A Rotorua man has become a hero after saving three Argentinian tourists kayaking on Lake Rotorua.

Tawhanga Rika was sitting down for dinner on January 17 overlooking the kayakers on the lake that washes up onto his back yard when a neighbour alerted him to the not-so-picturesque scene that was really going on.

"We could see these kayakers drifting out but we didn't know they were in trouble at the time," Rika said.

"My neighbour came across because he knew I had a boat and it was already launched and ready to go."


Rika shot out on his motorised kayak to a mother and father who were in a double kayak and their son ,who had fallen into the lake without a life jacket.

Tawhanga Rika's motorised kayak that he used to get the tourists back to shore. Photo / Supplied
Tawhanga Rika's motorised kayak that he used to get the tourists back to shore. Photo / Supplied

"There had been a fella already out there trying to help them but he was getting dragged under by them as well.

"[He] was able to put a life jacket on the son and pulled him onto his kayak so they were just drifting."

Rika said the family did not speak English and he believed the language barrier made it hard for them to co-operate as they kept "freaking out".

Problems continued as Rika's kayak could only fit three adults so he decided to take the mother and son into shore first.

"As I was going out I didn't realise how bad the situation was but it was actually pretty bad.

"They were nearly sinking in their boats but I could see them from the shore of our house and it looked like they were paddling normally."

Rika brought the father and the other helper in next which he described as an overall "intense moment".


He said for more than an hour he had to calm them down and try to communicate through hand actions due to their little knowledge of English.

"It was quite the adrenaline rush."

Police confirmed they were called to a water rescue from Arnold St, Ngongotahā at 7pm that day and nobody was injured.