“ Sightseeing Type: Tours „
Shotover Jet is the name of a New Zealand adventure company based in Shotover Canyon, near Queenstown, New Zealand. They offer what is apparently the world's most exciting Jet Boat right through the steeply walled canyon.
===What is a jet boat and how does it work?===
You may be wondering what jet boating is. Imagine, if you will, a cross between a hovercraft and a motor boat that can carry up to 28 passengers. These are very rapid boats that can operate in very shallow water and move very close to obstacles. This is ideal for the famous braided rivers of the South Island, which are twisty, shallow, meander over the seasons and have many frequent obstacles.
Unlike a propeller driven boat, these boats are powered by jets of water. The water is sucked up through two inlet areas underneath the boat, and then jetted powerfully out of the two rear jets to provide both steering and propulsion. The direction the jets point in is adjustable, which means that the jets are also used for very rapid braking. By combining the two jets and separately adjusting the power, the boats can make extremely rapid changes in direction and speed and operate in only a few inches of water.
===Jet boating as a sport===
Of course, this is New Zealand, so what was initially a practical way of getting around has been developed into an adventure sport - these boats are driven to thrill! The sport boats have four tiered rows of seats, with the rear ones being raised above the front ones - partly for a better view, but also because that's where the jet is. Heated hand rails make the experience a little bit more comfortable, but do take a woolly hat to keep warm and your sunglasses to keep the wind out of your eyes. And make sure you hold on for the sharper turns, because you do slide all over the place.
The most fun thing that can be done in a jet boat (but not in normal boats) is a 360-degree spin that is virtually on the spot. It's a little bit like a handbrake turn; by angling the jets just right, you do a tight left hand or right hand spin and go all the way around. This causes the occupants to be flung around the boat (hold on!) and a big splash that soaks half of the boat. For this reason, the driver will mix left hand and right hand spins to ensure that everyone ends up with a sexy punk drowned rat hairstyle by the end of the trip.
Shotover canyon is a steeply walled narrow gorge, filled which white, churning water and a myriad of rocky obstacles, only some of which are visible above the water line. It is through this treacherous passage that the boats journey. Very rapidly. The pilots know their boats well, so drive extremely close to the walls for maximum adrenaline rush. You are being filmed for the duration of the ride by a camera at the front of the boat and another one at the rear. Selected clips of this (presumably the best) are made available as a pricy souvenir at the end of the ride. So overact the fear to your heart's content as you near the walls, or yawn and look bored, as you choose.
===Safety and comfort===
For safety reasons, you wear life jackets and for comfort, you don waterproofs. Don't expect these to keep you dry - you will be soaked by the end of it, particularly if you sit in one of the edge seats. The edge seats are definitely more fun - do take one of those. All of your bags and other possessions will be left in secure lockers whilst you are on the boat, but I generally don't bring anything I can't afford to lose just in case.
The jet boat ride costs NZD$109 (about £45) for adults and $69 for children. So this is not a cheap activity, but adrenaline sports in New Zealand are generally extremely pricy, so this is not an unreasonable price. A bus to the canyon is provided as part of the price. You should budget about another £10-20 per person for souvenirs, such as the video or a t-shirt.
===Is it the most exciting Jet Boat ride in the world?===
We also went Jet Boating on a river near Te Anau, so this was our second experience of the sport. Shotover was a little bit more exciting (because of the fear we were going to drive into the walls), but as adrenaline sports go, this is definitely extremely tame. But tame doesn't mean boring - it was plenty fun enough. So perhaps it is true that it is the most exciting in the world, but that's not saying very much. It does however, have a huge celebrity following. There is a wall of photographs of famous celebrities going boating, including many rock and film stars.
They do have a minimum age of 3 years old, and insist on adults accompanying young children. People with medical conditions should speak with them about individual requirements. It does involve a fairly steep walk down to the river, but there is access for people with limited mobility.
There is a cafe and a shop at the centre. We didn't have much time to try these because we were there at the end of the day and the last shuttle bus of the day was waiting for us. Overall, you should expect the round trip to take about 1.5 -2 hours, including boat ride. It is a good idea to book in advance, particularly in busy times, but in April (Autumn in NZ), we were able to turn up on the day and get seats. Opening hours vary on the time of year, but this sport requires good light, so usually finishes around 3.30-4.30 depending on time of year.
An excellent choice for a family friendly adventure sport if you are in New Zealand. Fairly tame, but lots of fun.
Review will be posted elsewhere
Ride a Jet boat through Shotover canyon (near Queenstown, NZ)