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White Water Rafting with JoJaffa

PADDLE! PADDLE! IN THE BOAT! - HOLD ON! - Could you hang in there?

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Why....go White Water Rafting?
Getting started
How do I get started?
Kit and caboodle
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Spoil yourself
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Getting more out of....white water rafting
I've got the basics, what next?

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Why....go White Water Rafting?

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How about

or even
Bungee Jumping?
- well, you've only got one life after all?

Do it for the adrenalin rush!

Lean forward as far as you can and plant your paddle ahead of you. Keep each foot firmly jammed under the gaps between the inflatable dinghy's wall and floor. And put your back into on..

You lean on the water with the paddle, but suddenly, you are running down the rapid, the water is moving faster than your paddle and then you hit it. The wall of water. It's hard and cold. It slaps you in the face and drenches you within the second. Then you're up and out again. Breathe quickly. The rubber raft has lifted itself through the great white wave you've just demolished. The white river water floods from the craft and you quickly count to see who's missing.$PIC5

(The Kayaks are waiting on the edge to pick up anyone who fell in!).

You've never done this sort of thing before - but your vanity makes you wonder how you'll look on the automatic photograph taken just before you hit the white water wall.

The water boils and bubbles before you. It crashes down, disappears and resurfaces in a torrent. The rebounded echo doubles the cacophony from the near vertical canyon walls.

But before long however, you'll be pleading with your guide to take the hard and fast route. You'll be aiming to bounce your craft off the rock - half hoping to tip a few friends from the raft!

The whole river will turn from peace to a huge mass of surging, splitting white water in a matter of moments. Only the echoing thunder of the crashing water to warn you of the excitement ahead.

Seasoned raft guides sometimes take delight in playing on the smaller rapids, using the eddy's powerful line to catch a corner of the raft and create some fast spins. If a rafter falls in, they may take a few turns before the next boat picks them up!

$PIC6 Rafters literally bounce and crash through the rapids, encountering the biggest, splashiest white water. Typically, it's an s-move for rafts as they begin from river on one side and swoop across the river by using a strong current to draw them towards river right, following the main tongue through. A detour into a corner for any craft often results in getting stuck there for a while!

Rafting is not just about the immediate adrenalin rush. There's the excitement of the exploration, in close contact with the elements.

In deep canyons and gorges the high cliffs will shut out the direct sunlight until late in the morning. You starting point for your river exploration might be eerily dark.

Great rapids await you, heavy white water that requires every strength and every sinew of courage to keep you going ahead.

But between rapids you float on flat water and gaze at the wealth of botanical wonders that line the river corridors. From the advantage point of the water, trees dominate the steep ridges that create the Gorge. Beautiful trees with full canopies and supporting all kinds of exotic bird life from king fishers to eagles and other birds of prey.

Along the forested banks or jungle roam varieties of wildlife - from bears and monkeys to elephants and lions.

Possibly you'll discover an insatiable curiosity for geology, born from days of travelling deeper and deeper into a river gorge or canyon resounding with colour and life. Or perhaps a dormant wish inside you will awaken, inspiring a a new direction for your life.

Gliding silently past the evolving landscape gives you a insight into ancient cave civilisations left behind or on-going traditional living on the greener river bank pastures. The river affords a timeless observation point - and leaves no tracks either.

Imagine the early sunrise and the deep red and orange sunsets playing on the river and the quiet times floating along watching the walls of the canyons. Look out of your city window and imagine the red canyons and limestone peaks, framed by the blue sky and splashed with the green of the new leaves on the trees. Then you are aboard a great river exploration.

Then face the rapids again. The quiet of the river is drowned by the deafening roar of the impending rapid, the call to arms from the oarsman hurries you into place for the next white water onslaught.

If proof were needed, then White Water rafting is it; that there's a whole lot more to life than cities and transport, deadlines and hurried days. White Water rafting can be a blend of quiet moments and times of abundant laughter, seasoned with breathtaking scenery, great excitement, thrilling adventure, delicious food (sometimes) and great companions too.

Visit our gallery of rafting pictures.

Tell us what got you interested in white water rafting.

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Getting started

$PIC7 For most people white water rafting is a once in a lifetime experience. So don't worry if you've never been rafting before. You don't need any previous experience.

White water Rafting is a sport for the young at heart. Many people in their later years do go rafting, but they are in good physical conditions. Equally, most companies are reluctant to take anyone younger than 15 years old. However, there are a number of less demanding options that would be suitable for younger and older rafters alike.

Crucially, make sure you have a high quality and experienced guide that pays good attention to safety. This should be their first priority so you can relax (huh!) and enjoy the ride.

Lastly check out our recommendations on health and wildlife.

