Adventure soaring from Omarama takes clients to a new high

Omarama is in the middle of everywhere and amongst some of New Zealand's top scenic attractions. It's where various scenes of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings was filmed. It's a gliding mecca and boasts the world's best mountain soaring.

With its nearby mountains, the prevailing westerly winds, hot summer temperatures, clear air, spectacular Southern Alps and the extraordinary mountain-lee waves that occur there, Omarama has been the site of three world gliding championships and the location of more than 20 world gliding records, including a recent distance record of 2500km.

It was also the base for Steve Fossett's high altitude Perlan Project.

And operating there for the past 18 years has been Glide Omarama and its subsidiary, Southern Soaring - the most experienced commercial glider operators in the country.

‘‘We're also authorised as a glider training organisation by the CAA and Gliding New Zealand,'' says Gavin Wills, Glide Omarama's managing director and senior instructor. ‘‘All the instructor pilots are mountain-soaring specialists, each with thousands of flying hours behind them. Between them they have won many national and international gliding races''.

Glide Omarama and Southern Soaring offer adventure soaring trial flights, which is an opportunity for the public to fly with the team, learn about the sport of gliding, see some extraordinary scenery and have a fantastic adventure.

‘‘If you've never been gliding before we can provide the ultimate introductory flight,'' says Mr Wills. ‘‘Flying in the scenery is our specialty and we pride ourselves on giving clients the country's premier gliding experience as their gliding introduction.''

After arriving in the town, simply follow the brown tourist signs advertising glider flights and then the blue ‘‘Southern Soaring'' signs that lead to Glide Omarama's front door.

After meeting one of the professional instructors, carefully chosen to provide an enjoyable and safe experience, customers are given a full safety briefing and shown how the dual-seat high-performance aircraft is controlled in flight.

Once the glider is towed aloft by the towplane, the glider is released at around 2000ft above the airfield and the pilot begins to search for updrafts. This may involve finding hot columns of rising air (thermals) or soaring along above the nearby mountain ridges. The views are stunning, with Mount Cook clearly visible on good days. ‘‘All clients get to fly in the front seat and have an opportunity to fly the glider under the guidance of the pilot,'' Mr Wills revealed. To avoid being disappointed, bookings are strongly recommended in the soaring season from September to May. Flights from 30 minutes to five hours long start at NZ$325.00.

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