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Most of us can relate to the fun we had canoeing at summer camp when we were young. But that was nothing compared to the experience of whitewater kayaking that came next for me. I have always loved canoeing, though it always seemed difficult to participate. It has only been in the last decade that the development of inflatable canoes has made a big difference. You can more easily access rivers, you can store a canoe in your car, you can even take them on a plane. They are very light, very cheap, with little loss of functionality. Perfect for weekends away or campervan holidays. Social networking was the other big change. You can now use Facebook, etc to join canoeing adventures in your local region or abroad.

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Canoeing on the Pinacanauan River, NE Luzon, The Philippines

The Pinacanauan River is located in Cagayan Province in NE Luzon, in the Philippines. The city of Tuguegarao lies at the confluence of the Pinacanauan River and the much more significant Cagayan River. The best way to reach the Pinacanauan River is by road (Mountain Polis Highway) from Manila or flight PR208 from Manila to Tuguegarao. Upon arriving at Tuguegarao, take a jeepney destined for PeƱablanca, and continue further upstream. If you refer to the map reference for Callao Caves below, you will see that there is a belt of limestone crossing the river. This formation hosts a multitude of caves, some of which you may access from the river. Search Google for more info on Callao Caves.
For accommodation, you can camp on the river or try staying at the Lorita Hotel in Tuguegarao.
Marsman Drysdale Travel Inc organizes kayaking trips on the river through their offices at: 19th Floor Robinsons Summit Center 6783 Ayala Avenue, Makati City, Philippines or visit their website Email: Telephone: (63-2) 887-0000 (Trunkline). In fact that run a 4 day/3 night Northern Luzon Wilderness adventure tour involving caving, rappelling, kayaking and whitewater rafting.
The Pinacanauan River offers grade 1 to 2 rapids suitable for kayakers.

Location Map References
1. Google Maps – Try searching for “Pinacanauan River Philippines” at
2. Callao Caves – See,117.158203&sspn=41.419891,81.738281&ie=UTF8&ll=17.70323,121.822414&spn=0.078986,0.159645&t=h&z=13&om=1
3. Info about Tuguegarao: See

Canoeing on the Pagsanjan River, Laguna, Philippines

The Pagsanjan River is located in the province of Laguna, Luzon in the Philippines. The river’s headwaters is the famed Mount Banahaw, from where is cascades through 3 gorges before reaching Lake Laguna. The river in fact provides 35% of the discharge into Laguna de Bay, despite being just one of the 21 major lake tributaries. For this reason the river is monitored by the Laguna Lake Development Authority(LLDA) at 15 river monitoring stations. The river is also referred to as the Pagsanjan-Lumban River after the towns of Lumban, Pagsanjan and Cavinti through which it flows. The river also hosts the popular the 100-metre high "Magdapio Falls" in the town of Cavinti, but also known as “Pagsanjan Falls”.
There are boat rides from Pagsanjan which run 16 rapids over a 17 kilometre section of the river, while passing through gorges and dropping several hundred feet before reaching the waterfall after the 14th rapid. The ride takes you through attractive natural bushland including orchids, ferns, vines, spiders, dragonflies, lizards and monkeys. The river grade I believe is 1-2, though I will not run it until I have a canoe shipped from China.

Map references
1. Township of Cavinti: See,121.468449&sspn=0.040177,0.079823&ie=UTF8&ll=14.246498,121.506128&spn=0.040181,0.079823&t=h&z=14&om=1
2. Township of Pagsanjan: See,121.505098&sspn=0.040175,0.079823&ie=UTF8&ll=14.268542,121.450768&spn=0.040177,0.079823&t=h&z=14&om=1

