Bungy jumping in Queenstown (part I): what you need to know before jumping
It’s inescapable when you’re in Queenstown. People sporting AJ Hackett T-shirts paired with a euphoric grin, high-fiving each other. That’s what bungy jumping in Queenstown does to you. The countless flyers and prospects are featuring people hanging upside down, ankles attached to a rubber rope. The constant excited buzz of people telling tales of their braveries… It’s infectious!
Are you planning your first bungy jump and wonder how it all works? Let me give you a rundown of how the craziness evolves, step by step.
First things first: bungy jumping in Queenstown
If you’re keen to bungy, Queenstown is just perfect. The adventure capital of the world comes with stunning scenery, an excited atmosphere and heaps of exhilarated visitors. In short, Queenstown is THE place to throw yourself off a bridge!
Choice ay: bungy jump sites
You have 3 options with AJ Hackett: the “classic”, Kawarau Bridge, the world’s first commercial bungy jump, just a 20 minute drive outside Queenstown (43m); the Ledge Bungy, from a specially constructed “bridge” from Bob’s Peak (47m), only a short gondola ride away from town; or the Nevis Bungy, from a pod suspended by cables over a deep canyon, a 40 minute drive outside Queenstown (134m).
The fundamental difference between those three options, apart from the height of the jumps, is the ways in which you leap. At both Kawarau and the Nevis, your ankles are tied up, and your rope is connected to your ankle harness. At the Ledge, however, your bungy cord is connected to the safety harness on your waist. So, to make your decision on the site easier, maybe have a think about your jump style, or how you’d like to jump off the platform.
It’s all about style: how to bungy jump
At the Ledge, the body harness allows you to run off the platform and do all kinds of crazy things in the air: somersaults, kung fu kicks, flips, twists, a cartwheel, etc. If you decide to go for Kawarau Bridge, you’ll be spoilt for choice on how to jump: forwards, backward, a tandem with a friend, touch the water, be dunked in the water, etc. Staff will enthusiastically give you details on the many jump styles so that you can get some inspiration there. At the Nevis Bungy, 8.5 seconds of falling will probably make up for the lack of options in terms of jump style: forwards is the only way. Of course, if it’s too hard to decide, you can always combine all three locations, commit to the “Thrillogy”, and do all three bungy jumps in one day!
Ready to commit? Buy your bungy jump
You can buy your ticket at the bungy centre at Kawarau Bridge, at the AJ Hackett centre on Shotover Street in downtown Queenstown, or in other tourism centres offering activity bookings. In the summer months, it is advisable to book a time and date ahead, but it shouldn’t be a problem during the remainder of the year to just roll up to the Kawarau Bridge centre and buy a jump on the day (I have done both). There are complimentary shuttle services from Queenstown to Kawarau Bridge and the Nevis Bungy site, whereas purchasing a jump from the Ledge does not include the gondola ride up to Bob’s Peak.
Proof of bravery: bungy jump photos and video
There are several purchase options available: “just” a bungy jump, your jump plus photos, your jump plus DVD, or the all-inclusive package with photos and DVD. You can also choose whether you’d like your media material on a USB stick or on a DVD. No matter what package you choose, you always get a certificate and a T-shirt that is not for sale and only available to jumpers.
When you need help to gather courage
Oh, and for the nervous: before you do the deed, head on over to The Winehouse and Kitchen, where the essence of bungy comes in glass bottles. Henry van Asch, the co-founder of AJ Hackett Bungy, owns the venue, which is situated right next to the Kawarau Bungy Centre. Do a little wine tasting, takes the edge off a bit. His wines are aptly branded “Freefall.” They also do the trick afterward. Cheers!
Next steps: what happens when you bungy jump
Got these basics sorted and eager to know it all works from here? My next post will explain your bungy journey to becoming a jolly jumper in a few simple steps.
In the meantime, check out these links:
Bungy jumping in Queenstown (part II): what happens when you bungy jump (with video)
The Kawarau Bridge bungy near Queenstown, the world’s first commercial bungy jump, attracts tens of thousands of jumpers a year, and many more spectators and visitors. My previous post on bungy jumping in Queenstown focussed on all the options you have available, from location to jump styles to combo packages. Continuing our journey from there, this post is about what happens when you bungy jump, step by step, from the time you enter the bungy centre to when you exit.
First things first: what happens when you bungy jump
As you enter the uber-modern bungy centre from the car park, you walk down a spiral ramp that leads you down to the reception area, a video showroom, a cafe and a shop with all kinds of bungy paraphernalia and souvenirs. This is also where you exit for the outside viewing platforms. When you check in for your bungy or buy your ticket at reception, staff will ask you to fill in a health questionnaire and sign a liability and indemnity waiver form. Then you are asked to empty your pockets and remove all loose items such as jewellery, flip-flops, etc., basically anything you could loose while jumping, and then you step on the scales!
