As mentioned in my Traverse review – 13 lessons learnt from attending Traverse 16 – one of the many highlights of the travel blog weekend conference in Cardiff were the ‘Sunday Experiences’. All Traverse attendees could choose up to two experiences organised by the events sponsor – Visit Wales. There were 22 options to choose from including playing golf at the 2010 Ryder Cup Course at Celtic Manor, a thrilling Sea Safari rib ride and a day trip to the Gower Peninsula.
As soon as I opened the email describing the eagerly anticipated Sunday Experiences I signed up for the white water rafting at the Cardiff International Sports Village. There were two reasons for this – Firstly to make the most of being child-free for the weekend (whoop!) and take part in an activity I could not yet enjoy with my two and five-year old sons. Secondly, I knew if I deliberated for too long I was likely to talk myself out of it! Before having kids I was a bit of a dare-devil… scuba diving, water and snow skiing, glacier trekking….. all experiences that I loved before kids. Since having kids however, my adventurous spirit has somewhat faded and I have been known to feel a little nauseous when accompanying my sons on a carousel ride! Anyway, I digress… I didn’t talk myself out of taking part in the white water rafting and a few weeks later I was excitedly meeting up with my fellow boaters for the short journey from Cardiff city centre to Cardiff Bay.
Surprisingly there were only a few of us taking part in the rafting accompanied by our host from Visit Wales. (Clearly other conference attendees didn’t need to make the most of being child-free or were perhaps recovering from the Saturday night Traverse party!) After filling in waiver forms and wriggling our way into wet suits we joined our instructor, Lee, to listen to our safety briefing whilst overlooking the man-made course . It reassured me that Lee had brought his son along to join us as a 13th birthday treat…. in my head I was thinking Lee was unlikely to want his young son to go overboard and therefore we will be safe under his guidance too!
We practised following Lee’s instructions in flat calm water including rowing forward and backwards and to the left and right. We also attempted ‘leaning in’ and ‘getting down’ to safety into the raft. With eight of us onboard it was a tight fit and especially important to keep our oars pointing upwards each time we sat down in the bottom of the raft to avoid knocking each other overboard!
After proving that we could follow Lee’s instructions we made our way over to a large conveyor belt which took us up to join the 250 meter circular course. Being on the conveyor belt reminded me of the apprehension I felt as a child when on the log flume…. We were all giddy with excitement and I was talking complete nonsense which is what I tend to do when nervous!
When we reached the course we were reliably informed that the water pumps at 16 cubic metres of water per second… the equivalent to 80 bath tubs! We didn’t really have too much time to reflect on this because we were launched quickly around the rapids following Lee’s instructions and trying to avoid capsizing! On our first time round the course we had a near miss where Lee nearly went in and was quickly given a helping hand by one of our team members Andrew. Losing our instructor on the first lap could have been a disaster! As it was he had just lost his oar which was quickly retrieved.
The whole experience lasted two hours. This was from arriving at the venue to landing back on the jetty completely sodden and a little achy but completely and utterly exhilarated! Each time we went around the course Lee seemed to mix it up a little so that we experienced different skills. For example he moved Andrew to the front of the raft and instructed us how to ‘ride the wave’ so that we were surfing. To be honest, I am not sure we grasped the correct technique for surfing… we just seemed to put the front of our raft under the water and had the back of the raft suspended up in the air but it was good fun! (I was however glad that I had not been the one to save Lee from going overboard if this was the thanks you got lol!)
I’m not sure we improved much during the six times around the course but everyone onboard had a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable time and its fair to say that there was a lot of screaming and shrieking coming from our raft! The atmosphere on the course itself was also upbeat and fun. With kayakers sharing the water course and climbers overhead on the air trail there was lots going on and so well worth a visit even as a spectator.
Need to know for a splashtastic time white water rafting in Cardiff!
The Cardiff International White Water accommodates adventurers from 6+ years as they are able to lower the water level and speed of the rapids so that younger visitors can enjoy rafting too. There are normally up to 6 people in one raft. All coaching and specialist equipment is provided.
Regular rafting for 12+ years costs between £40 – £55 per person and lasts two hours. Family White Water Rafting for 6+ years costs between £22.50 – £25 per person, lasts two hours and is available Wednesday and Sunday mornings and school holidays.
Top tips for an enjoyable visit
Remember to take your swim wear and towel as they are not provided. Ideally invite a friend to watch and take photos for you (even if you have a waterproof camera it would be impossible to capture any shots of the action whilst safely taking part!) GoPro video cameras can be worn on helmets secured with a head strap mount.
Disclaimer – My rafting experience was courtesy of Traverse Events, Visit Wales and Cardiff International White Water. All shrieks, screams and occasional swear words in a very northern accent are my own!
Copyright – All images are copyright Travel Loving Family