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For the thrill of a lifetime: White Water Rafting in Kithulgala, Sri Lanka

White Water Rafting is a challenging recreational activity and an exhilarating water sport. Yet contrary to the public belief, White Water Rafting is not a sport that demands great physical strength.

An average level of physical fitness and a strong spirit would do. White Water Rafting, generally enjoyed in the white-waters as well as in other turbulent waters, brings about an enthralling experience to the water sport enthusiasts.

Though the ability to swim is a definite advantage, a compulsory Personal Flotation Device will be provided, a necessary outfit for a White Water Rafting as it is guaranteed to save you from drowning if you fall overboard.

However those suffering from heart ailments, epilepsy as well as those who are uncomfortable in turbulent waters aren’t advised to go White Water Rafting. Some of the rivers of Sri Lanka afford the opportunity for recreational activists and water sport enthusiast to enjoy White Water Rafting. The small town of Kitulgala in the hill country is the most famous place in Sri Lanka to do so.

River
Grade
Rafting Time
Kithulgala / Kelani River2 – 3 rapids2 hrs
Sitawaka3 – 4 rapids2-2.5 hrs
Mahaweli3 – 5 rapids3-3.5 hrs

About Kitulgala

Kitulgala is located about 80 kilometres from Colombo on the A7 main road that runs to Nuwara Eliya via Avissawella. Kitulgala is a pleasant town set amidst green hills thick with tropical vegetation. The name Kitulgala itself is derived from the Kitul palm tree, groves of which are abound in the expanses. Kitul sap is concentrated and then crystallized to produce jaggery. Kitul sap is also fermented to make palm wine.

Kitulgala is the movie location of where David Lean’s 1957 epic, Bridge on the River Kwai was filmed.
A calm stretch in the River Kelani between two rocky outcrops on either side is the movie location where the railway bridge for the movie was constructed. The water flows silently in this stretch of the river, which is quite deep and sluggish.

River Kelani at Kitulgala

The boulder strewn stretch of the Kelani River at Kitulgala offers an ideal setting for White Water Rafting. White Water Rafting at Kitulgala gives the chance to enjoy the stunning tropical scenery of the region. This adrenaline filled adventure sport is suitable for first time rafters and experts alike.

Kitulgala Town and its Surroundings

The town of Kitulgala is situated on a particularly delightful stretch of the Kelani River where the rapids over the rock-strewn river bed are exhilarating. The high banks of the river are sheltered by tall bamboo trees.

Bird Watching at Kitulgala

Kitulgala also attracts bird watching enthusiasts and nature lovers in addition to the White Water Rafters in view of the birdlife abound in the Kitulgala Forest Reserve. Most of the birds found in the Sinharaja Rain Forest are seen at Kitulgala too. Since the Kitulgala Forest Reserve is a secondary forest that is more open than the densely wooded Sinharaja, the endemic species like Orange-billed babbler, chestnut-backed owlet, Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Green-billed Coucal and Spot-winged Thrush are spotted with lesser trouble.

Kitulgala Rapids

Kitulgala White Water Rafting takes about a 90 minute run each for 6.5 km with five rapids graded 2 and 3. The Rapids with their own distinctive characters are aptly named: Head Chopper, Virgin’s Breast, Butter Crunch, Killer Fall and the Rib Cage. Riding modern rafts equipped with safety gear, White Water Rafting at Kitulgala is safe for even kids over 10 years in age.

The Best Period for White Water Rafting at Kitulgala

The best time to enjoy White Water Rafting at Kitulgala is the period between May to December. During periods of heavy rain, the river could turn out to be very volatile and White Water Rafting becomes very unsafe. The adventure operators on site would advise all water sports enthusiasts on the matter. However water levels could drop surprisingly fast, turning the river to its regular state during the rainy season as well.

Black Rafting at Kitulgala

White Water Rafting during three nights on either side of the full moon brings about a heightened sense of adventure for all enthusiasts bent on an extra mile. Referred to as Black rafting, all rafters are equipped with a headlight and safety gear.

White Water Rafting – higher grade Rapids in Sri Lanka

Sithawaka River off Avissawella consists of grade 3 and 4 rapids; Ulapane – Gampola: River Mahaweli consists of grade 3 and 4; Hatton – Nuwara Eliya: River Kotmale consists of grade 4 and 5 rapids.

