A new thrill ride is up and running on Tauranga Harbour - hovercraft joyrides.
Hovercraft Tours is part of Adventure Aviation, a specialist aviation company that offers a full range of flight experiences, from warbird flights, to M.A.S.H. helicopter jaunts, flight simulator sessions, and air ‘safaris’ out to live volcano White Island.
The Australian-made six-seater open air hovercraft can carry five passengers in addition to pilot Jon Morris - who has 20-plus years experience piloting huge passenger hovercraft across the English Channel. For now, while some technical issues are sorted out to operate from the airport, they are taking off from inner harbour beaches at Omokoroa and Memorial Park in Tauranga.
Passengers are whisked out across the sand bars and the water for a thrilling, wind-in-the-hair ride, side-slipping through corners, that Jon Morris acknowledges is a little like low flying in an aircraft. ‘When you turn you go sideways for a long way, so you do lots of sideslips – particularly downwind with the wind blowing you as well. It’s just a different experience,’ says Jon.
The rides have been getting a great reaction, shown by “smiles, giggles and laughter” at the end of a quarter hour jaunt. The joyrides are $30 adults and half price for children. To book, phone 0800-737 700 or Adventure Tours on 574-3737. If you are a tourist, the company can arrange hotel to airport and other transfers.
Hovercraft Tours plans to introduce commuter services between Omokoroa and Tauranga, with a larger 18-seat hovercraft, subject to resource consents and approvals. A run between Tauranga and Salisbury Pier at the Mount is another possibility.
The plans are still in the melting pot at present, says Jon, but once the approvals come through they’ll be able to order the bigger craft from Australia and be ‘up and away.’