RIVER RAFTING IN NEPAL
SUNKOSI RIVER |
KALI GANDAKI (UPPER) | KARNALI (LOWER) |
- The River System of Nepal:
The antecedent system of river drainage
partly explains why the rivers of Nepal are so good for rafting and
kayaking - they don't just rush straight down to the plain, but follow
convoluted courses traversing the Midland valleys of Nepal and then
cutting their way in more mighty gorges through the Mahabharat Range. The
profile of the Kali Gandaki is typical of many Nepalese rivers in that the
gradient eases off at an altitude of around 1000 meters - this explains
why most river running is at relatively low altitude. All Himalayan rivers
are actively downcutting and carry a lot of material as sediment, or as
boulders trundling along the bottom - hold a paddle shaft to your ear and
you hear it.
- There are tremendous variations in the
volume of water in the rivers: typically the mean monthly flow in the
monsoon will be over ten times that at low water and the instantaneous
highest flow may be 80 times! These are some of the mightiest mountain
rivers of the world!
- Climate & Period for River Trips:
- The monsoon starts from June and lasts
till mid September in Nepal. The monsoon brings torrential rains that
flood the rivers so its not advisable for rafting or kayaking at this
time. Peak season for tourists and for rafting is October through
November: the monsoon is over, everything is very green, rivers are
moderately high but dropping, temperatures are warm and skies are
clear with fine mountain views.
- The winter months from late December
through to early February are cold, but skies are still and river
levels will be low. Lots of river running groups come out over
Christmas and have a great time, but one certainly should expect cold
water and perhaps think in terms of wet suits and dry tops.
- From late February through early April
is also good time for river running - river levels are reliably low,
air temperature warm and blue. The disadvantage is that the air is
often hazy: one cannot be assured of stunning mountain views and there
may be occasional shower of rain. In the past, many kayakers and
rafters have visited nepal over the Christmas holiday, when the facts
seem to suggest that Easter might be better time.
- Pokhara, because of its altitude of
800m, probably gives a fair indication of the average temperatures
that most river runners may encounter:-
Deg. Cent. Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Minimum: 5 8 11 15 18 20 21 21 19 17 12 7
Maximum: 19 21 25 30 30 29 29 29 27 26 23 20
The antecedent system of river drainage partly explains why the rivers of
Nepal are so good for rafting and kayaking - they don't just rush straight
down to the plain, but follow convoulted courses traversing the Midland
valleys of Nepal and then cutting their way in more mighty gorges through
the Mahanharat Range. The profile of the Kali Gandaki is typical of many
Nepalese rivers in that the gradient eases off at an altitude of around 1000
meters - this explains why most river running is at relatively low altitude.
All Himalayan rivers are actively downcutting and carry a lot of material as
sediment, or as boulders trundling along the bottom - hold a paddle shaft to
your ear and you hear it.
- There are tremendous variations in the volume of water in the
rivers: typically the mean monthly flow in the monsoon will be over
ten times that at low water and the instantaneous highest flow may be
80 times! These are some of the mightiest mountain rivers of the
Quality equipment obviously makes a huge difference to the safety and
comfort of a trip and in view of this fact all equipment used are of high
Rafts the size of raft is 5 meters long and this will take a crew of 6
plus guide and gear, or up to 9 plus guide without gear.
Life Jackets good modern, comfortable life jackets (Buoyancy Aids or
personal Flotation devices) are provided which are comfortable and
well-fitting and have adjustable straps.
Helmets is considered obligatory on any white water trip and good quality
Helmets are provided on all river trips.
The Paddle is to a rafter, like boots are to a trekker. The best modern
paddles are used in all river trips.
Waterproof Containers: a good quality waterproof containers are
provided to keep gear dry even in a flip. Also Ammo Cans or a waterproof
barrel for cameras and video gear are also provided.
Camping Gear: good quality rainproof tents (two-men), Sleeping
Bags, Insolite Mattress, Toilet tents and Dining tents are included in the
- Personal Equipment:
- Here are the complete list of what to bring:- For Autum & Spring trips:
- Shirt (long sleeves and collar if you need sun protection).
- Shorts (or loose, light cotton trousers for sun protection).
- Sports sandals or old trainers or sneakers.
- Light Thermal top (in case it gets cold).
- Light nylon waterproof jacket (..... and wet/windy).
- Swim suit.
- Sun hat with brim.
- Sunglasses (plastic lenses are safer) and tie.
- Suntan cream (high factor).
- Personal water bottle.
- Very small amount of money (for cold drinks on the return).
