Canyoning in Nepal : Can you?

Canyoning, or canyoneering as it called in the US, is an adventure sport that is fast developing as one of Nepal’s popular adventure tourism products. Canyoning means traveling through canyons using different techniques. It requires abseils and ropework, down-climbing, jumps, boulder hopping, and swims, among other skills.

Canyoning is an adventure sport that utilizes different activities like abseiling, rock climbing, caving, swimming, hiking and trekking. Most canyoners use at least one of these activities. Canyoning is a fun for everyone because it takes you away to places far from the hustle and the bustle of everyday life. Lush mountains, pristine waterfalls cascading down rocky wall and splashes of water on your face as you descend will give your body that much needed adrenalin pumping adventure. Canyoners first reach the top of the waterfall which may require days of walking and climbing. They then fix ropes on the top of waterfall, wear canyoning harness, fix the rope to their harness and abseil gradually. Lot of technical skill is required to avoid getting injured in rocky surface.

The sport is believed to have been introduced to Nepal by visitors from Europe, especially France. European canyoners came to practice in the canyons in Bhote Koshi River, which originates in Tibet, in the 1990s. The canyons fascinated them and they started coming to the place again and again. They even invited some local youth to try the sport. As the sport started becoming popular, the French Embassy in Kathmandu sponsored two Nepali mountain guides – Rajesh Lama Tamang and Kabindra Lama – to take canyoning training in France. When they returned, they trained some more youth. These canyoning guides started exploring new canyoning sites and promoted them in the international market. The establishment of Nepal Canyoning Association (NCA) in 2007 is regarded as the milestone for the expansion of canyoning in Nepal.

Canyoning should be done only in the supervision of trained guides. Canyoners need different equipment like: wetsuit, helmet, canyoning harness, waterproof rucksack, neoprene socks or booties, buoyancy aid, throw bag, elbow and knee guards, sports towel, old pair of trainers, water bottle and hard protective case for your camera, phones or other gadgets if you intend to take them.

Jagat Khola of Lamjung Photo Courtsey: Friends Adventure Team
Jagat Khola of Lamjung Photo Courtsey: Friends Adventure Team

NCA has produced many canyoning guides and explored new canyoning sites since its establishment in 2007. Karna Lama, president of NCA, said 36 entry-level guides, 19 basic-level guides, 9 advanced-level guides and 2 instructor/guides have been produced so far. Similarly, it has explored 19 canyoning sites so far – five in Bhotekoshi river, nine in Marshyangdi Valley, two in Lwang Ghalel of Kaski, two in Kakani, one in Sunkoshi River near Timal village of Kavre, one in Pokali waterfall of Okhaldhunga and one in Phu village of Manang. Lunga waterfall in Phu village, which is situated at an altitude of 5215m, is regarded one of the highest canyoning sites in the world. Similarly, Syange in Lamjung, Chamche Khola in Manang are very popular among canyoners. Canyoning sites in Bulbule, Chipla, Tatopani, Rendu, Syange, Jagat, and Sanchup are also frequented by canyoners.

In the lack of clear government rules and regulations, entrepreneurs are organizing canyoning trips through trekking agencies. “Though the government has introduced rules to register canyoning company, entrepreneurs are reluctant to register because of some impractical provision,” Lama said. “The law requires canyoning company to insure canyoners for every event. That means the insurance premium which we are required to pay will be higher than the fee we charge from canyoners.”

Lama said canyoning is not a new tourism business altogether. “We can say it is an additional product to trekking. Canyoners need to trek for many days to reach the canyoning sites. There is the possibility of promoting canyoning and trekking jointly,” he added. As most of the canyoning sites are located in the mid-hills, Lama said canyoning can be a vital tourism product to link the Himalayas with the mid-hills.  Though the actual number of foreign tourists coming for canyoning in Nepal is not known, Lama said around 600 foreign tourists come with the sole purpose of enjoying canyoning in Nepal. According to Lama, September-May is the best time to enjoy canyoning in Nepal.

When you are in Nepal next time, make sure that you put canyoning in your to-do list. You will not be disappointed.

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