1. Photos of the Pagsanjan river: See

Canoeing the Bued River, Baguio City, Philippines

There are very few rivers in the Philippines suited to canoeing. I suspect the reason is the high permeability of the relatively recent volcanic ash covering the country. The implication is that surface water can flow in the high mountain gorges, but once they reach the alluvial flats, the river water quickly percolates into the alluvial flats leading only the sediment pile they carried. The Bued River flowing south west of Baguio City in central Luzon is a good example of this.
The only settlement of note along the river is Twin Peaks, though there are a number of old settlements that date back to the original construction of Kennon Road – numbering from Camp 1 in the south west to Camp 8 near Baguio. Kennon Road requires constant maintenance and several bridges have been upgraded, but the road is single carriage way along the length of the river, thus the 49km road takes 45mins to ride.
Upper Bued River Description
The Bued River Catchment is one of the most scenic in the Philippines. The precipitous drops from the 1600m high mountain tops to the valley floor have created some stunning scenery. The river between Baguio and Rosario has excellent road access given that the road follows the river. Yet in the upper section the drop to the valley floor is very steep. For this reason there are few opportunities to gauge the nature of the river - other than to say access is difficult in the upper section. There is however access, and the limited observation from the road suggests the river is for the most part too rocky to navigate at normal water.

At normal water levels the upper section (above the Twin Peaks Bridge) is not navigable because of the prevalence of boulders. There is however the possibility of navigating the river from several points upstream from Twin Peaks:
1. Highest: There is a bridge – so likely better access. See,120.595508&spn=0.002487,0.004989&z=18
2. Intermediate: There appears to be a flying fox at,120.592037&spn=0.002487,0.004989&z=18.
3. Lowest: There is a flying fox above Twin Peaks at,120.568616&spn=0.002487,0.004989&z=18.
Observation during high water would be needed to establish the safety and suitability of the river under those conditions. The river gradient is steeper, so the possibility of treacherous rapids or falls is higher, and it is unknown whether any danger would be readily apparent. Notwithstanding the risk, there is an opportunity to start canoeing from the latter points. No grading of this section of river can be realistically be made.
Photo from the upper section - around Camp 4

Lower Bued River - Twin Peaks Bridge to Sison
Not having canoed this river – it does require a degree of caution. Though having observed the rivers character from the road it appears to have no treacherous rapids or falls below the Twin Peaks Bridge, however caution and experience is still advised. The river is narrow because of the V-shaped valley, and its strewn by rocks. At normal water the river grades 1-2, with the rock gardens tending to slow the river speed despite the moderate gradient in this section. Access is provided readily from the road, and local squatters tend not to mind the intrusion.

Photo of Boed River downstream from the Twin Peaks Bridge.
The Twin Peaks Bridge is located at,120.556519&spn=0.002487,0.004989&z=18). From the Twin Peaks Bridge, at normal river height, the river appears to be navigable at least until the bridge at map reference,120.521522&spn=0.002488,0.004989&z=18). There is another bridge further downstream at map reference,120.509055&spn=0.002488,0.004989&z=18, however the river may have insufficient flow at this point. The lack of flow can be attributed to the rapid percolation of the river discharge into the permeable unconsolidated river ash that has coated the mountains in the catchment after the 1994 Mt Pinatubo eruption, and subsequently been dumped at the mouth of the valley as it enters the plain.

Baguio City Resources
The following resources might be helpful to you. The Bued River has a lot of history. The Kennon Road between Rosario and Baguio was built between 1903-05 by Japanese labour under the supervision of American engineers.
Ask questions at
Neighbouring Benguet Province – see
History of Kennon Road
City office info Travel details -

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Vessel choice: Raft vs Canoe vs Kayak

River running is without a doubt one of the best sports to engage in I believe. But there are several options to choose from:
1. Kayak: A kayak is an enclosed vessel first conceived by the Eskimos. It has a sealed flap to ensure little water enters the manhole. The benefit of a kayak is that they are faster, more maneuverable and self-driven. Different kayaks are designed to offer variable stability, buoyancy, speed and navigability.
a. Fixed type: These types are made of solid polyethylene or fiberglass, providing them with a high level of rigidity, but also some flexibility to absorb shocks on the river.
b. Collapsible type: There are collapsible kayaks which have a frame, so you can compact the kayak for storage or cartage. These are only suitable for sea kayaking.
2. Canoe: A canoe is an open vessel with the capacity to carry 2-3 people, otherwise used for greater storage capacity. Different kayaks are designed to offer variable stability, buoyancy, speed and navigability. There are 2 types of canoe:
a. Fixed type: These types are made of solid polyethylene or fiberglass, providing them with a high level of rigidity, but also some flexibility to absorb shocks on the river.
b. Inflatable type: These types are made from various grades of plastic. Inflated by pump, the air pocket provides a different type of cushion to absorb shocks. Inflatables have the advantage for cartage and storage.
3. Raft: Raft are open, broad, polyethylene inflatable vessels equipped with tie-lines to offer passengers greater security. These vessels are less navigable but can carry a great many people and if the river is wide enough, they are able to handle large rapids with ease.

