If you’ve ever been to or heard of Rishikesh, you already have a fair idea of what rafting is like! However, there’s much more to rafting than meets the eye. One of the most extreme adventure sports out there, rafting is a recreational and competitive sport which has more often than not proved fatal. But with adequate precautions and training, the risk involved in this sport becomes absolutely worth it once you’re in that inflatable boat rowing through rough rapids of a fierce river!
Rafting is one of the few adventure sports which is rarely done solo and appreciates teamwork. There are certain sections of rivers which are more dangerous to cross than others, called rapids. Rapids are formed when parts of the river bed have a steeper gradient than other places, causing the water to increase in turbulence and velocity. Rapids themselves have varying classes and the difficulty in manoeuvring a raft increases with increase in the size of the rapids.
The first ever river rafting expedition dates back to the 19th century when in 1811, rafting through the Sanke River in Wyoming, USA was planned but failed because of the strong river current coupled with little training and not enough equipment. It wasn’t until mid-1940 that the Sanke River Canyon was successfully rafted through, during an expedition led by Clyde Smith. Although river rafting has seen a long history, the International Olympic Federation only included whitewater river rafting in 1972 in Munich.
Best Places for Rafting in India
The words rafting and Rishikesh often go hand in hand in the Indian vocabulary, but little do most people know there are much better rapids found in other rivers in India than just the Ganges. Here is a look at the top places for rafting in India.
INDUS RIVER, LADAKH
If there is heaven on Earth, it is right here in Ladakh. There are so many other gems in Ladakh than the usual Pangong Tso and Leh city that they often go unnoticed from the tourist’s eye. One of such gems of Ladakh includes the Indus River, an ancient river that flows from Tibet and enters India and goes all the way to Pakistan to merge with the Arabian Sea. Rafting through one of Asia’s longest rivers, with the Zanskar Ranges of the Himalayas keeping you company all the while, Indus River rafting is surely going to be an experience you won’t ever forget! The thrill of manoeuvring through rapids and the ice-cold water soaking you in little splashes is the kind of adrenaline that everyone needs in their lives! The best part? It is the perfect place for a beginner rafter, with mostly Grade 1 rapids throughout the 25 kilometres rafting stretch.
BEAS RIVER, KULLU
Himachal Pradesh is truly a state where you get to try your hands on almost every adventure sport possible. Be it skiing, mountaineering, paragliding or rafting, Himachal is truly a paradise for thrill seekers. The Beas River in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh is known not only for its freshwater trout but also for the adventurous rafting experiences it provides. With basic Grade 1 rapids keeping you company through the 14 kilometres stretch, rafting in Manali or Kullu is one of the best experiences you will ever have!
GANGA RIVER, RISHIKESH
Saving the best for the last, Rishikesh perhaps does not need much introduction when it comes to rafting! One of the most common activities for tourists in Rishikesh, the Ganges is surely a fierce river that will fulfil your thirst for adrenaline! From beginner rafters to serious adventure junkies, rafting in Rishikesh has something for everyone. One can choose the level of difficulty ranging from Grade 1 to Grade 4 rapids from an 18 kilometres stretch going all the way to 16 kilometres!
LOHIT RIVER, ARUNACHAL PRADESH
Although rafting in Arunachal Pradesh goes far beyond than just the Lohit River, and rivers like the Brahmaputra and Siang offer rafting opportunities as well, but the Siang River and its ferocious rapids make for the best rafting experiences in Arunachal Pradesh. With Grade 3 and 4 rapids, and even some Grade 5 rapids, Siang River is a dream come true for all those adventure junkies out there! Some of the best spots for rafting in Arunachal include Walong, Peliang and Samdul.
Best Time to Go Rafting in India
The best time for rafting in India is majorly dependent on the flow of the river. During monsoons the rivers usually get very aggressive, making it unsafe for taking out a rafting trip. The best time for rafting then would be during the post-monsoon and dry winter months from September to December and February to April.
Rafting Courses and Certifications
The International Rafting Federation or the IRF is the governing body that overlooks various aspects of whitewater river rafting throughout the world. The IRF has classified the river rapids into six levels- from Class 1 to Class 6, with the difficulty increasing as the Class increases. The IRF also organizes an annual World Rafting Championship wherein professional rafters from different countries compete against each other to be declared the winner.
The International Rafting Federation has also grouped various age levels for competitive rafting starting from Open (ages 15 and above), Youth (15-19), Junior (15-23) and Master (ages 40 and above). The IRF GTE Certification Award is a globally recognized licence for all trained rafters. Mostly, this is the only licence required in most countries, however, some nations might also need the rafter to obtain a regional licence as well. The IRF GTE Certification has several levels including IRF Instructor, IRF Trip Leader and IRF Guide Certifications.
Although there are several government-run and private run institutions that offer rafting courses in India, none of them are licensed by the IRF. These institutions include Indian Himalayan Centre for Adventure and Eco-Tourism in Sikkim, Jawahar Institue of Mountaineering and Winter Sports in Pahalgam, National Institue of Watersports in Goa and Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports in Manali. However, some companies have IRF licensed instructors including Rescue India and Red Chili Adventures in Rishikesh. And IRF license in India can be obtained by training under one of the few IRF certified rafters in India.
Career in Rafting
There are a number of rafting career options one can take up after proper training including competitive rafter, rescue rafter, rafting instructor, rafting trip leader etc. One can even think of working with the International Rafting Federation itself after gaining extensive education in this sport!