Rafting on the Ayung River is not just a bit of adventure; it's also a delightful way to take in the beautiful jungle scenery surrounding Ubud.
The white water part of things is quite mild — probably maximum levels 1 to 2 — and not particularly strenuous. The hardest thing is climbing down and then up the stairs at either end; so if your knees are bad or you are otherwise very unfit, you may want to rethink this trip.
But while the danger level is low, the rafting is still very fun, with enough white water to raise the adrenaline levels. In between, the waters of the Ayung, in its blissfully green and lush jungle canyon, are very relaxing.
There are a number of rafting companies within 15 minutes of Ubud; we used Ayung Dewata. Their office is an easy 5 minute drive north of Ubud. You get your life jacket and helmet and a locker to dump your stuff in then you are driven another ten minutes north to the staircase down to the river bank. The guide will give you a quick safety and paddling lesson then you drift off into the rapids quite quickly.
The whole trip on the actual river is around 2 hours and includes a short break for a snack or drink if needed and a swim under the waterfall. On the way, you drift past amazing rock carvings depicting scenes from the Ramayana epic.
At the end of the 2 hours, the team picks you up again just south of Ubud, and you get driven back to the office for lunch (included in the price) and exhortations to purchase the videos and photos. My friend and I, having the raft and its guide to ourselves, purchased the video between us and shared it (R200,000). I've mixed the results into the video above, along with a GoPro footage we took ourselves.
It sounds simple, but the only thing I am disappointed in is that it took me so long to try. I loved every minute — it was in turn fun, hilarious, exhilarating, relaxing, peaceful and breathtaking. I can't recommend this trip highly enough. We paid Covid prices, but usually, it is around 700,000 per person (~US$45). It's worth it.
The rafting trip is NOT suitable for kids under 6, pregnant women, people with bad knees, and, non-swimmers. A little nervous? Don't be... it's really not dangerous at all, and you are unlikely to fall out or flounder if you do, as the river is wide but quite shallow.
Bring: Your swimmers, flip-flops or water shoes, a rash vest or t-shirt, lots of sunscreen, something to change into at the end, and a plastic bag for your wet swimmers. I took my sunglasses (I was given elastic bands to hold them on), but actually, these were unnecessary. The dappled sunlight through the overhead jungle canopy is deceptively cooling, so your sun protection is important. You can leave your phone and wallet in the locker back at the office, but maybe bring a little money for your whole group to buy a drink at the halfway mark. Phones can be kept in your guide's waterproof bag, but I recommend taking just one phone per group. There is someone taking pics and videos from the riverbank for you; you, of course, have to pay extra, but it's not bad pricing for one or two good shots for your Facebook page.
If you are an experienced rafter, this trip is still fun because it is so beautiful and conveniently located close to Ubud. However, for the more adventurous, a trip on the Telaga Waja river might be more your style, with levels of around 2-4. This company also does a rafting/cycling trip, and some other companies do a fun-looking rafting/quad bike trip.