I love the water and I’ll take any excuse to get wet and get my adrenaline pumping – whether it’s tackling surf out in South Africa or freediving amongst whale sharks.
So when I arrived in Rotorua on my tour of the North Island of New Zealand with Kiwi Experience I was stoked to discover that its home of a grade 5 white water rafting trail that includes the worlds highest commercial waterfall…and promptly pencilled it into my stay there!
More Rafting Fun
I first popped my white water rafting cherry a few years ago when I tackled the Tully River in Australia and it was heaps of fun.
Since then I simply haven’t had the opportunity to try it again, so when Rotorua came around I was keen to get in amongst it again.
The same can’t be said for my travel buddy though, who had never tried it and was more than a little apprehensive about hurtling herself down a river in a rubber raft – let alone on a grade 5 run than included a drop of 7m…the worlds highest commercial rafting waterfall!
But not one to turn down a challenge she slid into a wetsuit and we joined the guys from Wet n Wild Rafting to head down the Kaituna and see what turbulent treats it has in store for us!
Wet n Wild Rafting
Having got suited up in a changing room in the form of a Hobbit hole (a pretty awesome little touch I must admit) we joined some fellow travellers from all corners of the world, loaded our gear onto the trailer and began the short drive to the river – a journey full of nervous silence.
Our instructors were keen to break this silence though and we had probably the most amusing safety talk en route. I can’t really remember the specifics of it but it involved a lot of heavy hand slaps, talks about rocks, a demonstration on how to strangle yourself with the safety rope and how to tuck and roll if you fell out.
Having already rafted I took it with an amusing pinch of salt but the look of Taras face was priceless!
But before she knew it we were practicing our paddling on the bank of the river and then hitting the water, not knowing what awaited us around the corners.
Hitting The Falls
Our fears about the rapids were quickly replaced with excited faces as we tackled the first few sections of the river, cruising through some beautiful Kiwi forests – the views were almost as intoxicating as the rush of bouncing through the rocky waters.
After being woken up with some fresh faces of water as we paddled hard and negotiated our way down stream – but then came the dreaded calm before the storm and we moored up – the distinct roar of a waterfall just meters away.
First over the falls was owner and safety rafter Peter – who did nothing to help our nerves by screaming the entire way over as he disappeared out of sight!
Then it was our turn. A few paddles to line ourselves up before everyone took their positions inside the raft, arms around each other and braced for the impending chaos…
As the front of the raft disappeared over the ledge of the falls there was a rush of adrenaline, hands tightly gripped around the safety ropes as the raft scooped under the water, spray in our faces and everyone being jolted around in an almost slinky style motion.
Just seconds later we popped up above the surface again – a quick check around and everyone was still in the boat, happy days indeed!
Smiles all round and a big group high five were in order before watching the second raft hurtle over the ledge and although everyone hung on one dude barely made it, which made for some amusing viewing!
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With the infamous falls behind us we all began to relax! Luckily our survival on the 7m high falls wasn’t the end of the fun and the remainder of our rafting was spent wave surfing (which basically felt like an excuse for our guides to semi drown us and was hilarious to both watch and be part of!) and tackle the remaining rapids sat on front of the raft – bucking broncho style!
By the end of our time on the river the raft was packed with a group of soaking wet, but heaps smiley travellers, stoked to have ticked another item off their bucket lists and with the bragging rights of tackling the 21 foot drop…and with the photos to prove it!
If you’re heading to Rotorua make sure you pencil in enough time to go and tackle it yourself!
To help you tick this off your bucket list Wet n Wild are offering Backpacker Banter readers 15% off all of their rafting tours – just mention this review when you email them!