The art of Zorbing in Rotorua

Alex went Zorbing in Rotorua and found that it’s the uniqueness of the experience that makes it a great thrill.

How zorbing was born

Zorbing was invented by New Zealanders Dwane van der Sluis and Andrew Akers. Inspired by a TV commercial, these two crazy characters invented an inflatable ball that would float on water with people inside it, although as the people got out of the ball, it deflated and had to be re-inflated before the next passengers entered.

Keen to create the ultimate floating people bubble, they set about creating an alternative and came up with a double skinned ball which allowed people to enter and exit without the ball having to be deflated and re-inflated. This design was a success, but the application of the design as an activity wasn’t exactly exhilarating – manoeuvring the ball on water was hard work and didn’t lend itself to the archetypal Kiwi adventure activity involving heaps of adrenaline. Then one day they decided to see how it faired rolling down a hill. To their delight their new transportation device responded well and was a phenomenal success – Zorbing was born! Want to know things to do in Rotorua? Read on!

First time zorber

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to experience this crazy Kiwi creation on a recent trip to Rotorua and what better way to get the happy adrenaline engaged than bounding down a hill in an inflatable ball?

There are many ways to Zorb – wet, dry, zigzag or straight down the hill and with or without your mates. As a first time ‘Zorbonaut’, I decided to opt for the slightly less extreme option of Zydro Zorbing (a cross between a waterslide and a rollercoaster). The Zorb itself is an 11 foot high inflatable transparent sphere with a hole in the side giving access to the inner sphere, where you’re protected by 2 feet of air cushioning.

The adventure begins

I headed for the pickup spot where a mini van would take me and the other Zorbonauts to our ‘vessels’. As we wound up the narrow road, the Zorbing veterans in the van, dripping wet and on their second, third or fourth mission, chatted excitedly about which way down they were going to try next…which all added to the anticipation for a first timer. I opted for the 180m zigzag route!

Entering the bubble

One by one the veterans took a superman dive through the reasonably snug entry hole in the Zorb and set off on their chosen route down the hill. Having watched the ‘experts’, I tried a similar dive into the Zorb, although realised after getting stuck half way that, next time,  I needed to dive with a little more force! A small amount of warm water had been poured into the Zorb to make the ride the Zydro experience it’s billed to be. I wriggled into the ball and found myself inside a rather large plastic cocoon.

Getting going

Standing up, the staff member gave me a few instructions, the most important one being to enjoy! They zipped up the hole and I stood up, anticipating the forewarned tap on the outside telling me when to get the ball moving. A large thudding sound and I began walking as instructed, although within seconds I could no longer stay standing and ended up on the base of the sphere, slipping and sliding around.

Zigging and zagging

I was totally disorientated as the ball zigzagged down its purpose built channel and I found myself whooping and giggling out loud all the way down. At the bottom of the hill other members of the Zorb team were waiting to assist me in getting out – a similar experience, I pondered, to being re-born – and snapping my first steps as a fledgling Zorbonaut.

It’s a hilarious and uplifting experience and it’s easy to get hooked – once is never enough!

Want to Zorb? Get some great Rotorua accommodation at YHA Rotorua and the awesome staff will help you orgainse your zorbing experience.

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