It is important to be in good shape for white water rafting. Often, the most exhilarating routes will be deep in a gorge or canyon. So you'll need to walk down and up again after the trip. This can be the most tiring part. Check out our advice on building fitness and minimise the exertion

Rafting needn't be just exertion, it is possible to incorporate longer more relaxed runs with stops over night including excellent food and comfortable surroundings.

Many people with minor disabilities like a fear of water, can and do fall in love with white water rafting. Also, people with more severe disabilities can still raft (albeit under controlled conditions).

You don't need to own a raft to go White Water Rafting. The costs consist largely of travel costs and the costs to the tour operator. If you can reach a local rafting centre, then you can pay per day from about £50 or $75. Alternatively, a week rafting in Nepal with a further week trekking might set you back over £1,000 or $1,500.

So what do I need to be able to do?

Well, you need to:

  1. You need to get yourself to the canyon/gorge
  2. You need to be able to swim
  3. A good bit of courage too!
We recommend that you book in advance especially during peak periods. The Colorado trips tend to be booked months in advance. The Zambezi can be a turn up and go affair - but remember this is only a one-day trip. Basically trips more than 2 days you should book in advance. However, if you decide to at short notice - do still try - as often companies have last minute cancellations.

Now you've got this far, you just need to decide who are you going with, what kind of river experience you want, for how long and where are you going? Then go ahead and book an experience of a lifetime.

Now there are a few decisions to make....

Who will I go with?I want a holiday with the family
Parent/Child Adventures - fun-filled river trips enable parents to share a valuable wilderness experience with their children. Check out options under Austria (children from 6 years) and North America.

Solo or with a group?
It very easy to join a group as a solo traveller and you quickly get to know people on a white water adventure. Equally, if you are part of a group, then operators will put together special itinerary and you may get a discount.

What kind of experience do I wantCheck out our grading of rivers. Decide whether you want to go for the big one day hit on a major experience or do you want a long trip? Also, you'll find operators will combine with say, safari and canoeing on the Zambezi to glacier walking and mountaineering in the Austrian Alps.

Make sure that your companions feel the same about the additional activities.

When to goTo challenge you, run the early-season high water. Others prefer lazy, late-season floats serving up phenomenal fishing. And some just want to escape with your family, friends or a group of colleagues.

Many trips in the Grand Canyon sell out up to a year in advance. If you can't find space on the section you're looking for, consider an adventure on the Upper Colorado River through Cataract Canyon. It features some world-renowned rapids that, during May and June, can be even bigger than those of the Grand Canyon.

It might be a half-day's adventure through the Nantahala Gorge or a whole weeks adventure. Typically, you will be amongst some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.

The "low water" run occurs when the Zambezi River is at its low level generally between July and mid-February. This is the most exciting time to do rafting. Day trips are conducted between rapids 1 and 18. The "high water" run follows after fresh inflow from the catchment areas in Angola and Zambia. The water rises and flows more rapidly and the day trips move downstream from rapids 11 to 23.

Where do I to go (Europe)You can stay (relatively) local in Europe or you can spoil your self and head for the big ones.
  • UK: The top place in the UK is Canolfan Tryweryn. The rapids are a good place to start before launching yourself into a major trip and to find out if you're going to enjoy this sport. The rapids are up to grade 3 / 4 and include famously named slides like the 'ski slope'. Lots of fun for an afternoon, but bigger adventures await.
  • Switzerland: It's cold, but its white water and the rapids go up to grade 5 with some unrunnable.
  • Austria: Rafting trips for individuals and groups, families and special activities, half and full day trips on the river Inn, in the Austrian Tyrol.
  • Iceland: Two unforgettable days of rafting the East Glacial River from the highlands down to Skagafjörður. Class 4+ rapids and plenty of white water action. Usually available July and August
Where do I to go (North America and rest of the world)Check out JoJaffa's Spoil yourself section for white water rafting across the world.

...and if you need any more persuading, check out our gallery of rafting pictures.

(Sports Disclaimer)

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Getting more out of....white water rafting

Go for more adventurous or longer journeys. Most of the trips outside North America and Europe can be described as adventurous. Check out the spoil yourself section for details.

Alternatively, plan your own trip. If you need help with this, check out The Complete Whitewater Rafter in the book section.

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Kit and caboodle

Need a good book, video or more advice? JoJaffa has picked out the best for you. For each book/ video just click on the amazon link find out the price and get more information.

If you can suggest any good books about white water rafting, let us know.

Recommended Reading

Books : Two Dog River
by Richard Day
The ulimate (men's) novel about the total experience of white water rafting and adventure? We'll be reviewing this soon.

in association with...Amazon US

Book : Whitewater Rafting : An Introductory Guide
by Cecil Kuhne
A great start to a great activity

Amazon UKin association with...Amazon US

Book : The Complete Whitewater Rafter
by Jeff Bennett
This work provides a guide to whitewater rafting. Following an introduction to the history of whitewater rafting, the text covers topics such as: boats and gear; river dynamics; paddling technique; running rapids; safety; rafting for the handicapped; camping and so on. Essential stuff for anyone looking to set up their own trip.

