Here you’ll find some commonly asked questions about our rafting adventures in Queenstown, New Zealand. Click the on the question to reveal the answer.
Do you pick up from my accommodation?
Our check in location is conveniently located inside Queenstown Information Centre, on the corner of Shotover and Camp Street. An accommodation pick up is possible by prior arrangement with our reservations team, this is generally reserved for group bookings and possible from all centrally located accommodation.
What do I need to bring?
Bring a swimsuit and towel. There are showers and a sauna after the trip. Anything valuable should be left behind at your accommodation.
Do I have to be able to swim?
Kawarau River – Suitable for less confident swimmers, this trip is a lower grade river with less opportunity to fall out of the raft. You’re given a life jacket and wetsuit that act as buoyancy aids but you will still need to be able to help the guide and move towards the raft should you come out of 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 able to swim on this trip. By ‘water confident’ we mean you won’t be daunted by the river movement. Imagine being in the sea with medium waves round you where you can’t stand up and are tossed around a bit. If you feel comfortable with this then you should be ok whitewater rafting on the Shotover River.
What is the difference between the Shotover River and the Kawarau River?
As well as the scenery, there are a few differences between the rivers such as the grade/ranking of difficulty of rapids, the number of rapids rafted on the river and the swimming ability needed by rafters.
Shotover River – graded 3-5 which means it’s more exciting to raft and harder to navigate. There is a higher risk of falling out the boat. The river has more rapids than the Kawarau – including a section where you raft 170m through the Oxenbridge tunnel. You must be able to swim on this river. The road to the Shotover River is via Skippers Canyon – a narrow dirt track road that hugs the sheer cliff face of the canyon.
Kawarau River – graded 2-3 (however occasionally grade 2-4 at higher water levels), which means it’s easier to navigate with low risk of falling out of the raft. There are flat stretches of river between the rapids which means there’s a chance of some water fight action. There’s an opportunity to race your friends on the other rafts or jump out and swim in the flat water between the rapids. The Kawarau River is a much deeper and bigger river and flows through some spectacular Central Otago vineyards. The trip ends with a 400 metre long, grade 3 rapid.
What footwear should I wear?
We provide wetsuit booties so you can wear your normal shoes to get to the rafting base.
Will it be cold rafting in winter?
The temperature of the water can vary on the time of year and the water level, however you will be provided with waterproof booties, a full length 5mm wetsuit as well as a 5mm jacket, spray-jacket and life jacket. These should keep you adequately warm and the ‘paddling action’ will definitely help. There are additional neoprene socks and gloves for the winter rafting.
Can I bring my camera?
We recommend that cameras are left behind at your accommodation as we cannot guarantee their safety against damage even if waterproof. However if you would still like to take a camera on the rafting trip, we recommend the cheap disposable waterproof ones. Otherwise there is professional photography available for purchase upon completion of your trip.
Can I wear sunglasses/prescription glasses or contact lenses?
Yes you can, however we do recommend a sports strap or tie for glasses. Once again remember we can’t guarantee the safety of your glasses so if you can do without them then do so.
How many people in a raft?
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 are together in the same raft.
How long is the raft trip?
The trip time varies depending on the river flow, 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 taking into account the cold weather restrictions.
When is the New Zealand winter?
New Zealand is the opposite of the northern hemisphere (UK, USA etc). Our winter is between June and early September.
How far from town is the river?
The rafting base is on the banks of the Shotover River approximately 10 minutes’ drive from town. After being fitted out with your wetsuit, you will be taken to the river that you have decided to raft.
Shotover River – The drive to the start point on the river is via Skippers Canyon and takes about 40 minutes – you then raft back to the base.
Kawarau River – The drive to the start point on the river is via Arrowtown and takes about 25 minutes. You then raft away from Queenstown and exit the river at Gibbston Valley. From there is takes about 30 minutes to return to the raft base.
Do you raft the same river as the jetboats?
Shotover Jet operates on the lower part of the Shotover River, just after the Oxenbridge Tunnel.
Challenge Rafting paddle above this section where the rapids are.
KJet operates on Lake Wakatipu, the Kawarau River and the lower Shotover River.
Skippers Canyon Jet operates on the section of river above where Challenge Rafting begins their whitewater trip. You will see different scenery as no jetboat can operate where we raft.
What is the minimum/maximum age?
The minimum age for rafting is 13 years, with a minimum weight of 40kg. There is no maximum age for rafting as long as you are active and able to swim. Ultimately it is the discretion of the trip leader and guides as to who is appropriate to participate in the rafting trip.
There is no maximum weight limit; 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.
What are the chances of falling out the raft?
This depends on the river levels but there’s always a chance that you may fall out of the raft. The guides are trained to deal with this. 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.
How do we stay in the raft?
You will be instructed by your guide on how to brace yourself into the raft to minimize the chance of falling out.
Is there a guide in the raft with us?
Yes. Every raft has a qualified and certified rafting guide in it. They control when and how you paddle giving directions throughout the raft trip.
Can I wear my jeans under the wetsuit?
No. We recommend you only wear swimwear as 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.
Will I get wet?
Yes – but you will be in a wetsuit. Whitewater rafting is a great activity for rainy days as you are going to be wet anyway.
Do I need to book this trip in advance?
Yes – as during peak seasons, space can be limited. This is also true for mid-winter and school holidays.
What is the maximum number of people on a trip?
This can depend on the amount of guides working on a particular day but with prior notice, we can carry groups of up to 200 people on any one trip.
What happens if we need to cancel?
We require 24 hours’ notice for cancellation to get a full refund, after that a portion of the cost is retained.
Can I go if I have a medical condition?
Some medical conditions may prohibit you from whitewater rafting but most will not. It’s very important that if you do have a medical condition that you let staff know prior to rafting. If you require medication for your condition (eg. asthma inhalers), you will need to bring that with you in case it is needed.
Can I raft if I am pregnant?
No. Company policy is that we don’t allow anyone who is pregnant on grade 3 or above rivers.
Do you operate if it is raining?
Whitewater rafting will still go ahead if it is 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.
Do you tip the guide?
Tipping is not normally expected in New Zealand, however if you feel you would like to show your appreciation that is totally at your discretion.
Can my friends or family watch while I go rafting?
Due to the nature of the terrain, and because the river is far below in the canyon, it is not possible to view the rafting. There is however an opportunity to stand by the last rapid – Cascade – on the Shotover River as they come through the Oxenbridge Tunnel. Timings depend on river levels and flow so your friends or family may need to wait a while to ensure they don’t miss you.
Are there toilets?
There are toilets at the rafting base and also at Deep Creek where the raft trip starts on the Shotover River.
Is there somewhere to buy food?
Yes, there is a café and bar at the rafting base.