Most white-water enthusiasts in New Zealand know about Kaituna River. Though the river itself is only 28 miles (45 kilometers) long, the site is home to the world’s tallest commercially rafted waterfall, the 21-foot (7-meter) Tutea Falls. The waterfall is a Class V rapid, but most of the river comprises Class III and IV rafting.
On a guided Kaituna River rafting tour, adventurous novices can watch the front of the raft go vertical as they free-fall to the river below, then float in a flat-water pool just beyond Tutea Falls. For those who would rather observe the drop from a safe, dry vantage point, the Kaituna bushwalk follows the river and offers prime viewing for spectators. Nearby, Okere Falls Scenic Reserve is also worth a visit.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Rafting trips on the Kaituna River are suitable for adventurous beginners.
- The minimum age for this white-water excursion is 13 years; children must be accompanied by an adult.
- Every Class V rapid is followed by a stretch of flat water.
- Outfitters provide all necessary equipment: life jacket, wetsuit, booties, safety helmet, fleece top, and spray jacket.
- Bring swimwear, a towel, and a change of clothing.
How to Get There
Each of the natural attractions of Kaituna Falls, Tutea Falls, and Okere Falls is a 30-minute drive from Rotorua. Gain easy access to the Kaituna bushwalk by following Okere Falls Road to Trout Pool Road, and then to the parking lot at the end. Round-trip transport from centrally located hotels or the Rotorua airport is usually included with a guided rafting tour.
When to Get There
Commercial companies raft the Kaituna every day except Christmas. Rafting excursions operate throughout the day, while starting times vary according to the season. The water temperature is warmer here than the lakes and rivers near Taupo, making a day spent rafting the Kaituna especially pleasant.
The Art of River Guiding
Professional river rafting guides in New Zealand typically receive special training that enables them to respond to a variety of situations, including how to ‘read’ the rapids and navigate through them safely. Guides also learn how to handle gear and rafting equipment, as well as practice first aid and rescue scenarios, so participants are in good hands.