Game On Activities, based at the Blokart track at Papamoa, offers a great three-in-one package of outdoor activities with appeal to all ages. On windy days the track hums with action, as the karts blast around the course. If there’s no wind, choose from combat laser tag, or laser clay bird.
Laser tag, imported from the U.K., has been described as taking a virtual reality computer game out of doors and making it a reality. Players are each armed a gun that sends out an infra red beam, and wear a special helmet rigged with lights and ‘bells.’ Eight to 20 players stalk each other in a special arena - two acres of eucalypt trees with about 120 hideouts scattered around it (‘hide if you can, or be on attack’).
Richard Brown says the gun fires virtual machine gun rounds and can also launch hand grenades, a lot of fun for both young and old. When you’re hit, a signal sets off lights in the helmet, and some ‘bells and whistles,’ says Richard, “So at night-time you look like a walking fire engine.”
Laser tag is relatively inexpensive at $10 a head for half an hour - and it doesn’t hurt. It’s suitable for everything from the eight year old’s birthday party to a corporate outing. “At the end of the day what we’re trying to achieve out here both with the laser tag and the laser clay birds is family-economical fun.”
The clay bird shooting, also priced at $10 per person, is a new twist on a very traditional sport. Players are issued with shotguns that look and feel exactly like the real thing. The guns do go ‘bang,’ but without the recoil of real shotgun firing a live round, which makes the activity family-friendly.
Each gun is programmed so that hits – with an infra-red beam - are recorded on an electronic scoreboard with speakers. When you hit the clay it will “shatter,” but the clays are picked up and used again. Up to five players (minimum three) compete not only against themselves, but against their mates as well.
It’s a game that’s completely transportable as well, with an indoor system which can be taken to a customer’s home. The claybird system can be run in a room only five metres square, using sensors mounted on the wall. Out of doors, you can play “urban games,” as long as there is enough room for the clay birds to land on.
Laser tag and laser clay bird shooting tend to appeal to two different types of person, says Richard, for weight reasons you need to be a little older to hold the shotgun, while anyone who can carry the 2 kg laser tag gun can play. Game On is already pulling customers at the weekends in particular, says Richard, drawn to “affordable family fun.”
Game On Activities is at Blokart Heaven, 176 Parton Road Papamoa, tel 542 4033, www.gameonactivities.co.nz
Take a tandem flight over the Kaimai Ranges on a fine winter’s day – for one of the Western Bay’s more adventure activities.
Owner and Chief Pilot Wayne Roberts says if his customer is happy, and conditions are right, “I’ll try and get them to cloud base.” But on a good day, he’ll fly anywhere from 3,500 ft to 6000 ft – the highest altitude permitted for paragliders in the Kaimais. Tandem flights are quite feasible on winter days; you can still fit in soaring flights working the “ridge lifts,” as the wind is deflected up the hill.
The $180 cost of a tandem flight covers firstly, transport across the ranges to the takeoff spot – Swaps Quarry, accessed through a farm near Matamata. Customers are urged to take strong shoes, warm clothing, drinks and food. Mount Paragliding provides the rest - refreshments and safety equipment which includes a helmet, and reassuringly, a reserve parachute for the pair. And training, of course.
At the take off spot, the instructor goes through a launch drill briefing where the passenger is walked through everything that’s going to happen. This includes demonstrating the sort of walking speed needed before takeoff, and the feel of the harness pulling them from the front.
All equipment is re-checked prior to takeoff, and the passenger is urged to keep their weight forward, “and away we go.” Sometimes even a short synchronised run is un-necessary for the big rig to power up and pluck pilot and passenger off the ground. Then it’s just a matter of getting the passenger to lean forward – keep their weight forward so we’ve got a bit of momentum when needed, says Wayne.
With a paraglider landings can be as gentle as walking out your front door, over a little step. “Sometimes with the kite collapsing you might fall over on your bum, or something. Nothing too major,” says Wayne. Depending on conditions in the Kaimais, a tandem flight might last for 20 minutes to half an hour, or longer. And yes, passengers are also supplied with a photo as a memento of their adventure.
