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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 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.


Sungkai River Perak
Selangor River Kuala Kubu Baru, Selangor
Endau River Johor
Jeram Besu Pahang
Lipis River Pahang
Telom River Pahang
Tembeling River Taman Negara, Pahang
Padas River Sabah
Kiulu River Sabah


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 Merry-Go-Round.

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 site.


A 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 good rapids.

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 hinder movement.


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 loose.

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.
  • Wear 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 spectacles.
  • Contact lens users are advised to wear spectacles instead, in order to cut down the risk of their lenses getting contaminated by river water.

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