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Is White Water Rafting Dangerous?

a person sitting on a raft

White water rafting seems to have gained a bit of a reputation for being rather dangerous. Whilst there is an element of danger (as there is with any activity, really) we’re confident that our trained guides will keep you as safe as possible and as such, we offer a wide range of fun white water rafting options!

It is always sensible to ask whether a leisure activity is safe. We are often asked if white water rafting is dangerous; in fact, there is more doubt about white water rafting’s safety than any of our other outdoor activities — so white water rafting definitely has a bit of a reputation. Obviously, a company selling white water rafting experiences wants to put potential customers at ease about its safety levels, but we’d like to give a balanced, reasonable account. Ultimately, if we didn’t think we could keep people safe we wouldn’t offer such a wide range of white water rafting packages, however, as with any activity, there is an element of danger that can’t be ignored.

a group of people riding on a raft

Lack of UK Data

There is a surprising lack of statistics relating to injuries in the UK white water rafting scene. All injuries are recorded, but this data isn’t being collected and disseminated. Therefore, in this section, we are relying on statistics from New Zealand, as it also has a thriving white water rafting scene and the figures are available online. River Valley (a NZ company) reported that from 100,000 white water rafting participants each year, between 106 and 179 people are injured. And of this number, only 8 injuries are considered ‘serious’ (usually a broken bone of some kind). Half of these 8 serious injuries were caused in the raft (usually by a paddle) and the other half occurred outside of the raft. This rate of injury is very low, and all trained guides have sufficient first-aid training to react appropriately.

With regards to fatality statistics, there is approximately 1 fatality each year, per 100,000 people who participate in white water rafting in New Zealand. The fatality rate is just as low in the US, and one study even worked out that it was roughly 100x more dangerous to travel by car than it is to travel by raft (although this didn’t account for how much longer we spend in cars). River Valley has helpfully compared the injury figures to other outdoor pursuits, per 100,000 participants:

  • Horseback Riding – 2860 injuries
  • Mountain Biking – 1480 injuries
  • Surfing – 1110 injuries
  • Hiking – 760 injuries
  • White water rafting – 179 injuries

Obviously, this comparison doesn’t account for the time spent doing the activity, but it gives a general idea that white water rafting’s reputation as especially dangerous just isn’t deserved.

ACE Adventures – Trained Guides

Here at ACE Adventures, we have extremely high safety standards and all of our river guides are qualified and trained under the International Rafting Federation Guide Training and Education Award Scheme. This is an intensely rigorous scheme that ensures all qualified guides are not only able to manage dangerous situations, but they are also more than capable to administer first aid should an accident occur. Being out in nature, with so many unknown variables, sometimes accidents happen, which is why we believe that a good guide should be able to look after their group should anything unexpected happen.

a person wearing a helmet

Another large part of safety is the perception of safety — which is to say that people can relax and have more fun if they are reassured of their own safety. This is why you’ll find our guides to be friendly, chatty, and very reassuring. They will explain all of risks and keep you in the right. We want you to have fun AND be safe.

You Can Choose Different Difficulty Grades

Even if you’re convinced by everything in this blog post, there is still some danger associated with white water rafting. So, if you are especially cautious, or perhaps you’re booking an adventure for your whole family, you can choose one of ACE Adventures’ less difficult water rafting experiences. Our Family White Water Rafting package, for example, is suitable for children 5 years or older, with no previous experience. The rapids vary on this route, but they never exceed grade-3 difficulty.

Our river Tay White Water Rafting package also caps its difficulty level at grade 3, so it’s a good option for anyone who perhaps hasn’t been rafting before.

Our White Water Rafting and Cliff Jumping package, on the other hand, allows our customers to experience up to grade 5 rapids, so this is a great option for anyone looking for a real thrill!

a group of people sitting on a raft

Ultimately, there is no guarantee that any outdoor adventure activity is completely safe. But we can guarantee that our guides are trained for any emergency. White water rafting is thrilling and exciting, so it would be pointless to deny that there is at least some element of danger. But do remember that with ACE’s trained guides, you can be rest assured you’re in the safest of hands. However, it simply doesn’t deserve the reputation it has, and we hope this blog post has convinced a few readers to give it a go. If you have any questions about our white water rafting packages, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Plan your next big adventure today, with ACE Adventures!