On the second day of our trip to Kota Kinabalu, we went for Whitewater Rafting at Padas River (Sungai Padas). This adventurous activity involves a team of people utilizing a raft to navigate a river, usually on whitewater.
Yeah the word whitewater seems to denote that the river should be crystal clear. Well that’s certainly not true for the Padas River, which was no where close to white but mud brown in color lol. For your information the term whitewater refers to the formation of a turbulence and increase of water velocity (bubbly and frothy white appearance) caused by certain sections of a river known as rapids.
Actually, whitewater rafting didn’t even cross my mind as one of the things to do in Sabah. Two reasons: I can’t swim and I won’t be able to bring my camera along, which means we will have nothing to take back but memories. After long consideration especially on the safety factor, we thought “what the heck, there’s lifejackets provided and so many people done it before. So, it’s probably safe” and decided that to take up the challenge after all.
The whitewater rafting package (organized by Riverbug) we took cost RM210 a person including return transfer from hotel, rafting equipment, guide, breakfast and BBQ lunch. This was our itinerary that day:
1. 0800 hrs: Riverbug guides picked us up from Lavender Lodge by van and we rendezvoused with the other participants at Promenade Hotel (next to Ocean Seafood Restaurant) Then we took a bus to Tenom, a town famous for its coffee products.
Boxes of breakfast were distributed and each consisted of fried chicken (damn weird, who eats fried chicken for breakfast lol), some wafer biscuits, sandwich, banana and mineral water.
During the 3 hours bus ride, we watched a video of people rafting in Padas River and I don’t know if it was done on purpose, it kept showing clips of the rafts capsizing. That didn’t make me feel good at all lol. We also stopped at a hill (looked and felt like Cameron Highlands, very cooling!) for a break and passed by Murut Cultural Centre, where Kalimaran Festival was held. Here are the photos we took at the stop.
Middle of nowhere…
A rest house or some sort, food is sold here.
A group of cool motorists arrived for a rest and meal.
That’s the tour bus we boarded to Tenom town.
We were advised to go to the toilet because it’s going to be a long journey ahead.
Nice view here and cool environment with strong winds blowing.
2. 1145 hrs: Arrived in Tenom town and alighted at Tenom Pangi Dam. Signed the visitor form and took a 10 minutes’ walk to a small railway track next to the dam. The view on the way there were breathtaking but kinda scary too due to the strong water current. Too bad I didn’t bring a camera but even if I did, I would have nothing to show anyway because we were warned by the guides not to take any photos while we were in the dam. If you are caught taking photos, your camera would be taken away. Now, I wouldn’t risk that, would I?
If you have researched about whitewater rafting at Sungai Padas you would have known that taking the antique train is the common method of transportation. Lucky for us, the train service was not available that day so we had to resort to taking the railcar. It was a nice and fast ride I tell you. A wide and strong wooden plank fixed with wheels is placed on the rails, where two people would sit on it. The guides would then stand on the railcars, behind the passengers and push them to move using a long wooden stick.
While it was not a smooth ride (30 minutes) exactly with bumps and minor accidents (when the guide fails to brake in time), it was certainly fun because it felt like taking a roller coaster through the forest along the river.
3. 1300 hrs: Reached the starting point and had some light refreshments (watermelon) Equipped ourselves with the rafting gears like life jackets and safety helmets. Then we attended a safety briefing (funny one) by the Riverbug tour guides and were divided into groups. SL and I were grouped along with another 4 foreigners (two from Netherlands, one from Germany and another from Australia)
That made eight of us in a medium raft (inflatable boat) including our two guides, who would be the navigators and most importantly our saviors if any of us were in trouble. There were few simple instructions we were required to follow like Forward, Easy Forward, Stop and Backward, each performed by rowing the paddles in different directions.
4. 1330 hrs: Started our whitewater rafting, with seven grade III-IV rapids encountered in the first 9 kilometers of the journey. Apparently the rapids were not continuous and there were long breaks (smooth, safe rafting) in between each rapid. And each rapid had a different name to it like Headhunter (first rapid, also one of the strongest rapid that can easily cause capsize) Scooby Doo, Cobra, Washing Machine and BBQ rapid, jokingly named by the guide just before we reached Rayoh Station for lunch.
To prevent the raft from capsizing, you have to paddle forward hard to break through the waves. And I can proudly say we did a good job lol. Just before we reached the BBQ rapid, the guide asked if we wanted to try body rafting. After confirming that it was safe to do so, I threw myself into the water (shocking my raft mates). Man it was so much more exhilarating to body raft, as I was floating and just let the river current take me where ever it went. I drank quite a lot of the “chocolate” river water and knocked my right knee on the rocks in the process but that didn’t matter. It was hell of a great experience I will never forget!
5. 1500 hrs: Had our BBQ lunch at Rayoh Station. Food was not bad albeit a little salty. We had pan fried lamb, chicken, vegetable, rice and fruits.
6. 1545 hrs: Continue our remaining journey to the ending point. At that time, we already felt a little lazy to paddle due to the heavy lunch lol. After breaking a few rapids, the weather started to change and a heavy rain with strong wind followed. How strong was the wind? Well it was strong enough to make the rain drops felt like bullets, and even blew down some trees on the riverbank. It was cold and scary!
But the sight of rains converging from both sides of the river was really amazing, everyone suddenly stopped paddling and looked at the beautiful phenomenon in awe. At one point the rain was so heavy that all our rafts (7 or 8 of them) had to be tied together and parked at a spot to wait for the rain to subside.
7. 1700 hrs: Reached our ending point and the rain had already stopped. Took a speedboat back to Beaufort Town (30 minutes) where our bus was waiting to ferry us back to our hotel.
8. 1830 hrs: Reached our hotel wet and tired. Definitely happy with the experience but we were quite disappointed to know that none of our photos were taken in the entire rafting journey. Nothing but memories I guess.
Part two would be our seafood dinner with KampungboyCityGal. Stay tuned!