It was only day two of our Flying Kiwi experience and we were already facing the thrill ride of a lifetime! There’s no wasting time on this trip, New Zealand is filled with adventure opportunities and we have each day jam packed!  It was a cool morning in New Zealand and it was about to get a whole lot colder as we dressed for the ultimate White Water Rafting Adventure with Rangitata Rafting.
Nerves were running high as we were about to face the glacial river, freezing water and awesome Class 5 rapids. New Zealand is one of the few places on earth that actually rafts such big white water.
Our attire consisted of a thermal layer, a wet suit, windbreaker, helmet, booties and a life jacket. We may have felt a chill before hand, but once we are wrapped in our layers we felt cozy and warm.
We were broken into 3 groups and take one final photo before setting off to face our doom…

white water rafting new zealand
Before facing our first set of rapids, we practiced paddling, turning, diving from one side of the boat to the other and holding on and diving down to a safe position. We went through a few more drills than usual because this water is so big. We had to learn what to do if we were about to flip over a big rock or waterfall.
The last thing I wanted to do was fall out because that water is cold. Our guide Dan told us to take a deep breath and stay calm if we fall in. The water will be cold and our lungs will constrict but we will get used to it.
He also told us that falling out of the boat at the top of a class 5 rapid will be one of the most terrifying things that you will go through in your life, but you will pop up and you should be fine if you stay calm and follow all the safety rules that he just went through.

in the boat white water rafting new zealand
So now that we were thoroughly warned…

It was time to face a class 3 rapid. Just before entering the white water area we were told to give our faces a good splash of water. It definitely gives you a shock to feel the cold water hit your face, but it helps you prepare for being soaked with it once you face the rapids and it makes falling in more bearable.

going into class 3 rapids in new zealand
It may have only been class 3 but the water came over the boat and onto us in full force. We were drenched and the adrenaline was high. We were tossed and turned and shaken and stirred, but we came out the other end with huge smiles and whooping voices.
We were told earlier that by the time we faced our first class 5 we would be pumped and ready for it… and it was true.
We got out of our boat to take a look at the route we would be taking. The water looked big and scary, but we felt ready. We watched the first boat go through and within a few seconds someone was already bounced out of the raft! Yikes. He fell off the back and people scrambled to hold onto his feet to keep him from going all the way down the river. They managed to get him back in and make it through the rest of the rapids unscathed.

Our turn.

entering class five rapids on rangitata river nz

We listened to Dan’s instructions and followed diligently. Dave and I were at the front of the boat and I felt confident that we were going to make it through. The first drop was huge and we took on a ton of water. It went up my nose and into my mouth and I had to gasp for air quickly before we hit the next drop. Just as I caught my breath, more water came in. I kept on paddling though. I was terrified that if I didn’t paddle, the boat would flip, so I listened to Dan’s every word and tried my best. We all worked as a team and came out the other end unscathed.

big white water in new zealand
What a rush

That class 5 section was only 50 metres. It was the training run for the 300 metre monster. We had the option to chicken out but everyone held strong. Once again we got out to take a look at the line. Dan explained every obstacle that we would be facing. He told us that we would feel like we had just conquered a maneuver, but not to get too comfortable. The minute we finish one, another would be around the corner and we had to keep paddling and listening to his instructions.

white water rafting with flying kiwi
We went for it and paddled our hearts out. We bounced around catching air, taking on water and spinning from side to side, but we made it through with success. With a big high 5 with our paddles, we whooped and hollered relieved to make it through the day.

It was all fun and games now.

After conquering the rapids it was time to go for a swim. We jumped off a rock and drifted through the more “mellow” water. The river was still fast and there were some eddies and whirlpools, but it was a fun (if not freezing) drift down the river.

Deb Jumping off Rock Number 1

Once we got to the end of our swim we had the chance to jump off a big cliff. I am ashamed to admit that I chickened out. I was very cold during our drift and wasn’t looking forward to having the shock of hitting the water again. Plus, I was already proud of myself for jumping in at the smaller jump and actually getting in the water.
I am never a fan of cold water, so I went very far out of my comfort zone. Dave on the other hand looks for a rush wherever he goes so he not only jumped off of one cliff he went again off of the 10 metre (30 foot) jump.