Amazon UKin association with...Amazon US

Book : White Water Europe: A Kayaking and Rafting Guide to the Classic Runs in the South Alps
by Peter Knowles, Peter Bandtock
The best book available on white water in Europe

Amazon UKin association with...

Book : The Lost River
by Richard Bangs
It's tempting to write off The Lost River as just another adventure story. It certainly has all the trappings of a formulaic action blockbuster--raging rapids, hungry crocodiles, mysterious natives and even the lost Ark of the Covenant. But as veteran river-runner Richard Bangs chronicles his lifelong pursuit of "aqua incognita", he proves a refreshingly introspective adventurer, a thinking man's Indiana Jones.

Amazon UKin association with...Amazon US

Book : Around the Bend : A Mississippi River Adventure
by C. C. Lockwood
In the summer of 1997, renowned nature photographer C.C. Lockwood embarked on a remarkable adventure. First by canoe and then by Grand Canyon-style pontoon raft, he journeyed the length of the Mississippi River - 2,320 miles - from its source at Lake Itasca, Minnesota, to its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico. Armed with his camera and computer equipment to transmit stories and pictures to school children, this high-tech Huck Finn trained his lens on spectacular scenes, creating images that vividly depict the life pulsing in and near this vital artery - water and lands that touch the lives of every American.

Amazon UKin association with...Amazon US

Book : The White Nile
by Alan Moorehead
The story of the Nile, from the Mountains of the Moon to the Mediterranean Sea. The tale starts with Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke setting out to find the sources of the Nile. It continues with Baker of the Nile and his wife struggling with malaria. Wonderful book - one to browse through on a lazy afternoon.

Amazon UKin association with...Amazon US

Book : The ABC of Healthy Travel
by Eric Walker, Fiona Raeside, Lorna Calvert, Glyn Williams
A guide to travel-related health issues. Providing up-to-date information on vaccines and medication, this book covers special groups such as package holidaymakers, backpackers, business travellers, overseas voluntary workers, and the elderly. Key reference book.

Amazon UKin association with...

For the best in Jackets, boots and gear check out Fogdog's outdoor store.

Fogdog has loads of product reviews, great prices and can deliver worldwide. Do allow extra time for your goods to arrive if you live outside the USA.

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Spoil yourself

In North America

Grand Canyon This is North America's ultimate river trip, through one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

What few people realise is that because the water releases are controlled, the early and late-seasons of April or September and October, offer the Canyon at its best. Both smooth and white water rafting available.

"Nantahala" is a corruption of the Cherokee word Nundayeli, meaning, and 'middle sun' or 'midday sun' one thousand years ago and there is evidence of settlers ten thousand years ago.

Located in western North Carolina, the scenic Nantahala River is a perfect introductory trip. It is suitable for everyone, including groups, families with small children, and active seniors. Its proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park makes it one of America's favorite rivers. Fully guided or guide-assisted half-day trips are available down the Nantahala's 8 miles of constant waves, swift clear currents, and magnificent scenery. Go with either NOC or Wild Water

Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountain Park is home to the lower and upper Pigeon rivers.

The Lower Pigeon Fun Float is great for families with younger children, more relaxed rafters, and seniors. The lazy rapids will challenge those with experience while showing off breathtaking views of The Smoky Mountains. Fun waves, ending in an exhilarating Class III rapid, will make this half-day trip a memorable one for newcomers.

The Upper Pigeon is a big water river with lots of exciting waves and action. Rafters are immediately confronted with fast moving water and standing waves. The rapids are mostly Class III with one Class IV. The Pigeon is a dam-controlled river for good water levels all season.Guided trips with Wild Water Rafting

The Upper Ocoee and lower Ocoee are newer rafting rivers locted in Southwesten Tennessee.

The exhilarating Upper Ocoee was the site for the 1996 Olympic kayaking competition but is only available for a limited number of days per year.

The Lower Ocoee is one of the most popular 5-mile stretches of whitewater. Half-day trip on the Middle Ocoee has exciting rapids and continuous waves. Go with our trained guides and no experience is necessary.

The Chattooga III and IV Rivers form the border of western South Carolina and northeast Georgia. Used as the location for the film "Deliverance", the Chattooga River's spectacular scenery and exciting whitewater make this our most popular trip. Section III is ideally suited for beginner to intermediate rafters. Section IV of the Chattooga will give you heart pounding class III-V rapids.