Your weight is then written on the back of your hand with a thick felt pen, so the bungy instructors at the bridge know how to calculate the length of your bungy rope. Once you’ve done all that, it’s time to make your way out of the reception area and onto the bridge.
Gearing up: putting on your bungy gear
On the bridge, you need to show your ticket to staff and wait in line until you receive your safety harness. They will help you put it on and show you how to fasten everything properly. After that, you need to queue up in either of two lines – there are two platforms, adjacent to each other, from which you bungy jump off the bridge.
Meet your jumpmaster
When it’s your turn, you are asked to climb onto the bungy platform. That’s when your new friend adrenaline will start to say hello, at the latest! But no worries, the first section of the platform is surrounded by transparent plastic “walls”. You sit down on the platform, facing your jump instructor. They start by putting your legs together and wrapping a thick towel around your lower legs and ankles.
Then they fasten the towel really tightly with some sort of harness which is later connected to the end of your bungy rope. Whilst your thoughts are racing around in your head, vehemently trying to talk you out of what you are about to do, your lovely instructor engages you in pleasant conversation.
Style and water: the bungy fine print
At that point they will ask you how you want to jump, (e.g. just straight forwards, backwards, or choose from a template with helpful pictures), whether you want to be immersed in the water or not, and if so, how much water contact you’d like (choose from hand touch, upper body or full immersion). My recommendation is to ask for a hand touch. But remember, that still doesn’t mean that you’ll actually touch the water. Whilst they can calculate the length of your rope for you to be safe and have water contact or no water contact at all, they cannot guarantee that a hand touch will remain a hand touch… it depends on how you jump. In other words, if you don’t jump out far enough, a hand touch can develop into a half upper body immersion! Once you’ve got these details sorted, you move forward on your little platform, and the bungy cord is connected to your ankle harness. Your body harness is connected to a different rope. And then, you step out onto the ledge.
Getting serious: right before you bungy jump.
Well, step is the wrong word, as your ankles are tied up, and you have to choose between jumping bit by bit or moving your hips to clumsily make your feet proceed centimeter by centimeter to cross the meter’s distance between the sitting platform and the edge of the jump platform.
Your instructor is holding you on your body harness from behind as you carefully navigate your feet towards the edge. There is a little handle on the side that you can hold onto until you’ve reached your final jump position. Your toes need to be aligned with the edge, and your instructor will make you move forward inch by inch until you’re there!
Smile like you mean it!
Time to take your picture. Your instructor asks you to give a wave to the crowd watching from the viewing platform to your left. Amazing how many people still manage to look like they’re smiling despite mentally cursing themselves for falling prey to peer pressure! And then it’s time to take that cramped, sweaty hand of yours off that handle and stand up straight. Let go. Just do it.
Look down! Or, not.
Your instructor is still holding you by your body harness. He then tells you to look ahead at the highway bridge instead of looking down. And then he’ll countdown for you:
“Five, four, three, two, one – bungy!”
And that’s your cue! Go on, make it a good one! Make your audience proud! Think of your fabulous DVD that has been recording since you stepped out onto the platform! Failing that, there is no pushing you off the ledge, but plenty of encouragement from your instructor and the crowd… ”One-two-three, man time!” And there you go! Your head will be going from “What the ****!” to “Fracking awesome!” in a few seconds as you hopefully jump out with confidence and gusto, hand touch the water and bounce back up in sheer exhilaration and hysteria!
After a few bounces, the bridge crew lowers your bungy rope, and you’ll see the yellow raft approach you on the river. The crew will ask you to grab the pole they are holding out for you while you’re still hanging upside down, and once you get a hold of it, they draw you in from there. You’ll then lie down in the boat and take off your ankle and body harnesses, which are then pulled back up to the bridge by the bridge crew.
And voila! You step off the raft and walk the path back up to the bungy centre, where your pieces of evidence are being prepared for you. AJ Hackett staff will give you a little paper bag with your complimentary T-shirt and a voucher that gives you 10% off any future bungy jumps. Your pictures (which are around 10) come in a little paper folder and have unique codes on them for you to go online and download them digitally. Some of your pictures are also included as postcards… finally, something to write home about! Your DVD is then shown to you on a TV to check you got the right one, and then you’re all done!
Sure, why not. There are heavily discounted second jumps on the same day because it’s just so awesome. If like me, jumping from Kawarau Bridge made you catch the bungy bug, you may want to think of a different jump style, water contact or of tackling the Nevis or the Ledge to add a bit of variety.
If that jump already did the trick for you, then it’s time to head over to the Winehouse and Kitchen and do a little wine tasting to calm down, look at your pictures and bask in all their glory. 🙂
And if you’re still part of the scaredy cat community despite knowing what happens when you bungy jump, prepare yourself mentally for your jump by following some pieces of advice.
