According to a news report recently, a woman lost her life during white water river rafting in Rishikesh accident. Every year there are a few similar river rafting accident & death cases that happen during the season of rafting in Rishikesh. So, I thought to dig this deeper and ask around travel enthusiasts who have experienced rafting adventure about their experience in real time to bring collated precautions & safety tip for you.
I stayed in Rishikesh for two years and I too went for rafting. I was scared but then I am generally scared of water activities. At rafting in Rishikesh, I could see sheer mismanagement and total dependency on these over confident kids, so called ‘raft guides’. Call it peer pressure or what; I did rafting once. Thankful to Ganga ji that I am safe. Sadly, that lady wasn’t lucky enough. Though society will eulogize her death too for she died in Gangaji and attained real moksha. Who knows, how is the family coping with this loss. Maybe she has small kids or ailing parents.
Well, I am recounting my experience of rafting in Rishikesh so that it prepares you on what to expect and also sharing some tips to ensure safety which should be our primary concern till our lovable government wakes up.
Tip 1 – Get Gyan On Rishikesh Rafting Route
In Rishikesh there are three to four level of rafting and based on your ability one should opt for the appropriate level. The most difficult level is a 36 Km of rafting ( Kaudiyala to Rishikesh) and has rapid river category of 4th grade.
The moderate one (16 kms) starts from the ever-popular Shivpuri and ends at Laxman or Ram jhula ghat.
Easy rafting starts from a midpoint further down from Shivpuri on the Rishikesh road. This is a fun picnic place with maggi stalls around. We chose grade I for our Rishikesh rafting.
Though non-swimmers can participate in Rishikesh rafting but then choose the shorter route with beginner or moderate grade rapid.
Shilpi Dutta, says she experienced rafting in April 2012 but didn’t go for cliff jumping. She did the 21km rafting and found it was totally exciting.
Tip 2 – Choose Rafting Grade Wisely| Funny Names But Risky Games
In total, there are 13 rapids divided into 4 grades based on their level of difficulty in the Rishikesh rafting route. Their names are really funny but their purpose is important – it is a forewarning so choose wisely by asking:
|Grade Level||Name of Rapids|
|Grade I||Double Trouble, Hilton and Terminator ranges|
|Grade II||Return to Sender, Roller Coaster, Golf Course and Club House|
|Grade III||Sweet Sixteen, Black Money, Cross Fire and Three Blind Mice
|Grade IV||The Denial Dip and The Wall ranges
It is important to have prior knowledge of these rapid and ask proper questions to the guide. Clearly tell them your level of water scare, fitness level and swimming skills. Guide might be tempted to make bit more money by suggesting the longer route but you don’t want to take the longest route ever, right? So, make sure it is your decision and not an influenced one.
Shyamal Mukherjee did rafting back in 1999 and shares his experience from yesteryear’s
“We reached in the afternoon there for rafting in a group of 20 people. Stayed there in tents near Ganga. Next morning we all got ready for rafting. Hired two boats. All were given relevant details plus life jacket each. It is safe and a pleasant journey. In case boat topples, one should not panic especially if you don’t know swimming. Rafting in RIshikesh is a life time experience once you complete.”
Tip 3- Adventure is Good, Overconfidence is Not
Safety gears like life jacket and helmet are not comfort clothing. Check if the gear is in good condition. Don’t be causal about it. Most of the rafting guides provide overused gears which might not even fight you properly or have a buckle that isn’t working – stay away from it. They will say, “Madam theek hai”
Be adamant. Safety first. Though you may be tempted to click selfies instead of searching for the right gear at that time but remember it is important.
Once you have boarded the boat, they will ask to keep your wallets, mobile or camera that can get wet into a dry bag. The boat usually has two boys managing the trip.
Simple instructions are provided. Listen to them carefully.
I admit, during the instruction time I was quite casual. I did make a mistake.
Though frankly, I didn’t enjoy the rapids much. My favourite was when they halted somewhere in between the rapids and asked us to get into the water and stay afloat with buoyancy. Blissful experience indeed!
Tip 4 – Be A Responsible Tourist
Kiran Chaturvedi worked as a qualitative market research professional with the WPP Group for many years, and now organizes creative writing workshops. She writes on socio-psychological topics, places and people, and occasional fiction and poetry. She is a nature enthusiast and roots for sustainable, holistic and greener living. She shares her views about rafting in Rishikesh:
“Have done it and am very familiar with the whole set up. It is very safe if rules are followed. Both unscrupulous operators and ignorant and arrogant tourists willfully ignore these guidelines. And then accidents happen which turn fatal. Otherwise accidental are a risk in the activity but usually can be controlled.
I see completely brazen attitude of tourists. Drunk and insisting on rafting. Getting rowdy and disobeying guides. And God forbid, if something happens then it is all the operators fault. There are also completely cynical operators who allow this. Then there the good ones, who respect the river and its power and don’t behave, like rapists.”
Sushmita Sarkar | Travel Blogger at MyUnfinishedLife
I go to Rishikesh often as we have second home in Haridwar and I have never tried river rafting there because of safety reasons. What I have observed is that most tourists want to try rafting for the ‘fun’ of it expecting it to be joyride in an entertainment park where all safety measures should be taken care of by operator, while they can sing & shout (and be drunk). While I can’t say much about the operators or their team, as I haven’t experienced it first hand, what I have observed (and I have many times sitting leisurely by banks of the river) is that even if the operating team is genuine, the ignorance and unwillingness of the tourists on the raft makes it a difficult task for the team to manage them and in event of an accident, impossible to control.
