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
The native groups of Sabah have been using rafts for centuries but white
water rafting has only been a recreational activity since the 1980s.
The two main rivers for rafting in Sabah are 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 spots.
These include the Grade 2 Sungai Sunkai in Perak and the Grade 3
Selangor River in Kuala Kubu Baru. Which has its source in Fraser's
Hill. The Endau River, Jeram Besu and Lipis River in Pahang and the
Tembeling River in Taman Negara are also popular rafting sites.
WHITE WATER RAFTING
Kuala Kubu Baru,
Malaysia Airlines operates regular flights to Sabah and Sarawak from
Kuala Lumpur. Once in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah; rafting operators will
arrange transport from the city to Padas Gorge through which the Padas
River flows. The starting point for excursions to Padas is at Pangi
Railway Station where an antique train will take you on a scenic journey
through the Padas Gorge. After the train ride comes the thrill of riding
rapids with names like the Headhunter, Adrenline Flow, and
The Padas excursion is a day trip. However those wishing to stay longer
can put up at the Padas River Lodge located at Rayoh. Successful rafters
will be presented with a certificate of accomplishment upon completion
of their adventures.
Rafting sites in Peninsula Malaysia are easily accessible by car or bus.
The Selangor River is reached via Kuala Kubu Bharu. It is a 0n3-hour car
ride, about 90 km from Kuala Lumpur. Visitors can also board a Fraser's
Hill bound bus and to be stopped three kilometers from Kuala Kubu town
where rafting operators have their headquarters.
Some operators also provide pick-up services from Kuala Lumpur
International Airport, the railway station and hotels. A rafting trip on
the Selangor River will take approximately half a day. There are two
runs a day at 10am and 2pm respectively, with lunch provided. Changing
rooms, toilets, showers and camp sites are available. The operators also
offer kayaking courses and a white water rescue module.
The Telom River in Cameron Highlands and the Tembeling River, located in
Taman Negara, Pahang are approximately four hours from Kuala Lumpur. It
is yet another popular spot for recreational rafters. More time needed
to raft the Grade 5 Telom River in Pahang as it is a more challenging
HOW TO GET STARTED
minimum of three persons is needed to stabilize a raft and each group is
always accompanied by two professional, certified rafters. The best time
to raft is after the rains when the water level rises and there are some
The rafting expeditions usually take between 45 minutes to two hours
depending on the water level. Paddles, life jackets, safety helmets,
waterproof bags, life-lines, first aid kits and rescue bags are all
provided. The rafter only needs comfortable clothing which does not
The dry season is a good time for rafting novices to get acquainted with
the sport without having to fight the currents.
Smaller rafts are used in the dry season. Only the Padas River in Sabah
is recommended during the dry months as the water level is too low for
rafting on the Kiulu River.
East Malaysia usually records high amounts of rainfalls during the wet
seasons and for more skilled rafters, this is a good time to ride the
rapids as the rivers swell and the current becomes more powerful.
All rafters will
be given a safety briefing before the ride and will be shown basic
backward and forward paddling techniques. Always check that the helmets
and life jackets provided fit you well and are not too tight or too
Your life jacket
will buoy you in the eventuality of the raft overturning. If you've
over-turned close to the river bank, don't use your raft paddle, as you
may hit someone else. Do not attempt to use the paddle as a lever
against rocks as you risk getting hit by it.
The following are
some points to remember:
- Bring a change
of clothes. A warm-up jacket is also a good idea.
well-fitting shoes or diving booties
- Jewellery which
cannot be secured firmly should not be worn while rafting.
- Those wearing
glasses are reminded to use an elastic sports sholder to anchor their
- Contact lens
users are advised to wear spectacles instead, in order to cut down the
risk of their lenses getting contaminated by river water.