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Here is your chance to pair two of Queenstown’s most iconic experiences. Packing in those famous 360 spins and dramatic canyon walls as you discover the Kawarau River and its pristine wilderness. Our Queenstown Jet Boat will race down the river to your next mode of transport. Jump straight into a raft with the team to complete the last section of river, where Jet Boats fear to go. Soak in the impressive sights while rafting through the historic Kawarau gorge, famous for its gold mining, wineries and its stint in The Lord of the Rings franchise.
Paddle and swim your way through grade 2-3 whitewater rapids with a brand-new cliff jumping section added for the adventure junkies. Complete your journey by tackling the famous 400m Dog Leg rapid – the longest commercially rafted rapid in New Zealand. Then head back to Rafting Base for a hot shower.
Our rafts are taking a winter holiday and will be back again at the beginning of Summer 2022.
Our Queenstown Jet is still parked up on the shores of Lake Whakatipu waiting to take you for a ride... Book Here
Meet us 20 minutes before start time at 37 Camp Street, Queenstown to check in.
Bring your swimsuit and towel. It is advised that you don't bring any valuables with you. We do have a small valuables locker at Rafting Base if you need it.
Wetsuit, wetsuit jacket, spray jacket, paddle, helmet, wetsuit booties and a life jacket. Along with transport, rafts, legendary guides and guaranteed epic whitewater.
“First time rafting....wont be my last!!!”22 February 2016
Queenstown rafting company made this a brilliant experience. A very thorough safety talk & demo. Very knowledge, witty & friendly guides. Michel's advice is spot on....the Kawarau river (grade 2/3) is the best for first time rafters, rather than getting scared on a grade 5. Thanks guys for a brilliant time.
Visited February 2016susannejward, Ireland via TripAdvisor
"Great experience ...."15 January 2016
My husband are I are fairly fit early 60's and we loved it!! The staff make it great fun right from the start. We did the slightly tamer Kawarau River run but next time would chance the Shotover very professional outfit. Def recommend for all ages and nerve.
Visited January 2016Denwoodd, Fareham, UK via TripAdvisor
"Kawarau River, Great for beginners"25 January 2016
We went to the Kawarau River a few days ago, it was my first time doing rafting and I was really excited about it! The entire experience was Amazing! From the reception until the end. The guides and the guy in the kayak made us feel really safe, always there for us. The river doesn't have big rapids, but is fine if you are new, and if you are fan of the Lord of the Rings it is a big plus, because some shots were filmed there! Definitely , great experience! Next time I will do the Shotover!
Visited January 2016Sabrillozzo, Queenstown, New Zealand via TripAdvisor
"So, So Great!"17 December 2015
I went to Queenstown for a wild week of thrill seeking experiences, including bungy jumping, hang-gliding, jet-boat riding, helicopter ride, etc. All were fantastic, but the one experience I found to be so thrilling was the White Water Rafting on the Kawarau River. Great guides who talk you through the acquired actions, beforehand, and at the necessary moments.
With the many thrill-seeking things I've done so far, this is among the top three experiences. Magic! Thanks 'Bros"! :)
Visited November 2015974Jack, Brisbane, Australia via TripAdvisor
In case you haven't found the information you were looking for, we've put together some of the most common questions our customers ask about our trips. If you need more specific answers, please contact us directly.
Aside from the location and scenery, there are a few differences between the rivers. These include the grade of rapids, the amount of rapids rafted and the swimming ability needed by participants.
Shotover River - Is graded 3-5 (5 is the highest grade commercially rafted in the world), therefore it's a more exciting river to raft, harder to navigate and with a higher risk of falling out the boat. There are more rapids on the river, compared to the Kawarau including a section through the 170m long Oxenbridge tunnel. It is a requirement that participants be able to swim on this river.
The drive to the start of the Shotover river rafting trip is via Skippers Canyon which is an experience in itself. The narrow dirt track road hugs the sheer cliffs of the canyon and gives spectacular views over the river you will be rafting.
Kawarau River - Is usually graded 2-3 (however occasionally grade 2-4 at higher water levels), therefore easier to navigate and with less risk of falling out. There are flat stretches of river between the rapids where you'll have the opportunity to race your friends on the other rafts or jump out and swim, also watch out for the other rafts as there's always a good chance of a water fight breaking out.
The Kawarau River is a much deeper and bigger river, flowing through some spectacular Central Otago vineyards and the trip ends with a 400 meter long, grade 3/4 rapid.
Yes you do, however different abilities are required for the different rivers.
Kawarau River - This trip is suitable for less confident swimmers. As the Kawarau river is a lower grade river, there are less chances to actually fall out of the raft. You are given a floatation jacket (life jacket) and the wetsuits also help as a buoyancy aid but you will still need to be able to help the guide and move towards the raft (or safety kayaker in high water levels). So water confidence although not essential is recommended.
Shotover River - You must be ‘water confident’ and be able to swim on this trip.
One way to describe ‘water confident’ is to imagine yourself swimming in the sea where you can't stand up, with medium waves around you and being tossed around a bit. If you feel comfortable with this then you should be ok.
No you don't. Everyone can enjoy rafting on either river with no rafting experience. You will be given training and a full safety briefing before the trip starts. All of our qualified and certified guides will be able to give you any extra personal instruction you may need while in the raft.
You will need a swimsuit and a towel. There are showers and a sauna after the trip. Anything valuable should be left behind at your accommodation or there are secure lockers at the shop in town.
