Rafting the white water of the Tongariro River + video

Summer – tick.

Water – tick.

Boats – tick.

Beautiful scenery – tick.

Adrenaline rushes, chocolate fish, beer, and hot dogs? Tick!

Whitewater rafting in New Zealand

Whitewater rafting with Rafting New Zealand

Before heading to Taupo, in the centre of the North Island of New Zealand, for a wedding on a hot summer weekend, we came across Rafting New Zealand’s operation in Turangi, about 45 minutes from Taupo. We had always wanted to go white water rafting, and this was our chance!

The sun was blazing, the water was cool (actually, bloody cold at 9°C), and we were ready for a fun time bouncing down the river.

Remember to check out our awesome GoPro video at the end of this post!

White water rafting in New Zealand

A safety briefing at Rafting New Zealand‘s base went through the essentials of paddling and getting back into the raft if we fell out (!), and then we got geared up in some seriously sexy wetsuits, fleece jumpers, fluoro green spray jackets, red lifejackets, and helmets. We hopped in the vans and headed upriver to the drop in point, and carried the rafts down to the water.

Boy, that water was cold!

Our rafting guide, Shannon, took us through the different kinds of strokes and what to do if the raft got stuck on rocks in the river. And then we were off!

It wasn’t long before we were bouncing down the rapids of the beautiful Tongariro River. The river winds through gorges lined with native forest, huge boulders, and remnants of the massive volcanic eruptions that covered the region with ash in the past. The journey was never terrifying, but it was enough to get the blood pumping at times when we headed straight for the gorge wall and water gushed into the raft!

We were lucky enough to spot two pairs of Whio, or Blue Duck, one of New Zealand’s vulnerable endemic bird species. The worldwide Whio population is less than 3000 (less than some species of Kiwi!), and the males whistle instead of quack (whio means whistle in Maori). These birds are very inquisitive and Shannon remarked that he had almost run over a couple during his time rafting as they are not scared of humans at all. Perhaps that says something about why they are endangered…?

Fun fact: the Whio is found on New Zealand’s $10 note!

Whitewater rafting New Zealand

Floating down the Tongariro River

After continuing down the river for a few kilometres and shrieking as we bounded over the rapids, we pulled onto the bank of the river and hopped out of the raft. A short walk up a tributary stream led us to a pretty waterfall, where we could climb to the top and jump into the pool at the bottom. Fun! The drop was about 4 metres and jumping off was exhilarating.

Whitewater rafting in New Zealand

Going down a rapid on the Tongariro River

We hopped back into the raft and Shannon surprised us by pulling out a thermos filled with hot chocolate and a box of chocolate fish (for those who don’t know, chocolate fish are fish-shaped raspberry marshmallows covered in chocolate – a New Zealand delicacy). It was great to float down a quiet stretch of river and warm up our bodies from the inside after getting dunked in the freezing water.

Whitewater rafting in New Zealand

Hot chocolate after jumping off the waterfall

The second half of the trip was just as fun as the first half, with more wild rides down rapids, crashing into the gorge sidewalls, and shrieking with laughter. At one point, Shannon got us to turn around in the raft and we went down a rapid backwards!

Whitewater rafting in New Zealand

Backwards whitewater rafting!

Finally, after two and a half hours on the river, we pulled into the exit point and carried our raft to the van and trailer. Back to the rafting base we went, and after getting out of our lovely wet gear we were treated to hot dogs and beer before heading back to Taupo.

Whitewater rafting in New Zealand

Rafting A-team!

Can we go white water rafting every day? Seriously, this trip was insanely awesome. We loved every minute of it. The Rafting New Zealand team was great, and they all made sure you were having a fun time. A special shout out goes to our awesome guide Shannon!

One thing we found interesting (that doesn’t apply to us now, but perhaps in the future!) is that you can take kids as young as three years old on the river – Rafting NZ has a trip that runs down lower grade rapids so that it’s not too much for the littlies. How cool!

We loved white water rafting so much that we even made a GoPro video about our trip – check it out!

What’s your favourite adrenaline-inducing activity?

P&S xx

Thanks to Rafting New Zealand for supporting us on our white water rafting trip. As always, our opinions are our own regardless of who is footing the bill. You can find Rafting New Zealand on Facebook here!

10 comments

  1. Hi Petra and Shaun,

    Thought I would stop in and say hello! The land of middle earth has never looked so beautiful 🙂 What class of rapids were they? I’ve been rafting in Peru, but the rapids were not nearly as high or intense. Not sure if i can talk my other half into going again (she actually fell out), but between you and me, this has just been added to my own bucket list 🙂

    Great capture on the GoPro.

    • Petra
      Author

      Thanks Casey! They were class 3 rapids. It was a lot of fun and not scary (for us) which was great! Hope you make it down to New Zealand one day soon 🙂

  2. Petra I am not a big beer drinker but after that type of day I’d be big on hot dogs and beer too 😉 Loving the recount here! We did a bit of light rafting in Vietnam and it was a thrilling experience; I can only imagine how things were in NZ.

    Thanks for sharing and keep on inspiring guys!

    Ryan

    • Petra
      Author

      Thanks Ryan! The beer was so refreshing – the perfect thing after our adventure. Rafting in Vietnam sounds cool, must’ve been some great scenery! Cheers!

  3. Turangi is a lovely spot, and this looks amazing! Aren’t we lucky in NZ to have so many incredible outdoor activities/adventures on our doorstep. Your NZ posts are totally making me miss home!

    • Petra
      Author

      I totally agree Christie! We don’t know how lucky we are, and it’s so great to be able to experience things like this every so often. I love your SE Asia posts though! Makes me want to go back so much!

  4. I’ve never gone on a white water rafting in my whole life and I must say, thank you, Petra and Shaun, for providing an insight on the experience. =) Might nudge my college friend to go for it during the upcoming summer holidays (since he’ll be in Auckland for studies).

    9 degrees Celsius? I thought it’s coming to end summer in NZ now?

    • Petra
      Author

      Thanks Ciana! White water rafting is heaps of fun – you should totally encourage your friend to do it! The water comes from high up in the mountains so it’s freezing, we hate to think how cold it would be in winter…!

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