Just add water: Shotover Jet Boat
“It’s my first jet boat ride,” I yell over the throb of the engines, as two 350 Mercruiser V8’s roar to life beneath my feet. And suddenly this morning’s all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet seems like not such a good idea.
“Dude, you picked the best,” comes the return cry from the driver’s seat.
I’m on the Shotover Jet Boat in New Zealand’s adventure capital, Queenstown, on the South Island. They call it ‘The World’s Most Exciting Jet Boat Ride’. I’m about to find out why.
The first thing you notice when you climb aboard, apart from the awed silence and fear-tinged glances, is there are no restraints. There are no seat belts and there are no over-the-shoulder braces as you might find on a rollercoaster.
All that’s stopping you from spinning into oblivion is a metal bar, which you grip with every ounce
of strength. I begin the ride caressing the bar tentatively, as the boat floats gently backwards from the dock, but seconds later, and for the rest of the ride, it’s white-knuckle-hang-on-for-dear-life all the way.
The Shotover is an assault on the senses: the speed; the screams of excitement; the G-forces that glue you to your seat and then seconds later the spinning that tosses you like salad.
When I watch the video of my ride later, my face seems frozen in fear or is it disbelief – confused how we didn’t collide with that rock face or that half-submerged log, or simply become airborne because we’re just going that fast.
But all the curiosity is dashed away when the boat spins 360 or more and a wash of bracing river water slaps you in the face and back to reality. Then you’re off again, racing back up the canyon, reaching speeds in excess of 90km/h.
This is what real adventure is made of: on a knife edge, balancing precariously between massive safety precautions and an insane amount of training and crazy adrenalin pumping madness.
And it’s awesome.
Queenstown attracts adrenalin junkies from all over the world and nearly always top of their list: the Shotover.
It’s world famous and for good reason. Travellers often find themselves sharing a seat with the rich and famous, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who came in 2014.
A fleet of seven interchangeable, highly specialised Jet Boats have been designed specically for the Shotover River Canyons.
Queenstown attracts adrenalin junkies - top of their list: the Shotover..
They carry a maximum of 14 passengers, plus the driver: that’s 14 sets of lungs yelling in unison as we fly over the stony river bed in just a few inches of water thrusting 760 litres of H2O per second.
The exhilaration is punctuated by glimpses of the chocolate box scenery - the azure water of the shallow creek bed framed by steep rock walls, alpine fir trees and spectacular bridge arches.
But hurtling past it at close to 100km/h, it’s blink and you’ll miss sightseeing at its absolute finest.
We’re on the water for 25 minutes - far longer than many jet boat rides.
Children can jump aboard, but it’s all about the height: at least one metre, which means if you’re a three year-old who’s 100cm in height (and brave to boot) you can ride - but no younger.
The driver signals each approaching 360 with a rotating finger in the air, just so you can hold on extra tight.
Shotover Jet began operations on the upper Shotover River in 1965 and was one of Queenstown’s first adventure activities. The drivers receive extensive training – more than nearly any other jet boat operator in the world. Over the years it is one of the experiences that has helped put New Zealand on the global tourism map.
More than three million people have braved Shotover since the ‘60s and when the boat docks at the end of our nail biting adventure, it’s not hard to understand why.
On most jet boat rides you get to thumb your nose at fate, but on Shotover you give it the finger.
Like bungee or parachuting, many of us have a love affair with the dangerous or risky. On most jet boat rides you get to thumb your nose at fate, but on Shotover you give it the finger.
For more go to www.shotoverjet.com