The intense rainfall during the last few days which “filled” Greece’s rivers, comprise a promising sign for those who love the sport of rafting, or in other words, for those who seek excitement in their free time, and contact with nature.
Rafting is an adventure team sport and teamwork between those who participate consists of the basic component of a successful descent in an inflatable raft. This can be undertaken in any type of river which is navigable, regardless of its level of difficulty. The descent can be carried out in calm rivers, offering an excursion through the scenery of the area. Alternatively, it may be undertaken in rapid rivers with technical difficulties such as waterfalls and rocks, which stimulate the emotions of the crew of the raft, and heighten their adrenaline level to its peak.
Rafting brings you in contact with untouched terrain, which is mostly exceedingly inaccessible. Usually, there is no other means of approach but by way of the river. In such areas, one has the chance to admire the Greek wilderness and to see up close untamed animals which have found sanctuary away from man.
Rafting however, just like other team sports of nature, promotes co-operation between those who take part in the crew of the raft. By means of a successful collaboration, the crew will enjoy a perfect and safe descent. Alternatively, if the co-operation between the crew members is not harmonious, and the instructions given by the crew leader are not complied with, then they are prone to danger, such as the capsizing of the raft, the injury of a crew member or the descent is aborted. This is the main reason why Rafting is used by companies which aim at promoting the formation of teamwork, or in other words, activities which contribute to the improvement of relationships and co-operation between its co-workers.
For rafting, it is not necessary to have your own equipment or previous experience with the sport. There are rafting supply companies which provide the necessary equipment and offer all the requirements necessary so that one may enjoy a river descent. The only requirements necessary for someone to have is to want to participate, to know how to swim in the sea, and to have a positive disposition. These three elements are sufficient to enable one to have a once in a lifetime experience.
To begin with…
The participants’ involvement begins from the meeting point, which is usually the base of the company organizing the descent. There one becomes acquainted with everyone who will attempt the descent, either with the same boat or with another crew. You will have to wear your outfit and then make your way to the starting mark.
The “lesson” takes place at the river. By means of demonstrations, the supervisors display the procedure one is to follow during the descent. In each raft, there is the crew and the guide. The guide is always an experienced and specially trained individual. The crew usually consists of 6 – 8 persons who sit opposite each other on the air chambers of the raft.
The guide is responsible to convey the instructions which coordinate the paddles of the crew. Paddling is not done to propel the raft, something which successfully undertakes the flow of the river, but to steer the raft to its correct position, to decelerate etc., Many times, if the crew show enthusiasm, this can create competition between 2 or more rafts, so that enjoyment may be maximized. The descent, can, of course be enhanced by breaks to relax, observe the flora and fauna, take a dip, have a light snack, coffee etc.,
The difficulty of a descent is dependant upon quite a number of factors. The most important ones are:
the volume of water at the specific time of descent. This is a variable factor which is determined by the rainfall, or lack of. In relation to the water levels therefore, the crew encounters a “different” river each time.
The declining slope of the river defines the velocity of the water to a great degree. This is a stable factor, as the slope of the river is defined. Minor slopes produce friendly and slow rivers, whilst the major slopes produce rapid, gushing torrents.
Another factor which contributes to the difficulty of a descent with a raft, are the narrow passages. Because the river narrows at these points, the velocity of the water level increases, as the same quantity of water must pass through a smaller area.
Obstacles display a similar condition with the narrowness, in that the water velocity increases, but they also present an added challenge, as the obstacles block our path. These may comprise of a tree log, a rock boulder or a protrusion in the middle of the river which prevents the flow of water and may cause a fall [capsize]
River technical difficulty ratings
Based on these factors, there is a scale to which we classify the rivers for their capability for rafting. Class 1 rivers are the easiest and safest ones, while Class 6 rivers are the most difficult and dangerous.
In detail, the categories are-
Class 1- The easiest rivers which are almost stagnant, or with slightly moving waters and do not require any prior skills.
Class 2- Slightly stirred waters with possibly some rocks, a slight decline, and which require some basic rowing skills. Up to this category, rafting is available for anyone, including small children and the elderly, so long as one acquires basic swimming skills.
Class 3- Foaming waters, average waves, this river class requires skillfulness in rowing and an experienced guide. These are the most enjoyable rivers for “excursion” rafting.
Class 4- Foaming waters, large waves, rocks, waterfalls, this category requires instantaneous reflexes and all the crew must be experienced. For those who are demanding, and who have already completed 6-10 descents, are able swimmers and thrill-seekers.
Rafting companies do not execute Class 5 or 6 category descents.
