“ Country: New Zealand / Region: Australasia „
Fox Glacier is a huge wall of ice 13 km in length and named after New Zealand's Prime Minister at the time, Sir William Fox back in 1872. Many people overlook visiting this glacier in favour of the more popular Franz Josef Glacier around 25 km away, but Fox provides a far more interesting approach walk and allows closer access to the glacier face than its neighbour.
The Fox Glacier is situated on the western side of the South Island. Theory has it that 15000-20000 years ago the glacier extended all the way to the Tasman Sea but since then the glacier has retreated to its current position. That being said, more recent studies since 1985, have shown that the glacier is now advancing again at a rate of about a metre a week. It is with this in mind, and the fragile nature of the structure, that the glacier is roped off within an 80 metre distance of its face. The dangers here are very real as two tourists were killed in 2009 when 100 tonnes of ice dropped on them after they had ignored the barriers to examine the glacier from up close.
Fox Glacier Village offers a multitude of ways that you can experience the glacier. Guided glacier walks are available for around £45 for a half day or £70 for a full day. Helihikes are a more innovative way of seeing the glacier for those with a bigger budget, and can be booked for around £140 for the day providing a helicopter drop and pick up on the glacier and guided walk and climb.
Skydiving is popular here also as the glacier, its rainforest backdrop and ocean views are second to none. Expect to pay anywhere in the region of £130 for a 9000ft jump or £150 for 12000ft. Various helicopter and aeroplane non-jumping options are also available for around £90 for a 20 minute flight over the glacier.
For me, Fox Glacier was best experienced by one of the many excellent walks leading up to it. About 4km from the village is the glacier car park and a 30-40 minute walk from here leads to you to the ice. The surroundings are truly amazing with the rocky path having an almost moon-like feel to it. Translucent blue water pools are randomly positioned around the walk and your first view of Fox Glacier is simply awe inspiring.
Even at 80 metres away, you get a great view of this huge glacier and after hearing the well publicised warning of the recent tourist deaths, this was quite close enough for me. Without seeing it yourself, its difficult to explain how the massive wall of ice has a tinge of crystal blue as the sun catches it from certain angles and how insignificant you feel next to something quite so large.
The Fox Glacier is a truly unique experience and one that I will remember for a long time. Make sure you have plenty of memory in your camera and camcorder because you will fill it extremely quickly here.