It was a few months prior to roaming around New Zealand when I had received a quick message from friends who were meeting us there to travel around the South Island. They were letting me know their intentions to do the famous Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump. Naturally, they thought we may want to join them.
We knew that bungy jumping was a must-do adventure activity in New Zealand. And the Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump is actually the first permanent commercial bungy jump in the world. The Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump was created back in 1986 by Mr. AJ Hackett himself.
So Queenstown, New Zealand, is ground zero for where this extreme sport all began. If we were going to bungy jump anywhere in the world, what better place to do it than where it all started?
But my wife, Heather, and I had already discussed whether or not we were going to bungy jump while in NZ. We both wholeheartedly decided that this was something we were unquestionably NOT going to do.
We are thrill seekers at heart. We’ve done cage dives with great white sharks, gone parasailing over volcanos, and have even hung off the edge of the largest waterfall in the world at Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls.
Despite pursuing these crazy feats, the whole idea of bungy jumping seemed absolutely terrifying to us. There’s just something about throwing yourself from high off a bridge that doesn’t really click in my head. There was little desire from either of us to take the leap off of the Kawarau Bridge, or any other place in the world for that matter.
Yet somehow, I found myself on the edge of that bridge on the outskirts of Queenstown. And my bungy jump didn’t go particularly well. This blog recounts how this all happened, provides an AJ Hackett Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump review, and shows how my jump went wrong.
The Message That Started It All
Then I got the message.
Our friends suggested that their timeslot might sell out soon and that we’d need to book now if we wanted to do it with them. The pressure was on to book it and a number of factors began to sway my once firm stance of not bungy jumping.
This Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump was a once in a lifetime experience.
We would finally have friends joining us for a few days of our journey and it would be awesome to do this with them.
They were doing the bungy jump on Saint Patrick’s Day, so thoughts of triumphant drinks after the jump began to sound like a great way to spend the day in New Zealand.
And it was on the famous Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump, the original!
With all of these different points swirling around in my head, fear of missing out began to set in more so than fear of jumping off a bridge.
It was now time to pull the trigger or risk not joining them on what could potentially be an epic experience.
My plan was to book it to secure the slot, just in case. Then I would cancel and get refunded when I decide not to go forward with it. So I quickly began to scour through the legal text of the booking site Viator, to see if they had a cancelation policy. There it was. There are no cancelation fees with their bookings if made at least 7 days prior to the tour date. That was good enough for me! My mindset was to book the Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump now, have another month or two to decide if I actually wanted to go through with it, then cancel when I come to my senses.
This would give me time to thoroughly research the AJ Hackett Kawarau Bridge safety record, figure out if there’s been any deaths or accidents, and uncover a number of other bungy jumping stats, which would ultimately help me to decide to cancel.
Heather still wisely said “hell no!” But I went ahead booked myself that 2:00 pm slot to bungy jump off New Zealand’s famed Kawarau Bridge. I was already terrified at this moment. By the time I hit the submit button on the payment page, my palms were dripping in sweat onto the keyboard, just thinking about what the jump would be like.
Did I just succumb to the ultimate proverbial peer pressure? “If your friends all jump off a bridge, would you jump too?”
Yup, I think I just did.
The Day of the Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump, Queenstown
So while we were sleep deprived and crossing the International Dateline on a series of flights to New Zealand, that seven-day cancelation period came and went. At some point, once our flight had landed, I realized I had missed the 7-day window to cancel the bungy jump.
I came to the harsh realization that I would be very reluctantly doing the Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump after all. Shit!
The jump day had come. It was Saint Patrick’s Day in Queenstown and I was terrified. Our friends Eric and Kristen would be joining me for the insanity while Heather would join us at the jump site to watch the madness unfold. Eric was excited for what was to come, while Kristen was more so in my camp. It was a camp of pure terror.
From Queenstown, you take a bus ride about 30 minutes to the Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump site. While rock music blared through the speakers trying to get us pumped as we drove through the always-scenic New Zealand countryside, none of us spoke a word. We were frozen with fear.
Then we got to the Kawarau Bridge. It was all smiles and excitement from the AJ Hackett staff as we got weighed-in, suited-up and signed our lives away with some last minute paperwork.
We watched a few other bungy jumpers go first. Some people hesitated for minutes before finally taking the plunge. Others chickened-out entirely.
Actually, a lot of people chickened-out. We watched person after person spend several minutes on the ledge. Then they ultimately walked off the Kawarau Bridge rather than jumping.
This series of events repeated itself many times as I nervously watched on. It seemed like a perfectly good waste of $200 NZD to me.