Class 5- Very frothy waters, large waves, rock boulders, and continuous dangers, tall waterfalls, 3-5 m drops, this category requires immediate and accurate maneuvers, a cool tempered disposition and a great level of experience.
Class 6 – Very frothy waters, enormous waves, huge rock boulders and the continuous presence of danger, steep drops.
For rafting, a boat and your personal equipment are necessary. The rafting boat is a specialized design which visually resembles a conventional inflatable boat. The many air chambers it possesses, ensure its floatation in the event some of its air chambers get pierced during contact with rocks. Its two ends [let’s say the stern and the bow] are uplifted and can float with any end forward. The length of the boat varies from 3,5 m – 6 m.
The personal equipment to begin with, is the paddle. The paddle is necessary to steer the boat, to brake or increase its speed etc. The helmet protects the head from a collision with a nearby crew members’ paddle or from a collision with rocks, and it assists to minimize the heat loss from the head. The outfit worn is usually a “long John” type, that is, a one piece outfit made of neoprene, with ankle length trousers and sleeveless on top, with suspender belts. The reason why it is sleeveless is that having the arms free is a valuable asset for rafting. On top of the neoprene outfit, the waterproof gear is worn. Usually this specific waterproof outfit has neoprene finishings on the sleeves, neck and the waist, so that it doesn’t become wet and allow the moisture to seep through. On the feet, one wears neoprene socks, and a pair of sports shoes on top.
Fortunately, all of this equipment, including the boat, is provided by the company which organizes the river descent. Despite this, if you participate on a regular basis, it is suggested that you purchase your own equipment.
Main locations for rafting
The diversity of the Greek landscape offers rivers with unique beauty, ideal for rafting. Each river has its own individual characteristics, such as the variety of flora and fauna, the clarity of the water, the water level temperature, its accessibility etc., whilst at the same time, these excursions can be combined with nature outings and visits to main attractions in the area. The most significant rivers for rafting are-
- Epiros – Voidomatis in Konitsa, an easy and spectacular river. River Aos in Konitsa, has a class 3- 5 difficulty level, and rafting is possible all throughout the year. Venetikos and Aliakmonas in Grevena are calm rivers considered ideal for beginners. Aracthos in Arta is the largest river for rafting in Greece. It is worth noting that the ride last 6 hours and consists of the greatest diversities in any Greek river.
- Evrytania county- Rafting is possible in the Achelou, Tavropou and Trikerioti rivers. Canoeing is also possible in Lake Epikopis, Kayaking in Agrafioti, Karpenisioti and Tavropou rivers, and one can also visit the ski center at Karpenissi.
Aitoloakarnanias county –Evinos river in Nafpaktos with a class 2 difficulty level, is ideal for beginners, and offers itineraries which combine unique landscapes, valleys and picturesque bridges.
- Peleponnese- Lousios in Arcadia has a class 3 difficulty rating, and rafting can be combined with a visit to the picturesque village Karytaina. Alfios, the longest river in the Peleponnese, embodies the natural boundary of Arcadia with Ilia.
- River Neda, the only river name in Greece with a female gender, offers unique beauty.
Organized excursions are conducted in the above rivers by experienced, specialized and certified Greek rafting companies.
If the safety rules are not complied with, then rafting can become a dangerous sport. In the past accidents have occurred, mainly in private descents. Accordingly, as safety is the top priority here, choose certified guides with the necessary equipment, in order to accomplish an enjoyable descent. It is generally advisable to do your research before you attempt a descent. The qualifications of the guide and the quality of the equipment comprise the main information you have to research. To research extreme sports companies in Greece is simple. It requires only the word rafting to be specified in any search engine and to request information from Greece only. After, you may contact them directly.
Your participation in these types of activities, apart from the indisputable hours of entertainment it will provide you, will awaken all your senses, and will bring you in contact with nature. As well, by participating, we also contribute to the financial backing of local community, which has the results in assisting to protect the rivers from hydroelectric and electricity plants and other types of production, which are not amicable with the enhancement of the eco-system and nature.
Do your research before you decide to trust your own safety to anyone
Always wear a life-jacket and a helmet
Always dress lightly when you commence the descent, and not heavily. The use of the paddle will promptly adjust your body temperature to the correct level.
Do not wear singlets, socks and generally cotton based garments under the neoprene outfit as this will disable your outfit from functioning properly and in stabilizing the correct body temperature.
Always have your bathing suit with you, a towel and an extra pair of sports shoes. The clothes worn during the descent will get wet. Opt for the oldest pair of sports shoes, as shoes are easily ruined by the river.
If you want to take photographs, the best option is to choose a disposable waterproof camera, so as to safeguard against the possibility of the boat capsizing, and “crying” for the loss of your camera