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Rivers

The whole southern Africa region is relatively arid (becoming more so with global climate change) so there are only a few perennial rivers suitable for year round paddling. Of these, the Orange River, on the border of South Africa and Namibia, is the most popular. The Orange has something for everyone – long scenic stretches with a few exciting rapids that are suitable for absolute beginners and families, as well as some more challenging sections. The Breede River near Cape Town, is conveniently placed for a quick escape from the city, and offers fun paddling with a few nice rapids. The Ash River, near the Eastern Free State town of Clarens, is probably the most reliable of all South African rivers, as its flow is controlled by the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. It has both a hectic white water section and a nice, flat section suitable for family trips and bird watching. The Great Usutu River in Swaziland is runnable all year, offering some exhilarating white water. But the Grand-daddy of them all is the Zambezi, on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia. It has it all – from short flat paddles to long waterborne safaris and Richter-scale white water.

Some of the smaller rivers that have just a short, flat paddling section that are runnable all year include the Keurbooms, the rivers of Kosi Bay, the Kowie, and the Umtata.

The Kunene, on the border of Namibia and Angola, is runnable almost all year except sometimes for a month or two at the end of the dry season (usually September and October). The Vaal River and the Crocodile River, which are conveniently close to Johannesburg and blessed with some fun rapids, are usually not run in mid-winter..

As a rule, the white water rivers of the Cape, ie the Doring and the Palmiet, are runnable in winter, while the white water rivers in the rest of the country – the Tugela, the Buffalo, the Olifants, the Mutale, are runnable in summer. In Mpumalanga, the Blyde, which offers both spectacular white water and a gentle family trip, is best in summer, as is the rather fun Sabie, with its more manageable rapids.


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