Scared Britless: High-adrenaline New Zealand

Finally…I’ve read my way through the monster of a guidebook that is The Rough Guide to New Zealand, and I feel I have a pretty good grasp of what this immense country has to offer.

Lucky for me – a girl who likes to test her scaredy-cat limits – New Zealand is ‘the place’ to go for high-adrenaline adventure sports, and boy does it know how to host them in style.

As a personal challenge, I’ve decided to take on as many stomach-curdling activities as I can in an attempt to lose my inhibitions (especially when it comes to heights). I want to leave the comforts of vapid Blighty behind and aspire to be more like a brave kiwi. With that in mind, I will be tweeting as I travel using the hashtag #ScaredBritless, so please follow me on Twitter.

What can you expect from my crazy adventures?

• Skydiving – I’m petrified of heights. The most fear-inducing activities I’ve ever tried are paragliding (see below) and rappelling down a waterfall. Jumping from a plane would be on a whole new level of crazy. Then there’s the recent ‘Granny Skydive Fail’ YouTube video of an elderly lady whose harness didn’t hold her in properly. It didn’t fill me with confidence…

High-adrenaline New Zealand - paragliding

I loved the views when I went paragliding in Colombia, but I was gripping so tightly to the harness I barely have any photos of them!

Bungee jumping – If there’s anything that scares me more than a sky dive, it’s a bungee jump. There’s something even less natural about diving head first into an abyss being held only by your feet. I’d like to think I will have the guts to give the country’s bungee jump king, the Nevis Highwire, a go, but only time will tell! In the meantime, my lovely sister has already booked me in to leap from the 192-metre Skytower in Auckland (aka, New Zealand’s tallest building). And my nerves about the trip have since skyrocketed!

Jetboating – The jetboat was invented by a guy called Bill Hamilton who needed a way to navigate the braided rivers surrounding the Canterbury sheep country where he lived. These boats can reach speeds of up to 80 km/h in water as shallow as 10 cm.

Canyoning – The gloworm-studded caves of Waitomo offer the perfect place to take on some canyoning. Kitted out in a wetsuit, rubber boots and a helmet, caving trips may include huge abseils, tyre tubing, jumping from underground waterfalls, a little bit of rock climbing and even an underground picnic!

High-adrenaline New Zealand - rappelling

Letting go of the guide I’d just grabbed in terror, and stepping over the top of this waterfall was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done

• Diving with sharks – There are a few places to experience these frightening predators up close and personal. In Auckland, the Kelly Tarlton Underwater Experience allows groups of divers to lower themselves into a tank filled with sharks, while in Gisborne, you can travel 15 km offshore and climb into a metal cage for half an hour of viewing 80 kg mako sharks through the safety of the bars.

Skiing/snowboarding – As I’ll be in New Zealand during their winter, there will be plenty of opportunities to try out some winter sports, and it will be my first time ever on skis or a snowboard. In Peru and Chile last year, I tried my hand at sandboarding. Some tough love from my instructor meant that I eventually got a halfway decent technique and I’m ready to progress onto the white stuff.

Rafting – Rafting is popular across both islands. The Kaituna river has a 7 m waterfall you can drop over the edge of, while the Rangitikei is one of the toughest in the country. Although the rafting season ends in May, I’m hoping there might be a company willing to take me out. When I rafted in Costa Rica I was the only one of 60 people to fall out, so I could do with improving my skills.

High-adrenaline New Zealand - The raft I fell out of in Costa Rica

Sledging – This is probably the one I’m most psyched about. I’d never heard of sledging before. It involves resting on a board with handles on the front and manoeuvring yourself through white water rapids while kicking with fins to avoid any particularly treacherous sections of river.

• Quad biking – My very limited experience of driving an ATV in Costa Rica proved that I totally lack the ability to steer in a straight line. So, a guided trip through local countryside could be challenging for me. Practice makes perfect though, right?

• Flying a plane – Yes, you read that right. Remarkably, there’s a place on the South Island where it’s possible to take a plane out and, with no previous experience, do loops, four-point rolls and Cuban eights. I get nervous when a commercial jet leans to one side to change direction, so my mind is not made up as to whether or not I’d be able to handle this!

