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Dart River Safari and Funyaks, in Glenorchy, New Zealand:

Jet Boat Safaris up the Dart River in the Mt Aspiring National Park that touches the soul:

Dart River Jet boatDart River Jet Safaris have been operating jet boats since 1988. You are taken by minibus from Queenstown to the remote town of Glenorchy. (about 45 minutes) Once kitted out with all the appropriate river equipment, you experience the action thrills of one of the world's most scenic untouched wilderness jet-boat rides through shallow braided channels, to the upper reaches of the Dart River.

Your journey takes you around 37km up the Dart River Valley from near the mouth of the Rees River into the corridors of the Mount Aspiring National Park, (world heritage area) experiencing a short native bush walk in Paradise on the way and see locations of filming spots for Middle Earth featured in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

Jet boat spinParadise was actually named after the Paradise Duck – a local feathered inhabitant. For those who have seen the Lord of the Rings movies, Paradise was used for scenes in Lothlorien, Isengard, Fangorn and Amon Hen.

Well, we all knew our scenery was spectacular, even before the first film came out, but this one clinches it. Spectacular shots of Isengard nestled in the valley of Nan Curunir is where Dart River Safaris jet boat every day here in the South Island of New Zealand.

The computer wizardry of Weta Studios superimposed Isengard and the tower of Orthanc right on top of the Dart River. And if that's not enough, the opening scene which has the camera sweeping alongside dramatic mountains, is sweeping alongside Mount Earnslaw, right before it dives inside to let us know of Gandalf's fight with the Balrog in The Lord of the Rings . .

Dart FunyaksBut the best is still to come: Leave the comfort of your Dart River jet boat and be entranced by bird songs and cascading waterfalls as you serenely float down the Dart River. The comfortable and stable inflatable canoes (Canadian Style) "Funyaks" as they are called are the ideal means for your soft leisurely adventure. Funyaks near the BeansburnThe Rockburn chasm, (image on right) is a narrow gorge with deep crystal clear waters may well be the highlight of your day's exploring. This is where you stop for a wonderful locally made lunch in spectacular natural surroundings.

Destination Queenstown logo Dart River in Winter River Safaris bus nestled in Isengard Children in a Funyak


Over 100 million years ago New Zealand and Chile's forests were joined together forming part of the largest southern continent, Gondwanaland, before the earth's crust started to brake up and drift apart. As this great land mass shaped smaller continents, now known as Africa, India, South America, Antarctic and Australia, primitive New Zealand moved away into the South Pacific Ocean, becoming one of the Earth's most isolated islands, and containing some of the best remaining fragments of the primeval Gondwanaland.

Dart River Jet BoatToday the Dart River Valley's wild mountains, glaciers, waterfalls and unbroken forest make up one of the greatest wilderness areas in the Southern Hemisphere, with its ancient Tawahi (beech) trees being distant cousins of those found in Chile, all retaining many similarities to their ancestors. 400 years ago, early Maori used the black sap from these trees to dye fibres like flax and cabbage tree leaves, which were then weaved into clothing and shoes. Later the bark was used by early pioneers for tanning leather, then they built sawmills near Kinloch to utilize this hard wood to construct houses, wharves, bridges and early steam ships.

Funyak in the Rockburn Chasm
Funyak in the Rockburn Chasm.

In 1990 Mt Aspiring National Park, which includes the Dart Valley, was granted World Heritage status becoming part of Te Wahi Pounamu (The Place of Greenstone) - World Heritage Area. Recognising this land for its outstanding natural beauty and values, protecting its assets for future generation.