1 / 4
New Zealand is well known as a destination for adventure seekers with a huge range of adventure options. Rafting was one of the first adventure activities available to the general public.
In the early days many of the guides were rough diamonds from outdoor backgrounds.
In one of the most memorable stories from the early days, the guides caught a pig that was swimming across the Rangitaiki River, to the shock of the customers a guide killed it with his river knife and threw it in the raft until they could stow it in the bushes. On the companies next trip the guide jumped out of the raft, crashed around in the bush, then came running back out with the pig they had caught earlier. They convinced the customers they had just caught it then. They tied it into the raft, and finished the trip. Apparently it made a delicious meal for the guides. That sort of thing probably wouldn’t go down too well these days but it certainly would have made for a memorable trip. The customers that day have probably all told the story many times over the years.
River Rats Raft & Kayak director Justin Hutton says "rafting has certainly come a long way since those early days, particularly in the equipment and guide training areas. In the early days the rafts were what we refer to as 'bucket boats' as it was necessary to carry a bucket to bail the water out. The rafts would fill up with water as they went through the rapids and customers would take turns being the designated 'bailer', emptying the water so the raft wasn't so heavy to steer. These days the rafts have inflatable floors which allow water to run to the outside through drain holes. The rafts are also more rigid, so overall they are much more manageable. Companies are audited annually by Maritime New Zealand and guides have to be assessed. The system is definitely the most stringent in the world and New Zealand guides are sought after by overseas raft companies”
The changes in the industry have allowed companies to advance and make it safer to run trips such as the Grade 5 Kaituna and Wairoa Rivers. The Kaituna River trip includes 14 rapids and features the world’s highest commercially rafted waterfall, the awesome 7m (21ft) Tutea Falls. Only 20 minutes from Rotorua it runs through a picturesque gorge and is one of New Zealand's most popular rafting runs.
The Wairoa is a technical grade 5 river situated around 20 minutes from Tauranga that only runs selected days. They have dammed the river and built a power station, but 26 days a year (usually selected Sundays from September to May) they shut down the power station and release water for recreational use. Release dates are published on River Rats website.
There is also a gentle grade 2 trip on the Rangitaiki River that can accommodate children as young as 5 which makes for a great family trip.
With such a wide variety of options Rotorua really is a white water mecca. It has been selected to host the World Rafting Champs in 2013. River Rats Raft & Kayak director Justin Hutton says “it really is a pleasure to be able to show visitors the amazing resource we have on our doorstep. With so many options so close to Rotorua there really is something for everyone. We look forward to being able to show it off for the next 30 years and beyond”