River Rafting in Southern Africa – adventure sport on the water

By Ashworth Africa, February 19, 2015

river rafting south africaRiver rafting, or white water rafting, has been a popular adventure sport since the mid-1970’s, and a crop of specialised adventure groups now offer pre-planned river rafting tours. The recreational activity uses an inflatable raft and paddles to navigate rivers of various gradients, and may differ in risk depending on the river and skills level of the rafter. The rafts vary in size, allowing for two; four; six; or eight people aboard. It is thrill-seeking, adrenaline-pumping, and a challenge, and often requires teamwork – making it a great getaway for families and corporate groups, as well as those simply seeking a fun experience. With several of the world’s major river systems, Southern Africa provides the perfect setting for this adventure sport.

River Rafting Tours

First-time river rafters will get the most out of their experience by booking a designed tour with a group that will offer a safe, guided river rafting experience. These may offer day trips; overnighters; or longer expeditions. Specialised tour makers in South Africa include:

  • Umkulu Adventures – Safari and Canoe Trails – operate mainly on the Orange River. With eighteen years of experience creating tailor-made holidays and African safaris, this team has a knowledgeable group of river guides. The Orange River is the longest river in South Africa, beginning in Lesotho (the Senqu River) in the Drakensberg Mountains, and flowing westwards to create a border between South Africa and Namibia. River rafting along the Orange is a popular activity, and Umkulu Adventures offers seven different tours along the river. They also offer a two-day tour on the Breede River.
  • Wildthing Adventures operate on the Breede River. While they also offer tours on the Orange River, these are exclusively canoe trips, whereas their Breede River trip specialises in river rafting. They welcome all age groups and have created safe beginner tours for young children (five years and upwards). The Breede River is in the Western Cape of South Africa, beginning in Ceres and running through Worcester into the Indian Ocean. The water flows smooth and gently – thus perfect for beginners. There are no crocodiles or hippos on this river, making this a great area for swimming, although there have been very occasional Bull Shark sightings by the mouth of the river over the years.
  • Active Escapes operate on the Tugela and the Umkomaas River. The Tugela River begins in the Drakensberg Mountains and flows through the centre of KwaZulu-Natal, and is the largest of the province’s rivers. Active Escapes offer river rafting as a leisure activity while staying at the Tugela Bush Camp in central KwaZulu-Natal. As this package is not a singular river rafting tour, it is a great choice for those wanting a more varied holiday, where one may choose from a range of fun activities, including quad-biking; ziplining; abseiling; game viewing; and fly fishing. Alternatively, they offer half-day to three-day river rafting trips along the Umkomaas River in rural KwaZulu-Natal, and one can choose a tour based on experience level. Certain areas of the river have frequent, and more challenging rapids, making this an option for the slightly more experienced adventurer.

Those booking river rafting holidays must be sure to enquire about the best time of year for the sport in the respective region, as rainfall and floods may affect the rafting experience in terms of risks, challenges, and skills required. While this sport always offers a new adventure, it can also be deeply relaxing – think of wading through calm waters; watching the surrounding birdlife; observing the abundant flora on the river banks; and taking a swim at noon. With the number of specialised tours on offer, there is an opportunity for every age and level to experience the thrill of river rafting.

Contact us for a tailored itinerary which includes river rafting, or white water rafting, at a destination of your choice.

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