- Towel and a complete change of clothes, including shoes, for the
return drive (and camp wear).
In addition, for 2 days or more:
- Washing kit.
- Light woolen sweater or thermal top for camp wear.
- Extra pair of shorts.
- Extra shirt(s).
- Small flashlight or headlamp.
- Reading and writing materials.
- Personal medications.
- camera and films.
- Pocket knife.
- Walkman and tapes.
For a Winter trip (December to February), the following extras:
- Extra thermal top.
- Thermal long trousers.
- Light nylon waterproof trousers.
- Wet suit boots or thick woolen socks (all to wear on the raft).
- Warm trousers.
- Warm jacket (pile, pelt or down).
Accommodation, Food & Cooking:
Accommodation Accommodation will be in two-men tents by the river
side with Sleeping Bags and mattress. Our well experienced cook(s) assisted
by their kitchen boy(s) prepare meals (Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner)
depending upon the duration of river trips and size of group in outdoor
conditions using kerosene stoves and full kitchen utensils. Meals will be of
combination of followings items:
Breakfast: Lunch: Dinner:
1. Tea or Coffee 1. Hot Soup 1. Tea or Coffee
2. Toasts. 2. Papad or Prawa Cracker 2. Biscuit.
3. Jam/Butter or peanut 3. Noodles 3. Soup
4. Pan Cake. 4. Fried Rice 4. Papad or prown Crk.
5. Omlet or boiled eggs 5. Vegetable Curry 5. Macaroni
6. Poridge or Musle 6. Potato Curry 6. Noodles
7. Chicken Curry or Fry 7. Vegetable Curry
8. mineral Water 8. Potato Chips
9. Chicken Roast
1. Tea or Coffee, 2. Cake or Fruit Cocktail.
For Kaligandaki/Karnali/Sun Kosi Rivers:
Breakfast: Lunch: Dinner:
1. Tea or Coffee, 1. Bread White or Brown, 1. Tea or Coffee,
2. Toast 2. Jam/Butter or Peanut 2. Biscuit
3. Jam/Butter or Peanut 3. Cabbage Salad 3. Soup
4. Pan Cake 4. Cheese 4.Papad prown Crk.
5. Omlet or boiled eggs 5. Lunchen Meat or Dry 5. Macaroni
6. Poridge or Musle, 6. Tuna Fish 6. Noodle
7. Biscuit 7. Vegetable curry
8. Fresh Fruit 8. Chips
9. Squash 9. Spring Rolls
10. Baked Beans 10. Pizza or pie or Cake,
Desert: Tea/Coffee, Cake or fruit cocktail.
Grading the Rivers:
Standard International Classification is used when grading the rivers.
One of the problems of the International Classification is that the majority
of white water is class 3 and 4 and in fact there is a vast difference
between as easy grade 4 and hard one. + and - grades are used to be more
1, 2, 3, 3+, 4-, 4, 4+, 5-, 5, 5+, 6
When a river is called class 4+ it means that this is the overall
standard of the river - there may be long sections at a lower standard of
difficulty, but to run the river safely one needs to be 100% capable of
paddling at this level.
Class 4- (5) normally means that the overall standard of the river is
Class 4-, but there are a few class 5 rapids that can be relatively easily
portaged if required. The grade of difficulty is based on typical water
volumes for the stated month only - normally November. If the monsoon is
late then water volumes will be much higher and the river correspondingly
more difficult, if not impossible.
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Starting of the Rafting trip:
All participants need to complete a booking form supplied by agency and
necessary rafting permit will be applied. One needs 2 copies of passport
sized photographs for the permit. Participants will be given a gear list and
a briefing is arranged a day or 2 before commencing trip. Waterproof bags
will be provided for your gear and guide will explain how to pack these.
Participants will be transferred to the river and a convenient meeting point
will be arranged. depending upon the distance between Kathmandu and put-in
point, the drive can take from a couple of hours. This is the situation if
you choose between the Trisuli and the Sun Kosi rivers. River trip on any
other river requires a longer drive or a flight plus drive and even a trek
in some cases.
For example - for rafting in Trisuli or in Sun Kosi river, normally
departure from Hotel in Kathmandu would be around 7 a.m. and takes about 3
hours' drive to the put-in point. A safety talk takes place along with the
inflating of the rubber rafts and organizing other river equipment by river
crew. The talk includes delivering know-how about measure to be taken in
case of an emergency need. The participants should listen to the river guide
very carefully. Questions can be raised to make things clearer. The
life-vest must be worn all the time while on the river, irrespective of
whether you are hitting a major rapid or running a flat water section.
