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RAFTING Kayaking Canyoning The fact that you want to raft down Nepal's challenging rivers means that you have long ago graduated from the nursery school of "Row, row, row your boat". The many 'raftable' rivers in Nepal meander between canyons, villages, and virgin forests, wildlife, like needle through thread, weaving the country's rich tapestry of ethno-culture and bio-diversity. Originating in the bowels of the Himalayas, these rivers flow across the length and breadth of Nepal and neighboring India, before emptying mostly into the Bay of Bengal.

Rafting is inarguably the best way of exploring Arcadian Nepal. The waters offer something to everybody: from grade 5-5+ rivers with many raging white water rapids for the brave and the adventurous, to grade 2-3 rivers with a few rapids for the laid-back type. The beautiful thing is that just about anybody, whether old or very young, can raft. Moreover, it can either be a two-week trip or a 2-3 day trip-you decide.

Paddle rafting is strongly recommended. It involves teamwork with the river runner barking instructions from his perch on the aft. You can either do participatory rafting, where you and your group are provided with a runner and barebone staff support, or a "luxury safari style" trip where a full team of staff is provided to address your group's every need and want. Mind you, rafting is not the only way to travel downstream. A few companies offer inflatable kayaks, or fiberglass kayaks for hire.

An extreme sport popular in Europe, Canoeing is now available in Nepal. Canoeing gives you the freedom to explore some of the most ruggedly beautiful, yet forbidden places in the world.

October through mid-December and March through early May are the best times. It is possible in winter, but you have to watch out for hypothermia. During monsoon (June through September), the white water sections are dangerous, but gentler stretches are runnable.

Raft Route
River Profiles
: So far the government has opened sections of 10 rivers for commercial rafting.

Karnali (arcade 4-5): Nepal's longest, it flows through steep, jagged canyons whrer the rapids are tightly-packed, offering continuous challenging water at all flows. Either a bus ride to far-western Nepal or a flight to Nepalgunj can take you there. The river section takes about 7 days to navigate, even as you explore canyons and waterfalls. For those craving an adrenaline rush, this river is a must.
Sun Kosi (grade 4-5): This is the longest river trip (270km) offered in Nepal. You begin at Dolalghat just three hours out of Katmandu and end in Chatara, down the Gangetic Plain of north India, 9 or 10 days later. The Sun Kosi starts off with relatively mild rapids the first couple of days. The surprises sneak up on you during the last days. It is considered one of the world's top 10 classic river journeys.

Trisuli (grade 3+): The cheapest river trip available in Nepal, where you pay $20 or so per day. Although relatively unsafe during monsoon, it is fun otherwise. A Trisuli river trip can be combined with trips to Chitwan or Pokhara. It is undoubtedly the most popular of Nepal's raftable rivers.

Kali Gandaki (grade 5-5+): Sacred Hindu river, here the rapids are technically challenging, winding through canyons and gorges. Starting at Baglung, you could raft down to Ramdighat in five-six days. You may then continue on to the confluence with the Trisuli at Devghat, adding another 130 km and 3-4 days.

Bhote Kosi (grade 4-5): A couple of hours out of Kathmandu, it is 26 km of continuous white water. Can be done in 2 days. It is the steepest river rafted in Nepal, requiring Zen-like concentration from the river-runner, and offering an adrenaline rush even in low-water months. Starting above Barabise, you raft down to the dam at Lamosangu.

Upper Sun Kosi (grade 1-2): Begins at Khadichour and ends in Dolalghat. The river is lined with clean sandy beaches, which make for great picnic or camping spots. The trip offers a great family getaway, far from the madding crowd.

Marsyangdi (grade 5-5+): The raging Marsyangdi is four days of continuous white water. Begins from the village of Ngadi, up from Besisahar. As the rapids are unrelenting, it is advised that you consult companies with lots of experience on under their belt. For people looking for a 5-6 day trip with raging rapids, the Marsyangdi is definitely where it is at.

Other rivers: The Bheri in western Nepal can be combined with a visit to the Royal Bardia National park. The Arun from Tumlingtar is another option.

Safety is the most important part of any river trip. Choosing a professional veteran rafting company is the first step. So it helps to abide by the following tips:

  • Pick your river with care. Seek information from a rafting agency, local experts, and literature on river levels and difficulty.
  • There should be a minimum of two rafts per trip, so that one can help when a fall happens from the other.
    Carry first-aid kit, survival and rescue gear.
  • Check to see that end loops and the leash are adequate before you push off. This makes it easier to keep hold of your boat when swimming big rapids, and also in the event of rescue.
  • Be a team person, paddle synchronously.
  • For boats, paddles and helmets, loud colors are recommended.
  • Wear life jackets and helmets, properly too.
  • Keep your feet and arms inside the raft at all time.
  • When you fall off into a rapid, float on your back, with your feet downstream.
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