Jetboats use a water propulsion unit called a jet, not a jet engine. This is the same sort of water propulsion unit which you see on jet-skis. The jet was invented in New Zealand as a clever way of navigating the very shallow water we get on our South Island braided rivers. It is smooth, fast and very manoueverable. It has been turned into tourist attractions in what I consider an "amusement park" sort of ride - the very professional, successful and enjoyable Shotover Jet being the prime example. But originally it was not used as a 20-minute thrill ride narrowly avoiding rocks in canyons. Originally it was used to discover and access remote areas. This is what I call a "safari" rather than a thrill ride.
But is that how New Zealanders use jetboats? Tourists, yes. But people in the know? You’ve guessed it – of course not. Our jetboat day takes you back to the roots of how New Zealanders use (and have a lot of fun with) jetboats.
First of all, it’s a smaller boat for those really shallow places and tight squeezes. Then it has a driver and no one else. This isn’t a group thing. The boat takes you and your companions down the Makarora and up the Wilkin, showcasing some of the best jetboating terrain in the country – gravel banks, fast flowing rivers against a backdrop of Southern Alps, gin-clear water. And not a lot of people, make that none, almost. After a bit of a thrill, you then tie up to a willow tree and go ashore for a traditional "West Coast" barbecue, washed down with excellent local wines. In the past, the menu has included crayfish, whitebait and venison – but we make no guarantees other than that the food will be the freshest and finest available on that particular day. It is by definition wild and therefore uncontrollable. After lunch, the boat is available for you to take it for a spin – a driving lesson with a difference at the head of Lake Wanaka - or as a platform from which to fish for our world-famous trout. If you are a serious fisherman, then we add a specialist guide to the day.This is a big-grin day from start to finish and has consistently produced very relaxed clients throughout this last season - which is the first season we ran it. It's worth thinking about having a sober driver, though, or we can of course provide chauffeur and/or helicopter transportation.