“ Sightseeing Type: Tours „
****White water rafting - Dalaman River, Turkey****
The white water rafting excursion is only available from May to October. November to April sees the river n full flow and, whilst the guides and locals will tackle the river in full flood, no guides will take out inexperienced tourists for safety reasons.
It is possible to get transfers to the base from Marmaris (70 mins), Dalyan, (15 mins), Fethiye (90 mins), Gocek (35 mnis) and Gokova (40 mins).
The tour operator will depend upon where you are staying but all of them will take you to the same white water rafting base.
****What you need to take****
For this excursion you will need swimming shorts/costume/wet suit, a towel and shoes that you don't mind getting wet (you are not allowed in the raft barefoot for safety reasons). In addition it is suggested that you take a hat and sun cream.
The guides allow almost any footwear in the rafts but if it is backless or liable to come off your feet (such as flip flops) then these will be ties around your ankles so you will not lose them in the water, and believe me, you will go in the water at some point during the excursion.
****What is provided****
Included in the cost is the transfers to and from your resort, all the necessary equipment (life jacket, paddle and safety helmet), a professional guide, insurance and lunch.
Whilst insurance is included I am unsure as to the extent each person is covered as during the briefing you are presented with a piece of paper of do's and don'ts, other terms and conditions and loads of disclaimers which is to be signed before the excursion. Failure to sign this document means you get left behind so you have no choice, it is like signing your life away however.
****The white water rafting excursion****
The format of the excursion is as follows:
i) Transfers from the hotel to the white water rafting base at the bottom of the mountains and at the end of the white water rafting course.
ii) A meet and greet session with the guides and other fellow rafters. This session includes a briefing, signing all the necessary paperwork and distributing all the rafting equipment.
iii) Boarding a minibus and being driven up the mountains to the start of the white water rafting course. Being split in to groups, allocated to rafts and a further briefing.
iv) Rafting down the Dalaman River
v) Boarding the minibus and being driven back to the white water rafting base.
vi) Lunch followed by watching some footage of your trip and the opportunity to buy a DVD and some photographs.
vii) Transfer back to your hotel
We paid approximately £35 each for the excursion, and considering all transport is provided, lunch is provided and all in all the whole excursion lasts around 7 hours I thought it represented excellent value for money.
In my experience you would struggle to find an excursion in the UK that offers better value for money.
I booked our excursion through Kaunos Tours, based in Dalyan, since I stayed in a hotel a five minute walk away from Kaunos Tours' office. I was lucky in that I had the shortest transfer of 15 minutes, which was a bit of a bonus. A Kaunos Tours representative drove me and my other half to the white water rafting base.
Being first at the base meant we had to wait for other tourists that were travelling from the other resorts, but it gave us a chance to meet the guides and ask loads of questions and have a bit of banter with them. The base is definitely geared up for tourism since there are plenty of seats and tables (out of the hot Turkish sun), refreshments on site, toilets and a shower. The base is not luxurious but given its remote location, and the fact that it is purely a stopgap it doesn't need to be.
As the other guests arrived I noticed that most of them were German (Turkey seems to be a popular destination for the Germans) although there were some French, some Dutch and another English couple. With so many nationalities I was wondering how the briefing was going to work and thought we would get a leaflet to read. I was way off the mark as the guides, being multilingual, spoke to each nationality in their native tongue, which I thought was very impressive.
After the briefing and the distribution of the rafting equipment we boarded mini buses for the drive up the mountains to the start of the white water rafting course. The bus journey to the top of the mountain took just over two hours, and I have to confess that it was probably the longest two hours of my life. I wasn't bored, it was impossible to be bored looking at the stunning scenery, beautiful backdrops and quaint villages on the way to the river (although there were some scary moments since there are no run offs and sheer drops either side) and I was just apprehensive, nervous and felt like I was going to vomit. There was an air of excitement on the bus, but it was also very tense and it was clear everyone had some doubts and fears about what lay ahead of us, but I guess these feelings are all part of the overall experience.
Once we had reached the river, we were divided in to two groups, one for each raft. I was quite relieved when I saw our group consisting of another English couple (although they were somewhat older at least we could have a bit of banter), a young Dutch couple (who spoke and understood English so well that they could have been Brits), a single Turkish girl and of course, our guide. The rest of the bus consisted of what looked like German body builders and whilst it was clear my other half and I would be safe if we fell in, we would have been in the middle and 'safer or more boring' part of the raft so I was more than happy with the group we were assigned to.
A brief health and safety talk followed, i.e. what actions to take, when to paddle, when not to paddle, when to get the paddles in the raft, when to duck, pulling someone back in the raft, and what to do if (although that should definitely have been when) we were tossed out of the raft etc.
Safety-talk over, it was time to grab a paddle, put on a life jacket and don a safety helmet. It was now I felt my palms getting sweaty, my heart racing and my stomach doing somersaults. Being the 'strong men' of the raft the young Dutch bloke and I were assigned to the front, supposedly for some serious paddling, whilst the others jumped in behind with the guide at the back to steer. Things were starting to kick off and it was time to board the rafts, our 'home' for the two and a half hours and face the white water of the Dalaman River.
Once in the raft and on the river I must say that I was quite disappointed. I was expecting white torrents and the raft being tossed about all over the place but in reality, it was a lot more subdued. The river was in full flow and we were knocking along at quite a rate but there was no white water. The scenery was breath taking and we passed through a small caverns and then wallop.
The guide screamed paddle so we all frantically paddled towards a bend in the river. There was a distinct increase in noise, the river got faster, the grassy banks turned to cliff faces and all of a sudden there were whirlpools, torrents, eddy's and white water, and not just a little white water, a hell of a lot! The raft violently rocked and darted about all over the place colliding with rocks as it did so. In the raft we were thrown around like rag-dolls, banging in to each other but there was nothing we could do except for hang on and enjoy the ride and what a ride it was. This is where the adrenaline really kicked in and I have to say that this trip was the most exciting thing I had ever done in my life. As soon as the white water appeared, it disappeared and the Dalaman became more sedate and gentle.
I was expecting the whole trip to be through rapids, but I was wrong, and I am glad I was as two and a half hours in rapids would not only be exhausting but also very stressful. There are times where the water is slower and the raft just floats along allowing you to enjoy the breath taking scenery and have a bit of banter with the rest of your group. These breaks also give you the chance to get over the last set of rapids and prepare for the next set. All in all, the excursion is 12 km in length and there are no less than 12 sets of rapids to get through.
The other English couple in our raft had a water proof camera so they could capture all the action, but I would strongly recommend against taking one, even if it is fully waterproof and fully shock proof. In the thick of the white water it is difficult keeping yourself in the raft and hold of the paddle let alone a camera. I appreciate that it would be nice to have some pictures of yourself whilst rafting as a memento but it is not really feasible for the rafters to take a camera.
Luckily, photography is all sorted out for you. Two other guides disappear off ahead of the raft and stop at strategic parts of the course and take photos for you to buy at the end of the tour. In addition to stills they also take some video footage, most of which is during the most ferocious rapids. I was a bit sceptical about the quality but these guys are true professionals and the pictures and video footage are fantastic. The stills are loaded on a CD and there are over 200 photos, most of which are your raft but there are some of all other rafters as they are getting in to the rafting gear and walking to the minibus. The DVD contains various backing dance/trance tracks, which works very well. If you don't have enough cash to buy the pictures and/or DVD at the base then the tour operators will leave a copy at your hotel so you can pay for it later.
At the very least you need the photographs since it is an amazing experience that is indescribable in words and unless they have been through the experience themselves, most people just won't believe how extreme this excursion can be and to get the full impact you need to see the DVD. Watching the footage I was amazed at how rough the Dalaman was in places and how much the raft was being tossed about all over the place. In many situations tourists are exploited and the cost of souvenirs and mementos are astronomical, but this was not the case with this excursion. Considering rafters would struggle to get any decent photographs, if any at all, I would have thought the cost of the photography would have been increased any further, but this was not the case. We paid just over £7.50 for the CD of the stills, which I thought was more than reasonable and given the type of activity and the likelihood that I will never experience it again I was prepared to pay much more than that.
In the raft I never appreciated what the guides did or how fit, strong, skilled and agile they are in making the raft go where they want it to and keeping the rafters safe. The DVD clearly show this and there are times when the rafters are ducking down with the paddles in, as instructed by the guide, and the guide is hanging over the back of the raft with his paddle stuck in between two rocks to keep the raft from capsizing. It is awesome to watch.
At the end of the 12km all the rafters are invited to "get wet", although all of us had been in the water on at least one occasion before hand, and offered the opportunity to jump in and "body surf" through a final small piece of white water. Like everyone else I leapt in to the water just ahead of the rapid and floated on my back eagerly awaiting the surge of water. What happened next was one of the most frightening things that has ever happened to me.
All of a sudden I was sucked under the water. It happened so fast that I didn't get the opportunity to take a deep breath or peg my nose. I was pinned to the floor of the river, scraping my body on the rocks and unable to breath. A thousand things flashed through my mind and I genuinely thought I was going to die. My worst nightmare is death by suffocation/drowning and here it was. I was living out my nightmare. As suddenly as I was sucked under the water I was spat out to the surface. My eyes were stinging so much I couldn't open them but I could feel the sun on my face, which was a relief. Dazed, confused and coughing my lungs up I reached for my other half but she wasn't there, which caused panic attack number 2. Luckily, she was already out of the rapids and was being dragged out of the water at the pick up point. I was still out in the middle of the river and had to fight against the current to get to the edge of the river by the pick up point or face going further down stream. Battered, bruised, choking and shattered I got to the pick up point and was glad to be dragged out of the river. It is something that I never want to go through again, and if ever given the opportunity to body surf through some white water then I will decline, unless forced via a raft capsizing.
The short trip back to the base gave me a chance to recover and get over the ordeal and once back at the base we were given a traditional Turkish lunch. The lunch, like everywhere in Turkey, was plentiful and delicious and there is always the opportunity to go up for a second, and even third (if you are feeling very greedy) time.
White water rafting is something that I think everyone should do at least once during their lifetime. It gets the stomach doing somersaults, the palms sweaty, the heart pounding and the adrenaline pumping through your veins. From the anticipation on the drive to the top of the mountains, to the exhilaration in the raft, to the feeling of relief when you finally get back on terra firma it is a roller coaster of a ride that is simply awesome. It is something that I would never usually get the chance to do and when I saw it I just had to do it, and what better place than Turkey?
This particular excursion was fantastic in every respect. The guides were knowledgeable, approachable, skilled and knew what they were doing and I felt very safe at all times with them. Everything was provided and all rafters are adequately briefed prior to setting off. The photography service is spot on and ensures that all the action is captured for your perfect holiday memento. The lunch is plentiful and delicious and all this for a meagre £35. What more could you ask for?
So, if you are staying in any of the resorts previously mentioned in this review, and fancy a bit of an adrenaline rush then I would strongly recommend you give this excursion a go, you won't be disappointed.
(This review has been posted on other review sites under the name of Yackers1)
Enjoy battling the currents in the Dalaman River, Turkey.