Remember your paddle: Where to spend a weekend on SA's rivers

2019-02-20 16:30 - Gabi Zietsman
Post a comment 0

The splash of water on your face, your boat teetering on the edge of getting flipped over, your muscles sore from klapping your kayak partner with your paddle.

If you've ever wanted to test your relationship with a loved one, do a kayak day trip together. Or if you're feeling even braver, do a whole weekend. Two people trying to coordinate their steering while fighting with the currents of Mother Nature is a recipe for all-out war, or an opportunity to band together that will make you closer with your partner.

WATCH: Getting up close to a hippo on a Tanzanian river

I grew up with an uncle that was a rowing fanatic, and spend many summer holidays in Namibia rowing the cold Atlantic ocean. One particular trip will forever be stuck in my brain - he decided one year my brother and I were ready for a big ocean trip from Langstrand to Sandwich Harbour - or somewhere around there. My brother and I were foolishly paired up together - and we have never fought as violently as we did on that trip. 

I refused to paddle all the way back when reached what supposed to be the turnaround point, shaking so much I could barely speak from a combination of cold and anger, and vowed never to row with my brother again.

Fast forward many years - he was living in Nelspruit and I went up for a visit and we decided to go canoeing for half a day on the Sabie. I was very hesitant, thinking we're going to fight tooth and nail the whole way thinking about the last time we rowed together, but in the end we didn't even say one bad word to each other, navigating the river in perfect unison.

It's amazing what maturity can do to a relationship - and a little time together on the water. 

READ: 'The Fish' is tough, but you will be back for more!

Here are a few of South Africa's rivers you can spend the weekend on and test your relationships.

Orange River

The biggest and most popular river expedition in SA, taking on the Orange River over an average trip of four days is a bucket list must.

Make sure to book with experienced river guides that will also make food for you - so that you really relax after flexing those muscles the whole day.

Sabie River

If you're looking for something a little less dry, Mpumalanga's white water haven Sabie River is a great place to spend your weekend if you want to try out the whole kayaking thing before committing to a multi-day trek.

There are different grades of rapids all along the Sabie, so you can do different spots without having to camp on the banks of the river.

READ: Swim for Rivers: Raising awareness of river health in SA 

Vaal River

A tributary of the Orange River, this Free State vein forms a big part of the province's identity. You can start in Parys and kayak toward various spots - even the Vaal Dam wall - and camp along the way on its islands.

It's an easy drive from Gauteng, perfect for an adrenaline-filled weekend for city-slickers looking to get their feet wet.

Umkomaas River

From Giant's Castle to the warm Indian ocean, this KwaZulu-Natal river will give whitewater enthusiasts great thrill during the summer rainy season.

The roller coaster of huge waves will have you sleeping soundly in the Umkomaas Valley when you overnight, ready for the next big day.

READ: Step off KZN's beaten tracks with WOWZulu to take in these cool community experiences

Breede River

Springing forth from the Great Hex Mountains, this river is important to the wine farms that it snakes through - you could taste as you row on its silvery back.

The most popular time of year for a  Breede River adventure is over Easter, when the heat is dialled down a notch but the chill of winter is still kept at bay. It's also famous for the popular Up the Creek festival at the start of the year.

READ: Breede River Escape: Time out at Tides River Lodge

Tugela River

This is the longest river in KwaZulu-Natal, starting in the Drakensberg mountains and should only be attempted by those who know their way around currents.

You can try out various stretches of the river and be prepared to take on rapids like the Liquidiser, Little Niagara, Finger Rock, Ledges and Keisha. 

Great Kei River

This river is 320km long, formed by the confluence of the Black Kei and White Kei rivers in the Eastern Cape.

If you're looking to catch some tail while making your way up or down the river, the Great Kei is a popular fishing spot, especially at the mouth.

READ: #LoveSA: Get fishy around Eastern Cape's waters

Blyde River

You can get up close for a good look at the Bourke's Luck Pot Holes or the Three Rondawels with an overnight kayak all the way to Swadini.

Afterwards you can drive up (it'll be a bit far with the kayak) to the famous lookout point of the canyon where you can try to spot where you were rowing.

Find Your Escape by searching and comparing flight prices here. You can also sign-up for the Traveller24 Weekly Newsletter – Subscribe here. Or download the News24 App here, to receive expertly curated travel ideas and deals directly to your mobile.