There’s so many exciting things to do when visiting New Zealand. All over New Zealand helicopter rides are offered to tourists to view the vast landscape and step on areas difficult to reach by foot. We chose to do a heli-hike, a helicopter ride and a hike, with Franz Josef Glacier Guides. There are 3 glaciers on the south island of New Zealand that helicopter tours offer to do the heli-hike on: Fox Glacier, Tasman Glacier, and Franz Josef Glacier. We chose to do Franz Josef because entrance to the hot pools at Fran Josef was also included with the price of the heli-hike!
We booked our hike in advance online. From doing research, I learned that almost 30% of the heli-hikes get cancelled because of fast changing weather surrounding the glacier. If the ride was cancelled you could either get your money back or choose to do the valley walk to the glacier with a partial refund. When arriving, we were lucky it wasn’t cancelled. It was a bright sunny day! They outfitted us with jackets, waterproof pants, boots, a pack with our crampons, hats and gloves. Sunscreen was available and recommended to use in the changing room.
Once we were all ready, we were lined up by weight to ride in the helicopter. I guess I was one of the lighter passengers because I got to sit in the front seat! I was so excited because it was my first time on a helicopter. The ride to the glacier was smooth and short but the views were beautiful. The closer you get, you can see all the tiny people walking on the glacier.
Once we got off the helicopter, we quickly put on our crampons under our boots. These made it easy to walk around on the slippery ice. For those that didn’t have steady footing, our guide made sure to help us. We followed him over the ice and down into crevasses as he axed a path for us to follow. We were also able to drink fresh glacier water!
It was amazing and a little scary to be on the ice. You could hear the water moving inside the glacier and every once in a while you could see and hear rocks and ice falling in the distance. The glaciers are quickly retreating. Only a few years ago it was possible to hike up to the glacier, but because of the changes of the glacier it is not safe to do that anymore and now it is only possible to reach the glacier by helicopter. But, it was an unforgettable experience to be able to set foot on one of nature’s wonders that could possibly disappear due to climate change.
Almost 3 hours after we started (it went by fast), we loaded up into the helicopter again and headed back to the town. We changed into our swimsuits and got into the hot pools. There are 4 hot pools with all different temperatures depending on how hot you like the water. It was a great way for us to meet other people, but if you’re looking for something more private, you also have the option to pay extra for a private hot pool. Either way, soaking in the hot water was so relaxing and highly recommended if you have the time after your hike!