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A Beginner’s Guide to White Water Rafting in Australia
Australia is a land known for being a heartland of adventure. Its winding river routes are no different!
Interesting fact – There are over 430 rivers in Australia. They provide adventurous souls with tens of thousands of kilometres of pristine waterways to explore and conquer through white water rafting.
From white foamed raging torrents to idyllic twists through stunningly beautiful forests and sheer-sided desert valleys.
No matter what type of adrenaline junkie you are, the riverways of Australia have everything you need to enjoy a day out on the water.
In this article, I’m going to provide a beginner’s guide to white water rafting in Australia. We have provided all the info you will need in this guide to plan your next heart-pounding white water rafting adventure.
Top White Water Rafting FAQ’s
What is White Water Rafting?
White water rafting is an extreme water-based recreational sport that uses large inflatable rafts to navigate along a river way or other body of water.
The “white water” component of the title simply relates to the rafting being done on waterways where the water flows rapidly and there are strong currents.
Usually, white water rafters will work in groups of 2 to 8 people, which makes it much easier to navigate the rafts through the rough conditions.
More advanced enthusiasts push their white water rafting experiences to the limit, with extremely volatile water, big rocks, sudden maneuverers and sharp drops.
However, white water rafting isn’t just a sport for professional daredevils…
There’s a huge variety of river types that cater to all groups – from beginners to families.
This means that everyone can enjoy white river rafting in Australia.
Is White Water Rafting Safe?
White water rafting is an extreme sport that focuses on tackling adverse water conditions.
It would therefore, be wrong to say there is no danger.
However, as the sport has become more popular (and as technology has advanced) the safety features in white water rafting have also improved.
Fatalities are much rarer in both commercial and do-it-yourself white water rafting because of the increased use of safety equipment including:
- hard helmet
- life jackets
- specialised raft materials
- safety briefings
- and expert guides.
In general, which water rafting is considered a safe adventure activity, with thousands safely enjoying Australia’s waterways every day.
It does of course depend on which type of rapids you choose to tackle and conquer though…
Let’s now look at some facts.
The fatality rate for white water rafting is said to be 1 fatality per 200,000 people.
This makes white water rafting one of the safest extreme sports for people to enjoy.
Key risks and dangers to be aware of:
There are some risks and dangers to be aware of when white water rafting.
- Submerged rocks and other debris (eg. fallen trees)
- Low hanging branches or rock faces.
- Sudden drops in the river that can cause the raft to tip.
- Any small disruptions in the water surface
Being alert and listening to the directions of your guide will reduce any chance of injury while white water rafting in Australia.
Is There an Age or Weight Limit for White Water Rafting in Australia?
While there isn’t a legislated age limit in place for white water rafting, there are usually age recommendations depening on the difficulty of the rapids.
Rivers and there hazard level are rated on a class system – from Class 1 to Class 6.
Class one, for example, has small hazards and is perfect for beginner rafters.
Class 6 is considered incredibly hazardous and dangerous, even for master-level white water rafters.
According to the International Rafting Federation:
- No one younger than 4 years old should participate in white river rafting.
- 4-year-olds and above should only raft on Class 1 & 2 rivers.
- 7-year-olds and above should only raft on Class 3 rivers.
- 14-year-olds with strong swimming capabilities should only raft on Class 4 rivers.
- Only experienced rafters should take on class 5 & 6 rivers.
There is also no legislated weight limit for white water rafting. However, white water rafting is as an extreme sport that requires a:
- high levels of endurance
- capable level of fitness
- strong swimming ability.
This is especially important if planning to tackle some of the more extreme and turbulent waterways in Australia (eg. Class 3-6).
What Should I Wear When White Water Rafting?
While white water rafting, there are a variety of items you can wear which will ensure you are best prepared for this amazing adventure experience.
The most important thing to wear at all times during white water rafting is your safety equipment.
This will include:
- your helmet and
- buoyancy vest
You should never EVER take these off while inside the raft.
In white water rafting, you should also expect to get soaked.
Therefore, it is usually worth wearing a swimsuit, or in colder water conditions, a wet suit.
This will help you stay warm throughout your experience, especially if white water rafting in the colder months of the year.
Here are some other items you should consider wearing/bringing with you:
- closed-toe athletic shoes that can get wet or water shoes
- Gloves that can get wet
- Water bottle
It is also worth packing a dry bag with warm clothes and shoes in it.
That you can change into them once you’ve finished your white-water rafting journey.
Heading home freezing cold and soaking wet can be somewhat of a mood dampener.
If you need one, here’s a great dry bag brand to check out:
Marchway Dry Bag/ Sack
Packing a Dry Bag/Sack will help you to keep your valuables and spare clothing dry when you go white water rafting.
It will also keep your things afloat at the surface in the event that your raft capsizes.
There are also a few items of clothing that its best not to wear when spending a day on the river.
Here are some examples:
Cotton swells and therefore, holds cold water next to your skin. This can make even a warm day on the river a little chilly.
It’s usually best to stick to synthetic fibres when rafting.
As your body heats up and cools down, your fingers can expand and contract.
