It was only day two of our Flying Kiwi experience and we were already facing the thrill ride of a lifetime. We were about to go whitewater rafting on class 5 rapids! Rangitata Rafting is located just a few hours from Christchurch and it was one of the best whitewater rafting experiences we’ve ever had.
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.
What’s It Like to go Whitewater Rafting in Class 5 Rapids?
Table of Contents
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, a windbreaker, helmet, booties, and a life jacket. We may have felt a chill beforehand, 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.
Practicing Before the Rapids
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.
Whitewater Rafting Class 5 Rapids
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.
It was time to face class 3 rapids
Just before entering the whitewater 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 to New Zealand? You’ll want to check out our New Zealand Travel Guide
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.
Warm Up for Class 5 Rapids Run
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 on Class 5 Rapids
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 Whitewater In New Zealand
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.
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.
We Conquered Class 5 Rapids
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.
Once we got to the end of our swim we had the chance to jump off a big cliff. Dave loves the water and this was the ultimate rush. He didn’t just jump once, he went for a second round off the 10 meter (30 foot) jump. He came out with a big smile.
Mellow Rapids to End the Rafting Trip
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.
What’s it like to fall over when whitewater rafting.
When I fell in whitewater rafting, 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.
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.
Read More things to do in New Zealand
- Visit New Zealand – 33 Reasons to Visit Right Now
- 21 Things to Do in Christchurch in 2020
- The Tongariro Alpine Crossing: New Zealand’s Best 1 Day Hike
- A Local’s Guide to The Best Things to do in Wanaka, New Zealand
- Where to Bunjy Jump in New Zealand
- Whitewater Rafting Class 5 Rapids in New Zealand
- 38 Amazing Things to do in New Zealand
- Explore New Zealand by Campervan
- What a 6.3 Earthquake Can Do to a City
- Glowworm Caves, New Zealand – a Dazzling Display of Light
Check out more Whitewater Rafting and Kayaking
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.