Raging. Exciting Exhilarating!
On our way to Kiulu River, our Kota Kinabalu guide Bobby asked ‘Who have tried white water rafting before?’
From the back of our van most raised their hands while some shouted ‘I have’. ‘Who are first timers? was the follow-up question of our guide.
Alas, yours truly was.
White water rafting in the Kiulu River of Sabah’s Tamparuli District was my very first time to braved this kind of river adventure. I’m a lucky girl because my first time was in another country, and I was in the company of fellow travel bloggers. Travel bloggers are adventure junkies, what better companions for this adventure, right? =)
I really don’t know what to expect when it comes to white water rafting, I have seen tons of pictures of friends who have tried this adventure in the Philippines’ CDO River, and they have wide smiles and glowing faces even on those shots taken when the river seems to swallow their boat. I know I was ready to face whatever it is that waits on the river – wild river currents, depths and shallows – it’s one of those adventures I know I can survive so I was looking forward to the wild ride.
I was seated beside Melo, a veteran of this kind of water adventure. He asked what’s the river category for Kiulu? Bobby responded ‘it’s just I – II category’, Melo remarked ‘okay, that’s easy’.
Definitely the words “just” and “easy” made me more at ease hehe. 😀
Not really knowing what category level means in terms of the river’s rapid strength and roughness, I take comfort in the fact that a low number is newbie-friendly that even little ones (kids) can even join-in on the fun of a white water rafting adventure.
If little kids can do it, so can I, righty right? =)
The Road to Kiulu River
We set out early at 8 AM from Horizon Hotel where we were billeted for our entire stay in Kota Kinabalu. The trip from KK to Tamparuli District, the meeting place for Kiulu River white water rafting, took almost an hour and a half. I was dozing off and on during the van ride, an hour into our road trip, I heard Dylan from the back asking if the tall mountain from afar was the famous Mt Kinabalu, then I’ve heard more scrambling noises from those seated behind us as they were trying to take a good pic of Mt Kinabalu’s peak. The excited chatter revived my sleepy self and I too tried to see the peak.
The road was winding and Mt Kinabalu pops in and out of the scene. Unfortunately I was not able to take a picture of his majestic self but luckily for you and me Dylan did and let me share his picture of this popular mountain on this blog. Thanks Dyl!
The Majestic Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo!
Finally we reached our jump-off point for our river rafting adventure. Our tour operator for this white water rafting was the Borneo Wave Hunters, and I do recommend them. Our guides really went out of their way to let us fully experience the adventures that Kiulu River offers and they are very abled guide, the guests are in good hands.
The River Adventure Starts
Along Kiulu River there were these hanging bridges in strategic locations. Our rafting operator had some of their men on bridges for that perfect river rafting shot as well as along the river flow that explains why we have these kick-ass pics when the rapid runs wild and rough.
By the river’s bridge, I posed. lol.
Our Air Asia Zest group had to be divided into two boats, one boat can take at most 7 person including the rafting guide, we were 9 total, so we need two boats.
We donned on our helmet, our life jacket securely fasten, boats have been inflated, Ready we were!!! But before that picture picture muna hehe
On the second boat I was with Mark, Bobby, our rafting guide and the cool couple vacationers from Hong Kong, the rest of our group were on the first boat. Prior to getting on our yellow boat, we had the mandatory rafting 101 lesson. As our guide was sharing what to do when someone gets thrown into the river, we heard a commotion on the water. All our eyes turned to see a boat on upside down position with riders trying their best to get back on their boat. Lol. Perfect timing haha it made us more keen on listening to the advises of our guide on what to do if that scenario happen to us hehe.
BTW, here are just some rafting tips:
If you have an underwater camera bring it but make sure you have something to tie it to your body or your shirt so in case of rough waves, strong rapids you won’t lose your precious cam.
Before the ride, take off your jewelries. It’s also best if you are wearing dry fit clothes.
Make sure your feet are securely planted under the curved edges of your boat for better control as you navigate the river, also so you won’t be thrown overboard when rapid turns wild.
Once on the water follow the direction barked by your guide. If he says paddle hard, you must paddle hard. If the guide stays stop, heed the command and stop. Paddle forward, paddle backward, duck, are some other commands that you must follow.
