At Shotover River is known for it's jet boats. I passed on this experience having done it before on a Huka Jet near Huka Falls.This is a fast boat ride in shallow water and the driver comes very close to rocks & spins out on purpose. If you like an andrenalin rush this probably something you would enjoy as well.
As I am not into activities in the air (bungy, parachute or paragliding) because I like to feel ground under my feet, jetboating is among my favourite activities. There are quite some tours on offer in Queenstown but only one is a little scary at the start and makes you scream LOL
It is the Shotover Jet, the only company with a permit to race in its red boats through the narrow river gorge of the Shotover. The skills of the jetboat drivers are fascinating, as they pace along overhanging rocks, and seem to crash right into them. But you can stop screaming. Even in the narrow sections they perform 360 degree spins - and then you will know why you get a long raincoat which you wear under the life vest ;-)
What also fascinates me is that those jetboats (passenger capacity of 14) can operate on just ten centimetres of water.
The trip starts in the more open area of the Shotover, so photos can be taken - which you can purchase after the trip ;-) Then you race through the narrowest part of the gorge with high rock walls on both sides, and then into a wider stretch of the river where a lot of spins are performed. The driver gives some explanations and tells stories of the gold rush sites, as the Shotover was the world's second richest gold area in the 1800s, after the Klondyke.
Since 1970 more than two million passengers have been thrilled by the world's most exciting ride. So it is wise to book the tour in advance, especially in summer, and not just show up as you might miss out if you cannot try again the next day.
When going on a jetboat ride in lower temperatures it is wise to wear warm clothes and a beanie as the wind can be very chilly. However, as the exhaust runs through the handlebars to which you cling at least during the 360 degree spins, those handlebars warm your hands in a surprisingly simple way.
The current price for the ride (as April 2007) is NZ$ 99 (children 5 to 15yrs $59). If you go on a second ride within 5 days of the first and book it immediately you pay only $59 for the second ride.
Update 26 September 2008
Yesterday a jetboat of Kawarau Jet (the yellow ones that start directly at the Queenstown jetty, not the above described red Shotover Jet) had a terrible accident. A boat with 20 Chinese tourists aboard crashed into a sandbank and flipped. Only far too late (one and half hours after the accident!!!) they checked for the missing 20th passenger under the boat. This woman was indeed trapped under the boat, and she died due to the extreme delay in the rescue efforts. The Kawarau Jetboat company said it was the first such accident in more than 40 years. This is not true; in 1997 one of their boats flipped, but nobody was injured. In 1999 a Japanese tourist died when a boat of the Shotover Jet collided with a canyon wall, as the result of a steering failure. All this data shows that jetboating is rather safe but also that this adventure is not absolutely risk-free.
Update 21 Feb 2009
Next incident, this time with a boat of the Dart River Safaris. Yesterday a jetboat with 18 tourists on board flipped near Glenorchy, three people suffered minor injuries. In 1998 a boat of the same company hit a rock and flipped, eleven passengers and the driver were injured.
Queenstown is surrounded by stunningly beautiful mountain landscapes. The town itself is beside Lake Wakatipu and to the south, march the Remarkables, a range of mountains that proceed in a line down the east side of the lake. I've seen fantastic photos, of the same view as mine above, taken in winter when the white peaks of the Remarkables contrast beautifully with the blues of sky and lake.
Just a short drive away from Queenstown on the back road to Arrowtown, is Arthur's Point. The Shotover River runs through this gully and the famous Shotover Jet (a fast ride on a jet boat through the Shotover Gorge) operates from there. To the northwest is Glenorchy with its superb valleys and mountain views (see my Glenorchy page). Obviously in winter this place is a major drawcard for skiers, as there are three or four ski-fields in the vicinity of Queenstown. I can only imagine the views the skiers get from up on their mountains in winter!
There are many different types of Jet Boat tours. There are some nice sedate safaris along the Dart River and these can include a walk.
Then there are the heart stopping adrenaline trips. This is the one I went on. Not a great idea after I had just finshed a Parapente earlier in the day.
