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Queenstown, New Zealand: An Adventure Seeker’s Paradise

If you’re an Adventure Seeker, you’ve probably exhausted the generic thrill-seeking activities like jumping out of planes. If you’re looking for an even more stimulating vacation, you must venture down to New Zealand’s South Island. I recently traveled all around New Zealand and Australia for a study abroad program, and there is no shortage of adventure here! Especially in Queenstown - The Adventure Capital of the world. I could talk for hours on everything to do in New Zealand, but I will just highlight my most memorable moments.My Favorite Adventure Before New Zealand, I never thought Glacier Hiking was an activity that I could actually do. I just assumed that you had to be certified and have experience hiking in crampons (the hiking boots with metal spikes on the bottom). I highly recommend trying this out because it was like nothing else I’ve ever done. The waterfalls and views are breathtaking, and glaciers themselves are a crazy concept when you think about it. It can be warm weather, yet there is a huge chunk of ice that continues to expand and grow over time. Glacier hiking is exhilarating, yet it can be very dangerous and extreme caution should be taken. It is not your average hike up a hill. They have a lot of crevasses, which if you slip and fall into one, it will most likely result in death. The strength of the ice can change over the day depending on the sun, and river underneath the glacier would not be good for swimming. Traveling with a guide who knows the ins and outs of the glacier is your best bet of avoiding any mishaps.

Rainy day on the Franz Josef Glacier

Getting serious with the ice axe

My Best Story Every trip has that one story that will be with you for the rest of your life. Mine is about my time on the Rangitata River. I have gone whitewater rafting many times, and thought it would be a breeze. First of all, we decided to move the trip up a day early because it was raining at the top of the river, so the water level was rising quickly. If we waited, the levels would have been too high and dangerous to go. So instead we went at the highest water level possible. I was with a group of 30 college students who most have never been white water rafting, but were eager to try out the Grade Five rapids. (Most places in the U.S. you must be certified to do anything higher than a Grade Three.) Grade Five rapids are for highly advanced and experienced whitewater rafters. The highest level is a Grade Six, which is considered to be so dangerous that successful completion without death or a serious injury is considered to be great luck.

Whitewater rafting on the Rangitata
Long story short, we were not prepared for such a trip down the Rangitata. It was great until a couple of our group’s rafts flipped, people were ejected out of the rafts, and left to float down the river on their own. They were mostly just in shock from the freezing cold water and being bumped around by the strong waves forcing them along a rocky path. Our raft also flipped, and I can honestly say I have never had a near death experience until this. My raft-mates and I all were short of air, had troubles breathing, and struggled to hold onto the raft when we were submerged underwater. When I finally went up for air, we were still going very fast and the raft was headed straight for the large rock ejecting out from the canyon wall. Thankfully I was wearing a helmet or the damage could have been far worse. The rock bruised my left cheekbone severely as well as chipped off my front tooth and shifted it backwards. In the end, I only had to have a root canal and other dentistry work done once I got back in the States. I don’t know what was more scary, thinking I was going to die from drowning or having my face slammed against a rock.No one else in my group was hurt (besides bruised parts and scrapes), and it is very rare that things like this happen. When considering these very adventurous activities, you must always assess the risks and know the dangers ahead of time. This was a mistake our group made because we were clearly not qualified for Grade Five rapids, especially at the highest possible water-level. Although my experience may not have persuaded you to hop on the next whitewater rafting tour, I still strongly recommend giving it a try! Just be sure to do your research, as you are the best judge on how qualified you are.Other Adventures to Check Out

  • Bungee Jumping - New Zealand is the birthplace of bungee jumping, and it definitely lives up to its high expectations. There is so much to learn about their Bungee Jumping Culture if you visit.
  • Canyoning - The new thing! Go on a canyoning tour and you can do anything from climbing, jumping, swimming, swinging, or flailing in and out of canyons.
  • Skydiving - You can skydive anywhere essentially, but the reason you’d want to do it in New Zealand over anywhere else is for the striking view. You’ll see snow, the bluest of blue waters, and the greenest of green hills.
  • Lord of the Rings Tour - If you’ve seen the movies, now you can see where they took place in real life! I got to see some of the locations where they filmed the movies as well as the Chronicles of Narnia. Words or video cannot describe how beautiful the scenery is in person.
  • Whale Watching - A great way to spend your morning is on a boat chasing whales and watching them breach for air. If you don’t want to necessarily see whales, I definitely recommend getting out on the water somewhere in New Zealand, because the color and ocean-life is astonishing.

While you’re down there, you may as well hop on the 2 hour flight over to Sydney. This was actually the most fun I’ve ever had on a flight. We flew Air New Zealand, and the flight kicked off with the best In-Flight Safety Video I’ve ever seen. The video’s theme was all about Rugby and even featured a streaking grandma. The flight also offered a rather tasty meal (for airplane food), ice cream, and of course unlimited beverages. After all of the wine drinking, it seemed that the line to the bathroom got very long, so people started mingling in the isle and just chatted it up. Who knew a 2 hour flight could be such a party!New Zealand caters to the adventure pros, and even the adventure newbies. You’ll want to try it all when you’re down there, so plan accordingly! If their attractions aren’t enough to get you there, the people are the true heart and spirit of the country. New Zealand was also ranked as the best place to live for escaping world conflict . Every Kiwi I met truly embraced life to the fullest. I only grazed the surface on adventure in New Zealand, but that just means you’ll have to travel there to find out for yourself!
About the author

Sarah originates from Kansas City, Missouri and is a recent graduate of the University of Missouri’s College of Business. She was raised in a family that loved to travel, and plans on many trips in the future. A goal of Sarah’s is to to play a round of golf at every single course on the World's Top Places to Golf list. You can follow her on Twitter too: @sarahjanejames.

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Queenstown, New Zealand: An Adventure Seeker’s Paradise + whereivebeen