Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream, goes the old English language nursery rhyme, but in Lebanon, the locals like their cruises fast and furious.
Soaking yourself head to foot in extreme sports rafting has been growing in popularity in Lebanon, with the Assi River in West Lebanon’s Bekaa valley one of the top destinations for adventure-lovers.
Just three hours from Beirut and with an ecological village and nature walks nearby, the river is a churning white attraction for many weekenders.
“The area is very nice, we did not know about it before; it is a touristic region with nice weather and nice people. Rafting is an amazing sport. It is the first time we have come to this river and it's an experience that we will definitely repeat and we advise everyone to come here,” rafter, Hanna Helo, said.
Rafting started here ten years ago but has taken off in the last couple of years.
Different trips are available depending on whether passengers want a more relaxing or thrilling experience.
But all rafters are required to strap on a life vest and helmet before heading out into the river.
Raft instructor Mohammed Saab, who says the resort meets the highest international standards of safety, explains the basics:
“Rafting requires a strong current and waterfalls for it to be exciting. Rafting is an environmental water sport without an engine and it requires group work in the raft, just like in a kayak or canoe. In each raft there is a guide who carries out a drill before the group goes into the water. The duration of the raft is from one and half hours to two and half hours over a distance of eight kilometres (five miles) through the rapids,” Janet Al Assi resort owner and rafting instructor, Mohammed Saab, said.
Rafting season is usually only during summer but the Assi River is known for its intensity and high water levels throughout the year.
Other less intense options include the Litani River in southern Lebanon.
Even beginners say the thrill of the raging water is worth the initial nerves.
“We were scared because we don’t know how to swim and the Assi River has a very strong current, but we went and were encouraged and it was an amazing adventure because you pass down through the trees, under bridges and there are waterfalls, especially the big one which was amazing, I encourage everyone to come and try it,” rafter, Rabab, said.
At the end of the Assi River rapids is the biggest plunge of the trip.
If passengers are still dry after that big drop, no doubt one of their fellow rafters will rectify the problem.