White water rafting down the Ubaye River, ProvenceWith over 50 km / 30 miles of rapids, the wild Ubaye river in the north of Provence is regarded as one of the best and most beautiful in France for white water rafting.

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The scenery mixes Mediterranean luxuriance with Alpine cragginess and racing along the river in an inflatable boat allows an intimate view of it that you'll never see from the road.

Will you be able to enjoy the view? Well, some images of white water rafting do make the sport look truly terrifying.

But - while this will never be a sedate and relaxing ride - the Ubaye runs present different levels of difficulty, starting with level 2 which is comfortably within the abilities of beginners and young children (rafters are required to confirm that they're able to swim, however).

Kitted out with helmets, wetsuits and life-jackets, newbie rafters get a brisk training session from one of the friendly but no-nonsense guides who also acts as a sort of cox once the boat is launched; rafts can accommodate between three and eight people.

White water rafting down the Ubaye River, ProvenceMore experienced rafters will find the level 5 and 5+ runs on the Fresquière Rapids and the Royal Gorge sections satisfyingly challenging (click here for an explanation of these levels).

One of the thrilling things about the Ubaye river is that it's ever-changing and the rafting experience varies according to the seasons: in the spring, the melting snow makes the rapids swirling and powerful, while the summer runs have a reduced water flow but are more technically demanding.

The season for rafting companies based in the area, such as Sud Rafting, runs from 1 April to 30 September. Events on offer range from half a day's rafting and a barbecue lunch to a whole weekend of mixed activities, including one overnight stay. Click here for the Sud Rafting website (in French only).

Other sports available include white water swimming, hydro-speed, mountain biking, hiking canyoning, (scaling waterfalls with ropes) and hot dogging.

Fear not: this last has nothing to do with junk food, but refers to an inflatable boat that's a cross between a raft and a canoe. In fact, the lunches on offer at the rustic rafting base are likely to be simple, tasty barbecues of merguez (spicy North African sausages) and grilled meat.

Part of the attraction of this gloriously unspoiled region is its inaccessibility from major roads. The Sud Rafting base is at Meolans, just off the D900. Marseille is 212 km / 131.7 miles away, and the drive from there will take around two and a half hours. The nearest town is Barcelonette (15.6 km/ 9.7 miles), while Gap is 52.7 km / 32.7 miles) and a bus runs to Meolans from both towns.

 

 

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