Wow I can't believe it was this time 18 years ago that my husband and I purchased what was then known as Flying Kiwi Wilderness Expeditions. What were we doing, a young banker and his pregnant wife! Now, 2 sons later (we already had one), we have a thriving tourism business and an amazing bunch of people working with us, who, without them, we wouldn't be as successful as we are. Meet our amazing crew here
Canyoning in the Abel Tasman!
With so much to do in Abel Tasman I was a bit spoilt for choice so I decided to ask my guides for advice. I hadn’t even heard of canyoning before but my guides told me what it was all about and that it would be a perfect activity for me so I signed up and I’m so glad I did!
Me and a small group of others from our tour joined the trip and we were picked up from camp by our awesome guides, Toine and Lee. We got fitted into our canyoning gear and then headed out into the Abel Tasman National Park by boat before stashing the extra clothing and supplies we didn’t need at a hut in the park and hiking in to the top of the canyon.
We put our wetsuits and harnesses on and headed into the canyon. A canyoning trip involves abseiling, ziplining and jumping down a flowing river and was an awesome adrenaline fuelled day that was a challenge but I’d say achievable for most people as we all encouraged each other through each obstacle, not to mention our great guides who talked us through each part of the canyon and really looked after us.
At the end of the day our small group of canyoneers, who started our friendship on the flying kiwi bus, became the best of friends during this trip and was one of my highlights during my month long trip around New Zealand!
Hiking on a Glacier could just be the most breath taking thing I have ever done.
Asides from feeling absolutely tiny and insignificant, being surrounded by walls of ice, you also have this feeling of amazement, at just how amazing this planet we live on really is.
Fox Glacier is situated on the West Coast of the South Island in New Zealand and is the larger Glacier that resides on the West Coast. Fed by four Alpine Glaciers, Fox Glacier falls 2600m on its 12km long journey to the coast. It gets it uniqueness by being one of the few glaciers in the world to end among lush rainforest only 300 metres above sea level. It is also renowned as one of the most accessible Glaciers in the World too.
The Glaciers here move fast. Because of the unique combination of climate and shape means that Fox Glacier moves at approximately 10 times the speed of other valley glaciers around the world. This is due to the funnel-like shape of the glacial valley and the huge nevé, the snow accumulation area, at the top of the glacier. Fox Glacier’s nevé is 36 square kms, bigger than the whole of Christchurch City! Unfortunately Fox Glacier is in the retreating stage. Glaciers advance and retreat depending on the amount of snowfall at the top of the Glacier and the ice melting in the lower part. An increase of snowfall in the neve' (the top) results in advancing but a faster ice melt in the lower part results in retreating. Fox Glacier was advancing from 1985 to 2009 but is currently in the retreating phase.
Having learnt a lot of this information during my tour it was pretty sad to think that in 50 years, Fox Glacier will probably not exist anymore if it continues retreating as it is. It felt pretty special to see it in the form it's in to think that one day it will just be an alpine valley. We had to take a helicopter up onto the Glacier as where we explore is maybe about half way. The ride was short but absolutely stunning! Having never flown in a helicopter before it was pretty exciting, more of a floating feeling rather than the feeling you have when a plane takes off. Walking around on the ice we had to wear crampons, sharp metal clasps that wrap on to the underside of your boots for grip, the ice is very slippery! Because the glacier moves so fast it changes every day, so our guide had to re carve some of the walk way as we were going along which was pretty neat to see. He mainly used an ice axe for it. We got to explore different areas of the glacier for about 3 hours, including ice caves and some small crevasses! The ice is a beautiful bright turquoise color in places and then a crisp white in other areas! We would come across little pools of the clearest water I've ever seen and even got to fill up our drink bottles with Glacial water before coming back down.
We were very lucky with the weather for our trip, clear blue skies and not too cold - perfect conditions. The weather in this region can be pretty 50/50, because of the small range between the coast, temperate rain forest and the mountains in can get pretty gnarley, but when its good, it's good!
An experience I will forever cherish and most definitely recommend to others
I loved it how the bus became home to us, I loved those days just driving around and singing with those crazy people that became friends. That's probably my best memory but I will never forget the whole time with the Flying Kiwi family
- Mirjam Enger
I loved travelling with such great people and sharing life changing experiences. It was my first camping experience and I really enjoyed staying in my little tent and feeling so close to the natural world. It was the multitude of little things that made the holiday so special but my most fabulous experience was swimming with dolphins. New Zealand is a beautiful, friendly and awe inspiring place. Thank you to my amazing guides for showing it to me and thank you to flying kiwi on amazing adventures
- Kay Rosie
As you know, going around NZ for a month involves a bit of time spent on the road. I am forever grateful for my group's affinity for 90s through current pop music. We sang through the long stretches. hahaha I couldn't have been with a group more suitable to my style of travel and music. And if that's not enough, I just love how REAL people are on an outdoor trip involving many nights of camping. People crawl out of their tents in the morning and one gets to see who they really are at that time of day. Grouchy, sleepy, quiet, chatty, desperate for their coffee to kick in, hungry, not hungry, super duper perky--we had it all! And I loved it. Real people. Real experiences. Flying Kiwi
- Laura Jamison
So the sign up sheet has come around the bus and it's time to sign up for activities. You know what you want to do but you are so nervous you can barely put the pen to paper to fill your name out!
