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Getting wet and wild in Taupo

After moving on from Waitomo and Rotorua our next stop was the picturesque Lake Taupo – but we didn’t have a relaxing afternoon of fishing in mind…

The picturesque and calm waters of Lake Taupo - the largest lake (by surface area) in New Zealand

The calm waters of Lake Taupo – the largest lake (by surface area) in New Zealand

…Instead, we would be hurtling down a narrow canyon at 85 kilometres per hour on New Zealand’s only white water jet boat ride!

Waikato River

The Waikato River

Jet boating is a true New Zealand pastime. Invented here by a farmer in 1953, these boats have no propellers – instead they work by sucking up water through a hole in the bottom of the boat and pushing it out through the back – propelling you along the water like a skimming stone. It means they can shoot across very shallow and fast flowing water very quickly.

Jet boat in action

The jet boat in action

There are many places to take a jet boat ride in New Zealand, but we wanted to try it out on the Nga Awa Purua rapids in the beautiful Aratiatia Scenic Reserve – just downstream from the Huka Falls.

The Huka Falls is where the 100-metre-wide Waikato River thunders through a canyon only 15 metres across and drops around nine metres down. The flow of water is incredible – around five Olympic-sized swimming pools of water every minute!  

The Huka Falls is where the 100-metre-wide Waikato River thunders through a canyon only 15 metres across and drops around nine metres down. The flow of water is incredible – five Olympic-sized swimming pools of water every minute!

The first thing we noticed about the boat was how small and narrow it was. “Streamlined for speed” said our driver, Russell, cheerfully. The next thing we noticed was the noise it made when it was fired up and revving away – it sounded like a hells angel party on steroids!

That thing doesn't look so scary...

That thing doesn’t look so scary…

To start with, Russell expertly steered us all the way up the river to a dam before spinning us around 180 degrees and blasting us back down towards the rapids. He did say he would warn us every time he was planning a sharp turn, but with so much to take in around me I didn’t always notice the hand signals and was flung into Dale on more than one occasion!

The boat rocketed down the river - at times I felt like a dog with its head sticking out of a speeding car window!

The boat rocketed down the river – at times I felt like a dog with its head sticking out of a speeding car window!

As we tore down the river at break-neck speed, Russell would veer and twist the boat to narrowly avoid rocks with skilful jerks of the steering wheel. But that didn’t stop my stomach jumping up into my chest when I saw what we were careering towards – a huge and narrow canyon.  I couldn’t help but draw a sharp intake of breath as we squeezed through the canyon with no sign of slowing down – passing the rocky walls with what looked like inches to spare.

Breath in!

Breathe in!

We came flying out of the canyon and bounced over the rapids with the wind and the water whipping our faces. At times the boat was actually leaving the water by about a metre and then slamming back down again with an almighty thud. I felt like a rag doll being thrown around and could not stop giggling.

Lift off!

Lift off!

Splash!

Splash!

After 35 minutes of this, we shakily stepped off the jet boat with jelly-legs and huge grins on our faces. I can see why jet boating is such a Kiwi favourite.

Comments

  1. Hi Kirsty Our jet boat ride was a lot more sedate , but still fun dad thought it was the best thing we did . He found himself giggling like a girl ! The sound of the falls where very Impressive as it thundered down the gorge , impressive pictures. We are still in Cornwall , very pleased with the new kitchen , we are making the most of the change in the weather and going to work in the garden . Lots of love till next time Mumsee and Dadsee xxxxxxx

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