White Water Rafting the Untamed Rivers of India
If you love the Rush and thrill of Adventure Sports and water is your thing, White Water Rafting is just the thing to try! The Himalayas, stretching 3,200 kilometers along India’s northern frontiers, cradle numerous rivers which flow all year round.
White water rafting in India is almost exclusively confined to the Himalayan rivers in the north, which flows down towards the south of India, meandering between densely green mountains, and through steep ravine. Rivers such as the Alaknanda, Bhagirathi, Indus, Zanskar and Teesta offer `raft-worthy’ rapids, and a trip down a river can be a great way to see the countryside. This abundance of mountain rivers makes India a world class whitewater destination with plenty of first-descent and exploratory possibilities.
The Experience of White Water Rafting in India
Whitewater rafting in rivers of Himalayas offers complete vacations for modern life adventure — encircling a world of activities, both on the river and off. The prime factor, is still the immense whitewater that trends through the regions of picturesque mountains. North India offers one of the broadest arrays of river experiences available anywhere in the world, from mild to wild with everything in between.
Rafting is a wild water experience guaranteed to pull you out of everyday existence and throw you into a world of thrills, chills and spills with its rumbling roars, white foams, swirling waters, the holes, river banks, and pristine waves.
As you board a raft and approach the first rapid, your pulse starts to fasten up. Guided by the commands from your guide like “All hard forward” you spring into action! The raft leaps into the whitewater, swinging up and down, with the pushing and pulling forces of water but your paddle against the water holds and hold tight inside the raft. The waves splashing over your head, breathing for air between splashes of water all while regaining the balance, and in the midst your guide constantly calling his commands and keeping you grounded. In an instant everything goes quiet. You realize that you have made it through the first rapid. The adventure doesn’t stop there it continues with the flow of the river – with strategy playing a huge part getting over and around the rocks and obstacles to get through the rapids that range from mild to wild, to stop your fellow men’s rafts from diving into the walls of water – it’s a team sport that gives it a spirit you can’t beat!
Rivers are graded on a scale of 1 to 6 depending on the state of the water and the skill required to navigate them-level 1 being for beginners while level 6 for people who have lost love for life.
Class 1: an easy, slow-moving current
Class 2: small waves
Class 3: rapids have medium waves with some technical maneuvers required
Class 4: rapids occur in a faster current, with bigger waves that are technical and scouting is sometimes recommended
Class 5: rapids have a very fast current, large waves and scouting is necessary
Class 6: rapids are virtually un-runnable, only attempted by professional racing teams
White Water Rafting Destinations in India
The snow-fed mountain rivers winding down from the mighty Himalayas make northern India one of the best regions for this adventure. Inexperienced and beginners have their choice of tranquil waters, with the assurance of a passage through magnificent riverside panorama. There are options for every experience level from beginners to experienced experts and professionals. The main regions for this sport are Ladakh, Garhwal and the rivers of Himachal Pradesh.
Shivpuri – Rishikesh (River Ganga/Ganges)
The mighty river Ganga plays host to river running. The 70-km stretch from Devprayag to Rishikesh is the venue of this relatively young sport. In the last few years, river rafting has become increasingly popular and several camps have come up along this stretch. With radips named The Wall, Black Money, Cross Fire Three Blind Mice, Return To Sender, Roller-Coaster, Golf Course and Club House, these wild rapids will pose some severe challenges yet allow you to master it and feel the winning mirth.
Devprayag – Rishikesh (River Bhagirathi meets the Alaknanda river to form the Ganga river)
Rafting tours to Devprayag where the Bhagirathi meets the Alaknanda river to form the Ganga river covers 138 km till Rishikesh, through several rapids (mostly Grades 3 and 4) on the Bhagirathi till its confluence with the Alaknanda at Devprayag to form the Ganga. A must -do if you are looking for a great river run in Asia.
