As well as cultural attractions and activities, Rotorua is a hot spot for adventurous -if not downright wacky -entertainment. From having a ball in a Zorb to flying with Freefall Xtreme there are any number of ways to indulge in extreme sports. The bulk of these activities can be found at the Agrodome in Ngongotaha, a small lakeside settlement six kilometres from the city centre.
The Zorb is a simple concept: a big, fat, clear plastic ball into which you climb before being rolled down a hill. You’re protected from serious harm by an air cushion between you and the ground, but if this is too tame you can always add another person, or throw in a bucket of water!
Then there’s Freefall Extreme: kitted up in a flying suit, goggles and gloves, you wait spread-eagled belly-down on a black net twenty metres above a 900 hp twin turbo V12 diesel powered DC3 aircraft propeller ready for take-off. When the engine revs a blast of air travelling at over 150 kph hits your body and it’s like being blown to pieces by a giant hairdryer - without the heat. Your hair flaps, skin stretches tautly, ears pin themselves back in the whipping wind and suddenly you begin to levitate, rising slowly like a helicopter, hovering higher and higher until you’re two metres above the net and held aloft by the rushing jet stream. It’s a sensationally exhilarating experience but staying airborne is a lot harder than it looks. It takes a lot of practice before you can swoop and soar like a pro.
Instructors recommend pushing out your chest and using your arms like rudders but if all else fails a soft 12-metre wide giant air cushion surrounding the netting makes for a soft landing. But it should come with a warning: defying gravity like this is highly addictive!
Agroventures provides a wide range of other adrenaline-pumping activities to choose from: you can bungy jump from a 43-metre tower over the Ngongotaha River; take a 40-metre high swing with friends on the giant Swoop reaching speeds of up to 130 kph and a G-force factor of three; or take a thrilling jetsprint ride on the Hydrojet, a 450 hp jet propelled raceboat that gets you up to 100 kph in 4.5 seconds on a water course laid out like a race track. It’s an exhilarating ride that is sure to leave you feeling weak at the knees.
If your adrenal gland still begs for more, head to Off-Road NZ in Mamaku, just north of Rotorua. Here you can put your four wheel driving skills to the test on their bush safari which travels along steep, rough tracks, through muddy waterholes and tunnels, and across precariously positioned bridges to the luge, a steep seven metre slope requiring a controlled skid into knee deep water. There’s also a sprint car track or you can take a spin in the monster 4x4.
For those with more mainstream tastes you can try any number of other popular outdoor activities including mountain biking, white water rafting and kayaking.
At the Whakarewarewa Forest, there’s an extensive network of mountain biking trails to suit all levels of ability. Planet Bike provides bike and equipment hire, instruction for beginners through to advanced and a variety of all-inclusive mountain biking tours through the forest. For a novice the two hour first-timers special is a good deal. You can learn the basics such as braking and gear changing, downhill and uphill positioning and how to ride through mud, sand and gravel.
Whitewater rafting action can be found at Lake Rotoiti, where the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world waits to be conquered. Standing seven metres high and rated grade five (grade six is not commercially raftable in New Zealand), it’s the ultimate adrenaline rush.
You can also tandem kayak over the same falls with Kenny Mutton - NZ’s very own World Freestyle Bronze Medallist - who has kayaked the Kaituna River “on and off for ten years.” Ken offers expert tuition for beginners through to advanced, and after a three hour lesson he says most people have the skills to take on the waterfall all by themselves!