This is truly one of the Great New Zealand wilderness adventures to be had.
From the headwaters deep in the Kahurangi National Park on the northern reaches of the West Coast, the mighty Karamea River carves through rugged terrain that harbours New Zealand’s most challenging rafting rapids. This Karamea trip is a 3 day river expedition that is accessed by a stunning helicopter flight or by an extra two days hiking from the eastern side of Kahurangi National Park (see Mountains to the Sea). One of the features of this multi day trip is traveling through the Tasman Wilderness Area. This area is completely undeveloped with no huts or tracks, so river travel is one of the best ways to explore it’s beauty.
Whether you decide to take the scenic helicopter flight to the river or experience a more gradual change in landscape hiking through the wilderness, the moment your paddle first dips into the waters of the Karamea you’ll become part of a team that will share many memorable experiences over the next 3 days. At first the Karamea is a small river, with long boulder garden type rapids up to Class 4 and a series of tranquil earthquake lakes caused by rock-falls in the great earthquake of 1929. Spectacular vistas unfold around every corner on our way down to the confluence of the Beautiful and Roaring Lion rivers and our campsite at the infamous ‘Roaring Lion‘ rapid.
Next morning after a hearty breakfast, we break camp and load the rafts to take on the 800 metres of Class 5 drops, chutes and holes that are the crux of the expedition. Teamwork and precision are essential to navigate through the maze of house size boulders as each raft and kayaker takes their turn while the other expedition members set safety from the shore. The action is intense and the teams are both elated and relieved to emerge unscathed to continue downstream through the rest of the day‘s great white water. (Our team may choose to portage parts of this rapid due to river conditions and/or size of teams).
Day 3 starts off easy and gradually gets harder as we enter the granite rock walls of the Karamea Gorge. The river is now at full volume, powerful and chaotic as it plummets down the steep boulder strewn riverbed, the raft buckling and twisting in the foaming roller-coaster ride. Finally as the river eases, its power spent, we exit the gorge and drift to the take-out and then head into Karamea for a well-deserved cold beer. The Karamea‘s white water is matched only by its excellent trout fishing, so be sure to bring your fishing tackle if you’re a keen angler! (see Wilderness Fishing Fantasy)
Click here for gear requirements you need to bring on our wilderness trips.
Check out the Heli Rafting Gallery for pictures.
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