Helicopter Kayaking

My favorite part of my husband and my honeymoon trip to New Zealand was the helicopter kayaking. Well, that and the pie shops! New Zealand is a beautiful country full of dense wilderness. While there are certainly many kayaking runs that are roadside, there are many other rivers that are not. Many of these require long hike-ups, and others are better accessed by helicopter.


This trip was my first time ever taking a helicopter to reach a river. In fact, the only time I’d been in a helicopter prior to this trip, was during a ride along with a paramedic. On day 1 of our trip, we met a group of Australian paddlers, who were trying to find a crew for the Aurahura River. This crew helped us formulate river beta over the next few days and once flows were in, helped us secure a helicopter trip into the Aurahura.
We met the helicopter pilot on the morning of our put-in on a wide open field. He landed and started loading our gear. For this particular trip, we had 5 paddlers in our crew. He took the 3 heaviest paddlers up on the first round and then returned for the 2 lightest paddlers. As part of the second round, he also took all 5 kayaks in a net underneath the helicopter. It was impressive to watch the skilled helicopter pilot take-off and land with a net full of kayaks dangling below. As the only girl in the crew and the lightest paddler, I got to sit in the front seat of the helicopter with a wonderful view as we headed up the canyon towards our put-in. I’ve paddled in remote locations before, but it was very definitive being dropped off by a helicopter with my crew and having the pilot fly away, knowing that the only real option was to paddle downstream.


Although a daunting way to start the day, as the helicopter flew away, we geared up and started downstream. The Aurahura ended up being a beautiful river with fantastic scenery and fun whitewater. The very next day, we planned to do the Pearth, which would be our second heli trip. This time, the helicopter was smaller, and only took 2 paddlers and 2 kayaks at a time. Each kayak was secured to a side of the helicopter prior to take-off. Daniel and I took off first. Again, being the smaller paddler, I got the best view of the front seat as we flew up the canyon! It’s a spectacular view scouting the river while flying upstream, but we noticed that the rapids are significantly bigger than they appeared when you later see them at river level! The pilot dropped us off on a small beach at Scone Hut on the Pearth. The landing zone was very tiny due to overgrowth from a nearby tree. While waiting for the rest of our friends to join, Daniel helped the pilot out by trimming the tree to broaden the landing zone.


Our trip down the Perth was a 2 day run. One of the great parts of the helicopter service was they flew us and our kayaks to the put-in, and then flew our overnight gear and food to a hut further down stream where we planned to spend the night. This meant that the first day of whitewater, we didn’t have to have loaded kayaks with our overnight gear. This was great since the first day was by far the harder day of paddling. It also meant that we could pack more exciting food for dinner since it didn’t have to fit in our kayaks and we’d be cooking in a hut.
Overall, the helicopter trips were a fantastic experience. Definitely more expensive than hiking-in on foot, but to be able to get to places that would be very hard to reach otherwise and to be refreshed upon arrival, worth it! My favorite part was the scouting views of the river while flying up the canyon. I highly recommend a helicopter shuttle any time you get the opportunity, whether for honeymoon or otherwise!

~Diane Brasuell (Gaydos)

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