Dazzling blue rapids carve their way between near-vertical cliff faces, while spectacular mountain greenery carefully roots itself on craggy outcrops – the majestic Shotover River is a sight to behold. Just a short drive out of Queenstown, the river feeds through Skipper’s Canyon in some of the most beautiful scenery Queenstown has to offer. But oddly enough, that’s not why most people come to river – the real drawcard is battling the rapids by raft or skimming across the top by jet boat. The 75-kilometre long river is the favourite place for adventure travel companies to head to give visitors a taste of the great, wild outdoors.
Rafting is the most popular sport here – fast-flowing runoff from the Southern Alps flows over rocky canyon floors, creating some of the most exhilarating rafting experiences in the world. Named points in the river give you an idea of what is in store – rafters get to tackle Rock Garden, Sharks Fin, Pinball, Jaw and After Shock, while trying their best to control a raft in water that churns and turns in every direction. There’s no doubt you’ll end up being thrown in the river at some point, but that’s half the fun – you’ll emerge from your rafting experience bedraggled and sporting some pretty stellar bruises, but with the adrenaline high of a lifetime.
Jet boating is another popular activity on the Shotover. The jet boats hide deep in the canyon, where sheer rock faces tower over you and the water is crystal clear – however the beautiful scenery turns to a blur when the jet boats whip across the surface of the water at speeds of over 85 kilometres per hour. They manoeuvre past crags and boulders with surprising agility – and surprising speed – often in as little as ten centimetres of water. Boats are able to perform spins that extend beyond 360˚, which is sure to get your heart racing.
Most tour companies operate out of Queenstown and offer and range of rafting and jet boating trips – if you really want to get your blood pumping, keep an eye out for those that offer rafting and jetboating combo trips, which lets you experience the best of both activities.