Those who have
been to Nepal often ask: "what's changed in the
last few years?
The river running scene
- A lot more people are coming to
Nepal specifically to go rafting and kayaking the
message is out on the international grapevine that
this is the best place in the world for multi-day
- Rafting companies, both large and
small have got more safety conscious-safety kayakers
are now commonplace and equipment and standards
generally have got better.
- Local Nepali raft guides have taken
up kayaking with enthusiasm and are now adding at
world-class level, competing in the Rodeo World
- For the rafter, there is now a wider
selection of trips on more rivers (the Marsyandi
and Tamur are now open to rafting), and some exciting
high water trips operating at the end of the Monsoon.
- New roads and cheap helicopter flights
have made access easier,
- Kayak clinics have rally taken off
as people have realized how warm and friendly are
rivers like the Seti. It sounds strange, but Nepal
is just one of the best places in the world to learn
Nepal is a river runner's
paradise no other country has such a choice of multi-day
trips, a way from roads, in such magnificent mountain
surroundings, with warm rivers, a semi-tropical climate,
impressive geography, exotic cultures, wildlife and
friendly welcoming people! (and not nasty biting insects)
But it's not just the rivers- as anyone who has been
there will tell you, Nepal is a magnificent holiday
in its own right- a fairy tale land of temples, mountains,
dramatic festivals, exotic cultural, colorful people,
medieval villages, superb craft shopping, great food
and sight- the bonus is some of the world's best rivers!
Forget the images of hard 'Expedition' boating –
yes, there are a few rivers like this- but Nepal is
jus an outstanding holiday destination for the average
recreational kayakers: most of the rivers in this book
are class 2 to 4 – and you don't have to be anyone
special to come rafting or kayaking in Nepal. Everyone
we know has enjoyed his – or her – holiday
here, but the one thing you do need to bring is the
right mental attitude: values, especially time values,
are different from ours and you do need to more flexible
and tolerant to enjoy your time here and avoid undue
Rafting in Nepal is usually a 'wilderness' experiences
in that most rivers don't have highways alongside them-
but it's a soft, tamed, wilderness with white beaches
for camping, clean blue rivers, friendly locals and
few 'nastiest' (one of the things that we hadn't appreciated
sufficiently is the happy dearth of mosquitoes and other
biting insect- this only struck us last yea when we
were being eaten alive by back flies in Peru) Someone
described Nepal is as "blissful escapism"!
Incredibly inexpensive, Nepal is a peaceful democratic
country where rafters and kayakers get a warm welcome
as one of the best forms of eco-tourism.
Why Nepal is famous for Rafting?
- A paradise for the average. Recreational
kayakers of rafter.
- Finest choice of multi-day trips
in the world.
- Warm water and white beaches.
- Semi tropical climate.
- Friendly welcoming people.
- No bugs! (Well almost)
- Spectacular mountain scenery.
- World-class whiter water.
- Rich cultural heritage.
- Wild life & jungle.
- Many trips are easy with over 800
kilometers of class 1-3.
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 traveling 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
(3500 ft) – this explains why most rivers running
is at relatively low altitude. All Himalayan Rivers
are actively down cutting and carry a lot of material
as sediment, or as boulders trundling along the bottom
– hold a paddle shaft to your ear and you may
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 o the world!
The physical diversity
of this colorful land is mirrored in the numerous different
tribes and ethnic groups who make up its population.
Each group has strong cultural traditions, dress and
language. High in the mountains you may meet the Bhotias
of Tibetans stock, or the famous Sherpas. These high
mountain people were always great traders, supplementing
their subsistence farming with trade over the high passed
to Tibet. The Thakalis are another trial group, originally
centered on the Kali Gandaki valleys, who have become
famous as skilful traders and innkeepers.
On your way sown the river you may meet a village populated
by Magars, then a few kms later a village of the Rais
tribe – your guide may be able to recognize the
tribe by its distinctive architecture. You will meet
ferrymen whose family have been ferrymen from time immemorial
– paddling their dug – out canoes, 'dungas'
skillfully against the current.
Most of these people will be Hindus, but usually it
is a Hinduism that has strong blends of Buddhism, the
older religion the whole of Nepal seems permeated by
its Buddhist past and its philosophy of tolerance and
respect for life and people. Despite intense pressures
of poverty and limited resources, ethnic or religious
strife is almost unknown in Nepal. Most visitors to
Nepal are amazed at the tolerance and cheerfulness of
the local people and some of your most delightful and
vivid memories will be of meetings with local people.
A river is one of the best ways of viewing Nepal's abundant
wildlife. You will see a vast number of different birds:
from eagles to egrets, vultures to hornbills, over 800
species! Butterflies and moths are usually more visible
when you camp, and again there is a huge variety –
over 5000 species.
If you are lucky you may sight the rare Gharial crocodile
(that's the fish eating one with the strange long snout)
or the more common mugger crocodile that feeds on anything:
fish, small mammals, dead bodies, or other carrion.
The occasional rafting group on the Narayani and Karnali
rivers have sighted the very rare Genetic Dolphin, one
o the few freshwater Dolphin species in the world (we
suspect that a kayakers stands a better chance of viewing
the mammals closely because of the latter's curiosity).
If you are a fisherman than you will be interested in
the famous Masheer fighting fish – record weight
There are several species of snakes, but these are very
rarely seen. River – rafting groups normally see
lots of monkeys, and mongoose sightings are quite common.
If you are lucky and on the right river at the right
time you may be also see tiger, leopard, wild elephant,
blackbuck, tiger, gaur, wild buffalo, rhino, hyenas,
wild dogs, civets, wild boars, sloth and black bears.
These are of course more likely to be sighted on the
more remote rivers particularly in the west
General Advice for the River Runner
When to go
Nepal climate is dictated
by the monsoon with arrives in June and usually finishes
in late September. The monsoon brings torrential rains
that flood the rivers so most people would not want
to be kayaking or rafting at this time (but it can be
a great time for the expert big water kayakers) Peak
season for tourist and for rafting is October throw
November: the monsoon is over every thing is very bring
rivers are moderately high but dropping, temperatures
are warm and sky are clear with find mountain views.
The only disadvantages with these time of year are that
it is the peak season and airline reservations are harder
to get: also you can't be sure when the monsoon will
finished. It can be a month late and this can throw
your plans into chaos if you are planning on running
a river where water levels are critical – as they
are on many of Nepal's rivers.
The winter months from late December though to early
February are cold, but skies are still clear and river
levels will be low. Lots of river running groups come
out over Christmas and have a great time. But you certainly
should expect cold water and perhaps think in terms
of wet suits and dry tops.
From late February through to early may is also a good
time for river running – rivers levels are reliably
low, air temperature warm, rivers warm and blue. The
disadvantage is that the air is often hazy you can't
be assured of stunning mountain views and their may
be an occasional shower of rain.
Pokhara, because of its altitude of 800 meters, probably
gives a fair indication of the average temperatures
that most river runners may encounter.
Every year the annual monsoon brings a huge deluge that
sweeps down the river and scours it clean-this means
that camping on riverside beaches in Nepal has different
environmental impact from camping by rivers in North
America or other countries. We suggest the following
guidelines as good practice:
- Try to limit the size of your
group. An excessively large group will geometrically
compound your impact on the riverside environment.
- Leave your camping beach cleaner
than when you arrived-good raft guide always organize
a 'sweep' of the beach before departing.
- Paper and cardboard waste
should be burnt. We suggest that you keep your own
small plastic bag for burnable waste, cartons, old
bandages, tissues, cigarette butts, and other nastiest,
burn and contents on the fire when directed by you
guide, note that cooking fires may be considered
holy, so always first.
- All non-biological items,
like tins and bottles, should be washed and carried
out, off the river (unless local people request
these as useful containers). It is environmentally
unacceptable to bury these as the next monsoon will
sweet them down the river and expose them on another
beach for people to cut then feet on.
- Vegetable waste, such as onionskins
and potato peelings should be buried well away from
the composite below monsoon. High water level.
- Food scraps, washing up water,
etc. should be disposed of in the main current the
river (not and eddy). Greasy washing up water should
first be filtered through kitchen paper and the
paper burnt later.
- Toilet pits should be dug
well away from camp and below the monsoon high water
lever. Used toilet paper is normally put in a bag
to be burned later. If your own, carry a lighter
and burn your own toilet paper.
These basic guidelines
have the backing of all reputable rafting companies
Dos hesitate to encourage your team if they neglect
something. Only if we all show positive concern will
we protect this beautiful river environment.
The Nepal Association of Rafting Agents (NARA) asks
that you please report any flagrant braches of these
guidelines. Please make the time to do this of Nepal
cannot afford river rangers- if you don't bother to
write then no one else will.
One of the major ecological problems in Nepal is deforestation.
The Himalayan tourist code says that you should make
no open fires, a general rule, that we would agree with
when away from the river. However, on the large rivers
of the Himalaya the monsoon sweeps down huge quantities
of drift wood that get deposited on the beaches and
in well-populated areas the villagers will gather this
for firewood. But, on more inaccessible beaches the
wood will just remain there until the next monsoon.
We think that it is acceptable
to use driftwood like this for small campfires and particularly
for burning garbage. It is nice to sit around a campfire,
but you don't need to do this every night-and there
is certainly no place for a roaring great bonfire! Some
of our best nights have been by candlelight and under
It is pleasant to cook
on a wood fire, but the normal good rule is that cooking
should be done on gas or kerosene stoves, with fires
only used occasionally, Almost everyone agrees that
it is ecologically unacceptable for any rafting trip
to bur firewood- but, guides do like cooking on wood
fires- so they will often try to shift the responsibility
onto the customer by asking. "Would you like a
campfire tonight?" If you have an ecological conscience
then your answer should be something along the lines-
"Yes, it would be nice to have a campfire, but
we don't think its right to buy firewood- why don't
we wait until there's driftwood available”?