Rafting IS adventure travel. You begin your journey excited, albeit a bit nervous, as you await the unexpected voyage ahead. Serene moments of breathless wonder are soon interrupted by bright white surges of adrenaline that will leave you in a booming laughter and a deep craving for more. From warm jungle waters to chilly mountain rapids, a quick trip down the river offers a lasting appreciation for the natural world and your own capabilities. Grab a paddle, take a deep breath, and don’t be afraid to get your feet wet. No time for hesitation, jump in and take a ride on rafting trips!
Rafting adventures are the *perfect* activity for any explorer, at any skill level, anywhere in the world. Plus, no two waterways are the same, which means each rafting experience will offer completely new sights and thrills. Here are a few pinpoints to put on your map for some of the world’s best white water rafting locales:
Costa Rica. This coastal nation is a true paradise for adventure travel, as it offers so more than just beautiful beaches and stunning sunsets. With year-round warm waters and 14 major river systems, you won’t find a better way to careen from the volcanic mountaintops down to the rainforest floor than with outdoor adventures rafting. Costa Rica offers more biodiversity than Europe and the U.S. combined, so you’re bound to make some new friends both in and out of the water. Whether you want to gently cruise down a Class I rapid, survive “La Boca Del Diablo,” or try something in the middle, you can’t go wrong in Costa Rica!
Nepal. Nestled between India and China lies this Lonely Planet favorite. Nepal is home to eight of the 14 highest mountains in the world, including the one and only Mt. Everest. With snowmelt and monsoon rain constantly feeding the nation's abundant rivers, you’ll encounter a wide variety of difficult terrain and entirely new perspectives while rafting in Nepal. From the high peaks of the Himalayas all the way down to the country’s stunning plains, rafting adventures can last anywhere from one day to two weeks. Oh, and don’t be nervous about frigid waters! Depending on the season, many of these raft trips can be done in a T-shirt and shorts. Nepal is many worlds in one, and what better way to experience a few of those worlds than to raft through them?!
The Oceania region is home to some of the most spectacular and diverse white water rafting excursions in the world. Traverse through Alpine National Park on the Mitta Mitta River in Australia, or head across the Tasman Sea to beat around “the bush” in New Zealand’s dense riverways. If deserts and forests aren’t what you’re looking for, then explore the many subtropical reserves and national parks of Fiji. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a friendly float or a white-knuckle water coaster, you’ll never be lost without a paddle when it comes to rafting trips in these South Pacific destinations.
Now that you’re convinced to cozy into a stylish life jacket, it’s time to answer the call of the rapids. Outdoor adventures rafting will likely be conducted in large groups ranging anywhere from eight to 14 people per raft. Several expeditions will include multiple rafts — making it feel like one big party down the river.
Although you could book short-term reservations for shorter trips with rafting companies, book farther in advance in order to ensure that you get the duration, location, and weather you want. Most of these trips are scheduled through stand-alone rafting companies, although many trekking or volunteer programs include white water rafting. Equipment is almost always provided by the program provider, but be prepared to pack some synthetic or wool clothing too.
You know how in Mulan, they sing, “We must be swift as a coursing river?” Turns out that’s easier said than done! You must pick the right kind of coursing river to follow. Rivers are graded via a class system: Class I is something you can take your grandparents on, Class II and III offer some greater thrills, Class IV and V require some grit, and Class VI is what Kuzco and Pacha zoomed down in “Emperor’s New Groove.” If you’re a newbie, stick to Class II and III, then make your way up to the more technical ones. Rafting is best through spring and early autumn when snowmelt and precipitation is at peak levels. Just be cautious of unseasonably wet or rainy spells, as water levels may turn novice routes to very difficult ones.
Tips & Advice for Rafting
If you’re considering an adventure rafting trip, you need to be an excellent swimmer and be able to “just keep swimming” if needed. Now, here’s a few tips to make sure you have the best experience possible with rafting companies:
- First, you should always listen to your guide and follow the safety instructions. Although it might feel like your favorite rollercoaster, it’s important to realize that hands and feet may not always remain in the raft and you’re equally responsible for getting the ride back on course.
- Second, sun safety is an important and often overlooked, so bring sunscreen and sunglasses as the water will reflect those rays right onto your smiling face.
- Third, bring a waterproof camera, like a GoPro, that you can safely secure to your body, especially during multi-day trips. You’ll find yourself in some remarkable environments that may not be accessible by foot so make sure to capture those moments in between paddling.
Benefits & Challenges
To be fully drenched in nature offers adventurers the chance to succumb to the power of rapids then rise again with your fellow man. Too dramatic? Anyway, white water rafting is a phenomenal exercise. Because rafting is physically demanding, you’ll get in some quality cardio. Take that, treadmills! Plus, heavy paddling is a wonderful strength-builder for those upper-body muscles. Being in the outdoors and secluding yourself from modern stresses is also great for mental health, as the reduced stress and focus will be very therapeutic.
One of the more unique things about rafting trips is that it is a 100 percent group activity, which may be challenging for some. You cannot make it downstream alone, and fundamentals such as communication, discipline, and teamwork are necessary to the success of your raft. You’ll learn about each other’s strengths and weaknesses while watching out for one another. It’s like all the benefits of a group project with none of the horrors. At the end of your journey, you’ll all feel an immense sense of accomplishment and a wonderful new talking point about teamwork for that interview.
By now, you know that adventure travel should always be meaningful, but meaningful travel isn’t always quiet, introspective, or peaceful. Sometimes it’s roaring, transcendent, and leaves you a bit waterlogged. Take the plunge and add rafting to that waterproof itinerary!