River, Raft, and Rapids
Many times my friend has asked me to go rafting, but I always refused his invitation. It’s not that I’m afraid, but I’d prefer something not so adventurous. This time my friend said, “This one is different, so you must go! It will not require any paddling, so all you have to do is just sit nicely on the tube and enjoy the fun.” I still complained that it might be dangerous. Rivers are full of hazardous rapids with big rocks along the way you know. “Don’t be silly, it’s completely safe!” he replied.
Maybe I worry too much, but rafting is definitely not tops on my list. But since my friend always kept trying to convince me, I had to wonder what rafting is really like. So perhaps I should try it.
Our rafting destination was the Ayung River, but we would start from the river’s beginning in the Petang village, part of the Badung Regency located about 32 kilometers away from Bali’s capital city of Denpasar. The village is a 1-hour drive from Denpasar, or about 1.5 hours from the Ngurah Rai International Airport.
“Welcome to Petang,” said Mr. Kim, the owner of Bali Fantasi Rafting, the rafting company. He greeted us soon after we jumped out of the car. The Petang village area is beautiful, with lush surrounding, and it’s a typical Balinese village where most of the people work as farmers. But the real attraction of this village lies lower than ground level.
In front of us there were three typical open-wall Balinese buildings. This is the starting point of the Bali Fantasi Rafting adventure where guests are taken to get prepared before heading down the cliff and into the river. We changed our clothes, and then the guides took us to the lower level building where we put on life vests and safety helmets.
The guide, whose name is Dewa, told us that the Bali Fantasi Rafting has the best location of all the rafting companies in Bali. “This starting point is the beginning of the Ayung River. It’s actually even beyond the starting point. The Ayung River starts in Tjampuhan, we will pass it later. You will also pass the bat cave, and this is the only rafting company that passes it.”
We were guided down 250-meters of stone stairs to the starting point. The stairs were quite wet and I had to walk carefully to avoid slipping. The surrounding environment was stunning; the backdrop was full of dark and light green forest, while surrounding us were big trees, colorful plants, and even flowers. Some roots popped up beautifully like carvings on a wall along the stairs, with green moss that added to its beauty. The situation was very tranquil, as you could hear the birds sing as well as the voices of insects and monkeys and from far away, you can slightly hear a waterfall’s sound. When I reached the bottom of the stairs I was amazed with what I saw; a breathtaking view of a waterfall in a circular area.
This waterfall supplies the Ayung River, and this is where our trip would start. “The water is from Tukad Bangkung (Bangkung River), so this isn’t the Ayung River yet. We named this the Fantasi Waterfall, because it’s located at the Fantasi starting point. From here we’re going to start our trip, passing through the first 6 kilometers of the Ayung River,” Dewa said to me. Mr. Kim had been waiting for us on the tube, ready to accompany us on our ride.
We still had to reach the starting point through the circular iron stairs to get down to the river bank, and the view was even more incredible from there. Some technicians were repairing the iron stairs, as a big flood had smashed the old stairs during the rainy season a few months ago.
As I reached down and touched the water I discovered that it was cold. “Jump into the tube!” said Dewa. There were five of us on the tube, including another guide. The tube was drifting towards the waterfall and Dewa shouted to us “We have to pass through the waterfall! You have to be ready to get wet!” I was shocked as I looked up at the huge 25-meter waterfall we were heading to, and couldn’t believe what he just said. We screamed as we got closer but instead of going through, the guides turned around and headed towards the river. He was just joking.
As we began our trip, we faced a gigantic stone called Batu Tomat (Tomato Stone), which blocked the river mouth and left us a narrow niche through which to pass. We had to squeeze the tube to fit the niche, and then what we saw was absolutely breathtaking. It’s like we were drawn into an unknown world, leaving Bali behind and entering into a fantasy world. At our sides there were tall cliffs covered with algae and lush greenish tropical plants above. Water dropped through the algae refracting the sunlight that created a sparkling wall on several spots on the cliff. The stone characteristics of the cliff wall was very strong, while the river current was friendly, leaving us enough time to enjoy each details of nature.
