The locals like to say that the River Tana in Kenya is moody: That the river is sometimes playful and sometimes raging, depending on the season. The River Tana has different courses which have different grades of rapids from level water to grade 5 rapids depending on the season. April to May has the highest levels of water because of the long rains in Kenya and November to December the same. We decided to go in September as a reward excursion for climbing Mount Kenya.

Our blissful rafting adventure starts at around 2pm after a general safety brief where we were introduced to our different rafting guides. We made three rafting teams. I had James M., Natalie, Andrew and John (one of our hiking guides) in my team.

I imagined rafting to be a couple of hours of splashy paddling and possibly pushing some of my friends off the raft. Turns out I was wrong. A whitewater rafting trip is four hours of hearty, physical work done in much of the time risky conditions. There’s a reason they make you wear a helmet and the life jacket. Excitedly, I took my seat next to James at the front of the raft and we were ready to begin.

The cruise was if four people paddle at their own leisure, a raft will tend to go around. We were all doing extraordinary for learners really, proceeding down the river in an orderly manner.


Our guide would yell out commands to keep us moving forward. Right forward! Left backward! So easy yet so confusing at the time. On a basic level, this would steer us around rocks. The guide tells you that if you’re stuck on a rock, everybody bounces until the raft is freed. Glad that we four did not spend the afternoon doing the bounce.


The first rapids approached quickly.

“Backwards left!” Our guide yelled, and I accidentally paddled forward, and there was a major bump, and before I know it I was almost tossed in the river but thank heavens for James and his reflex. He quickly grabbed my life jacket and held onto me to make sure I was safe. He technically saved me from flying off the raft and into the wall! That would have been brutal. He was a hero at that moment. I definitely owed him Krest after that. We were the first ones to go down the notorious rapid. The first of the five.

John’s raft was slightly behind ours, and as they came down the rapid he was blown by the current beneath him such that by the time they reached the level water he had fallen on his back with his legs and arms flailing noticeably in the air. It was hilarious!

Towards the begin, the guides told us that in the event that you feel the raft is going out of control, everybody should dive into the bottom of the raft and hold on. We used the dive-and hide maneuver often, spending whole minutes huddled in the bottom of the raft like Munchkins. At one of the rapids, James and I dove in so quick that we actually broke the raft (well, he did despite the fact that he will never admit to it).

A few minutes later, we stopped at a (somewhat) flume fall where the guides separated two rafts across each other and they told us to jump from one raft to the next.


They put one raft right beside the fall such that the current is rushing onto your body and you try to hang on to the raft for your dear life. I was screaming and refused to let go at first. It takes you awhile to realize that it is not as scary as it looks and you actually begin to enjoy the moment and make fun of your friends when they are screaming and failing to land on the target raft.


Mary was the most impressive. She did a one-and-a-half back gainer on the slippery rubber raft. I have never seen anything like it. It happened so fast!

The rest of the cruise was somewhat pretty smooth sailing. However, the best part was yet to come. Andreas, one of the guides, asked if anyone wanted to jump off the cliff and a bunch of us of course did. After a brief session where we were instructed on how and exact spot to jump, we were ready to dive in. John G. and James M. were the first ones to dive in followed by Victor. Now nobody knew that Victor could not swim. And it was soon apparent that he had no idea what he was doing. He was frantically gasping for air and doing whatever it takes not to drown. Fortunate for him, Alex was just around in his kayak and helped him back to the raft. That was a frightening yet by one means or another hilarious moment.


We cruised through the rest of the stream. By the end of the trip we were exhausted, wet, and crabby. Nobody fell in, and we finished.


We laughed all the way back to our rooms. And that was the point, wasn’t it? I’m sure everyone involved would agree to do it all over again.

-Neema Nkatha



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