I swear the drivers of these boats are crazy and I saw my life flash before my eyes a couple of times. They get so close to cliffs and madly swing the boat around to you miss by mere inches. I'm not sure how many people are injured on these types of tours but it was great fun, even if my legs were a little shaky afterwards.
The Shotover Jet is absolutely a recommended adventure to partake of when you arrive in Queenstown. This jetboat screams down the small intimate canyons of the Shotover River, and screams past rock outcroppings just inches away from your face as you make high powered twists and turns down the river. Reaching great speed is one thing, but realizing you are in mere centimeters of water while doing it is a completely different experience. When the captain tells you to hold on tight, do as he says!
The most fun part about the adventure is when you do a 360-degree turn in the boat, and end up soaking half of the group! We happened to choose August, when it was not necessarily the warmest to take this ride, so you can imagine how wet and cold we were... but boy was it fun!
This particular operation has been running since 1970, so to say they know every nook and cranny of this canyon would be an understatement. Nothing is totally safe, but this is about as close as you can get in New Zealand!
If you are going to be in Queenstown for an extended period of time, there are several combo offers to take in throughout an entire day, but if you had to do one adventurous thing, this would be my top pick.
The website lists the going rate at $109NZD for adults, $69 for those under 16, but I would highly recommend looking into a combo if you are going to do more around Queenstown!
The historic Skippers Canyon is to be found north of Queenstown. This 22km gorge is home to what was once one of the richest gold-bearing rivers - the Shotover River. There is a famous scenic road but only accessed by four wheel drive vehicles. Rental car insurance is NOT honored if you drive on this road!
However - the Jet Boating is fantastic! and you get a slice of history as well.
This is not the Shotover Jet but takes place on the same river further into the canyon.
A four wheel drive vehicle will pick you up from your accommodation and the driver gives an interesting comentary of the history of the area. He also points out various Lord of the Rings locations. After your ride you are able walk over the original bungy bridge (no longer in operation) and see where you have just been. Hot drinks are provided at a historical site run by one of the original gold mining families.
Definitely worth the money.
We asked our motel service desk about the Shotover ride, and he told us that we could choose to do a bonanza of activity. This would include the Shotover Jet Boat ride, a helicopter ride, and a gondola ride down before heading back to town. There's also a bungy jump option but Jac and I chose not to excite ourselves too much.
We paid a total of $169 per person, which I felt that it was a pretty good package.
We went on a thrilling bumpy jet boat ride with lots of 360 deg turns and splashes and near death experience as we almost clash into the sharp edges of the canyon.
Words cant describe the adrenaline shot that was given to me. The $99 jetboat ride is defintely worth it! If you do it again for the next day, there is a 50% discount!
We were the last group on the jetboat ride for the day. The crew started to pack up and the jetty was suddenly empty as the crew drives the container where the lockers were into safekeeping.
We are now able to take some shots with our own cameras and we have to wait for our shuttle bus back to The Station Building.
We had to do at least jet boating whilst in Queestown. We heard a lot about the Shotover but the lady at Te Anau Visitor's Centre advised that Kawarau was better value for money...a longer ride. We certainly enjoyed our experience.
You can save time and money by organising Queenstown Combos allowing you to experience several action packed activities on the one ticket.
At 'The Station', located on Shotover Street in Queenstown, you can make arrangements from a number of Combos including the Shotover High Five.
Firstly, you will catch the Shotover Jet through the canyons, and then helicopter to the top of the Skyline complex, 5 rides on the Luge and then return to town by the gondola.
The Shotover Jet is reputed to be the world's most exciting Jet Boat ride and I can well believe it!
The boat speeds through spectacular canyons missing the sheer cliffs on either side by a matter of only inches before taking you through a full 360 degree spin.
Best to keep all limbs well inside the boat as instructed by the driver. Passengers have been killed in the past by poking their head around around the corner for a better look only to lose it in the process!
Departure Times: 8:15am & 1:45pm
Duration: 2.5 hours
Price: NZ$255.00 (Adult), NZ$195.00 (Child)
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