Chencho Dema

In a significant development towards enhancing the standards of river rafting guides in Bhutan, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in collaboration with the Department of Tourism (DoTr), XPLORE Bhutan, and Adventure Consultancy, has successfully wrapped up a comprehensive two-week training and assessment initiative.

This initiative was specifically designed to certify Bhutanese river rafting guides to meet international standards.

Furthermore, this initiative is financed through a co-financing arrangement involving UNDP BIOFIN and XPLORE Bhutan.

Ten local river rafting guides from XPLORE Bhutan and Lotus underwent rigorous training and assessment following a two-week intensive program in International River Guide Training (IRGT) and Rescue-3 techniques in Punakha.

Yesterday in the capital, out of the ten guides, eight successfully passed the assessment and were awarded certification.

The training aimed to certify river guides who will not only serve as trainers and assessors for other local guides seeking international accreditation locally but also provide refresher courses.

The initiative is expected to benefit various stakeholders, including the forest department, police force, De-Suung, and disaster management officials.

Additionally, the goal is to promote ecotourism, biodiversity conservation, and support the private sector by internationally certifying river guides. This ensures better safety, service quality, and responsible navigation through river ecosystems.

The eight river guides are now certified as ‘Instructor/Trainers’ with IRGT and Rescue 3, guaranteeing their inclusion in international databases.

For the two who did not meet the assessment criteria, certification was also awarded, and they will be registered with IRGT and Rescue 3, indicating the completion of their training programs.

Additionally, a personal action plan will be discussed with them at the end of the course to prepare for a future assessment date.

The program, carried out in collaboration with the Department of Tourism, XPLORE Bhutan, and Adventure Consultancy, aims to set up international certification standards for river rafting guides in Bhutan.

The training was led by two international experts from Adventure Consultancy, based in the UK.

The ten local river rafting instructors were chosen based on their experience and their adherence to specific criteria.

The eight river guides will now have their credentials registered in the global database, allowing them to conduct river-rafting activities regionally and globally.

Currently, nine rafting services are operating in Punakha, Paro, Pangbang, and Gelephu. However, the Department of Tourism (DoTr) has plans to expand rafting services to other parts of the country.

As of 2023, Bhutan had over 40 river rafting guides, with the highest number located in Punakha, totaling 32 guides.