Kaitiaki Adventures – Our Story

Kaitiaki Adventures is a multi award winning, 120% climate positive, kaupapa Māori Adventure Tourism Company utilising the unique and diverse landscapes surrounding Rotorua. Specialising in culturally integral white-water rafting, sledging experiences on the Okere section of the historic Kaituna river. Leading culturally steeped guided hiking expeditions on Mount Tarawera, Kaitiaki is humbled to hold the sole concession, taking manuhiri to the summit of Mount Tarawera.

Kaitiaki Adventures Rotorua was formed in 1999 through a prefect mix of highly qualified adventure professionals and kiwi entrepreneurs, focusing on manaakitanga and Kaitiakitanga as a foundation for success. Transforming into the multi awarding winning customer centric company it is today.

Our People


A Māori word that loosely translates to ‘hospitality’. Manaakitanga it is central to Māori society and inspires the way that travellers are made to feel welcome when visiting New Zealand. In Māori culture, manaakitanga is a traditional value that is considered to be hugely important.


Kaitiakitanga has been described as guardianship or protection. The basic meaning of ’tiaki’ is to guard, depending on which context it is used, it also means to preserve, keep, conserve, nurture, protect and watch over. The prefix ‘kai’ with the verb ‘tiaki’ denotes the agent of the action of ‘tiaki’. Therefore, a kaitiaki is a guardian, keeper, preserver, conservator or protector. The addition of ‘tanga’ denotes preservation, conservation and protection.


This word is all about relationships, kinship, sense of family connection – a relationship through shared experiences and working together which provides people with a sense of belonging. It develops as a result of kinship rights and obligations, which also serve to strengthen each member of the kin group. It also extends to others to whom one develops a close familial, friendship or reciprocal relationship.

Our Commitment to Sustainability

As Kaitiaki we take our responsibility to the sustainability and the wellbeing of Papatuanuku seriously, upholding levels of the absolute highest order.

We are committed to a sustainable future for all generations to enjoy – A 100% Pure NZ.
Find Out More About Our - Kaitiakitanga

Our People / Guides

Hemi Te Awa

Senior Grade 4/5 Raft Guide, Senior Grade 4/5 Sledge Guide.


After being educated at Te Kuiti High School Hemi went on to study at Toi Ohomai before joining Kaitiaki Adventures, where he is now a senior 4/5 guide in both Whitewater Rafting and Sledging. Hemi is a valued member of the Kaitiaki Whānau.

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Dan Toia-Custer

Senior Grade 4/5 Raft Guide

Ngapuhi Nui Tonu

Born in Kawakawa situated in the Bay of Islands, After attending Kerikeri High School, Dan studied at the Nelson Institute of Technology where he completed his Outdoor Education. Landing his role with Kaitiaki Adventures Dan has become a Senior 4/5 Whitewater Raft guide. Dan has a huge passion for the outdoors. In his spare time Dan can be found fishing, surfing or snowboarding.

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Dale Thomas

Senior Outdoor Adventure Photographer

Te Arawa, Ngāti Pikiao, Ngai Tamanuhiri - Muriwai, Gisborne.

The Kaitiaki Whanau have been proud to have Dale as a part of the Team since 2008. Dale moved to Rotorua in her late teens where she attended Rotorua Girls High School, then went on to study at Waiariki Institute of Technology. There she achieved her Certificate in Adventure Tourism, a Diploma in Applied Tourism Management and Certificate in Photography & Arts. Over the years Dale has been a club representative for Waka Ama, World Champion N3 Representative with various other titles from Sprints to Long Distance. Dale also won Gold in the U23 Women’s Raft Team at the 2014 World Rafting Championships. Dale has been awarded a NZ Maori Sports Award for Rafting & Waka Ama & Te Arawa Sports Awards for Team of the year, Rafting and Sports women of the Year for Waka Ama.

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Curtis Anderson

Grade 4/5 Raft Guide


Educated at William Colenso College, Curtis then went on to study at Tai Poutini Polytechnic, where he gained his Outdoor Certificates. Curtis's pastimes include hunting, fishing, diving and spending time in the great outdoors.

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Tipene Marr

Ruawahia2B Trustee, Senior Mountain Guide

Ngāti Rangitihi, Tuwharetoa. Te Atiawa

Ruawahia2B Trustee, Kaumātua Ngāti Rangitihi. After a lifetime of environmental advocacy for Greenpeace & 12yrs on the environmental BOP board. Tiipene joins the staff of Kaitiaki Adventures, guiding us on a deep dive through our already ambitious sustainability journey.

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Wade Gumson

Senior Raft/Sledge Guide

Ngongotahā, Rotorua

One of the most experienced commercial guides on the planet with extensive overseas experience including; USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, Italy, Nepal, Costa Rica and Ecuador. His experience is unmatched. Wade has helped mould an exceptional guide crew for Kaitiaki bringing his professionalism to blend with our already exceptional standards. Wade was schooled at Lakes High School here in Rotorua. He trained at 'the school of hard knocks' (in-house training) and boasts over 30 years working in the Whitewater industry. When Wade isn't on the water you will find him Surfing, Mountain biking, and Raising chickens.
As management of Kaitiaki it's not only a privilege to have Wade on our crew but gives peace of mind knowing that our customers will gain from Wade's experience.

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Raana Setterington

Senior Raft Guide/Assessor/River Manager

Born in Otautahi, Chistchurch. Ngai Tahu, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu.

Raana represented Canterbury in Age Group Hockey until under 21’s where he made the West Coast Hockey Team while Studying at the prestigious Tai Poutini Polytechnic in Outdoor recreation & Adventure Guiding. After guiding in all 4 corners of the world, Raana brought his extensive knowledge of White Water Rafting to the Kaitiaki Whānau in 2010, where he currently works as Senior Raft Guide, Assessor and River Manager.

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Ben "Jimbo" Macleman

Senior Raft Guide

On leaving Tai Poutini Ben has worked for Kaitiaki Adventures. 5 years on Ben is a senior raft guide.
An outstanding sportsman capable of turning his talent to whatever sport that appeals.
His passion for whitewater has led Ben to do 3 first descents (including Huka falls) and has taken him worldwide to discover new countries, people and rivers.
Bens casual manner and quirky humour helps to put clients at ease.
Ben is a fundamental part of the Kaitiaki whanau, having been with the company since the outset.

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Stevie Wall

Senior Raft/Sledge Guide

Stevie is one of the original company shareholders and is still involved in the day to day running of the company. Stevie was prominent in the pioneering of the Kaituna sledging in 1999. He began sledging in 1999 and once Kaitiaki progressed into rafting Stevie followed suit.
Stevie's main outside interest is touch Rugby. He began in 1990 and played for Taranaki in the mixed open and has continued to excel. He captained the NZ mixed touch team on the tour to South Africa in 2007 and came away as the winners of the ‘Touch Rugby World Cup” As Stevie was self taught in the Kaitiaki environment a trip with Stevie is a true Kaitiaki trip.

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Manu Vink Wackernagel

Raft Guide

Motueka, Nelson

Manu studied at MHS and completed his REO Rafting in Canada. Manu joined the Kaitiaki Whanau in 2017. Manu is an accomplished boater and has a passion for outdoors. Manu brings manaakitanga ensuring all his clients have the safest yet unforgettable experience.

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Geni Walters

Senior Sledge Guide

Te Arawa, Rotorua

Geni is a Rotorua born and bred Te Arawa girl. After completing an outdoor recreation course at Tauranga, Geni then came to Kaitiaki. With her background in swimming at a national level, she naturally took up the challenge to sledge. Trained under the worlds top sledge guides, Geni quickly developed into the first female sledge guide. Geni's enthusiasm coupled with her determination is a great asset to the Kaitiaki Whānau.

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Glenn "Weka" Kay

Senior Raft/Sledge Guide

After leaving Tai Poutini, where Glenn completed his adventure tourism course, he came to work for Kaitiaki. Venturing overseas to work but returning after each raft season away.
Glenn comes from a sporting background where not only kayaking, rafting and sledging became a big part but also surfing.
Glenn is an easy going sociable character whose amiable personality is a great asset to both the clients and the Kaitiaki team.

