Shotover Canyon Swing
A Review Based on First-Hand Experiences
Shotover Canyon Swing is the world’s highest cliff jump and can be enjoyed with a huge range of exciting jump styles that cater to every daredevil’s style. This extreme experience involves leaping from a platform atop a cliff 109 metres up into a canyon over Queenstown’s Shotover River. To get the inside scoop on this unforgettable freefall, read the following review based on Experience Oz’s canyon swings:
Queenstown is known not only as being the adventure capital of the world but also as being one of the most naturally beautiful cities – and, on the Shotover Canyon Swing, we got to experience both of these highlights in one heart-stopping, tear-drawing, adrenaline-pumping jump!
Our adventure began at the base in central Queenstown where we were greeted by our jumpmaster, Swinger #1, who first simply stared, mischievously smirked at us and pointed to a board of images illustrating the wild to wilder jump style options. With him, the three of us hopped in the 4WD vehicle and watched an action-packed video to get us pumped during the brief drive to the jump site.
Out of the van, we still couldn’t see any sign of the swing and the suspense was killing us. After a short bush hike, we finally saw the platform hanging off the top of a 109m high cliff - and the anticipation only worsened. We reluctantly stepped on to it and weren’t sure where to look first – at the massive canyon we were about to leap into; at the weird and wonderful items that decorated the platform, including a Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo doll, an Insult Dictionary, a Planet Baywatch magazine and a Truth about Chuck Norris book; or at the three jumpmasters who looked all too excited to launch the fresh meat into the canyon.
After asking us where we come from, these three characters suddenly looked very concerned and one of them said seriously, “You didn’t tell us you had medical conditions.” Puzzled, we looked to their list of conditions and, sure enough, following pregnancy and heart disease was what we suffer from: being Canadian. Next, the boys geared us up in chest and seat harnesses that allowed our arms and legs to move freely – and, being the reassuring chaps they are, pretended to be unsure of which straps go where.
True to their tagline, “Gravity is a toy”, the friendly folks at the Shotover Canyon Swing sure do know how to play. In addition to the endless jokes, they offer over 70 jump styles ranging from scary to very, very, very scary. Surrendering to our conditions, these crazy Canadians decided to go big – each of us opted for jump styles from the scariest end of their scary scale.
First up were my girlfriend, Natalie, and I doing a very, very, very scary tandem jump, Gimp Boy Goes to Hollywood. We shuffled closer to the edge of the platform, where we could see the cables running from cliff top to cliff top over the river; as the jumpmasters explained, we were about to swing from the middle of them and act as the end of a pendulum.
Standing at the edge, looking out into the open depth of the canyon, the reality of what we were about to do suddenly set in. Within seconds, Natalie broke into tears, crying: “I am seriously regretting this. Please, I can’t do this.” Fortunately, the jumpmasters smiled and paid little attention to her wishes to back out; plus, I was determined to swing and, as Natalie was attached to me, she really had little choice.
We were quickly lifted away from the platform and were left dangling in the open air next to the cliff wall 109m above the rock floor and rushing river. As our jump style, Gimp Boy Goes to Hollywood, consists of being dropped head-first toward the ground, we had to flip upside down; however, when the jumpmaster asked Natalie to lean back and wrap her leg around the rope, she, paralyzed with fear, quite certainly declared: “No! I cannot do that!”
The jumpmaster then leaned out and physically moved us into position himself; so there we were, hanging upside-down above a canyon, facing the ground we knew we would soon be flying toward – and that is where the serious screaming began. He left us dangling there for a few moments, providing us with ample time to freak out, before releasing us in 3…2…1!
We left our stomachs behind and plummeted at speeds of up to 150 kilometres per hour toward the canyon’s floor! After an exhilarating 60 metres of freefall, the ropes caught and carried us on a few gentle, giant swings of 200 metres over the clear waters of the Shotover River. We finally slowed to a stop about 100 metres below the jump platform and had a moment to enjoy the scenery, before the jumpmasters winched us back up to where it all began.
There, Natalie expressed how alive she felt and how happy and proud she was to have conquered her fears, exclaiming: “I am now prepared to take on anything life throws at me!” While her and I excitedly chatted about our extreme experience, my partner, Ricardo, prepared for his own. Standing at the edge of the platform, he was ready for his very, very, very scary solo jump, the Pin Drop.
For this jump, the pressure was on. The two ladies had already swung and Ricardo was responsible for leaping from the platform himself (no release mechanism is used here). He stood tall, hands clasped together behind his back, with the side of his left foot aligned with the edge of the platform; on his count, he jumped off sideways and dropped rapidly, disappearing like a needle in a haystack… er… a pin in a canyon.
Once back on top of the cliff, Ricardo and I, still high from our first canyon swings, could not refuse the invite for a second jump when the jumpmasters offered. This time, as I wanted to experience having to jump off myself, we opted for a very scary tandem jump, Forwards. For this jump, we were to face the canyon and leap forwards into it together. The jumpmasters made it very clear that we had to jump at the same time, so he was going to countdown from 3 for us, and we were to jump together on 1.
3… 2… … … where is 1? Well, the tricksters decided to have some fun with us. While I waited for the count of 1 which was never going to come, Ricardo, in anticipation of 1 coming, had already leaped from the platform, dragging me with him! The fear that something may have gone wrong made for an interesting yet exciting freefall – and one hilarious video!
Beyond the excitement of the nerve-wracking leap and the adrenaline-pumping freefall, the Shotover Canyon Swing offered unrivalled views of a spectacular setting. The scene was complete with high, steep cliffs of layered rock housing the clear blue rushing waters of the iconic Shotover River and unique rock formations below. The Shotover Canyon Swing is truly an experience of the best of Queenstown’s worlds, offering a high-energy activity amidst the area’s stunning scenery.
Further, we were impressed with how well organized and service-focused the company was. From the punctual return transfers, to the careful safety procedures, to the friendly team that took care of us, we were well catered to throughout the entire 2.5-hour experience. We also appreciated the extra options available, such as the options of additional jumps, videos and photos.
While the experience was unforgettable, we opted to take home the keepsakes on offer to help us later relive the adventure - very well produced DVDs of our jumps and whole digital albums of photos! As well, we took advantage of the very affordable option for an extra jump (only $39); while we only jumped twice, the jumpmasters encourage you to do as many as you wish – the record currently stands at 14 consecutive jumps! And, because the company never allows more than 9 jumpers in one group, you always enjoy a personal experience without feeling rushed.
For ten years, theShotover Canyon Swing has been enjoyed by people of all interests, thrill-seekers and not, by people as young as 10 and as old as 84, and has been appreciated in unique ways by each jumper. One couple swears their tandem jump saved their marriage; for Natalie, it was a leap into independence and character strength; for Ricardo and I, the swing was a highlight of our travels… and perhaps the door to many more extreme experiences. When in the adventure capital of the world, push yourself to new heights and take on the Shotover Canyon Swing!