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Whitewater rafting

Whitewater rafting travel guide

Get wet and wild with an adrenalin-pounding ride on one of the great waterways of the world

Running the rapids of one the planet’s iconic rivers – the Zambezi, say, or the Colorado – ranks as one of the great travel experiences. But as high-octane sports go, rafting requires surprisingly little experience or training, bar the ability to swim – so it’s accessible to almost all of us.

Rapids are graded according to a system that’s fairly standard all over the world, rated from Class I – small rough areas, no manoeuvring required – to Class VI, with huge waves and hidden rocks, making it virtually unraftable. But though the chances of getting a dunking rise with the class, many rivers featuring even Class IV+ or V rapids can be tackled by near novices accompanied by an experienced team.

Good outfits will supply you with a lifevest, helmet and proper training; you’ll also have at least one experienced guide, who’ll steer and yell encouragement (or last-gasp entreaties to paddle to avert a capsize), and one or more support kayaks to help anyone who does take a tumble. Mostly it’s a case of paddling hard when told, and being ready to get wet.

With raftable rapids all over the planet, you’re never far from a memorable whitewater adventure.

The Zambezi, rushing through the gorges beneath Victoria Falls on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, offers rafters the chance to tackle some terrifying-sounding rapids (with names such as Oblivion, The Muncher, and Gnashing Jaws of Death…) Elsewhere in Africa, the White Nile is another popular artery.

In the US, the Colorado River churns through Utah and Arizona – you can drop in on its white waters around Moab in Utah, or along the Grand Canyon. Further south, Costa Rica’s Pacuare River, Peru’s Urubamba and Patagonia’s Futaleufú all lure rafters.

Asia’s no slouch, either – raftable sections dash through the Himalaya, notably in Nepal, which boasts several great whitewater experiences. Over in New Zealand, South Island’s Karamea is a serious challenge, while the Franklin River in Tasmania’s south-west wilderness is an unforgettable multi-day adventure.

Wherever you paddle, you’ll discover an alternative perspective on some of the planet’s most dramatic landscapes.

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