Yes we recommend that you do, especially during the peak seasons because space can be limited. This is also true for mid winter and school holidays.
Generally no. We recommend you only wear swim wear as the wetsuits work best when they are close to your skin. Any clothing such as cotton t-shirts or jeans under the wetsuit prevent it from working effectively and will actually make you colder. The only exception to this is if you have specific merino wool or polyester thermal underwear, however we find that most people are warm enough with the wetsuit and additional layers that we provide given the specific conditions on the day.
Yes you can, however we do recommend a sports strap or tie for glasses. Because of the nature of the river, we can’t guarantee the safety of your glasses so if you can do without them we recommend leaving them behind.
No, nothing can be taken with you on the raft due to health & safety reasons.
There is professional photography available for purchase upon completion of your trip.
The total trip time for both the Kawarau and Shotover river trips is around 4.5 hours. We typically run two trip a day with an 8:15am and 1:15pm departure from town.
However the time on the water varies depending on the river speed, the water level and time of year. Generally the Shotover River trip can be between 1½ to 2½ hours on the water and the Kawarau River is between 1 hour and 1½ hours on the water. When we’re Heli-rafting on the Shotover River in the winter, this time tends to be reduced to an hour on the river due to cold weather restrictions.
The Cavells Rafting base is on the banks of the Shotover River, approximately a 10 minute drive from Queenstown. At Cavells, after being fitted out with your wetsuit and other gear, you will be taken to the river you’ve chosen to raft.
Shotover River - This Shotover river is found to the north of Queenstown flowing out of the mountains. The drive into the rafting start point is via Skippers Canyon, behind Coronet Peak, which takes about 40 minutes. You get to raft down 14km of the Shotover river all the way back to the Cavells Rafting Base where you started. You can view a map of the trip by clicking here.
Kawarau River - The Kawarau is the only outlet to Lake Wakatipu and flows out to the east of Queenstown. The drive to the rafting start point is via Arrowtown and takes about 25 minutes. The trip covers 8km of the river and at the end the return trip is past th elocal wineries through the Gibbston Valley and takes about 30 minutes. You can view a map of the trip by clicking here.
The rafts are large enough to carry six or seven people plus your rafting guide. If you’re travelling with friends or in a group, we can generally organise it so that you go down the river in the same raft.
Yes, every boat has a qualified and certified rafting guide that will not only keep you safe as you go down the river but entertain you with stories and information about the area you are travelling through.
Some medical conditions may prohibit you from whitewater rafting but most will not. It's very important however that if you do have a medical condition that you let our staff know prior to rafting, this is not to stop you from rafting but to inform your personal guide so that they can help in the unlikely event that something does go wrong. If you require medication for your condition (e.g. asthma inhalers), you will need to bring that with you in case it is needed.
No. Company policy is that we don’t allow anyone who is pregnant on grade 3 or above rivers. There is a risk that a pregnant person could sustain a blow to the abdomen either through falling out the raft, from a paddle from another client or someone falling against them.
This will need to be assessed on a case by case basis and we recommend you call our staff and have a chat with them about your specific needs. Generally we are able to accommodate most people if we are given prior notice.
Ultimately though your involvement will be at the discretion of the trip leader and guides who will be able to assess the conditions on the day and inform you of any potential safety concerns.
Yes you will, but you will be in a wetsuit. White water rafting is a great activity for rainy days as you are going to be wet anyway!
That often depends on the river levels, but there's always a chance that participant’s may fall out of the raft. The guides are trained to deal with this and every Shotover River trip (and Kawarau in high water levels) has a safety kayaker. There is a full safety briefing before you commence your rafting trip explaining what to do if you should fall out of the boat.
The minimum age for rafting is 13 years, with a minimum weight of 40kg. There is no maximum age or weight limit for rafting however the person must be able to fit our gear and safety equipment. We do have a number of extra large wetsuits but ask that you are physically fit and able to swim.
Ultimately, it will be at the discretion of the trip leader and guides as to who is appropriate to participate in the rafting trip.
Yes, but on different sections of the rivers.
The Skippers Canyon Jet operates on the top part of the Shotover River.
Queenstown Rafting paddle the next section which is where the rapids are. Shotover Jet operates on the section after the Oxenbridge tunnel and the Kawarau Jet operates on Lake Wakatipu, the Kawarau River and the lower Shotover River.
Thunder Jet operates on Lake Wakatipu and up into the Kawarau river.
Queenstown Rafting paddle a section of the Kawarau River further down from where any jet boats operate.
You will see different scenery as no jetboat or rafting is on the same stretch of river, except a 500m stretch after the Oxenbridge tunnel as you float to the rafting base on the Shotover River.
New Zealand is exactly the opposite to the northern hemisphere (UK, USA etc) and winter is between June and early September.
Whitewater rafting will still go ahead if it's raining, you are going to get wet anyway and the river is normally at its best then. We will not refund if you decide to cancel at short notice due to rain or bad weather.
Yes, there are toilets at the Cavells rafting base and at Deep Creek where the Shotover River rafting trip starts.
Yes at the end of the trip, after your sauna and shower you will be Cavells Cafe and Bar. We recommend that you eat something before you leave town though because it will be 4 hours by the time you finish your trip and get to celebrate with a beer.
Due to the nature of the terrain and the remote location of the river, it is not possible to view the rafting trip. However there is an opportunity to stand by the last rapid on the Shotover River as you come through the Oxenbridge Tunnel. Timings can depend on river levels though so your friends or family may need to wait a while to ensure they don’t miss you.