• Tramping – This is the kiwi word for hiking, and with such beautiful scenery in the country, it’s hardly surprising that there are so many trails. Time restraints mean that I’m unlikely to be taking on any of the 4 or 5 day monsters, but my walking boots are already packed and I at least plan on taking on the 1-day Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Weather conditions in winter mean that I will probably need crampons, which I’m sure will add to the adventure.

High-adrenaline New Zealand - Hiking

Sometimes a simple hike is the best way to appreciate stunning mountain scenery


My route

I’ve planned a rough route through New Zealand from Auckland in the north of the North Island down to Queenstown in the South Island. I’ll be travelling independently by bus, since car hire doesn’t lend itself so well to solo travel. The highlights will include:

– Jumping off buildings and checking out the zoo in Auckland
– Exploring the thermals and geysers at Wai-O-Tapu near Rotorua
– Visiting the stunning Huka falls by jetboat from Taupo, and experiencing the haka and a traditional Hangi meal
– Exploring the Te Papa museum in Wellington and learning about Maori culture
– Flying a plane around Motueka in the South Island, before paddling a kayak through the Abel Tasman national park
– Ice hiking on Franz Josef/Fox glacier
– Joining hoards of adventure sports enthusiasts in New Zealand’s adventure capital, Queenstown

I am by no means a fearless daredevil. I hope to share with you what it’s like to experience this fascinating and beautiful country while conquering some of my biggest fears. And so that you can see, through my eyes, how affected I am by some of the activities I’ve mentioned above, I’ll be videoing some of the best using a GoPro camera. I can’t promise there won’t be blood curdling screams and I might need to learn how to edit out the occasional obscenity…


  1. says

    Your list pretty much covers all the things I wussed out of doing in NZ! I was expecting to be more of a wine tasting, sit in a thermal spa, look at some lovely beaches kind of NZ traveller, but I ended up doing sea kayaking, hiking glaciers, taking a helicopter trip and caving. Look forward to seeing how you get on with all the proper adventure stuff though!
    Lucy recently posted..Where the West was filmed: Utah’s Little HollywoodMy Profile

  2. Katrin Harrison says

    Your post reminded me that I know someone from high school who just completed an extended stay in New Zealand. She’s been a digital nomad for the past 5 years and blogs at May be worth checking out some of her posts! Hugs!

    • says

      Yes, it sounds like great fun. I like the mix of excitement (jumping off waterfalls and abseiling) and relaxation (winding your way along underground rivers in a tyre watching gloworms glimmer). Isn’t the word spelunking amazing? I want to do it just so I can say I’ve spelunked!

  3. says

    Impressed not only by the list (you’ve got plenty to keep you busy) but I am a big fan of puns so the blog title made me chuckle! Good luck with confronting your fears, I’m sure you will be glad you did so after – the anticipation is always the worst part!
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    • says

      Thank you! I hope you’re right, because at the moment the anticipation is making it hard to sleep. I tell myself it’s only excitement – not nerves. I’m not very convincing!

  4. Elin Morris says

    Your ‘lovely’ sister has also got you a ticket for the Auckland Bridge Bungee so you can add that one to your list now too! Haha – can’t wait xxx

    • says

      Oh man! Thank you lovely sister – Do I assume we’re both doing it? In which case, it will be good to have your support on my first bungee jump! I’d be way more nervous on my own!

  5. says

    Wonderful idea! when I was in NZ 4 years ago, we did some awesome skydiving above Lake Taupo! I’d have to go through my archives again to find the video and the name of the skydiving place we jumped with to give it to you: they were awesome!

    Once you’ve tested your strength at bungy-jumping, I hope we can meet up in France for the highest jump in Europe from a bridge which can hold bungy : 182 m. high! or, we can meet in Colorado and jump from Royal Gorge Bridge (I’ll be there at the end of september) which is 321 m. high!

    Will you?

    when do you fly to NZ?
    if you’re a fan of “The Lord of the Rings,” there’s a rough guide that’ll take you on a 3-week-tour of the country in the places where they shot the movie! ;-)

    Happy adventures! I’ll be following!
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    • says

      I’m thinking it’s between Lake Taupo and Wanaka for the skydive. Good to hear you loved it near Taupo.

