New Zealand is known for it’s extreme activities and sports throughout the country. One trip you should not miss on the North Island when you visit Rotorua is a rafting trip with River Rats Rafting. Don’t let the water splashes and the crashing of the rapids scare you away. Grab your wet suit, helmet, paddle and hope you do not fall out over the 7 meter waterfall drop.
Our journey for the day started in Rotorua. River Rats picked us up at our hostel and away we went for a 20 minute drive to their main office. Once there, we were briefed on the trip and sent out to get fitted with our gear for the day and meet our river guides.
After everyone was dressed for rafting we loaded up in the van and headed to the drop in area of the Kaituna River to begin our adventure. Before getting in the water, the experienced guides will show you what you need to know to make it down the river.
When they say paddle to the right you paddle to the right, if they say get down you get down and grab the raft. The teach you paddle forward and paddle back. Your guide will tell you what do and when to do it way in advance before you plunge down the different twist, turns and drops of the river. The crew are called River Rats because they spend every hour of every day on the river, you are in safe hands.
The beginning of the trip starts of mild so it’s easy to get into the flow of rafting the river. As you keep paddling, the sounds of water falling over the rocks becomes the soundtrack of your day while your guide tells you how to navigate the river. Before you know it, you are at your first set of class 5 rapids. A 2.5 meter waterfall quickly followed by a 1 meter waterfall.
Water crashes you in the face as you plunge down the first set of rapids. You have only a moment to catch your breath before the next waterfall meets you. You paddle once again as hard as you can with your whole body then you quickly jump down holding on to the water soaked rope as you have the sensation of free falling once again. In a matter of seconds you will be down wiping off the water from your face.
It isn’t every day that you get a chance to raft class 5 rapids and negotiate a 7 meter waterfall, the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the World. Your heart starts pumping as you hear the sound of the water crashing in front of you. As your raft creeps up with the nose of the raft just starting over the large drop you think to yourself, am I really doing this?
Too late, you’re plunging down the waterfall in one quick motion. All you see is the waterfall mist for a slight second while the whole raft is pushed down by the falling water, then you pop out on the bottom to a nice pool of water. It hits you; you just went down a real, not man made, 7 meter waterfall. You and your team put your paddles together to give a celebration yell.
The rest of the river is seems pretty tame after that rush but you push on through more rapids. Rapids water splashing all over while you are crashing thought the water, trying to stay in. If you do fall out there’s a guide in a kayak to save you along with your fellow rafters.
We went down the river in groups of three rafts and waited after every large fall to make sure someone was not unlucky and fell out of the boat. If you are not scared of the water, you and your team can paddle up the rapids into the water falls to let the falling water spray into the front of your boat. The water can spray two rows back flowing over the front two rafters.
If you feel like free floating down the class 5 rapids, jump out of the boat and give it a try. Let the river take you for a wild ride. You may be thinking this is crazy, as your goal is to stay in the boat. Why would I jump out? It’s a wild trip; you cross your arms and put your feet forward while the rapids suck you downstream. Don’t worry about hitting a rock just let the powerful rapids take you for a wet’n wild ride.
The beauty of the Kaituna river is unmatched around the World and it’s hard to keep your eyes on the rapids as they come up. There’s large rock cliffs with all kinds of growth over the water way. The water is clear, crisp and really refreshing on a summer day.
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Disclosure: We were guests of River Rats Rafting. All opinions are 100% mine. Photos by River Rats Rafting and video by Divergent Travelers.