Srinagar – Ladakh (River Indus and Zanskar)
Starting from Srinagar and finishing in Leh (with a lot of road and river adventure in between), a Zanskar Rafting Expedition takes you through some of the most breathtaking landscape on the planet, from the rafting expedition in Zanskar green hills of Kashmir, high up through the rocky terrain of the forbidden kingdom of Zanskar, rafting down three high altitude rivers of Stod, Zanskar and Indus, and landing up in the ancient Ladakh the capital of Leh. The trip takes you down the extremely desolate, remote and sheer Zanskar gorge with walls rising a few thousand feet out of the river bed, culminating on the mighty Indus river, (which incidentally lends India its name). July to end of September is the best time for this experience.
Uttarakhand (Rivers Kali and Sarda)
The river Kali originates in the Pithoragah district of Uttarakhand and forms a natural eastern boundary between India and Nepal. The river is named after the Goddess Kali but when it descends in the plains and meets up with the Saryu river it is called Sarda or Sharda. A self-contained river journey down this river is one of the prime options in this part of the Himalaya. The river flows past terraced farms of Kumaoni and Nepali villages, fresh water streams, sandy beaches, thick tropical jungles, plantations as we travel downstream through the terai belt negotiating exciting white water. With the Mahseer making it an angler’s delight, the lack of road access makes it a complete wilderness journey. with the occasional big rapid, the Kali makes its final descent to the plains in the last day on river, beginning with the mighty Chooka rapid. Flowing past the terai hills after densely forested hillsides, this trip is an outdoor wilderness experience in a league of its own.
Arunachal Pradesh- Assam (River Tsang Po/Siang or Brahamputra)
An exciting, true expedition style journey down one of the world’s greatest rivers, The Tsang Po river, after flowing gently eastwards through Tibet, cuts the Greater Himalaya and the highest unclimbed mountain in the world, Namche Barwa before it enters Arunachal Pradesh, where the expedition begins, a few miles inside the line-of-control with China. This tribal and ancient society refers to the river as the Siang. After cascading down 600 kms. of grade 4 – 5 rapids the Siang enters Assam at Passighat and is renamed as the Mighty Brahmaputra. Exploring this wild and rugged country and rafting some of the most challenging white water sections on this planet, is truly a memorable experience.
Kullu- Manali (River Beas)
In Himachal Pradesh, the river‚ Beas‚ offers an excellent day trips, best done in May-June. A great place to enjoy some excellent Whitewater. White water rafting in Kullu valley is done on river Beas from Pirdi (4 kms ahead of Kullu town) down to Jhiri, a stretch of approximately 14 kms. (Period Apr 15th-Jun end). The journey takes nearly one & half hour consisting of rapids from grade II & III.
Sikkim (Teesta River and Rangit)
Sikkim also offers good river stretches for rafting. The Teesta and Rangeet are two major rivers on which river rafting is possible in this tiny state of eastern India. Two major stretches are Makha-Sirwani-Bardang-Rongpo on the Teesta and Sikip-Jorethang-Majitar-Melli on the Rangeet/rangit. he icy cold waters of the rugged Teesta have a series of rapids with varying intensity and character. It offers one of the finest rafting stretches in the world. Rangit, a tributary of the Teesta, has more turbulent waters and offers a challenge to more experienced rafters.
The Rafting Way of Life
Today, rafters can select from first-class facilities, amenities and numerous rafting options. Agents provide a complete disposal of tours that can tempt anyone who wants to enjoy the glory of the Indian hills from the vantage- point of the rivers. Options include heritage excursions featuring historic commentary and sites of pilgrimage centers, nature trips emphasizing on the flora and fauna of the region, fish-and-float tours and adventure rides. Combination packages also allow outdoor enthusiasts to combine river trips with some of the nation’s best cycling and rock climbing, horseback riding and fishing activities.
Riverside tent camps are set along all the main routes, especially in Garhwal and Rishikesh in Uttranchal. These are the Swiss tents where accommodation is available for families as well for single-enthusiast with separate dry-waste toilet tents. All camps have their own arrangements for dining and amusement, the nights are usually embellished with the warmth of bonfires and cultural activities, where as if off water then enjoy volleyball, playing with sand and simply laying and enjoying sunbathing.