White Water Rafting Dandeli – Through the rapids of River Kali

The clock ticked 1 pm! Overhearing the harmony of the birds at Old Magazine house, I had completely surrendered myself to the nature of Dandeli already. Casual conversations with fellow visitors popped up the topic of  White water rafting Dandeli and I felt curious as they narrated their previous rafting experiences. Rafting was on my wishlist from long and appeared to get fulfilled in Dandeli. Immediately, I communicated to the resort officials to arrange river rafting and they said they would check if it’s available on that day.

I was under the impression that rafting is available all days due to the free-flowing  Kali river. But that’s not the case and the reason being the Supa dam. Before Kali river flows through Dandeli, it crosses Supa dam. The flow of the river then depends on the Supa dam gates and so the river rafting in Dandeli totally depends on Supa dam opening the dam gates. If the flow is not massive, then the rafting is not allowed. If the rafting is performed on an inadequate flow, the chances of hitting the rocks increases.

Supa dam – solely responsible for successful rafting session

Fingers crossed. River rafting in Dandeli is one thing which I did not want to miss in Dandeli. To my pleasant luck, the resort officials informed me that the Supa dam had opened the gates and allowed an abundance of water outflow for a successful rafting session. Perfect! There were no bounds to my excitement. The jeep was set to depart at 2:30 pm so I gulped my lunch as fast as I could.

A 5 km drive from Ganeshgudi led us to Kali Adventure camp where the official white water rafting starts. As I stepped out huge rafts of different colours were spread across the area and the group of guides were waiting for more people to arrive. Then my sight shifted to the beautiful Kali river. I stepped forward to have a closer look.

Kali river

River Kali is the heart of Dandeli and the lifeline to wildlife and human habitation. She looked serene and elegant amidst green banks forming occasional white crescents on the surface. She flowed like time, always onward, always towards her destiny. Her pristine water was crystal clear that I could see my legs underneath the water. I had not seen that clear water anywhere in recent times. You must be assuming that she represents the Goddess Kali. Though she is turbulent and fierce which is analogous to Goddess Kali, the real reason for the name Kali is the river bed. Yes, the Kali river bed is a rock bed formed by manganese iron ore. Due to this from the aerial view, she looks dark – Kaala (black in Kannada) and this is how she is named “Kali”. The people in Dandeli considers her as the supreme power and the means of living.

The mighty River Kali of Dandeli
Occassional crescents of River Kali

White Water rafting at Dandeli

Whitewater rafting is an adventurous water sport in the trend. Dandeli white water rafting along the gushing Kali river is one of the best rafting available in India. The rafting stretch is of 9.5 km in 3 hours and experience is thrilling and unforgettable. Around 6 rapids in Dandeli river rafting are of grade 2 and grade 3 which are suitable for professional as well as inexperienced rafters.

By 3 pm, there were sufficient groups of people for the rafting to begin. The guides addressed the group on the basic safety instructions and precautions. Life jackets and helmet were necessary and are to be checked by the guide before boarding the raft. They mentioned not to panic if someone topples out from the raft, instead, they need to relax, float with the jacket and will be rescued.

Experience of river rafting

With quick instructions, the guides asked to wear the lifejackets and check with them if they are tight enough. I wore the life jacket, helmet and picked up the paddle. I prepared myself physically but mentally I couldn’t realise I would be rafting in few minutes. I joined the group from OM camp and stood with them for the rafting to begin. Our rafting guide – Mr Sahadev approached us and checked the lifejackets again. He asked if we were all ready for the Kali White water rafting we said “Yesssss !” and followed him to the raft. I’m mostly a mountain person and water sports makes me tremble. Though the river looked calm I was little scared in the corner of the mind. With louder heartbeats, I rechecked my lifejackets – tightened them again and boarded the raft.

Lessons of rafting

Sahadev introduced himself and informed that the rafting is of 9.5kms on the Kali river. He said Dandeli rafting is an adventure sport and it is important to listen to his commands failing which we might topple out of the raft and end up in the river. He guided us the basic postures like how to sit in the raft, how to hold the paddle and taught us how to paddle effectively so that the force is maximum to push the water backwards. With the first lessons of learning, we paddled to the centre of the river. Arriving at the centre, he suddenly asked everyone to jump out of the raft. I was like what the hell is he doing. The hidden motive was to make us get comfortable with the water and also not to panic if we get toppled during the rapids. Hearing his words, everyone jumped the next second. I was little scared and took few minutes to make up my mind. I took my breath to the fullest, closed my eyes and jumped into the water. I felt I’m gone deep into Kali river. Thankfully, the lifejacket pumped me to the river surface. Omg! Then I gained some confidence on the lifejacket and floated in the river for a while.

