Just over 50 years ago enterprising pioneers Harold and Alan Melhop launched the Shotover Jet Service laying the foundations for adventure tourism in New Zealand.
Today the Shotover Jet trip is billed as “the world’s most exciting jet boat ride” and the Big Reds are a flagship of Queenstown’s tourism industry having carried more than three million passengers through the spectacular Shotover Canyons since the first adventurous excursion in 1965. Now owned by Ngai Tahu Tourism Shotover Jet is still the only company permitted to operate in the Canyons despite challenges over the years from other operators. Shotover Jet business manager Wayne Paton says the exclusive use has been granted by the local authority in the interests of safety which is an all-important focus for the company.
“The safety of our passengers, combined with their comfort, is paramount and we are continually monitoring our performance so we can provide visitors with the best possible experience in our fleet of twin engine boats. By being the only operator in the Canyons we can be confident that all our safety rules are adhered to and maintained. In many cases our procedures actually exceed industry regulations.” The company operates the adrenalin-filled Shotover ride all-year-round with winter providing a whole new experience in the clear, crisp conditions. “While it can be chilly out there our heated handrails in the boats are a bonus for passengers. People need to dress warmly in coats, hats and gloves and we supply lifejackets and spray jackets which provide extra warmth,” says Wayne. “Most people love riding this time of the year when the Shotover River has a backdrop of snow capped mountains – it’s certainly a stunning landscape.”