46° below: Explore the Subantarctic Islands this summer
Expand the 'travel local' mantra slightly and scratch your travel itch in the Subantarctic Islands. Your passport might be gathering dust, but ...
In the 1990s, two Kiwis were looking for a new adventure challenge and came up with the idea of jumping inside a large inflatable ball and rolling around for fun! They gave it the name Zorbing, and it’s now a worldwide business with franchise agents in many countries.
Rotorua is home to the world’s very first Zorb site, and is in fact the only place in New Zealand where you can take part in the strangely bizarre activity. The Zorb Rotorua site is just outside the city centre and so if you don't have a car, you'll need to jump on the bus from town. It's only a short journey and you get dropped off directly outside the adventure site.
If you want to Zorb, there’s several options. Like, do you want to jump inside the 3m inflatable sphere alone, or with a few other companions? Do you want to be strapped down inside the ball, or simply fly around at the mercy of gravity? Oh, and do you want to have a bucket of water thrown in too, just for fun? That’s the Zydro Zorb option, which I plump for.
You also get a choice of a straight or zigzag track. After checking out both, my instinct lay with the more adventurous latter option. After throwing some warm water in to the ball, my instructor told me to simply dive head first through the hole, and in to the water! Terrified I was going to get stuck in the hole, with my head inside a huge inflatable ball and my legs kicking around outside, I was relieved when I made it through in one swift dive! Before I knew it, my entrance (and exit) in to the ball was zipped up and I realised there was just 60cm of air to protect me from the ground!
Stepping forward to get the ball rolling, I suddenly fell to my knees as the giant inflatable sphere started its descent down the zigzag track. To start with I tried to control myself, and was able to remain upright but after a few seconds I realised the whole experience would be heaps more fun if I just let go and went with wherever the ball wanted to take me. With each corner it rolled into, I too found myself rolling, from side to side, upside down and front to back, the whole time being splashed by water! I genuinely didn't stop laughing from the top to the bottom of the hill as I thought 'What on earth am I doing?!' It was hilarious, and while it didn't last nearly long enough, it was such incredible fun and well worth a visit with your travel buddies.
As the sphere bounced to a halt at the bottom of the track, the staff came over to release me and help me climb out, feet first! With such a small amount of water in the ball, I hadn't expected to come out as soaked as I did! Unfortunately for me, I hadn't prepared for that and so didn't take any dry clothes – on a cold day, it was pretty unpleasant, so I'd definitely recommend taking a spare set of clothes if you want to try the Zydro Zorb.
Like most activities in New Zealand, you are offered a chance to buy the ‘official’ photographs after your experience. While it’s never very pleasant forking out additional dollars after an activity, trust me, photos of you crawling out of a large blow-up ball, soaking wet, feet first, is not a sight your friends and family will see every day, and so I highly recommend buying the CD – it's certainly worth the laughs later on.
- Jeff Wells