For most people faced with moments of shock and fear, a flight or fight instinct operates like an alarm, urging us to make a snap decision in order to avoid serious consequences. Yet, there exists a following of adventure seekers who defy their ingrained aversion to danger and dive headlong in search of a rush better than the last.
Out of New Zealand’s annual 2.8 million visitors, it is estimated that around 150,000 of them, roughly the population of Oxford, travel here just to experience the thrill of a bungee jump. New Zealand is very much the spiritual home of bungee jumping, tracing its roots back to 1998 when the entrepreneurial team of AJ Hackett and Henry van Asch opened the world’s first commercial bungee site at Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown. The idea was inspired by the century-old coming of age land diving ritual for boys on the island of Vanuatu in the South Pacific, where those chosen would leap from a tall wooden structure using only vines tied around their ankles.
Today, despite the increased safety measures in place, adrenaline junkies are attracted by the excitement of the potential danger bungee jumping proposes. Taking that leap of faith and hurtling 100 miles per hour towards the ground is an experience you will never forget and a feat you can lord over your friends forever.
Kawarau Bridge, Queenstown - South Island
Still one of, if not the most popular jumps in the world, Kawarau Bridge is the birthplace of modern bungee jumping. Seasoned thrill enthusiasts may find the scares somewhat lacking here when compared to other, more daring leaps, but the 141-foot fall towards the bottom of Kawarau Gorge is quite enough to terrify any newcomer, us included. First-timers will be put at ease by the thoroughness of the staff who check and re-check your weight and height to ensure your jump is the most exhilarating and safe one it can be. However, it’s natural to be scared, so if you want to be tied up and launched from the platform with your lucky friend in tow, Kawarau Bridge is the best place to do it, as it offers the only tandem jumping site in Queenstown.
If you’re still not convinced, the bridge has its own observation deck from which you can watch the day’s bungee jumpers and the Liquid Courage Bar may give you the impetus to throw caution to the wind and dive in head first (pun intended).
Waiau River, Hanmer Springs - South Island
Although it’s better known for its spa village and thermal pools, Hanmer Springs has its own unsuspecting wild side. As it is a shorter fall at ‘only’ 114 feet, this is perhaps a better place to practice your diving form. The classic swan position is the favourite, arms aloft and gently falling forwards seems much more favourable than somersaulting, or riding the ‘elevator to hell,’ where you simply turn around, close your eyes and fall backwards into the unknown.
The freefall won’t be as long as other jumps once you leap from the 135-year-old ferry bridge, so it’s definitely a jump you could do more than once.
Auckland Harbour Bridge, Auckland - North Island
The Auckland Harbour Bridge has its own special place in bungee history thanks to AJ Hackett, who jumped from the bridge when the act was not technically legal in 1987. Since its legalisation and commercialisation, the bridge has played host to thousands of jumpers from across the world, chief among them, celebrity names like David Beckham and Katy Perry. The views atop the bridge are far reaching and you can see the whole of Auckland as you begin your steady climb to the very top of the bridge, which is both beautiful and nerve wracking in equal measure.
The bridge is New Zealand’s only ocean touch jump, where you can be lowered just enough for you to either touch or completely splash in to the water below you. A drop into the ocean from a height of 131-feet can seem daunting, but you won’t even feel it once fright turns into euphoria and your adrenaline takes over.
Waikato River, Taupo - North Island
Taking place on a cantilevered platform suspended around 20 feet away from the edge of a cliff, the Waikato River bungee jump is the most popular experience of its kind in the North Island. The site is not only daring, it is also surrounded by Taupo’s signature beauty, with panoramic views of the bush and crystal clear waters all around.
The Waikato River jump is New Zealand’s highest water touch bungee, which means you can be absolutely soaked from head to ankle after diving 154-feet. A splash cam at the bottom of the drop will catch you in all of your heroic glory, proving to your friends and family that it was, in fact, a piece of cake. If you’re feeling a little unsure, you can always persuade your best pal to jump with you, or enjoy a little snack and simply watch as a spectator before you make up your mind.