Sagana whitewater rafting: Scary, exhilarating and unbelievably amazing

Savage Wilderness

White water rafting, a sport most Kenyans don’t look at twice.

Yet it happened to be the most exhilarating adventure I have had to engage in.

Location, roughly 100 kms from Nairobi; an hour and half drive in the small town of Sagana in Muranga County. This is the stretch of the Tana River, Kenya’s longest river, that has been christened Sagana.  

“I am not here to tell you how much fun you will have out there, I am here to tell you about what could go wrong out there,” said our instructor.

Not much of an introduction but it definitely caught our attention.

We were about to get into an inflatable raft and let the raging waters of the Tana River take us 5 Kms down. Carrying us through rapids, waterfalls and menacingly sharp rocks.

Our hosts, Savage Wilderness, a company with over 24 years in white water rafting.

With helmets on and life jackets securely in place, we drove 20 minutes in a bus to where the trip was to start.

Basic commands were demonstrated. “If you don’t listen to me, you will fall into the water,” the instructor barked. Twisted sense of humor from that one.

That done, we set off and as we approached to first rapid, I kept wishing I had called my mother and said my final goodbyes.

The thrill of the rapids however was unmatched. Once we cleared the second rapids and the screams had been tamed, it became the most amazing adventure.

Sure, we were soaking wet in the first 10 minutes but nothing could dampen the experience.

Rapids are classified in classes, from 1 to 6; class 1 being the easiest and safest, class 6 being a dance with the devil. The Sagana River offers rapids ranging from from class 1 till class 5.

The river happens to be bordered by the most amazing ecosystem. Raffia Palms and water grass adorned with weaver birds’ nests line the banks. A multitude of monkeys going about their business. Occasionally a group of women doing their laundry and of course the adventurous boys who could not resist taking a dip in the fast flowing waters.

At some point on the journey, we had to disembark the raft. Apparently the water levels could not allow the 6 of us to float without scratching the raft on the rocks.

In days long gone, the river was consistent in water levels with occasional rises and drops in the wet and dry seasons respectively. Now, the guide told us that the highs are extreme and the low water levels so low that rafting is made almost impossible. He attributed this to the alarming rate of deforestation happening in the country and especially the highlands.

After a 20 meter walk along the banks, we were back in business. Rowing our paddles to the command of our guide and taking in the sights.

Then we were give the warning that we had a big class 5 rapid to deal with right ahead. Didn’t worry us much since, well we had done rapids a few minutes ago and aced them, how hard could it be?

Till we heard the roaring of angry waters right ahead.

Here, the guide had us practice our safety procedure of getting down in the raft when confronted with the extreme raging waters. The idea here is to get off the side of the raft from which you are sitted to crouch inside and grab a hold of the safety belt. But you have to be careful not to sit fully as the raft could come into contact with a rock, which could mean a lot of damage for your tailbone.

Once satisfied that we could follow his command, the guide urged us onto the chaotic show of nature unfolding in front of us.

We were screaming in fear of the rapids, exhilaration from the sheer rush of adrenaline and relief after we cleared the rapids.

“’Let’s do it again!” were the chants coming from our raft.

We had faced a challenge and overcome it, we wanted to do it over and over again.

That called for a paddle high five.

The rafting trip can range between 2-3 hours depending on the package you are looking for.

For those who would rather face the rapids on their own, there are kayaks for use.

If you want to chill after the thrilling rapids, there is a campsite where you can pitch a tent right next to the river. There are also cottages for rent.

If you are looking for more dare devil antics, there is a bungee jump from a tower 60 meters over the Tana River. It is located in the Savage Wilderness camp.

While most of the clientele is foreign tourists, the local residents have started developing a keen interest in adventure sports. Sagana Wilderness has created lucrative packages for the residents.

Get in touch with the camp for rate information at [email protected]

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Sagana river White Water rafting Savage Wilderness camp #TembeaKenya