When travelling on the Kiwi Experience bus in New Zealand, you’re offered sooo many exciting excursions, it’s hard to choose which ones to go for and, which ones to give a miss in order not to bankrupt yourself.
From kayaking around the crystal clear waters of Cathedral Cove in the Coromandel to trekking the extraordinary ice glacier in Franz Josef, it’s a hard job not handing over all of your savings and doing every single one.
If you’re on a budget and have to be careful with how much you’re spending, here are my must do activities whilst travelling on the Kiwi Experience bus.
Note: being on a budget myself, I was not able to do all of the activities on offer and am therefore, unable to comment on these.
Here is a list of all of the activities I did book onto through the Kiwi Experience Bus – Cape Reinga Day Trip, Cream Boat Trip, Waitimo Glow Cave ‘Granny Walk’, Tamaki Maori Village, Tongariro Alpine Crossing, Horse Riding in River Valley, Franz Josef Glacier, Canyon Swing, Deep South and Whale Watching.
Cream Boat Trip, Bay of Islands ($116)
A boat trip around the Bay of Islands is a must whilst staying in Paihia.
Offering crystal clear emerald water, wildlife second to none (#orcas) and vibrant green sprouts of trees and bush on every island you pass, it is hard to believe that you’re not travelling around an exotic Indonesian island.
Kiwi Experience offer a number of boat trips exploring the Bay of Islands all of which vary in price. Some focus primarily on sighting and swimming with dolphins whereas, others focus more on the islands themselves.
The full day Cream Boat Trip was described as offering a bit of both, which is why I chose to book onto this one (even though it was one of the pricier options).
Lasting 7 hours and exploring a number of the islands with a detailed commentary as well as, giving you the opportunity to see/swim with dolphins (for a bargain $15 on top of the $116) and the chance to swim in the tropical shallow waters of one of the islands, you really do get a bit of everything out of this boat trip.
Ladies, be warned, if you decide to go in the boom net there is a 90% chance you’ll lose your bikini. I learnt the hard way…
Tamaki Maori Village Overnight Stay, Rotorua ($88/170ish)
Tamaki Maori Village is a great opportunity to learn about New Zealand’s epic culture as well as, see an example Maori village.
The Kiwi Experience offer two options for visiting the village – either an evening of entertainment and an indulgent hangi (a Maori feast) or, the entertainment and food plus, an overnight stay in a luxury Maori hut as well as, a night of relaxation in an authentic (hmm) hot tub.
I chose the overnight stay and was chuffed with my decision. We were able to spend a lot more time chatting with our hosts, which gave us the opportunity to ask any questions we had about their lifestyle and culture.
I felt as though only doing the evening entertainment may have felt a bit rushed for the cost ($88).
Tongariro Alpine Crossing, Taupo ($65)
Up there with my favourite activity of them all, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is challenging to say the least but one, which comes with incredible rewards.
The remains of extensive volcanic eruptions, the 8 hour (19.4km) trek takes you through terrain resembling that of Mars, up the aptly named killer ‘devil’s staircase’, past three extraordinary emerald lakes and via or up (depending on how brave you are feeling) the iconic Mount Doom.
It’s not a trek for the faint hearted however, it is definitely worth the blood, sweat and tears for the outstanding, unique views you encounter.
Horsemanship, River Valley ($149)
I booked onto the Horsemanship at River Valley excursion rather spontaneously.
I was very tempted when our bus driver was describing it on the bus however, I stayed strong in an attempt to save some pennies. However, as soon as we pulled up into the mountain drenched area of River Valley I knew I had to go on a hack there no matter what the price.
River Valley offered secluded scenery like no other. Its steep rolling hills were so picture perfect they looked like a mirage, the beautiful butterflies, which fluttered into the air as we trekked through sprouts of foliage were mesmerizing and the exciting bouts of freely trotting and cantering through such beauty was unforgettable.
The most stand out factor of this ride however, was that it was a form of horse riding I’d never tried before. Horsemanship encourages you to create a bond with your horse and to use this bond to direct and control your horse (they don’t use bits).
River Valley blew me away and I’m so so happy I decided to go on this excursion. From what I heard about the other horse riding activities offered elsewhere in New Zealand, River Valley was the best option by miles.
Franz Josef Glacier, Franz Josef ($319)
A spectacular phenomenon, Franz Josef Glacier is a cascading glacier situated in the Westland Tai Poutini National Park.
This activity was the most expensive I booked onto however, this price was well justified as it included both a guided tour of the glacier and a helicopter ride up to it.
Stomping through a maze of icy alcoves, slipping up skillfully hand crafted staircases and weaving under crisp ice blocks, you’re never going to be able to experience something quite like walking the Franz Josef glacier.
Canyon Swing, Queenstown ($205)
When in Queenstown one must jump off something…
Be it a ledge, a plane or a bridge, Queenstown is the adrenalin capital of the world and therefore, it would be rude not to jump into nothingness at some point whilst visiting this outrageous city.
As I’d done a bungee jump before, I decided to do a canyon swing. Giving you the choice to hurl yourself off of a ledge forwards, backwards, sideways or even on a tricycle, the options are endless.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t cacking myself before I jumped, but once I had… WOWEEE. Even if you’re not usually one to ‘jump’ on the adrenaline band wagon, Queenstown is the place to challenge yourself and do it.