Whitewater rafting is a sport almost everyone, of any age, can enjoy. With expert guides and up-to-date equipment, it`s quick and easy to learn. The few rules that keep you safe, river - smart and ready for a "wild ride" of your own.
Brace yourself for the crisp, chilly morning air as you inflate your rafts. Zip up your life jackets, snap the helmet on, grab the paddles and get set for the descent. The gush of the rapids, the tantalizing swirls, lashing of water against the raft and the adrenaline pumping through your blood stream is what river rafting on the Himalayas is all about. A sport for those fascinated by nature and a desire to control it. An exhilarating experience to say the least !!!
White water rafting in India is almost exclusively confined to the northern rivers which flow southwards from the Himalayas, gushing between densely forested mountains and through steep gorges. 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. Whether the expedition`s just a few hours of getting soaked and experiencing the thrills of a high-action Hollywood flick- or it stretches over a few days in which you spend time camping and trekking as well- this is an experience not to be forgotten.
White water rafting or river running, as an alternative way of spending your vacation, is being increasingly offered by a number of tour operators and travel agencies, including government tourist offices. Prices are generally reasonable, and will include food, equipment, lifejackets, helmets, an expert guide, and accommodation. Check on what you`re paying for, and whether any additional charges are likely to be levied. It also makes sense to scout around a bit before taking a decision on which agency you`re going to book with.
Most agencies allow anybody- as long as you`re over 14 years of age- to book on river rafting trips. For basic trips, which pass through quieter waters, it isn`t even necessary to know swimming, although those who can`t swim may not be allowed on certain stretches of the river. Expectant mothers and people who suffer from epilepsy or other serious ailments, will usually not be allowed.
The Himalayan rivers, being the main river rafting routes, are virtually inaccessible during the winters. Some, like the Zanskar, are frozen over, and most of the others are too cold too allow rafting. Getting soaked could lead to a long and perhaps dangerous bout of hypothermia- or worse.
The monsoon brings heavy rain to the lower reaches of the Himalayas, and melting snows in the mountains result in higher waters in all of the rivers. Summers, therefore, though a good time to go river rafting, can be a little unsafe, especially for novices who haven`t travelled on a river in spate. For novices, August and September- when waters are lower and more manageable- are the best months to go river running; veterans can opt for expeditions earlier in the summer. Spring or early summer is also usually suitable for river running.
The Teesta is one of the few rivers where river rafting is confined to the winter months, between October
A love for adventure and a passion for the great outdoors is top priority. More practical things to pack include a good sunscreen, dark glasses, shorts, T-shirts (or other light, quick-dry clothing) and suitable shoes- sneakers or heavy duty rubber sandals may be a good idea. Also pack in a windproof jacket, a light sweater, towels, and a flashlight- and don`t forget the first aid box and the camera!
River rafting in some areas may require special permits from the government. Areas close to India`s international borders, such as Nubra, Sikkim, Lahaul and Spiti may be off-limits to foreigners without a valid permit. Before venturing out with your oar and your life jacket, make sure you`ve got all the necessary permits which are needed. Permits can usually be obtained fairly easily from District Commissioners, District Magistrates or other senior officials.