Wedged between the Pacific Ocean and the Southern Alps of New Zealand, Kaikoura is surrounded by breathtaking beauty on all sides.
Known as one of the best places in the world to see several species of whale in all their majestic glory, you’ll find numerous scenic flight companies to hit the skies with for 360-degree views of this gorgeous part of the world, while searching for those deep-sea giants.
But for a truly exclusive high-flying adventure, South Pacific Helicopters’ Aftershock scenic flight is fast becoming a New Zealand ‘must do’.
While the name may sound dramatic, this spectacular flight earns it by taking you into the centre of some of the most dramatic landscape changes witnessed in New Zealand’s history.
Just after midnight in November 2016, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked the Kaikoura peninsula for over two minutes. Ruptures occurred on multiple faults, raising the coastline by several meters, and cementing the earthquake as one of the most complex natural disasters ever experienced in the world.
While the township and surrounds have recovered, the magnificent scars and geological changes the earthquake brought have become an awe-inspiring scenic addition to the wonders of the region.
Starting at Kaikoura Airport on the edge of the coastline, once airborne you’ll quickly spot the distinctive Papatea Fault with a deep natural engraving slicing through the landscape below, with areas of the seabed thrust up from the ocean by as high as 6 meters. The fault line ruptures are still a vivid reminder of the power of this event and are also well worth a look at ground level during your Kaikoura stay.
Turning inland you’ll then fly across farmland and up through rugged alpine valleys to discover a newly created secret gem… What the locals have christened Hapuku Lake.
This blue wonder was shaped by thousands of tonnes of rockfall forming a damn to capture the Hapuku River and the glacial melt from the mountains above. The result is a strikingly beautiful turquoise mountain lake, which contrasts brightly with the sandstone yellows and greys of the Kaikoura ranges.
With a natural helipad nearby, it’s the perfect place to unload for a short while to take in the beauty up close (and swim in during summer!) or simply enjoy the views.
Jumping back on board and back above the mountains you’ll wind back down the valley towards another secret treasure the South Pacific Helicopter team is sharing with their passengers... A huge alpine waterfall so remote it doesn’t yet have a name.
The landing here is a slight adrenaline rush, but with the expertise of the South Pacific pilots, you’ll never feel unsafe as you disembark near the bottom of the cascading waters above. If you’ve planned ahead, this is a sublime spot to explore or enjoy a little lunch.
The trip winds up with a final sweep of the ranges, before you return to the coast for panoramic views of the peninsula and beyond.
While whale watching is a definite must, make sure you take the opportunity to check out Aftermath, a remarkable journey through the power and beauty of mother nature, which will delight locals and visitors alike.