In New Zealand, trail maps, guardrails and souvenir shops are not associated with outdoor excursions the way they are in other countries. With so few people and so much land, adventures are treated as normal events, and adrenaline considered a daily hormone. Many programs will include a few such activities in their itinerary, but if they don’t, be sure to experience at least one of these thrilling exploits while you’re volunteering abroad in New Zealand.
A suspension bridge over the Kawarau River marks the world home of bungee (bungy) jumping: the place where, in 1988, adventurists AJ Hackett and Henry van Asch leapt off a platform, attached only with an elastic rope. Now, their enterprise has spanned the globe, with six different bungee experiences in New Zealand alone. Plummet over a ravine from the Nevis, or slide off the Auckland Bridge. AJ Hackett is the oldest and safest name in bungee, and New Zealand provides some stunning scenery to accompany your jump.
Trained guides lead visitors up the Fox and Fran Josef glaciers, safeguarding both the ice field and their climbing groups. Located on the South Island’s western coast, the Fox and Fran Josef glaciers are among the steepest commercially-guided glaciers in the world. With crampons and pick, climbers carve their way along the solid, snowy mountains and consider the glacial movements that shaped the country’s unusual landscape.
White Water Rafting
From the subtle bumps of Grade 2 to the furious swells of Grade 5, the rivers around the North Island’s Rotorua offer every level of challenging rapids. Professional raft guides command rubber boats down the Wairoa and Rangitaiki, giving visitors the chance to paddle through some of New Zealand’s craziest waters.
Trekking Along The Milford Track
Of all the long-distance hiking trails in New Zealand, the track between Sandfly Point and Glade Wharf, in Milford National Park, is touted as the country’s greatest. Milford Sound is considered the eighth natural wonder of the world, so interested hikers should plan and book ahead of time to reserve a spot and beat the crowds. The trail can take several days to walk, but hikers can stay in huts placed strategically along the route by the Department of Conservation. In all this untouched fauna, you might just spot an elusive kiwi bird.
If volunteering abroad in New Zealand doesn’t already have you sleeping in tents, you have plenty of options to do so on your own. New Zealand has desperately tried to retain wide swaths of land, public parks, and roadsides as common ground, available for anyone with a camper van or tent. Though in recent years the abuse of this freedom (from litter and environmental destruction) has dampened many locals’ enthusiasm for camping outside of strict locations, much of the country is still open for exploration.
Like the scene from a science fiction movie, the Te Paki sand dunes seem to grow out of nowhere. One moment you are driving through the woods, and the next moment, these giant golden mounds block off the horizon. Rent a board from one of the neighboring stores or resident houses, and start climbing. It may take 30 minutes to reach the top — but the sense of isolation and victory, plus the jolt of speed-adrenaline from sliding down these amazing dunes — is worth it.
If you’ve gotten on a board before, then head to Raglan in the North Island, or the Catlins in the South Island, for two of the country’s top surf spots. For beginners, surf schools are run around Ragland, Auckland, Tapau, and other communities around the coastline. Wind surfing lessons are offered in Wellington; in Nelson, visitors can learn how to kite surf.
Swimming With Dolphins
The dusky dolphin is known as an entertainer, performing tricks and flips for the human crowds on Kaikoura Dolphin Encounter boats. But you aren’t limited to watching from the bow; you can strap on flippers and swim with them in their natural habitat. With informative guides, the experience is both a lesson in conservation education, and marine life friendship.
Natives describe Abel Tasman National Park as some of the most beautiful, empty scenery in the South Island. In Abel, visitors can enjoy pristine bays, quiet shorelines, and curious marine animals from the seat of rentable sea kayaks. You can also find a remote paradise by kayaking to the islands of Adele and Fisherman.
New Zealand is so beautiful, no matter where you throw yourself off an airplane, you’ll dive down to some incredible scenery. Over six major sky diving companies operate out of locations around New Zealand, including Queenstown, Fox Glacier and Rotorua. Choose your favorite location, get a parachute and prepare to fly. Too nervous? Maybe you should try bungee jumping first?!