White water rafting in Switzerland (www.swiss-image.ch)

Whitewater rafting


Whitewater rafting travel guide, including top whitewater rafting travel experiences, tips for whitewater rafting, plus where to enjoy the best rafting adventur

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 Futaleuf� 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.

Further Reading

  1. Paddle the roaring waters of the Zambezi below Victoria Falls, Zambia and Zimbabwe � put in below the �Smoke that Thunders� (Mosi oa-Tunya, local name for the falls) to experience monster rapids. Watch out for crocodiles�
  2. Raft the waters of the Colorado � various stretches around Moab, Utah, offer a range of experiences, some accessible to relative beginners, others high-octane challenges.
  3. Go with the flow through the jungles of Costa Rica � raft the Pacuare River, passing tumbling waterfalls and dense rainforest, home to monkeys and a dazzling array of birds and butterflies.
  4. Gaze up at the Himalaya while preparing for the next big rapids on the Sun Kosi, Nepal � calm stretches permit sightseeing in between hectic paddling.
  5. Cherish the isolation on the Franklin River in Tasmania�s far south-west � traversing raw wilderness in the uniquely beautiful, and dramatically named, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park.

Whitewater rafting advice

You don�t need to be super-fit to raft, but a degree of torso and arm strength will help you paddle and increase enjoyment.

Take a fully sealable drybag, if one isn�t provided by your rafting operator � you�ll need to protect your camera and any other kit you want to keep dry!

Remember to apply and reapply sunscreen � it can easily get washed off, and glare from the water can burn facial skin even under hats.

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