When buying a vessel you really need to decide which type of material and design suits your needs. You need to decide whether:
1. You will be riding river rapids, beach surf lake waters, and the type of conditions
2. You will be taking short trips or doing overnight tours requiring more storage for food & overnight camping.
3. You need to decide the number of passengers – Will you be accompanied by friends, kids, and can they handle an independent vessel?
4. You need to decide the level of autonomy you want to have, or whether you see it more as a social activity.
5. You need to decide your motives for running a river? Is it to explore, to feel the excitement and adrenaline, or to look at scenic nature. Is it intended to be a social activity?

Ideally I prefer kayaking because of the greater control that a kayak offers, but I find the need to lug around a fixed kayak too much of burden, both for security reasons and storage. An inflatable can easily be packed in the back of a vehicle, taken on a plane, bus, train or even overseas. They are navigable and strong enough to run river rapids, and carry supplies for 1 person. My primary reason for running the river is the adventure, nature and tranquility, the social interaction is secondary, so I prefer to run solo. But actually I think solo experiences are more social because they are not shared. Anyway inflatables are far more flexible.

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Rafting/canoeing in Malaysia

I have yet to canoe in Malaysia, though it can't too far off my schedule. I've identified a number of rivers that seem worthy candidates. As you may know Malaysia is split - with its sovereign territory occupying the Malay Peninsula (extending south of Thailand, but excluding the island of Singapore on the southern tip) and the northern portion of Borneo (where the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak abut the southern Indonesia territory of Kalimantan). Anyway, Sarawak and Sabah are very rugged, remote wildernesses, and I'd say there are some adventures there.

The ranges of the Malay Peninsula and the mountains of Borneo offer some of the best remote whitewater rafting and canoeing in South East Asia. There are rivers suited for the whole range of river adventurists – from novice to expert. River rapids are categorized from Grade I-V (Class I is easy; III is “intermediate” and V is for the experts, with turbulent rapids, waves, holes and tough routes), so know your limits, or otherwise find an experienced and professional rafting company.

The most popular rivers (river means ‘Sungai’ in Malay) to canoe in Malaysia are:
1. Padas River, 170km from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, East Malaysia: See and
2. Selangor River, near Kuala Lumpur West Malaysia: There is a challenging 2hour run on this river, especially during the rainy season, with rapids ranging from Class I to Class V. See river info
3. Kiulu River in Sabah, East Malaysia: See
4. Kampar River, Perak State, Malay Peninsula: See
5. Sungai Itek River, Perak State, Malay Peninsula: See
6. Sungkai River, Perak State, Malay Peninsula: This river is better suited to kayaking.
7. Jeram Besu, Pahang State, Malay Peninsula: See
8. Telom River, Pahang State, Malay Peninsula: See
9. Kuala Perahu River, Pahang State, Malay Peninsula: See
10. Loh River, Trengganu State, Malay Peninsula: See
11. Sedim River, Kedah State, Malay Peninsula: See

There have been numerous deaths on Malaysian rivers as a result of poor tour guide practices. Then there was the drowning of a Dutch tourist on the Padas River in November and another fatality this Dec-07. The risks posed are:
1. Rafting companies taking too high risks because of the desire to maximize profits. The implication is that they might:
2. Run river tours after heavy rains and no assessment of any damages that have since developed
3. Fail to practice safe procedures to safe time
4. Rafting company staff not having the experience to assess the risk due to inadequate training or lack of safety procedure adherence
5. If you want professionals I would go with river companies with experienced raft guides and the kayak rescuers on standby. The risk posed are adventurers getting trapped in holes, snagged by branches, trapped under the raft, though the buoyancy and headgear should otherwise prevent drowning and head injuries, assuming the gear is worn correctly. Choosing a responsible and safety-conscious operator is the key to avoiding mishaps. When rafting it does not help that 90% of any 13-party group are likely to be “virgins” to whitewater rafting.

