Whitewater Rafting on the Sarapiqui River
The guide, Diego, called out over the sound of the rapids "This one's called 'Hay Caramba,'" I looked back to question it, but at the same time he signaled to row forward and we plunged into the whitewater of the Sarapiqui River.
Shooting down over the rapids, we headed directly toward a wall of stone where the river abruptly bends. Diego yelled out to us "Get down!" and we jumped into the raft, pressing our knees to our chests as we braced for a direct hit.
The raft bounced like a beach ball, but the current soon pressed the raft back against wall. Behind us, the next raft plummeted down the rapids and slammed against us. As a third raft collided, Diego yells out "Hay Caramba" and it all made sense.
The Sarapiqui River
At one time, the Sarapaqui River was a major shipping route from San Jose to the Caribbean coast. Today however, it sees more rafts than bananas. En route to the confluence of the San Juan River, Sarapiqui runs through the Caribbean lowlands rainforest. Rafting trips are held in the section of rapids between La Virgen and Chilamate—small towns near Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui.
The rapids are mostly class II and III in the dry season (Feb. to June) making them great for beginners and families looking for an adventure tour through the rainforest. Along the 8 mile trip downstream, adventurers raft through sections of the Braulio Carrillo National Park encountering river birds like herons, egrets, hawks, vultures and king fishers.
Tours usually last about 1.5 to 2 hours with a short break in the middle for a snack of fresh pineapple during the dry season. In the wet season (July-Jan.) however, the river is much higher and the water is faster sending rafters through class II to IV rapids in about 45 minutes.
The big rapids always have names like 'Shotgun', 'Surprise and 'Monica' and as we navigate them I always wonder how they get the names. Is Monica named after an ex-girlfriend? Is Shotgun named after the way the current thrusts you between the rocks? Is 'Surprise' named after that huge rock we didn't see that nearly sent me flying into the water? But then again, maybe I should be paying attention.
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Aventuras del Sarapiquí S.A.