18,000ft NZ's highest tandem skydive in Franz Josef

18,000ft New Zealand's highest skydive in Franz Josef

The highest tandem skydive in the southern hemisphere is now available at Franz Josef.

Skydive Franz offers jumps from 18,000 feet, ensuring an unequalled free fall of more than 75 seconds in one of the most scenic parts of New Zealand.

This jump height is more than 1000 feet higher than any other tandem skydive in New Zealand and nearly 6000 feet above New Zealand's highest mountain Mount Cook (3754 metres or 12,316 ft), right next to the Skydive Franz dropzone.

"It's a unique place to jump, with the highest mountains, glaciers, ocean and rivers below and now the highest altitude," says Skydive Franz co-owner and tandem instructor Leigh Ainsworth.

"It gives clients a huge sense of achievement to do the highest jump in New Zealand and it also gives more time to look around, take in the view and relax during the experience. When there is a longer freefall the photographers also have more time to get optimum footage of the skydive."

The dropzone is only five minutes from the check-in office in Franz Josef village and clients are provided with all the gear needed and a short training session. Those on the higher altitude jumps are provided with oxygen above 12,000ft during the 20-minute ascent in a Pilatus Porter aircraft. This Swiss-made turbine aircraft is one of the ultimate skydiving planes used at top dropzones around the world, including Skydive Everest.

It's not only clients who are excited about the high-altitude adrenaline activity. The spin-off benefits for other Franz Josef businesses have already become apparent as customers have specifically come to the coast to do the highest skydive. They're also prepared to stay several days in the region to get the best weather for their jump.

"We recently had a couple who waited five days to do their skydive, and we've had other clients leave and come back to Franz when the weather has cleared up again," says James Meldrum, Skydive Franz director and pilot. "It's great to have a direct impact on increasing guest night numbers in the region."

Leigh Ainsworth is one of only four women tandem instructors in New Zealand.

"Sometimes there's cultural reasons for a client to request a female instructor; most Muslim women, for example. will only jump with another woman," says Leigh. "And sometimes women only feel comfortable jumping with another woman strapped to their back."

On a clean, clear day it is possible to see over the Main Divide from west coast to east coast, hundreds of glaciers, the Tasman Sea and ever-changing braided rivers flowing between them. The higher you go, the more you see. Prices: 12,000 feet (45-plus seconds freefall), $299; 15,000 feet (60-plus seconds freefall, oxygen supplied), $399; 18,000 feet (75-plus seconds freefall, oxygen supplied), $549.

Instructor cam: $165, offering close-up shots of participant's expressions; a DVD and an email link to website video.

Personal photographer: $199.

Best of both worlds: $259, instructor cam and personal photographer.

T shirt: $29.

Information: www.skydivefranz.co.nz, phone 03 752 0714.