I've been fortunate enough to visit New Zealand on a couple of occasions. The first time I tried on three separate occasions to take a helicopter flight to the glaciers. Each time I was thwarted by the weather. I even got so far as having the safety briefing before the flight was cancelled on one failed attempt.
So when revisiting New Zealand earlier this year I was more determined than ever. Unfortunately, my original flight was cancelled. I'd booked through the concierge at the St Moritz M Gallery Hotel in Queenstown and he quickly rearranged our flight for the morning. As morning rolled around, the flight was cancelled again, with a tentative reschedule for an hour later. It wasn't looking good. Thankfully, the incredibly helpful concierge took my number and said he would get us on the first flight that day, and call me when they were ready to pick us up. A few hours later, and the call came, the Helicopter Line van was ready for us.
After a mad dash to get back to the hotel, we were sat in a van on our way to the airport (the helicopters take off and land adjacent to Queenstown's main airport). We were sharing the helicopter with a family of three from the US. Once we were all weighed, seats were allocated to balance out the weight, and we were off.
Whilst the focus of the particular flight we chose was a glacier landing, the entire flight was absolutely stunning. Takeoff gives you a wonderful of Queenstown, and the trip to the glacier is really quite exhilarating. We were incredibly lucky with the weather. Heavy cloud was just clearing, revealing blue skies. This not only created some really interesting light, but also left small clouds hanging on some of the peaks and hovering in some of the valleys. Other than flying at sunrise or sunset, I can't think of a better time to fly.
Our pilot was great fun. Unlike the rather sedate Helicopter flight around Ayer's Rock, this was far more exciting. We hugged the rugged mountains, swerving around and over rocky outcrops before landing on the glacier itself. The pilot really was having fun.
The glacier landing itself was equally fantastic. We have around ten minutes to explore the area immediately around us. It's difficult tot explain, but you're in a small group, on top of a glacier which itself is on top of a mountain, which is in the middle of a mountain range. The photos don't really do it justice.
The flight back followed the Shotover river, giving stunning views, with clouds hanging in the valley. The pilot also did a superb job of pointing out points of interest along the way.
If you get a chance to take this flight, I'd thoroughly recommend it. Not only do you land on a glacier, but you get to see some stunning scenery from the air and, to top it all off, you get an exhilarating helicopter flight.