If you’re looking for a thrilling and accessible extreme sports experience then white water rafting is a great one to add to your bucket list.
Going white water rafting is a great experience and normally one that is generally quite safe. You’ll find opportunities to hit the rapids all around the world, and as I’ve been several times, it’s something I highly recommend.
So why go white water rafting?
- It’s an accessible extreme sport, perfect for those who otherwise might not be able to do something like skiing or skydiving. Guides will normally group tours by experience and ability, so even the very young, old or those with disabilities can often go white water rafting.
- White water rafting is generally quite safe, with most guides needing accreditation to take tours out. You’ll also usually be strapped in and you’ll have helmets and flotation devices more often than not.
- It’s a really fun way to see parts of the scenery that you might not see otherwise.
- And crucially, it’s damn good fun…
With that out of the way, lets look at some of the best places to go white water rafting and what you can expect.
Where are the best places to go white water rafting?
I’ve been rafting in the UK, New Zealand and the Dominican Republic. But, generally speaking, you’ll find an option to go wherever there is a river and/or mountains.
There are tons of places to go white water rafting in the USA. The most popular are the Colorado River near Denver, with rafting trips starting from US$50. You’ll also find options to hit the rapids in Utah, California and, well… Anywhere with mountains and rivers. Further north across the border, Canada also has some fantastic options for rafting from the Rockies to Newfoundland.
In India, the mighty Himalayan mountain range is the source of many stunning rivers and a great place to experience white water rafting. You’ll find a variety of packages for rafting around Rishikesh, Manali, Dharmsala and out east in places like Assam. With trips in India costing around $20, it’s one of the most affordable places to go rafting. You’ll also be able to find very affordable two day experiences too.
This stunning Alpine nation isn’t short of some great rafting opportunities. The Tyrol valley, around Innsbruck is a good place to start, but in general in the summer months, you’ll find tours offered in many towns. Prices start at around €80 for a day trip.
With the Alps, the Pyrenees and the Massif Central, France isn’t short of a few cascading rivers. For example, Haute Savoie is a great ski destination with places like Morzine springing to mind, but in the summer it’s perfect for rafting. Prices start from around €50 for a white water rafting trip for one. Switzerland, Italy and Spain also have plenty of options in their mountainous regions.
You’ll find rafting trips available mostly in the winter months across South Africa. If you’re in Cape Town, there are options for day trips or longer overnight experiences often coupled with safaris and other adventure packages. Expect to pay around US$30 for a day trip with rafting only.
The Andes mountains run the whole length of the country, so finding somewhere to go white water rafting in Chile is not difficult. The place with the best reputation is the Maipo River, a short trip from Santiago, or the Trancura near Villarica. Prices start from around US$30 for a day trip. Neighbouring Argentina is also a great place to explore the rivers by raft, especially around San Carlos de Bariloche.
With a mountainous interior, of course Colombia is a great place to experience rapid rafting. Medellin, unsurprisingly, is the centre of adventure tours in the country with several good tour operators. Packages often including other experiences such as hiking or biking are around US$100-150. Ecuador and Peru are also packed full of options for rafting trips.
Adrenalin sports Mecca, Queenstown is where most go for white water rafting in New Zealand. However, I went in Rotorua, with nearby Taupo also an option. The cool thing about Rotorua is you get to go over the biggest raftable waterfall in the world, which is 7m high. Expect to pay around NZ$85-100 (approx US$50-70).
I mentioned also that I went rafting in the Dominican Republic, on Christmas day no less. You’ll also find opportunities to ride the rapids in places like Jamaica, Costa Rica and Cuba, so wherever you are in Central America and the Caribbean will likely be a good spot for some high adrenaline fun
Is White Water Rafting Dangerous?
All extreme and adventure sports come with an element of risk, that’s kind of the point. But when it comes to white water rafting, the incidences of injuries and death are very low. Between 2006-2017, the number of deaths worldwide as a result of rafting were 530. So in a ten year period, globally, the average fatalities were around 50 per year.
Hundreds of thousands of people experience rafting each year and come out unscathed, so relatively the sport is pretty safe.
In fact the research also suggests that most of the fatalities come from people who were rafting in their own craft. You’re more likely to die while scuba diving, or rock climbing. In fact, you’re more likely to be hit by lightning!
Most white water rafting companies will make sure you have a helmet and flotation device as standard. If you’re not offered these, be worried. If you are offered these, wear them.
Also, most rafting companies in the USA, Europe and Australasia will be licensed, so check that they have the credentials. This is usually issued by the IRF (International Rafting Federation), so check that your guides are licensed and experienced.
Furthermore, your guides will likely know the lay of the land when it comes to the river and it’s hazards. In the event of dangerous water levels, or other potential dangers, they will normally either suggest an alternative route or advise against going rafting that day.
A simple way to work out if its safe is to check the feedback online for the company you’re planning to go rafting with. Do some research about the best times to go rafting in your chosen country, and if it looks like there are floods, exceptionally heavy rainfall, landslides or other potential hazards, skip the trip.
So should I put white water rafting on my bucket list?
If you like a thrill and you’re prepared to put in a bit of muscle then absolutely. White water rafting is a fantastically fun sport and if you go once, you’ll likely go again!
As a bucket list sport, white water rafting is very accessible and can be done pretty much anywhere there are rivers or mountains.
If you’re heading to the USA or Canada, check out Adrenalin who offer great deals on adventure experiences, including white water rafting.