If there was anything to help motivate me to make this terrifying jump, it’s that you don’t get your money back if you don’t go through with it. So those people who chickened out just paid $200 NZD to walk onto a bridge.
We are very thrifty when it comes to travel (a constant theme of this blog), so I was going to be damn sure that I would not lose out on the $200 NZD that I paid to do this jump. Now fear of wasting $200 was beginning to overcome fear of jumping from the Kawarau Bridge. It was great motivation.
Taking the Plunge: The Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump
Walking out onto Kawarau Bridge felt like walking down death row. Many spectators watched on and giggled in amusement. This was a spectacle they would watch but would never do themselves. Their laughs felt cruel and unfair.
I gladly let my daring friends do the jump first. I was happy to have the opportunity to not only more closely scrutinize safety procedures, but it also left me with a few extra moments to contemplate my life.
They would do a tandem jump off of the Kawarau Bridge. The AJ Hackett crew on the bridge edge eased them into their harnesses. It all happened so quickly.
And they were not going to back down like so many had done before them. “Three, two, one, BUNGY!”
They dove down into the gorge with ease and showed picture-perfect form. They looked like old pros. Even the once-visibly-frightened Kristen suddenly showed no signs of fear. She lept gracefully off the bridge with her partner-in-crime like two synchronized swimmers.
As they say in New Zealand, “Good on them!”
Great. Now it was my turn to make the 43-meter bungy jump from the Kawarau Bridge.
I reluctantly got into my bungy harness questioning whether or not I’d actually have the willpower to go through with this. I asked the staff if they could just push me off. I’d honestly prefer that.
But they explained that I must do this on my own. This wasn’t off to a good start.
But speaking of the AJ Hackett crew, they were great. Full of enthusiasm, they got me talking about where I’m from, my former job, and other topics that had absolutely nothing to do with the forthcoming challenge: leaping off a 141-foot high bridge. Although physically shaking while walking onto the Kawarau Bridge, the AJ Hackett crew really did help bring me to ease.
Then as if right on cue, it suddenly began to rain.
Tensions shot right back up. Kawarau Bridge bungy jumps occur rain or shine. So now to add insult to injury I’d be bungy jumping during a rainstorm. Maybe this was a sign though. The shower provided some last-minute doubts about whether or not to actually go through with it.
After safety checks took place, I knew what was coming next. It was time to mosey on out to the very edge of the Kawarau Bridge and dive into the canyon.
With the tips of my shoes now as far as they could go, I tried not to look down. But that was inevitable. The height of this otherwise beautiful jagged canyon, was now really set in.
The murky blue Kawarau River down below seemed miles away. I usually don’t have much of a fear of heights. But vertigo had set-in full force high up on the bridge. I wanted to vomit.
I knew if I was going to go through with this, I’d need to make the dive without hesitation or else I probably would end up being like many others who do the walk of shame off of the Kawarau Bridge.
It was time to rip off the band-aid. Let’s do this!
With cameras now rolling to capture my impending doom, I was instructed to wave at the spectators. Then I was to wave down to Kristen to Eric, who instead got a certain middle finger since I hold them responsible for swaying me into this mess. (Thanks guys!)
Finally, it was time to bungy jump off the Kawarau Bridge. I was scared to death! so frozen with fear that I hadn’t really put much thought into how to jump. Nor did I pay much attention to others’ form.
I quickly and nervously asked one of the crew members how to jump off the bridge? He told me that it was best to just fall straight down like a tree after being chopped. Well, that sounds easy enough.
With the rain now picking up, I had to jump immediately. The pressure was on. Despite my extreme anxiety and trepidation that had now overcome me, I was determined to go through with the bungy jump.
I asked the crew one final time if I was all safe and secure into the bungy harness. He joked back that everything was “safe enough.”
So I leaned over the edge of the Kawarau Bridge. I began falling down like a chopped tree, exactly as they had instructed.
There was one big problem:
Instinct took over.
I started off on the ledge falling like a tree. But doing so felt so completely unnatural.
As I began to leave the platform, instead of taking an elegant swan dive like my friends, I attempted to get upright and recapture my balance with my arms, all while screaming from absolute terror.
I don’t even recall the moments that immediately followed departing the platform, so I was thankful to have a video of the Kawarau Bridge Bungy jump to fill this gap in my memory.
Here’s what went down:
Down I went. Yet during the moment when the bungy cord caught to yank be back up again, I was actually still facing upright. Not good.
I could feel my back crack a bit as the bungy cord then yanked me back up in the air. Ouch!
