Published Stories, 3 Rivers, 3 Days

3 Rivers, 3 Days

Adventure Magazine #155

We chose the 3 day heli-rafting experience so that we’d get to raft the 3 best rivers on the West Coast of the South Island – The mighty Buller, Mokihinui and the Karamea.

The adventure starts in Murchison, the home of the Buller river. The gorge is only a short drive from the Ultimate Descents headquarters, for day rafters this will be the location for your adventure.

Our rafting guide Simon gives us the low down on the moves, and instructions for the raft. After what seems like a quick briefing it’s time to put this new knowledge into action. Considering this is day 1 of our trip, the Buller provides plenty of intense rafting action.

One rapid – Ariki Falls, needs to be viewed first from the side due to its intensity and consequence should something not pan out right. Our crew decide on a sided angle approach, to avoid the mass of swirling water that awaits our raft at the bottom. We conquer at least 6 rapids and end the day on a rafting high, full of anticipation for the next two days of action.

We make our way via van to Gentle Annie’s camp ground, at the Mokihinui River mouth. Set up camp for the night, and go to sleep dreaming of Grade 4 rapids.


We jump in the van and head to our helicopter pick up point. Our helicopter arrives on time and our team is divvied up for the chopper ride. I get to ride with all the gear on a sling so my chopper time is extended to 30 minutes. The others get a quicker but more intense adrenalin ride. The ride gives you a great preview of the rapids to come.

Mokihinui does not disappoint. The rapids are more technical, we are put through our paces and must ensure we are on point with our response to our guide’s directions. When the focus is not on the white water ahead, it is on some of the most stunning wilderness scenery in New Zealand.

If you are worried about fitness, rest assured, there are enough breaks in between to let your arms rest and take in your surroundings. Tim and his crew also keep you well fed so you have plenty of energy to keep paddling.

Evening downtime is spent eating, drinking and chatting around the camp fire.


Anticipation – Grade 5 rapids. Will we fail or succeed. The day starts out like Day 2. Drive to river and pick up by Chopper. Chopper ride is just as spectacular as the previous day. Today we have more people – two new rafters plus a crew of Tim’s guides and trainees. We are pumped. For most, this is the first time they have rafted Karamea.

Most of the rapids names give insight into their intensity for example, Holy S**t and Scarecase. There are a lot of “must make moves”  required to negotiate the house-sized boulders that decorate the course of the river. This is truly west coast technical Grade 5 river running.

When not rafting the scenery is spectacular. Our guide today is Tim, the owner/operator of Ultimate Descents. Tim provides some great insight and local knowledge of the surrounding area. The day speeds by too fast and before we know it we can see our van from the river signaling the end of another fantastic day rafting.

Overall, this was an awesome trip! Tim and his crew were fantastic and gave you the confidence to tackle any grade of rapids. I would totally recommend this trip for anyone wanting to experience remote areas of New Zealand that only a raft and a helicopter can give you access to.

Just in case someone forgets to tell you, pack the insect repellent cause if the rapids don’t get you the sand flies will.

Big bang for your buck. Awesome!