White Water Rafting is categorized in 6 grades in accordance with the difficulties and dangers posed: they range from simple to very dangerous and potential death or serious injuries.

Grade 1: Very small rough areas, might require slight maneuvering. (Skill Level: Very Basic)

Grade 2: Some rough water, maybe some rocks, might require some maneuvering. (Skill level: basic paddling skill)

Grade 3: White Water, small waves, maybe a small drop, but no considerable danger. May require significant maneuvering. (Skill level: experienced paddling skills)

Grade 4: White Water, medium waves, maybe rocksand a considerable drop. Sharp maneuvers may be needed. (Skill level: White Water Rafting experience)

Grade 5: White Water, large waves, large volume, possibility of large rocks and hazards, possibility of a large drop, requires precise maneuvering. (Skill level: advanced White Water Rafting experience)

Grade 6: Rapids that aren’t navigable. This grade isn’t undertaken by adventure tour operators at all.

Sitawaka River off Avissawella grade 3 and 4 Rapids [for the experienced rafts-men]

Sitawaka River off Avissawella affords the second best option in White Water Rafting in Sri Lanka. The run lasting 2 hours with grade 3 and 4 rapids is better suited for experience rafters.

Ulapane – Gampola: River Mahaweli grade 2 to 5 Rapids [for the experienced rafts-men]

For groups of 10 or more experienced rafters, special runs are arranged by the operators. One run starts at Ulapane, near Nawalapitiya, and heads down to Gampola along the Mahaweli River, which is Sri Lanka’s longest river. It has rapids graded between from easy grade 2 to adrenalin in full flow grade 5 drops. White Water Rafting at this stretch takes about 3 hours to complete.

Hatton – Nuwara Eliya: River Kotmale grade 4 and 5 Rapids [for the experienced rafts-men]

Hatton – Nuwara Eliya: River Kotmale is a spectacular run in addition to being a challenging option to the experienced rafts-men. It begins just below St. Clair’s Falls, lasts for nearly 6 hours, and offers rafters 5 rapids ranging from grade 4 to 5. White Water Rafting herein begins in a comparatively higher altitude unraveling magnificent views of the hills.

White Water Rafting Package
  • 8:00am (1) Arrival at site/location. (2) Change of clothes. (3) Get ready with gear e.g. life jackets, helmets etc.

    9:00am (1) Safety briefing. (2) Start off the rafting session.

    10:30am (1) Commence the jungle trek(to rock pools). (2) Rock sliding (Canyoning). (3) Confidence jumps into the water.

    1:00pm (2) Buffet Lunch.

    2:00pm (1) Team building games (optional and available only for large groups).

    3:30pm (2) Evening snack with tea (Optional).

    • Bring a smile to the face of the people you meet on the way.
    • Bring appropriate attire suitable for water. (a pair of shorts and a t-shirt will work)
    • Bring an appropriate pair of shoes. If you do not have one, normal rubber slippers are ok.
    • Bring towels, if you need to dry off.
    • Cameras / photographic equipment.
    • Experienced and professional river guides.
    • High quality life jackets.
    • Helmets and paddles.
    • Different coloured self bailing rafts.
    • Rescue kayak (Applicable for large groups.)
    • Water proof bags for cameras.
    • Transportation to the location where the trek begins .(not applicable for large groups)
    • Extensive “safety talk”…this is where we teach you how to raft!
    • Changing Rooms.
    • Be sure to raft at your physical fitness (Please disclose details before participating – if you are suffering from heart problems, epilepsy or any other disease. Necessary arrangements can be made before hand.)
    • Wear your life jacket and helmet even if you are a good swimmer and get it checked by our staff.
    • Use suitable clothing for rafting.
    • Ask straps for your glasses.
    • Bring water proof bags or rent from us if you want to carry your digital camera or valuables.
    • Respect the local culture and adapt to it in case it’s necessary.
    • Listen and follow the guide’s instructions well.
    • Don’t take alcohol before activities.
    • Don’t wear jewelry or expensive watches.
    • Don’t throw anything to the river.
    • Don’t try to catch or obstruct birds along the way.
    • Don’t put anything in your pocket.
    • Don’t panic when you fall out! Follow instructions.