Questions you can ask an operator before signing up for a rafting trip:
1. What grade is the river? Is it suitable for beginners?
2. What is your company’s safety track record like and what are the safety-and-emergency procedures?
3. Are your guides trained in Swiftwater Rescue and equipped with CPR and First Aid skills?
4. What kind of gear do you use and provide for participants (e.g. raft, helmet, PFD)?
5. Do you include insurance cover? Can this be arranged for us? Some companies like Pan-Global provide extensive coverage on outdoor sports
6. What is included in the cost?
7. What kind of clothing and things should one bring?
8. Do you have any referrals or testimonials from past participants?

Ensure the following:
1. You should be informed about the risks of rivers
2. The nature of rivers an how to pick features or characteristics
3. How to wear and use the safety equipment
4. How to paddle correctly – so you get good strokes and don’t hit your fellow paddlers with the oar.
5. What river guide instructions to listen to
6. Your guide should take you through some practice sessions on the river
7. How to stay in the raft when riding tough rapids
8. What you should do if you fall out or are thrown out of the raft, eg. Atch out for a throw bag (ie. a nylon sack).
9. They should be using good equipment
If you think you are going to be an experienced rafter after a trip – Think about. You are a fee-paying slave under instruction, getting the benefit of an adrenaline rush. Kayaking and canoeing offer you greater opportunity to develop independent judgement.

There are many rafting operators in Malaysia running the various rivers, though some have a dubious track record on the rivers and unsafe operating procedures. The operators with the best reputation are:
1. Tracks Adventures, a Selangor-based rafting outfitter in Kuala Kubu Baru. Tracks Adventures’ guides are all trained in Swiftwater Rescue, a course that teaches proactive prevention of river accidents and injuries certified by the New Zealand Canoeing Association. Guides learn to recognise and avoid common river hazards like “holes” that can trap and hold a buoyant object, and strainers (usually partly submerged trunks or logs) that can trap a swimmer underneath with the force of the current will hold him there. They practise self-rescue and methods of rescuing swimmers and recovering rafts and gear based on the American Canoe Association’s (ACA) syllabus ( Tracks Adventures has been running Selangor River since 1994. Tel: (60-3) 6065 1767; email: and
2. Khersonese Expeditions: They are another experienced operator. Tel: (03) 7722 3511; Email: and
3. Riverbug: They are a Kota Kinabalu-based operator who has been in the business for 10 years. The company operates on Padas and Kiulu Rivers in Sabah, and Sg Kampar in Perak, and has offices in Perak and Kuala Lumpur. Their trainees have to run Grade I and II rivers at least 60 times, and grade III and IV 80 times before they are allowed to guide clients. Riverbug also uses safety kayakers on their runs. Tel: (60-3) 2162 0114 or

Many beginners are unaware of the dangers presented by rivers. Whitewater has swift and strong undercurrents. Listen to your guides safety tips carefully, follow their instructions, and exercise care. If you are risk-averse, don’t be lulled into going rafting. Avoid groups that take more than 3 rafts (30 to 40 clients) at a time, and those without rescuers in kayaks. Most accidents occur because clients don’t listen to instructions or they don’t take safety precautions seriously.

Whitewater videos in NZ, USA, Australia

Are you interested in canoeing, rafting or kayaking, but dont have a clue what its about. Well here is a list of sites that will give you more info on the sport:

1. USA – see
2. USA – see
3. USA - see
4. NZ - Rangitikei River - see – This is what you call being wedged between a rock and a hard place.
5. NZ – see
6. NZ -
7. Australia - Tully River – Qld – see