Always open to debate amongst guides and guests alike, here are some of our favorite rafting rapids around the world. Despite this not being an exhaustive list, it is based on both skill level and popularity. By all means, send us the rapids you love to run as well. The rapids are listed in no particular order.
Ghostrider, Zambezi River, Zambia
The Batoka Gorge, where the Zambezi boils and churns its way over 23 rapids in a 15-mile (24-kilometer) stretch below the Victoria Falls, gives Africa’s most thrilling white-water experience against one of the most dramatic river backdrops in the world. This rapid consists of three large waves, each progressively bigger coming off an island on the right side of the river. The key is to punch right and try and stay right (as well as keeping the raft straight) as going left may result in a swim or a flip and being pushed into a powerful eddy on the left side.
Mushroom & Toadstool, Cherry Creek, Tuolumne River, CA, USA
Set in the Sierra Nevada Mountains around Yosemite in California, the Tuolumne offers world class whitewater. This rapid is continuous and amazing. On the first part of the rapid, you’ll paddle the raft left and then backwards over a large 20 foot drop, whilst hi-siding. Just downstream a final Class V vertical (also called Toadstool) splits around another big rock that catches a lot of current. The guides who work on ‘The Creek’ are the most skilled and detail-oriented guides in the world.
Cherry Creek offers steep committing rafting
Sun Kosi River, Nepal
Rising near the border with Tibet, among the world’s highest peaks, the Sun Kosi offers a trip of Himalayan majesty on its way to join the Ganges on the plains below. Class V rapids abound as it thunders through narrow gorges and forested canyons. The final stretch takes you through dense tropical jungle where monkeys chatter from the trees.
Stairway To Heaven, Zambezi River, Zambia
On the first descent of this river by Sobek in 1981, Rapid 5 was considered too dangerous to run. Now it gets run on a daily basis much to the delight of many thousands of people who have rafted the Zambezi. Many guides and guests liken it to ‘dropping off a two story building – but a lot more fun.’ Big warm water (24 degrees celsius) makes this river even better. Despite the many rumors, it is quite straightforward to get through many of the Zambezi rapids without flipping.
One of the world’s most iconic rapids, Stairway to Heaven
Section 4 of the Chattooga River is perhaps one of the best known dangerous rapids around. As American Whitewater put it, “more legends exist about Five Falls of the Chattooga than almost any other set of rapids.” One of the most difficult sections being commercially run, this section may not seem as dangerous as others on the list, but section 4 has taken many lives.
Terminator, Rio Futaleufu, Chile
Plunging from glacier-fed lakes in the high Andes of Patagonia, the limpid blue waters of the Futaleufú River offer superb rafting among mountain scenery of alpine grandeur. Stretches are suitable for beginners, but there are also Class V rapids that will challenge even the most expert rafters. This rapid was given its name by an early raft that came down on the 1990’s and went straight into the Terminator hole in the centre of the river, thus Terminating the expedition.
Hermit, Colorado River, AZ, USA
This rapid is awesome at medium flows from 10-14,000 CFS (cubic feet per second) At lower flows, the waves tend to get a little smaller, but at ideal flows, this is one of the best rapids on the Colorado. There is nothing challenging about it. It’s just a big, fun wave-train culminating in a pretty sizeable third wave. The beauty of the Colorado River running through the Grand Canyon, is that it is a ‘drop-pool’ river, where you run a rapid and it is followed by a flat pool, where you can recover swimmers if necessary in a safe environment.
Great paddling through Hermit Rapid
Godzilla- Rio Upano River, Ecuador
This white water rafting destination is a thrilling one. The view is amazing surrounded by beautiful and sacred waterfalls on both sides of the river with a perfect backdrop of the Andes Mountains and of course the green canyons which are really breathtaking. The waves of the Godzilla can go up to 15 feet high which are a great height and the water of the river flows really fast as well making your rafting more challenging. The water flow is so fast and high that if you start your rafting from right to left, you will unknowingly end up to going from left to right.
Tutea Falls, Kaituna River, New Zealand
This iconic waterfall, is the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world. The rafts are generally double guided (a raft guide in the front and back of the raft) to line up for the 7 metre (21 feet) drop off Tutea Falls. The river has 2 smaller waterfalls before going off ‘the big one.’ The waterfall understandably sees a few raft flips, but again, this washes into a flat pool where other rafts and kayakers can rescue you. The trip on the river is quite short (around 40 minutes) but certainly thrilling!
The 7 meter drop of Tutea Falls, Kaituna River, New Zealand