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Dart River Jet Safaris celebrates 25 years of fun and innovation

September 6, 2013 Tour Operator No Comments Email Email

Dart River Jet Safaris guests enjoy breathtaking scenery and exciting jet boatingA quarter of a century of pioneering wilderness adventure on one of New Zealand’s most distinctive waterways will be celebrated by Dart River Jet , Ngai Tahu Tourism and friends later this month.

Current owners Ngai Tahu Tourism will welcome hundreds of former staff members from as far afield as Sydney, the North Island and Christchurch along with special guest founders Neil Ross and wife Robyn to celebrate the anniversary in Glenorchy on Saturday September 14.

During the day invited guests will take their families on a Wilderness Jet experience along the stunning Dart River, and later enjoy an adults-only evening of nostalgia over dinner, drinks, cake and speeches at Glenorchy Lodge.  An ‘open mic’ session will enable former staff to entertain guests with tall tales and colourful experiences of the early offerings. A second boat joined the fledgling fleet at Dart River Jet Safari’s base in Glenorchy

Now one of New Zealand’s most spectacular jet boating experiences attracting domestic and international visitors, the business started with a single five-seater Hamilton 141a boat and the enthusiasm of local Glenorchy farmer and jet boat lover Neil Ross.

Mr Ross said those first years were built on passion, hard graft and the much-needed support of wife Robyn.

“People around Queenstown said I was completely mad when I suggested a back-country jet boat tour to friends in the tourism industry,” he said.

“There were already a number of operators on the rivers, and people said tourists were only interested in thrills as opposed to a scenic boat ride.”

Working on some basic customer research and a belief that others would enjoy the Dart scenery as much as he did, Mr Ross’ first ever Dart River Jet Safari departed on October 1, 1988 with just five passengers.

“They were blown away,” he said.

Sir Edmund Hillary and his wife Lady June enjoy a Dart River Jet Safari on their honeymoon_media“One in particular, Rip Gray, wrote to me soon afterwards to say the tour had exceeded all expectations. With that feedback, we knew we had something special.

“It was obvious fairly quickly that people loved the combination of jet boating with accessing the beauty and remoteness of the backcountry. That unique component was and still is a real drawcard.”

One year later and the one-man van driver, jet boat operator and tour guide operation had doubled in size, taking on more staff, more vehicles, setting up in Queenstown and dropping a second boat, the Destroyer, into the water.

Dart River Jet Safaris’ was also the first operator to hire a female driver, Toni Chiddock, who Mr Ross described as being one of the best drivers in the history of the company.

In 1996, with seven boats, nine full-time and four part-time staff, three coaches and a significant annual turnover, the successful business attracted the eye of long-time jet boat operator Shotover Jet, which took over operations.

Current Dart River Jet General Manager Clark Scott said the business had grown from strength to strength, following in the determined footsteps of the Ross family.

“Twenty-five years ago, Neil saw a gap in the market, and created a business that today remains one of Queenstown and New Zealand’s top water-based adventure tours, with international appeal,” he said.

“It’s a real honour to be here now — what makes us most proud is that the success of the business is its full sensory and educational experience, taking in the beauty and history of the National Park and Dart River Valley from water and land.”

Dart River Wilderness Jet and Funyak trips take visitors on the region’s longest  jet boat rides into Mt Aspiring National Park, combining breathtaking scenery, exhilarating wilderness jet boating, Maori heritage and inspiring adventure.

For more information about Dart River Jet Safaris, visit www.dartriverjetsafaris.com

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