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© Shearwater Adventures© Shearwater AdventuresDespite the fact that most of the trips on the Orange River, on the border of South Africa and Namibia are scenic and mellow, there are some serious white water sections, and one fun half-day white water trip. The Doring River near the Western Cape town of Clanwilliam offers fantastic – but cold – white water paddling in winter, but only in a good year, as it is a bit temperamental and sometimes refuses to flow. The Palmiet River, which is about an hour’s drive from Cape Town, is a pretty, steep, white water river where you can do a fun day trip. The Ash River, in the Free State, is a steep white water river with a very dependent flow – courtesy of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project that regularly releases water into the river.

In Mpumalanga, the Blyde River offers absolutely spectacular grade three, four and five rapids in possibly the most beautiful setting – an almost pristine, clear turquoise river in a steep forested gorge. It’s not a good choice for a first white water river but, if you have a few descents under your belt, you’ll love it. Close by, in Limpopo Province, the Olifants River offers exciting grade two and three rapids, and is a bit more accessible – in terms of skill level – than the Blyde.

In KwaZulu-Natal, the Tugela River and its tributary, the Buffalo, offer fantastic white water in summer.

Beyond South Africa’s borders the Kunene, which forms the border between Namibia and Angola, is an absolutely magnificent white water river that runs through a virtual wilderness area. Although there are long scenic sections, it has some spectacular gorges with hectic grade three, four and five rapids.

And, of course, the legendary Zambezi, on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia is probably the ultimate white water river. The Great Usutu River in Swaziland has some fabulous grade three, four and five rapids, depending on water level.

White water trips are run using either two-person inflatable rafts, locally known as crocs, or larger multi-person rafts. The bigger rafts are used on the more difficult or dangerous stretches of river, so that there can be a guide on each boat. Rafts may be rowed by the guide or paddled by the clients under the supervision of the guide (who also does most of the steering).

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