now holds international patents and in New Zealand operates 'The Ledge Bungy', 'The Nevis Bungy', 'The Nevis Arc', 'The Ledge Sky Swing' and the original 'Kawarau Bridge Bungy' in Queenstown and the Harbour Bridge Bungy site in Auckland.


The ultimate adrenalin rush...

Did you know that New Zealand has over 12 skydiving operators and you can jump from an altitude of 15000 ft with some of them. Did you also know that some of these operators come with the opportunity to learn how to skydive yourself. Would you be up for the challenge?

Amazingly skydiving (or parachuting) was first successfully done, according to Wikipedia, on the 22nd of October, 1797 by a bloke called Andre-Jacques Garnerin whose first jump was done off a hot air balloon from 3000 ft with a silk parachute that had a basket attached to it. His wife Jeanne-Geneviève was also the first female parachutist.

These days skydiving has developed into something easily accessible to the public and is an absolute adrenalin buzz. Crazily the fastest recorded free fall achieved by a human is 614 mph (that's 988 km/h or 274 m/s). The man who did this was Colonel Joseph Kittinger who was part of a United States Air Force program testing high-altitude escape systems. Needless to say, you won't be going that fast. When you tandem skydive you fall at a speed of about 195 km/h (that's 120 mph or 55 metres/second).

On a personal note, I really enjoyed my skydiving experience. In fact, it was absolutely fantastic. I did a tandem jump from 13000 ft and loved every second of it. The operator I choose was Skydive Abel Tasman, and they were great at providing a safe yet stunning experience.

Jet Boating

Fast-paced action...

Sir Charles William Feilden Hamilton, commonly called Bill Hamilton is the New Zealander to credit for developing the modern jetboat and the founder of what is now the world's leading water jet manufacturing company - CWF Hamilton Ltd.

The jetboat was designed to operate in shallow and fast moving New Zealand rivers and now, throughout New Zealand, there are many jetboat operators waiting for you to come along and experience the thrill. Queenstown does claim to be the jet boating capital of the world and with its highly popular jetboat trips it's no wonder.

One of the coolest things about riding in a jetboat is how manoeuvrable they are. Many jetboats can, from full speed, be reversed and brought to a complete stop within their own boat length. This is called a 'crash stop'. One of the other tricks that make a jetboat ride so entertaining is the Hamilton turn or 'jet spin' which is a high speed manoeuvre achieved by pulling a sharp turn and cutting the engine throttle which causes the boat's stern to lift and spin quickly around with a large spray of water. Definitely lots of fun.


A white water thrill...

Rafting also known as white water rafting is a thrilling yet challenging recreational activity involving an inflatable raft, a river or other body of water and a eager as crew of 4 to 12 passengers keen to hit some white water. It is the ideal sport for adventure tourism as anyone can come along for a trip, from the novice to the absolute expert. Thanks Wikipedia.

One of the cool things about rafting is that you can choose what level of water you want to challenge, thus making it the perfect activity for families as well. The grades or levels of water you can choose from in New Zealand are:

  • Grade 1: short and small areas of rough water, prefect for beginners and pleasure cruisers as only minimal maneuvering required.
  • Grade 2: some rough water which may require some maneuvering, rocks likely to be found also.
  • Grade 3: will find white water and small to medium waves with the potential for a small drop but no significant danger just be prepared for skillful maneuvering.
  • Grade 4: will definitely find whitewater and medium to large waves with significant possibility of rocks and possibility of a medium drop requiring sharp and skillful maneuvering.
  • Grade 5: awe-inspiring whitewater and large waves with significant potential for multiple hazards and rocks in water. The possibility of these hazards and a large drop require precise and very skillful maneuvering.
  • Grade 6: too dangerous to be considered for effective and safe navigation. You WILL encounter huge whitewater, huge rocks, many hazards and drops that will put massive strain on both raft and individulas inside. Challenging Grade 6 water is dramatically increasing the potential for serious injury and even death.

I have been for many rafting trips, particularly on the Buller River in Nelson and Tasman and it is so much fun. Respect for the water is a must, however, and you quickly realise that whilst it is amazing fun it needs to be taken seriously. In New Zealand safety on the water is taken extremely seriously with the New Zealand Rafting Association created to form policies, guidelines and procedures for all commercial rafting operations.

By John Jepson