Rafting down the Mahadayi (Mhadei) river in Goa will give you an adrenaline rush like no other, describe ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY
For a river that runs for just a hundred odd kilometers, the Mhadei’s waters are indeed turbulent for its relatively short journey from source to sea. Originating from a cluster of 30 springs at Bhimgad in Karnataka’s Belagavi district, a major portion of the river flows through Goa as the Mandovi.
The region where it enters Goa is one of the most pristine patches in the Western Ghats and the river skirts the scenic Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary before it meets the Arabian Sea at Panaji, forming the lifeline of the state. While the sharing of Mhadei’s waters may be a contentious issue between Goa and Karnataka, the river’s bounty knows no boundaries.
With the advent of rains in June, the Mhadei drains the surplus waters from the South West monsoon, which lashes the slopes of the Western Ghats. The otherwise placid river transforms into a gushing torrent with Class 2 to 3 rapids as adventure seekers converge on it for the untamed joys of white water rafting. Unlike the usual rafting season across the rest of India between October and May, in Goa it’s a monsoon activity from June to October when all the action shifts from the beaches.
John Pollard of Southern River Adventures, who pioneered rafting in South India, has introduced 6 stretches from Dandeli to Coorg since 1999. In 2012, he started rafting in Goa, in partnership with Goa Tourism. John considers rafting in Goa, especially the upper Mhadei-Tilari belt, as ‘the most advanced rapids south of the Himalayas.’
We’ve had our share of crazy escapades in Goa – from full moon parties and coastal treks to an adventure bike ride to Dudhsagar waterfall. Yet, we were filled with a sense of expectation as we left for Valpoi to take on a 10 km stretch of the lower Mhadei. The Goan hinterland seemed awash with the first rains as we drove through the lush countryside of Sattari taluka. From our meeting point at The Earthen Pot restaurant minivans transported us to the river, a short 25 min drive away. It was a 10min walk to the launch point at Ustem village.
Pleasantries were exchanged between the rafters and the motley bunch of river guides from the south, North India and Nepal as we shared anecdotes about our rafting adventures from Rishikesh to Bhote Koshi in Nepal. Mohammed, who has been with Southern River Adventures for the past 14 years, briefed us on equipment, safety instructions and rafting commands. “All Forward, Back Paddle, Hold On, Over Left, Over Right,” he announced with the seriousness of a drill sergeant. After a quick mock paddling session, we carried the raft to the river down the bank. It was overcast and drizzling steadily.
Raising our paddles in salutation to the river, we heaved off. We paddled through nearly 10 Grade II-III rapids starting off with Big Daddy, which lived up to its name. Giant Haystacks has high waves that start stacking up when the water level is good. The strangely named Y-Fronts owes its strange moniker to a funny incident during a trial run. John’s journo friend Monty Munford had such a churn in the rapids that when he emerged he was left wearing only his y-fronts! Between the white water stretches we stopped paddling to admire the lush forest backdrop and jungle scenery.
After the Pipeline we reached some flats, we jumped off the raft with our guide’s permission for some body surfing. The water was cool and invigorating. We disembarked at the finish point at Sonal and squelched our way up to a tea stall for some hot chai and pakodas. The minivan dropped us back to The Earthen Pot Restaurant where we devoured some poi and Goan sausages, before heading back. The Mhadei is perfect for first-time rafters as well as seasoned paddlers and ought to be on everyone’s ‘must do’ list for in the monsoon.
10km on the Mhadei River in Sattari taluka of Goa, about 45km from Panaji
Grade of Rapids
Class II to III
The Earthen Pot Restaurant, Sayed Nagar, Valpoi
Season: June to September
Arrive by 9:30 am for 10am departure
Arrive by 2:30 pm for 3pm departure
Approx 2-3 hours (1–1hr 45 min of rafting)
Swimsuit or comfortable swimwear, t-shirt, shorts/tights, fixed sandals or secure sneakers.
Loose clothing or slippers strictly not allowed. Avoid any intoxication before the trip because you need to be alert to follow the rafting commands.
12 years and above (age limit is relaxed in case of low water levels)
Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared on 16 June 2018 as the cover story in the Travel supplement of Deccan Herald newspaper.