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Kayla Pene

Raft Guide

Born in Rotorua. Te Arawa, Tuhourangi & Ngāti Rangiwewewhi, Ngāti Tiipa, Te Atiawa ki Taranaki. Kayla has been a part of the Kaitiaki Whānau since 2013. Growing up Kayla attended Western Heights High School & TKKM o Ruamatā, then went on to study at Waiariki Institute of Technology where she received her certificate in Adventure Tourism. The Pene Whanau have been guiding in the Te Arawa Rohe for generations; there is a rich sense of Manaaki running through their veins. Kayla is also a World champion BMX Rider – She has won numerous titles including NZ Sports Woman of the Year BMX; Rotorua BMX Sports Woman of the Year; Te Arawa Sports awards, Whānau of the year BMX. Kayla also won Gold in the U23 Women’s Raft Team at the 2014 World Rafting Championships and was ranked #2 in the U19 Women's Brazilian World Champs R4 and #3 U23 Women's Brazilian World Champs R4. Kayla has raced in Waka Ama since she was a young girl.

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Joel Flamank

Senior Raft/Sledge Guide

Joel came to Kaitiaki directly after his Tai Poutini course. An extremely energetic person, Joel had no problem at directing his energy into whitewater sports. Joel is an integral part of Kaitiaki not only as both a senior sledge and senior raft guide but as an energetic presence within the company.

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Nikki Kelly

We are privileged to have Nikki Kelly within Kaitiaki Adventures. It is hard to sum up Nikki's many successes over the years. She is world renowned in kayaking having made a career for herself in rodeo kayaking, creeking and expedition kayaking. Nikki's rafting team has represented NZ since 1999. She recently took out the Top Place for the Extreme Down-River White Water Kayaking Championship held in Vail, Colorado 2009 and has been named the Whitewater Woman of the Century.

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Ben Wood

Grade 4/5 Raft Guide, Grade 3 Sledge Guide, Senior Mountain Guide


After Ben's schooling at St Peters in Cambridge, he went on to study at Tai Poutini Polytecnic from there Ben has become a valued member of the Kaitiaki Whānau both as a River and Mountain Guide.

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Harry Wright

Grade 4/5 Raft Guide, Senior Mountain Guide.


From the Wairarapa, Harry schooled at Chanel College, Masterton then took up study at Toi Ohomai in Rotorua. Harry has a passion for the outdoors and strong sense of Manaaki.

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Daniel Kiripatea

Senior Mountain Guide

Te Arawa, Ngati Awa

Dan Kiripatea went to Raukura/Rotorua Boys' High School. He grew up around tourism as a kid most of his 'study' was first hand watching many great drivers/guides. He took a tourism course in high school. Later Dan became a national tour driver/guide and now he is a Senior Mountain guide for Kaitiaki. Dan has a passion for volleyball and exploring hidden gems around Aotearoa.

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Jackie Wilson

Grade 4/5 Raft Guide, Senior Mountain Guide, Adventure Photographer

Ngāti Whakaue, Te Arawa

Jackie attended Rotorua Girls’ High School, she then found she has a passion for the outdoors so enrolled and gained her Outdoor Certifications at the Nelson Institute of Technology. She has since returned to her home town making her mark at Kaitiaki Adventures.

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Frank Baker

Senior Mountain Guide, Adventure Photographer

Te Arawa, Tuhourangi, Ngāti Kearoa/Ngāti Tuara, Ngāti Rangitihi, Ngapuhi

After being educated at Raukura/Rotorua Boys' High School in Rotorua, Frank studied Sport and Rec at AUT University before joining the NZ Tourism industry. He has filled various roles around Aotearoa including in Milford Sound. Frank re-connected with his whenua (land) becoming a Mountain Guide at Kaitiaki Adventures. When Frank is not working you'll either see him on a sports court or field, or on stage in a musical.

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Brett ‘Boppa’ Jones

Senior Grade 4/5 Raft Guide


Brett 'Boppa' Jones went to Rotorua Lakes High School. He trained to become a Raft Guide at Whitewater Excitement Rotorua in the 1980's. Boppa is a keen Snowborder, he also loves Mountain Biking and attending a cheeky Rave.

