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White Water Rafting

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Africa is a beautiful continent, but it is also a wild and often unforgiving place. This is reflected in its rivers - the arteries of this lovely continent. The majestic Victoria Falls is breathtaking in its splendor and beauty, and below that - nestled at the bottom of the cliffs of the Batoka Gorge - flows the mighty Zambezi River, reputed to have the wildest one-day white water run in the world.

South Africa itself has been tamed a long, long time ago already. No more lions roaming the streets of Johannesburg! And most of its rivers were tamed as well. But that doesn’t mean there are no more places left where the wild at heart can go and play. The two big tributaries of the Umzimvubu River in the Transkei, The Tina and the Tsitsa, have only been kayak for the very first time in the last 2 years! These rivers have never been rafted yet - and they are huge.

Feel like doing some exploring? Need your adrenalin fix? Come raft in Africa.

White water river rafting is one of the most popular adventure activities in South Africa, and with several major rivers, ranging from mild to wild, a great climate and friendly people, it’s not difficult to see why. The rivers of South Africa have it all, dramatic scenery, remote wilderness areas, exciting rapids, and Africa’s irresistible charm. Few things come close to the experience of a multi-day rafting safari on one of the many rivers in South Africa; lazily floating along on the calm flat stretches, interspersed with the excitement of rapids, camping out at night under the stars, with a camp fire going.

South Africa is a relatively dry country, but with some awesome white water to enjoy. The Orange River, named after the Prince of Oranje by Dutch colonials, is the biggest river in the country. It’s 2,200 km long, with it’s sources high up in the Drakensberg Mountains.

As the Orange flows westwards across the vast subcontinent to the Atlantic Ocean, the landscape through which it flows, grows increasingly arid, flowing through the Kalahari, a very dry, semi-desert area, and finally through the Nimbi, one of the world’s driest deserts. It is an awesome experience to paddle through this harsh environment.

There are some serious white water sections on the Orange River, but most of the sections that are commercially rafted are quite placid with easy grade 1 and 2 rapids. (Rapids are graded on a rising scale of difficulty from 1 to 6, 1 being very easy flowing water, and 6 being very dangerous, unrunable rapids and waterfalls.)

The Orange River is mostly known for its very enjoyable multi-day trips suitable for the whole family. Two-man Indian type Mohawk canoes as well as 2-man inflatable rafts known as ‘crocs’ are used in South Africa.

These trips are leisurely affairs, mostly drifting along on easy white water and camping on sandy beaches at night. These trips are also known for their exquisite cuisine (by river trip standards) and you will be pleasantly surprised by the cooking talents of the guides, who must prepare meals with the bare minimum on open fires.

Rafting trips can be undertaken all year round on the Orange River, even in winter, when temperatures are mild. The best time to enjoy white water rafting on most of the other rivers in South Africa, is in the warmer summer month, between November and May, as it is then when the rivers are full from the rainy season. And that means – white water action!

Some of the most thrilling white water rafting opportunities in South Africa can be found along the mighty Tugela and Mkomazi rivers in KwaZulu-Natal. The Blyde River in Mpumalanga is also known for its serious white water and spectacular scenery.

The Western Cape around Cape Town gets winter rainfall, however. Here the Doring River stands out as a very exciting paddle to undertake in early spring. And the Palmiet and Breede rivers in the Cape are also worthwhile for a relaxed outing in nature. The Great Usutu River in Swaziland also offers really good white water most of the year.

Kallie Zwahlen holds an accounting degree, but prefers paddling rivers to counting beans. Click on his picture to go to his web site.

Then there is the Ash River, near the small arty-farty town of Clarens, fast becoming known as the Adventure Capital in the Eastern Freestate. The crystal clear water gets tunneled from the Katze dam high up in the Maluti Mountains of Lesotho and flows down the Ash River all the way to the Vaal dam. It is the only river in the country with a constant, high, water level, enabling us to run trips throughout the year in the big 6-man rafts. Very exciting grade II – IV rapids make for an exciting day out on the river!

South Africa has some awesome adventure activities to enjoy - and white water rafting stands out as one of the most enjoyable and exciting. When in Africa, make sure to use the opportunity and experience the vast beauty of this continent from a raft and satisfy the need for an adrenaline-rush at the same time!


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