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Sledging the Kaituna River

An action packed white water adventure, sledging down the Kaituna River in Rotorua is a hands on, ‘face in the water’ style of rafting. Equipped with a polystyrene sled propelled by the flippers on your feet, sledging gives you an up close and personal experience with the white water rapids along the Kaituna River.

Sledging down the Kaituna River

Our good friends Kristina & Brent arrived in New Zealand for a 3 week adventure so we were excited to meet them in Rotorua for a jam packed, fun filled weekend!

An early morning start, we met the guys at Kaitiaki Adventures to get us suited up and trained on the white water sledges. Our main guide, Hemi, gave us some dry land training, teaching us the Three Golden Rules of Sledging – Never Let Go of the Sledge, Turn your head in the rapids and Never stand up!

Kris, Brent, Jordan, me & our guide Hemi

A short bus ride to the drop off, we carried our sledges over our heads as we took a quick hike through the bush. As we reached the start of the river, we crawled through a small cave to where our other guide, Eddie, shared with us the history of the Kaituna River.

Carrying our sledges through the bush

The area is renowned for the tribal wars of the past as the river provided an important food source for the Maori people. It’s name ‘Kai’ means ‘to eat’ and ‘tuna’ meaning ‘eel’,  it was also used as a water burial area for the Maori. After a beautiful Maori greeting, or “Karakia” wishing us good fortune on the river, we made a leap into the rushing water with our sledges.

Kristina diving into the river

Hemi and our third guide, Stevie, had us practice a few emergency manoeuvres in the water before we headed down the Class 3 rapids. Once everyone was ready, we pointed our sledges down the river and went head first through the rapids

Going head first into the Kaituna river rapids

We had no idea how AWESOME sledging was going to be! Being that close to the rapids was so much more intimate than riding down in a raft. The river was strong, so you had to be in control of the sledge at all times, ensuring you follow the guide’s line through the rapids.

Enjoying the ride down the Kaituna River in our sledges

About half way down the river, we stopped to enjoy the beautiful scenery around us. Hemi performed another Maori blessing, thanking the ‘gods’ for such a beautiful day and the stunning natural beauty around us.

Some of the most intense rapids were near the end of the river, with one after another delivering an adrenaline filled ride! Here’s just a taste for what we got to experience!


The last rapid we got a chance to play around in, swimming up to the rapid and surfing the wave with the sledge. They even let us practice barrell rolling in the white water and surfing on our knees! Only in New Zealand could you do this! – I love the adrenaline culture here!

Jordan and I catching the wave together!
Kristina getting a face full of water
Brent ‘aka the Hulk’ emerging from a barrel roll in the rapids

After playing in the rapids for a while, it was surprising how much of a workout sledging can be! Sad to see the end of the river, we were so happy we got to experience this unique white water activity!

Can you tell we had a GREAT day?

BIG thanks to our awesome guides Hemi, Eddie & Stevie who gave us a great day on the Kaituna River!

Our crazy sledge crew with Kaitiaki Adventures!

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