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What is White Water Rafting?

Tongariro River White Water Rafting Adventure with Rafting New Zealand

The best place to Raft is on the Tongariro River!

Rafting and white water rafting are recreational outdoor activities which use an inflatable raft to navigate a river or other body of water. This is often done on whitewater or different degrees of rough water. Dealing with risk and the need for teamwork is often a part of the experience.

This activity as an adventure sport has become popular since the 1950s, if not earlier, evolving from individuals paddling 10 feet (3.0 m) to 14 feet (4.3 m) rafts with double-bladed paddles or oars to multi-person rafts propelled by single-bladed paddles and steered by a person at the stern, or by the use of oars.

What makes the Tongariro River the best place for whitewater rafting?

So while it would be easy for us to say the Tongariro is the best, the thing is that all rivers are different.

Rivers have different characteristics, personality traits, not to mention a few crazy habits

But the truth is, you need to experience the different rivers yourself before deciding which one is best for you.

The reasons why the Tongariro is our favourite though?

  • It’s proximity to civilisation – you’ll barely see other people or buildings on the Tongariro – large parts can’t even be accessed by foot, yet you are just 15 minutes from our base in the town of Turangi.
  • The wilderness aspect – look out for the large rainbow trout! You can even try a rafting fishing trip.
  • The pristine environment. The Tongariro River is spring fed and the water is drinkable.
  • The chance to see blue ducks (Whio) – an extremely endangered species of prehistoric duck.

River Grades:

For an indication of which trip may be best for you, Rivers work off of a Grade system. Higher the grade, the more dangerous the river is.

Grade 1 – Little to no current. Not available on the Tongariro River. Contact us regarding our Waikato Float option for groups.

Grade 2 – Small waves with no obstacles. More current than Grade I with bigger waves, but no major obstacles. Tongariro River Family Fun

Grade 3 – Rapids are longer and more turbulent. Bigger waves, holes and stronger currents than Grade 2. Generally considered intermediate. Proper guide training is a prerequisite for safe navigation of Grade 3 and above. Tongariro River Whitewater

Grade 4 – Steeper, longer and containing more obstructions than Grade 3. Multiple obstacles to manoeuvre around. Trained guide is necessary. Tongariro Upper Gorge (Grade 3+)

Grade 5 – Strong currents and big waves. Several boulders and holes. Has a greater potential to hold and flip boats. Not available on the Tongariro River.

Grade 6 – Extremely difficult to successfully manoeuvre due to significantly steeper vertical drops and boulders. Usually considered unable to raft. Not available on the Tongariro River.

Where is the Tongariro River?

The river originates in the Central Plateau of the North Island where it is fed by numerous tributaries (such as the Whitikau, Poutu, and Mangamawhitiwhiti streams) that flow off the surrounding hill ranges and mountains such as Mount Ruapehu  heading through the town of Turangi before entering Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand.

The Tongaririo River is NZ’s most fished river, and is popular with anglers the world over for our trout – brown and rainbow. As well as ur world-famous white water rafting adventures we offer a wide range of Raft-Fishing trips to ensure our customers get to experience the remote fishing pools only accessible by raft.

When it comes to Rafting New Zealand, Turangi is where you’ll need to get to.

Here are approximate drive times to Turangi.

  • Taupo: 50 minutes
  • Rotorua: 100 minutes
  • Auckland: 3.5 hours
  • Wellington: 4 hours
  • Napier: 2.5 hours
  • Tauranga: 2.5 hours

If you’re staying in Taupo, it’s a scenic 50 minute drive from Taupo township, and when you raft with us we’ll pick you up from Taupo and drop you back there for a small fee.

When you do visit the Tongariro region (Taupo and Turangi), there are plenty of other things to do as well rafting the mighty Tongariro River – Check these ideas out.

Rafting Safety

There is always an element of risk involved in rafting, just like with every adventure activity or trip to the store. However, we are audited by Adventure Mark and work exceedingly hard to minimise any and all risks.

All of our guides have the appropriate New Zealand qualification to guide the Tongariro River and New Zealand has some of the highest standards in the world for guides.

One common question we get asked is do you need to be able to swim – and you do not. We provide you with a flotation vest and the wetsuit provides extra buoyancy as well as all other on-river equipment you will need to be warm and safe. All you need to do is let the guide know when you get into the boat.

We will also provide you with a Personal Floatation Device (PFD) vest and a helmet. This is standard for rafting trips around the world.

Is the Tongariro cold?

The river is cool, but we provide you with all of the necessary gear to keep you warm.

Thick wetsuits, fleeces, neoprene booties, splash jackets and in winter we also supply 5mm socks, gloves and an extra fleece.

But more importantly, what most people find is that they don’t even have time to think about whether they are cold or not – their attention is on the river and the incredible scenery around them.

It’s for these reasons, rafting is popular in winter – especially for visitors to Mt Ruapehu who find the ski fields closed due to poor conditions.

Rest assured if the weather is poor on the mountain it’s actually likely to be perfect on the river.

Watch this video to see how we keep you warm:

What’s the difference between rafting the Tongariro and other rivers (Kaituna etc)?

The Tongariro is quite different to other rivers. It is what we call a technical river, which requires more involvement from the crew (That’s you!).

The grade three section has over 50 rapids along the 13km journey which means the rapids are very consistent. Yes, there are some calm pools but no super long stretches of flat water that you typically find on other rivers.

What qualifications do the guides have?

All Rafting New Zealand guides hold a minimum of a New Zealand Rafting Grade three award. Every guide must pass this assessment before they are able to guide in New Zealand.

Rest assured we are fully certified to run rafting trips on the river.

But, while the qualifications are super important, it’s crucial to remember the guide is an integral part of your experience, you need them as much as they need you.

Haere Mai! Let’s go Rafting!