When it comes to naming the Adventure Capital of the World, there’s no contest: Queenstown is indisputably the heavyweight champion. The list of fear-factor offerings in this city is too long to recount. But the scariest one, by far, is the Shotover Canyon Swing. As co-owner Hamish Emerson says, “The greater the initial terror—the feeling you’re going to hit the dirt—the greater the resultant joy when you realize you’re going to make it after all!”
The brainchild of two avid rock climbers, the Shotover Canyon Swing is the highest rope swing in the world—with its launch platform attached to a cliff’s edge 109m (360 ft.) above the Shotover River. It was designed by innovative structural and mechanical engineers, carefully constructed over several years, repeatedly tested and modified, and finally opened to the public in December 2002. Today, you can swing in 1 of 10 positions (being suspended and then dropped by a pin-release system is the so-called easiest option, but you can avoid looking down if you go backward).
Whatever style you choose, remember to invoke your inner superman powers. The swing takes you straight down for 60m (200 ft.), a stomach-dropping freefall just meters away from the cliff’s vertical face toward a deep canyon, during which you reach speeds of 150kmph (93 mph) and scream like you’ve never screamed before. As you finally glide into a 200m (656 ft.) arc, and then swing back and forth, you’ll thank your lucky stars that you’re still alive. Now it’s time to simply let your pulse slow and appreciate the sensation of having land beneath your feet—unless, of course, you signed up for two jumps. In that case, get ready to sail through the air again.
A Superman-Like Flight – Shotover Canyon Swing
The swing is a 15-minute drive from Queenstown, and the company will drive you there in one of its four-wheel-drive vehicles. After a short walk through the bush, you reach the launch area and are fitted into a seat and chest harness attached to ropes that are strong enough to lift four cars. All of the ropes, attachments, harnesses, and safety devices used here are regularly checked, maintained, and upgraded. But knowing that everything’s secure won’t be enough to quiet your nerves once you’re about to swing. Some trepidation is the whole point here. Queenstown has a reputation to live up to, after all.
Shotover Canyon Swing, 37 Shotover St., Queenstown ( 64/03-442-6990; www.canyonswing.co.nz).
When to Go: Anytime.
Airport: Queenstown airport.