Although still developing and in the past years have greatly struggled in its economy and politics, Sri Lanka remains a beautiful country with so many natural attractions to offer its guests. Now that the civil war is over, this fascinating country is seriously beefing up its tourism industry. The country’s natural treasures along its many river systems are best seen and experienced while white water rafting, which is a leading activity in the island. White water rafting in Sri Lanka may be easily arranged with any hotel, resort or tour company.
A popular venue for white water rafting is the town of Kitulgala, 80 kilometers from Colombo on A7 Road to Nuwara Eliya. The town was named after the kitul tree, which grows in abundance in the area. It was here where the epic 1957 movie, “Bridge on the River Kwai” was shot. The famous bridge was built over Kitulgala’s Kelani River, whose fame is now focused on its challenging rafting course instead of the old movie classic. With its amazing rapids and picturesque bamboo-ridden banks, Kitulgala is now considered the white water rafting capital of Sri Lanka.
The 6.5-km Kitulgala is a thrilling 90-minute ride with seven rapids to run across. Ranging from Grades 2 to 4 in difficulty, the seven rapids are called Virgin’s Breast, Butter Crunch, Killer’s Fall, White Quarter, Head Chopper and Rafter’s Quarter. The names “Killer’s Fall” and “Head Chopper” should give everyone an idea how hideous these rapids are. The water significantly picks up with much force at Head Chopper rapid, shooting the course at high speed around the corner and below a low-lying branch. Thus, the name Head Chopper, and it is advisable for taller rafters to duck or else.
The rapids take a calm stretch through two rocky outcrops. It was here where the “River Kwai” was constructed and filmed where the waters are silent, wide, deep and sluggish. The best months to take on Kitulgala are from May to December, avoiding the rainy season when the rapids become dangerously high and strong. The waters are too low in April, which means a more technical ride is necessary.
Other reasons why tourists visit Kitulgala are its beautiful sceneries that include a small peaceful village, Kitul palm honey production, thick rainforests, and picturesque hills. It is also popular for its trek sites through virgin forests, verdant green tea plantations and cool streams. There are also waterfalls, caves, jackfruit trees, mango trees and beautiful spots for bird watching and butterfly watching. Local Kitulgala cuisine is also to die for.
When white water rafting in Sri Lanka or anywhere else for that matter, riders should keep in mind that this sport requires balance and quick thinking more than immense physical strength and athleticism. It is important to remain calm and unafraid while shooting the rapids. The ability to swim is not even necessary since everyone is wearing a personal flotation device. White water rafting is definitely not for people with heart ailments, epilepsy or anyone who is simply afraid of water. An intoxicated person is also not allowed to go rafting.