Kiwis love outdoor adventure, and the sight of flashing paddles, flying spray and ecstatic rafters exchanging ‘high fives’ is an icon of the Downunder adventure experience. New Zealand’s magnificent mountains and untamed wilderness areas are criss-crossed by 1,500 navigable rivers offering a network of aquatic highways for exploring the country.

DANNY : DE HEK has compiled this summary of whitewater rivers to assist visitors to plan their explorations beyond the mainstream tourist routes.

Our wild rivers are small by continental standards but have deceptively steep descents. This produces short, fast rapids from Grades 1 to 5, generally followed by slow moving pools that provide a respite from the thrills and spills. Like all rivers fed by spring snowmelt and heavy rain they are subject to sudden increases in depth and flow rates.

Around 50 of our rivers are worked by commercial rafting and kayaking companies. The other rivers require you to organise independent groups with the requisite skills and experience. Commercial operators can tailor a trip to suit your needs, ranging from heart-pounding, adrenalin-surging Grade 5 roller coaster rides to exhilarating scenic float trips on smooth water. Half day excursions are priced from $75 and multi-day expeditions can range from $300 upwards.

Rafts are normally 4 to 8 person inflatable pontoon boats, which are paddled by clients under instructions from river guides. A minimum age of 13 years applies to the higher graded rivers. Open two person canoes are called Canadian canoes in New Zealand. One person sit-inside canoes are called kayaks.

Our regional summaries identify the towns where the main commercial rafting and kayaking companies are based. In other areas there may be canoe and kayak shops that organise guided trips on demand or hire kayaks and equipment. The 100 Visitor Centres and Information Offices throughout New Zealand will have details of local adventure activities and the telephone Yellow Pages will list companies under the Tour Operators or Tourism Services sections. Comprehensive river guidebooks can be purchased from leading bookshops and some adventure retailers.

So if you want to have some real fun, splash out on a wet and wild Kiwi adventure.

Just slip on a wetsuit, fasten your helmet, grab a paddle and let the fun begin.