Find out why New Zealandís South Island is the adventure sport capital of the world with an exhilarating first hand experience of white water rafting down the Rangitata River, found just outside of Christchurch. Going down the rapids is a truly awesome experience and one that youíll be raving to your friends about for weeks.
About 2 hours drive from Christchurch you will find the Rangitata River. Itís located near Geraldine, a beautiful area of the South Island with some stunning landscapes and natural features on view. The river is also perfectly suited for white water rafting with a number of exhilarating rapids to go with the flat sections that are great for practising your skills or getting a well-earned breather.
Most operators that take rafting trips on the Rangitata River take you to and from Christchurch in a shuttle. Like most white water rafting trips, it can be intense at times and without needing to be a professional athlete, it helps if you are reasonably fit. The more you put in, the more you will get out of this experience, so if flying down gushing rapids is your kind of thing, then youíre going to have a great time.
The day starts off with a shuttle picking you up from Christchurch early in the morning. From here itís a simple but pleasant drive through the countryside on your way to the Rangitata River. Once reaching the river, you drive further up it to a lodge where you will start your day of activities.
The first thing that needs organising is your equipment. This consists of things like a wetsuit, helmet, life jacket etc. They may not be the most comfortable or fashionable but the water can be cold so youíll definitely appreciate it. After being kitted out, youíll be split into groups that will make up those on your raft. Itís great if youíve got a bunch of friends to go with but if not, youíll probably meet some new ones by the end of the day anyway.
Driving further up the river youíll arrive at the point where youíll be starting your journey. Itís here that youíll get your first taste of rafting. Each raft has one instructor who sits at the back of the raft, helps you avoid rocks, cracks jokes, ensures safety and in general makes sure you have a great time. Your instructor will brief you all on the basics, which include things like paddling, lunging to one side and pulling people back into the raft if they fall out (which can and probably will happen). You get plenty of chance to practise all these things as you gently make your way down a long calm patch of the river.
After everyone in your raft is confident with the skills, itís time to hit your first rapids! This is definitely the most exciting part and what makes people come back for more. Itís a real adrenaline rush as your raft is thrown through the rapids, you can feel the power of the water as you bump up and down and side to side with each dip and change of direction. The instructors do a great job of keeping you on the right path although youíll have to help them out when they need it, some rapid paddling is required to get through some of the tough spots.
As you head further down the river, youíll get to enjoy a lot more exciting rapids that really get the heart going. Sometimes they can be so intense that people fall out or rafts flip over, this isnít uncommon and the instructors will alert you if you need to pick up someone that went overboard. The risk factor is all part of the excitement but at no stage does it fell dangerous. The strength (or grading) of the river changes throughout the year but will always give you some very challenging sections of white water.
The main part of the trip lasts for a couple of hours before the river flattens out and you get the chance to have a bit of fun with the other rafts, i.e. splashing them with your oars or throwing their instructor in the water. You may also get the chance to jump off some very high rocks or float down sections of the river out of the raft (this is when youíll be glad youíre in a wetsuit).
After loading the rafts onto the trailers, youíll head back up to the lodge for a well-earned barbeque. By this stage you should be exhausted, just managing to stay in the raft all day can be hard work! After some laughs and a few final words itís time to head home. You get the opportunity to buy photos taken of your rafts, which is a nice touch, albeit a slightly expensive one.
Going down the rapids is a truly awesome experience and one that youíll be raving to your friends about for weeks. White water rafting comes highly recommended for anyone visiting Christchurch and looking for something exciting to try.
Rene Smith is a travel guru who lives and works in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Visit his Christchurch travel website for more articles, reviews and information on planning a vacation to Christchurch, New Zealand.