Forget trekking in Cairn’s tropical heat. White water rafting in Cairns on the Barron River is a much more comfortable way to experience the lush landscape and natural beauty of Tropical North Queensland. The Foaming Fury Barron River Rafting trip includes a pick up from several spots in Cairns or Port Douglas. The Port Douglas option costs a little more as it’s further away and the tour costs a bit less if you self-drive. The tour runs daily in the afternoon and can also run in the morning if the Barron River is high enough. Water from a dam is released each afternoon and Foaming Fury uses this for their afternoon Barron River rafting trip. We felt extra safe on the afternoon tour because the water flow is more controlled than on other rivers which rely entirely on Mother Nature for the amount of water flowing down them.
Our family of two adults and a teen was picked up right in the heart of Cairns near the Oaks Cairns Hotel where we were staying. If you book with Experience Oz, remember to bring a credit card or cash to pay the additional $30 per person Rafting Levy to the staff member on the bus. The 30 minute bus transfer travels straight from Cairns to the tour departure point in the tropical rainforest which means there are no toilets at the start of the tour unless you want to use a ‘lav-a-tree’.
Make sure you put on sunscreen and drink some water before you get out of the bus as paddling is thirsty work in the tropical heat. The gear is laid out in piles and staff are available to help you fit your life jacket and choose a yellow helmet that’s the correct size (and makes you look like a Minion). You need water sandals, reef shoes or a pair of sneakers that you don’t mind getting wet to do this tour. If you don’t have shoes, there are some available for hire ($5 per person) when you get off the bus.
All of the gear was modern and well maintained and the cheerful guides were confident and enthusiastic. Jason, our guide, was very experienced and especially great with the kids in our raft. If you are a rafting novice or travelling with older or younger family members, there is no need to be worried about the images the company name – Foaming Fury – conjures up. While rafting Barron River was more hardcore than the rafting trip we did in Bali when our son was younger, it only has a few Grade 3 rapids and they’re quite gentle.
After getting fitted out with helmets, life jackets and paddles, we walked down a dirt path while Jason dragged our raft down to the river. After he positioned our raft in the river, he told everyone where to sit and got us settled in the raft then we paddled around in calm water to practice our skills before heading towards the first set of rapids.
Despite the ongoing tourism development in and around Cairns, it’s not hard to imagine you are in the middle of nowhere as you float down the river surrounded by nothing but tropical rainforest. You don’t need to paddle to power the raft but there is quite a bit of paddling to steer it in the right direction when you’re going down the rapids. At the start of the trip there were plenty of smaller rapids to keep us entertained and get everyone in our raft to practice their steering skills before the trickier larger rapids further on.
We all look a little nervous in some of the photos take at the beginning but as the tour went on and we got more confident, we had an absolute ball. Everyone works as a team and the guide gets the front two people to call out “One, two; one, two” so each person paddles in time. As you approach each rapid, your guide gives you an idea of what to expect and what your strategy is going to be: Keep Paddling, Hang On, or Get Down.
When your raft goes through small rapids, you stay seated on the side of the raft and “Keep Paddling”. If the rapids are a little bigger, you stop paddling and hang on to the rope on the side of the raft when your guide says “Hang On”. If the rapid is a Grade 3, your guide will say ‘Get Down’ and everyone hangs on and crouches in the bottom of the raft until its through the rapid and then sits up on the side again. In a couple of “Hang On” rapids, Jason got the young kids in our raft to “Get Down” for added safety. Your guide is steering the raft the entire time so you don’t need to worry about where you’re going.
As you can see in the photo below, our family had a great time on this tour. We got to cruise down the beautiful Barron River and enjoy some beautiful scenery along the way. There was also time to enjoy a quick swim half way down the river and float along a gentle stretch in our life jackets which was fun. Save some energy for the end of the rafting trip as it’s quite a long way to the landing point after the rapids finish. The open section of the river doesn’t flow that fast which means you have to paddle to the finish.
Our weary arms were glad to reach the landing spot which had a building with a café and other facilities. You can purchase photos from the tour here as well. We stacked our raft on the trailer and handed back our gear for cleaning and then walked a short distance to the bus for the trip back to Cairns. If you think you’ve ‘done Cairns’, this scenic rafting tour will change your mind. It’s also a lot of fun!
Disclosure: The writer and her family rafted with Foaming Fury as guests of Experience Oz.
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