New Zealand: adventure playground of the world


A glimpse at the adventures a course in outdoor leadership or snowsport instruction could take you on in Central Otago and Queenstown, New Zealand.

New Zealand is often referred to as the adventure playground of the world. And justifiably so. It is not just that our mountain-ranges are vast and snow topped, our lakes deep and clean, our rivers both mighty and meandering and our townships lively and welcoming. It is more that all of these features can be found within mere miles of each other; and that the people who inhabit this territory are bursting with adventurous spirit and the barely-suppressed glee that comes from having such a wonderland to show off to the world.

Cape Reinga is the most north-western tip of New Zealand, some four hours drive north of Auckland and accessed via a highway that doubles as a beach. According to Māori mythology, Cape Reinga is the place where the spirits of the dead depart the mainland and travel to the spiritual homeland of Haiwaiki. They do so by leaping off an 800-year old Pōhutukawa tree hovering on the edge of the wind-swept cliff. In consideration of this, one of the country’s most beloved tales, it is clear to see that for New Zealanders therefore, risk reaps reward. After all, New Zealand is a country of pioneers. From the first Māori who arrived to the land after an incomprehensible journey by waka (canoe) to European settlers who carved out societies and industry half a world away from their homelands, everything done and everywhere ventured has required an extraordinary commitment of body and spirit.

And so it remains. Except that, as travel has become easier, the commitment is now less about the journey and more about going ‘higher and faster’ upon arrival. In Central Otago and Queenstown, home of some of the world’s most glorious places to risk life and limb, the lifestyle is centred around such heady pursuits as skiing, snowboarding, rock-climbing, mountain-biking, bungy-jumping, white water rafting and jet-boating. If that leaves you blinking, wine-tours, cruising on the lakes and a spot of fishing are offerings that may be more to your taste.

Such a range of activities is dependent upon a special group of people prepared to take leadership roles when it comes to escorting the less experienced into the coal-face. For Holly Officer, tutor for Whenua Iti Outdoors, a normal day at the office includes kayaks, tramping-boots and climbing-ropes.