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White-water rafting

Extracted from the Traveler's Ecuador Companion © The Globe Pequot Press. Reproduced with permission. Photos courtesy of Yacu Amu Rafting

"Forward!" shouts Roberto the guide. Our paddles dig into the swirling water, projecting the raft into the whirling waves and eddies ahead.

"Stop!" he cries again, deftly steering the craft around a menacing black boulder.

"Back left, back left!" comes the command again, and we on the left side frantically pivot the paddles against our bodies, turning it just in time to shoot down another frothing rapid.

"Go, go, go!" Roberto barks as we come flying down into a nasty whirlpool, the boat's prow buckling as we hit it, water cascading everywhere, bodies hurled left to right, front to back, shouts and woops emerging from the foaming confusion, paddles all over the place -- until finally we issue forth once again on a more tranquil section of the Río Toachi, a tributary of the Río Blanco which charges down from the Andes to the Pacific.

After a break on a sandy beach, it's back in the boat for a further hour-and-a-half of beautiful scenery, towering cliffs, bubbling rapids, screams of delight and yet another thorough drenching.

Running rivers, by raft and kayak, is Ecuador's fastest growing sport. The country, with its hundreds of waterways roaring down from the heights of the Andes, ranks as a whitewater paradise, among the world's top destinations for rapids-seekers.

Regional rainy season differ, so opportunities run year-round.

The two operators which cover the best rivers are Yacu Amu Rafting TEL (022) 290 4054 FAX (022) 290 4055 EMAIL WEBSITE Foch 746 y Juan Leon Mera, based in Quito and run by the friendly, highly-experienced and safety-conscious Australian Steve Nomchong.

With his experienced and multilingual guides, Steve arranges rafting trips from the relatively straightforward (Grades III to IV) one-day along the Ríos Toachi and Blanco (beginning near Santo Domingo de los Colorados), to more demanding trips down the Río Quijos (Grades IV to V) and other tributaries (ending at the San Rafael waterfalls and a bath at the Papallacta hot springs), and on to the five-day, 120-km (74-mile) expedition from Macas in the Oriente down the Río Upano and the Namangosa Gorge (big Grade IVs!). The latter is as much about adrenaline as paddling through pristine rainforest and towering gorges embroidered with cascading falls.

The Leaders in Ecuador for Rafting, Kayaking, Courses and Kayak Rental

The other, highly-experienced and respected operator is Gynner Coronel's Ríos Ecuador IN QUITO TEL (022) 254 6240 FAX (022) 290 4055 TENA TEL/FAX (06) 886 727 EMAIL WEB SITE, who operate mainly on the Upper Río Napo (Grade III), and also on the Río Misahuallí (Grade IV) from October to March, which includes the beautiful Casanova Falls. Both these are in the Oriente.

Lost your paddle? Let one of Ecuador's most experienced rafting and kayaking operators help you find it — and much more!

Adventour (022) 820848 FAX (022) 223720 EMAIL WEB SITE, is another good operator, though it doesn't specialize in rafting any longer.

These companies can also arrange trips (or rent equipment) for experienced kayakers who want to run Ecuador's truly white-knuckle rivers. These include the Mindo, Saloya, Topo, Pilaton and Upper Toachi. They also run beginners' kayaking courses.

The Río Patate, a highland tributary of the Pastaza, is also a popular run from the spa-town of Baños. Several operators organize this trip, but the only consistently recommended one is Río Loco ('Mad River') TEL/FAX (03) 740929 EMAIL, Ambato and Alfaro.. Several tour operators have rushed to supply the increasing demand. Unfortunately, some operators are inexperienced, their equipment substandard, and their guiding not up to scratch. You should be aware of this, and the fatalities that have tragically occurred, before thinking you are saving a few dollars, when you are in fact playing with your life.


To celebrate the deal, Guide2Galapagos is offering Ecuadorial visitors an exclusive offer: Book a Luxury class yacht with them, and they'll give you THREE AIRPORT TRANSFERS FOR FREE; two for first class and one for tourist-superior. So, what are you waiting for? Check out their highly-informative site. Blue boobies, giant tortoises, sealions and marine iguanas are only a click or two away!

SMALL PRINT: On the request page, you must state you came from Ecuadorial to benefit from the airport transfer offer.
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