Destination: Nepal - Kali Gandaki River
The Kali Gandaki is one of the most popular rivers in Nepal and a personal favourite of mine. It’s named after the goddess ‘Kali’, the goddess of destruction, and known for 60 rapids in 60 minutes! A 3 day journey that will have you begging for more! This river has everything from stunning scenery, amazing campsites, exhilarating white-water, wildlife and some chill time on flatwater. Over the course of your journey you’ll travel 60km, have seen towering Himalayan Mountains and experienced some of the best rafting Nepal has to offer.
Put in – Maldunga (3 hours from Pokhara)
Take out – Mirmi (the Dam) (4 hours to Pokhara)
Camp locations – River Beach Camping just after the confluence with the Modi Khola & any beach after the swing bridge at Purti Ghat
Camping along the River
Our campsite will be river beaches, which will be pristine white when we arrive and slowly littered with green tents a colourful rafts as we set up camp. It’s a ‘hands on deck’ operation and everyone is expected to pitch in. More hands make quicker work and that’s very true when it comes to setting up camp. On our tours, each client has their own tent (2man), a comfortable mattress, cosy sleeping bag and a pillow. So it is up to them to get the tent up and down the next day. The local guides are the kitchen kings and will cook us all a feast to enjoy, while we get the campfire ready and change into dry clothes.
The camp is not permanent and so the next morning, we take it all down, pack up and head further down the river in search of our next camp spot!
A 3 hour journey to the put in point may sound long but it’s actually an incredible journey. As soon as you head out of Pokhara you are met with a panoramic view of the Annapurna’s and some great spots for photos! As the road winds, you’ll pass through classic Nepalese valleys full of terraces and villages. Once you arrive at Maldunga the whole team has to jump into action to unpack the bus, and get kitted up! Your Nepalese guides will quickly have some food ready for you so you have a mini feast before hitting the river.
The first day of rafting is an intense half day. Once launched, you’ll have 10 minutes to warm up before being thrown on some of the river’s notable rapids – ‘Little Brother’ and ‘Big Brother’. These are a set of two grade 4+ which you will most likely get out and scout. These rapids are technical with tight moves between vast boulders so make sure you listen to your guide and hold on tight!
These rapids set the pace for the rest of the trip! You’ll hit rapid after rapid, mostly grade 2 and 3, with plenty of holes and waves to play on. As you follow the meandering river you’ll pass through stunning gorges with cliffs that tower hundreds of meters above you. The valley is filled with jungle, you are really in the wilds of Nepal out here. There is only a small amount of village’s actually on the river banks. Most are on the river terraces a few hundred meters above the Kali Gandaki. There are dozens of cable bridges, suspended in mid-air, that link the villages together. You’ll often see people walking across or even driving their motorbike across!
Camping tonight will be just downstream of the confluence with the Modi Khola. This is a big beach with stunning views of the river and surrounding river cliffs, especially when the sun sets! Overnight stays will always be camping, but probably not how you know it! Everyone will need to pitch in to unpack the rafts, set up camp, and collect fire wood. Once the chores are done, there will be a pot of boiled water for drinks and some fresh popcorn to fill your bellies before dinner! As the sun starts to set the campfire will be set alight. Gather round and listen to your Nepalese guides tell you stories and sing along with their songs.
This day is a full day of rafting! Get up, have breakfast and pack the kit away. If you’re quick you’ll have time to head to the next beach where you can visit a statue of the Hindu god Shiva and scout the first rapid of the day – Morning Glory. Launch onto the water and immediately drop into this grade 4 rapid. A great way to wake you up in the morning. Morning Glory isn’t so boulder, but there are some nasty holes you want to avoid. Day 2 is effectively a longer version of the first day - there are rapids every few minutes and where there’s not there is either games to play or stunning scenery to gaze at.
The Kali Gandaki is one of the most holy rivers in Nepal, and as such it is dotted with shrines and temples. You’ll more than likely pass by a cremation ceremony on your three days on the river. Be respectful and keep to the other side of the river. The river is also covered by jungle on both sides. This provides the ideal location for the bird spotters among you! Keep your eyes peeled coz you might also get to see monkeys!
The third day offers a much deserved rest. After spending another night on a stunning beach you get ready for the final day on the river. The river here is mostly grade 2 rapids with some 3 for the first hour. After this you’ll reach the reservoir caused by the dam further downstream. The water becomes a beautiful jade green and slowly twists its way through the canyon like valley. This is a great place to go for a swim, play games or try out kayaking in the safety kayaks. If you’re quick enough, there is a motor boat that leaves the village at the start of the reservoir at 10:30am sharp. For just a few rupees you can tie your raft to it and hop on to save yourself a 2 hour paddle on flat water in the roasting sun!
Kali Gandaki Season
The Best time for this river is October to December and March to May. The closer you are to summer (on either side) the higher and warmer the river will be. Just like the other rivers, the Kali Gandaki is not operated on in Monsoon season due to extremely high water which makes incredible dangerous rapids. Not recommended in the winter as the water in the Kali Gandaki is colder than other rivers (as it’s closer to the mountain run off). Plus in winter the water levels will be extremely low.