White-water River Rafting in Rishikesh
Rishikesh is quite famous for its white water rafting on the holy Ganges river. About 30 kms from Haridwar, an important pilgrimage center in India, Rishikesh also is a holy destination for Hindus. But for adventure lovers, Rishikesh offers not only grade 4+ rafting, but many other adventurous options like rock climbing, bungee jumping, kayaking etc.
There are the major rafting sretches, in order of ease of increasing complexity:
1. Brahmpuri to Nim beach (Rishikesh): easiest of all the stretches. Total approx. length: 7-9 kms. Good for older people, family members like children who cannot do the tougher stretches or are afraid of water. You will only get grade 1+ rapids here. This is also the cheapest stretch in terms of rafting cost.
2. Shivpuri to Nim beach: 16kms stretch with Grade 4 rapids. Good stretch with rapids like Gold Course and Roller Coaster. Rafting on this stretch takes about 2 hours.
3. Marine Drive to Nim Beach: 26 kms. You will find Grade 3 rapid Three Blind Mice. There are other small Grade 3 rapids which are quite fun. Takes around 3-4 hours.
4. Kaudiyala to Nim Beach: 36 kms. Takes around 7 hours. Only experienced rafters should try this. Star attraction is The Wall, a Grade 5 rapid where 90% of the boats flip sending everyone into water :).
5. Devprayag to Nim Beach: 2-3 days. For rafting junkies and professional rafters. You take your food, camping equipment etc with you on another raft.
While rafting your guide will let you swim in certain calmer patches of Ganges, and even body surf some of the Grade 1-2 rapids. Near Nim Beach there is a small cliff where you can try Cliff Jumping.
We planned a short excursion to Rishikesh on the last weekend of April 2011. We left Delhi on Friday late evening. Because our cab driver ditched us, we had to take our own cars which we later realized is not a very good option considering the traffic on NH (National Highway) 58. It is best to take a train from Delhi-Haridwar and then take a cab to your rafting camp. Or better take a cab directly from Delhi. Anyways, we left Delhi around 11 PM on Friday night, and reached Rishikesh around 6 AM next morning.
Our rafing camp was at Byasi, around 26 kms from Rishikesh. Its an hours drive, but there was a big landslide midway, near Shivpuri, and it took 3 hours for the highway police to clear it.
We reached our camp in Byasi around 9:30 AM. The trek down the camp was exciting, and was quite steep at some places. While going down we could hear the river ganga roaring…and the sight of our camp on white sands refreshed our tired souls. Once we put our bags in our tent, all of us straightway headed for the river. Our camp guide, Sunil, told us about a few natural jacuzzi spots near the river bank, where the flow passed through some big rocks and created jaccuzzi like pressure effect. We spent some time there before moving back to tents for breakfast.
Stay in Byasi and Rafting
The tents were in good condition, and the food was really good, much better than what I had in other camps during my earlier stay. Our camp organizer, Sunil, was quite helpful and told us what all we could do that day. The options included rock climbing, trek to a waterfall, kayaking etc. We did the rock climbing session around 5 PM, after that we just lazed around the river bank. Once the Sun went down, the whole atmosphere turned beautiful. There is no electricity available in the most of the camps (to preserve nature) and you would be surprised to see so many stars due to lack of any interefring lights and little pollution. Few of us got really excited seeing a bunch of glow worms flying near the rocks 🙂
Sunil had arranged a bonfire for us, and after that we had dinner. The next morning we got up early and got ready for rafting. We took our bags with us as we had planned to go back to Delhi from Nim Beach, the point where rafting ends. The whole rafting experience was amazing, and lasted for about 3 hours. We crossed around 12 rapids, some of them were of Grade 4 level. I had a thrilling experience of falling into one of the grade 4 rapids, the Golf Course. I was sitting in the middle row, and the moment we entered this rapid, a huge wave came rushing towards me. It hit me so hard that I had abolsutely no time to react. Within seconds I was pushed out of the raft into the middle of the raging rapid. Our guide tried hard to pull me out using first his hands, and then the paddle. But it was almost impossible, no matter how hard I tried, powerful waves kept pushing me in all directions and I felt as if I am being sucked inside some fast whirlpool. It was hard to even breathe, but thanks to the life jacket, I came up again. The guide then threw a rope towards me, thankfully I caught it and was back into the raft. I cannot forget this experience all my life 🙂
At around 3 PM we reached Nim Beach, had lunch and did some shopping in Rishikesh. We left for Delhi around 5 PM.
If you are looking for a short adventure filled weekend trip, then Rishikesh is a great option. The camp closes down by end of June, due to Monsoon, and opens early September. The best time to visit Rishikesh for rafting is from late September to mid-November, and then from early March to first week of May.