White Water Rafting in New Zealand

In New Zealand, there are endless outdoor activities to do. You can choose from expensive extreme sports like skydiving to free activities like hiking through their pristine forests and mountains. One of our favorite outdoor activities that we did on our camper van road trip through New Zealand was going white water rafting!

This white water rafting experience is on the North Island of New Zealand near a town called Rotorua. The night before the rafting trip, we stayed in Rotorua in our campervan in Rotorua’s TOP 10 Holiday park. The holiday park has laundry, kitchen facilities, a swimming pool and a playground for kids.

Rotorua’s TOP 10 Holiday Park.

Since we were on a budget, we booked our white water rafting experience through Groupon in New Zealand. We went with Kaitiaki Adventures on their three hour long Kaituna River rafting experience. We had such a fun, memorable time. The rafting trip takes you along the river which is amongst a beautiful, lush canyon with 14 rapids and 3 waterfalls. The biggest waterfall, Tutea Falls, is 7 meters (almost 23 feet!) which is the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world! But don’t worry- this rafting trip welcomes first timers and rafters with experience. They will teach you everything you need to know.

Luke and I had the two front spots on the raft!

Our Day with Kaitiaki Adventures

Kaitiaki Adventures offers pick up from accommodations around the Rotorua area if you do not have your own transportation. Since we had our camper van, we just drove directly to their shop. Once you arrive, you will be given some options on what to wear depending on the season. They have wetsuits, helmets, a dry shirt, wet shoes and a life jacket. Once everyone has figured out what to wear, you go get changed. Make sure to bring along, or even wear your swimsuit to the shop as your base layer. Once everyone is ready to go, you get in a bus with the rafts on the back and drive to the river.

Travel Tip: Remember to bring your GoPro for the adventure! I will cherish the great, stable videos we got from our rafting experience that day!

On the short drive in the bus to the river they start teaching you the basics of rafting. They explain that on the big waterfall, the raft might tip over and everyone could fall out, or just a few, and how to help get everyone back on board. Kaitiaki Adventures also has a support raft which goes down the river first and can help scoop anyone that has fallen into the river. When you arrive at the river, they divide everyone up to make the weight even on the rafts. The instructors teach you how to sit on the raft and how to row forward and backward together on command. They also teach you how to get down when going over the big waterfalls, tucking yourself in so you, hopefully, do not fall in.

Where you begin in the river is the perfect, flat place to practice together with your raft mates. The instructor calls out a command and together you row in sync with their count. First, you go down some small rapids and then comes a smaller waterfall. This small waterfall is your opportunity to practice your “get down” and brace for impact before the huge waterfall. You keep going along, flowing down more rapids and another small waterfall.

The Big One

Right before the big 7 meter (23 feet!) waterfall, they stop the raft and explain the possibilities of the raft flipping and everyone falling out into the river. If this is too scary of a proposition for you, there is a ladder to get out and stop rafting, no problem. With their warnings, I was heavily debating on getting off the raft, but the adrenaline from the previous waterfalls and rapids told me to stay on. Before going over they also do a Maori prayer to say thank you to the Gods.

We went down the biggest waterfall and made it out alive! It was such a thrill! We were all high-fiving and yelling with excitement!

After the big waterfall, I was no longer scared and just had fun. We went down a few more rapids and tried rowing into the rapids which dunks the front of the raft into the water. After that our river adventure was over and we all gathered back onto the bus back to their shop. At their shop you can purchase the photographs the photographer took (just like the ones in this post) of your white water rafting adventure.

Final Thoughts

Kaitiaki Adventures does a wonderful job making sure everyone feels safe and is having a great time. They are reasonably priced and have a photographer follow the raft so you can purchase great photographs from your adventure. I would highly recommend them for your New Zealand rafting adventure! They also offer sledging, which is like sledding on the river. I will definitely be trying that next time!

Have you ever been white water rafting? Where else should we go rafting?

White water rafting in New Zealand
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