Dave Jumping off the big 10 Metre Rock

He came out with a big smile. After I heard that the water felt warmer the second time around I felt extreme guilt for not giving it a go.
We had one final set of rapids to face and this time it was a class 3. We posed at a drop for some photos and turned the boat from side to side. The water swelled over the boat and within a few seconds, I found myself outside the boat swirling around in rapids.

river rafting the rangitata river in New Zealand

It was only a few seconds later that Deb fell out

I remained surprisingly calm.
It all happened in slow motion. It seemed as if the front of the boat filled up with water and I simply drifted out with the current. I missed catching the paddle of a fellow rafter and quickly drifted on to another raft ahead. Luckily I was just close enough to grab the end of their paddle before we entered the next set of rapids.

white water rafts on river bank
They pulled me in their boat and I sat in the middle taking a free ride through our final set.
I have to admit, it wasn’t scary at all being in the middle of the class 3 whitewater. It has always been my greatest fear to be thrown out of a boat into ice-cold water. But, it happens so fast and the crew is very professional, you are out and back in the boat in a blink of an eye.
Would we recommend rafting the Rangitata? You bet! It is a thrill ride and adrenaline rush like no other.

Check out White Water Rafting in Fiji for more fun.

Our New Zealand Experience is courtesy of Flying Kiwi. Most of the Rafting photos above were purchase from the Photographer at Rangitata Rafting. For $40 New Zealand Dollars we have the memories to last a lifetime.

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35 Comments

  1. Tijmen

    I did the rafting as well in NZ, but then in Taupo. I really enjoyed it as well, the only thing that made me a bit nervous that day was the 7 meter drop from the waterfall. Also had a bit to much to drink the day before, so I didnt feel that well :) I can really recommend to anyone to go rafting in NZ, its great fun!

    1. davendeb

      Wow! A 7 meter drop, that is huge. New Zealand is filled with big water. We are sky diving in Taupo, but if we come back, it sounds like white water rafting is the way to go!

    1. davendeb

      Yes, the water in New Zealand has incredible colours. We got to see it quite up close and personal too :-)

    1. davendeb

      We laughed at that group shot too and had to include it. So much fun. I hope you get to do it too! When do you get married?

  2. Andrea

    Those photos are so fantastic! We did whitewater rafting in Queenstown but the photos they tried to sell us weren’t anywhere near this good. So much fun =)

    1. davendeb

      These guys did a great job. They tell everyone not to bring their cameras because the water is too big. Even the waterproof ones can get ripped right off you and get in the way. We brought a little Olympus waterproof, but really didn’t need it.

    1. davendeb

      Thanks guys, yes that photo was fun to take. Our adrenaline was pumping and they captured a great moment.

  3. Debbie Beardsley

    Wow what an adventure! Those pictures are amazing and the trip looked like a whole lot of fun. I’m with you on cold water. Warm water is good, cold water not so much!

    Thanks for sharing your adventure!

  4. Cam

    Looks like fun! Unfortunately we skipped over the rafting when we were there, it was winter and the thought of glacier water chilled us to the bone.

    1. davendeb

      I was freaked about the glacial water too. We were bundled up enough that it wasn’t too bad. It was the swim that was the worst part. As I drifted down the river I was thinking to myself “Why am I putting myself through this?”:-)

  5. iamthewitch

    My goodness! That sounds like an adrenaline-pumped adventure all right! I only did white water rafting once in Padas river, Sabah and it was thrilling! Our raft flipped and we were all under water at the Class 4 rapid.. really scary first rapid but we came back stronger than ever after that! I could totally imagine how you felt! :) And gorgeous pictures by the way..

    1. davendeb

      Wow! Flipping over in class 4 is scary alright! At least the water would have been warm in Borneo. It was freezing here.

