Now I must firstly confess to being a fan of white water rafting – when I’m in NZ and the chance arises I can’t wait to get in the water!
I always think of doing it back in the UK but never get round to it - maybe that’s due to the smell of adrenaline in the air in NZ! Secondly I must admit that this wasn’t the first time I had rafted the Kaituna in Rotorua. You would think this would make the trip less exciting but there’s something about the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world that stops you getting complacent. At 7m she’s a bit of a whopper and the highlight of this river but there are certainly some other great waterfalls and rapids to keep you entertained through the trip offered by Raftabout.
I was picked up in Rotorua by the courtesy bus and got the first glimpse of my rafting companions – a group of burly Kiwi guys on holiday who proposed using me as the oar. Well at least we would have some power in the raft! On arrival at basecamp the trip was explained and we were kitted out in wetsuits and all the protective gear. Then it was on the bus out to the river while they explained the safety information and what to do if it all went horribly wrong. Having flipped the raft in a previous trip on the Kaituna I listened intently to this talk so I would know what to do if it happened again!
Down by the river I was already excited and dying to get into the raft and onto the water. There were five rafts in total as well as a raft of guides (no pun intended) to keep an eye on us and step in if any problems arose. Throughout the trip you always felt that help was on hand and the guides knew what they were doing. On the first stretch of water they walked us through the different paddling techniques and of course the infamous ‘get down’ for when we went over the waterfall!
It wasn’t long before we met our first decent rapids in the shape of two waterfalls. There’s something special about seeing white water disappear over an edge and not knowing quite what is on the other side! A great thing about the Kaituna is that it flows through a canyon and so you are surrounded with steep sided rocks and overhanging trees which really adds to the adventure. At some points the water is only a few metres wide.
Our raft was one of the last to go through each rapid and we had to wait for each raft to pass through – it didn’t half add to the tension!
And so we passed through more and more rapids getting ever more confident and wet! And then we arrived at the highlight – Tutea Falls. As you can see from the photos its got to be one of the biggest adrenaline buzzes in NZ. This is one of the key reason that the Kaituna is classed as a grade 5 rapid. Again we had to wait till the end which got my heart beating and because I had done it before I knew what the hell we were in for! Plus when they operators know you are doing a review they try to make the trip as ‘memorable’ as possible…
And so with a big cheer our raft crept towards the edge – a few half hearted rows and we all dove down into the bottom of the raft. As you can see from the photo you quite literally disappear under the water! Well we sprung back out and thank god had not flipped although I heard it had been quite close. So with the ‘big boy’ out of the way there was still some time to get dunked into a few rapids – don’t sit in the front if you don’t want to get wet!