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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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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Kayaking the Chico River

Last week we visited the area of Sagada, which hosts some of the Philippines best limestone caves. Actually I did not visit the caves, as I was quite sure they would not be as spectacular as Jenolan Caves, west of Sydney. Anyway, 10km south of Sagada is the town of Sabangan, which lies on the Chico River. The Chico River would have to be one of the better rivers in the Philippines for kayaking. The river has a continuous series of rapidsore interested in the canoeing, so for those who are similarly interested, I am planning a return to the area in May 2010 to kayak this river. The rapids are mostly grade 2-3. I hear there are grade 4-5 rapids, though based on my river observation from the main road, this is more likely the lower section. I only saw the river as far as east as the Sagada turn-off, and it was not suited to rafting (i.e. too narrow, too shallow). The Chico River flows from Mountain Province, a few hundred kilometres north of Manila, but it takes 6 hours alone to drive the 80km section from Baguio-Sagada because although the road is mostly sealed, its VERY windy. Fortunately there were no tricycles in this section.

I would also be worthwhile to take some time to walk along the river from Panorama ParkView to the town of Sabangan. I have no doubt that you should be able to get a tricycle back to your car if you leave your car there, otherwise its a steep walk back to the car. There appears to be a steep alternative exit further back (round trip). I did not do it on this walk, but I would like to return to the area to kayak the river and to walk along the Chico River. The pathway passes along the river through rice terraces.
Increasingly I see that the Dept of Tourism in the Philippines is starting to spend money on worthwhile project as these to boost tourism, and to give visitors something to do. If you are more interested in rafting, there are groups that run rafting trips on the river. I have information on this, or you can inquire at the Rock Inn, in Sagada. This is a fairly nice place to stay. Nice accommodation, though off-season you will have to wait a few hours for a meal as they do down to the markets to buy the food.
If you want to get to this area, I would advice coming in from the Nueva Viscaya province (east side). The road is not as good, but it will be faster, particularly as they are currently upgrading the road - sealing it with concrete. Baguio is a great market to buy food, and there are some good entertainment places there. Many foreigners like living there because its cheaper, cooler, though it is congested because of the mountain topography.
Andrew Sheldon

Friday, January 02, 2009

Indonesia - Rafting Adventures

Indonesia would have to be one of the most appealing rafting/canoeing playgrounds in the world if you are looking for exotic holiday adventures. There are a multitude of rivers to choose from. Some are within a few hours drive from Jakarta, though others in the back-blocks of West Kalimantan might take you 3 days to get to. That might sound like a great adventure, but consider the risk if you get injured.
One of the benefits of rafting in Indonesia is that you can run the rivers at any time of year since some rivers are feed by Springs. There are a range of rafting rivers in Indonesia providing trips from an enjoyable few hours in the jungle or rice padies (Bali or Java) to multi-day excursions through pristine jungle (Sulawesi and Sumatra).

1.Bali: This popular tourist island has a number of rivers that can be rafted.
i. Ayung River – grade 2 to 3 all year round
ii. Balian River – grade 2 to 3 in dry season, 4-5 after rain
iii. Unda River - The 12km long section of the Unda River is the most spectacular and challenging river in Bali with rapids ranging from grade 2 to 4.
iv. Ubaya River – No further info.
v. Telaga Waja River – this is a 2.5hr trip

2. Sulawesi: This island is occupied by a mix of Protestant, Christian, and Muslim people.
i. Sadan River – grade 3-4, it offers overnight trips, navigable most of the year, the best period is Nov-Mar. See
ii. Nimanga River – located in North Sulawesi, its has 35 rapids on the 9Km section. Allow 8hrs with 3hrs on the river. You start at start at Tangkunei village and exit at Maruasey. The trip requires a 1.5hr drive to Manado, followed by a 2 hour trip on the river, then 1 hour back to Manado. You start at Desa Tangkuney, Kec. Tumpaan - Kab. Minahasa Selatan and finish at Desa Meruasey Kec. Tumpaan - Kab. Minahasa Selatan. See
iii. Ranoyapo River is the biggest and longest river in North Sulawesi. The 35km long section has some 60 rapids up to intermediate grade. The starting point at Desa Lompat Lama Kec. Motoling - Kab. Minahasa Selatan is 3hours from Manado, and after 9 hours (requiring an overnight-2 day trip) the rafting finishes at Desa Ranoyapo Kec. Amurang Tengah - Kab. Minahasa Selatan. The drive back to Manado is 1.5hours.
iv. Maiting River – South Sulawesi, 1½ hours from Rantepao, then 40min walk to the river, then 3-4hrs of rafting or kayaking.
v. Rongkong River - Luwu Utara, Sulawesi offers continuous rapids of grade 3-4.
vi. Maulu River – The Maulu River is located near the village of Limbung in South Sulawesi. A half hour hike into the gorge provides access to the whitewater river. The 5 hour trip host rapids up to grade 3 before you exit at Rembon. There is accommodation at Bukit Indah Hotel in Pare Pare.

