Whitewater Rafting on Bali

Not far away from the frenetic sun and sea pace of Bali's Southern beach resorts is the "cultural capital" of Bali, Ubud. Set on the green slopes of a volcano, Ubud is something of an artists' colony as well as a great place to explore lush tropical flora and fauna. To really enjoy the tropical scenery around Ubud, try joining a white-water rafting trip. Okay, I can see you thinking, "White-water rafting? Bali?" Its a combination that comes about as readily to mind as snow skiing and Los Angeles. But it definitely is an option for those seeking a bit of adventure, and couldn't be easier to arrange.

Some of the flora along the route.

For our trip, the rafting operator had a van pick us up at the hotel around 9:00 a.m. for a half-hour trip to the starting point. As people arrived from other hotels, we were grouped into teams and assigned to a guide who fitted each person with a life vest and helmet. Lock-bags are supplied to store your dry clothes, which you will definitely need by the time you reach the landing point. Waterproof bags are also provided to keep your wallet, camera and other things you want to take with you but keep dry. Then it was time to hike down to the launching point, about 200 yards below the reception center.

rest stop
A mid-route rest stop.

Once at the launching point we got a brief safety talk from the trip leader, then the guide arranged us in the boat to keep it balanced. There were four boats, about 20 people, on our trip. The guide had us practice a few strokes and went over the commands he would use when we needed to go forward or backward, or brace for impact, which we had to do a lot. July is the height of the dry season, when the water is at its lowest and there are lots more rocks to bump into. The command for "brace for impact," by the way, was "boom-boom!" After that, it was off down the river through rapids classed as II and III on the international scale.

A very small waterfall at the rest stop.

For much of the trip there was almost no sign of human habitation along the route, which was generally lined on either side with steep walls covered in dense vegetation. Colorful birds occasionally flitted above us. Although it took nearly two hours to travel the route of about eight miles, is was a little like a roller coaster ride that seems to be over almost as soon as its begun.

At the landing, there was a shower where you could wash off any river muck, towels are handed out to dry off with and then a large buffet lunch to eat, consisting mostly of simple Balinese dishes. After lunch, it's another hike up to the departure center. Fortunately it's not as far a walk up as it was on the way down at the starting point. At the departure center you're reunited with the clothes you parted with at the starting point and there's a large bathhouse where you can get a warm shower and change into your dry clothes. Fresh towels are also provided here as well. Vans then took us back to the hotel.

The rafting had to be one of the high points of my stay in Bali, and I have to say that the trip operator, Sobek, was the most professional outfit I've ever dealt with. Sobek also runs mountain biking as well as jeep expeditions around Bali. You can book a rafting trip at just about any of the travel agents around Ubud.