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What is Canyoning

About the activity

A canyon can be defined as a deep gorge with a narrow stream or river flowing through it. It is quite fascinating, how a small river carves a piece of land into something so alluring and majestic. Now, if you are wondering what canyoning is, the answer is easy. It is a recreational activity, wherein you explore a canyon. Though it cannot be explained in simpler terms, the activity is a little more complex than this. To traverse a canyon, you need several skills as it includes a plethora of activities like hiking, rappelling, bouldering, sliding, swimming, wading, scrambling and rafting. In the most basic terms, it is a technical descent into the canyon, and it requires rope work. The activity may also involve jumping into the water and flowing with it.


The activity is known by different names in different countries. While it is called canyoneering in the United States, the people of Europe and its influenced countries call it canyoning. If you are in Africa, you would call it kloofing, and if it is in Japan where you reside, then you probably know it as river tracing. But no matter how many different names you give it, the dos and don’ts of the activity are the same.


History of the Activity

Canyoning has been around since time immemorial. Earlier, people used canyons to obtain water and food, and now they do it for fun. Canyoning, as a recreational activity, emerged in France around the end of the 19th century. The credit for this goes to Edouard Alfred Martel, the father of modern speleology, who started it as an activity to explore caves. In America, early explorers often found themselves lost in deep, maze-like canyons. From there, the basic techniques and equipment of ascending and descending began to evolve. Anchors and ropes became a necessity for any traveller, looking to cross such terrain. Since then, canyoning, as a sport, has been slowly and steadily gaining popularity among young and adventurous people.


Activity in India

People around the world may have been enjoying canyoning for a long time, but the activity is relatively new in India. For a canyoneer, this country is like a whole new land, an unexplored territory, where you do not know what you will find the very next moment. There is so much to explore that wherever you go, you might be the first one there.

In the northern part of the country, the Himalayas have the perfect terrain to try this sport. Running for about 3000 km and rising to almost 30000 feet, they are perfect for every mountainous sport you can think of, and canyoning is no different. Whether you are in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand or Jammu and Kashmir, you can try this sport. In Northeast India, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Assam are the hubs for canyoning.


The Western Ghats that run for about 1600 km in length provide the unlimited canyoning opportunities in the western and southern parts of India. Goa, Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu are some places, where you can indulge in this adrenaline-pumping activity. If you are a nature lover and want to learn about the regional flora and fauna, then you should try this sport here.


Equipment Needed for Canyoning

Like any other extreme sport, canyoning also requires special equipment. Since canyoning is a little complicated activity and some level of risk is also involved in it, you should take care of each and every item mentioned below, and make sure that this is of the highest standards.


Shoes: To take care of your feet, you must use special canyoning shoes. Since most canyons and waterfalls, where canyoning is tried are wet, footwear with sturdy soles and prominent treads provide extra grip on the slippery surface.


Wetsuit: Regular clothes can get quite uncomfortable while canyoning in wet places, so it is recommended that you wear a wetsuit. Such synthetic suits cling to the body and naturally insulate it with its own heat, preventing the effects of hypothermia from being immersed in or sprayed with cold water.


Thermals: It is up to you, if you want to wear a wetsuit or thermals, but you should wear one of these. Thermals are highly recommended if you are canyoning in cold areas to keep you warm, and prevent frostbite.


Abseiling/Rappelling Gear: Make sure that you are using high-quality abseiling gear every time you go canyoning. This equipment includes ropes, harness, belay devices, accessory cord, carabiners and protection.


Apart from these above-mentioned things, you also require other things like a helmet, which is a must for safety reasons. You should also wear gloves to protect your hands from cuts and bruises you suffer while ascending and descending via ropes.

Where it is offered in India

India is dotted with numerous locations, where you can go for canyoning. A great option for you in West India is Palolem Beach in Goa. In the state of Maharashtra, you can try canyoning in Karjat and Igatpuri, both of which are accessible within a 2-hour drive from Mumbai.


You can also go to Himachal Pradesh to try this activity. The area around Manali is considered a hub for canyoning in the state. It can also be enjoyed near Rishikesh; Neer Gaddu and Garud Chatti Waterfalls are two great abseiling locations here. If you are in Meghalaya, you can go canyoning near Cherrapunjee. The terrain here is considered a little tougher to negotiate; so, if you are looking for a stronger adrenaline rush, this is where you should come. Another great place, you can try this activity in, is Dandeli in the state of Karnataka.


Best Season for Canyoning in India

The best time for this sport extensively depends on the weather conditions of the canyoning destination. Monsoons are the ideal season for canyoning in Maharashtra as during it the waterfalls swell with water. The time between October and May is when the activity is organised in Goa, due to cool weather. If you want to try the activity in Uttarakhand, then visit it between November and June. Most canyoning tours in Meghalaya are organised in winters from November to February. The rainy season is the best time to try this extreme sport in Karnataka.



  • If you are new to this sport, then try it with an expert guide. Even if you have done canyoning before, have a companion, who can help you in times of distress, by your side
  • Do not compromise on your safety, and always use equipment of the highest standards  
  • If you are trying this activity during the daytime, use sunscreen and completely cover your face and arms with it to reduce the effects of UV radiation
  • Take a waterproof camera with you to preserve the exciting canyoning moments
  • Always carry a towel and spare set of clothes, so if the ones you are wearing get wet, you can change into the dry ones  
  • Since many tools are needed for this activity, you should make a checklist to ensure you are carrying every single item


Medical Concerns

As this sport involves a lot of physical activity, make sure you are 100 per cent fit. If you suffer from dizziness, you should take the advice of your medical practitioner. Strong elbow and knee joints are mandatory for this activity as are strength and stamina. If you have a fear of heights, then you should consult a doctor beforehand as you will be descending from high cliffs.


Ecological concerns

Though canyoning is a great way to explore the hidden bounties of nature, excess nature tourism can cause adverse effects on the environment. Adventure tourism can often cause harm to the endemic flora and fauna of a place; therefore, before going for canyoning or any other sport in the wild, you should learn about the native flora and fauna. As a concerned citizen, you should also work proactively to keep the environment clean.

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