Wayne Roberts is one of the most qualified paragliding instructors in the country, and safety officer for the local club. His background includes a decade of flying in various parts of the world, including Europe and South Africa, and guiding flyers in Slovenia and Austria. As an instructor with his own school, he tutors student flyers for their ‘pg2’, the intermediate qualification which allows them to fly solo for the first time. They are taught canopy control, one of the most important safety basics, as well as air law, principles of flight, and other topics.
Popular local flying spots include Mauao, the peak of Mount Maunganui, although tandem flights are not permitted from the former volcanic cone. Novice flyers often begin by jumping off the sand dunes near Tay Street, to first get a feel for canopy control. But at the dizzy heights of Wayne Roberts skills, you can fly 40 kilometres from the Kaimais out to Te Aroha, or out to Ongare Point past Katikati. Contact Wayne Roberts: firstname.lastname@example.org
Spring Loaded Fun Park
The top attraction is a thrilling jet boat ride up the Kaituna River – 12.5 kms of ‘high octane attitude!’ Visitors are flung (almost literally) into the middle of an untouched Kiwi wilderness, a prehistoric bush-clad gorge.
The Chevy v8 powered jets whisk you along the pristine river, where you can spot native New Zealand ferns, birdlife, and waterfalls. Expect serious speed, spins, and close-cut cornering along the way (and yes, they’re highly qualified drivers).
‘Mud Bugs!’ are the park’s custom-designed 4WD vehicles (Suzuki Vitaras), that YOU drive. They teach you all you need to know before letting you loose. You’re not abandoned – staff keep in touch via CB radio, to guide you through each obstacle of an off-road course.
Spectacular chopper rides with Aerius Helicopters round off a great fun park package. The helicopter sets off from the Park’s river setting to visit some of the most iconic local landmarks. The choices include aerial views of New Zealand’s only live marine volcano White Island, or circling the 232-metre landmark peak of Mauao, Mt Maunganui.
Spring Loaded is located mid way between Tauranga and Rotorua, half an hour from either (and the closest jet boat ride to Auckland), at 316 State Highway 33, Ph 533-1515 or freephone 0800-TOP FUN www.springloadedfunpark.co.nz
Waimarino Adventure Park
This multi-award winning park on the Wairoa River near Bethlehem has everything from a kayak slide to the blob, a ‘human catapult.’
The family-run business has evolved over the years into a well-rounded adventure park, with the focus on water-related fun. Most popular of the kayaks trips is the Wairoa River Trip —‘blissfully peaceful’ (Waimarino translates as tranquil waters). This 3 hour cruise takes you ten kilometres down river with the tide.
The park runs guided sea kayaking trips between Waimarino out to Pilot Bay at Mount Maunganui - or the reverse, to run with the tides. There’s plenty to do in the park itself. Thrill-seekers can try New Zealand’s only 25 metre-long kayak slide – that spits the rider out over the water two metres up.
The park also has NZ’s biggest ‘blob’ – a big colourful inflatable sausage moored in the river. A person is launched into the air from one end like a ‘human catapult’ when someone jumps onto the other end, from a 4.5 metre tower. People fly as high as 12 metres!
Other activities include pedal boats, a ropes course, a rubber slide for little kids, and a thermal pool. Waimarino has one of the Western Bay’s biggest kayak shops, making it a great ‘try before buy’ venue.
Cost: adult Supreme Pass $39, children $30 (under 16), family $145. These prices include day long, unlimited use of kayaks & activities, along with rock climbing and pedal boat usage. There are also Adventure and Season passes. Recreational kayaks including sea kayaks can be hired by the hour, and there are also family packages. The park is open year round, 7 days in summer, from 10 am to 6 pm. The park is located off State Highway 2, just north of Bethlehem (look for the kayak on a sign), tel 576-4233 . www.waimarino.com