Two of our sales team recently experienced an exciting helicopter flight to Milford Sound with Over The Top Helicopters, and MajorDomo’s very own Matt Hirst has shared his experience in detail:
“We were both nervous, as Grace and I walked into check-in for our scenic helicopter flight to Milford Sound with Over The Top. We were instantly settled as the amazing staff welcomed us with warm smiles and a cool and calm check-in process. The safety briefing was clear and very informative about the areas we would be flying through, and being a local, I’m always curious as to what lays behind the mountain-scapes we see from the roads!
Rhys (our pilot) came to greet us and tell us a little more about the machine, a wonderful Squirrel aircraft that will help us defy gravity and smash the norms of the physical world in order to get us in the air!!! There is always an air of anticipation, excitement and nervous excitement when the engines of an aircraft startup, and even more so when the whirling chopper blades are just a few feet from your head! Rhys expertly got the squirrel floating, like a bee above a flower head for a few seconds before twitching the joystick back and whipping us above Queenstown Airport. His commentary started straight away pointing out which way we’ll be headed first and enthralling us all with stories of geology, local tales and a bit about his flying past!
As we soared above Skippers Canyon, heading ‘The Back Way’ to Glenorchy it was amazing to see the landscape and raw beauty of backcountry Queenstown. The views from the helicopter were great – I was in the middle rear seat and still got the most amazing views head-on and through each side!
We reached Glenorchy in no time, much better than the 45-minute drive!! Heading over the top end of the lake towards Fiordland, Rhys pulled the chopper up to 7000ft and sought a flight path between the endless peaks. He told us that this was prime Lord of the Rings scenery, though how Peter Jackson was able to choose from this infinitely stunning backdrop is beyond me. Just as my eyes were tiring from darting around left right and centre they were gifted with a breathtaking blanket of white and blue, though as Rhys brought us closer we saw that this massive glacier was anything but uniform. The shapes, cracks and towers that made up the historic moving ice sheet is one of the prettiest things I’ve ever seen.
Rhys explained that the eye-shattering blue colours comes from a lack of oxygen in the ice as its compacts itself immensely tight. From there on in, it was even harder to keep up with the beautiful complexity of this place. From Native bush-lines, extraordinary rock formations, and creeping ice monsters all the while Rhys added to the drama with amazing facts, figures, and great knowledge of the area delivered in the patented matter-of-fact Kiwi style! He really did put me at ease.
I asked Rhys if we’d be flying over the Sinbad Gully, a place close to my heart as a conservationist and he promised he’d point it out, but first asked if we’d like to see some waterfalls? There were heaps the tremendous heights at which they fall is incredible, Rhys explained that in Winter when the wind is battering the sounds that they often fall upwards, before turning us around in a belly tingling maneuver facing us towards the epic Milford Sound, I’ve visited Milford countless times but this is the first time I appreciated the vast scale of the national park and the sheer precipices of the surrounding mountains. The boats looked like toys from our altitude of 5000 ft and still, the peaks were above us. Our American co-passengers were going berserk taking videos and photos and I can’t blame them. This magnificent place is a natural wonder and there aren’t enough adjectives to properly honor it.
As promised Rhys glided the Squirrel over to the far side of Milford Sound and pointed out the Sinbad Gully for me, and gave everyone some context about its importance, Sinbad Gully is a preserve that is preparing for the eventual release of our most endangered birds the Kakapo. It will be New Zealand’s first mainland predator-free sanctuary and home to the birds that were saved from there years ago.
We headed back, with Rhys taking a cautious look at the gathering clouds – Fiordland gets more rain than anywhere else in NZ, and though he said he could fly in the rain, he always finds that being able to see is most advantageous to us all. The flight back was just as enthralling and we eventually came out to a place I recognized as Routeburn with its artery-like rivers flowing into the giant Wakatipu, which gleamed, still and flat with the sun reflecting the mountains perfectly. Rhys skippered us above Kinloch and the Greenstone and turned us toward the mountainside. His eagle eye looking for a place to land. Finding a long patch of snow still holding on through the Summer, he expertly hovered, twitching his hand in gentle movements with the precision of a surgeon and finally lowering us onto the white cold snow.
The views from the top of our Mountain were awe-inspiring, we could not have asked for a clearer view of the superb Lake Wakatipu! This was definitely the time to whip out the camera and capture this once-in-a-lifetime photo op. Rhys was more than happy to help with the group shots -Cameraman, Heli-pilot, geology expert, and navigator, what more can you ask for!?
I had the time of my life, and my experience with OTT really was second to none. The beauty of Fiordland speaks for itself, but it was enhanced 10 fold by the comfort and uninterrupted views of the helicopter, and wouldn’t have been as fun, exciting, informative, and enthralling without our expert pilot Rhys, whose charming demeanor and confident attitude puts you at ease from the word hello!
Thanks Over The Top, 10 Stars!! “
Our team is always happy to share our first-hand experiences with our guests, so if you are staying in a MajorDomo Villa or holiday home, please do get in touch to discuss your Queenstown bucket list. Between the team, we’ve tried most things in and around Queenstown and Wanaka and love offering our insider tips and knowledge – don’t be shy, get in touch today!