Gopeng, a small town about 90 kilometres from Kuala Lumpur, has many pre-war shop houses. This quiet and unassuming place is the gateway to some of the most adventurous outdoor activities in Peninsular Malaysia.
The most popular adrenaline pumping fun here is white water rafting in the Kampar River. The scenic waterway is created by the merging of three rivers, Geruntum River, Geroh River and Pacat River in Perak. Rated as a Grade I to III river, it offers a great combination of water ranging from gentle flows to challenging and technical whitewater. It is also perfect for beginners. From Gopeng town, it takes about 15 minutes to reach the starting point located at Kg. Ulu Geruntum. The journey itself is a memorable experience as visitors will pass by some of the most picturesque places in Gopeng with a whole spectrum of landscapes. During the fruit season, you will be looking with envy at the fruit orchards flanking both sides of the narrow, winding road. You can also enjoy the beauty and the tranquility of the quaint traditional villages along the way. A 100-year-old water pipe stretches from the nearby mountains through the major settlements to the old mining area and the villagers are still using the water supply from it.
Upon reaching the Gopeng Nature Resort, a stone’s throw away from the starting point of the white water rafting, you are given a liability form to sign before you can proceed further. Your river guide will brief you about paddling commands, safety measures and the do’s and don’t’s of white water rafting. Then, armed with a life jacket, helmet and paddle, you are all set to face the raging river.
The number of passengers per raft depends on river conditions and other factors but generally it ranges from two to six people. It helps to have a skillful and friendly river guide as he will calm you down with his jokes and fascinate you with local anecdotes. One of the most important things a rafter has to do before continuing his or her journey down the breathtaking twists, turns and drops of the white water course is the water confidence activity. Depending on the level of the water, there is a possibility of you being thrown out of the raft.
The water confidence activity helps you prepare for the worst. It requires you to do body rafting along a short stretch. Your guide will steer you into the current and then he will let you go. If your water confidence is low, the three-minute body rafting will feel like ages and you will end up swallowing a lot of water. This is definitely not an activity for the self-conscious. However, the most important thing is to have faith in your guide and not panic.
After your water confidence has been tested, it is time for you to try your first rapid. White water rafting is an exhilarating activity that provides you with the ultimate adrenaline rush. Cascading down the rapids is only part of the fun. The whole journey is not one huge “liquid chaos” as it provides scenic and relaxing experiences. There are also flat sections in the river for you to take a breather after conquering tough rapids.
The journey ends at Kampung Jahang where you will be transported back to the Gopeng Nature Resort for a quick shower and a change of clothes. Your guide will then take you to a nearby restaurant for a hearty meal after all the hard work and excitement. No one ever walks away from white water rafting experience in Kampar River untouched. You will either get addicted to this extreme activity or fall in love with the sheer beauty of the river area or both. Either way, you will want to return to this unique place again and again. If white water rafting is not challenging enough for you, there are other extreme activities that you can try such as water abseiling from the top of a three-storey high waterfall, advanced-level kayaking, mountain biking, jungle trekking and caving.
Kampar River has been a popular spot for white water rafting since 2003. A trip on this river is a two-hour, adrenaline-fuelled journey along a seven or nine kilometres stretch depending on the water level. There are 10 prominent rapids along the stretch and every rapid has a tale to tell. The first rapid was named Broken Ledge to reflect the concrete ruins of a dam at the river that was once built for the tin mining industry in the Gopeng area.
One of the toughest rapids in the river is called Easy Drop as rafters including the river guide have the tendency to be thrown overboard. Basically, the rapid has two drops of approximately three metres high. Upon reaching this rapid, the river guide will shout the word “Boom! Boom!” to indicate that everyone has to sit in the centre of the raft to avoid falling into the river. It is very exhilarating as your raft is thrown through the rapid and you are left to the mercy of the powerful water. Rajah Corner is the longest rapid in Kampar River. It is aptly named after the big colony of Rajah Brooke butterflies swarming over the rocks along the area, especially in the morning.
Whenever a raft passes through the hyside rapid, it has to be in a 30 degree angle so that it can get through the rapid without capsizing. Everyone must move to the “high” side of the raft so that the raft will be in a slightly tilted position. Slide rapid is a little tricky and slightly technical as it requires the raft to go through most of the right side before sliding to the middle. A raft can easily get stuck in this rapid, especially when the water level is low. If it happens, rafters must shift to the front or the back of the raft depending on the situation and in the meantime, the guide will push the raft back into the main current.
It requires skillful maneuvering because of frequent obstructions. One rapid called Paddle Breaker marks the site where a guide had his paddle broken in half while going down it. Snake rapid got its name simply because the curve of the river looks like a snake. Your raft will go through a zigzag pattern to clear out of this rapid. Enders Rapid refers to a skillful trick river kayakers love to do at this rapid. The play maneuver involves nosing the boat’s bow down and deep and the stern up resulting in the kayak popping vertically upward.
Seeing a flock of chickens running around the area during their first recce, the guides decided to name one rapid Chicken Run. Another is called Eddy Point, the white water terminology for an area where two currents from the opposite direction met to create a circular or spiral motion in the water. All these rapids offer different kinds of thrills to rafters. You can never run a river the same way twice as the variety caused by the changes of the water flows makes each trip unique. During the journey, you will find yourself resting between rapids, relaxing and listening to your guide talking about the river. There are several rest stops at some areas of interest.
From Kuala Lumpur, get off the North-South Plus Expressway at the Gopeng interchange. It is advisable to join organised groups as they will guide you to the starting point and make all the arrangements necessary.