The Vector Wero Whitewater Park is New Zealand's first purpose built artificial white water facility and hosted the World Masters Games in April 2017. This massive park has two rivers, a lake and the world’s highest man-made waterfall. It's hard to believe that this adrenaline fueled family fun is just a short drive away from the centre of Auckland.
We were lucky to be invited by Wero to give rafting a try in the summer school holidays. My children (aged 7 and 9 years old) and their cousins (aged 12 and 14 years old) visiting us from Wellington got to go rafting on the Tamariki River Course. The kids all enjoyed it and want to go back again. Next time the parents are going to join in the fun too, rather than just watching the kids have all the fun.
The guides were fantastic and had a great sense of humor and an excellent style with the kids. Your safety is taken seriously so you know your family are in safe hands throughout. You watch a safety film then once you are kitted out in life jackets and helmets, you undergo training as a team and yes, you do get wet.
You are teamed up in a large inflatable multi-person raft, with one guide. Every crew member is expected to paddle, following the guide's instructions and that's a big part of the fun. With a qualified guide in each raft, you learn how to paddle in unison and maintain control before leaving the lake. You also learn how to rescue one of your crew members and get them back on board, A wide travelator carries you to the start of the course and launches you into the Tamariki River which has 200m of white water.
After you have run the river multiple times in your raft you get the chance to swim the rapids. You jump into the water and float downstream on your backs down the course and at the end swim to the edge. If you aren't a strong swimmer and can't get back against the current you will be thrown a rope to hold onto and pulled in.
The kids really enjoyed themselves and came away confident from learning how to do something new. It was fun to find an activity where the kids could bond together while having fun.
Who can go white water rafting?
Most white water paddlers will have little to no experience and rely on the guide's knowledge of the river. Children must be 5 years old to go on the Grade 1-2 course and 13 years old for the Grade 3-4 course. Children aged 5 to 7 years old need to have a parent or caregiver with them on the Tamariki River rafting course (one parent per two kids aged 5 to 7). The Park does not allow anyone who is pregnant to go rafting.
No matter what level of rapid you’re tackling there’s is a good chance you’ll end up in the water. You don’t have to be able to swim to go white water rafting, but you will need to be able to move into the defensive swim position, lying on your back with your feet floating near the surface and pointing down stream to protect you.
How difficult is white water rafting?
White water rafting difficulty is based on how difficult the river is to navigate. Rivers and courses across the world are usually graded by the International Scale of River Difficulty, that divides white water into 6 categories with 1 being the easiest and 6 the most dangerous. Vector Wero has two river runs; Grade 1 -2: Tamaki River and Grade 3-4: River Rush
What do you need to bring?
You will be provided with a helmet, life jacket and wetsuit boots, raft and paddle. You are best to wear your togs and bring a towel as you will get wet. In colder months, you may wish to bring a thermal top to stay a little warmer. Longjohn style wetsuits are available to hire for $10. Don't wear sunglasses or jewelry as these may get lost. There are changing rooms with showers and lockers on site.
How much does it cost?
The Tamariki River Rafting recreational course costs $45 per child and $55 per adult. Family packages are also available for $160 per family of four people.
How long does it take?
Allow two hours. You need to fill in forms when you arrive, attend the safety briefing, one hour on the water and time to change after the activity. You get to go around the course quite a few times during your one hour.
What else is there to do?
You can go stand up paddle boarding, flat water kayaking on the lake or kayaking as well. The Park also runs a subsidised schools programme that introduces children and youth to white water, rafting, kayaking, and river safety. Rapids Cafe is open during the day and the Sunset Bar is open in the afternoon and evenings. Vector Wero also have Kids Adventure Party packages.
Vector Wero Whitewater Park is at 770 Great South Road, Wiri, Auckland. The Park is open in summer seven days a week from 9am and in winter from Wednesday to Sunday from 9am. For more information see: wero.org.nz