The guide called us back to the raft and we managed to push ourselves into the raft soaking wet. Few of us were as heavy as the blue whale with blue life jackets and pulling them up was really entertaining. We were an awesome group for rafting and conversations and humour made the rafting much more memorable.

Here comes the first rapid

As the orders came in, we paddled forward and forward to the more aggressive part of the river. I could look at the rafts ahead of us going crazy in rapids looked thrilling and adventurous. We paddled faster towards the rapid with all the team spirit. The river was wild and fierce, we kept paddling and braced ourselves for a violent strike. Foot very still and stuck under the straps of the raft, on the command we got into the raft and held the raft rope tightly, we entered the rapid screaming, the gushing water splashed furiously on us and we were all enthralled. A sense of happiness and thrilling experience overtook us. I looked around to check if someone toppled down, thankfully we were all safe and had overcome the initial fear and anxiety. We moved ahead further paddling and relaxing in the pristine surroundings of river Kali. The canopies formed by the riverside trees looked beautiful and gave an awesome experience when we paddle through them. We played splashing water to the other rafts with our paddles, that’s an art which we eventually managed to learn.

As we approached the first rapid
We braced ourselves for the turbulent part of the river
As the gushing river made our raft crazy
A violent strike ahead and we were all thrilled
The raft drenched in the river
The fierce water splashed onto us violently embracing our cells

The surprise surfing

We encountered more rapids and enjoyed rafting through them all. The best surprise was waiting for us in the final rapid. After the final rapid, we wretched that it was over, then the guide said we are paddling back, but this time it is for surfing. We yelled hurray! And started to paddle hard against the turbulent stream with all the energy we had. Once the raft reached the fierce point, the guide locked the raft so that the raft stayed against the stream of water for 30 seconds four times. The water gushed into the cells of my body. Yes! I could feel the water absorbed me completely. I actually felt I had toppled down as I was almost inside the river for more than 8 seconds. But I managed to stick my feet firmly to the raft straps and held the rope tightly. The surfing came out to be the exciting part of the rafting. I was intensely happy and was already celebrating the victory of my first rafting session.

We paddled to the banks of the river and stepped out of the raft reluctantly. A spirit of thrill and the excitement that rafting gave me was exceptional. The jeep had arrived already and we took off the jackets and bid goodbye to the guide. We boarded the jeep and headed to the Old Magazine house.

The Last Note

Dandeli Whitewater rafting is one of the thrilling adventures one should not miss in Karnataka. For me, This was an amazing rafting experience ever and will always be memorable.  I still remember the moments the water gushed into me and I surrendered to it. The feeling was extraordinary as the swirling river embraced us to the core. Rafting through the Kali river stretch of 9.5 km for 3 hours connected me to nature closely.

Read other travelogues on Dandeli:
1. Old Magazine House, Dandeli – The Birdwatchers Paradise
2. Dandeli Jungle camp – Embracing the wilderness
3. Timber depot and Natural Jacuzzi at Dandeli
4. Syntheri rock Dandeli – Monolithic miracle

Visting tips

  • For travel tips on reaching and staying in Dandeli, check the visiting tips of the previous post on Dandeli.
  • Dandeli river rafting is on the Kali river stretch of 9.5km for 3 hours, which comprises of 6 rapids of grade 2 and 3 suitable for professionals as well as first-timers.
  • The rafting costs Rs.1,350 per person and the experience is worth it.
  • Beware of the misleading rafting – Only Government of Karnataka has the authority to conduct the 9.5 km white water rafting. As I have seen, few travel agencies fool the tourists and offer the rafting for just 1 to 2km till the first rapid and charge almost half the money for entire rafting. Don’t fall prey to this trick and confirm the stretch before booking.
  • Our trip to Dandeli was planned and organized by  Dandeli.com, for booking and other information, please call 99005-47763 or email them at book@dandeli.com
  • The rafting photos CD clicked at the first rapid can be collected by informing the guide. It costs Rs. 500 and has around 40 pictures (like the one I have posted). It’s worth to buy for the memories to cherish.
  • Wear comfortable outfit and don’t carry any valuables including camera, phones, wallet and jewellery. Once it’s gone in the river, it’s gone forever. Go empty handed and come back with a bunch of experience.
  • Please don’t dump trash anywhere. Be a responsible traveller.

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Read the Dandeli travelogue series:
1. Old Magazine House, Dandeli – The Birdwatchers Paradise

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