Nepal, India and China naturally have the best whitewater rivers owing to the draining of the lofty Himalayas. Nepal’s Sun Kosi and Karnarli are good for rafting trips while kayaking is best done in the warmer climes of Southeast Asia, chiefly in Vietnam and Thailand.
Sun Kosi River – Kathmandu, Nepal Not for the faint-hearted the extremely powerful Sun Kosi drains the world’s highest mountains and offers one of the 10 classic river journeys. The river snakes its way in the east of Nepal for 270kms and has some massive rapids and narrow gorges all the while passing remote villages and incredible scenery. Many professional operations run the Sun Kosi in season and it is worth booking well ahead of time.
Karnarli, Nepal Nepal’s longest and largest river is another of this high country’s raging arteries to offer great whitewater rafting through unspoilt jungle terrain. The river is located in the far west of Nepal and is perfect for those who enjoy getting away from it all and adrenaline-pumping excitement.
Zanskar River – Leh, India The region of Ladakh is one of incredible landscapes, and although a very cold place Zanskar river gorge, snaking its way down through the desolate Zanskar area will appeal greatly to adventure types. The walls rise thousands of feet out of the gorge in places and most trips end up on the mighty Indus River.
Brahmaputra River, India Originating in Tibet, the Brahmaputra runs through the Greater Himalaya before it hits India in Arunachal Pradesh. The river is a popular whitewater rafting and kayaking destination going through dense rainforest and remote tribal settlements. Several self-contained operations do complete runs from Tuting to Pasighat over a week or more.
Yangtze River, China The Great Bend of the mighty Yangtze features amazing rapids and impossibly high walls kilometers high. This gorge in the Yangtze is twice as deep as America’s Grand Canyon and is accessible via an impressive trek. Rafting expeditions can go for a week, taking in incredible scenery and ancient stone villages not to mention the towering waves of the river.
Padas River - Borneo, Malaysia Located in the southwest of Kota Kinabalu National Park in the Sabah part of the island of Borneo (Malaysian territory), the Padas River has some of the best rafting in the whole of Southeast Asia. The grade four rapids feature waves up to two meters in places and the river itself is readily accessible.
Wa River, Thailand The rapids on Thailand’s Wa River go between grades three and five in June and July and are actually unnavigable in places. Nevertheless, rafting and kayaking operations take in the less-hectic lower portions of the river, which lies in Nan province to the north of Bangkok.
Sadan River - Sulawesi, Indonesia Sulawesi’s Sadan River has some of Indonesia’s best rapids and goes up to grade four at the height of its greatest flow between November and March. Loads of companies run everything from half-day trips to multi-day rafting and kayaking expeditions along the river, where meals and accommodation are provided.
Ayung River - Bali, Indonesia Those looking for adventure and who are already in Bali might like to try out the Ayung River with its 13kms of rapids, waterfalls, canyons and gorges. Although not long enough to warrant a multi-day rafting expedition, the river is great for such a small island and snakes through unspoiled rainforest.
Pha Nga Bay, Thailand Those purely into kayaking will love Thailand’s Pha Nga Bay on the Andaman to the north of Phuket. Not to be confused with Koh Pha Ngan Island in the Thai gulf, Pha Nga Bay is one of striking karst scenery and the clearest of aquamarine waters in season, making it perfect for kayaking. You can either organize a tour from Phuket or Krabi or go direct to the village of Tha Dan in Pha Nga.
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam Another kayaker’s haven, Ha Long Bay in Vietnam is the country’s premier kayaking destination ranking even more so than the Mekong Delta near the capital in southern Vietnam. Thousands of impressive karsts (limestone rock formations) dot the water, which is generally calm and crystal clear, while the climate in this part of Vietnam (the northeast) is usually more forgiving than that of the south.