Malaysia: White Water Rafting

Asia's Rising Star

Rivers have long been the life blood of the indigenous people of Malaysia. They have served as a means of transport, a source of food and now, a resource for eco-tourism. The native groups of the Malaysian interior have been using rafts for thousands of years, but white water rafting has only been popularised since the 1980s.

Sabah has two main rivers for rafting, the Padas and Kiulu rivers which are certified as Grade 3 and Grade 2 respectively in the international white water rafting grading system. Under normal weather conditions the two rivers are relatively constant in depth and speed. However, heavy rains can cause them to swell into Grade 4 rivers. During this time rafting activities may be called off temporarily. Peninsula Malaysia has its share of good rafting sites. These include the Grade 2 Sungai Sungkai in Perak and the Grade 3 Sungai Selangor in Kuala Kubu Baru, which has its source in Fraser's Hill. Sungai Endau, Jeram Besu and Sungai Lipis in Pahang and Sungai Tembeling in Taman Negara are also popular rafting sites.

As it is now a popular adventure sport, there are rafting operators for all the popular sites, providing the necessary equipment. In Sabah, rafting operators will arrange transport from Kota Kinabalu to Padas Gorge through which the Padas River flows. A novelty is to go by railway from Pangi Railway Station, where an antique train will take you on a scenic journey through the Padas Gorge. Then comes the thrill of riding rapids with names like the Headhunter, Adrenaline Flow and MerryGo-Round. Kiulu River is closer to Kota Kinabalu but is less gut-wrenching. Successful rafters at Padas will be presented with a certificate of accomplishment upon finishing their adventures. Peninsular Malaysia's rafting sites are easily accessible by car or bus. The Selangor River is reached via Kuala Kubu Bharu town, about 90 km from Kuala Lumpur. A single rafting trip on the Selangor River will take approximately half a day. The Telom River in Cameron Highlands and the Tembeling River in Taman Negara, Pahang are approximately four hours from Kuala Lumpur. More time is needed to raft the Grade 5 Telom River in Pahang as it is a much more challenging site. The best time to raft is after rains when the water level has risen and there are some good rapids. However, the dry season is a good time for rafting novices to get acquainted with the sport without having to fight the currents. Smaller rafts may be used in the dry season. In Sabah, only the Padas River is recommended during dry months as the water level is too low for rafting on the Kiulu River.