For me, initially springing to mind when I think of white water is automatically New Zealand or Canada, two countries generating hype for having some of the most ferocious and spectacular rivers in the world. It never crossed my mind that Nepal could offer amazing adrenaline pumping white water to warrant being rated along with some of the worlds finest.
Of course when you picture sublimely crisp alpine rivers kissed by the Himalaya, roaring into narrow gullies, along white sandy banks, through pristine jungle and quaint farm estates. It must be very hard not to want to take a peak yourself!
I was new to the sport of white water rafting when I first ventured to Nepal, and when my travel companion persuaded me into tackling a river she had ventured on twice and was completely in love with I was simply terrified. I didn't know what to expect, and then there it was, my introduction to rafting and the mighty Kaligandaki River. At best a 3 to 4 grade, the river has some intense fast sections, holes to trap any raft and some fantastic rapids. It's great for Kayakers, beginner rafters with an adventurous spirit, and those experienced rafters that just want to have some fun.
Camping at night, with the sound of the river roaring along, camp fire alight, cosy tents and good company has got to be one of the best things to do on holiday.
Nepal not only has this fantastic river, but offers a multitude of rivers ranging from freakishly advanced to perfectly calm, for scenic enthusiasts that just want to cruise along and take photos with the occasional easy riding splish splash rapid. Some of the rivers Nepal boasts are as above the divine Kaligandaki, the wild Bhote Koshi and the gentle Trisuli, along with three very exciting and scenically spectacular river expeditions on The Karnali, Tamur and Sunkoshi.
An absolute feast for any white water enthusiast, from first timer to advanced adrenaline junkie looking for the next rush.
There are two ways you can go about rafting in Nepal. If your one of those 'do it when I get there' types, it is easy enough to organise it once you get in to Kathmandu or Pokhara, the streets are lined with rafting and kayaking tour companies all looking for your business. Word of caution though, you really need to do your research before venturing in with blind faith, some companies aren't too proactive with the moto "safety first" and tend to scrimp on equipment where possible. I remember my friend sinking rather than floating one time, after she fell out in a fairly intense little rapid, she later said her life jacket was like a led weight, rather than buoyant.
I now opt for a certified tour company that offers rafting trips as add on activities to their initial tours, have concentrated rafting tours, as well as include them in package tours with trekking and mountain biking (link below). At least I'm guaranteed they use approved equipment, and are insured, they have emergency evacuation procedures, qualified local guides, and are really well organised. It's peace of mind and makes for an incredible and enjoyable experience.
The best times to go are between March to June, when the rivers are fed by the pre monsoon rains and September to October, when the rivers are fed by snow melt. Towards late October the rivers are lower, the holes are deeper, but the rapids tend to be in shorter bursts and give you time to recoup before the next onslaught. The weather gets cooler the further you get into October, so you will need to bring warmer clothes for the night time camping. Earlier in the year the Monsoon fed rivers can be a pretty intense time to raft, most rivers are swollen and running particularly fast, with not much break between rapids. December through to February tends to be quite cold, and getting wet is not very enjoyable, remember where this water comes from, it's freezing! So in saying that, the river guides tend to become dormant throughout these months.
Most rafting companies in Nepal supply dry bags for clothes and sleeping bags, as well as iPods and other technological gadgets. I still recommend bringing your own dry bag for extra care. Companies like Sea to Summit do some great light weight ones in all sizes, and will easily tuck into the heavy duty dry bags the rafting companies supply.
I'm now an avid fan of rafting Nepal, and I hope I have inspired you to get out there and give it a go; it really is an incredible rafting adventure and a must do.