I had an experience in Bali about 3 years ago with white water rafting and it left me less than excited to do it again.
The safety was lacking, the rapids were merely ripples in an otherwise slow moving river, and the so called “drop” was a man made slide, that your boat more or less floated down.
This average experience didn’t leave me wanting to go white water rafting again anytime soon, so when planning a trip to New Zealand, the idea of going white water rafting again, wasn’t even near my NZ travel bucket list.
That was until I was scrolling bookme.co.nz, a discount website for travel experiences in New Zealand, and came across white water rafting for $30. Although the low price tag did have me questioning what i was actually going to get, it was an offer too good to refuse.
So I booked into Kaotuna Cascades Rafting and the next day i found myself driving to a rafting site just 15 minutes out of Rotorua. The site itself was more or less a tin shed, with wetsuits and lifejackets drying from the ceiling and a little porter loo out the back. It was the typical adventure style manifest and that gave me some inspiration that maybe this would be a bit of fun after all.
We met our fellow crew members and guide (who was awesome) and after a quick safety briefing and photo op, we walked some 200 meters down the road to where we would begin our rafting adventure.
From the moment we entered the Kaituna river our guide was nothing but enthusiastic and patient. It took us no time at all to figure out how to control the boat, as we quickly realised that not being able to control it, would almost certainly mean we would flip and be left floating down the river on our own.
Prior to our departure we were told there were going to be two main waterfalls. The first was a ‘test’ waterfall only a casual 4 meters, and it was at this fall that we would have a chance to test our skills and make sure we were able to duck when told to, and steer when we were directed to. It was also revealed to us, that following very closely afterwards, was the big 7 meter waterfall, aka the highest raft-able waterfall in the world. Although all of this had been disclosed to us, when it was actually happening the time lapse between the initial ‘test’ falls and the real-big-scary falls seemed to be nano seconds. We had just enough time to open our eyes and breath again, when the second one quickly was thrust upon us.
I feel like this next part of the trip can be better described in a photo story….
It may not look like much, but when your getting throw around like a rag doll its pretty darn exciting and also a little bit scary.
So then just as we got our breaths back this happened…
After the two big drops happened we could relax a bit, with the hardest part out of the way.
Our guide was awesome, he was just so laid back. He encouraged us to jump out of the boat in a quieter part of the river and lounge under the amazing canopy of trees and relax. Relax, that was, until we were taken by the not-so-gentle flow of the river, sparking a mild freak out as we all battled our way back to the boat.
We then got to go “surfing”, which in rafting lingo means jamming your boat against a raging rapid and practically drowning the two people at the front until, the water pressure builds up so much that your spat back out. It was heaps of fun.
Its a tough call but i think this was possibly my favourite experience in New Zealand and it was easily the best $30 I’ve ever spent! i can’t recommend Kaituna Cascades enough. Our guide was unreal, the experience was authentic and felt safe, not to mention the photos we received (for an extra charge) were high quality and timed perfectly.
After this experience I’m let asking, where should i raft next?
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