Whitewater rafting the Borderlands way

Whitewater rafting the Borderlands way
Rubber and tea plantations

I have always been a sucker for adventure, scaling rocks without equipment, checking how fast I can go on a bike without a helmet and I even attempted to ballroom dance, which didn’t turn out too well. Whitewater rafting has always been on the top of my bucket list, keeping company with bungee jumping, sky diving, and a roller coaster ride (yes, I haven’t been on one yet)


While I was thrilled to hear that the Red Dot team had been invited to Borderlands for a rafting trip, the wait was a killer.


The drive from Colombo was quite relaxing and scenic, with gradual transitions from urban city backgrounds to the vast rubber and tea cultivations of the hill country.

View of the tented accommodation from the river

When we arrived in Kitulgala, we met Gwen, sales and marketing manager for Borderlands who introduced us to the Borderlands team and showed us around the 10 stilted VIP tents that overlook the waters of Kitulgala.

Braving the rapids

Once we put on water shoes and stored our valuables in the safe care of the staff, we were led to the equipment store that lies just along the main road. We then donned our lifejackets, helmets and collected an oar before we climbed aboard the Borderlands 4×4 that took us on a bumpy but exciting ride to the start off point.


By the waters, we were all given safety briefings and tips by Mahesh and Supun, our guides for the day, who then led us to the chilly but refreshing waters. Once we were comfortable with our equipment, we were divided among two rafts and we were off.


Kitulgala only found its way into guidebooks after the major Hollywood movie – The Bridge on the River Kwai – which was filmed here in 1956. From then on it’s become the centre for white-water rafting in the island.

Scene from 'The Bridge on the River Kwai'

While we had the occasional running aground due to the opening of the sluice gates every Sunday further downstream, it didn’t mar the experience at all.


After breaking downstream and taking part in a few awesome games including assisted flips into the water off our upturned raft, we began our uphill trek. Even though the track we were on was in regular use by fellow rafters, it seemed very much an unbeaten track.


We later descended carefully on all-fours over slippery rocks to a gorge with pools of varying sizes where we were about to experience a true challenge of mind and body.


Taking 12 foot plunges into pools of water, sliding down natural waterslides, and cheering each other on across the finish line, it was truly an unforgettable experience  and to me, the highlight of the excursion. We later made our way back to our rafts and raced each other back to camp. Some of us seeing that the water was calmer downstream got the go-ahead from our guides to jump back into the water and swim back. Others were just playfully thrown out.


We ended the evening with steaming pots of rice and curry that were waiting for us as soon as we got to camp, which we in turn wolfed down.


As Kitulgala is named after the Kitul tree, a strange looking tree from which treacle is collected, no visit to Kitulgala will be complete without the purchase of sweet Kitul jaggery which was readily


available at a roadside shop. Too bad there wasn’t any left by the time we reached home.

Pure Kitul Jaggery