Whitewater rafting in Nepal has become famous. All the big rivers coming from the Himalayas are good rafting rivers. The best source of information on details is the Nepal Association of Rafting Agencies (NARA): http://www. raftingassociation.org.np/. There are 6 key commonly draftable rivers in three main river systems, see http://www.raftingassociation. orgs.np/content/category/river_system.html. NARA’s qualified members are http://www. raftingassociation.org.np/member/memberlist. You can undertake a river rafting expedition for three weeks, one week, for two days in conjunction with other activities or just one day. You can raft in remote locations where starting points higher up the river require a long walk-in, or you can simply find a stretch along the highways.
Rafting is graded according to the rapid’s position on a technical challenge scale. Most trips are easy to moderate. The expensive, tough trips tend to be heavily advertised, obscuring the opportunities offered to less technically or macho-oriented adventurers. Most trips stress the scenery and what you see and experience along the river. Programmes for more than one day of rafting include village visits and evenings with bonfire parties.
Choose a rafting trip that suits your comfort level, but challenges you a little as well. The guides are undisputed kings of the water, knowing the river and its rapids, while you participate in the paddling and steering as part of the crew. Rafting skills are obtained through experience, so unless you already are qualified or certified as a guide, you never can be or aspire to be the captain aboard running the rapids.
River kayaking is a specialist adventure that always needs some technical experience. You can gain kayaking skills by taking courses in Nepal, and do beginners kayaking trips as a follow-up. Search the Internet for a place and a course that suits you.
The Karnali River
The Karnali River offers adventurous river rafting in far western Nepal. The Karnali River originates in the country’s northwestern corner and winds its way to the Terai, where it emerges from the foothills at the Bardiya National Park. Put-in is at Sauli, requiring a combination with trekking. The 180 km long rafting trip includes rapids grades 3 to 5. The endpoint is at Chisapani where the Karnali River enters the Terai plains. Be sure you have 11–12 days available.
The Trishuli River rafting begins about one hour’s drive from Kathmandu, along the road to Pokhara. Rapids are up to grade 3, suitable for novices. You can go on a short trip with one camping night, or longer trips to Chitwan, where a visit to the Chitwan National Park is a natural continuation.
Kali Gandaki River
The starting point is west of Pokhara and the rafting continues for three days, covering 60 km. Several rapids are grade 3 to 4, requiring advanced rafting and swimming skills.
Sun Koshi River
The river runs east of Kathmandu, where the usual put-in point is Dolalghat on the Arniko Highway. The trip includes 270 km of continuous rafting for 11–12 days, ending at the Chatra Gorge in southeastern Nepal.
Bhote Koshi River
Bhote Koshi offers the steepest rafting in Nepal, lasting two days. The beginning is steep, then decreasing gradually. The grade 3 to 5 rapids require previous rafting experience.
The river comes from eastern Annapurna and meets the Kathmandu–Pokhara highway at Dumre. Put-in is at Ngadi above Bulbule in the Marsyangdi Valley. The Marsyangdi offers the most extreme and intense rafting experience in the country, lasting 4–5 days.
Rafting with children
There are rafting trips designed for families with children in Nepal. The Trishuli River is high on the agenda for child-friendly rafting, due to its proximity to Kathmandu, with Chitwan National Park as a potential endpoint, and a short distance to the main roads. This is generally an entertaining, relatively easy trip, but with some excitement, and with pleasant beaches and land-based entertainment.
‘Rafting light’, using the tube of a large tyre, is available on Seti Khola and other rivers near Pokhara.