Archive for May, 2010

Whale Watching and Dolphin Swim

Monday, May 31st, 2010

We stopped over for a night in Kaikoura, New Zealand in order to go swimming with dolphins.  Dolphin Encounter is the only company licensed to run these tours and they do a very good job.  The guides are knowledge.  The gear they give you is well maintained (they give you good wet suits since the water is about 10 degrees C).  The boat is also very comfortable and comes with hot water showers which is a very welcome treat after almost an hour in freezing cold water.

This is a not a typical “flipper” like experience that you can do at some resorts around the world.  These are wild dolphins and can move freely.  It’s up to you to entertain them in order for them to stick around.  One of the tips the guides give you is to make dolphin like noises.  Miki had great fun with this one.  She was chirping like a dolphin the whole time :)

During our swim we were lucky enough to get a pod of about 350 dolphins and they stayed with us for about 50 minutes.  One of the coolest things we’ve done.  It’s a must do if you are in New Zealand.

We also went Whale Watching with Wings Over Whales.  We’ve gone whale watching before in Hawaii on a boat so we thought doing by plane this time would be a nice new experience.  It was pretty cool but if you have a choice… do the boat instead.  You get a view of the whole animal by air but you get much closer by boat.  If we were to do it again we would go by boat.

Check out some videos and pics of both the whale watching and dolphin swim here.  The dolphin photos were taken with our underwater camera.  I dragged the thing all the way from Japan to use it for just 50 minutes.   Kind of a pain but worth it to get these videos.

New Zealand – Franz Josef Glacier Scenic Flight

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Our travel agent was able to put together a custom flight for us since we wanted do a flight seeing tour of the glaciers and go ice climbing on the same day.  The helicopter company doesn’t normally do custom trips but using a travel agent can open up once in a lifetime options like this.  In the end we had a helicopter all to ourselves that took us on a tour of of Mt Cook and Tasman.  We also landed on the Tasman Glacier just after they received the first snow fall of the year.   The last stop was further down the Franz Josef Glacier for our day of ice climbing.  After we were done with our day of climbing our guide radioed to helicopter to come and pick us up.  Definitely one of the highlights of the trip.  Check out the video and pictures below to see just how beautiful this place is.

Here is a picture of the route we took.  You can choose to do any of the colored routes or do what we did and do every one of them in one big “Grand Tour”.

New Zealand – Ice Climbing on the Franz Josef Glacier

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Nathan ice climbing the Franz Josef Glacier

I had been ice climbing once before in Valdez, Alaska and had a blast.  Check out the pictures from that trip here.  When doing research for the New Zealand trip I found that they had ice climbing.  Since it was of the highlights of the Alaska trip I knew we had to do it again.  It was the first time for Miki but by the end of the day she was a pro.

The one thing I didn’t like about the trip in Alaska is that there was a pretty large group of people climbing so we didn’t get many climbs in.  This time we scheduled a private trip to ensure we got in a lot of climbing.  It was just me, Miki, our guide, and the helicopter pilot who dropped us off on the glacier.  Our guide A.J. from Franz Josef Glacier Guides was one of the most enthusiastic guides we’ve ever had.  His passion for his country and the sport of ice climbing made the trip very enjoyable.

The weather the day we went was also spectacular.  They receive over 250 days of rain per year but the day we went was one of the best days of the year.  This is a must do activity if you head to New Zealand’s south island.  Just be prepared to get pretty beat up and bruised… but it’s worth every bit of pain for the sense of accomplishment of climbing out of a 40 meter crevasse :)

Here are some video clips I compiled from our day of ice climbing.  Enjoy…

and a few more pics.

New Zealand – Skydive Wanaka

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

After we jumped out a plane from 15,000 feet

Miki had been skydiving before in Hawaii but I had never been so it was about time.  There are a bunch of places in New Zealand that you can go skydiving but the one our guide/agent Emma from NZ Travel Designers recommended was Skydive Wanaka.  They have won tourism awards for their service and it’s well deserved.  It’s a very professional operation with a lot of very friendly staff.  If you want to skydive in New Zealand this is the place.  The views are also amazing as you can see from the pics.  There really is no better place to jump out of perfectly good airplane.

Here is a short video of my skydive.  Those jumpsuits really aren’t very flattering… either that or I need to loose some weight.

Gallery of photos from the skydive.

New Zealand – Nevis Bungy and Arc

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Here is a video of my bungy jump from the 134 meter Nevis Bungy in Queenstown, New Zealand.  I couldn’t convince Miki to do the bungy jump but she did do the Nevis Arc with me.

The Nevis Arc is the highest swing in the world that sends your hurdling through a 330 meter arc.  Video of us going for swing below the bungy jump video.  They had to put us in a unique position because of the weight difference between us.  They call that position the “Honeymooner”.  Fun in more ways than one :)

Nathan’s Nevis Bungy Jump

Nathan and Miki’s Nevis Arc Swing


Some pics from the Nevis Bungy and Arc

A video on the history of bungy after the jump.

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New Zealand – One Pic at a Time

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

A quick post with one pic from each of the adventures we had in New Zealand.  A more detailed trip review, lots more pics and couple cool videos to come.

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Road Biking near Nelson

Road biking near Nelson

Kayaking and Hiking in Abel Tasman

Kayaking and Hiking in Abel Tasman

Mountain Biking on the Queen Charlotte track

Visit to a couple of Vineyards. Wine tasting and a little jog.

Visit to a Seal Colony near Kaikoura

Whale watching by airplane

Sheep shearing show

Swimming with over 350 wild dolphins

Ride on the Tranz Alpine train from Christchurch to Greymouth

Panning for gold on the west coast

Helicopter landing on the Franz Josef glacier.

Ice climbing on the Franz Josef glacier. Nathan decending into a 40 meter crevasse.

Skydiving. That's me strapped to the tiny European guy.

Fishing on lake Wanaka

Siberia Experience: Fly - Hike - Jet Boat

Acrobatic flight in the PITTS

Scenic flight in an open cockpit Tigermoth

Tour of the glowworm caves in Te Anau

Hike to Key Summit in the Fiordlands

Overnight cruise on Millford Sound

Shotover canyon Jetboat ride

The 134 meter Nevis bungy. Yep, that's me.

The Nevis ARC. The highest swing in the world. That's Miki and I on our way down.

Hot air balloon ride