At the top of most New Zealand adventure lists is the awesome Kaituna River. A run-off from Lake Rotorua, the river flows alongside a scenic reserve, making this a natural beauty spot. However, it’s not the stunning jungle scenery and balmy temperate climate that bring people here. This river is a world-famous destination for whitewater rafting, best known for its crown jewel, Tutea Falls.
With a heart-pounding drop of seven meters (23 feet), Tutea is the world’s highest commercially rafted waterfall. Dashing down these grade-five falls and navigating the longer course has to be the most exhilarating whitewater experience ever. Between fearsome plunges, you can rest your heart rate by taking in the scenery and swimming in deep rock pools.
There are a few companies operating tours on the river, so do your research before choosing one. All expeditions are led by seasoned staff with serious river credentials, and quite a lot of personality too – which comes in handy when calming nerves.
They say on average, one in every 20 boats flip on the descent over the falls. But fear not! Calmer water awaits below, and there’s plenty of time to get everybody back on board before powering on.
Located in a jungle canyon, the water is warm so you can strike freezing temperatures off the list of reasons not to do this (every little bit helps).
Thrill seekers and first-time rafters alike are welcome on these rapids. No prior experience is required, with all training and equipment provided. If you’re not planning to raft or kayak the Kaituna, the course is accessible via foot. Several viewing platforms allow spectators to join in the fun for free – and watch rafts attempting the scariest bits.