Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Drop in to save the day in your superhero overalls at Auckland's Skytower (Robin Esrock/Robin Esrock)
Drop in to save the day in your superhero overalls at Auckland's Skytower (Robin Esrock/Robin Esrock)

Need an adrenalin boost? Head to New Zealand Add to ...

Thanks to Agrodome, you no longer have to wonder what it's like to hover over the prop of a DC-3 (come on, as if you didn't wonder). The Freefall Xtreme seems terrific in concept, but it's not easy to keep balanced over the 180 km/h rush of wind below. Instead of my simulated freefall, I was blown about a 12-metre-wide cushioned platform, my cheeks folding back enough to cover my ears. Two assistants held me in place for a moment, the power of the props blowing me up over a protective net. Practice makes perfect, but perfect would cost a fortune. agroventures.co.nz; $36

Zorb - fear rating: 6/10

Nearby in Rotorua is the home of the Zorb. Before you saw them in commercials, it was yet another enterprising Kiwi invention: a large plastic ball with a hollow core. Suitably protected from the elements, the ball is rolled down a hill (or a zigzag course) with one or more lucky Zorbonauts inside. The Dry Zorb had me strapped into the innards of the ball and after rolling head over tail, ready for a good dry heave. They tell me nobody has puked in the Zorb. Yet. The Wet Zorb, in which I was unhinged and allowed to slosh around, was like getting rinsed in a large washing machine. zorb.com/rotorua; $33, $73 for three rides

Jet Boating - fear rating: 7/10

In the 1950s, a Kiwi farmer needed a quicker way to survey his land from a shallow river. He invented jet boating, a technology that has since evolved to 1,000-horsepower machines faster than Formula One cars. What's more, they can cruise on just inches of water, and turn on a penny. There are jet boat operators around the country, but my favourites are Rotorua's Agrojet (which hits 100 km/h in 4.5 seconds on a one-km course), Queenstown's Shotover Jet (which takes a dozen passengers through the narrow canyon) and Dart River Safari (which passes Lord of the Rings and Narnia film locations). All enjoy ripping a 360-degree Hamilton Turn, a sharp turn named after the makers of the jet-propulsion system, and it tends to soak half the boat. Raincoats are provided. It's one thing trusting yourself to jump off a bridge, but another watching jet boat pilots shave rock faces. dartriver.co.nz, $162; shotoverjet.com, $88; agroventures.co.nz, $36

Paragliding - fear rating: 6/10

The gondola up Bob's Peak offers a magnificent view of Queenstown and it's surrounding mountains. If it looks like Tolkien country, it's because The Lord of the Rings was filmed around these parts. Once over the view, the Skyline Luge is a specialized cart that lets you race down concrete runs, and, believe it or not, is fun for the whole family. I opted to for a tandem flight with G-Force Paragliding, catching warm thermal currents as we safely soared among the birds and snow-capped mountains. If you're looking for kicks, ask your pilot for a corkscrew, a manoeuvre that tied my intestines into knots. Landing gently on a field back in town, paragliding proved to be an overall uplifting experience. nzgforce.com; $147

Sledging - fear rating: 7/10

In the Wairoa River outside Rotorua (got to love those Maori names), you can river-raft over the world's highest commercial drop. Essentially, this means your raft will be airborne, with a good chance of capsizing. But to ensure you really get soaked, consider what the Kiwis call sledging. Using flippers, a heavy kickboard, and a crash helmet, you forgo the raft and enjoy the rapids at eye level. Of course, it also means you have to use your body to navigate rocks, undertows and whirlpools, but that's all part of the fun. The most important rule: Never let go of your board. kaitiaki.co.nz; $80

Skydiving - fear rating: 9/10

If I were to take all the above thrills and pack them tightly between my palms, the ball of nerves would look like a skydiver. Nothing comes close to a freefall, the moment when you gather your wits and experience the sensation of terminal velocity. Skydiving in New Zealand is exceptional because of the stunning scenery, and the professionalism of its operators. NZone runs slick operations in both Rotorua and Queenstown, and count grandparents among their fans. A cameraman can join you to recall your ultimate jump for posterity (he uses his teeth to snap pictures and video). The rolling green fields of the North Island, and the fjords and mountains of the South Island, really show off at more than 3,000 metres. Sixty seconds later, the chute opens, and it's a gentle float down to earth. Not only have you conquered your fear, but you'll feel like you've conquered New Zealand too. nzone.biz; from $199

Robin Esrock is the host of the OLN/CITY-TV series Word Travels. His website is robinesrock.com.

Single page

Follow us on Twitter: @tgamtravel

 

In the know

Most popular videos »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most popular