"Helicopter to the Top of a Glacier" Franz Josef Glacier Tip by AKtravelers
Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand: 23 reviews and 29 photos
Once it became clear that we weren't going to make it to Queenstown or even the eastern side of Mount Cook, we decided that we had to do our best to see New Zealand's Southern Alps from the west coast. And the best way to do that was to take a helicopter ride above Franz Josef Glacier.
We had a coupon for a $15 discount off a flight from Helicopter Lines, so we went to their desk first (there are many helicopter choices at Franz Josef, and even though $15 isn't a lot it was the only way we had of picking one). When we asked about our options, we found out that they had a sunset ride leaving at 7 p.m. and there were several advantages to the sunset trip despite its extra cost: we would be the only flight from any company at the time and the pilot lands on the glacier and turns off the helicpter.
These advantages turned out to be enormous. Because the daytime skies are usually full of flying metal, most helicopter and plane tours have to strictly adhere to routes and schedules -- being the only airborne item when we were flying, our pilot took us over ranges and glaciers he hadn't seen in years (this was only the company's sixth evening flying). And, even though our trip was scheduled for 40 minutes we spent over an hour in the air or on the glacier. Furthermore, when the pilot stopped the helo's engines, we walked out onto a magically quiet glacier. Our windless evening presented us with a supernatural calm thatwe never experience in real life -- it was so noiseless that we could hear the bubbles in other people's chanpagne glasses.
Oh yeah, on this trip you get to share a bottle of champagne (not with the pilot!) and watch as the western sky turns the color of dusk. Because the sun didn't actually set until 8:45 we really didn't get a sunset tour, but that's okay because we got a great slalom ride down the front of Franz Josef Glacier.
If you want to see more pictures, I have posted a travelogue of the helicopter trip. Feel free to click there as they are wonderful!
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