White water rafting changing dynamics of tourism in Kullu valley

Kullu: For a thrilling session of white water rafting one needs not to head abroad, River Beas in Kullu Valley is fast emerging a popular converging point for rafters looking for an extra rush of adrenalin in the adventure sport.

District tourism officer of Kullu valley, Balbir Thakur says currently there are 55 river rafting agencies registered in Kullu who operate 182 rafts and the department has approved 179 guides for conducting the adventure sporting activity.

In 2011 there were 41 river rafting agencies registered with 131 rafts and there were 164 guides issued licenses by the department, he added.

Rafting on Beas near Pridi, Kullu

Increase in tourism related white water rafting was due to the fact that some of the Himalayan rivers are among the best in the world for rafting.

Staircase rapids in these rivers challenge the body and spirit of the river runner and Kullu valley offers wide river sections that suit amateurs and professionals, he said.

Explaining the dangers associated with rafting, Balbir Thakur, who conducts rafting operations mentions that children below 12 years of age or those who are less than 40 Kgs in body weight are not permitted beyond two rapids in the river.

All those taking to rafting have to use full safety gear which includes US coast guard approved life jackets, helmets, waterproof dry bags and camping gears.

Thakur added that persons with weak heart conditions, those prone to epilepsy, who suffer from lung disorder, asthma and pregnant women are not be allowed to participate in such adventure.

President of Beas River Rafting Operators Association, Padam Dev Sharma says the river in the valley offers excellent Grade –II (Moderate rapids with clear passages); and Grade-III (Difficult stretches with narrow passages requiring precise maneuvering and high irregular waves) rafting opportunities.

Sharma disclosed that rafting was providing direct employment to over 1200 people in the valley.

Having taken to rafting as a business in 1993, Sharma said that he only recalled there be 4 accidents till date.

Even Priyanka and Rahaul Gandhi have had an rafting experience in Kullu valley in !993, he said.

Another raft operator Vikramjeet Singh Thakur says that the rafting season which stays on from April to September barring monsoon period suited all pockets as a trip could cost anywhere between Rs 300 to Rs 650, depending upon the distance.

Sanjay Dutta, an engineer by qualification but is a journalist by choice. He has worked for the premier new agency Press Trust of India and leading English daily Indian Express. With more than a decade of experience, he has been highlighting issues related to environment, tourism and other aspects affecting mountain ecology. Sanjay Dutta lives in a village close to Manali in Kullu valley of Himachal.

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