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North Island Helicopter Safari always it will be epic!

Roy’s original NZ heli safari concept back in 2005 was to enhance private and commercial pilot’s experiences in an unknown environment but with the added bonus of flying in an organised group with family and friends, mixed with landing at some really cool places to enhance the fun.

Martinborough in 2013 exceeded all expectations once again and the bar was raised once again when 7 helicopters flew around the South Island for a week in March 2015.

2018 is now in our sights and in the embryonic stages of planning, send us an email or give us a call... you will not regret it!!

South Island Heli – Safari 2015 Helicopters and 20 very excited owners and friends set off for 7 days in late March on the 8th NZ Heli-Safari organised by Roy Crane from North Shore Helicopter Training in Auckland.

Roy’s original NZ heli safari concept back in 2005 was to enhance private and commercial pilot’s experiences in an unknown environment but with the added bonus of flying in an organised group with family and friends mixed with landing at some really cool places on adventures of a lifetime.

Two Jetrangers, four R44’s, and one EC120 joined in on this year’s epic trip down through the North Island, across the Cooke Strait, down the east coast to Wanaka, and then back up the west coast a week later; exceeded everyone’s expectations.

As on all previous safari’s, the first days weather jinx “can we, can’t we” came into play and tried to ruin our day. After a great lunch stop and clay shooting at Rathmoy Lodgea wet dash across the Strait in formation, we received a warm welcome and a compulsory glass of the finest Marlborough wine for our overnight stop in Blenheim.

An early start ensued the following morning with breakfast on the beach at The Store and then onto Kaikoura to swim with the dolphins. Much merriment ensued as we all sang or whistled thru our snorkels trying to attract one of the 200+ mammals to swim within arm’s reach. Personally, I think it was just a ploy by the boat crew as their morning’s entertainment to find the next wannabe flipper trainer!

We continued after lunch and a refuel around the back of Christchurch below the low cloud and the murky Canterbury Plains, we went through the Burke and Mackenzie Passes with radio calls of “wahoo” as the Mackenzie basin greeted us in bright sunshine and not a cloud in sight enroute Wanaka.

After a mass jailbreak from our first nights accommodation and the weather not playing ball, shenanigans ensued with very competitive go-kart racing, then central Otago wine tasting finishing at stunning Mount Difficulty vineyard.

With a ground day out of our system, the following morning we speared off to Invercargill trying to get to Stuart Island which unfortunately was clagged in. When departing east to fly along the Catlin’s, one character in our group asked the very accommodating ATC (who dispelled the myth that they do have a sense of humour J), if she knew where we could get some oysters….she promptly tongue-in-cheek replied that “Bluff would be a good start”…which was in the opposite direction! This same character was then seen about 30 minutes later, scaring the locals running half naked in for a swim to try and find some!

Day 5 arrived and what was always going to be the jewel of the trip didn’t disappoint. The weather gods played ball finally and with not a breath of wind or drizzly low cloud in sight after a thorough briefing completed by our friends at Wanaka Helicopters; a very excited but quietly nervous gaggle of characters speared off to Milford Sound!

For any private pilot or their passengers, to be able to fly in and around, up and over these majestic mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, high mountain lakes and fjords, but with the companionship and guidance of equally minded friends, is for some a once in a lifetime opportunity. The sheer enormity of the surrounding terrain and flying at heights most helicopter pilots get nose bleeds, the group was magically spell bound with memories they will cherish forever.

The day was capped off by a very entertaining late afternoon and dinner at the stunning Oxbow lodge, a must do for any adrenalin junkie who appreciates the finer things in life. The next morning after watching the NASA balloon launch and shopping for some, we had a very scenic day cruising up the west coast back to Blenheim for our last overnight and our stunning final dinner.

Reflecting over all the Heli-safaris, the common bond of flying over some of the most amazing scenery on the planet, landing at some remote locations to either simply enjoy the view or partake in some cool activities, is pretty darn special. However, it is the lifelong friendships and the comraderie between a special bunch of characters, that make these trips so so special that build unforgettable memories.

NSHT would like to extend sincere thanks to Wanaka Helicopters who accommodated us and provided the essential local knowledge. To all of our suppliers who allowed us to juggle the weather changing itineraries. To Air Traffic Controls who kept a watchful and accommodating eye on us and to all the local pilots who came out to greet and put up with us as we swarmed in expectantly into their airfields assuming that we knew what we were doing! Sincere thanks to all.

Who knows where we will end up next year, but another adventure to the South Island maybe on the cards…. or posh camping and wine tasting back in the north island…. It doesn’t really matter…. life’s short and there’s way too much fun not to be missed!

Martinborough Nov 2013

Our last trip down through the North Island and the lower east coast to Cape Palliser and Martinborough, exceeded all expectations.

Two Jetrangers, a Longranger, two R44’s, one EC120 and two R22’s battled the weather gods on initial departure from North Shore but by the time the gaggle passed the Bombay’s, the sun was shining and the spirits were lifted.

First stop was Waitomo for a spot of caving and some sightseeing for the above ground dwellers in the group. Causing a little stir with a mass landing on the Waitomo rugby club, the campers in the paddock next door rushed to the fence. One entrepreneurial kid shouted out if anyone was famous, then quickly added that his mother was single!

Map reading skills were then fully tested on lifting to find Mellonsfolly Old West Town which was the first overnight stop. A truly remarkable recreation in the middle of absolutely no where, where the good, the bad and the ugly dressed up and holed up for the night. One of the highlights was Eddie the Pie Man setting off a very very loud cannon that could be felt for miles.

Once the early morning low cloud had cleared, a beeline was made past the southern slopes of Mt Ruapehu, over the Ruahine Ranges to the east coast. The weather decided to close in around Castlepoint Lighthouse, so after a brief landing we set off for great lunch at the family homestead of well respected Waiarapa aviation family of the William’s. With everyone landing in bullshit, literallly, we were entertained by great aviation tales, some then promptly cut huge divots in the lawn trying to get a hole in one on the make shift lake golf hole. Unless that is, you’re a Longranger pilot who shanked his shot 2m forward then 200m horizontally and nearly taking out the prized thoroughbred horses minding their own business in the stables!

Marlborough 4 Day Heli Safari Feb 2011

What a great way to spend four days with friends having another "epic" adventure!!

Deju Vu was the feeling when we woke on our first morning before leaving. We had exactly the same weather pattern as in 2009 for our Hawkes Bay safari. Front moving through west to east, low cloud, drizzle but clearing... but at what point! Weather cams were studied at length, every hour the rain radar was meticulous watched to see how quickly it was passing... and then what about the wind!! After many shall we, can we discussions... three hours after our due departure time... off we went!


Getting off of North Shore was interesting, but then with the front clearly moving we were off south to Te Kuiti. With seven helicopters in loose formation, Auckland Tower were gracious to let the gaggle through unhindered over the top of the 747's landing.

After refueling at Te Kuiti where we were joined by Leigh and gang in the squirral, we made our way over the rugged Wanganui river landscape with Mt Ruapheu looming, to land over some wires on the old hospital grounds in Raetihi and the very welcome sight of a champagne clad tray held by our gorgeous hostess Sandy of Snowy Waters Lodge.

Having had to change the itinerary around we then got stuck into the fun and games as the flying was over for the day.

First up we were tractored into town on hay bales to have wine at the oldest theatre in NZ and split into teams for a pioneer treasure quiz around town! I don't know what the locals made of us as we accosted them asking lots of questions about the history of the area but i think we would certainly have made an impression and it was a great way to find out some facts of the bygone pioneer days.

Our tractor taxi then whisked us back to be greeted on our beds by some doctors and nurses outfits... well what a laugh!! As you can imagine it set the tone.. or lowered it even we indulged in goat curry, more wine and the best legs competition... what an awesome fun night!


After a strong Volcanic coffee in the morning, we fired off to pick our way through the early mist to the Blue Duck Lodge on the Wanganui River for breakfast.

Dan and his team put on an awesome feed and then we were split into two groups, one for jet-boating and the other off in the polaris buggies to see first hand what the pioneers had to do to scratch an existence after the first world war. Dan's farm is a magical place and it was great fun to hoon in the buggies and see what an awesome job they are doing to regenerate the wildlife and to keep alive the memories of what those guys had to go through... the giant weta cave was not on my list of greatest experiences though!!


After lunch, we said our goodbyes and off we headed to the top of the south island and the magic of the Marlborough Sounds. After a couple of refuels, we headed across Cook Straight on a near perfect day. 10kts of wind and not a cloud in the sky.

We headed down Queen Charlotte Sound, over Picton to land on Mike and Judy's front lawn in Blenheim. Graciously they greeted us with the best chilled Savy and a cheeseboard...wouldn't it be nice if you were greeted like that everywhere you landed! Thanks guys, we really appreciated your warm and generous hospitality.


Dinner that night was a first class affair but a more subdued one than the night before after a long great day...and we didn't want to burn the candle at both ends too much as we had an even longer day to come.

After a leisurely breakfast, we headed off to Peter Jacksons Omaka heritage centre... The girls got the giggles early in the tour so had to vacate, but the rest of us were fascinated by the set up of these old WW1 planes and the history behind them.

Then it was on to the main theme of the day... wine tour by bike!! After pissing off the bike owner by running amuck all over his new front lawn... off we went at various speeds in search of Marlborough gold!


We were all supposed to be doing our own thing, but inevitably we ended up en mass creating havoc to some of the best vineyards in the country. After a great long leisurely lunch and whilst Roy paid the bill, the rest buggered off in search of more vino, only to make the wrong turn out of the gate and go and extra 10 miles in the wrong direction... meanwhile Nigel-no-mates-Roy (who hadn't taken the wrong turn) was left by himself boring the poor girl rotten in the next vineyard!

After a hard slog back into wind, Chinese was on the menu that night in downtown Blenheim which Roy's Rent Boys found out not to be the most liveliest of towns to go out in searching for action, everyone had an earlyish night.

To be continued...

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