Exploring Borneo : Padawan White Water Rafting 2014

October 3, 2014

Just last August I was invited by Sarawak Tourism Board to participate in Padawan White Water Rafting Safari, which takes place annually for the past ten years in Padawan, Kuching. For someone who came all the way Borneo, I never knew white water rafting even existed here back home – what more to say that it’s been ongoing since 2004. I was practically living in the dumps.


If you’re imagining intense water rapid on a tube boat…well, think again. Our Padawan White Water Rafting Safari leans more to basic, hardcore version of the Borneo rainforest style…

…with unlimited supplies of bamboos.

Yes, the Padawan White Water Rafting Safari is a bamboo rafting competition held annually in Padawan, Kuching, East Malaysia. I was accompanied by Hilda, another fellow blogger who made it through the trip and together we made such a quirky team! It felt as if we’re both major paparazzi, trying to capture every snapshots, moments and pictures throughout the event like nobody’s business.

Ever since its debut back in 2004, the Padawan Raft Safari has been gaining various supports from locals and tourists itself, and has been accommodating up to 200 participants per year. The competition itself is held along the Sarawak Kiri River, and is divided into several categories; ranging from advance to novice. Each category has its own course of rafting throughout the river, with 40km for the Expert categories and 26km for the rest of the participants.

And of course, being no expert ourself both Hilda and I joined the ‘rest’ categories…on a long-boat. You surely did not expect us to make the 26km worth on rafting on our own do you? 😉 I’m sure we wouldn’t even last 10 minutes if we did!

It was definitely not an easy task to maneuver the 5m long worth of bamboo raft across the Sarawak Kiri river. The entire journey took us roughly three and a half hours, and even on the long-boat it seemed like an eternity.


You will need a very good raft to proceed, preferably those made from larger and dried bamboos for it to stay afloat. Bamboo rafting has been a traditional mean of transport for the Dayak tribes for the longest of time. And while most had upgraded theirs to a slightly modern long-boat – the tradition remains. Bamboos are generally sustainable as it grows pretty quick, and most Dayak tribes used bamboos in many ways – from building longhouses to cooking and many more.


Decked with lushful rainforest, huge outcrop of rocks and picturesque scene, the river cruise were breathtaking. It feels good to be back with nature after cooping up in the city, and nothing beats the little things that all these contestant shows throughout the competition. We met so many funny characters along the way!

The journey involves a few safe rapids to overcome as the water level was low. There were concerns for injuries but the organizers were well equipped – each contestants were required to wear a life jacket and really, the water ain’t so deep. Most fell ungraciously into the water followed by streams of laughter but everyone genuinely had fun throughout the way.

One particular team had their raft split into halve, in which organizers (and helpful uncles) helped to reassemble back their raft to complete the journey. A few pulled the plug and gave up halfway (trust me, I don’t think I would survive the 26km of rafting even with a team of four). There were a few personnel throughout the river to ‘pick up’ stranded contestants along the way. Water bottles were also widely distributed, as hydration is the key to this competition!


Along the way you’ll pass by several Bidayuh longhouses, with little kids playing tarzan across the river and it was quite a sight. They were particularly cheeky too, often joking around splashing water onto you.

Our boatmen offered us a few durians (that smelly local fruit) along the way, where we stopped by for a few minutes by the river bank from what seems to be his own orchard. That was such a generous gesture (we were extremely touched!) but nevertheless we had an awesome feast while enjoying Mother Nature at its best.


Overall it was definitely quite an experience on its own. I myself had never been on bamboo rafts before, and to finally witness the whole thing seemed like a surreal experience, even for this Borneo girl. We had a complimentary photo on the bamboo raft and it was definitely quite scary to be on with, what more to say to pass through the rapids and surviving the entire journey towards the finish line.

I definitely hold my salute to each and every team who made it to the end, especially to the Experts team! Can’t imagine 40km worth of river length, and they had to go through really low water level up to the point they had to carry the raft along the way. Major thanks to Sarawak Tourism Board and Sarawak Bloggers, it truly has been a fun journey! Till next time!

disclaimer : Pictures heavily credited to Hilda Teo, due to my faulty camera at the last minute.

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By Alyssa J

Alyssa J is an aspiring traveller and a wanderlust writer, aiming to inspire and to share the little joys of the world. Follow on her journeys on The Jaren Wanders.

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