How to Survive some Epic White Water Rafting in Rotorua

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There was no end to the adventure activities in New Zealand. As if I hadn’t pushed my boundaries enough by bungy jumping in Queenstown, Brecht somehow managed to convince me to go white water rafting in Rotorua. I honestly had no idea what I got myself into. Looking back, that was probably for the best.

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about some epic white water rafting in Rotorua.

White Water Rafting in Rotorua with Kaituna Cascades

There are a bunch of companies offering white water rafting in Rotorua. They all offer pretty much the same experience, all claiming to be the best and safest company on the river. How do you decide which company to book a white water rafting expedition with? It depends on your priorities. We went with the best deal we could find on BookMe: the Kaituna Cascades White Water Rafting Expedition for NZ$65 per person. When you go through the Kaituna Cascades website you’ll pay NZ$89.

There are several departures from Rotorua daily, but you can choose to make your way to the  Kaituna Cascades hangar yourself as well. At the hangar are dressing rooms where you can change into your bathing suit. They won’t send you white water rafting with just your bathing suit on though. You’ll receive a wetsuit, booties, a fleece top, a life jacket and a helmet to put on as well.

On-shore TrainingOn-shore Training
Smiling for the CameraSmiling for the Camera

After a full and comprehensive training it’s time to hit the water. The Kaituna River is said to be a white water rafter’s dream come true, as it has the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world. Once you set foot in the raft, there’s no way around it: you’ll be dropping down the 7 metre Tutea Falls. And those drops, rapids and waterfalls you’ll encounter before getting there won’t truly prepare you for that. We survived, even though I nearly peed my pants. No one would have noticed anyway, as we were already soaking wet. More on that in the next section.

When all the action is over you can relive your white water rafting trip by watching the high quality photos made from ashore. For NZ$30 you’ll get all the photos on a cute raft-shaped USB stick.

How we survived White Water Rafting in Rotorua

On a regular NZ autumn day we arrived in our campervan at the  Kaituna Cascades hangar. You might ask yourself who in their right mind would go white water rafting in autumn. I feel you, but to my surprise it wasn’t really cold, not even when we were soaking wet. Might have had to do with the adrenaline rushing through our bodies. And the wetsuit, booties and fleece top we were wearing.

OK, back to when we weren’t wet yet. So we put on all the gear they gave us and were waiting for further instructions outside of the hangar, when our guide announced it was time for our onshore training. They handed out paddles and ushered us to our seats in the raft. There were 8 of us, including 2 guides. One would be with us in the raft, the other one would be tagging along in his kayak for assistance.

Ready for our First WaterfallReady for our First Waterfall
We Survived this one!We Survived this one!
Are you supposed to take these sideways?Are you supposed to take these sideways?

They explained us how to react in each scenario and made us practice our moves several times. Worst case scenario: our raft would flip over at the Tutea Falls and we would all end up in the powerful rushing water. It probably wasn’t going to happen, but we knew what to do if it did. Even more nervous than before (I was silently freaking out, praying I would stay inside the raft), we climbed in the van that would take us to the launch spot. Note: I’m really not that great of a swimmer.

Our guide was super enthusiastic, kind of funny, and we were enjoying our first white water rafting experience. We even posed for the photographer on the shore a couple of times. Until suddenly our guide stopped the raft and gleefully announced we had reached the Tutea Falls. I remember myself thinking “The end is near!”.

Everything happened really fast, and before I knew it I was rolling myself in a tight ball (I think), waiting to get above water again. Classic: everyone was sitting in the raft, Brecht and I were in the water.

The Highest Commercially Rafted WaterfallThe Highest Commercially Rafted Waterfall
Ready for a 7 meter drop!Ready for a 7 meter drop!
Everything is going greatEverything is going great
Where did the raft go?Where did the raft go?
There we are!There we are!
Can you spot Brecht's leg?Can you spot Brecht's leg?
Taking Birthe out with HimTaking Birthe out with Him
Was this what we were supposed to do?Was this what we were supposed to do?
Rescue Operation in ActionRescue Operation in Action

Nobody knew what had happened exactly, but our guide thanked us for sacrificing ourselves to keep the raft from flipping over. I thanked God I didn’t drown and our guide in the kayak for helping me back to the raft.

We continued our white water rafting trip over the Kaituna River, doing some tricks like surfing and nose dunks, getting everyone wet.

After about 50 minutes of white water rafting fun, we had reached the end of our trip. We carried the raft (it’s heavier than you’d expect) to the van and drove back to the hangar. We quickly changed back into our dry clothes and watched the photos from our near-death experience. Turns out it was all Brecht’s fault! In the photos you clearly see him dragging me into the water. Ha! Not my fault! (For once.) I happily paid the NZ$30 it took to take the proof home with us.

Having Fun on the WaterHaving Fun on the Water
Carrying the Raft to the VanCarrying the Raft to the Van
Making sure everyone gets wetMaking sure everyone gets wet
The White Water Rafting TeamThe White Water Rafting Team

I’m not sure how we survived our afternoon of white water rafting in Rotorua, but I do know it was a lot of fun! Our guide was pretty awesome, doing all these cool tricks, and safely getting us through our first white water rafting experience. We can’t compare with any other companies, but if you decide to go white water rafting in Rotorua, we can recommend Kaituna Cascades! Ready for an adrenaline rush?


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How to Survive some Epic White Water Rafting in RotoruaHow to Survive some Epic White Water Rafting in Rotorua