Goa may be a beach bum’s paradise, but from this monsoon onwards, the destination is also being known for its white-water rafting, courtesy Goa Tourism. Maheka Sharma experiences the first season of rafting on river Mhadei in Goa’s Sattari district and comes back soaked.
Goa Tourism, it seems, has been working overtime to make the state a 365-day tourist destination. It has now introduced whitewater rafting on the Surla-Mhadei River, which runs through the state’s Sattari district, from June through October. Of course, the season slightly varies depending on the onset and retreat of the South West monsoons.
This spot is located on the prettier side of Goa, the North East, which changes to a rich, emerald green during the monsoons. To get to the rafting starting point, visitors need to reach Valpoi, also called the ‘fenny capital of Goa’ by the soakers of a different kind.
Oh My God!
The Mhadei River, which starts as Surla upstream, is considered the lifeline of Sattari. It is flanked by a thick leafage that is the Mhadei sanctuary on one side, and makes the rafting experience throughout the nine-kilometre stretch even more enjoyable. It is evident that this vicinity is untouched by any commercial activity, which is a refreshing anomaly in Goa. When I was here, our audience, who were a few villagers, couldn’t figure out why we were making such a fuss around a big, rubber plastic boat.
The group has to walk through a hamlet with a lot of green cover around to reach the rafting spot. This is a nice, short walk from the office of Southern River Adventures – the guys who run the show – where all participants need to collect safety equipment before starting off together. Southern River Adventures is headed by John Pollard, who started whitewater rafting at Dandeli in Karnataka.
Pollard and his team have identified two significant stretches on the river that have good rapids. And by ‘good’ I mean dangerous! “We have the greatest frequency of rapids on any river in South India. On the advanced stretch we have as many as 35 rapids between class two and four, and on the easier stretch we have at least 15. Not to mention that this is the longest stretch of white water commercially rafted in South India,” Pollard said.
I learnt from him that when it rains a lot and the water rises above a particular level, rafting is not very enjoyable because it covers up the rapids and you complete the stretch quicker without any turbulence. And what is rafting without a few bumps and obstacles? So the overall experience varies depending on how much it has been raining.
Pollard currently runs rafting only on the Mahdei stretch at the moment. But he may look at conducting a few Surla-Mahdei special trips. He hasn’t started overnighters since options for decent accommodation around the area are scarce. But he’s working on it and is in talks with a few home owners for home-stays.
Trips depart from Mapusa or Panjim. Alternatively visitors can come directly to Valpoi if they have their own transport. Booking the time slots is preferable as weekends see a lot of traffic. To make bookings easier for visitors, Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) has enabled online booking for river rafting. It is the only agency in Goa that is authorised to sell tickets for this facility.