Upon springing back up into the air, the fear I was overwhelmed with had suddenly been replaced with adrenaline, excitement, and euphoria. It was awesome! I bounced in the air for a bit, hanging from the sturdy Kawarau Bridge.
Yet as soon as I actually felt comfortable with this bungy experience, it seemed as if it came to an abrupt end.
A small boat motored up the river to unhook me.
With my shirt now nearly coming off over my head, I was so disoriented I barely knew which way was up.
Delivered safely back to terra firma, my friends were awaiting with victory high-fives and smiles of excitement all over their faces.
My back was hurting slightly from my poor jumping posture. But pure excitement overcame any physical pain that I was feeling. A few beer later that evening would further ease the pain just fine. Thankfully no major injuries were sustained during my little Kawarau Bridge Bungy accident of not diving properly head-first.
We did it.
It was all over.
What a rush!
Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump Review: Would I Do It Again?
After this crazy bungy jump, there have been two questions I’ve been asked. So before closing out this review, I’ll give you my honest answers from my personal opinion.
Am I glad I did it? Yes. The jump was absolutely terrifying and even hurt a bit due to my poor form. But I enjoy testing my limits and pushing myself to the edge (literally, in this case). The Kawarau Bridge bungy jump did this for me and I’m glad I could overcome my fears to make the leap. It gave not only a sense of accomplishment but an incredible sensation of defying death that can only be explained by making the jump.
For anyone curious about bungy jumping, I’d recommend it and I give the Kawarau Bridge bungy jump a solidly good review.
Would I do it again? Nope! I have absolutely no desire to torment myself in this capacity ever again. I’m very glad I was able to overcome my fears with this ultimate challenge. It was thrilling to be able to tick this experience off my bucket list. Yet I have no yearning to ever repeat this feat anywhere else in the world. …well, at least until my friends talk me into jumping off the next bridge! 😉
If You Go On The AJ Hackett Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump:
Cost & Booking: The full price to do the Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump is $205 NZD (as of 2018-2019 season). We booked it on Viator.com since it has a great cancelation policy (now 4-days), they have a low price guarantee policy ensuring they have the cheapest rate available, and occasionally they even run special discounts to save even more. Check current prices now and latest reviews now.
Spectator Passes Are Available for Free: If anyone wants to come along to watch you bungy jump from the Kawarau Bridge, then be sure to get them a spectator pass with transportation. A spectator pass is included in the price too, but you must give proper notice to insure.
Be Sure To Check-In: Be sure to check-in with AJ Hackett Bungy in Queenstown the day before your jump. If you’re not there to check-in, you run the risk of losing your slot and your payment. So don’t forget! That’s also when you can request a spectator pass if needed.
Eat a Light Meal: It’s a good idea to eat a light meal beforehand. Eat enough so you don’t feel faint once you arrive on the bridge. But don’t eat too much that you feel queasy. Fergburger in Queenstown has legendary burgers. The Freg Deluxe lived up to its delicious reputation, but this is not a big grease meal you want to indulge in before a the Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump.
AJ Hackett Kawarau Bridge Safety Record: There have been no Kawarau Bridge Bungy deaths with over a million jumps. They also receive a top ‘S’ mark for quality and safety. AJ Hackett has top-notch safety record and procedures. You can read up about it in more detail on their site here.
Photo and video: AJ Hackett takes some great video and photos during the jump. It’s an extra cost that you can purchase after the jump. Spectators are welcomed to stand nearby and also take pictures or video, free of charge with their own devices. You may further be able to bring a secured GoPro or handheld action cam on the jump with you, at the discretion of the crew. (The video we posted here is composed mostly of the AJ Hackett-shot video, except for the short segment with the first-person perspective which was with a GoPro I jumped with.)
Liquid Courage: If you also find yourself scared to death on the Kawarau Bridge bungy jump, you may want to consider some liquid courage. There is actually a bar onsite at the Kawarau Bridge. The bar is appropriately named “Liquid Courage.” Just don’t overdo it. You don’t want to be drunk while bungy jumping. But a drink or two to take the edge off may not be a horrible idea for anyone who may be as terrified as I was.
Free T-shirt: You get a free t-shirt after your jump. Yay! But that is only for those who successfully make the jump.
Dive, Don’t Jump: Take the crews’ advice and go head-first when jumping off the Kawarau Bridge.
Have Fun With It: This is supposed to be a fun and thrilling experience, so remember that every step of the way onto the Kawarau Bridge. Try as best as possible to be at ease and just have a good time with this crazy experience!
Ready to take the leap by doing the Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump? Bookmark this post for later or pin this to your travel Pinterest boards for future reference!