The Rapids – Kiulu River at Its Challenging Best
We were flowing gracefully with the river one minute, the next we were braving the rough waters. I was screaming and laughing as you can see on the pic. The ride was exhilarating! It was exciting!!! If you haven’t done any white water rafting before, make it part of your adventure bucket list. It’s a wild, fantastic ride and I bet you’ll love it like I did! I’m ecstatic over this experience. =)
The first boat
If you don’t know how to swim, ditch that excuse, I don’t know how to swim but I survived Kiulu River white water rafting, thanks to great guides and my life-jacket hehe. And you can survive too! Find a river that is newbie friendly, category I or II or you can go for the big guns and try rivers classified as III or IV, but please don’t go on your own, contact well-reputed rafting tour companies to have abled guide for your water adventure.
As for me I am looking forward to my next white water rafting adventure!
Oh wait, our Kiulu river experience did not end there. In the middle of the ride we stopped by a fish spa center, actually it was not really fish spa as our guide mentioned but it was more on feeding the big wild fish. For 10MYR you can have a tube of fish food, you can feed the fish that come swimming to you and there will be many of them wild fish. If you find yourself rafting in Kiulu, I plead you to please spare 10MYR and have the feeding experience. It’s one trip memory you’ll carry for a long time.
Boat 1 waited for us the laggers by the river side, once we were all there we got our tube of fish food pellets, sat down in the shallow part and feed the fish amidst laughter and screams. Hehe.
Bobby said we have to place some pellets on our hands, close our palm, dip it in the water and wait. That’s the easy part, the thing that made us scream especially Rianne, Santino and I were the size of the fish!
This is not what we expected! We were ready for pinky size cute fish or even smaller ones nibbling on our expose hands! Not huge, big mouth fish! And we were supposed to ‘tease’ this big fish by not letting go of the pellets and let them nibble, suck our palm?!!! Are you kidding us?! Guide said, no worries they don’t have teeth. Hehehehe
Laughing incessantly, delighted and a little afraid, I finally found enough courage to dip my hand filled with fish food on the water and even then when a big fish comes close, I can’t stop myself from lifting my hands off the water and throwing all the pellets far from me so all of them fish will swim away LOL. Yes they don’t bite but the looks of them is scaring the bejeezus out of me hehe.
truly wild or not, these fish were a delight (in a way 🙂 )
Frenzied fish swarm all hands that fell on the water, Ayn got a jolt when an inch of his finger was inside the fish’ mouth lol. As a revenge, he tried fooling the fish by dipping his hand minus the pellets, the first try the fish nibbled and sucked – ‘ilad sila haha‘ Ayn was grinning like an idiot hehe. He tried again but the second try the fish were wiser, they won’t be had twice, sorry Ayn, Lol.
Gawd, I really had so much fun at that fish feeding center in Kiulu River! Don’t miss the experience if you are rafting the wild river of Kiulu.
Thanks Ayn for most of the pics on this adventure! ^_^
One Happy Group Makes For a Great Adventure!
After the sidetrip to the feeding center, we body-raft back to our boats and onward we continued with our adventure. More intense rapid, rougher waves awaited us. When we were near our official stop, our guides said whoever wants to go for body rafting again can do so. The two girls on our boat immediately volunteered. Me and Casper, took the plunge, while the guys sit out the remaining time of our white water adventure in the boat.
Girl power I say! =)
Ayn, Dylan and Santino from Boat 1
It was indeed a great time in Kiulu River, one of my best memories from our Kota Kinabalu trip!
When we left the river and transferred to land, a buffet lunch was waiting for the hungry adventurers; the lunch is part of the tour package. By the way, the grilled lamb chop from the buffet was really delicious and flavorful. Sinjin was also waiting for us at the pit stop.
Our rafting adventure was pre-arranged by our Kota Kinabalu guide, Sabah Tourism and Air Asia Zest so I have no idea how much was the rafting fee per person. You can contact any of the more than 30 adventure outfits serving guests on the Kiulu River for more details on rates and schedules.
As for the pictures taken by our guide’s team, you can have a soft copy of all the shots taken of your boat during the wild river adventure for 200 MYR per boat. Our group had two boats so that’s 400 MYR but Mitch and Mark negotiated with the guides and brought down the price to 300 MYR for the two sets of pictures (1 set for each boat). If you are a big group, put your negotiation skill to good use. Who knows you can even get huge discount for the whole white water rafting adventure package. =)
Our Kiulu River adventure in Sabah Malaysian Borneo from the rafting 101 lesson until we made it back to land took about 2 hours.
Great companions, cool guides, awesome adventure! For a first time white-water rafting experience, I couldn’t ask for more!
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This trip was made possible by AirAsia Zest – The Right Way to fly and Sabah Tourism Board – Visit Malaysia 2014. AirAsia Zest now flies toKota Kinabalu from Cebu Mactan International Airport. Visit www.airasia.com for flight schedules, promos and online flight reservation. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter!