Wet, wild and definitely white-knuckle

From the Tay to the Colorado, and even the crocodile-invested Zambezi, there's a river waiting to be rafted – if you have the nerve.

What's the attraction?

Rafting is an egalitarian activity. Time isn't an issue: options range in length from half-day tasters to multi-week expeditions. Fitness isn't all-important either: if you chose the right trip, the current and your helmsman will do most of the hard work for you.

Plus people of all ages can try it; specialist tour operator Water By Nature (01226 740 444; waterbynature.com) has guided rafters aged from four up to 74 – the system of grading rivers I (trickle) to VI (terrifying) makes it easy to judge the dangers before you start. On many rafting holidays, you don't even need to be able to swim. And it's a lot of fun, too.

Local waterways

Scotland is home to the UK's wildest rivers. The River Tay in Perthshire is the only course that can be rafted year round (though it gets ferocious in winter). Splash (01887 829706; rafting.co.uk) runs half-day trips on the Tay from £40 per person, negotiating the 10km stretch from Aberfeldy – a good introduction for beginners – before battling the Grandtully rapids, the longest and feistiest on the river.

If you'd prefer a gentler introduction, the Lee Valley White Water Centre (08456 770 606; visitleevalley.org.uk) in Hertfordshire – where Team GB took gold and silver during the Olympics – offers hour-long rafting experiences for £49pp.

Epic expeditions

Following the twists and churns of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon is a classic raft ride. To do it independently requires joining a long waiting list. However, Trek America's eight-day trip (0844 576 1400; trekamerica.co.uk) cuts out the hassle. Run Class IV rapids, hike and swim and camp out. The trip operates April-September and costs £1,639, excluding flights.

Wild in a quite different way, paddling the Zambezi means facing hippos and crocs as well as white water, with names such as "Devil's Toilet Bowl". Zambezi Rafting (01226 740400; zambezirafting.com) runs trips August-November; four-day trips cost from £1,095, excluding flights.

Really wild

"The Franklin River is more than a rafting trip – it's a complete immersion in the wilderness," says Chris Buyx of Tasmanian Expeditions. "When the Franklin was saved from damming [in 1983], it preserved the last great wilderness river: its entire length is pristine, free from development and human intervention." World Expeditions' nine-day Franklin River Rafting tour (020-8545 9030; worldexpeditions.com) makes the most of it, using the waterway to slice through the heart of Tasmania, encountering temperate rainforest, sheer gorges and Grade III+ rapids but no other people. The trip runs from November to April and costs from £1,750pp, excluding flights.

Raft in style

Many trips involve basic tents and few facilities, part of the appeal for some. But if you want some luxury, try Water By Nature's nine-day Rio Futaleufu trip (01226 740444; waterbynature.com). Based at a river camp in Chilean Patagonia, you can spend days riding peak-flanked torrents before retreating each night to a cosy cabin to drink fine local wine. The trips operate from December to March and cost from £1,795 excluding flights.

Similarly, Audley Travel (01993 838638; audleytravel.com) offers one-day rafting on the Pacuare River as an optional extra on its Costa Rica itineraries. Fourteen-day trips start at £2,750pp including flights from London.

European adventures

The River Kitkajoki rushes through Finland's Oulanka National Park via a deep canyon. Responsible Travel (01273 600030; responsible travel.com) sells an eight-day summer activity holiday in Finland, which is a good way to tackle it. The trip, which runs from May to September, combines rafting several sections with stays in cosy cabins. The cost is £379 per person, excluding flights.

Or try Spain, which has a range of good rafting rivers; the best are in the Pyré*ées, but you can also stick your oar in from Asturias to the Tajo River, just east of Madrid. Paddle in Spain (00 34 682 173225; paddleinspain.com) arranges country-wide excursions. Half-day trips cost from €40pp.

Rafting with extras

Multi-activity trips let you try rafting alongside other activities. Explore's Stella Blackwell says they're "particularly popular with families". The company's 15-day Thailand River Kwai and Jungle Adventure (0844 499 0901; explore.co.uk; next departure 30 March, 2013) is designed for families with teens, and includes bamboo rafting and bike rides. The price starts at £1,749 per adult, £1,569 per child, including flights.

KE Adventure's High Adventure Nepal trip (01768 773966; keadventure.com; next departure 15 December) is a wild two-day ride on the Kosi River with a week's trek. The 16-day trip costs from £1,695pp, including flights.

UK rafting centres

Nottingham National Water Sports Centre (0115 982 1212; nwscnotts.com) has huge volumes of white water; three/four runs down the 3,700m course cost £35pp. A two-hour raft session at the Cardiff International White Water costs £50pp (029- 2082 9970; ciww.com) while the Tees Barrage International White Water Centre (01642 678000; tbiwwc.com) offers raft-ride slots for the same price. At Canolfan Tryweryn, North Wales (01678 521083; ukrafting.co.uk), the river creates racy rapids; two hours costs £60pp. Northamptonshire's Nene White Water Centre (01604 634040; nenewhite watercentre.co.uk), the UK's first artificially pumped course, runs two hours for £45pp.

Who said that?

"There's nothing, absolutely nothing, half so much worth doing as simply messing around in boats." Kenneth Grahame, author

"Who hears the rippling of rivers will not utterly despair of anything." Henry David Thoreau, author & philosopher

"I don't blame you for being scared – not one bit. Nobody with good sense ain't scared of whitewater." Humphrey Bogart, from 'The African Queen'

Insider information

"Rafting combines adrenalin-fuelled excitement in the outdoors with a real sense of team work. Anyone can try: the main Olympic Competition Standard Course here at Lee Valley is open to ages 14-plus; people need confidence in open water but no previous experience. You just need to trust your raft guide and be prepared to get very wet!" Paskell Blackwell, assistant manager of Lee Valley White Water Centre and Captain of the GB Rafting Team

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

    £12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Knaresborough ...

    Beverley James: Accounts Payable

    £23,000: Beverley James: Do you have a background in hospitality and are you l...

    Recruitment Genius: Cleaning Manager - York and Bradford

    £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The post holder is a key member of the V...

    Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Drivers

    £18000 - £28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Driv...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?