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Rafting the Rangitaiki River with River Rats & Ziplining with Rotorua Canopy Tours

When you visit the extreme sports capital of the world, New Zealand, it is only natural to include one or two of such activities into your itinerary to add some spice to the daily grind of sightseeing.

In December 2019, when I tried to get the family to go whitewater rafting with me, I faced resistance from my parents who, at that time, were closer in age to 70 than 80. Fast forward 3 years to December 2022, when they were closer to 80 than 70, they needed no persuasion whatsoever when I brought up whitewater rafting once more. After their first taste of the insane fun from shooting the rapids and cliff-jumping, the family was hooked.

I scoured the web for a suitable river to raft on which was close to our base in Rotorua and eventually settled on the Rangitaiki River. My sis had young children with her and I had found a company called River Rats which offered 2 options on the Rangitaiki River - a Grade 2 Scenic Trip for her family, as well as a more adventurous Grade 3 to 4 River Rafting Trip for the rest of us. This would be a gradual step up from rafting the Tongariro River in 2019 where the rapids were graded 1 to 3.

Unfortunately, my sis' family never got to experience river rafting in the end because River Rats cancelled on them unexpectedly. We had all made our bookings well in advance, but a couple of days before our scheduled trip on 27 December 2022, my sis suddenly received an email from River Rats informing her that her booking had been cancelled and a refund was on its way. DRats! My guess is the company had to do so because it was probably short of manpower during the year end holidays.

By a stroke of luck, the rest of us didn't get our bookings cancelled and we arrived at Murupara Motorcamp to find our raft waiting for us. The camp was very basic. We saw a pantry and bathrooms, and not much else. We didn't see an office and there was no option to add a photography or videography package, so there was no way for us to record our memories of the trip. We had booked via Klook and had paid S$144.59 per adult (16 yrs and above) and S$127.49 per child for the experience.

We changed into our issued wetsuits and booties, got into the back of a van, and were driven to the starting point. Once there, we were handed helmets and oars, and told to climb into our raft, where our guide gave us a safety briefing and instructions on rafting. We then carried our raft to the launch site and off we went!

No sooner had we started the trip than we heard the roar of the Grade 4 rapid just up ahead. The rapids came fast and furious on this trip, and we had to make quick manoeuvres throughout the journey to rebalance the raft, lift off from rocks, avoid getting struck in the face by branches, etc. My mom didn't duck low enough at one point and got whacked by a branch just below her left eye. She had to hide her bruise under a pair of sunglasses for several days afterwards.

Our guide was a sweet, older guy who was fairly quiet. He wasn't chatty and enthusiastic like Jade, our guide when we rafted the Tongariro River, so the rah-rah factor was missing. There were fewer rapids along Rangitaiki River and no cliff-jumping, so overall it felt less exciting. In all, we spent about 1 hr 45 mins on the river.

After the trip, the van took us back to the base where we showered and grabbed a tasty sandwich from the pantry for lunch. This was my fourth whitewater rafting trip, and I must say that I'm ready to take on Grade 5 rapids as Grade 3 to 4 felt a little like a walk in the park!

The kids had a second dose of adrenaline in the North Island when they went ziplining with Rotorua Canopy Tours. We made the booking via Klook and paid S$136.05 per adult and S$110.39 per child for the tour.

Rated by Tripadvisor as the No. 1 Nature Activity in the World in 2021, the Original Canopy Tours take small groups of up to 10 persons into the ancient native forest where participants get to experience the top of the forest canopy by crossing 2 swing bridges and ziplining a total of 600m, the longest zipline being 220m.

The kids enjoyed themselves but they weren't shrieking in delight or begging us for a second go when we went to pick them up from the base. It's worth a try whilst in Rotorua, but I'd pick skydiving over this anytime.


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