Merrily merrily merrily merrily, Life is but a dream”
Substitute the row boat for an inflatable raft and rowing downstream on a gentle river will turn into an exhilarating experience!
When I discovered that white water rafting was a popular sport on the river Kali in northern Karnataka, I was stupefied. Having rafted on the Ganga, it was a revelation that the thrilling sport was available to adventure seekers in the South of the hinterland.
Gathered a back pack, and set out to explore the Dandeli white water rafting circuit.
The majestic River Kali
Dandeli is located in northern Karnataka and is part of the Forest cover spread over an area of 5700 sq kms approximately, nestled in the Sahayadri ranges. It offers trekking, rafting and jungle safari opportunities to enthusiasts.
The Forest Reserve is known for the black panther, the bison, leopards, elephants, spotted deer, foxes, the flying squirrel and many varieties of birds including the kingfisher and hornbill.
Since white water rafting was uppermost on the agenda, we booked ourselves into a rafting expedition as soon as we landed in Dandeli. The drive to the starting point was uneventful and long. It seemed to be never ending as the jeep drove through mud tracks and uneven terrain, jerking us out of our seats and some napping passengers into reality.
Once we reached the banks of the river, we were briefed by the guides, or rafting instructors about the requirement of safety gear such as life jackets and the need to refrain from undertaking the expedition in case of a medical condition. As soon as the life jackets were strapped around our frames, we were divided into groups and assigned to an instructor.
Our instructor was a short muscular guy from Nepal called Mahendra. He had a perpetual smile on his face, as he took us through the rafting commands we would have to follow to help him steer the raft through the rapids. As we started floating downstream, I felt the rush of adrenalin through me. The fun had begun!!!!
Our rafting compatriots were first timers. And non swimmers. Double jeopardy in rafting parlance……? Not really!!!! Although they had absolutely no idea what awaited them, rafting is a safe sport especially when undertaken with professionals.
Rafting through rapids will soak you to the bone. To dissipate the shock of water on the body, you have to acclimatize yourself to the water, the flow of the river, the current and the idea of being submerged in water. This acclimatization exercise is especially undertaken to help non swimmers lose their fear of water, and help them understand that the life jackets they wear will protect them from drowning.
After the water acclimatization, we began our foray down stream. Soon we could hear the rapids. The sound of water, crashing against rocks; water in its powerful avatar, strong and potent, commanding the respect of all those who attempt to tame it.
The first rapid was Class 3, Class 1 being the easiest to tame. Rapids have evocative names such as “Garden of Eden”, “Gate 4” etc……The first rapid looked menacing and as we scaled it, a powerful wave swept our raft to one side. I toppled over, along with my neighbour, who fell on me, pushing me deeper into the water and rocks. I lost my grip on the oar (paddle) but clung onto the lifeline around the raft.
Within a minute or so I was hauled aboard the raft. I was in shock…as I coughed to get my breath back…..but ecstatic…. It was an exhilarating experience.
The rest of our rafting expedition went on smoothly as we rode the rapids and scaled each of them with anticipation and amazement. We were excited for hours after the trip.
For adventure seekers, white water rafting on the calm river Kali can be as thrilling as rafting down rapids on the majestic Ganga.
The next morning, before the crack of dawn we were on our way for the jungle safari.
Caught a glimpse of a few animals but the forest was too dense to actually sight a panther or elephant. We enjoyed the drive into the jungle and marvelled at the bounty of Nature that surrounded us.
After breakfast we were back on the river on a little Coracle, sailing down stream in to crocodile territory.
We saw quite a few of them, soaking in the sun and enjoying a siesta. They looked calm and docile, almost vulnerable.
The drive back to Pune was uneventful too. A short weekend trip, it was a memorable break.
After our rafting expedition, we were told that the best rafting circuit in South India is Coorg, from June – October. Something to look forward to…..
How to get to Dandeli:
From Pune – Its 450 kms approximately and driving on the superb NH 4 at a break neck average speed of 120 kmph can take you to Dandeli in about 7 hours.
From Pune to Belgaum via Satara and Kolhapur, and then a detour towards NH 4A, which goes from Belgaum to Goa. At Khanapur, detour from NH 4A towards Ramnagar, Londa, Ganeshgudi and Dandeli.
Look out for villages by the name of Bapeli and Potoli before you touch Dandeli.
Ask for directions when necessary. In Karnataka, most sign boards will be in Kannada; so it is better to find out where you are rather than drive a few kilometres in the wrong direction.
Where to stay:
There are a few jungle resorts where one can have a reasonable stay. Bison Resort, Hornbill Resort are very popular. We had booked ourselves in the Kali Adventure Camp. It is run by the famous Jungle Lodges and Resorts of Kabini fame, by the Government of Karnataka.
For an all inclusive cost of Rs 1900 per person per night, you can avail a three hour Jungle Safari, a Coracle ride to view crocodiles, and three delicious meals. Rafting costs extra @ Rs 1000 per person for about three hours and can be booked at the Resort itself.
The Dandeli summer is hot and humid. Winter is cold and wet. Clothes should be carried in accordance with the prevailing weather conditions.
What not to carry on a rafting trip:
Do not carry or wear jewellery or watches and other accessories. You will be swimming in the river and everything you wear will be soaked within minutes (even if you are a non swimmer).Avoid carrying your sunglasses, cameras etc.
Cameras cannot be taken on board a raft. But they can be left in the safe custody of your jeep driver to click pictures before and after rafting.
It is advisable to be attired in comfortable clothes and footwear. Avoid wearing slippers, and closed shoes. Floaters are most convenient. Floaters are also available with the rafting counter at the resort for a nominal fee of Rs 30 per person, per pair.
What to carry:
Rafting can make you hungry as well as thirsty. Carry a bottle of water or beverages that can be left in the jeep.
Carry a towel to wrap yourself in, especially if you are undertaking a rafting trip that will end in the evening. The temperature tends to drop in the evening, and there are no changing rooms in the wilderness.
It is absolutely essential to carry a sense of adventure and thrill with you. If you don't, then chances are that every shortcoming in the trip will serve as a dampner. You wanna get your souls wet; not your spirit!