Chencho Dema

Punakha—Of the 21 river stretches in 5 major rivers deemed fit for rafting, Mochhu in Punakha stand out as the most preferred choice for rafting for both locals and tourists.

Mochhu’s enchanting beauty, and calmness with Grade-1 and Easy II rapids in winter and Grade-IV and Easy IV rapids in summer, had charmed white river rafters from both within and abroad, according to river guides.

Whereas, Pochhu received less attention for being deemed turbulent featuring intense rapids suitable only for experienced rafters.

The rafting route spanned approximately 10-12 km, commencing with a scenic hour and half drive from the starting to the end point. Most of the starting point for the Mochhu rafters began at the base of Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten and ended at the Changyuel ,about few meters away from the Punakha dzong.

During winters, reaching the entire rafting took one and a half hours when there was no wind, however, with wind picking up in the afternoon, the it took about two hours.

But during summer, the rapid current of the river resulted in a swift 45 minutes rafting till the endpoint.

Tenzin Gyeltshen, a certified river guide with over 14 years of experience at Druk Rafting Services in Punakha said that although the choice of which river to raft on depended on the client’s preferences, Mochhu was favored by most.

“Past records indicate that the majority of our clients, including both regional and foreign visitors, prefer Mochhu. Even local clients, especially those visiting with their families during holidays, tend to choose Mochhu,” he said.

Rafters enjoyed the calm and scenic ride, take pictures, and felt safe in the calmness of the river. But few also sought thrill and excitement of rapids at Pochhu.

With the rafting season approaching, from April to June, the six registered river rafting service providers and their 32 guides of Punakha, the highest among them all, were readying for a busy season ahead.

The river rafting in Punakha was also popular being closer to Thimphu making it easily accessible for weekend gateways for family, friends, recreationists for nationals and Indian tourists. There were also Dzong and Lhakhangs to combine into a holistic cultural tour.

To ensure a safe and fun rafting experience, the Department of Tourism (DoTr) made sure that river guides received relevant trainings. An International River Guide Training was also organized in partnership with Dzongkhag administration and rafting companies with funding support from UNDP. As of 2023, the country had over 40 river rafting guides, with the highest, 32,  in Punakha.

Currently, nine rafting services were operating in Punakha, Paro, Pangbang, and Gelephu, of which Punakha had the highest number of six registered rafting services with the dzongkhag.

Phochhu and Mochhu (Punakha), Pachhu (Paro), Moakhola (Gelephu) and Drangmechhu (Zhemgang) were among the best rafting spots in the country.

White water river-rafting began when tourism was started in Bhutan in 1974. But it was only in 2018 a commercial rafting licence specific to the location was granted.