      Not sure when I’ll next get to France or Colorado, but if I don’t feel too shaken up after my bungee experience in New Zealand I could be tempted!

      I fly to New Zealand on June 9 (arriving June 11 in Auckland). I think a 3-week LOTR tour is a bit too much. I liked the movies, but not to that extent!

      Thanks for your tips! :)

    • says

      I actually snorkelled with some pretty big sharks in the Galapagos. There were playful sea lions in the water too, so sometimes we weren’t sure what it was that just brushed past!! I felt a bit uncomfortable with that, but they weren’t predators. This trip will depend on whether I can do it without affecting the sharks though. I’ve heard about some places enticing them with food and prodding them to make them angry. I wouldn’t want to be involved with that.

  6. says

    Sounds like a lot of fun, if you haven’t done Sky Diving before you will have a blast… best feeling in the world. I almost signed up for a week long course after my sky dive, but alas the 1k wasn’t spare in funds that holiday :)

    have fun, can’t wait to hear all about it. x

    • says

      Yeah, it’s pricey! Plus my insurance policy is waaaaaaay more expensive if I want to do more than one tandem jump. I think I will give it a go just the once though. It’s one of those things you’re so glad you did once it’s over!!

  7. says

    Wow Arianwen, I got so breathless just reading all about your planned activities. What a daredevil of an itinerary! Good for you. I look forward to your post of all your Kiwi adventures. Enjoy and please be safe!

    • says

      It remains to be seen whether or not I manage to fit all of them into my itinerary. I hope so though! I’m also not sure if I’ll have the guts either! Fingers crossed :)

  8. says

    Jealous! Especially flying the plane but couldn’t be happier for you.

    When do you leave? And I’d leave any and all obscenity in…. you know, for authenticity :)

    • says

      Haha. Ok. In that case I’ll add a warning: ‘You may wish to turn your volume down/off to protect your ears from deafening screams or offensive language…’ I leave on Sunday and arrive Tuesday. Longest journey of my life! Very excited though.

  9. Waggot says

    If bungee jumping doesn’t freak you out enough on its own, one of my pals did it in Scotland in winter in just her underwear. That’s not a challenge, you understand, just for information. Ahem.

    • says

      Thank you Freya! I’ve been in Auckland a day now and so far can’t find a thing to dislike about NZ. That feeling might change when I’m staring down from the top of a building with a harness round my feet though! ;)

    • says

      So far, it being winter hasn’t been a problem, although I’ve just been here a day. It’s certainly a lot better than the British winter. I hope my timing doesn’t limit what I can do, and it’s quite nice to not have to compete with too many other tourists.

  10. says

    Ahhhh this looks amazing! Are you doing the Canyon Swing in NZ? That’s top of my list of adrenaline adventures when I go!!

    I’ve already done a sky dive in the UK, but the scenery is so much better in NZ that I’m honestly tempted to do another one! The first one terrified me so it goes to show if I’m willing to do another one, it can’t be TOO bad! ;) Once the parachute opens, it’s actually really peaceful! Haha, I am like you though, the idea of a bungee jump seems so much worse, which I thought was a bit weird! Glad I’m not the only one there!

    Have the time of your life out there, I actually cannot wait until I’m able to organise my trip! x

    • says

      I’ve seen videos of that canyon swing before and would love to give it a go! I hope I can add it to my itinerary. I’m glad to hear you’d consider another sky dive after experiencing one already. I am so scared about the bungee, but you have to remember that it’s pretty safe and it will all be over in a couple of minutes!

    • says

      Yeah, I bet that happens! You get caught up in the excitement, and meeting loads of people who are also doing the scary activities helps too. I hope I can retain a small amount of bravery after all this :)

    • says

      I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t like New Zealand. Even if you’re not into the adventure sports, it’s a stunningly beautiful country with great people and interesting wildlife. I’m so glad I came here!

  11. says

    Good for you, Arianwen, with the thrill seeking activities. I’ve been all round NZ, from north to south, and can say that it’s an absolutely beautiful country with some of the friendliest people I’ve met anywhere. If you have time, try to pass through Takaka in north of the South Island. This beautiful little town, with more than a bit of hippy feel to it, has a very colourful main street and some wonderful cafes. Have fun!
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