Rafting the Kaituna

Kaituna raft I have a minor problem with this post, and it is one that has caused me to delay posting it for some time. The problem is (or at least, was) that I don’t have any suitable pictures to go with it.

This is perhaps not the end of the world, but lets be honest, a post about rafting over a seven metre waterfall is always going to be more impressive with some pictures of me going over a seven metre waterfall rather than me just waffling on about it.

Still, there we are. I have found someone elses photos of a raft going down said river, and have used those, and you can pretend in your mind that it is me, looking all brave and masculine, calmly tackling grade five rapids and taking giant waterfalls in my stride with barely any screaming at all. If you could do that for me as we go through the rest of the post that would be wonderful.

The Kaituna river, just about twenty minutes drive north of Rotorua, is home to the highest commercially raftable waterfall in New Zealand, if not the world. Seven metres is an awfully long way to drop down in any form of transport, but a large inflatable bit of rubber seems to be the chosen vessel.

Kaituna rapids

The expedition that I went on – for free, I hasten to add – was entirely courtesy of the lovely people at Kaituna Cascades. This is the rafting company which is owned by the first guy to ever peer at a seven metre torrent of water and think to himself that the best thing to do would be to float over it in a raft and see if it was actually possible. It turned out it was, and twenty years later, tens of thousands of happy people have floated down said bit of river.

It’s not all about the waterfall of course. The trip on the grade five (I don’t think the numbers go any higher than five, which is slightly worrying to a novice like me) river is jam packed with all kinds of drops and rapids which make this water based jolly rather, well, jolly.

The guides, who are both ruggedly handsome and seriously professional chaps, kept us safe and made the trip incredibly fun, even throwing in the odd tidbit of actual knowledge as we went. I learnt, for example, that Kaituna means, roughly translated from the Maori, “fish food”. Not an omen of the trip it turned out.

emerging from the falls

Despite the massive waterfall and the many rapids, the Kaituna is actually a very safe river to raft on. The gorge is very deep, and for the most part the water under the boat is around five metres in depth. So even if you do fall out, there isn’t much to damage yourself on.

Flipping the raft when going over the waterfall happens around one in ten times, but then you just find yourself bobbing around in the huge plunge pool at the base of the falls, which isn’t the end of the world. You are fully equipped, with helmet, wet suit and so on, but the river isn’t particularly cold, so there is even the chance for a brief swim at one point.

The beauty of the gorge that you raft down is also pretty spectacular. When you aren’t busy trying not to fall out of the boat, the overhead scenery of tree ferns and native bush with towering gorge walls and the narrow strip of blue sky over head is rather lovely.

All in all, I can’t really recommend the whole thing enough.




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