- There is the option between an oar boat or a paddle boat. Kayaking
is another option. Normally the kayakers bring their own kayaks.
However, its also possible to arrange kayaks. In case of the paddle
boat, you are instructed to properly use the paddle either during the
safety talk or before sailing off. If you wish to participate, then
your choice would be paddling. Paddling is more challenging and
thrilling. The paddle boat requires well coordinated team effort
between the paddlers and river guide who stays at the back and plays
his paddle in the role of the steering wheel of a car. The
responsibility of the participants is to follow his instruction in a
proper manner. The thrilling moment for a paddler is while hitting a
rapid. It is usual that you get wet whether you hit rapid or not
within half an hour after sailing starts. In an oar boat, the river
guide alone rows lightly and slowly on the flat water and penetratedly
and boldly while hitting a rapid. The oar boat gives you an
opportunity to observe the surrounding.
- Camping for overnight:
- The raft will swing into the camping beach, the front people leap
out and pull the raft up. Appropriate campsite is selected for the
night and your guide will untie the gear. The other important factor
is the early morning sun: the ideal is to be woken up at just the
right time by the sun shining through your tent door. Camps are always
pitched well above water level in case the river rises. In the
meantime your kitchen staffs will be ready with a reviving cup of tea
for you to enjoy.
- Evening Activities:
- The time before dinner is always one of the most pleasant times of
the day. Time to relax, perhaps a leisurely wash and change, to sit
with a cup of tea and write up your diary etc. You may take a gentle
stroll to explore the river bank but please do let your guide know
where you are going. Dinner is always the high spot of the day and a
social occasion with rum and cokes in the campfire flowing as high
lights of the day are relived and laughed over. And so bed and one
thing a river trip almost guarantees is the most perfect sleep.
- Onward down the river:
- Normally the river trips are started early. The cooks will be up at
around 6 a.m. to serve and wake everyone with a cup of tea or coffee
at 6.45 a.m., breakfast will be at 7.30 a.m., and normally raft trip
commence by 9 or 9.30 a.m. When you come to big rapids, the guides
will beach the rafts and everyone will walk along the shore to 'scout'
the rapid and work out the best routes. However, if you really don't
want to run the rapid there's usually no problem in walking round.
Lunch stop will often be at a nice swimming beach and lunch will be a
help-yourself picnic with salads, breads, fruit, etc.
Type of river trips & suggested Rivers:
- Longer river trips:
- For those who have 7 days or more, are looking for white water and a
really exciting and memorable experience then the choice is between
the Tamur, the Sun Kosi and the Karnali - these are all World
Classics, with excellent white water, stunning scenery, unspoiled
villages away from all roads and beautiful beaches. The Sun Kosi is
the cheapest of these trips because the start is close to Kathmandu
and one can drive to both start and finish points, it's good at any
level and has rapids all the way down the river. Often described as
one of the 'ten best rafting trips in the World', this is an excellent
choice for most people and especially for those doing their first
river trip in Nepal. The Karnali is considered to be the best trip.
The rapids are more challenging than the Sun Kosi, but not too
difficult; add to that a fine 2-day trek , superb canyons and pristine
wilderness; finish with a couple of days at the Royal Bardiya Wildlife
Reserve and you have a rafting trip that is probably 'Best of its
kind' anywhere in the World. The Tamur can be described as a mini-Karnali,
with a spectacular trek in to the start and lots of white water
interest - at the right water level probably more challenging than
- Rivers for medium length trips:
- If you still want an exciting multi-day white water raft trip, but
your time is more limited, these 4 rivers are suggested - the Trisuli,
upper Kali Gandaki, Arun, and Dudh Kosi/Sun Kosi. The cheapest would
be on the Trisuli. For little more cost you will be able to get a trip
on the upper Kali Gandaki, considered as a much finer river by most.
The Arun and Dudh Kosi/Sun Kosi are also considered to be good choice
if you would have liked to do a full Sun Kosi trip but cannot afford
the time; you have to fly in to the start of these so they will be
- Short trips:
- The most exciting two-day white water trip would be the lower
section of the Tamur river - great if you have little time, but
plenty of money (for the air flights). The Trisuli river is an
obvious and popular choice if you are looking for a day or two of
exhilarating white water and at the best price. If you have only a
day and would like to try an easy water rafting trip then the Bhote
Kosi (upper Sun Kosi) is recommended which is relatively and yet
close to Kathmandu.
SUNKOSI RIVER | KALI GANDAKI (UPPER) |
KARNALI (LOWER) |