After a week staying in Banyuls Sur Mer and hanging around the sea and nearby beaches we decided we wanted a change of scenery and to see what we could find to do towards the mountains of the Pyrenees.
We found Exterieur Nature – an outdoor activity centre about an hour’s drive from Banyuls Sur Mer, which operates a variety of adventure activities like canyoning, whitewater rafting, a high-ropes course up in the trees and whitewater ‘tubing’.
We really wanted to do canyoning, which seems like the most adventurous and extreme of the activities on offer but it was fully booked for all the remaining days of our holiday – as it was with every other nearby canyoning operator we could find.
The next available option for us was whitewater ‘tubing’, where you sit in a big inflatable doughnut with a paddle and navigate a section of river with some (pretty mild) rapids sections.
So we pre-booked on their website the evening before and made the easy drive inland from Banyuls Sur Mer towards the mountains and Exterieur Nature’s beautiful riverside base at Marquixanes.
It was easy to find and with a large, free car park with a short walk in to the woods and the reception block they’ve built in the woods, where we signed in and could leave our belongings in a locker.
Check out the video we made from the GoPro footage
Next we headed down to the riverside, where there’s a small cabin for the tubing, where a friendly and very helpful English-speaking guide kitted us out with wetsuits, helmets and life-jackets, giving us our instructions on how it all worked.
We’d take one of the big inflatable tubes each, with a paddle, and walk with them along a path to a stony ‘beach’ area a few hundred metres up-river.
From there, you simply sit yourself in the tube, paddling yourself in to the clear, calm section of river at the start, which then begins to pick up speed and carries you along in to the rapids, eventually leading you to an exit point where you climb out – then head back up the river to start again.
We were here in mid-summer when it hadn’t rained probably for months and the river was pretty low and relatively calm. The ‘rapids’ were pretty minimal and easy – and perfectly fine for all our children to navigate their way through safely and easily.
It was fun, but is probably a bit more thrilling and exciting at times of the year when rainfall has been a bit higher and the river’s running faster. Having said that though, with our youngest being 10-years old and a bit too small to properly control the tube, this was probably for the best.
You get about an hour or so, so the number of runs down the river you have depends on how quick you are at getting out and walking back to the start (we weren’t quick at all!)
We’d booked a morning slot and had taken a packed lunch with us so, by the time we’d had our hour (and got about 4 runs in during that time), we had time to get all our kit off, dry off and sit and have lunch by the river.
It’s in a beautiful, peaceful location and we enjoyed sitting around relaxing in the sun and scenery, after the fun and exertion of the tubing.
If you’re a serious adventure thrill-seeker, you might find the tubing is a bit tame for your liking. The stretch of river is pretty short with only a few short ‘rapids’ sections.
But it was ideal for us with the children and we all enjoyed it without ever feeling in danger – even if, on her first run down, our 10-year-old Emma was loudly shouting that she was “gonna die!” However she soon got over it and was eagerly running back up the track for her second run.