So, remember to be a responsible tourist.
Once the rafting is over, do enjoy a bowl of steaming hot maggi and coffee right at the riverbank.
Undoubtedly, Rishikesh rafting is fun and an experience of lifetime. Just a few precautions and you are good to go J
Tip 5 – Do Due Diligence & Choose The Right Rafting Operator
Gwen Stephens Jones, an avid globetrotter, expresses;
Happy to share my experience, as I used to work for a raftng company in Sri Lanka, so I noticed the difference between a legitimately safe operator in Rishikesh Vs a company flouting every single internationally recognised safety guideline going – if the company isn’t offering a safety briefing pre-trip, their raft guide not wearing not wearing shoes or helmets, companies taking young children on grade 3 or above rapids or operating without a safety kayaker. It’s true that all adventure sports come with inherent risks, but if the above are also part of a company’s culture, then it’s downright negligent.
Archana Singh blogs at Blog: www.travelseewrite.com
Rishikesh will always be special for me when it comes to Rafting as this was the place where I first rafted. It seemed to be great fun and above all very economical. But having done rafting in different parts of the world, all I can say is, it isn’t handled in a professional way. Even in India, I would rate rafting in Zanskar safer and more professional.
Bhawna Grover, Content Head at Goibibo and a travel enthusiast, hula hoop trainer and a doting mom says:
I did rafting in Rishikesh with my flatmates in 2012. An all girls gang! And though we were all super excited to do this as it was our first adventure activity, we didn’t think much before taking the plunge. However, after doing adventure sports in foreign countries and seeing their safety measures, rafting in Rishikesh is very-very risky. It runs more on faith than anything else. Yes, you wear life jackets but that’s about it. When there are rapids, one does get scared. Hands get tired of rowing and you have no control. Also you are sitting on the edge without any support or harness or anything tied to you. You could fall anytime if you’re not alert or don’t follow instructions.
There have been several accidents and deaths in the past.
Ishani Sawant, A Mountain Athlete, Adventure Consultant working in Risk management and safety for adventure programs, says:
Go with a recognised adventure travel operator as there have been many casualties due to any tour operators who can put up rafting trips. It’s important that you have good guides and the river has massive flow.
Rafting in Rishikesh Cost
Rishikesh rafting charges are somewhere between Rs 500 to Rs 1000 per person based on the level chosen. If you book complete package with Rishikesh camping and rafting then costs may be higher.
Susmita Mukherjee strongly advocates against rafting in Rishikesh and her organization Alpaviram is currently trying to connect the adventure sports authority of Uttarakhand to help crackdown on the issue.
“Not safe. Every year rafters die owing to carelessness. Govt has ordered a strict ban on rafting without permits; locals continue to flout laws to make a quick buck in the season. Have seen a terrified young man get injured on the rocks while cliff diving, part of the rafting experience. Instead of helping, the ‘guides’ were laughing at him.”
Still, no one cares, no one takes a note, rules are flouted openly, kids run the show, and safety norms are thrown into the deep water. Sad but true state of affairs.
Let me wrap up all about Rishikesh rafting with thoughts from Antarik Anwesan who blogs at On Second Thoughts & collates his experiential travel stories. He has widely travelled across India and abroad, and shares:
I have done rafting in Rishikesh in 2011 and in 2017 with the same reputed company (Adventure Trails India- Camp Ganga Riviera). I have stayed in campsites that cost Rs. 3500 per night and also ones that cost 1000-1200 per night (including rafting). There is obviously a huge difference.
The thing with adventure sports is that, there is definitely risk involved. You are made to sign the indemnity bond before you take part in any activity. But there are some companies which actually care about your safety, and some don’t. No one wants to kill you or be part of an accident, but that is definitely possible. The forces of nature need to be respected and those who don’t are going to be in trouble sooner or later. So safety measures both from organizers/guides and tourists is important.
You can do rafting in Rishikesh at just Rs.400 for the basic 12-16 km stretch- that’s the one most people take part in. Including children and old people (my relatives did it)- it’s quite safe as long as you follow your guide’s instructions. Sometimes the cheap cost does raise questions regarding the safety though. It’s always better to go with major companies who might charge a bit more but will atleast have experienced people to guide you.
I got a guide last year who was one of the key rescue operators during the Kedarnath floods– definitely a highly experienced guide. The guides ask you not to panic, they ask you to keep rowing even when huge waves are crashing on your raft- these might sound difficult but they know those waters and do their best to keep you safe. If you don’t follow their instructions, chances are you will be in trouble. The first time I went rafting, we were in the middle of a major rapid and one of my friends got too scared and stopped rowing. The raft overturned and we were all in water. Within seconds the guide had pulled us all back on the raft to safety.
But there are several companies operating with inexperienced guides or even just cramping huge groups of people without caring too much about safety.
Then there is the other aspect- the tourists. I remember my campsite owner specifically telling me not to let anyone in the group get drunk the previous night in case we want to raft in the morning. They don’t let people raft if they think one is hungover. But I doubt most other companies in Shivpuri do it because all they care about is getting the max number of people, give basic food and stay services, and get done with the rafting asap. People do flock to these cheap operators because well, they are cheap. They don’t want to pay more and go with ‘experienced’ companies but in case something goes wrong they would put the entire blame on the operator. If you were too lousy enough to not research well and raft with any random company, can you really put the blame on them if something is wrong?
Final decision to raft or not to raft is absolutely yours, so is your life’s responsibility.
As it hasn’t happened to you; it shouldn’t bother you – one needs to rethink about it.