When we first met Tsering Chotak, more years ago than I care to remember, he was a passionate and skilled kayaker with a dream of building his own rafting and white water company. Born in the remote upper Himalayan region of Ladakh in the far north of India, his background was subsistence farming and surviving the harsh climate at 3,500 metres. While Ladakh is home to the Himalayan Grand Canyon in the form of the Zanskar River, and cut through by the mighty Indus, it’s hard to reach and the season short, due to the brutal and long winter. Rafting in the upper Himalayas was in its infancy, and the peaceful Buddhist community had only recently been opened to international tourism. It was going to be a tough journey. But with diligence, the support of his family and the respect of kayaking legends in India and Nepal, he studied hard to become a qualified raft guide. With this knowledge and determination, he trained his own team in Ladakh, and his dream came true. Years have gone by, and the tiny rafting company, became a rafting camp site on the banks of the Indus, in Nimmu, near to his home village, and eventually the biggest and best white water team in Ladakh. International companies like ours started to look to Ladakh as a place to bring our own customers for kayaking and rafting expeditions, and we needed help with the logistics and guides. While there were big Indian companies who offered this kind of support, none of them were Ladakhi. The region is unique and so different to the rest of India, and we wanted our English speaking customers to have an authentic and safe experience, so we turned to Chotak and Wet n Wild to work with us. It was the right decision. Ladakh is so much more than rivers and mountains, and our customers were overjoyed with the quality of their expeditions, but also to be immersed in this culture in a way that we could not have done on our own.
Nowadays Wet n Wild continues to grow and diversify, adding trekking, mountain biking, jeep safari’s and motor bike expeditions to the rich choices available in Ladakh. Our customers continue to enjoy unique and life enhancing experiences in the upper Himalayas that are expertly run, high quality and respectful of the local people whose homeland we are visiting. Wet n Wild has become THE premier outfit offering day rafting and expeditions, including winter snow treks and the LADAKH WHITE WATER FESTIVAL, the highest kayaking event in the world. Athletes come from all over the world to this event, to kayak with the growing ranks of Himalayan kayakers. These local boys AND girls have been able to take up kayaking for fun due to the growing adventure sport industry and are beginning to break out and compete in international competitions. Chotak wants to be able to offer young Ladakhi people the chances and choices that he had to make for himself when he was young. He also offers free rafting trips to local schools, Buddhist monks and communities, as a way of giving back for all the support and generosity he has received during the growth and success of Wet n Wild. (He is a prominent member of several local charities supporting the impoverished rural communities in wild and remote areas).
Recently Chotak has become the first Ladakhi to qualify as an International Raft Guide instructor. It means that he has been able to offer Indian guides a chance to qualify and work all over the world at a subsidised rate, something they could never have afforded before on raft guide wages. He came with us to Bhutan last year to offer the training for free to guides in Bhutan, and intends to continue offering this vital IRF training to guides all across the Himalayas, to help individual guides with their careers but mainly to improve safety and quality in the industry.
We are proud to be colleagues and friends of the Wet n Wild team, who come from Ladakh, greater India, Nepal and more. We’ve seen it grow from a small rafting company to a high quality and professional outfit that offers all manner of adventure sport and sightseeing adventures, while respecting it’s roots and heritage. Keep on building Chotak and team!
Andrea Maya Clarkson-King, UK.