How To Survive The World’s Largest Commercial Waterfall in Rotorua

The Kaituna River in Rotorua, New Zealand, is where we were thrown into the deep unknown dark river with no experience of rafting. We encountered not just one, but three incredibly dangerous waterfalls, including the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world called the Tutea Falls (7 meters high).  This activity was not for the faint hearted, and where Hobbits should not be seen floating down this river. But, here we were floating down this life threatening river with no experience, no sandwiches, no wetsuits to keep our bums warm, and most importantly Nico couldn’t Instagram.

This is a tale from His and Her experience of this contrasting event.

Nico’s Experience

This is a must do extreme sport if you come to Rotorua! The adrenaline rush was epic and the feeling going down these waterfalls were incredible. I am amazed that I persuaded Vicky to join me, especially as Hobbits were warned to stay away from the river. To kick this story off, it started with us with four other people, including a world champion white water raft guide, in a yellow submarine coloured raft. The first two waterfalls was a thrill-seeking ride, where we managed to stay on and avoid capsizing the raft. Vicky nearly lost her GoPro, but apart from that we were alive and well. Then came the almighty Tutea Falls at 7 meters high, this waterfall brought nerves and daunting feelings to all on board. None the less I was stoked and ready to go!

After, praying for Chief Tutea who was buried behind the waterfall, we drifted slowly to the top of the world highest commercial waterfall. I was close to wetting myself with excitement and nerves. I looked at Vicky, who smiled back, and then peered over the edge.  It was what I expected to see, a drop that did not look natural. Before, I could let my nerves take over we dropped over the edge, it was an awesome sight as we surged down to the bottom of the fall. Half way down the fall, we capsized and was trapped underwater for a short time. I quickly escaped and saw my oar floating away from me, I went after it but soon got shouted at to get back to the upside down raft, due to strong currents. I was in a tricky position, do I save my oar or save myself? I thought it would be better to save myself, especially as we were having pizza later on and going to Hobbiton the next day.

The Tutea Falls was an incredible and fun experience, where I thought we both absolutely loved it! I was high fiving everyone afterwards, and desperate to do it again! I thought Vicky had the same view as me untill…

Vicky’s Experience

Unlike Nico I had no expectations of what I would encounter, which I later realised that the river was a Grade 5 Expert rating rafting difficultly, as a result it came to an almighty shock later on.  The week building up to this traumatic event, Nico described this activity as “fun”, “easy”, and “a piece of piss”. So initially, I had no worries and qualms, however once we were on the Kaituna River, this is where it started to go downhill for me…LITERALLY! Firstly, my helmet kept sliding off my head, which I will reiterate that I was on a Grade 5 river with No Experience, and secondly my GoPro kept falling of my helmet. Then, even worse I was the only member from the opposite sex on this highly alpha-male dominated raft, where if you weren’t extreme you did not belong. So here I was, I have never done anything extreme in my life and had Nico hiding the fact that we were going down the highest commercial rafted waterfall in the world in less than 1 minute. As a result, I had no idea what was going on and thought we were going down what Nico described as “a piece of piss” waterfall. Even though everyone was saying a prayer for Chief Tutea before we voyaged down the fall of death, I still did not make the connection of what was to become.

Next thing I know, I am heading down the waterfall on the “lad” raft when suddenly a rush of water blew the raft upside down, where I was plunged underneath the raft. The problem was that I was not prepared for this and missed the opportunity to take my last breath. Also, while we were plunging down the waterfall at the speed of a Formula One car, I manage to hit my head on a rock. With a bump on the head and no last breath I was in trouble.

I tried to come up to the surface, and all I could feel was the seats of the raft. This was the moment I realised we had capsized. Then, I tried to escape this situation by swimming to the right side of the raft, but surprisingly I was not going anywhere. To make matters worse, I was trapped by the rope on the raft, which was not allowing myself to escape being underwater. I kept pushing forward to try to free my shoulder, which tangled up in the rope. With having no last breath of air, I felt oxygen leaving my body and close to near death. Although, anger was the emotion I felt at this moment because I have been a successful award winning county swimmer for Ulster, Northern Ireland (woo, plug at myself), and believed water would never get the better of me. As I tried to keep pushing forward, I managed to grab hold of an oar and pull myself to the surface.

After, what felt like hours underneath the cold water, I’m free and alive, although when I look around I see the alpha males of my raft high-fiving, cheering, laughing, even wooing. They seem to have forgotten about me. Was I really that small? Nico kept making go down even more waterfalls and blaming me for not wanting to participate on further waterfalls and rapids. Although, Nico did not realise how life-threatening this experience this was until we were off the raft later on, which to my amazement his initial reaction was “This is going to look amazing on the GoPro and will get me more Instagram followers!”

Contact Details for Rotorua Rafting



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