White water rafting thrills in Nepal
their visit to Nepal. Rodney Appleyard
and Dan Thory tried out white water
rafting, enough of a thrill in its own right, but one which was
capped by the experience of doing it surrounded by the beauty and
grandeur of the Himalayas. The mountains make a dramatic backdrop
and the rivers, fed by the melt waters from these mountains, are
amongst the best in the world for white water rafting and kayaking.
The rivers range from grade 3, which provides a safe thrill for
the novice, to 4, 5 and even 6 for experienced white water rafters
and canoeists. So let's see how they got on ...
'Nepal is probably best known for its world class
trekking expeditions in the Himalayan mountains, including Everest,
but it also has some of the most challenging, exciting and scenic
white water rafting facilities in the world. Which is why we had
to try our first white water rafting experience here.
Rivers are graded from 1-6, 1 being flat water and
the safest and calmest and 6 being the most treacherous, dangerous,
exhilarating whatever you want to call it, depending on your
experience. We chose grade 3, because we didn't want to be too safe
but we also didn't want to risk our lives. There are three main
rivers to experience in Nepal the Karnali, the Sun Kosi and
the Trisuli. We journeyed along the Trisuli River, which provided
unforgettable, breath-taking scenery and many memorable thrills.
At first, you might think to yourself: 'Do I really need this life-jacket?
This is just a gentle cruise along the river.' It certainly starts
off that way, as you admire the grandure of the hills and mountains
around you as you float downstream. The guides had planned the trip
so that we weaved through valleys, whilst watching the sun hovering
over an horizon of mountain tops, the sun gently lowering towards
a rich sunset as the hills decreased in size. When it finally set
after our five hour trip the guides pulled up the boats into a quiet,
scenic spot for camping overnight and eating under the moonlight.
But there were many surprises along the way before this point and
many reminders of why those life-jackets were so important. The
rapids start off steady and quite calm. At the first small rapid
everyone experiences a few splashes and we hear the occasional 'woo'
of excitement. Then, the waves and rapids get bigger and bigger,
until you can hear them in the distance before you see them. Once
you do see them, there is no way of escape, you just have to paddle.
So everyone starts paddling frantically, trying to listen to the
guide, but fear and excitement causes mass confusion and unsynchronised
paddling which just adds to the excitement!
On many occasions, we bounced in the air over rapids
and felt as if we were about to capsize. The six of us in the boat
went through about 10 big rapids and were all drenched from head
to toe by the fifth. However, bouncing over rapids, avoiding rocks
and falling into the water is all part of the fun of a grade 3 level
river, as well as taking in the serenity of your surroundings when
the water is calm.
rivers and longer trips
More experienced and adventurous rafters can go on longer, higher
graded trips of up to 12 days, on the most exciting rivers in the
world. The best time for rafting in Nepal is between September to
early December and fram March to early June.
Expeditions to the Karnali River can take about 7
days and include camping on the riverbank each night. This river
is said to include some of the most breath-taking canyons, jungle
scenery and waterfalls in Nepal. Although, during the Spring, the
snow melts, causing the rip tides to rise rapidly when you least
The Sun Kosi river is the other world class river
in Nepal which is rated as one of the ten classic river journeys.
It is also the longest, stretching over 270 km and involves some
of the best scenery. Many of the trips on this river take about
10 days to complete.
Gurkha's Encounters Overland Adventure Company
We spoke to Krishna Raj Bhattarai, who organises trips at the Gurkha's
Encounters Overland Adventure Company in Thamel, Kathmandu:
"I heard that Nepal has the second biggest resources for
white water rafting out of any capital city in the world. First
is Brazil, then Nepal. We have the greatest potential for white
water rafting. Those people who like the adventurous feeling should
go to rivers such as Karnali and Sun Kosi to experience the best
excitement, but if you haven't done this kind of rafting trip,
then those wild rivers will be too frightening for you. Sometimes,
the people will leave the boat, and the guide might have to resort
to taking air out of the dingy in the water to rescue somebody!"
Is Nepal a safe place to visit?
Despite the fighting between the rebels and the government when
we went rafting (in December, 2002) our safety never felt threatened.
Now that there is a ceasefire, this should give everyone more encouragement
to visit Nepal and revel in the wonders of the white water rafting
and trekking facilities. Nepal will always be a special place because
it has so many resources to provide you with the best experience
on these epic journeys.
Text © Rodney Appleyard;
photographs © Dan Thory (top), Gurka's Encounters Overland Adventure
Company (centre and lower), 2003
Recommended company for trekking and white water rafting in
Nepal: Gurkha's Encounters Overland Adventure (P) Ltd. Gurkha's
Encounters Overland organise treks throughout Nepal including
the Everest Region and Kanchanjunga. They also offer jungle
safaris, white water rafting, bungy jumping (second highest
in the world), mountain flights, sightseeing, hot air ballooning,
paragliding and organised trips to Tibet, Bhutan, Sikkim and
Also try the travel-quest
white water rafting directory for more companies offering
rafting in Nepal and beyond.