As Rick Asterly’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ blared from the radio, we peered down at the 109-metre drop and started to regret the series of decisions that led us to this point…
Heights have always been a fear of mine, with an ever present anxiety that I’ll be blown off a steep cliff by a freak gust of wind. However, I wouldn’t go as far as calling it acrophobia as I enjoy confronting my fears – like when I threw myself out of a plane to celebrate my 21st birthday. So when Kasha and I reached the adrenaline junkie capital of New Zealand – Queenstown – it seemed like a rite of passage to throw ourselves off of something in a suitably haphazard manner. Enter the Shotover Canyon Swing.
Proudly run by Kiwi entrepreneurs Hamish and Chris, this underwear-staining experience has become a mainstay of daredevils and thrill-seekers worldwide since 2002. The founding duo originally conducted their antics on the margins of the law, but hastily saw that a legal operation could work as a viable business. Nowadays their world famous Shotover Canyon Swing is credited as the world’s highest cliff jump, and it’s freaking terrifying to behold.
Imagine this: a 109-metre drop (or 357 feet to the imperial readers out there) down a sheer, rocky cliff that ends in the turquoise blue waters of the Shotover River – beautiful, yet undeniably knee-trembling. At first Kasha and I weren’t too nervous, taking it in our stride as we excitedly discussed jump styles, but as soon as you are strapped into a harness things get real very quickly.
One of the defining things about this bungee is the variety of different jump styles available; which were put in place by the founders to show freedom of expression as you hurtle down the cliff face. Whatever half-mad half-genius ideas the team thought up have been made into a terrifying reality, from a bin over your head (Bin Laden) to being tipped back off in a chair, to getting kicked in the chest off the ledge 300 style (I’m sure if you asked nicely they might even scream ‘This is SPARTA!’).
As Kasha and I wanted to do the jump together, our options were a little more limited, but this didn’t stop us from choosing the jump with the scariest rating (this was measured by pairs of – presumably soiled – underpants) called the Gimp Boy Goes to Hollywood.
The Shotover Canyon Swing
One of the hardest things about bungee jumping is undoubtedly the wait. At first you arrive full of confidence, and then a few minutes on a small platform teetering on the edge you start to feel the nerves. Of course, the staff are on hand to calm you down, or if they think you are too cock-sure they’ll enjoy a few jokes at your expense, like when one ‘accidentally’ bumped me near the edge, or when he was too busy dancing to Rick Asterly to answer about checking the harness (don’t worry it’s all for show). When the time came, our jump style, Gimp Boy Goes to Hollywood saw us hoisted up headfirst looking down at the water of the Shotover River, completely at the mercy of the Jumpmaster.
Our countdown began:
“Five, we’ll give you a four…”
And that was it. Head first down a cliff with nothing but rope to (hopefully) catch us before the rapidly approaching basin floor turned us into the textural equivalent of a minced meat pie that got sat on. So if you fancy an adrenaline rush this has it in heaps.
Enjoy the full experience by viewing our video below!
The Canyon Fox
An unexpected treat for the both of us was the chance to also try out a brand new experience that just opened up in 2016. Innocently titled the Canyon Fox, you might be mistaken for thinking this is just a simple zipline from point A to B; wrong. Incapable of creating a bog standard ride, the founders added a drop in so you’ll also enjoy a brief freefall before being caught by the zipline and whisked off to the opposite side of the cliff. What’s more, if you happen to be doing it as a two, you can race your friend on the returning line (Kasha won, but she definitely cheated). The real buzz here is the drop in, so challenge yourself to the scariest jump style, the flying leap. I did this, and trust me I’ve never been so terrified; I made noises I’d never heard before, or since.
Apologies but the video below does contain swear words.
If heart palpitating action is your thing; this is for you. What makes this experience stand out from the crowd is the possibility of choosing your own jump style and being able to visually show your friends what a nutter you are with all the GoPro video footage and pictures they helpfully take for you. It may not be as high as the neighbouring Ben Nevis, but what it lacks in length it more than makes up for with heaps of character and style. If you are in the area, give it a go – there is a very good reason it’s consistently rated one of the best things to do in Queenstown on TripAdvisor.
Our experience on the Shotover Canyon Swing and Flying Fox was complimentary but as always, any options expressed about how awesome this was are entirely mine.
Keen for some more NZ stories? Check out my e-cycle tour of Waiheke