There is a big debate about where is best to do a bungy jump in New Zealand. I figured where else to start for a bungy novice than the Worlds First Commercial Jump Site. At only 43m high it’s one of the smaller jumps (also ideal for a beginner to the sport!) but AJ Hackett have been running bungy from Kawaura Bridge for over 25 years so I felt as safe as I could about to leap off a bridge tied on with a big elastic band. It’s bookable from the AJ Hackett office in Queenstown (At ‘The Station’), online or you can rock up at the centre and book on the spot. It’s better to have as little time as possible between booking and jumping if it’s your first time, much less time to dwell on it!
With a transfer from Queenstown included in my package and Kawaura the first stop, it’s only about 20 minutes from the town centre. From the minibus window you spot the bridge and get a full height view to the swirling rapids below. The threat of rain and the dark clouds only added to the tension building in my stomach!
The Kawaura site itself is well equipped with both the bridge bungy and a canyon zip line on offer. Combo packages are available if you want to try both and it was recommended to save the bungy and zip line first. After a serious check in where they weigh you in everything you’ll jump in to make sure you get the right bungy chord your hands get covered in stamps to confirm that you’re all good to jump.
A view deck allows you to see other jumps before your own which is great and terrifying in equal measures. On site toilets come in very handy for last minute nerves! After psyching myself up for a good 15 minutes I took the stairs onto the bridge and made my way to the jump spot in the middle. There are 2 launch pads that jumpers take in turns, and the staff are fantastic! Friendly and chatty, they try and take your mind off what you’re about to do all the while you’re sitting getting your ankles strapped up with a towel and some Velcro.
Despite the cold, I was still asked if I wanted to get dunked in the river below which I’m sure would be an added bonus in summer but not something I was prepared to do in the middle of a New Zealand winter! After hooking on the bungy chord I penguin waddled to the edge of the platform gripping the handrail incase the wind blew me off before I was mentally prepared!
With a few nervous smiles and waves to a camera which films the whole jump as well as some well placed cameras for photos, the countdown began! Once you’re there it’s difficult to back out, particularly with everyone on the view deck watching. Every part of me was telling me not to lean forward, I attempted a swan dive but at the last second my legs gave out and I half fell off rather than the graceful leap I was planing!
It’s a strange sensation as time seems to pause for a second after you have decided to jump off before you feel the stomach-lurching falling motion. A very different feeling to skydiving for sure. Not that there’s much time to think about what do to, but it’s better if you try and get into an upside down vertical dive position as the more upright you are, the harder (and more painful) the first bounce back will be when you get yanked up.
I found it a very much ‘love to hate’ type feeling, I want to do another one despite not loving the motions! After bouncing around dangling by my feet, the bungy was lowered and I got picked up with a little dingy in the river which is much better than being winched back up to the bridge like I had expected! It looks much higher from the platform looking down than it does lying on your back in the boat looking back up again. After unhooking my ankles and sailing back to shore there’s a staircase to climb back up to the top which takes a while with jelly legs!
My mind is a bit of a blur as to what they said to me in the boat, I definitely struggled to find words to describe what I’d just been through! The adrenaline rush you get from the leap (and fall) made me light headed and wobbly in a good way, I could not stop grinning all the way back up the stairs to check out my photos!
With a bunch of photos and a video available in a series of different packages and a free T-shirt and keying with any purchase it’s definitely worth it! Both are available for a period of time after your jump on the AJ Hackett website should you change your mind which is a great idea. An extensive gift shop and cafe are also at the centre and food is recommended after rather than before if you’re a bit anxious!
A few tips for jumping:
1. You will look down once you jump so no need to look down while your mentally preparing yourself to jump!
2. Try and get into a diving position so the bounce back is easier
3. Shout something cool, don’t just scream! Remember you’re on camera!
4. Enjoy it while it lasts because it doesn’t last long!
5. Most of all, make sure you do jump! You’ll regret not jumping more than you’ll regret doing it.
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