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Te Hurinui Raukawa-Phillips

Grade 4/5 Raft Guide, Grade 3 Sledge Guide, Senior Mountain Guide, Adventure Photographer

Te Arawa, Ngāti Porou

After been educated at Rotorua Lakes High School, Nui went on to study at Toi Ohomai Rotorua and gained his Outdoor Guiding Certifications, Nui's pastimes include Basketball and Mixed Martial Arts.

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Sam Richmond

Senior Grade 4/5 Raft Guide, Senior Grade 4/5 Sledge Guide, Senior Mountain Guide

Tainui te iwi, Ngai Tai te Hapū, Torere Nui Arua te whenua

Educated in Wales UK at Ysgol Gyfun Emlyn, Sam then moved back to NZ and gained his Whitewater skills at Kaitiaki Adventures on the in-house training program. His passions include field hockey and rugby and spending time with his whānau.

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Andy Loveridge

Senior Sledge Guide

Born and bred in Taranaki, Andy attended OPC (Outdoor Pursuits Centre) gaining his outdoor guiding qualification working as a tramping, mountain bike and kayak instructor. He also attended Waikato University where he earned his Sport and Leisure Degree. Andy’s first season with Kaitiaki saw him fit straight into the Kaitiaki environment bringing a true understanding of manaakitanga from travelling the world. A true asset to Kaitiaki.

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Nigel Middleton Turner

Senior Raft Guide

Nigel came to work with Kaitiaki after finishing his work with the “youth at risk course” where he spent 4 seasons. Nigel has been rafting for 6 years working his way up from an aspirant guide to a senior.
Nigel is our river manager, his relaxed manner is a bonus in the stressful times and he is an integral part of the Kaitiaki team.

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Grant Aumua

Senior Raft & Sledge Guide

Grant is one of the original shareholders in Kaitiaki as a senior raft and sledge guides he is a key member in Kaitiaki Adventures. He began rafting in early 1990 and as a natural progression then moved into the sledging field. Grant helped pioneer the infamous Kaituna sledge run in 1999 and represented NZ in rafting in 2001. Grants interests include bodybuilding, rugby league and mountain biking .

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Adam "Chonk" Walker

Senior Raft Guide

Chonk has been with Kaitiaki Adventures since 2003 after graduating from Tai Poutini and a short stint with a few companies from the west coast of the South Island. Chonk's fun loving personality enables him to get on well with his clients and work colleges alike. Chonk is now an important part of the Kaitikai crew.

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Barry "Baz" Goes

Senior Raft Guide

Baz's forth season with Kaitiaki brings extensive rafting knowledge that he’s gained from rafting in places such as Rangitikei and the Tully in Australia. Baz's easy going yet professional attitude has enabled him to fit straight into the Kaitiaki Whanau.

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James "Bhutty" Moore

1975 - 2008

James was a valued member of Kaitiaki Adventures and had been guiding since 1996. James represented NZ internationally in the NZ raft team in 1998 in Costa Rica where he then went on to captain the team in 1999 and 2000. His interest in photography led him to establish Adrenalin Shots - where James photographed various whitewater activities (including Kaitiaki's Photos). His passion for Waka Ama, kayaking, mountain biking and "Life" saw him as the perfect role model for the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts. James will be sorely missed but never forgotten. Ko Au Te Hoe, Te Hoe Ko Au.

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  • Review of: Cath Hagan
    If you havent already been white-water rafting then this is the BEST place in the world to have a go!
  • Review of: Sarah H
    Be prepared for an adventure, the views are stunning, and the sense of awe and accomplishment at the end was amazing.
  • Review of: Tristan P
    A must do! Our guides Cam & Curtis were amazing and really funny. Definitely the highlight of the month.
  • Review of: Caradis A
    What an amazing time! We had so much rafting fun, even though at first I was terrified. Will recommend this to everyone.
  • Review of: Te-Aroha P
    Such an exhilarating experience. We loved all the waterfalls and rapids, but we always felt safe with an awesome safety crew.
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