If you want to get some kick, some change in life, or just to have some fun, river rafting can satisfy most of your desires. If you have the zeal, then go for the challenge and show others that you can do it. White-water rafting is not for fashionable thrill seekers, but for those who thrive on hair-soaking risks, which keep the adrenalin flowing overtime! The thrill of rushing down fast-flowing mountain streams a froth with huge waves, dashing against dangerous boulders and dizzy rapids, while you cling for dear life dependent on a fragile, inflatable rubber raft or dinghy.
Battle with the raging rapids and torrents as the rivers flow through picturesque mountains and icy waters froth over the boulders and cut their way through deep gorges. Or, alternately, sit back and enjoy floating on the river. White-water rafting has come of age in India. With its numerous rivers, mostly in the Himalayas, providing perfect destinations for this sport, India has a natural advantage over the other countries in the world calling the adventurous in you to unwind yourself.
River rafting as an adventure sports is not quite old for India; in fact, most of the people have come to know about it only in the last two decades.
White-water rafting is a high-altitude, water adventure.
Rivers are graded on a scale of 1 to 6 depending on the state of the water and the skill required to navigate them-level 1 being for the beginners while level 6 for persons who have lost love for life.
Persons suffering from a weak heart, epilepsy, diabetes, or any other serious ailments or expecting mothers are not permitted on the rapids. The lower age limit for white-water rafting is 14 years on all sections expect the float trips where it is relaxed to 10 years. Non-swimmers may be restricted to certain sections of the river on the advice of the river guide.
The main equipment is a raft made of special materials, which lend both strength and lightness. Usually, rafts have inflatable compartments with vulcanized rubber bodies reinforced by nylon fabric and neoprene. This enables the raft to go over sharp rocks without tearing. The raft is commonly made available by the clubs and organizers through which you participate in this program. Other kits include life jackets and helmets.
You need to carry with you a sleeping bag, sneakers, light synthetic quick drying clothes for the river, swimsuit, shorts and T-shirts, sun shades/glasses, suntan lotion, a torch and two pairs of shoes.
There is no fixed time to indulge in this sport. India being a large country, most of the rivers provide different times of the year to participate in it. Practically you have a stretch of around 8 months starting from May to November to participate in your favorite pastime.
Alaknanda October to November
Bhagirathi Mid-September to mid-May
Ganga Mid-September to mid-May
Beas May to June
Indus July to September
Zanskar July to September
The mighty river Ganga plays host to river running. The 70-km stretch from Devprayag to Rishikesh is the venue of this relatively young sport. In the last few years, river rafting has become increasingly popular and several camps have come up along this stretch. The rapids have been graded according to the difficulty of the run.
Uttar Pradesh has many other sites where one can go river rafting. In Garhwal, the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers, the main tributaries of the Ganga, meet at Devprayag, where their foaming waters provide excellent river-rafting opportunities. As the Ganga traverses down from Devprayag, it offers some fine stretches for the amateur rafter. In Kumaon, the river Sharda (or Kali Ganga) flows down from Nepal to meet the Gori River at Jauljivi. This stretch of water is suited for more experienced river rafters, as the rapids are grade 4 or above. However, in the lower reaches, the waters are calmer and even novices can enjoy this stretch.
Other sites for white-water rafting that have been identified include Barkot to Lakha Mandal and Damta to Yamuna Bridge on the river Yamuna, Mori to Tuni on the river Tons, Kalisor to Srinagar and Srinagar to Bagwan on river Alaknanda, Ghansali to Gadolia on the river Bhilangana, Chandrapuri to Rudraprayag on the river Mandakini, and many stretches along the river Bhagirathi, both for professionals and amateurs.
River rafting is also organized in the other parts of India. The Indus and Zanskar rivers, which flow through the arid ranges of Ladakh, offer gentler trips with gradations ranging from one to two. River Chenab has a 130-km stretch from Kishtwar to Ramban where the rapids are graded from one to six.
Sikkim also offers good river stretches for rafting. The Teesta and Rangeet are two major rivers on which river rafting is possible in this tiny state of eastern India. Two major stretches are Makha-Sirwani-Bardang-Rongpo on the Teesta and Sikip-Jorethang-Majitar-Melli on the Rangeet.
River rafting can be a child's play if you know how to go for it but it can also become a devil's game if you don't. Safety is the key to a successful river-rafting expedition. Don't go for it in a hurry. If you are a first timer, start with Grade 1 and learn the tricks of the trade under the guidance of expert rafters. Believe it, this may prove to be the experience of a lifetime. The raft is navigated by an experienced helmsman who is familiar with the topography. Sometimes, every member pitches in the rowing in order to match the river's might. Though beginners can also enjoy white-water rafting, all precautions such as wearing life jackets and crash helmet must be taken. The guides and organizers usually make all back-up arrangements for evacuation and medical attention in case of a mishap.
