There are many ways to see Lebanon’s countryside. One way, not often thought of, is down its rivers and waterways. Home to the best inland water sport activities in the region, Lebanon’s many rivers allow you to appreciate nature while giving extreme sports a try. Canyoning, rafting, kayaking and canoeing will give you all the thrills you need for a memorable summer.
Rafting, kayaking and canoeing
Imagine soaring along the river, gaining speed as the water splashes you and gets your heart racing. This is known as rafting, a challenging recreational outdoor activity, using an inflatable raft to navigate a river or other bodies of water. It is usually done on white water or different degrees of rough water in order to thrill and excite the raft passengers.
Both canoeing and kayaking are known as paddle sports. Kayaking is distinguished from canoeing by the sitting position of the paddler, and the number of blades on the paddle.
Ali Awada, who perfected his skills in Toulouse, first introduced rafting to Lebanon in 1993. Awada also founded the Lebanese Canoe-Kayak Federation that has since then explored the rivers of Lebanon and initiated the Lebanese to the joys and thrills of rafting.
In Lebanon, there are many rivers where you can practice the sport. The Federation has classified them into levels, 1 being the simplest. Naher el Kalb, from the middle to the end is considered an easy trip and classified as 1.
A small section around Jeita however is a level 3-4. The Awali and Litani are classified as level 1-2. The same goes for the Assi that has a few rough rapids.
The season starts as early as May in all the rivers, but as summer advances, your best bet is to experience the Assi in Hermel or the Awali in the South.
The raft can fit from 4 to 10 persons and the sport is a lesson in solidarity and synchronization. Indeed, participants should make sure they are paddling with the same rhythm to avoid capsizing. Usually, the two persons at the front of the raft do the heavy lifting, but it is highly essential that every person on board does their part. The guide will direct you with instructions and safety precautions.
Ali Awada has also founded Sport Nature, which organizes rafting, kayaking or canoeing and camping trips that can last up to two days. For those who plan to take a trip on the river, the only gear needed is a helmet and a life vest, both of which are provided by the organizer. The only stipulation is that the participant be able to swim. Adventure seekers will be debriefed before they hit the water, as there is no playing with security. As children as young as 6 years can partake in the activity, this makes for an interesting family outing. Sport Nature provides all the necessary equipment.
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Though introduced in 1997 by the founding members of 33 North, canyoning was re-launched in Lebanon two years ago after a halt of several years. The activity began in Akkar, but has spread over the entire country.
What is canyoning exactly? It is an adventure trip that mixes hikes, jumps, abseiling and sliding with water. Canyons are essentially narrow grooves and slots in the stone, which have been eroded by rapid water movement over the years. When you go canyoning, you take a trip through these narrow canyons in a journey down the river. Seeing that the topography of a river is not exactly homogenous, participants will walk in water and slide when the river flow gets more intense. As they continue their journey, they will have to jump into small lakes from a height of a meter or two. If the descent is more than a couple of meters, guides will set up the cords for an abseiling session down the cascade.
33 North was the pioneer in this activity and is still the only company that can take you on a canyoning adventure, as it is not something you can do on your own. Experts have discovered the path, paved the way to allow clear passages, installed the pitons and moorings for the rappelling ropes and made sure the small water formations are deep enough to jump in. Their excellent knowledge of the area will ensure fun and security. Today, there are three sites for canyoning in Lebanon, one in Akkar, another in Hammana and a third in Jezzine, which has recently been set up.
Though it sounds tough, it is not a difficult endeavor and anybody over 18 can do it. The only requirement is to be able to swim, not as a professional swimmer, but have certain floating capabilities.
33 North provides all the gear. Participants are fitted with shoulder belts and helmets. You simply need to bring towels, a change of clothes (as you will be soaked by the end of the trip), water and some energy bars or chocolate to keep you moving.
Canyoning is an adventure like no other! It combines the thrill of hiking with the freedom of free jump and the freshness of water. For those who have tried it, the feeling is magical, the thrill unrivalled and an experience to be repeated over and over again. It is a great way to have fun, discover the hidden beauty of nature, all the while getting an adrenaline rush.
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Article edited on November 13, 2021Loading