Along with rugby and sheep, synonymous with New Zealand is bungy jumping. That's because the activity was first made popular in this country. It is on the must-do list of many visitors to New Zealand.
What is Bungy Jumping?
Bungy (also spelt "Bungee") Jumping involves throwing yourself off a high structure - fortunately while attached to an elastic rope or cord. The cord is usually attached to the person's ankles, so that the effect is normally of jumping headfirst to the ground or water below.
The buzz from a bungy jump is created by the sensation of free-falling and the rebound when the cord reaches the limit of its stretch.
Most bungy jumps take place from a bridge over a river and are usually calculated in such a way that the jumper touches the water without actually being submerged (this becomes part of the thrill). However, there are also bungy jumps from the side of buildings (such as the Sky Tower in Auckland) and even from helicopters or balloons.
History of Bungy Jumping in New Zealand: How it All Began
Although jumping from a bridge from the end of the rope has probably been done for a long time, the first commercial bungy jumping center in the world was opened in New Zealand. Local adventurer and entrepreneur A.J. Hackett took his first jump from a bridge in Auckland in 1986. Subsequently he publicised the sport with jumps in several places around the world, including the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Hackett began operating the first commercial bungy jumps in 1988 from a suspension bridge over the Kawerau River near Queenstown. It remains one of the most popular bungy sites in New Zealand and attracts thousands of people a year to give it a go.
Commercial bungy jumping companies have now sprung up all over the world. There are also now several other places in New Zealand that offer bungy jumps.
Why is it Called "Bungy" Jumping?
"Bungy" is the Kiwi slang name for a rubber cord or elastic strap. It refers of course to the fact that the rope for bungy jumping is usually made from a thick rubber cord, strong enough to hold a person in a state of free fall. The name has stuck for use around the world.
Bungy Jump Statistics
New Zealand can't boast to having the highest bungy jumps in the world, but it does have some of the best scenery.
The highest commercial jump in New Zealand is 192 meters (630 feet) from Auckland's Sky Tower. Strictly speaking this isn't bungy jumping, though. Technically it's called Base Jumping as you are attached to a wire and 'lowered' (at high speed) to the ground.
The tallest actual bungy jump in New Zealand is the Queenstown Ledge Bungy, 400 (1312 feet) meters above Queenstown itself. The highest above a river is also near Queenstown; it's Nevis Highwire, 134 meters (440 feet) over the Nevis River.
Is Bungy Jumping Safe?
There have been literally millions of bungy jumps recorded in New Zealand, and many more millions worldwide. The safety record is extremely high and if you jump with a reputable operator (which all the commercial ones are in New Zealand) it is very unlikely that you will experience a problem.
However, if you have any medical condition that could be affected by the jump, it is extremely important to inform the operator before you consider jumping. In most cases it won't stop you from being able to do it.
Where to Bungy Jump in New Zealand
There are a number of places offering bungy jumping throughout the country. For a complete list see: