Where and When Go Rafting
Goa takes on a different vibe during the monsoon season, with the coast wearing a rather deserted look. Fun in the sun isn't an option, so why not have fun in the rain instead? One of the best ways to do so is head inland and go white water rafting!
The rafting trips are conducted by Southern River Adventures, a company founded by Englishman John Pollard. John has more than 20 years rafting experience all over the world and is known for pioneering white water rafting in south India. He's set up six new locations since 1999, starting with the Dandeli River in Karnataka, and now lives in Aldona (in the Goa hinterland) with his Goan wife who's an artist.
In Goa and Maharashtra, rafting is carried out in five boats by John plus qualified guides, some of whom come from Nepal (where the rapids are among the best in the world) for the season.
White Water Rafting in Goa: Ideal for Beginners
White water rafting trips take place down the Mhadei River in Goa, in conjunction with Goa Tourism, from July to September. The river borders the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary in the Western Ghat mountains. Operations entered their seventh season in 2018, and there have been more than 2,000 participants so far.
The Mhadei River has class 2-3 rapids, so it's suitable even for people who can't swim. Children aged over 12 years can go as well. The trip starts out from the Earthen Pot Restaurant in Valpoi, in Goa's Sattari district, around an hour and a half inland (east) from capital city Panjim. There are two departures per day: at 9.30 a.m. and 2.30 p.m., although there needs to be a minimum of six people.
The cost is 1,890 rupees per person.
Goa Tourism plans to introduce a twice-daily shuttle bus service from Panjim and the northern beaches to Valpoi.
Find out more information about this trip and make a booking on the Goa Rafting website.
White Water Rafting in Maharashtra: Advanced Only
Rafting operations shift to the Tilari River in Maharashtra, near the Goa border, in October and conclude there in December.
This is possibly the most technically demanding rafting trip south of the Himalayas, and ends passing through a steep gorge. The Tilari River has class 3-4 rapids, so it's restricted to people who can swim well and are relatively fit. Although a rescue raft is provided, participants will still need to be comfortable floating and being in the water.
The trip starts out from the Tilari River Base near Dodamarg, off National Highway 17 (which runs from Mumbai to Goa). It takes around an hour and a half to get there from Goa's north beaches.
However, due to lesser demand, rafting trips don't always take place.
The Goa White Water Rafting Experience (with Yummy Food!)
Thanks to a resurgence of the monsoon in early September, after a concerning break in the rain, the Mhadei River was flowing impressively. Our meeting point in Valpoi was Earthen Pots Restaurant, where I was pleased to discover that the food was exceptionally good (what a surprise in a small nondescript town!).
Content from feasting on a delicious 250 rupee fish thali, myself and my three companions, plus guide and driver, set out for the spot where the raft would be launched down the river. The large blue raft was inflated and affixed to the roof of the jeep, and our safety gear was packed in the back. We all climbed aboard with anticipation. The picturesque 30 minute drive took us along winding forested roads, with over-hanging branches heavy with moist foliage, and through scattered villages.
Fabulous Monsoon Season Fun
At the launch site, we donned life vests and safety helmets while the raft was carried to the stony edge of the river. Our Nepali guide, with a wicked sense of humor, called us over for a briefing about what we should and shouldn't do (including if we fell out of the raft). At this point, it dawned on us that we could very well end up in the water, and our excitement turned to apprehension!
With our guide sitting at the back and shouting paddling instructions, we managed to haphazardly maneuver the raft forward amidst much shrieking, as we hit our first rapid. The raft dipped and a torrent of water rose up over us, hitting our faces and drenching us, as we held on for dear life.
In between paddling and screaming, we were able to spot a monkey and a kingfisher in trees in the neighboring Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary -- probably the only wildlife bold enough not to get scared off by our noise.
Towards the end of the 10 kilometer stretch of the river, the water became calm. "Go for a swim!", our guide prompted, playfully pushing those of us who could swim out of the boat. So far, we'd all miraculously avoided falling overboard. The sun had been shining, and the cool water was refreshing as we lazily drifted along.
It was an exhilarating and super fun adventure that left us wanting more (and me keen to experience the thrill, and terror, of the class 4 rapids in Maharashtra).