Among all the adrenaline pumping adventure sports, white river rafting is among the most popular. The thrill of rowing a rubber dingy in the frothing, foaming, and swirling river water in a picturesque setting that invariably includes forests or mountains has to be experienced to be believed. Also, anyone looking for an adventure travel vacation can enjoy this sport. You don’t need much of a preparation, and you can choose the level of adventure one is comfortable with.
The International Scale of River Difficulty is the classification standard used to categorise the level of difficulty involved in manoeuvring a raft down a river. It ranges from Class 1 where the difficulty in rowing the rapid is negligible with very few rough areas that require vigorous effort, to Class 6 where it is almost impossible to navigate the river unless one is a professional with years of experience. Class 1 and 2 are considered safe for beginners, while Class 3 and 4 are for the more experienced. India with its large number or rivers spread across the country is a haven for those interested in this adventure sport. While the most popular of these adventure destinations are in the northern states like Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and J&K, the sport has now spread to both the east and south. Here are some of the destinations categorised by state and rivers.
Ladakh, J&K – Zanskar River: The cold waters of this north flowing tributary of the Indus provides some of the best white water rafting experiences in India. With mostly Class 3 or 4 rapids, rowing in this river is largely for experienced rafters. Because of its extreme climate the rafting season here is very short, between June to late August, when the water levels are high.
Himachal Pradesh – Satluj, Ravi, Chenab, Beas: With its multitude of snow-fed rivers, Himachal is a haven for the sport. White water rafting stretches are spread across the state, on the Beas near Kullu, Satluj near Shimla, Chenan in Lahaul and Ravi near Chamba. The rapids vary from Class 1 to Class 3. Though the season is from October to May, it is better to skip December and January when the water becomes very cold.
Arunachal Pradesh – Brahmaputra, Subansari, Siang and Lohit: With accessibility improving, this north-eastern state is among the more recent entrants on the rafting map, and is increasingly becoming popular among diehard adventurers because of its mostly Class 4 rapids. The entire course of Siang, which flows into Arunachal from Tibet in the north (before it becomes Brahmaputra in Assam) is filled with great rafting spots. Popular locations include Subansiri, Dibang and Kameng. The season stretches from November to early April.
West Bengal, Sikkim – Teesta, Rangeet: Melli, a town that is spread over two states - Sikkim and Bengal - and located about 40 km outside Darjeeling, is a popular rafting spot in the east of the country. The rapids are created here by the confluence of the rivers Teesta and Rangeet, and range from Class 1 to Class 4 on some stretches of both the rivers. The season stretches from December to June.
Uttarakhand – Ganga, Jamuna, Alaknanda, Dhauliganga, Kali, Alaknanda, Bhagirathi, Tons, Kosi: The 30 km Shivpuri stretch on the Ganga leading to Rishikesh is considered to be the capital of the Indian rafting industry because of the sheer number of people that have been visiting here since the 1990s. This is where the sport started in India and it is no wonder that Uttarakhand is by far the best organised state for this sport. The rivers offer a variety of classes of adventure, from Class I going all the way up to Class IV on the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi, near Devprayag. The season stretches from November to end of June.
Maharashtra – Kundalika: This small river that originates in the Sayhadris and flows into the Arabian Sea has of late been attracting weekend adventure seekers, both from Mumbai and Pune. Both cities are a little over 100 km away from Kolad town where much of the adventure activity is concentrated. Rafting usual becomes possible after the daily release of water from the nearby Mulshi Dam, which reaches Kolad around 10 am. The rapids are not more than Grade 1 or 2 and hence suitable mostly for beginners. Best time to come here is immediately after the monsoon.
Goa – Mahdei: This seasonal rafting adventure destination gets active towards the end of the monsoon season, between July and September. Much of the action takes place on a 10 km stretch where the river snakes through the Mahadei Wildlife Sactuary, near the town of Valpoi in the north of the state. With only Grade 1 or 2 rapids, this is largely for beginners.
Karnataka – Cauvery, Shravathi, Sita, Kali, Barapole, Dubare: Like in Maharashtra and Goa, much of the rafting in Karnataka is concentrated in the months following the monsoon when the rivers are in spate. Popular adventure locations include Coorg (250 km west of Bangalore), Agumbe (357 km north-west of Bangalore), Dandeli in the north near the Goa border, Honnermadu (392 km north-west of Banagalore) and Bheemeshwari (100 km south of Bangalore). The level of difficulty is usually between Class 1 or 3.
Kerala – Tejaswini: The most recent entrant into the world of river rafting, Kerala now offers adventure on the Tejaswini in Kannur district in the north of the state bordering Coorg in Karnatka. The 20 km stretch of the river offers rapids upto Class 3.
(Images: Shutterstock, Toshali Royal View)