22 Oct

Why senior citizens love rafting on the Tongariro River

While white water rafting seems like it should be for ‘young’ people, the biggest trend we are seeing is the growth of guests aged 60 and over.

In fact, it’s our fastest growing group of customers.

We (Tongariro River Rafting) have hosted over 230,000 guests on the river since 1990, we understand the long term trends better than anyone, and this new trend is here to stay – even in the COVID world we are living in.

So why exactly are older folks getting on board in record numbers?

Rafting on the Tongariro River is fun, exciting and safe but there are a few other reasons why people are heading to Turangi to join the fun.

So, if you’re 60+ read on, and we’ll explain exactly why so many people are falling in love with rafting and why you will as well!

First things first, 60 is no longer ‘old’

When we first started Tongariro River Rafting, we barely had any guests aged over 60. There are many reasons why.

One is because of an outdated attitude that older folks should be at home, doing the cliche activities such as tending to the garden, knitting or partaking in other ‘sensible’ hobbies.


Over the years though, things have changed. People know that senior citizens are much more active – whether it’s biking (or e-biking) swimming or going to the gym.

We’re finding that they are fitter and healthier, due to an increased awareness of the need to maintain health and vitality through things like diet and exercise, and getting outside and into the great outdoors.

Of course while in the great outdoors, there are numerous activities people can do. Some are more passive while some, like rafting, is a little more exciting. 🙂

We put the ‘active’ in activity.

When you go rafting on the Tongariro with us you’re not just a passenger, and this is not just a scenic tour.

There are unlimited options for a more passive style of tourism elsewhere in the Taupō region.

We find our older guests want to get involved – that’s why rafting is so attractive.

While paddling is optional we find the vast majority of guests are determined to get stuck in (some even give us a dirty look at the mere suggestion of not having to paddle!)

They want to paddle, they want to experience the rapids and navigate the obstacles because they know that it’s the only way to get that combined feeling of achievement and happiness all at once.

Our friendly guide will quickly show you what to do, and within a few minutes, you’ll feel like a pro.

It’s fun, exciting, challenging AND Safe.

Rafting is fun (and addictive), that’s a given when you’re heading down the Tongariro on a bouncy ride with a group of like-minded people, and when the water splashes you in the face as the raft goes and up down the overwhelming feeling you’ll have is one of excitement.

You’ll be full of ‘whoas’ and ‘ooohs’ as the fun takes over, and while we respect the river we do not fear it or the challenge it poses.

For most people, a raft on the Tongariro is a brilliant way to push you out of your comfort zone – but in a good way, because at the same time, it’s totally safe – our fully qualified (and friendly) guides are there with you all the way.

We are also certified Qualmark, which is New Zealand Tourism’s official Quality Assurance scheme. Even better, we are proud to be Gold Certified, which means:

A Gold Award recognises the best sustainable tourism businesses in New Zealand, with the delivery of exceptional customer experiences an integral part of everything they do. A Gold Sustainable Tourism Award identifies those businesses leading the way in making the New Zealand tourism industry a world-class sustainable visitor destination.

Book with confidence and peace of mind that the experience you are paying for is one of the most high quality, safe and sustainable experiences in New Zealand.

Read more on the Qualmark website.

You don’t need to be super fit

You only need a minimal level of fitness – remember you’re going down the river, with the current. If you choose to help paddle, it’s more about navigating your way down, rather than having to power the raft. Guests don’t even need to be able to swim.

Rafting in Nature

This is NZ nature at its best.

Rafting the Tongariro means you get to experience a river that is beyond perfect – so clean that the water is drinkable in parts (just ask your guide)

Even though we are close to civilisation, there are scenes you’ll see that can only be experienced by raft.

The sounds of huge amounts of water naturally gushing, generates the feeling that kids had when they were free to play around the rivers of New Zealand.

These are the sounds of nature. No cars, no screens, no tar seal. This is the river, untouched by man-made developments – a genuine escape from modern life.

You’ll almost certainly get to see the super rare Whio (Blue Duck) which are classified as vulnerable by DOC.

Side Note. We founded the Blue Duck Project, and run dedicated Blue Duck trips that provide a more interactive experience with this amazing creature.

This is what stuff.co.nz had to say when their writer joined one of our tours.

Yes, the rapids were great fun. But this is much more than a rafting trip, it’s a glimpse into a prehistoric New Zealand – and thankfully – a little blue duck is there to glimpse back at us.

Watch the stuff.co.nz video of their trip with us.

You don’t need any equipment

The only thing you need is swimwear and a towel. That’s it. We supply everything else – wetsuit, gloves, jackets etc – and our gear is high quality and extremely clean!

Snacks and drinks are also supplied 🙂

We’re based on Turangi

This is the little known reason why rafting is so attractive to those over 60.

Turangi is located on the southern side of Lake Taupō and at times, the crowds in Taupō can be overwhelming, whereas things are much more relaxed in Turangi.

With a population of less than 4,000 we’re in no rush . . .a proper rafting experience on the Tongariro is not ‘conveyor belt’ tourism – even when we get back to our base, you’re not just sent on your way.

Instead, we get the jug on, break open a pack of bikkies and reflect on your time on the river.

Fancy a relaxing bike ride?

Before we go any further, we need to talk about biking – another activity that is growing super fast.

We have a fleet of high quality mountain bikes and e-mountain bikes available to for hire. In the area is the easy Tongariro River Trail ride – which is a perfect activity for the afternoon or perhaps the day after you raft. You’ll get a different view of the river and you can stop, and just soak up the nature.

We also do guided bikes trips as well – just let us know!

So, what Tongariro rafting experience is best for you?

Alert Level Two

At Alert Level two, we are offering private ‘bubble’ rafts only.  So you can raft with a maximum of 4 people.  Read more about our private bubble rafts here.

If you’re keen on some mountain bike riding as well, contact us to let us know as bike hire is FREE if you join us on a rafting trip.

Alert Level One

At Alert Level One, we will once again be able offer the full range of experiences.

Our most popular trip is our Grade 3 Whitewater rafting experience – perfect for anyone over 10 years of age!

We also have a dedicated trip for families with kids under 10 – so this is a great option if you want to bring the grandkids along.

Blue Duck experience – similar to our Grade 3 trip, but you’ll be getting involved in the project to save the Whio – checking traps etc.

Raft Fishing – go rafting and grab dinner in the form of fresh trout.

If you want to know more about rafting, and what the different grades mean, then check out our comprehensive guide to rafting the Tongariro.

Lastly, if you’re not sure about whether rafting is right for you, contact us and have a chat with our team if you have any concerns.

See you in Turangi!