“ Sightseeing Type: Tours „
I have walked up and onto Fox Glacier twice once in 2005 and again in 2007. This experience was one of the best things I have ever done. You can book a guide down in the small town easily, and a guide takes you on a two hour plus walk up to and onto the glacier. The walk up takes you up the side of the mountains along a small foot path; I would recommend a fairly good level of fitness as the guides set a good pace. The views are amazing as you get higher and higher up the side of the mountain, you can see where the glacier has carved its path through the ancient mountains. There are fresh water streams where you can drink the ice cold refreshing water. Once on the glacier you are provided with a pole and crampons so you don't slip on the ice. The guides will then take you on a short walk up the side of the glacier along steps carved daily by the guides. Once on the top of the glacier the views are even better, so take as many photos as possible and your breath will be taken away by the sheer size of the glacier and just how much ice there really is. I would recommend this walk to anyone as you will never forget it. I could write all day about this so if you need any more information please ask.
Fox Glacier Guiding
While in New Zealand on the tour I took with Connections (See my New Zealand review), I got the option of taking a tour on the Fox Glacier with Fox Glacier Guiding.
**WHAT IS IT**
Fox Glacier Guiding is a company, which will take you onto Fox Glacier in New Zealand and show you around a bit. You can experience some fantastic sights and see things you have never seen before. This company is privately owned and they are passionate about offering the best glacier experience. They guide fewer people on the glacier to give you a better experience. It is the only West Coast Glacier with views of Aoraki (Mt Cook) and Mt Tasman (from the heli-hike). Personally I didn't see these mountains as it was snowing while I was on the glacier so visibility wasn't great. The glacier is up to 350m in depth and has 35-45 metres of snowfall per year.
From the main headquarters to the glacier you have to take a short bus journey. They use persevered and restored Bedford buses, they are painted in the same deep red and black as the original Newmans coaches which took visitors to the glacier in 1922. There is a story behind each bus.
**FOX GLACIER FACTS**
At 13kms Fox Glacier is the longest awe-inspiring West Coast glacier. The river of ice falls 2,600 metres. It is a very accessible glacier so you can get onto it and lots. It is amongst temperate rainforest just 250 metres above sea level. This mountain environments forms part of the South Westland World Heritage Area.
This company offers several tours and depending on your fitness level you can do any of them.
As it stands 1 New Zealand dollar is equal to 0.380955 United Kingdom pound.
For people who have low fitness levels but still want to see the glacier up close there is the 'Fox Trail' which is a terminal face walk. This is a short informative walk along the Fox River valley floor. You will not actually walk on the glacier but you will see where it ends and you can look up at the magnificent size of the glacier. This costs for an adult $NZ45 and $30 for a child. It will take 2 hours. If you have good fitness I would advise you to take one of the other tours, as they will be more spectacular.
People who have moderate fitness levels have several choices. This was myself and I am very glad that I picked the heli-hike. They are below:
Fox Trot (Half Day Glacier Walk). This walk will be on the actual glacier at the bottom of it. Your guide will take you through a 'secret' track through bush regenerating from previous glacial advances. You will be told some facts and gain knowledge of the geology area while you are walking through viewing some ice features. Some people on our tour did this option which lasted 4 hours and a lot of them were disappointed saying a lot of the ice had melted and was slushy. They felt they didn't see enough. It cost $NZ 380 for an adult and $NZ 310 for a child.
Flying Fox (The Heli-Hike). This was the option I went for and I will describe it in detail later on. You get to go further up the glacier than other tours by helicopter. Then you will get the opportunity to explore the glacier by walking on it for a while. You will see ice caves, arches and tunnels. The ice looks blue in colour, as it is so dense up here. The heli-hike takes 4 hours in total including the helicopter rides and cost $NZ 380 for an adult and $NZ 310 for a child.
If you are super fit and have a good fitness level you have the option to do the following tours:
The Nimble Fox (All day glacier walk). You won't be up as high as the heli-hike but you will get walking on the glacier for longer cutting new tracks to you reach the towering ice pinnacles. This tour lasts 6-7 hours and I think you would need to be extremely fit as I only had about 2 hours walking and it does tire you out. Also it is rather cold up there. The tour costs $NZ 135 for an adult.
Fox it up (Ice climbing adventure). This is a full day experience lasting 8-9 hours. You have the opportunity to be introduced to the sport of ice climbing. This is for more adventurous people. It costs $NZ 220.
The last tour is the Brown Fox (Chancellor Dome day and overnight heli-treks). You will be flown up to the Chancellor Dome and enjoy the spectacular views of New Zealand's highest peaks. You can stay overnight if you want. If you stay overnight you walk down from the hit to a remote section of the glacier and it costs $NZ 589.
I was offered this tour through Connections bus tour and thought I might as well give it a go, as it was my birthday. My partner went to their headquarters and paid by credit card. Their machine seemed to be dodgey and didn't accept our card the first time. The lady at the counter was rather rude to my partner but he tired to pay her again. Later we found out that it was their mistakes and we had been charged twice for the tour (which was expensive) and this meant we were short of money. Thankfully our tour guide with Connections rang them and dealt with the rude till girl and we got our money back.
We were all given cards on which group we were in. Then we loaded the bus to get up to a ranch, which had all the equipment for going onto the glacier. We got out helicopter here as well. We were given socks, boots, and coats and were told to wrap up very warmly with layers, as it was bitterly cold up there. Once we all had been prepped for safety reasons on how to get on and off the helicopter we set off. Our helicopter journey lasted 10-15 minutes at the most. It was spectacular to see how the glacier was formed and where it stopped. The birds-eye view was breathtaking. I got to sit in the front, which I thought was an added bonus. I'm usually scared of flying but the person flying the helicopter really put me at ease, as he was very friendly.
At the top we got out of the helicopter one by one safely and crouching when it was leaving. Then the important task of putting crampons on was in hand. For those of you that don't know what crampons are they are spikes that you attach to your shoes to help you walk in the ice. They take some getting used to! If you are offered a stick don't take one as they were the most annoying thing ever and didn't help my balance at all. In fact they made me stumble more times, as they did not stick into the ice.
Once all kited out we went for a walk on the glacier. It was really very amazing. One of the most spectacular things I have ever done in my life. We seen caves, water pools, arches and cracks in the ice (that were miles deep - very scary to walk over). The guide gave us lots of information and facts giving us time to ask questions. We got to explore inside some of the caves and the guide took pictures for you if you wanted. It was my birthday and it had just started to snow so everyone sandy happy birthday to me. It was one of my best birthdays ever.
Once we had finished we got back into the helicopter and flew back to the ranch, seeing the view one last time.
If you ever are lucky enough to go here I would advise you to do the heli-hike as we got to see the glacier from half way up. We got to walk on unspoilt ice where out guide had to make tracks for us. It was brilliant to see something so different it was definitely worth every penny. Apart from the rude till lady everyone else was very helpful and helped you if you were nervous. One thing I can say is that the ice is slippery and very sore to fall on so do take care. Apart from that there is no bad points about this tour.
New Zealand's largest commercially guided glacier, located in Glacier Country, on the West Coast of the South Island, just 21 km's south of Franz Josef.