Rotorua, New Zealand: Home of the Zorb

New Zealanders readily admit that, because there’s not a whole lot to do in some parts of the country, they’ll go to great lengths to create new kinds of fun. The city of Rotorua on the North Island of New Zealand is full of people who are dedicated to creating exciting experiences. In fact, they've created a virtual supermarket of adventure activities in which natives and travelers alike can partake, including bungee jumping, skydiving, wind surfing, white water rafting, mountain biking and jet powered boat rides.

Of course, for a New Zealander, it's hard to be content with just that. So a few folks in Roturua devised a whole new type of outrageous sport. They took the old concept of rolling yourself down a hillside in a barrel and perfected it with an ingenious invention called the Zorb, a clear plastic inflatable ball  within a ball that holds one or more adventure-craving passengers.

The outer ball is about 15 feet in diameter, and the inner ball, or passenger compartment, is suspended inside by nylon strands. As you spin down the hillside the outer ball absorbs the shocks and bumps, leaving you rolling smoothly inside.

You can choose between riding loose inside the inner ball with water for lubrication (affectionately known as the “wash cycle”) or you can opt to be harnessed into place so that your whole body rolls and spins as the Zorb does, while up to 4 g’s of centrifugal force keep you pressed against the wall.

Zorbing is the gentlest of extreme sports, offering a wild ride without the extreme bodily danger. No training is required except for the explanations that immediately precede your ride, so anyone in good health can take the plunge and become a “Zorbanaut”.

—Douglas Lichterman

Want to see Zorbing in action?

Check out this online video to see this wild adventure ride for yourself!


Events in September

Every Sunday in September: Need a break from terra firma? Go for a ride in a glider at Rotorua airport, courtesy of the Rotorua Gliding Club. The fun starts at 11 am at the north end of the airport. Call Don Grigg at (07) 348 3221 for information and prices. Through October.


Getting there

Fly to Auckland International Airport, then switch to a domestic flight to Rotorua Airport. If you’re driving from Auckland to Rotorua, the trip will take about two and a half hours.


Ward off bad luck with Maori jade

The Maori people are known for their intricate jade sculptures and have been honing this time-honored skill since the 12th century. Their well-known Manaia sculpture has special significance for the Maori, who believe it bestows the carrier with supernatural powers. Traditionally depicted with the head of a bird, the body of a man and the tail of a fishrepresenting the balance between the sky, earth and seaMaori natives believe the Manaia protects the wearer from evil.

Treat yourself: Manaia sculptures, JadeFactory.com, starting at $58 NZD (about $37 US)


Take a peek

Rotorua is surrounded by volcanic activity, erupting geysers and bubbling mud pools. You can look out the window of the Regal Geyserland Quality Hotel in Rotorua with this live webcam, which overlooks the thermal valley of Whakarewarewa, Pohutu Geyser and Te Puia’s bubbling mud pools and boiling waters.



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