3. Java: The main island of Java is by far the most populous and the smallest.
i. Citarik River – The river flows through picturesque landscape, gorges and paddy fields 2.5 hours drive from Jakarta to Sukabumi in West Java, it offers a short 16km run (2-3hrs) close to Jakarta. The best timing is Oct-Apr, though at any time of year it makes a good intro to whitewater. The river can be reached by turning right several kilometers before Sukabumi towards Pelabuhan Ratu. After 15km you will reach the offices of several rafting companies.
ii. Cicatih River - see
for info and river photos. The Cicatih and Citarik Rivers are the closest rivers to Jakarta for white water rafting. The rivers are brown because of deforestation upstream. The Cicatih River is a grade 3-4 river. Many commercial rafting operators run this river. The Cicatih River offers about 2hours (12kms) of almost continuous rapids from Bojongkerta village to a suspension bridge at Leuwilalay.
iii. Pekalen River – Located near Probolinggo, East Java. A local company operates on this river – grade 3 rapids.
iv. Serayu River – for advanced rafters – accessed from Yogyakarta Airport. See

v. Progo River – for advanced rafters – accessed from Yogyakarta Airport – see
vi. Elo River – for novice rafters – see

vii. Songa(?) River – See

4. Sumatra: The island of Sumatra offers some good whitewater.
i. Alas River – offers grade 3-4 rapids, though the value of the trip is doubled because the run takes you through the pristine Gunung Leuser National Park. See
or a video
ii. Wampu River ('Sungai') - You commence your rafting trip at Mariki on the Wampu River. This Wampu River has rapids of grade 2 difficulty. The 4 hour trip takes you through pristine rainforest. All around you can see and hear the tropical wildlife. After 2 hours you can stop for lunch at a waterfall (halfway point), and after another 2 hours you reach the exit point at a bridge over the Bohorok river. See
and Wampu River - The lower section of the Wampu River from Bukit Lawang to Bohorok (grade 2-3) is a popular rafting river for beginners. The first 30 minutes has several easy rapids. On one of the upper tributaries of the Wampu River called Lau Liang (Dog River), which is accessed from Lau Liang, the river flows through a deep gorge with a big unnavigable waterfall. Most rafting trips starts in Bintang Meriah and end at Lemang, before the waterfall.
iii. Bohorok River ('Sungai') - There are several organizers of rafting in Bukit Lawang. The Bohorok River is suitable for canoeing or even rubber tubes, but not rafting. The trip takes approx 3 hours (15kms). Tubes can be rented in Bukit Lawang. Tubing is more dangerous in the wet season, with several fatalities demonstrating as such. This river has snags or 'strainers' that are particularly dangerous in high water, ie. People have been drown by fallen trees, bridge pilings, and fords.
iv. Bingai River ('Sungai') is another river in Sumatra close to the Wampu River. The main operators are Sumatra Savages, Bukit Lawang Indah based in Bukit Lawang. The river offers up to grade 4 rapids at high water levels. Sumatra Savages is a member of ACA (America Canoe Association). They will teach you how to perform an Eskimo roll, and they organize kayaking trips on other more advanced rivers as well.
v. Asahan River – The Asahan River drains from Lake Toba offers some of the best whitewater in Asia, so its no surprise that the river hosted the first international white water competition in Indonesia, The Asahan White Water Challenge. Rafting is done in 2 sections because the middle section because of an unnavigable section dividing them. Rafting starts from the bridge in Parhitean village. Some sections are fast, with big rapids with some holes but not life threatening, but there are also some scenic waterfalls and serene areas between the gorges. See for detailed trip notes. See

vi. Berangin River ('Batang') - Stay at the GUEST HOUSE DANAU TUJUH in BANGKO before you set out on a 3 hour drive to the river entry point. This rafting trip takes about 3 hours, with the rapids grading 2 to 3, then its another 3 hours back to civilisation.
vii. Unknown river at Muara Labuh – A photographer caught this river photo 20 minutes by walk from the Hanging Bridge in Koto Baru. Muara Labuh is about 3 hours from Padang, Sumatra. See