Bungy jumping in Queenstown (part III): what to do when fear strikes (with video)
Bungy jumping in Queenstown is on many a tourist’s New Zealand itinerary. With all the peer pressure it’s easy to buy a bungy jump in a spur of the moment decision. And then, as you walk to the bridge with your ticket in hand, your knees get all wobbly. Your heart is racing; you don’t even hear the music from the stereo at the jump platform. You turn pale. The excited expression on your face from 10 minutes ago turns into a grimace, and you curse yourself mentally for wanting to be adventurous.
But don’t despair, there is still hope for you! Here’s what to do when you’re about to chicken out.
Remember the following:
- Don’t procrastinate. When you’re all geared up, standing at the ledge and your jump instructor is counting you down, jump right on cue. Hesitating makes things worse.
- Don’t look down. Looking down may make you dizzy, or the less bungy-friendly side of your brain overpower the adventurous one. When you jump, look straight ahead. If you jump from Kawarau Bridge, just look at the highway bridge in front of you as you jump off the platform.
- Don’t swing your arms back to gather momentum. When you swing your arms back, just like a swimmer would when jumping into the pool, you bend your knees, and your upper body will bend over and, as a consequence, you look down. If you do that and you’re nervous, you’ll only get dizzy or gain time to chicken out and procrastinate.
- Try a tandem jump. If you’re too scared to jump by yourself, jump with a friend. You’ll stand side by side, with one arm around the other’s back. Your ankles are tied up separately, but your harnesses are connected to the same bungy cord. The only caveat here is that your weight cannot differ too much from that of your tandem partner – maximum 30kgs.
- “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” I’m sure you’ve heard that quote before. But seriously, what are you afraid of? That the bungy rope will snap? AJ Hackett has a 100% safety record, in case you were wondering. You’re more likely to die jetboating or skydiving. Or in a car accident… But let’s not even go there. Here’s a quote that’ll inspire you. It should be your mantra. Van Halen got it right: “Might as well jump! Go ahead and jump!”
And finally, don’t get lost in your fatalistic thoughts. Talk to your fellow jumpers as you wait in line. Share your excitement. Talk to your jumpmaster! Here’s a video of a guy who’s clearly scared of heights, but he did it anyway! Kudos!
Is this guy courageous or what?
You can do it, too. Just jump! And ENJOY! It’s fabulous!
A few curious facts about bungy jumping in New Zealand (with video)
Here are 10 funny and fascinating facts about bungy jumping, from its beginnings to stats to bungy cord making, and how even “free” jumps come at a price!
1. History of bungy
Bungy’s predecessor, vine jumping, originated in Vanuatu, where, during a ritual, women were the ones jumping off wooden tower structures with vines tied around their ankles.
2. Founders of bungy
AJ Hackett’s Kawarau Bridge Bungy was the first commercial bungy jump in the world. Alan John Hackett, Henry van Asch, and Chris Allum set up the Kawarau Bridge Bungy in 1988.
3. Bungy stats
The operation has been going strong ever since. The Kawarau Bridge bungy centre attracts over 400,000 visitors from all over the world every year. 35,000 adventure seekers indulge in a bungy at Kawarau bridge per year. Over 1 million people have jumped or swung at an AJ Hackett bungy site since 1988.
4. Bungy jump styles
There’s a jump menu for AJ Hackett bungy jump sites. Have a look at the menu of the Ledge, Queenstown’s urban bungy jump site:
5. Tandem bungy jumps
You can tandem jump at Kawarau bridge and tandem swing at the Arc. The difference in weight between the two jumpers cannot exceed 30 kilograms.
6. The highest bungy jump in New Zealand
New Zealand’s highest commercial bungee jump is AJ Hackett’s Nevis bungy near Queenstown. It’s 134 metres high, and jumpers plunge from a highwire cable car suspended above a canyon.
7. The highest bungy jump in the world
Macau Tower is currently the highest commercial bungy jump in the world, as recognised by the Guinness Book of Records. It is 233 metres high.
8. The bungy cord
A bungy cord can last for 1500 jumps. At AJ Hackett jump sites, bungy cords don’t have to work too hard; they are thrown out after only 500 jumps. Your weight determines the type of bungy cord used for your jump. This is how a bungy cord is made:
9. Perks of the job
AJ Hackett employees enjoy as many free bungy jumps as they like.
10. The naked truth
Jumpers who would bungy off the bridge in the nude would get their ticket for free. However, this turned out to be quite popular amongst the many cash-strapped backpackers. Nowadays, there are no more discounts for topless or nude jumping, but you are welcome to do so if you wish 🙂 There have even been nude celebrity jumpers. Have a look here – Billy Connolly doing the Nevis bungy: