Waiatoto River Safaris is a jet boat trip with a difference. After being down in Invercargill for the weekend to help celebrate my Mum’s 7oth birthday we took an extra day and the opportunity to check out the Waiatoto River Safari excursion.
Operating from the tiny settlement of Hannah’s Clearing south of Haast we head to the office at the Hannah’s Clearing Homestead to meet with Ruth and Wayne, the owners of the activity and join the rest of the clients heading out on the afternoon excursion.
Our trip is going to take us up the Waiatoto River deep into the valley towards the Southern Alps and specifically the Haast Ranges. The River valley is approximately 50 kms long and is a glacial formed valley. It is now fed by several smaller rivers and glaciers surrounding Mount Aspiring.
Stephen and I are quite excited – after a couple of days of long drives it is going to be nice to relax in the boat and enjoy the scenery. Been awhile since either of us have done a jet boat trip and this one is all about the natural surroundings.
After a quick safety brief by Wayne we head off up the river to our first stop in a little creek bed. Here Wayne gives us some background information on the area and regarding the Tokoeka (Haast) Kiwi. The Waiatoto River is basically the border for the Kiwi Sanctuary and covers some 11000 hectares. Quite some country to cover for the workers and volunteers who work to help ensure the continued survival of these National birds.
As Wayne is talking we spot some DOC workers coming through the bush and they pass the swing-bridge right where we are parked up. Very exciting as they have a rescued newly hatched chick with them, taking it to the Franz Josef nursery where it will be looked after before being released back into the wild. http://www.kiwisforkiwi.org/what-we-do/who-are-kiwis-for-kiwi/kiwi-sanctuaries/haast/ (in case you are interested more in this project).
Off we go again making tracks up the river, up the valley and into the mountains. We have a misty day but it is perfect for this adventure. The surrounding vegetation is constantly changing as we go deeper up the valley – from scrub like vegetation to native forest and huge rimu and Kahikatea trees.
Ruth our driver for today stops beside a creek bed flowing into the river. The water in the creek is crystal clear.
Onwards again and there is much debris in the river with many partially submerged trees and logs. My first thought when I see them is how the…… but Ruth does an amazing job manoeuvering the jet boat up the river and around the debris.
One more stop on the banks of the river and Wayne gives us some information regarding Pounamu. We’re lucky enough to have BeanSprout – a local identity who lives solely off the land, traveling with us on this trip and he adds some local flavour to the trip and gives us an insight into the history of greenstone in the area.
Ruth and Wayne swap positions with Wayne now driving as we head into the river gorge with tight turns, jaggered rocks and raging water and rapids. A final little scare as Wayne heads to a massive rapid complete with shark fin like rock and I honestly admit I thought to myself no way Holy S@!$. The boat stops suddenly on the edge of the raging rapid and Wayne turns round laughing – “just kidding”. The look of relief on my face must have been priceless but the lady beside says “darn I was looking forward to it”! Crazy lady!!!
Wayne backs the boat up and beaches on the sandy bank of the river where we all climb out for a short bush walk. Stopping along the way and telling us about the different flora and fauna and again having the bonus of the knowledge of BeanSprout and his wife Catherine to fill in any other questions we might have.
Time to head back to the boat for the return trip down the river. Stephen is keen to get some photos of the boat in the river and with the other guests happy to oblige for some impromptu photo shoots, Wayne does a quick up and back to the “shark fin” rapid again, throwing in a couple of whirlwind Hamilton jet boat turns for good measure putting a smile on all of our faces – if not slightly wet smiles for us in the back……..
With Stephen back aboard we make tracks down the rocky gorge before Ruth takes over the driving again darting and weaving her way back through the logs towards the sea and the mouth of the Waiatoto River.
It is quite the contrast out here compared to heading up the river valley but every bit as beautiful and nice to get a feel for the diversity of the landscape. oh our landscape – how lucky are we!
The open river mouth with the whitebait stands standing proud on the banks of the river leading to the expanse of the Tasman Sea.
One final stop up into a serene creek and the engine to the boat is turned off so we can just listen to the sound of nature at her best, the wind in the leaves of the trees, the bird song – it is so peaceful.
Time to head back to the boat ramp for the end of our journey but not before one final spin to satisfy the adrenaline junkies amongst us.
Waiatoto River Safaris – a great afternoon out on the river. Just enough fun and excitement, plenty of great scenery, some wonderful information regarding the region and the history – a jet boat trip with a difference, a jet boat trip for nature lovers. Thanks heaps Ruth and Wayne we loved our experience.
Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth. West Coast of the Southern Alps named by Lonely Planet Best in Travel 2014 as one of the top 10 regions to visit in the world – we know why!