The Shotover Jet has been thrilling millions of people since 1965. It operates in an exclusive area of the Shotover River, less than 10 minutes drive from Queenstown. It is the only company permitted to operate within the area, was one of Queenstown’s first adventure activities, and played a big part in putting New Zealand on the global ‘must see’ map. It’s even attracted some big name celebs such as Ben Harper, Hugh Jackman and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge!
The jet boats speed wildly down the narrow river canyon which has been carved out over the ages by enormous volumes of fast flowing water. These massive boats can travel as fast as 85kmph and operate in just 10 centimetres of water!
Before you get on a boat, you are equipped with full-length raincoats and bright red life jackets – not the sexiest outfit but trust me, you are so grateful for them at the end.
Now before I got on, I looked down the narrow opening of the canyon and all I could think was “what the heck am I doing? This is so dangerous!”. Seated the row behind the driver, I clutched the handrail so tight my knuckles turned white. The engine gave a huge roar, and the adrenaline started pumping through my veins. Before I can even talk myself out of it, we are flying down the river towards the small canyon entrance.
I opened my mouth to let out a scream... a scream of laughter that is. I could not stop giggling with excitement as we zigzagged down the river at high speed, and what felt like a mere millimetre from the canyon walls. All previous fears vanished – or maybe we took off so fast we left them in dust at the start. The driver gives a signal for you to hold on for dear life, and the boat performs its signature move - a hair-raising 360 degree spin. This is the part where you are grateful for those big coats because you get absolutely drenched!
The handrail is heated, which is great because you don’t need a crowbar to pry off your frozen hands at the end. In saying that, it was summer and the heated bar was a saving grace as the rushing wind hit bare knuckles… so I would probably wear gloves in the winter. I would also recommend wearing sunglasses for the ride – no point going for a spin if you cant keep your eyes open.
But it’s not just thrill. Given the passageways are only large enough for one boat at a time, and two boats running at a time – there are a couple of spots where you pause briefly to ‘give way’ to the other boat. This allows the captain to have a quick chat and let you know a little history of the region and the river. HOT TIP: it’s a bit of a game each driver plays as you give way to the other boat – how much they can soak one another in the drive-by. You have been warned! Then before you know it, the chat is over and you are racing off again.
The whole ride takes about 25 minutes and as soon as you get off, you want to get straight back on. Each driver undergoes a minimum of 120 hours of rigorous training before they even get to carry their first passenger. That is over double the industry requirements! So there is no doubt you are in safe hands.
So, are you game? Go on…. rug up, get on and hold on tight for the ride of a lifetime!
For more information or to book the ride of your life, visit: www.shotoverjet.com
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