Rafting on Malaysia’s Sungai Selangor

There is very little in the way of adventure activities anywhere to match up to the adrenaline-fuelled excitement of white water rafting. And while Malaysia might not be your obvious choice of destination for this often extreme water sport, for both novices and seasoned pros the Selangor river – crucially, in easy reach of the bustling capital of Kuala Lumpur – offers an experience that does its best to fight off even the toughest rival for a place in the top spot.

Just an hour from Kuala Lumpur, the Selangor river – Sungai Selangor in the Malay language – is a major waterway in Malaysia’s Selangor state. The river runs from the country’s east in Kuala Kubu Bharu, a small and quaint town that lies near most of the rafting action, all the way to the western Kuala Selangor, where it empties into the Straits of Malacca. Kuala Kubu Bharu’s colonial past as a tin mining hub means it provides plenty of its own reasons to visit, in fact striking buildings and captivating natural greenery are reason enough for a visit in themselves! For history buffs, just a short drive away lie the remains of Ampang Pecah, the old town washed away by floods caused by a broken dam in 1883, for which Kuala Kubu Bharu served – and still does, wisely built on the top of a hill – as a replacement.

White water rafting at Padas River. Pic: Smim90, Wikimedia Commons.

The proximity of the rafting creek to the capital means it is both possible and enjoyable to fit in a high octane experience out here as a day trip, an excuse for a break from Kuala Lumpur’s skyscraper malls, cultural heritage and endless street food sampling opportunities! You will usually be back into Kuala Lumpur for late afternoon, in time for a refuel of ‘just one more’ round of nasi lemak or satay skewers if you are already suffering withdrawal symptoms from the array of eating options.

That the site exists as a rafting venue at all is the result of work to implement the Selangor dam project, which was completed in 2003 and cut off the fresh water supply of the jungle dwelling Temiar tribes people dependent on the river. While short-term tourism dwindled and the economic and environmental impacts were felt, ultimately the situation turned around and since 2005 there has been a revival of the area’s white water rafting and kayaking. The location is now immensely popular and on weekends visitors flock in great numbers from towns and cities across Malaysia and even internationally, to take advantage of the stimulating conditions offered on the Selangor.

White water rafting action. Pic: Joanne Lane.

The main rafting run on the Sungai Selangor is spread over 7km, and this top notch river provides not only great excitement as a rafting spot for the thrill seeker in you, but equally truly unmissable scenery that will appeal to all those who appreciate the great outdoors and who seek a country’s natural, unspoilt landscape and wildlife. This kind of sightseeing is as important as any museum, national artefact or other aspect of a people and culture. Waterfalls, rainforests and more line the route, and those taking part should expect a physically demanding but visually and emotionally stimulating and rewarding time.

For fear that all this talk of full-on, take-no-prisoners action may leave the uninitiated feeling queasy and concerned as to the prospects of their safe return to foodie heaven Kuala Lumpur for that promised post-rafting pig out, it is worth emphasising that the area around the Selangor river equally caters plentifully to those without extensive experience of white water rafting. Two sections of the Selangor river provide rafting action depending on the water level, while operators also put on rafting trips to other nearby rivers and waterways that are also well known for their beauty and naturally suited conditions – but ever so slightly more forgiving to the newcomer! Popular spots within reach of the capital include the Sedim and Kampar rivers.

A Malaysian group prepare to undertake some rafting. Pic: Joanne Lane.

While getting wet out in the wild is the main attraction in this stunning, must-see part of Malaysia, it is not the only reason for a visit – plenty also make the trip to take early evening river boat tours on the Selangor’s estuary in order to see the area’s famous mangrove dwelling fireflies. If you are looking for more than a fly-by-day nip out from the capital, a trip to take in the area’s rafting opportunities can serve as a stop en-route to the peaceful Selangor dam or to Fraser’s Hill.

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