I thought that the Thrillseekers jetboat ride at the end of my rafting trip was good preparation for my Akaroa Jet ride in the harbour today. I knew they’d tamed it down for us, but I didn’t realise quite how much!
Once everyone turned up for the tour, which took a little while, we were pretty quickly out on the sparkling harbour. We only stopped to pick up spray jackets/life jackets and to have a quick safety briefing. No words were minced here; it was understood that if something happens and you need to evacuate, you go over the side, and if you feel ill, then you should be sick over the side, etc. The real briefing was about the 360 degree spins at the end of the tour. Being in the front, I would be subjected to the most Gs and therefore had to wear a seatbelt (no one else except the driver, Brett, did). He reckoned I’d be able to handle it though!
Then we were off on a spectacularly scenic and incredibly quick tour of Akaroa Harbour. We skidded across the waves with the roar of the twin V8 jets in our ears, drowning out all but the loudest squeals of delight. Occasionally we crossed a wake, lurching through the troughs and copping a refreshing spray in our faces in the process. The high hills of the volcanic crater that collapsed to form the harbour rose all around us.
In what seemed like a span of minutes, we were nearly at the harbour’s mouth. A few sharp left turns later, we were underneath Nikau Palm Gully, which Brett explained is the most southern grove of that sort of palm in the world.
Our next stop was definitely a highlight for me — the caves. In particular, Cathedral Cave. The top of this cave towered many hundreds of meters above our heads. There were many visible horizontal lines that crossed the entire rock face; these lines represented the lava flows from various different volcanic eruptions. Many seabirds had made use of these lines — which often actually jutted out from the area above them — and had made their nests within the rock face. Many of those birds stared down at us as we pulled in and marvelled.
Just to the left of Cathedral Cave were a number of smaller caves. We sat at the entrance staring into the black hole of one when suddenly Brett hit the gas and we were suddenly well inside the cave. We couldn’t stay too long because of the swell, but it was very cool and something that not a lot of other tours on the harbour would be small enough to be able to do. Plus, we got treated to just how loud jetboat engines can be when the sound of us powering out of the cave echoed all around us.
We visited various other spots around the harbour on the way back, including the salmon farms, the paua farm (where they harvest the shell and pearls that take up to two years to grow), Tikao Bay (where there was an ammunition factory in WWII), and Lushington Bay (where tradies used to gather and get drunk, hence the name). In between stops, we got to admire the stunning beauty of the harbour and of course as we jerkily navigated the reasonably calm seas.
Once we left Lushington Bay, it was time for our spins. Brett started us out with a “Nanna” spin, slowing down before he did the proper turn. Many of the passengers squealed out in delight (myself included). The turns became progressively more intense as we got closer to Akaroa. The boat seemed to go from high speed to nothing in a split second and we were thrown all over the seats, first one way, then another. I felt my back crack on a number of occasions and decided I should mention this to my physio as a possible treatment, rather than just standard back manipulation. While the spins were incredibly fun, I’m very glad I had a seatbelt!
All in all, the Akaroa Jet Adventure is well worth taking, especially if you’re not planning on getting out into the harbour otherwise. The scenery is outstanding — I won’t say second to none because it seems like that could describe most of New Zealand — and there are quite a few interesting places to visit. Plus, there’s nothing quite as exhilarating as being out on a boat going full speed ahead!
Akaroa Jet Adventure is located at 61B Beach Road in Akaroa. Two tours depart daily when numbers permit.
I’m sorry about the quality of photos in this post. Apparently my waterproof camera leaked while rafting and the inside of the lens decided to fog up at a rather inopportune moment today.