Rivers have long been the life blood of the indigenous people of Malaysia. They have served as a means of transport, a source of food and now, a resource for ecotourism.
The native groups of the Malaysian interior have been using rafts for thousands of years, but white water rafting has only been popularised since the 1980s.
Sabah has two main rivers for rafting, the Padas and Kiulu rivers, which are certified as Grade 3 and Grade 2 respectively in the international white-water rafting grading system. Under normal weather conditions, the two rivers are relatively constant in depth and speed. However, heavy rains can cause them to swell into Grade 4 rivers. During this time rafting activities may be called off temporarily.
Peninsular Malaysia has its share of good rafting sites. These include the Grade 2 Sungai Sungkai in Perak and the Grade 3 Sungai Selangor in Kuala Kubu Baru, which flows from Fraser’s Hill. Sungai Endau, Jeram Besu and Sungai Lipis in Pahang as well as Sungai Tembeling in Taman Negara are also popular rafting sites.
As it is now a popular adventure sport, there are rafting operators for all the popular sites, who provide the necessary equipment.
In Sabah, rafting operators will arrange transport from Kota Kinabalu to Padas Gorge through which the Padas River flows. A novelty is to go by railway from Pangi Railway Station, where an antique train will take you on a scenic journey through the Padas Gorge. Then comes the thrill of riding rapids with names like the Headhunter, Adrenaline Flow and Merry-Go-Round.
Kiulu River is closer to Kota Kinabalu but is less gut-wrenching. Successful rafters at Padas will be presented with a certificate of accomplishment at the end of their adventures.
Peninsular Malaysia’s rafting sites are easily accessible by car or bus. The Selangor River is reached via Kuala Kubu Bharu town, about 90km from Kuala Lumpur. A single rafting trip on the Selangor River will take approximately half a day.
The Telom River in Cameron Highlands and the Tembeling River in Taman Negara, Pahang, are approximately four hours from Kuala Lumpur. More time is needed to raft the Grade 5 Telom River in Pahang as it is a much more challenging site.
Changing rooms, toilets, showers or camp sites are available in or near most rafting sites. Some operators also offer kayaking courses and a white-water rescue module.
The best time to raft is after a downpour when the water level has risen and there are some good rapids. However, the dry season is a good time for rafting novices to get acquainted with the sport without having to fight the currents. Smaller rafts may be used in the dry season. In Sabah, only the Padas River is recommended during dry months as the water level is too low for rafting on the Kiulu River.
The rafting expeditions usually take between 45 minutes to two hours depending on the water level.
Operators will ensure that each group is always accompanied by two professional, certified rafters. A minimum of three persons is needed to stabilise a raft.
All rafters will be given a safety briefing before the ride and will be shown paddle-handling, basic backward and forward paddling techniques and other safety precautions.
Paddles, life jackets, safety helmets, life-lines, first aid kits and rescue bags are provided by the operator. The rafter only needs comfortable clothing, which does not hinder movement.
Always ensure that the helmets and life jackets provided fit you well and are not too tight or too loose. If you have over-turned close to the river bank, don’t use your raft paddle, as you may hit someone else. Never attempt to use the paddle as a lever against rocks as you risk getting hit by it.
There is so much to do and so many places to see in Malaysia. To make sure that you don’t miss anything, use this handy map to navigate your way across the country and find great places to visit.
Perlis is the northern gateway to Malaysia. Despite its small size, Perlis has an abundance of attractions that make it a great destination.
Kedah is Malaysia’s largest paddy producing state. Delve into history in Lembah Bujang, the site of an ancient civilisation or relax in Langkawi, a world-famous resort island.
The site of a UNESCO World Heritage City, Penang is a holiday paradise with fabulous beach resorts and eclectic cultures. It is also the undisputable haven for foodies.
A tin-rich state in its heyday, Perak beckons with a range of sights and experiences. The state’s top attractions include Pangkor, an island getaway and Pangkor Laut, an internationally-acclaimed private island.
Hailed as the Cradle of Malay culture, Kelantan is a destination teeming with age-old arts, crafts and pastimes.
Beautiful islands, culture and nature give Terengganu its magical appeal. Dive, snorkel, sunbathe at the islands or journey to its hinterland to experience the best of nature.
The largest state in the peninsula beckons nature-enthusiasts with exciting eco-adventures. From Taman Negara, the oldest national park in the country, to the idyllic Tioman Island, Pahang is simply mesmerising.
Malaysia’s dynamic capital city is bustling with attractions and activities. Explore the city by day and night.
Selangor is home to the country’s main airport KLIA, and the main gateway by sea, Port Klang. It is also the country’s most developed state with a long list of shopping malls and themed attractions.
Putrajaya, the administrative capital of Malaysia, is a well-planned township with impressive buildings, verdant parks, scenic lakes and beautiful bridges.
Find the best attractions in this vast eco-paradise.
Sarawak, the largest state in Malaysia, has a vast wilderness that contains numerous national parks including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mulu National Park.
Located off the northwestern coast of Borneo, this island thrills visitors with its wreck diving sites, historical relics and duty-free shopping.
The birth place of the nation, Melaka is a treasure trove of history and heritage. Explore the UNESCO World Heritage City for vestiges of the past.
Known for its fascinating Minangkabau culture and a unique social system, Negeri Sembilan is the place to learn age-old customs and traditions.
Visit Malaysia’s southern gateway, for a family vacation at the theme parks or escape to its islands for an unforgettable holiday.
Enjoy birdwatching at 55 Important Bird Areas (IBA) throughout the country, tucked away at various habitats such as islands, coasts or lush lowland and montane rainforests.
Love the cool highlands? Find refreshing destinations to unwind in Malaysia. From French-themed settings, energetic amusement parks to forest-clad hills, there is something for everyone.
Find the coolest, trendy spaces to hang out while you tickle your tastebuds with the best delights.
Find the fun and thrill that you are looking for in Malaysia. Meet your favourite characters, plunge down the world’s longest water slide or enjoy the rides and games!
Get your rod ready to reel in the best catch in Malaysian waters.
For those who appreciate the finer things in life, Malaysia is the place to indulge in sheer comfort and sophistication. Luxe Malaysia takes you beyond your expectations.
Enjoy exploring the South China Sea, Andaman Sea, Celebes and Sulu seas for incredible sights from pelagic species, sea turtles to reefs, wrecks and more.
The best way to engage with the locals, a homestay programme gives a peek into the lifestyles, customs, cultures and pastimes of a local family.
What better way to explore Malaysia than through its food! Follow the aroma to track down lip-smacking delights found around the country, together with interesting snippets on its culture and origins.
Get your complete info on cruising, yachting, anchorage facilities and land excursions around the country.
Blessed with year-round sunshine and rain, Malaysia has a wealth of tropical flora and fauna. Visit its national and marine parks to enjoy the captivating sights both on land and underwater!
Get a glimpse into Malaysia’s rich mosaic of ethnic communities and indigenous people.