rafting the karnali

April 09, 2022
& October 22, 2022

Rafting the Karnali River, Nepal March/October 2022

Check out this article in Action Asia Magazine from last year’s trip.

The Karnali is Nepal’s longest and mightiest river and a classic Himalayan river expedition. The Karnali’s headwaters come off Mount Kailas in Tibet, the center of the universe for both Buddhists and Hindus, and then slice through the Himalayas in a series of magnificent isolated gorges and forest. The Karnali river flows uninhibited through a sparsely populated region in the west of the country.

Incredible trip! The logistics were flawless with a very entertaining and capable crew who managed a brilliant mix of excitement, adrenaline and safety.

For the 7 days and 180 kilometers on this trip you will encounter some incredible white water with nerve racking rapids such as Gods House, Juicer and Jailhouse, just to name a few. On the flats you can let go of your fear of falling out of your raft. Just relax and look around to see one of the last places in Nepal with old growth forest and maybe even spot some wildlife. The Karnali also supports some of the finest fish habitat with giant catfish and Golden Masheer prowling the depths so we might bring some fishing gear just in case! For kayaking the Karnali is also an amazing river were you can cut loose on some big water and rapids or if you feel intimidated you can always take the sneak lines or just cruise on the raft. All this also comes with pristine beaches for camping and miles of beautiful scenery.

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Meet and greet at the airport and transfer to hotel. Take a deep breath before embarking on the sights and sounds of bustling Kathmandu. Meet your fellow group members in the evening for a meal and a briefing on the adventure that lies ahead.

Day 2: Have the day to explore the amazing city of Kathmandu with its assaults on all your senses.
Take a taxi or rickshaw to visit some of the incredible temples and squares to take in some of the culture that makes this capital city one of the most vibrant you ever visited. At 6pm we will have a pre-departure briefing and will then head off for a meal together.

Day 3: After breakfast we head to the airport for an hour-long flight to Nepalganj, taking in amazing Himalayan views along the way. Its then a bus ride and short trek to the river where we rig the rafts and prep ourselves for the short float downstream to our first overnight beach camp.

Day 4-9 : Rafting and kayaking down the Karnali is a great experience in white water. For the first part of the trip the river really challenges our team effort as we take on some demanding rapids Like Gods House, Juicer and Flip and Strip, while passing through stunning gorges and dense jungle that creep down to the river side.
Camping on the Karnali trip is awesome. The massive floods of the monsoon deposit huge tracks of pure white sand, creating great beaches to camp on. Occasionally we might get visited by a local villager out hunting. Village kids also wander down to take a peep at the colourful rafts and kayaks and the people who are on them! We will have a lay over day on the trip, depending on weather and such, which will give us some time to get into some beach volley ball action or go for a hike and explore a small village higher up. Maybe you would like to try your hand at kayaking by asking one of our friendly safety kayakers for a lesson. Or just relax with a great book and take in the sun and replenish the energy stocks!
Lots of white water and some great gorges to float and paddle through makes the Karnali one of the top 10 multi-day white water trips in Asia or even the world. I had written about the Karnali for the top 10 rivers in Asia for Action Asia several years ago and it is still up there!

Reaching the confluence of the Seti river means that we’re past the major rapids on the Karnali. The lower section of the Karnali is home to fresh water dolphins, marsh mugger crocodiles and gaurials, the giant fish eating crocodiles with the long, graceful jaws so there is are some real chance of spotting wildlife.

Day 10 : From our last campsite we drift down to Chisopani, the first sight of a town in 8 days. Its back on the bus for the drive back to Nepalganj and then our flight back to Kathmandu to our hotel and a hot shower! Once we have washed the river sand out of our hair we will go out and experience some of the fine food that is available in Kathmandu and then a night cap in one of the many lively bars!!.

Day 11 : After a leisurely breakfast we take you back to the airport for your return flight to Kathmandu.

Day 10-12 : (extension option)
There is also great opportunity to stop off in Royal Bardia National Park where you have some fantastic opportunities to see the prolific bird life, not to mention occasional sightings of the royal Bengal tiger, rhinos and an amazing array of other wildlife. There are different standards of accommodation here so enquire if you like!

Dates and Prices

Departure: 9th April 22nd October  2022


  • Overland by bus $1350
  • By internal flight $1,750

Price includes: Two nights accommodation in Kathmandu, airport transfers, all meals on the trip, use of dry bags, tent, helmet, paddle and life jacket

Price excludes: flights to and from Kathmandu, visas, all meals and drinks in Kathmandu, all drinks on the river except water, tea and coffee, all personal gear including sleeping bags, mats and kayaks (can be rented), insurance, sightseeing and other activities.

What to bring?

  • A pair of river shorts or swimming costume.
  • A pair of Chacos or similar sandals. Trainers are also okay.
  • Long sleeved shirt to wear under your life jacket.
  • A baseball cap for under the helmet to keep sun off.
  • Wide brimmed sunhat.
  • Sunglasses.
  • Chums for fastening your sunglasses to your head.
  • Nalgene or similar water bottle.
  • Carabiner for fastening water bottle to your boat.
  • Thermal Top Medium weight – Heavyweight Capilene or polypropylene is the best.
  • Waterproof sunscreen and lip balm SPF15 minimum
  • Lightweight long trousers.
  • Lightweight long Sleeved shirt.
  • Fleece jacket.
  • Down jacket
  • Ladies should bring a long skirt or sarong to cover your legs whilst in the company of locals.
  • Underwear.
  • Glasses or Contact lenses. Disposable lenses are ideal.
  • Toiletries. Toothbrush, toothpaste, biodegradable soap and shampoo.
  • Forget the cosmetics and hair dryer! But we do suggest moisturizer.
  • Hand wipes
  • A 3-season sleeping bag and thermarest sleeping mat
  • Travel Pillow.
  • Small pack towel.
  • Headlamp or head torch and spare batteries.
  • Shoes or boots for the trek.
  • Insect Repellent.
  • Any medication you may be taking.

Optional Items

  • Your favourite book or a journal for recording your river memories.
  • Sketchpad.
  • Photographic or video equipment. We recommend bringing your own waterproof casing and a cleaning kit as sand gets everywhere. Bring a spare memory card or plenty of film. Also bring spare batteries for your camera.
  • Waterproof disposable for the “action” on the raft shots.
  • Swiss Army Knife or Leatherman.
  • An iPod or other music preferences. We have speakers.

Personal Spending

  • The only money that you need to bring is for meals in town, souvenirs, DVD, personal items and the beer kitty for the raft trip if you drink. Please remember that many of the countries we visit do offer Credit Card and ATM facilities and for a small charge you can withdraw cash either from your account or Credit Card for convenience.
  • If you wish to pass on a gratuity to your guide we leave this entirely up to you.
  • Basically, we advise you to keep things as light as possible, without skimping on the essentials.

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