    2. davendeb

      Wow! That is crazy that all the rafts flipped. At least the water was warm in Sabah:-)But it is as equally as scary I can imagine. Glad you made it out safe.

    1. Berkshire Concepts

      There are literally dozens of rivers known for their white water rafting opportunities around the world, whether traveling in the U.S. or around the world. Rivers including the the Colorado and the Snake are just two that offer the beginner to the expert a time they will never forget.

      As the types of vacation options change to suit the interests of the travelers of today, adventure tourism including activities such as mountain climbing, zip lining and white water rafting become easier to find and more accommodating to people from a variety of backgrounds. Outfitters can be found along almost every stretch of river that offers this type of opportunity and prices can range from quite affordable for a day of rafting to week long adventures that require a bit more budgeting. As the opportunities can be found almost anywhere, we would like to offer you a look at the top rivers to choose from when planning your adventure. Learn more about the many amazing sites and adventures you can choose from when planning your vacation and make more of your experiences.

      Salmon River, Idaho – One of the most popular areas in the world, rapids along this river range from beginner to Class IV and everything in between. Including some of the wildest territory in the world, it offers natural beauty in addition to a rafters paradise.

      Río Upano, Ecuador – Traveling through vast stretches of rain forest and through remote small villages, this river is truly wild. Located along the Amazon Basin, this river weaves its way through canyons and gorges, down waterfalls and offer some of the hardest treks imaginable.

      Colorado River – Making its way through a number of states including Utah, Colorado and Arizona, it is easy to see what makes this one of the most well known river rafting areas in the world today. Affordable, offering a variety of difficulty levels and access in a number of areas, it is an easily accessible destination in the world to begin your adventure.

      Whether taking a trip down a class III in the Amazon or riding the rapids of the Snake river in Oregon, your options for having an adventure on the water are only limited by you. Get out and experience the excitement that can be found around the world and make the most of your time traveling.

      Berkshire Concepts travels with you and hopes that you can find and make the most of your dream vacations no matter where you choose. Explore more, travel more and learn more with tips and advice to help from Berkshire Concepts.

  6. Gray

    Look at the color of that water! WOW! It is gorgeous. But yeah, you can have the white water rafting. I have a healthy fear of drowning.

    1. davendeb

      Okay Gray. you can leave the rafting to us and just enjoy the water. Yes, it is beautiful isn’t it.

  7. Rogue River Rafting

    That water is such an amazing color! Reminds me of pictures of the Futaleufu River in Chile, which is also fed by glacial snow melt from the Andes. Your blog reminded me of the first time I fell out of a raft, but like you say, if you don’t panic, you are back in the boat before you know it.

    1. davendeb

      Good to know someone else fell out of the raft. You are right, if you don’t panic all is fine. I always thought I would be a panicker if I fell in the water. Glad to know I remained calm. Yes, Glacial water is like nothing else on earth. So beautiful!

  8. Randy

    Very Cool! I can’t believe how blue the water is. When I was 13 I went through class 3 rapids, but they were a far cry from these. When we make it to NZ, I’m definitely going to check this out.

    1. davendeb

      You are absolutely right Randy, the water is more blue here than I have ever seen anywhere on earth. Everywhere we go we keep commenting on the colour of the water. Yes, these class 5s are pretty intense. you will love it. Even the 3 was big. That is when Deb fell out on a class 3 rapid. Funny eh.

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  10. me

    if you are a fan of class 5 rapids you should try the gauley river located in wv. during the fall.

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  14. Austin-Lehman Adventures

    Wow. Amazing photos. I have been on class four in Costa Rica and I have to say it was warm water and still absolutely terrifying!! Granted I was the poor sap that fell out in the first 20 second ride but you are right guides are so professional and know their stuff. If you follow all the rules and tips you will be fine. I plan to go to Australia in the next year or so and this really makes me consider stopping by New Zealand while I’m on that side of the globe. Amazing photos. Thanks for sharing.

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