The body of a man who drowned at McLaren Falls in the Bay of Plenty yesterday has been recovered.

The Police National Dive Squad recovered Muhammad Jawad's body yesterday evening, with the assistance of the Tauranga Urban Search and Rescue volunteer team.

Mr Jawad, 24, died after stopping at the popular McLaren Falls, near Tauranga, for a quick swim with two friends.

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Jawad had stopped at the swimming spot with friends Faizan Mir and Hassan Naqu shortly before 3pm. He began to struggle in deeper water and disappeared.

"He jumped in and was swimming for a while and we realised he was panicking a little," Mir said. "Some other people jumped in to help and my friend [Hassan] jumped in to help but they couldn't ... he just went under the surface."

The men yelled to bystanders to call 111 but by the time ambulances and police arrived, their friend had disappeared.

"I'm gutted, it's tragic," Mir said.

The trio were visiting for the weekend and were looking for a good camping spot, Mir said.

Jawad and Mir had been friends for two months after meeting through Jawad's older brother in Auckland.

Mir understood Jawad had recently got engaged to a woman who was studying in Germany.

He had moved to New Zealand this year and the friends were visiting Tauranga for the first time. "He was a swimmer. He went to the pool to swim quite often. He was an athlete, played lots of sports," Mir said.

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"He was very happy and jolly. A really nice guy."

Sergeant Craig Madden of the Police Search & Rescue said this was a warning to everyone, as drowning could occur in minutes.

The man's death had been referred to the Coroner.