Guide to White Water Rafting in South & West India

One of my latest adventure activities was during my last trip – White Water rafting in Goa. Interestingly, when I shared my experience on my social channels, a lot of people were surprised to hear that this was available in Goa. Indeed it is and in my opinion, it is one of the “must do things in Goa” – especially if you are looking at “Goa beyond beaches.”

However, it is not just river rafting in Goa that seemed to be a surprise but the fact that there was lots of white water rafting destinations in West and South India. India does have a lot of white water rafting destinations, the most popular being Rishikesh up North. I have not yet been to this one and it remains high on my “Wander-List”. However, I have done my bit of White water rafting down West and South India.

White Water Rafting in Goa
White Water Rafting in Goa

My first experience of White Water rafting incidentally, was in Kithugala, Sri Lanka during my honeymoon. I can never forget those exhilarating moments as our raft rushed along the river while we paddled to keep it on course. The swish of the rapids and the sudden splash of the water while you are shoved around in the raft as it suddenly drops to the next level – Gosh! It is a heady feeling, an experience that is addictive. It always left me, wanting for more.

My first White Water Rafting experience at Kitulgala, Sri Lanka
My first White Water Rafting experience at Kitulgala, Sri Lanka

My first experience was in a Grade 2 – 3 river and after that experience, I felt the other water rafting expeditions felt a little tame. Possibly I am now ready for Grade 4 rapids.

Let me start this guide to White water rafting with a few quick notes on what Grades in white water rafting mean –

Grade 1 – Here the river rapids are a little gentle. No rigorous rowing is required.

Grade 2 – A little faster where some amount of paddle work is involved to keep the raft on course.

Grade 3 – The river is a little faster with water splashing all over you. The rapids have some gush and swift. The drops are not so steep but are evident.

Grade 4 – Turbulent river with lots of rocks and drops. Needs a fair amount of physical work with the oars to ensure you slip through those rocky corners.

Grade 5 & 6 – Stormy, crazy rivers which needs an expert to raft through. Definitely not for amateurs.

In India, we have a maximum of Grade 4 rivers that are open to adventure enthusiasts like us. And quite a few options down West and South India. Here are 5 such White Water rafting destinations that are bound to appeal to your adventurous sides.

1) Dubare Water Rafting, Coorg

Dubare White water Rafting Image Credits: Shiraz Ritwik via Flickr, under CC by ND 2.0
Dubare White water Rafting                                                             Image Credits: Shiraz Ritwik via Flickr, under CC by ND 2.0

This is along the River Cauvery in Coorg and is a seasonal activity that is available only during the monsoon months – June – September. With a rapid grade of 1 and 2 along a 12 km stretch, this is ideal for beginners. The unique thing here is that the rafting begins at the Dubare Elephant camp, a place where you can not just see elephants but also, give them a bath. I experienced this rafting through Jungle Lodges. However, as I understand, they have now handed it over to private operators. Here are some details that can help you book an experience here –

Operator – Dubare River Rafting Association

Contact details – + 91 9483844461 (Mr. Yashwant)

Prices: INR 600 for a 7 km stretch, INR 1000 for a 14 km stretch

Getting here: Bangalore (250 kms) and Mysore (100 kms) are the nearest towns. One can reach Dubare with a bus to Kushalnagar or Madikeri. Alternately, you need to hire a car to reach here.

Season: June to September

2) Barapole River, Coorg

River Rafting in Coorg Image Credits: Philip Larson via Flickr, under CC by SA 2.0
River Rafting in Coorg                                                                             Image Credits: Philip Larson via Flickr, under CC by SA 2.0

A Grade 2 – 4+ river rafting experience in the cool coffee county of Karnataka – Coorg. The Barapole river course is a very scenic one as the same surges through the Brahmagiri Wild Life Sanctuary. Encounter the enchanting “Morning Coffee” after which you can take the “Milky Churn” to meet the “Wicked Witch” before you finish the “Big Bang“. In case you are wondering what I am talking of – well, these are the names of the few rapids you are to encounter in this 2 hour white water rafting experience. 🙂 There are several operators who offer this activity at the Barapole River.

Operator: Several operators available online.

Prices: INR 1200 per person

Getting here: Bangalore (250 kms) and Mysore (100 kms) are the closest airport towns. To reach Barapole, one needs to take a bus to Madikeri and then hire a car to reach Barapole.

Season: June to September

3) Dandeli White Water Rafting

River Rafting at Dandeli.                                                                                       Image Credits: Sarangib
River Rafting at Dandeli.                                                                                       Image Credits: Sarangib via Pixabay, under CCO

Dandeli in North Karnataka has been beckoning adventure sports lovers for quite some time now. The River Kali offers you an option of rafting through its Grade 3 rapids or take up some other sports like kayaking and canoeing. If you have an appetite for more adventure, you can even try their rappelling or trekking trails. However, if you want to just relax after an adrenaline pumping rafting experience, you can just opt for their gorgeous nature trail or bird watching trips. Every resort or homestay in Dandeli offers these activities. The Jungle Lodges one being the most popular.

Operator: Several operators available. One can refer to various homestays or resorts to arrange this.

Prices: INR 1200 – 1400 per head

Getting here: Dandeli is just 125 kms from Goa. You can reach the same by road or rail. You can even combine it with a trip to Karwar as suggested by me in this post.

Season: October to February

4) Kundalika River, Kolad

River Rafting in Kundalika River Image Credits: Himanshu Sarpotdar under CC by NC-ND 2.0
River Rafting in Kundalika River  Image Credits: Himanshu Sarpotdar under CC by NC-ND 2.0

I had shared this location earlier in this post of mine. The Kundalika river in Maharashtra is getting popular by the day owing to its proximity to the two main cities of this state – Mumbai and Pune. The Kolad white water rafting allows you to experience rapid levels of 1 to 3. You can experience a ride along the “Rajdhani express” – the name of one of their longest rapids. And that is not all. Quite like Dandeli, there are tons of other activities from camping to rappelling that can appeal to you. Take a look at what you can do in Kolad by clicking here.

Operator: Several operators available. Check the Maharashtra tourism website for more.

Prices: INR 1200 – 1600 per head

Getting here: Pune is the closest airport at 108 kms. You will need to hire a cab to get to Kolad. One can also reach Kolad from Mumbai (138 kms) as well.

Season: Throughout the year.

5) Goa river rafting on Mhadei

Ready for river rafting in Goa
Ready for river rafting in Goa – Spot me if you can!

My latest experience of White water rafting was in Goa. This is one of the most recent addition to the list of river rafting destinations of India. Thanks to Goa Tourism, I experienced one of the most calming yet exhilarating water ride this monsoon. As I kept exclaiming through the rafting trip, the entire scene looked straight from the jungles of Africa or South America. It looked straight out of the comic book or movie – Phantom. Huge green trees with long creepers hanging down as if they were covering a cave, with a strange silence that was broken only by the sound of rushing water and twittering birds. So far, the Mhadei white water rafting in Goa has been one of the best scenic stretches that I have experienced. Here is a video of where our raft rushes through the rapids. Definitely something for you to watch.

Operator: You can book this experience directly through the Goa tourism website.

Prices: INR 1800 per head

Getting here: This is around 45 mins – 1 hour distance from Goa, in Valpoi. You will need to book a cab to take you to Valpoi from Goa.

Season: June – September

It is the perfect season to pick one of these gorgeous places and head out for some fun White water rafting. Which one are you planning to head to? Or if you have been to one of these, do comment in and share your experience.

White Water Rafting India

Tips for White Water Rafting:

  • All the places mentioned above, except for Dubare Rafting Camp, have places for you to change.
  • Remember to always carry a set of extra clothes. There is no way you can escape the splashing water.
  • Light cotton clothes with slacks or shorts is recommended. Please avoid the Indian dresses, especially sarees and dupattas.
  • Floaters or open shoes with ankle straps are recommended for the rafting experience. Do not wear sports shoes or closed shoes. Even bare feet is not recommended.
  • Life jackets, oars and helmets are provided by the white water rafting operators.
  • Please read all the dos and donts of your chosen destination on the website of the tour operators. Some of them may have specific pointers that you may have to adhere to.
  • Every operator makes you sign a standard indemnity clause, saying that the adventure sport is being taken up by you at your risk.
Swimming in the Mhadei river - part of the White water rafting experience.
Swimming in the Mhadei river – part of the White water rafting experience.
  • Most of the operators pull you into the river for a quick swim. This is generally done in placid parts of the river and under supervision. It is a part of the whole white water rafting experience. Should you not want to get into the water itself, please let the guide know at the start.
  • Listen to the cues and instructions that are given by the guide at the beginning of every experience.
  • This is an adventure sport and there is no denying the risk. Please be prepared to take this risk on your own.
  • Photography is not allowed as you will be busy rowing or paddling. So, unless you have a GoPro or similar device, please leave your traditional camera behind.
  • Most of the White water rafting operators are equipped with their own GoPro system. This is specially true of the Goa river rafting experience. Your guide will keep taking the pictures are regular intervals and these will be available to you for a cost. Please let your guide know in advance if you are keen on the pictures.
  • This activity is not advised for people with heart problems and pregnant ladies. For kids, you will need to check with the individual operators on what age they allow.
  • Do not carry any valuables and electronic devices with you. There may not be any locker rooms for you to deposit these.





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46 Responses

  1. Nice post Ami, you have visited some amazing places.
    Could you plz suggest me on a thing. I am planning to visit Coorg in Jan’17, but as you have mentioned that rafting is good only till Sep. So is there some reason for this, isn’t it available in Jan?

    • Thanks Jatin. The rafting in Coorg is in seasonal rivers which are best experienced during monsoons. By Jan , the water levels recede and hence rafting is not available.

  2. Very informative and useful for me. I have never done rafting but wish to do it. Let see when i get this opportunity. Thanks for sharing.

  3. You have great experiences to share, here. Informative as well. Thanks for sharing, Ami… 🙂

  4. I have no idea so much fun and adventure from White water rafting is available in so many places in India.. Good to see the list will sure try one of these days.

    • Thanks Prasad. There are plenty up North too – Rishikesh, Zanskar, Orchcha…You should definitely try them out.

  5. I have done it once here as we also have a lot of rivers in the Basque Country. We have had a lot of fun. I assume it was a grade 3, maybe even 4 as there was a lot of rocks. I’ve heard about the river in Rishikesh as my Indian associate has a project there.

  6. This too is slowing gaining popularity! Indeed so much to do in Goa! 🙂

  7. Very comprehensive post and great tips. I used to live in West Virginia (US) and we had the most awesome white water rafting maybe in the country. Lots of crazy class 5 and 6 rapids for sure.

  8. Yogi Saraswat

    Informative !!

  9. vishvarsha

    Done just 2 of these…rest noted! 😀 Hopefully will get to do them soon. Pretty informative article 🙂

  10. Amazing post, Ami !!!

  11. White water rafting is a thrilling experience and you have done a lovely post . Loved the pics and the video as well. Never knew there were so many options in India.

  12. I wrote a blog recently abut white water rafting down the Zambezi – I had never done it before and the Zambezi was grade 4/5 – well, you can imagine what that was like!! I didn’t know you could do this in Goa so this is a fantastic post, thanks for the information and for sharing 🙂

    • Thanks. Rafting is fun anywhere. Goa was a pleasant surprise for me too. Next time when you want to try rafting, try it here 😀

  13. Rafting is so much fun.. I have done it twice at Dubare elephant Camp, Coorg

  14. Nice post and great tips!!!! Very informative. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  15. I have only done rafting in the Ganges and some crazy one at that! A lovely collection Ami of other places! have to try some of it for sure!

  16. We love white water rafting but have never thought of doing it in India! Thanks for sharing!

  17. Pinned! This is my kind of adrenaline! You say India goes up to grade 4, so what are some popular destinations with grade 5 out of interest?

    • The Barapole river does have grade 5 but only for experts. Rishikesh is the other destination that has some rapids of Grade 5. 🙂

  18. Interesting info, Ami. Thanks!

  19. Wow, as you say I’m surprised you can go rafting in Goa – I never associated India with rafting but now I see the error of my ways! I’d still rather go for the food though, too scared for rafting!

    • Trust me Claire, it is really fun and not too scary. Start with the Grade one and two and believe me you will be hooked. 🙂

  20. Always loved rafting — from the Snake and Colorado rivers here in the US, to rivers in Costa Rica. Looks like something to try when I get to India. Good to know!

  21. Looks like you had a great day on the water. I’ve been white water rafting a couple of times and it makes me so nervous. Love all the details in this post. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you Lara. I am hoping more people try out this sport after reading this. hope that happens soon.

  22. Ashish Chauhan

    Hi there great informative blog. How transport friendly is Coorg in terms of public or private transport. Any information or contact details will be helpful.

    • Thank you Ashish. Most homestays and hotels should be able to help you with transport contacts. I do not really have any recommendations.

  23. klipdrifters

    It looks like we making a trip to India in December this year, so many of your post have inspired us. We once went white water rafting in South Africa and it was hectic!

Would love to know what you think