Media Release from Dart River Jet Safaris
5 August 2013
Dart River Jet Safaris celebrates 25 years of fun and innovation
A quarter of a century of pioneering wilderness adventure on one of New Zealand’s most distinctive waterways will be
celebrated by Dart River Jet , Ngai Tahu Tourism and friends later this month.
Current owners Ngai Tahu Tourism will welcome hundreds of former staff members from as far afield as Sydney, the North
Island and Christchurch along with special guest founders Neil Ross and wife Robyn to celebrate the anniversary in
Glenorchy on Saturday September 14.
During the day invited guests will take their families on a Wilderness Jet experience along the stunning Dart River, and
later enjoy an adults-only evening of nostalgia over dinner, drinks, cake and speeches at Glenorchy Lodge. An ‘open
mic’ session will enable former staff to entertain guests with tall tales and colourful experiences of the early
Now one of New Zealand’s most spectacular jet boating experiences attracting domestic and international visitors, the
business started with a single five-seater Hamilton 141a boat and the enthusiasm of local Glenorchy farmer and jet boat
lover Neil Ross.
Mr Ross said those first years were built on passion, hard graft and the much-needed support of wife Robyn.
“People around Queenstown said I was completely mad when I suggested a back-country jet boat tour to friends in the
tourism industry,” he said.
“There were already a number of operators on the rivers, and people said tourists were only interested in thrills as
opposed to a scenic boat ride.”
Working on some basic customer research and a belief that others would enjoy the Dart scenery as much as he did, Mr
Ross’ first ever Dart River Jet Safari departed on October 1, 1988 with just five passengers.
“They were blown away,” he said.
“One in particular, Rip Gray, wrote to me soon afterwards to say the tour had exceeded all expectations. With that
feedback, we knew we had something special.
“It was obvious fairly quickly that people loved the combination of jet boating with accessing the beauty and remoteness
of the backcountry. That unique component was and still is a real drawcard.”
One year later and the one-man van driver, jet boat operator and tour guide operation had doubled in size, taking on
more staff, more vehicles, setting up in Queenstown and dropping a second boat, the Destroyer, into the water.
Dart River Jet Safaris’ was also the first operator to hire a female driver, Toni Chiddock, who Mr Ross described as
being one of the best drivers in the history of the company.
In 1996, with seven boats, nine full-time and four part-time staff, three coaches and a significant annual turnover, the
successful business attracted the eye of long-time jet boat operator Shotover Jet, which took over operations.
Current Dart River Jet General Manager Clark Scott said the business had grown from strength to strength, following in
the determined footsteps of the Ross family.
“Twenty-five years ago, Neil saw a gap in the market, and created a business that today remains one of Queenstown and
New Zealand’s top water-based adventure tours, with international appeal,” he said.
“It’s a real honour to be here now -- what makes us most proud is that the success of the business is its full sensory
and educational experience, taking in the beauty and history of the National Park and Dart River Valley from water and
Dart River Wilderness Jet and Funyak trips take visitors on the region’s longest jet boat rides into Mt Aspiring
National Park, combining breathtaking scenery, exhilarating wilderness jet boating, Maori heritage and inspiring
For more information about Dart River Jet Safaris, visit www.dartriverjetsafaris.com
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Kiwi icon Sir Edmund Hillary (second row R) and his wife Lady June enjoy a Dart River Jet Safari on their honeymoon in