The Ayung River is famous for white water rafting in Bali. The river is tame when the weather is friendly. According to Dewa, Bali Fantasi Rafting’s track has a Class 3 grade, while other rafting in Bali is mostly Class 2.5. Wikipedia explains that a Class 3 river has numerous waves, high and irregular, with rocks and eddies; rapids with passages clear but narrow, requiring expertise in maneuvering and scouting is usually needed. This requires a good operator and a boat. Dewa, who is also native of Petang Village, has been with the company since it was first opened and knows every little thing about the track. He said that he never gets bored, there’s always something interesting every day.
The river itself, according to him, can become very dangerous and the grade can rise to class 4 or 5 when the weather is bad. If it’s raining at night, then he and other team members have to scout down the river to check the conditions the next morning. They also remove heavy materials (such as wood) that were brought by the flood and sometimes move the rocks’ position to open the track. If the conditions are ok, then he will confirm to all the agents that rafting is possible. “We cannot fight against nature,” he added.
The rafting track is 5.5 kilometers long and usually takes about 1-1.5 hours to reach the ending point in Pangsan village. There are a series of 14 rapids along the track with different levels of excitement. Some rapids are difficult to pass and the guides have to choose the right niche in which to pass: the second rapid of Batanu – named after the Batanu trees that are seen around, is a rapid near the cross where the river gets supplied with water from another river, and the last rapids were quite challenging. We had to hold on tight to the rope and lock our feet under the tube seat. Water came into the tube, but no matter how challenging the rapids were, the tube wouldn’t turn upside down and we wouldn’t be thrown into the water. The tube is specially designed for maximum safety, developed by Mr. Kim. He is obsessed with the safety of his customers and always puts safety first and routinely evaluates and measures the safety level of the operation to make sure that everything is safe, and then the fun can begin.
Some of the spots are playable, where guests can stop and play around. At kilometer 3 you can jump off into the river and let yourself be carried away by the gentle current while watching the beauty of untouched nature. For a family group, usually the guides stop at Sliding Rock where guests can slide into the river and play with their children. The guides are also very creative, doing fun things like provoking guests into a water war among their group. They also could stop at some beautiful points to let the guests take pictures. The guides will bring along a double waterproof case to protect your valuable stuff including cameras and mobile phones, and of course will allow you to capture the unforgettable moments of your holiday.
The highlight of Bali Fantasi Rafting trip is the bat cave. Although the smell was unpleasant, the experience of watching those bats flying in and out of the cave was extraordinary and unforgettable. And the track itself showcases some amazing unseen scenes of the tropical forest, with gigantic ferns, huge trees that protect the life beneath, and big groups of bamboo trees that were seen along the track. You could see other rare creatures including big lizards, monkeys, and rare birds, also beautiful forms of the river stones on the wall and in the river.
And this is in addition to more than 7 waterfalls, both big and small, along the track. Such an amazing experience to see the unseen world, and for me it was more like a river tour packaged in an adventurous way.
At the finishing point, the guides took us into the Tarzan Cave that was located just across the stairs. Before reaching the cave, suddenly they threw me away to the river. I screamed out loud, afraid to be sinking and being dragged away by the current. But then I felt embarrassed because the river was only one meter deep. Everybody including the other groups laughed at me. Dewa said, “This is an adventure, so you must be adventurous. You must try everything, enjoy every detail of nature and be ready to get wet. Otherwise, it’s not an adventure.” I grinned. He was right, but he should have told me that the river wasn’t that deep.
Text by Sheela Sankey
Bali Fantasi Rafting, Jl. Tirta Nadi I no. 4, Belanjong, Sanur
(0361) 365-7481, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.fantasibali.com
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Posted by » Bali and Beyond Magazine