Rafting On The Asahan River

Flowing from Lake Toba, the biggest Crater Lake in the world, through the staggering Sigura-gura Dam, passing the valley of the Bukit Barisan Mountain Range, before pouring into the Malacca Straits at Nibung Gulf, the Asahan River is not merely a major river in North Sumatra but also an endless stream of excitement for river rafting enthusiasts.

Centered at the Bandar Pulau Sub District in the Asahan Regency, North Sumatra Province, the Asahan River track is touted as the 3rd best whitewater rafting in the world, outranked only by the Zambesi in Africa and the Colorado River in the United States.

The Asahan River, North Sumatra
The Asahan River, North Sumatra (Source : pariwisatasumut.net)

The white water rafting course of the Asahan River is a 22 Kilometers stream of endless adrenalin rush that starts right at the front of the Sigura-gura dam at the Tangga Village and ends at the town of Bandar Pulau which is the river’s estuary. Asahan is an outstandingly fast and continuous river with its water debit reaching up to 120 meters per cubic per second. With an average depth of 5 meters the river’s sophisticated characteristics and the swift currents have shaped the courses to have difficulty levels of grade four to five (in the scale of 1 to 6). This is what makes the Asahan River a world class rafting scene, since it fits perfectly with the professional or skilled rafters from all over the globe.

The rafting course is divided into four sections with varying characteristics and grade difficulties. Just off the floodgate of Sigura-gura Dam all the way to the Parhitean Bridge, the ‘Never-Ever-Ends’ is the first section of the river. Living up to its name, the section offers an endless 3.5 Km or 20 minutes of endless thrill of interconnected lines with difficulty grades measuring at 4 to 5. Here, pure adrenalin rush prevents rafters from even adjusting their seats along the course.

Rafting at Asahan river
Kayaking at Asahan river (Source : follow-the-river.com)

With approximately 2 grades lower than the first section, the second section or the ‘Hula-Huli Run’ starts from the Parhitean Bridge and ends at the Hula-Huli Village. The 2.5 Km course has grade difficulty between  3 to 4 and is considered a fair course, nevertheless,  still not advisable for beginners.

The third or Middle Section is known to be the most challenging part of the entire course. With some of the most difficult rapids and difficulty grade reaching to 5 plus, this part of the river has even been dubbed as ‘The Nightmare’.  To conquer this section, aside from years of experience and more than fair skills, it takes a whole lot of nerves  and mental readiness.

The Fourth and final section of the course is known as the ‘Halim Run’ and is considered the easiest and safest section. This is the part of the river where beginners and common tourists can enjoy the relatively safer white water river rafting activities that usually last for 3.5 hours.

Annually, the river becomes the scene of the international Rafting event: The Asahan Whitewater Festival (AWF).  Held since year 2000, the event initially focused only on Kayak International championships until 2003. But since AWF 2 in 2001, the inflatable raft became one of the main races next to the whitewater kayaking.

The Whitewater Kayak Championships are participated by world class kayakers from all over the globe. The event is divided into 3 categories: head to head, down river and rodeo.  The event has recorded many great names in international kayaking: such as Tao BermanJay KincaidMike AbbotJared MeehanAlan Ellard and many more.

To join a Whitewater rafting group on the Asahan, it is best to sign up with one of the professional organizers.


If you wish to stay near the Asahan River, the locals near the area usually rent out their houses to visitors. Logistics, however, need to be gathered before making your trip. There are not many accommodation options around this area.


Although you can use bus or public transportation, the best way to reach the Asahan River is to use rented car. From Medan, capital of North Sumatra, there are two alternative routes to get to the site. The first is from the Polonia Airport in Medan to Kisaran and on to Bandar Pulau. From the town of Bandar Pulau, the trip continues to Tangga Village. The distance covered is approximately 90km and will take a little over 4 hours.

The second uses the Medan-Porsea route.  From  Polonia Airport in Medan head to the town of Porsea in the Toba Samosir Regency, by taking the main central Sumatra road which is approximately 200Km or about 5-6 hours’ drive. From Porsea, the trip to Tangga Village will take about 1.5 hours. Taking this route, you will be presented with magnificent views of Lake Toba.

Medan’s international airport is a very busy hub, serving many daily flights from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, as well as from Jakarta and other major airports in Indonesia.


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