If there’s one area we’ve been wanting to go back to again it was the Abel Tasman National Park. We got a taste for its beauty during our first Great Walk along the Abel Tasman Coast Track, so when we heard you could go canyoning deep in the heart of the national park, we just couldn’t resist!
It was an early start to meet the crew at Abel Tasman Canyons to organize our gear for the day. After a quick safety briefing we piled our equipment into the vans and headed down towards the beach. Since it was low tide, we made our way across the sand flats to meet our water taxi at the water’s edge (p.s. I love sand flats, they are so cool!). It was a quick ride across the crystal clear blue waters towards the golden sand beach at Anchorage Bay.
Ready to start our trek towards the canyon, we walked along the beautiful beach before veering left up the hill along the track. As we climbed higher, the views became even more incredible with Adele Island and Anchorage Bay in the distance. While we were taking in the scenery our super friendly guide Toine told us all about Abel Tasman’s backstory. I had no idea that he was the first European explorer to come to New Zealand’s shores. But due to an awkward and unfortunate miscommunication with the local Maori, Abel Tasman never actually set foot on land. The short and sweet of the story is Abel Tasman signaled with his cannon that they came in peace, however the Maori thought this was a sign of war and sent warriors out on wakas (canoes) to perform a Haka to see if Abel Tasman wanted to fight. After observing the Haka, Abel Tasman’s crew returned the gesture with enthusiastic waving which the Maori interpreted as a war dance and an invitation to fight. A few casualties later Abel Tasman left New Zealand and never returned. It’s incredible what communication barriers can do.
Continuing along the ridge, we soon made a detour down a less beaten path towards the rushing sound of the river below. Located in the heart of the Abel Tasman National Park, Torrent River is one of the most popular canyoning trips with it’s variety of heart racing activities. After a quick sandwich, we pulled on our wetsuits, tightened up our harnesses and headed down the river for our 3hr canyoning adventure of abseiling, cliff jumps, ziplines and rock slides!
Our first activity was abseiling down a smooth rockface, making a final leap backwards into the pool below. It was a great rush as we got our first dunk in the cool river waters. Luckily the brand new wetsuits kept us quite warm the entire day.
As we continued down the canyon, floating through the river and scrambling over the rocks, we came up to our first zip line. Located over a double waterfall, we clipped in and sailed our way down into the pool below!
With the lush rainforest surrounding us in such a remote area of the park, you really felt like you were experiencing something very few people get to see. The adventure continued as we approached our first cliff jump! The 6m drop was quite the adrenaline rush as we took a running leap off the rock into the pool below. A couple of the guys on the trip showed off their skills with a few back flips and swan dives!
After a few goes leaping off the cliff, we continued down the river to a twisty smooth rock slide. Making the first trip down feet first, the second time going head first provided much more anticipation waiting for the drop into the water below!
With a few more abseils down the river we approached the 48m zip line. One by one we flew across the canyon in a variety of ways – twists and turns, and upside down ziplines with even a ‘running man’ thrown in the mix! Can you tell Jordan’s having a great time?
Just passed our half way point, we continued through the canyon, making some tight squeezes through some narrow passage ways and behind waterfalls. It was a struggle fighting against the power of the waterfall to get in behind and into the cave – but it was well worth it for the rush! Continuing down the river, just before we came to large waterfall slide, one by one we laid on the smooth rocks as our guides grabbed our feet sending us into a spiraling spin into the pool below!
Approaching the large rock slide, Jordan and I decided to slide down it together, me on the left and he on the right over the more intense drop. On the count of three we pushed ourselves off and flew over the edge of the waterfall crashing into the pool below! If only we could have been able to climb back up I would have done that one again!
The funniest part of the trip was when we did the party slide! Toine, was at the front blocking the flow of water, allowing the pool to rise as we lined up, clinging to each others feet. Just as the water pressure was too much to hold, we exploded down the slide into the pool below! We then locked arms in a circle and were whirled around the pool in circles!
Our last and final jump was an 8m cliff over a small waterfall below. This one definitely gave me a bit of a thrill as we had to climb up the side and make a calculated jump below. Yet again the guys showed off their jump styles with a variety of flips and dives!
We stayed here for a little while as it was just too much fun! After the big jumps were done, we opted for the smaller waterfall to do a few group jumps, front flips and trying a high-five mid-air (which as you can imagine wasn’t very pretty haha)
A final rock scramble brought us to our last activity at the famous Cleopatra Pools. We had missed this when we did the Abel Tasman Great Walk so were stoked to finally see the popular rock slide! One by one we slid down the water polished chute in a perfect finale to our canyoning adventure!
Knackered after a full on day, we headed down the track towards the estuary. Since it was nearing high tide we made the crossing in waist deep water for a couple hundred metres before reaching the other side. On our way out Toine shared some more stories of the area, including the incredible migration of whitebait upriver through the canyons. These tiny fish swim upstream in early spring, leaping out of the water and clinging to the moss along the rocks with their pectoral fins. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of a rock climbing fish – whitebait are not only delicious but just got even cooler!
While snacking on a few L&P Whittakers chocolates and some tasty raro lemon drink, we finished our hike and were back at Anchorage to jump in the water taxi back to base!
What an awesome introduction to canyoning! Loved how it incorporated many of the activities we enjoy – hiking, swimming, exploring and jumping off stuff! Would love to come back to do some of the even more remote and more challenging trips Abel Tasman Canyons offers! Maybe next time!