White water rafting adventure

Thursday, December 10th, 2020 00:00 |
Ready, aim, shoot. Photo/PD/JOHN OCHIENG

Not for the faint-hearted, a rafting expedition tour literally shakes your guts as you get funneled down through the wild Sagana river waters. And skilled, professional guides are on standby to teach you how to safely navigate through the hefty currents and streams. It’s truly river magic! 

Njeri Maina @njerimainar

“It is important to never stand up when in the water,” Renson Mburu gives us a safety briefing right before we take to the rough Sagana waters for our first ducky ride.

He insists that if we are to forget everything, this is the one thing that we should not forget. 

To test our grasp of the lesson we just received, he lets us do river jumps as he waited further down. We have helmets and buoys ready for adventure.

There is nothing comparable to riding water rapids. It is a heady combination of exhilaration and vitality.

Doing it once is just not enough. We learn that Savage Wilderness has a long menu of activities to whet the adventurer’s varied appetites.

From rock climbing, zip lining, kayaking, mountain biking, white water rafting, to stand up paddle boarding, this is the ultimate adventure destination.

“Adventure tourism, where people go in search of exciting and adrenaline inducing activities, is slowly growing in Kenya. It is not a mzungu (white man’s) sport as many tend to believe.

Most of my clientele are Kenyans. I am so happy to see Kenyans come in and enjoy a bit of adventure here in the company of good friends, spouses and children,” Mark Savage explains. 

Mark has been running the camp for 30 years now. He talks of how zip lining and mountain biking are slowly gaining ground as adventure sports in the country.

I say that maybe I should try out the latter, but I don’t know how to ride a bike. Keffa, one of the local guides at the camp volunteers to teach me.

Within an hour, I am balancing on the bike, and in another, I can peddle and direct the bike. Who knew upskilling was one of the things the guides are so adept at.

I am challenged to try out everything on their to-do list. After all, it is their 30th year and as a result, they have a 30 per cent off everything.

My photographer, John, jokes that he cannot wait till their 100th year so they can have a 100 per cent off offer!

After another safety briefing, we are driven to our starting point where we will start our rafting trip and stop when we get back to the camp.

I am both excited and scared. Soon we are paddling down Sagana river under the able leadership of Samuel Muturi.

He knows the river well and is able to guide our paddling so we hit the rapids and mini falls just so.

We approach our first white water rapid and survive. I scream with exhilaration.

Surfing and rafting

“It is called white water as the brown river water churns and becomes white,” Glenn the senior instructor informs me.

He tells me of the rule to never white water raft or kayak alone as one needs another person as their lookout.

He is guiding another ducky with a group of secondary school students, who have been undergoing a community development course to keep busy during the coronavirus pandemic and avoid trouble that lurks whenever young people have too much idle time.

 They seem to be enjoying their time in the water. They are quite able at kayaking and I am almost certain they will fish me out of the water before the ride is done.

We hit the next rapid safely and decide to try surfing. This is where you paddle against the current and go back to the rapids so they can spit you out again. The students are doing it, so John and I do it. 

On the third surf, I half fall outside the boat and decide to commit to the fall. I fall into a water seam, which means the water buffets me every time I try to come up.

My buoy holds. I remember the safety training, that the water will spit you out just hold your breath, and when it does to swim right. Five seconds seem like forever.

Sammy pulls me out with his paddle and muscles me back into the boat with my stomach half full of water, but otherwise unfazed.

Professional guide

 We continue with our trip down the river, spotting different birds and their nests. Samuel tells us of his six years at Savage and how he started off as a photographer and slowly started guiding.

He is a professional guide and kayaking athlete, having represented Kenya in France. 

He also qualified for the Kayaking and canoeing Level One categories in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

His prowess comes out to play every time we cower in the boat and leave him to singlehandedly steer the boat.

“I have grown from strength to strength and I am now a certified Level Two coach. I really love it out here in the water,” he says. 

“You can find me and some of the abler local guides trying out new rapids and new routes to raft on in the river.

I am hoping to grow the number of kayakers in the local community with the help of the camp owners Mark and James Savage.

This will keep them busy and give them skills they can use to save lives when the river breaks its banks or get them employment as guides,” Samuel enthuses. 

He is a good spot, encouraging us to take a plunge into the river waters when we are close to camp.

Though a bit tired after the three-hour ride, I am game for a sport of rock climbing where my forearms get sorely tested.

 I zip line twice and decide to try out stand up paddling much later in the day.

If the apt way the young highschoolers are kayaking is anything to go by, I will soon get the hang of it. If not, I could always try my hand on archery.

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