West Virginia offers some of the best commercially run white water in North America.The New River, touted as the second oldest rafting river in the world, offers exciting spring rafting trips. Swollen by rains and snow melt the New River contains colossal rapids that rival those foundwithin the Grand Canyon. Huge waves, monstrous holes and long wave trainsmake this one of the best early season rafting trips. Asthe rains subside and the river levels decrease, the New River becomes more tranquil and suitable for first-time rafters and people of all ages andability levels.

At the beginning of September West Virginia becomes the white water rafting capital of the world. The world-famous Gauley River is the premierwhitewater run in the East, but also, offers great excitement to first timers. Visit Drift a bit and experience some of the best Whitewater in the Eastern US.

Alternatively check out Songer White Water for another West Viginia rafting specialist.

California - boasts 12 white water rivers. The favourite of these is the American River (south fork and middle fork).

The South Fork has something for everyone. It is the most popular introductory whitewater river in the western United States, yet it also satisfies experienced rafters, offering the diversity of classic scenery, narrow rocky gorges, peaceful calms, and over 50 class II and III rapids

The Middle Fork is perfect for either a second whitewater trip or the more adventurous first timer! It is a true wilderness river...dazzling, clear water flowing through a backdrop of green, densely forested canyon walls, rising 2000' overhead.For the major operator in this region check out All Outdoors.


In the remote Yukon territory, the Tatshenshini River flows from glaciers high in the St. Elias range to the Pacific Ocean in Alaska's Dry Bay. On the way down it passes through three park reserves.

This river offers classic wilderness adventure with class IV rapids, massive canyons, abundantwildlife. Trips can vary from one to ten days, depending onwhere you start and finish. Also, there is unbelievable hiking on yet unnamed mountains around the river. (Contributed by Derrick Law)

Ottawa River claims to be the second biggest white water in North America and have the longest ride north of the grand canyon Ottawa River


For wilderness, camping and white water adventure head for the remote lands of alaska. Alaska River Rafting can take you on trips of a life time to the Tana, Talkeetna and Charley rivers.

In Asia

Raft the Ganges. A 140 km trip down India's sacred Ganges is a heady mixture of challenging grade IV rapids and exotic culture The river tumbles down from the high Himalayas, passing temples, ashrams and terraced fields clinging to the steep mountain sides.

Nepal Rafting the Karnali, the longest and largest river in Nepal, is an exceptional experience. You can take a 180km white water adventure down the Karnali's Western Bend, a wild and very remote part of Nepal, only recently opened to visitors.

Rafting the SunKosi. This can be one of the longest river-rafting trips in Nepal, a 270 km expedition down the mighty SunKosi or "River of Gold". This river has an abundance of challenging grade 4 rapids, lots of small villages to explore, plus the jungle of the Terai and numerous Hindu temples too.

In Africa

Zimbabwe & Zambia Raft the Zambezi river - cutting the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. Often you can combine a day in the explosive Batoka Gorge (below Victoria Falls) with a water safari trip on the upper Zambezi. Check out - the best site we've found on Victoria falls.

You might also consider a trip through the wildlife-rich lower Zambezi as it meanders past Mana Pools National Park.

The British Canoe Union had defined the grade 5 rapids below the Victoria Falls on the Zambezi as- 'extremely difficult, long and violent rapids, steep gradients, big drops and pressure areas'. This is a high volume, pool-drop river - little exposed rock either in the rapids or in the pools below the rapids. The Zambezi White Water Rafting is internationally acclaimed as being the wildest in the world.

The one-day low water trip is considered to be the best one-day white water experience available in the world.


The Zambezi River floods between mid February and the end of June. Huge volumes, in excess of four times that of the Colorado River flood over the falls at peak. Nearly half of the rapids are classified as Grade 5 - Grade 6 is "unrunnable".

The "low water" run occurs when the Zambezi River is at its low level generally between July and mid-February. This is the most exciting time to do rafting. Day trips are conducted between rapids 1 and 18. The "high water" run follows after fresh inflow from the catchment areas in Angola and Zambia. The water rises and flows more rapidly and the day trips move downstream from rapids 11 to 23. The steep walls of the gorge are not suited for game. Bird life is usually very good. There are small crocodiles in the river - they are not a serious threat. Bilhazia is not a risk.

White Nile in Uganda Some more adventurous operators are offering trips in this region.

In rest of the world

Coruh in Turkey This company can take you there

Rio Futaleufu in Chile Another new rafting location. Go with this top US operator aorafting.

South America and the Andes offer numerous trips - check out earthriver for more details

Borneo ‘The land below the wind’ For first timers, white water rafting at Kiulu River is recommended. This river is a Grade 2 river.If Kiulu River is not a challenge enough for you, try white water rafting in Padas River which can go up to Grade 4 or 5 during rainy season.

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