White-water rafting was something that I knew I had to try once in my life but wasn’t really looking forward to. I imagined it would involve a lot of cuts and bruises, not to mention the possibility of drowning.
Besides, it is meant to be a group activity, requiring at least two participants per raft, not including the skippers. I never had anyone to go with.
One day, I found a company called RaftAsia, the first indigenous-owned white-water rafting in Malaysia. The best part is, this company accommodates solo rafters at a reasonable rate (usually the only way to get cheap rates is to book in a group). They told me that I could join any group that would be rafting on that day.
How to Book a White-Water Rafting Tour
I booked with RaftAsia through their official website. The fee was RM180 per person, inclusive of equipment (helmet, life jacket, paddle & first aid), 2 experienced guides, snacks and beverages, and a buffet lunch.
What to Bring on a White-Water Rafting Tour
Rafters are encouraged to wear sports attire, including sports shoes or strapped sandals. Jeans, jewelry, or any clothing item with sharp points are strongly prohibited due to safety reasons.
The crew will take photos and videos of you using their camera, but you can bring your own too if you prefer. Make sure you keep them in a dry bag, which you can secure on the raft. However, do bear in mind that the company will not be responsible for any loss or damage of your personal belongings.
Can You Do White Water Rafting if You Can't Swim?
No problem! You can still participate in white-water rafting if you can’t swim, as you will be provided with a life jacket. The most important thing is to give your full attention during the safety briefing, in order to avoid any mishap and to know what to do in case of emergencies.
What to Expect on a White-Water Rafting Tour
I had initially signed up for white-water rafting in Kuala Kubu Bharu (KKB), another town famous for its nature and outdoor activities. However, when I reached the meeting point, I was told that the authorities hadn’t given us the clearance to go.
There are several possible reasons why the authorities may not allow people to go rafting on a given day. For example, if it had been raining heavily the day before, the water level might be too high and dangerous.
On the other hand, if it hadn’t been raining for several days, the water level might be too low and it could also be dangerous because of all the exposed rocks. You would only know the verdict on that day itself.
Long story short, we had no choice but to go to the Ulu Slim River, which is in another state, but isn’t too far away, fortunately. The crew gave me a lift in their 4WD.
The Ulu Slim River is surrounded by forests and plantations. Located in the Semai Heartland, it is easily reachable by the northbound PLUS highway, and is only about 1.5 hours from Kuala Lumpur.
Rivers are generally classified into six scales of difficulty, starting from Class 1 for beginners with very basic skills to Class 6, which requires full mastery of rafting (and even then is still so dangerous it could be fatal).
Ulu Slim features a few class-2 rapids and one huge class-3 rapid, making it suitable for both beginners and experienced rafters. This 8-kilometer roller coaster will take participants at least 2 hours to complete.
We reached the camp at the endpoint of the river section where we were going to raft. There, I left my bag, signed the indemnity form, and met the group that I would be joining later. There were 10 of them, most of whom had rafted before.
Based on our body weights, we were divided into two teams. Mine had 8 people on board including myself and two skippers (guides). When everyone was ready, we were transported on the back of the 4WD to the starting point.
Before we began, we were given a briefing and demonstration on basic commands, safety measures, and rescue techniques. Each of us was given a helmet, a life jacket, and a single-bladed paddle. Then, we did a trial run at the calmer part of the stream. Only when the guides were satisfied with our performance did we proceed.
Then, the real adventure began. The rapids became increasingly faster and the drops steeper. There was not one boring stretch of the river. The yelled instructions kept coming from the guides — to the left, to the right, to the back, to the front. We had to sit on the edges of the raft to paddle, but at steep drops, we had to sit inside the raft and hold on to the rope around it.
Several times, we got stuck between rocks, and had to use our collective body weights to bounce on the raft to release it. It was definitely a team effort. Halfway through, we stopped for some snacks. Those who were feeling brave jumped from the cliff into the river. I gave it a miss.
Towards the end of our journey, since we hadn’t capsized once, the skippers decided to deliberately capsize our raft — just for fun. Everybody else seemed to agree with his idea of ‘fun’, except me, but I didn’t say anything. All of us sat at the rear of the raft while one of the skippers stayed at the front. Then, he got up and ran towards the rear, tipping the raft vertically and dumping all of us into the water.
The rafting was over in about 3 – 4 hours. Most of my teammates said that it was more exhausting than what they had experienced before, because the water level was quite low and many rocks were visible, making it harder to maneuver the raft.
One of the girls hurt her wrist after hitting a rock when she fell into the river. Apart from that, we were all fine, save for some minor bruises.
There are many activities in this blog that I try just for the sake of trying. Some I enjoy, and some I don’t, even after doing it multiple times. For instance, I have run two full marathons, but still haven’t found the joy in running. I have climbed several mountains, but still don’t understand why people enjoy it, apart from the view at the top.
But the thrill of white-water rafting was immediately apparent. It was exhilarating from the get go, and by the end of it, I was more thrilled than tired. On top of that, it was a great team-building activity, as we really needed to work together to get to our destination and ensure everyone’s safety.
I’m grateful to these wonderful people who kindly welcomed me — the lone stranger — into their team.
- The maximum weight of each participant must not exceed 100 kg for safety reasons.
- Wearing glasses is allowed, as long as it is secured to your head using a strap.
- Wearing contact lenses is also not a problem, but you will have to close your eyes when in contact with water.
Have you tried white-water rafting? If yes, where did you do it, and how was your experience? Comment below.