Therefore, it’s best to leave your jewellery at home unless you want it sinking to the bottom of the river.
Unless they are of the waterproof variety, put all electronics in a dry bag and make sure they are secure.
What is the Cost of White Water Rafting in Australia?
The cost of white water rafting generally varies on the:
- river classification
- location’s popularity
- length of the trip
- number of rafters
- guide and
- equipment hire
However, overall white-water rafting is a budget-friendly experience.
A full-day white water rafting trip typically ranged from:
- $120 to $350 for adults
- $100 to $180 for kids
A half-day white water rafting trip usually ranged from:
- $30 to $100 for both adults and youths
The cost in both instances, usually covers your equipment hire, insurance and added options like lunch.
What is the Best Time to Go White Water Rafting in Australia?
Australia’s warm climate means that white water rafting is a great all-year-round activity.
However, depending on the type of experience you are looking for, there are some peak seasonal periods.
Summer white water rafting is perfect for enjoying the hot Australian weather whilst tackling some of the nation’s most white-knuckle rides.
BUT…This is also the peak season.
Especially, in the North due to increased rainfall from December to March.
The increased rainfall raises water levels and creates some of the most exhilarating white water rapid journeys you can imagine.
The Spring months of September to November are also great for white water rafting in Australia.
This is particularly true for beginners who want to go rafting in the North.
At this time the river water levels tend to be lower due to the ending of the northern dry season.
This makes for great days out on the river that are a little less crowded and bumpy.
AUTUMN & WINTER
Winter and Autumn are the quietest seasons on the river.
They do however, provide the perfect time to conquer the more complex routes without a build-up of rafters.
Given the stunning autumn foliage, it can also be a great time to do a more chilled raft down a less complex riverway.
6 Additional Tips for Beginners
While white water rafting can certainly be intimidating to some, it is one of the most thrilling and rewarding extreme adventure sports.
It truly provides all who take it on with a sense of achievement that is near unmeasurable!
The beauty of gliding along with the river in the heart of nature and then going on to conquer turbulent waterways is what draws so many to this exciting sport.
If you’re new to the sport, it’s important to remember that while white water rafting caters to all levels, there are a few things you should know before you go.
1) Always wear your inflatable jacket and helmet.
These are your first line of defence in the event that you fall out of the raft or capsize into rough water.
2) Always hold your paddle correctly.
When rafting, your hand should be firmly located over the “T-handle” at the back end of the paddle.
Otherwise, if you hit an unaccounted for bump, you may lurch your paddle back which can break noses and bruise eyes.
That’s why it’s important to grip the paddle with your hand guarding the back.
3) Listen during the Safety Briefing
Listen to your guide’s safety briefing attentively and learn what phrases are important to listen out for.
This could include things like:
Both of these aim to alert you when your raft is approaching a rock or obstruction.
The safety briefing also usually teaches you what to do and how. to stay safe should you fall into the water.
4) Make sure you are secured in the raft
an obstruction call.
If you hear the word “OBSTRUCTION”, ensure that you are gripping on.
While it’s rare for you to be thrown from the raft, it is possible if you’re taken unaware and aren’t expecting a bump.
5) Don’t Panic
If you fall into the water, one of the most important things to remember is to not panic.
Instead, focus your attention on staying afloat and remember the information from your raft masters briefing.
Usually you will be told to get into the “Down River Swimmers Position”
- laying on your back
- toes pointed to the sky
- head up so you can see where you are going
- feet pointed downstream
- knees slightly bent
This way if you come in contact with a rock you can use your feet and legs as shock absorbers and push off the rock.
6) Swim to Shore
If you fall off the raft make sure to swim to the shore. Particularly, if you can’t get back into your raft
No matter what, do not stand up!
Trying to stand up can result in your foot getting trapped in a river hole or debris that can lead to serious injury or even drowning.
Only try to stand once you are on the sandy shore banks.
7) Always choose a licensed rafting company
Doing so will help you feel confident that your white-water rafting experience will be a great one…
Ie. Coordinated by trained professionals with years of first-hand experience, not an amateur.
No matter what level you’re at for your first adrenaline-filled white-water rafting adventure, Australia is a great place to go.
So grab a paddle and prepare for an adventure of a lifetime.
So there you have it….
A Beginner’s Guide to White Water Rafting in Australia
Here’s a quick summary of what we covered:
- What is White Water Rafting? White water rafting is an extreme water-based recreational sport that uses inflatable rafts to navigate along white water rapids and riverways.
- Is White Water Rafting Safe? If you choose a Class 1 or 2 rapid and go with a reputable company, then yes!
- Is there an age & weight limit for White Water Rafting? No, but there are guidelines and recommendations depending the type of rapids you’ll experience when rafting. Overall, you should be relatively fit, healthy and able to swim.
- What should I wear when White Water Rafting? An inflatable vest and helmet are a must. Gloves, closed-toed shoes and sunscreen are also recommended.
- What is the cost of White Water Rafting in Australia? It varies. Approx $120 – $350 for adults and $100 to $180 for kids.
- What is the best time to go White Water Rafting in Australia? Usually, Summer & Spring!