The Ruapehu Adaptive Programme, on the slopes of the North Island’s Mount Ruapehu active volcano, has been developed for people with disabilities who want to go skiing or snowboarding
A quick flick around the internet will confirm that travellers with disabilities can enjoy adventure activities in New Zealand – from leaping out of planes and exploring the rainforest canopy to jet boating in white-water rapids, going fishing, tearing down the slopes or landing on a glacier.
On a fine day, fishing is an ideal way to relax and Coromandel Fishing Charters’ vessels Joint Venture and Rubin Jack are perfect for wheelchair users. Business owners Tom Meyers, himself a double amputee, and Lorraine Corbett, said the boats are ideal for wheelchair fishing. “There’s no reason why anybody in a wheelchair can’t come. It’s no problem and we have staff on hand to help. A day out on the water can be a soothing experience, and he has a list of returning customers,” he said. Coromandel Fishing Charters also works with the Wish4Fish charity, set up by Bryce Dinneen to help those with disabilities get out on the water. Bryce is also disabled, having suffered a spinal injury.
Wheelchair users, people with cerebral palsy and blind people can do tandem skydiving with Skydive Abel Tasman in Motueka, over the coastal Nelson region. Another venture, Skydiving Kiwis, in Ashburton near Christchurch, said that more than 50 wheelchair riders have used a specially developed harness to tandem jump. There’s no age limit, and so long as you can fit the body harness, you can take part.
Fun in the snow
Skiing, snowboarding or just getting out in the snow is a unique way to enjoy a crystal-clear, sparkling winter’s day. The Ruapehu Adaptive Programme, on the slopes of the North Island’s Mount Ruapehu active volcano, has been developed for people with disabilities who want to go skiing or snowboarding. In the South Island, Cardrona’s Adaptive Snow Sports programme also enables people with physical, sensory or cognitive impairments to enjoy the snow. Participants ditch their wheelchairs for ski chairs, or can use specially-designed outriggers.
Helicopter glacier landing
The Helicopter Line has launched a new venture for wheelchair-bound clients – taking them onto the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers in Westland, and the Tasman Glacier in the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. Surrounded by snow-clad mountains and primeval rainforest, wheelchair users can experience landing on a slow-moving river of ice and get out on to the glacier in a specially modified ski chair. Flights depart from Franz Josef and Glentanner, near Aoraki Mt Cook.
Walk and wheel the treetops
Many trails around the country have been built so wheelchair users can explore New Zealand’s ancient rainforest, where trees grow to be hundreds of years old. West Coast Treetops Walkway, near Hokitika on the South Island’s wild west coast, gives an opportunity to experience the rainforest from a novel perspective, at a bird’s eye level high in the tree canopy. The easily accessible walk takes you more than 450 metres along a steel platform 20 metres high. A series of ramps and gentle inclines provides easy access for wheelchairs.
Leap off high places
Bungy jumping is a quintessential Kiwi adventure activity. The Ledge Bungy, at the top of Queenstown’s Gondola, is operated by pioneering bungy company A J Hackett and gives people in wheelchairs the chance to safely leap off into the void while still inside their wheelchair. Just getting to the ledge is an adventure with wheelchairs transported up the hill via the Gondola.
The Shotover Canyon Swing, near Queenstown, also accommodates wheelchair users. At the Auckland Sky Tower, New Zealand’s largest city offers a SkyJump and SkyWalk for people with disabilities.
Splash in a jet boat
New Zealander Sir William Hamilton invented the jet boat in the 1950s as a unique way to cross shallow water. Since then, adventure-seekers have embraced it for high-speed thrills up and down New Zealand’s waterways. Queenstown’s Shotover Jet takes passengers on a heart-pumping ride through the twists and turns and canyons of the Shotover River. The jet boat is equipped to take passengers with disabilities; however, prior booking is advised.