Indian River Running Association organizes Four Square White-Water Rafting Challenge every year in the months of March/April at Rishikesh. Many teams from all over India participate in the competition to give a display of their talents. Any person who is medically fit can participate in this competition, by paying an entry fee of Rs. 1,000.
No formal training is required to participate in this sport. All you need is to know a bit of swimming (even this can be dispensed with if you are not going to participate in grades above 2 or 3) and some amount of madness! The Directorate of Mountaineering and Allied Sports provide some basic courses in water sports at Manali, but they are not exactly structured for this sport.
Many regions in India have been put under restricted area list and special permits are required for undertaking white-water rafting in these areas. In most cases, the Ministry of Home Affairs, consulates/embassies/high commissions of Government of India and foreign residents' registration offices can provide these permits. Given below is a list of these areas in the states concerned with names of the authorities to contact for permits.
1. Poo-Khab-Sumdho-Dhankar-Tabo Gompa-Kaza circuit
2. Morang-Dabling circuit
The district magistrate and director general of police of the state are entitled to grant these permits, apart from the regular channels listed above. The Special Commissioner (Tourism) and Resident Commissioner, Government of Himachal Pradesh, Himachal Bhawan, New Delhi also grant such permits. Inner-line permits for the districts of Lahaul and Spiti can be taken from Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Block II, CGO Complex, Lodhi Road, New Delhi 110 003. Special permits are required for trekking only. Individual tourists are not permitted to visit these areas.
Individual tourists are permitted in these circuits. A maximum of 15 days is allowed. The state government, if necessary, can grant an extension of 15 days on request in the written form.
6. Dzongri in West Sikkim
Individual tourists are not permitted to visit this place. Tourists groups can stay for a period of 16 days.
7. Tsangu (Changu Lake in East Sikkim)
Individual tourists are not permitted. Permit is valid for day visit only. Tourist groups are expected to travel on identified tour circuits only.
8. Mangan, Tong, Singhik, Changthang, Lachung and Yumthang
Individual tourists are not permitted in these circuits. Tourist groups are allowed to stay for five days only.
For more information on getting permits inside Sikkim, tourists may contact Commissioner and Resident Deputy Director (Tourism), Sikkim House, 12 Panchsheel Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi (Phone: 011-3010747, 3013026).
In Gangtok, one can contact the offices of Chief Secretary, Home Secretary, and Secretary (Tourism) of the Government of Sikkim.
1. Khaltse Subdivision (Drokahpa Area): Khaltse-Dunkhar-Skroduchan-Hanudo-Biana-Dha
2. Nubra Subdivision
a) Leh-Khardung La-Khalsar-Tirit up to Panasik
b) Leh-Khardung La-Khalsar up to Hunder
c) Leh-Sabo-Digar La-Digar-Labab-Khungru Gompa-Tangar (only for trekking conducted by approved tour operators and accompanied by state police personnel)
3. Nyona Subdivision
a) Leh-Upshi-Chumathang-Mahe-Puga-Tso-Moari Lake/Korzok
b) Leh-Upshi-Debring-Puga-Tso-Moari Lake/Korzok
c) Leh-Karu-Chang La-Durbuk-Tangtse-Lukung-Spankmik
d) Pangong Lake up to Spankmik
The Ministry of Home Affairs and the district magistrates of the respective areas grant permits.
Individual tourists are not permitted to visit the above-mentioned areas. One is not allowed to stay for more than seven days even after getting permits to the restricted circuits. Tourist groups are to travel on identified tour circuits only.
1. Always verify the credentials of the organizers: whether they are recognized or not and how much experience they have in organizing such events. Try to go for the operators who are recognized by the government.
2. Your navigator should have enough experience of conducting such expeditions and he should be qualified enough.
3. An oar boat can generally take a maximum of eight persons; do not try to accommodate more people on to the boat, as it can prove hazardous.
4. Try to study the river stretch from the land to decide on the grade.
5. You should have enough rations to survive and all the regular medicines that may be required in the journey. A first-aid box should also be at hand and 2-3 persons of the group must know how to handle if some accidents occur.
6. All the members of the group should be briefed about environmental protection and its importance. Do not use detergents or any chemical in the river; do not cut any tree, or leave anything that degrades the quality of the environment.
7. Rescue jackets and safety helmets should be worn by all with enough backup resources and medical facilities on the bank.
8. Do not defecate in the 30-m range of the river at places where no toilet facilities are available. Try your best to bury or cover the waste.
9. Avoid breathing when you are going under a rapid or when you are submerged.
10. Do not wear synthetic clothes, saris, or dupattas that may create problems during the rafting. Try to wear natural cotton products that will prove helpful.