Dealing with the constant changes of a glacier is all in a day’s work for tourism company Franz Josef Glacier Guides.
Guiding on the wild and rugged West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island since the early 1900’s, the guides recently faced one of their biggest challenges when naturally occurring changes on the glacier prompted a rethink to glacier hiking operations.
With necessity being the mother of invention, and thanks to valuable input from the company’s own guides, the company has created a new trip that includes a thrilling mode of transport to access the glacier.
Franz Josef Glacier Guides’ new Ice Explorer trip has guests ‘buzzing’ as they fly above the coast and dense rainforest to access pristine areas of the glacier by helicopter.
Earlier this year the constantly evolving and changing face of the glacier close to the route previously used for hiking trips up onto the glacier meant helicopters became the safest and easiest form of transport onto the ice.
The positive spinoffs of the change means guides are now accessing an area previously unseen on other hiking trips, meaning guests get the best of both worlds – an aerial overview of the glacier and its stunning surrounds, and the chance to hike amongst some of the glacier’s most unique features such as crevasses and the clearest of blue ice.
In a show of confidence and support, the local Department of Conservation (DOC) office has supported the change to the trip.
“The guided glacier trips are so important, because they’re the activity that people come to Franz Josef to participate in, and the mainstay of tourism on the West Coast,” said DOC Franz Josef Waiau Area Manager Wayne Costello.
Franz Josef Glacier Guides General Manager Fraser Leddie said the feedback on the new Ice Explorer trip had been hugely positive.
“Guests doing the glacier trip now get a helicopter trip to access the glacier at a price point that’s attainable for many,” he said.
“Often the cost of a helicopter ride can push it beyond most people’s budgets, but we’ve worked really hard to keep prices down.
“It’s not the longest helicopter ride, but for someone from the other side of the world who’s never had the chance to take a spin, it’s a very special experience to get an incredible view of the glacier from the air,” he said.
Mr Leddie said the dramatic changes to the glacier had created excitement in the glacier world.
“This is a unique chance to see a glacier behaving in a way that is not often seen, giving visitors the opportunity to see the evolution of a glacier literally before their eyes.
“It’s happened before and it will happen again, but it’s not often the changes are so dramatic.”
Mr Leddie said the company’s success lay in the team’s ability to adapt and innovate to the changes that Mother Nature threw at them.
Two months after starting the Ice Explorer trips, Mr Leddie said Franz Josef Glacier Guides had received consistently positive feedback from customers, with many excited guests posting blogs about their experiences through social media sites.
“We’re delighted to be able to take them up there to experience one of the best trips New Zealand has to offer,” he said.
Full information on the Ice Explorer trip is available on http://www.franzjosefglacier.com/