The waterfall roared beneath me. It didn’t seem that big. I’d rappelled off walls about a million and a half times before. Why should this time be any different? I gripped the rope in both hands, nodded at my guide, and headed down into the rushing water.
The frigid cold water blasted into my face. My feet slipped off the rock in my crappy, thrift store, “rental” boots. I couldn’t see. I swallowed a ton of water. It was my first time canyoneering and I thought I was going to drown.
I’d never been canyoneering in my life but it seemed like an exciting to do with no plans and three days in Wanaka. I discovered Deep Canyon Wanaka and I was sold on a different type of roped adventure.
I arrived at the Deep Canyon Wanaka shack in the late morning after some trip delays due to weather. Our guide, Riki, schlepped me and my two Swedish cohorts out into the farmlands of Wanaka for the Big Niger trip. Upon our arrival we changed into shorts and a base layer.
We picked out a pair of shoes from the rack of misfit shoes to be destroyed in the canyon. Our Deep Canyon Wanaka guide showed us how to fold up all our gear in our wetsuits, and then we hiked up the hill to our drop in point and that first rappel into a waterfall.
Big Nige was an experience of rapping waterfalls, plunging into frigid pools, sliding down steep canyon walls, and zipping across the water… an exhilarating day full of fun and adventure. I wasn’t sure what to expect heading onto the trip, but despite being a climber, it was a tough day of rapping, scrambling and swimming. I struggled more than I expected with being able to pull myself out of the water and battled with a fear of rappelling in the middle of large gushes of water.
Deep Canyon Wanaka was a fantastic company with attentive and knowledgeable guides. Canyoneering, like climbing, is an inherently dangerous sport, but our guide took precautions to increase the safety factor. The canyon we were in was situated on farming land.
Deep Canyon Wanaka had an agreement with the owner to guide on the property, ensuring that the guides were the only people on the bolts and fixed ropes. All rappels were backed up by a second rope, so if I somehow was paralyzed by fear and lost control while rappelling, I was still safe. All knots and gear were double checked for zip lining. Plus the enormous amount of snacks at the end are a big plus.
I’m not sure I’ll be attempting to conquer canyons on my own with that much water in the future, but it was a great dive into unchartered territory should I decide to pick up more hobbies. I highly, highly recommend booking a trip through Deep Canyon Wanaka.
The Big Nige trip was $315 NZD per person.. If you’re not set on a full day and steeper falls, try your hand at the Niger Stream trip for $250 NZD per person, $230 NZD for a half day. The Big Nige eventually joins with Niger Stream to finish off the trip. Book through Deep Canyon Wanaka.
A note on booking with Deep Canyon Wanaka
I had attempted to book the most epic and badass trip that Deep Canyon Wanaka had. It was canceled. Trips are highly dependent on weather conditions and participants. If it’s just you, you’re kind of out of luck. You’ll end up crossing your fingers that there will be another trip going out with at least two other people. It rained like crazy the night before my scheduled trip.
When I showed up in the morning, Deep Canyon Wanaka said they’d sent guides out to check on flow conditions. The trip would most likely be postponed until flow had gone down. Keep in mind when you’re booking that there’s a chance your desired canyon trip might not happen.
What else is there to do near Wanaka? Backpack the Routeburn Track. Eat your way through Wanaka. Head to the crags. Alice of Backcountry Cow has a great resource for 10 days on New Zealand’s South Island.
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