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Efforts lacking to tap potential for adventure sports in the country

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Nepal’s rugged terrain and natural beauty should make it a popular destination for adventure sports enthusiasts. Thousands travel the world over in search of adrenaline rushes from falling off of cliffs or jumping out of planes. Despite Nepal’s great untapped potential for adventure sports, stakeholders are at odds over developing such water sports in the country.

Blessed with a thousand rivers and high, steep mountain cliffs perfect for soaring over, canyoning is the perfect sport for Nepal. We are the only country in South Asia where canyoning is feasible. However, the extreme sport has witnessed very little growth since 2004, when I, for the first time, practiced canyoning in Lamjung’s Bulbule waterfall, measuring 120 metres.

Although it may look dangerous, when practiced with all the necessary technical and manual precautions, canyoning is as safe as any other sport. The sport, which requires a fall off of a cliff or waterfall with ropes tied to harnesses and safety gear on the body, has not seen any fatal casualties in Nepal.

Currently, the Nepal Canyoning Association (NCA) is the only canyoning facilitator in Nepal. As leader of NCA’s exploring team, I have so far explored around 25 canyoning routes through massive cliffs and giant waterfalls in various parts of Nepal. I have founded six such routes in Nuwakot, two in Kavre, five in Sindhupalchowk, 10 in Lamjung, three in Manang and one in Okhaldhunga. However, due to a lack of media coverage and support from government bodies, we have failed to attract many domestic and foreign tourists willing to experience the adventure.

To reap benefits from this untapped sector, we need to make sure there are plenty of canyoning agencies like the NCA in place. However, ensuring the presence of such agencies is not enough, guided training to those interested is also vital. In coordination with international partners, usually from France and Germany, the NCA conducts training twice a year. Surely, that is not adequate. A concrete plan needs to come through the government if it plans to develop tourism in the country.

Personally, I got an excellent opportunity to travel to France, Spain and Italy to learn canyoning through foreign friends whom I met while working as a trekking guide. In my three-month stay in Europe, I practiced canyoning for the first time. However, I had never thought then that I would choose this as my profession in Nepal.

Two years after my return, friends from France came to Nepal and we began exploring routes. After a couple of routes in Lamjung, they left but there was no going back for me. I went looking for more routes anywhere canyoning could be practiced safely. Lamjung’s Kabindra waterfall has been named after me, my biggest achievement since getting into this profession.

On behalf of the NCA, we attempt to provide guide training to five individuals in 2003. However, three of them weren’t able to complete the training out of fear while the other two are currently in the profession. There are altogether 12 canyoning guides in Nepal.

I was lucky enough to gain canyoning expertise in Europe. As someone who has been desperately working to expand canyoning prospects in Nepal, I would like to call on the government as well as private bodies, to show some interest in this adventure sport. As a virgin sector, yet to be fully explored, canyoning has a lot to offer.

(As told to Ankit Adhikari by Lama, Nepal’s’ first canyoning guide)

source: The Kathmandu Post,29 August 2012

photo:The Kathmandu Post