5. Kalimantan: The Indonesian portion of Borneo.
i. Amandit River – The Amandit River, which originates in the Meratus Mountaineous Range (Loksado-Malaris-Haratai), runs through Loksado and joins the Barito River further downstream. Loksado is about 170kms north (5 hours) from Banjarmasin, the capital city of South Kalimantan. Adventurers can run the numerous rocky rapids in traditional bamboo (‘Ken Ratihn’) or in rafts. The 56km long rafting trip (Loksado-Batu Laki) is generally run in shorter sections:
a. Loksado (45km from Kandangan) to Muara Hatip. The first stretch is not very challenging because the rapids are not very strong and ranks as grade 1 to 2.5.
b. Muara Hatip-Muara Hariang, or
c. Muara Hatip to Batu Laki. The rapids on the 2nd section are up to grade 3. The river is very scenic.
East Kalimantan – In this region there are a multitude of rivers suited to bamboo rafting. See
and for info. They include:
i. Kayan River has 50 estuaries
ii. Mahakam River has 23 estuaries - see
iii. Bahau River has 44 estuaries
iv. Boh River has 7 estuaries
West Kalimantan: There are several rivers in West Kalimantan suited to kayaking or canoeing. See
i. Tekelan River
ii. Sibau River
iii. Mendalam River
iv. Embaloh River
v. Kanyau River
vi. Kapuas River: See
vii. Senamang River: The Senamang River flows through Bukit Baka-Bukit Raya National Park in West Kalimantan. The park & river can be accessed from Pontianak-Sintang-Nanga Pinoh. The location is very remote, requiring a 9 hour (460 km) drive by 4WD; then a 2.5hr trip by speed boat to Nanga Nuak. From Nanga Nuak to the Park there is another 2 hours of 4WD. Alternatively, Palangkaraya-Kasongan by 4WD, then a 3hr speedboat ride to Tumbang Samba; then a 3hr speedboat ride to Tumbang Hiran, then another 4 hours by 4WD to the Park. See

6. West Papua (now ‘Irian Jaya’): West Papua is the most isolated and sparsely populated provinces of Indonesia. See and for details, a map at, a satellite map at and for photos. I could not find any signs of canoeing in Irian Jaya apart from natives making a canoe – see

Tour Operators, Travel Guides & Consultants
There are a number of rafting tour operators in Indonesia, though I would exhibit care about whom you go with. You need to be concerned about the quality of their training and equipment. Mind you a lot of the concern is a lot of competitive humbug, as the risk depends on the grade of the river. You also need to check out who they are affiliated with since some ‘associations’ are no more than self-appointed chieftains.
1. Jenars Adventurindo, Jalan Raya Tomohon 452, Kakaskasen Dua, Tomohon Utara - 95365, Sulut, Indonesia. Tel/fax: (62-431) 3157154 Email:
2. P.T Korindo Network Lintas Raya Tours and Travel - Jalan Intan 3 Blok D No:14,BTN Bumi Selaparang Asri Belencong,Gunung Sari,Lombok Barat,West Nusa Tenggara(NTB),Indonesia Tel: (62-370) 6649108 Fax: (62-370) 647327 Website:
3. Indonesian Whitewater Federation (Federasi Arung Jeram Indonesia) - see
. Email: See the rafting calendar -
4. Azimuth Adventure Travel Ltd, Jalan Pandega Marta VI/4 - Catur Tunggal, Yogyakarta 55281, Indonesia. Tel: (62-274) 560 663 Fax: (62-274) 560 663. Email:
5. Sobek: See
6. Indosella Expedition: Perumahan Azalea Blok B/15, Panakkukang Mas, Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Tel: (62-411) 5073499 Fax: (62-411) 439057, Email:
. Website:,
7. Personal guide - T.Y. Johan S. - tour guide for river rafting and mountain trekking - Wisma Cinta Alam - Jln. Blangkereren - Ketambe - 24652 Kec. Badar - Kab. Agara - Aceh Indonesia

Maps of Indonesia & its Provinces

Other Information Resources:

Andrew Sheldon

Rafting the Chico River, Cagayan Province, The Philippines

The Chico River flows east to Tabuk City, before joining the Cagayan River 40km to the north. Tabuk City is easily reached by bus from Tuguegarao City, which provides a flight connection to Manila (PR208). Alternatively you can travel on the Haisema Mountain Highway from Baguio City or the Mountain Polis Highway from Manila. From Tabuk City you can get a jeepney west to Pasil in Kalinga municipality.
There is a 4 hour rafting adventure offered on the Chico River between Pasil and the exit point at Tabuk. The trip covers beautiful scenery such as gorges and waterfalls. The rapids on the Chico River are rated as Grade 2 to 4. After the trip, you can easy get a meal in Tabuk City, and commute back to Tuguegarao City for a flight to Manila (PR237).
Marsman Drysdale Travel Inc organizes rafting adventures on the Chico River from their head office at: 19th Floor Robinsons Summit Center 6783 Ayala Avenue, Makati City, Philippines or visit their website
. Email: Telephone: (63-2) 887 0000.

Location Map References for Chico River: See,119.20166&sspn=10.236578,20.43457&ie=UTF8&ll=17.39389,121.294556&spn=0.158242,0.31929&t=h&z=12&om=1
Info about Tabuk City – see
Andrew Sheldon