"Abel Tasman Skydive 16,500ft" the title is literally bouncing off the paper edging you to sign up. It is still a couple of days away and you know you REALLY want to do it (and lets be honest, if not now, then when!?) so you quickly write your name down, you see there is a couple of other names there already so at least if you don't make it out alive you won't be going at it alone. (heavily breathing from panic) You pass the sheet back and instantly try not to think about what you have just done!
All of a sudden the day has somehow crept up on you and as you look out the window of the bus you realise your guide is actually pulling in to the jump zone which means it's time! (OMG thoughts are running through your mind! It's too late to pull out, but am i really about to jump out of a freaking plane right now!?!)
Your guide is telling you some instructions over the microphone that you probably should be listening too but for somew reason you have other things on your mind.....
You suddenly notice your Guides have tried to be funny and have started to play relative songs over the stereo such as "jump" by Van Helen - do they realise this is not helping!?
You start walking over with your fellow travel buddies (at least we are in it together right?) and soon enough you are signing your life away...
Your heart is beating so fast you think you're about to have a heart attack! You don't really know what to expect but your doing it.
A tandem master comes over to you and he is your guide that will be attached to your hip (literally) once you are in the plane and all the way till your back on the ground.
"how are you feeling? He asks. I tried to speak but nothing but noise came out....i try again "yes! Good! Great! Why am i doing this again?" he laughs. "lets go over the safety briefing and get you dressed" He says.
So I figure out quite quickly that the skydiving look is definitely not sexy, on anyone, haha! I am in this bright red and white jump suit with a leather cap on and these terrific plastic goggles. looking gooood. The hilariousness of all of us getting gearing up has slowly taken my mind of exctky what we are about to do, without me even realising - feeling more relaxed, perfect. Next i'm getting told that once we leave the plane i must do the "banana". LOL! "I'm sorry the whhaat?" So now that I'm a pro (almost) the "banana is what you must do with your body when exciting the plane so your jump master can stable your fall (as opposed to tumbling lots eek!). Basically, bending/arching you back and legs s much as you can before your guide tells you not to anymore, which is symobolised by 3 taps on your shoulder. (because apparently when you're falling at 200kmph you cant hear anyhting... who would have thought?)
Here we go!! We are walking to the plane to board, I'm the last one to get in. Wahoo! I think, last one to jump. Nope. Completely wrong thoughts.. FIRST ONE TO JUMP! oh god oh god oh god. Off we go, the planes taking off along the runway and i'm calmly telling myself that this is just a scenic flight (I think it's helping).
I'm looking out the window thinking, man we are pretty high, it must be about time to jump. Then my Jump master points out on his altitude watch that we are only half way from where we need to be. "oh, okay" I say calmly when really, I am starting to freak the f*** out!!
"Are you ready?" He says
"No!" I scream back
Then the door wipes open, wind is rushing around the cabin everywhere and suddenly I am sitting on the edge of the plane with my legs dangling out at 16,500ft!!!
"3, 2, 1, juummmpp!!"
... (more freefall)
And the chute is up!! Wooowzers! everything got really tight for a minute and then poof! The air surrounding me is so quiet, and we are just floating around like a gliding bird. We swirl and swirl and float around until we come in for landing, knees up! And i'm grounded! I'm alive! I did it! High fives are shared between me and my tandem master and my fellow travel buddies. I am on the BIGGEST HIGH! and i want to do it all over again.
I collapse into a bean bag and am stunned that i just got to jump out of a plane and that it has become one of the most incredible things i have ever done to date! Worth every cent.
If I can do it, You can do!
This tour exceeded all my expectations from the very beginning when we “slept” in Hot Water Beach. After dinner, we waited with a glass of wine for the tide to go out and then race off to the beach with a shovel. Here we were at midnight digging our own Jacuzzis and digging up hot water. This volcanic country is crazy! It was such a magic night, having a hot water bath in the first line of the beach, under the moonlight… Perfect plan!
Bringing strangers together and watching them bond and create new friendships is something very special to see and be a part of. One of the many reasons why i love my job so much
Memory by one of our Tour Leaders: Steely