World Rivers: South Africa

World Rivers: South Africa

In a big, mountainous country like the Republic of South Africa, great rafting rivers are to be expected.  If you are a rafter, the trick to getting the most out of your visit there is picking the right rivers to experience the best South Africa has to offer while avoiding excessive travel time.   Our trip focuses on the beautiful Cape area at the very bottom of Africa, with a sortie to the west to experience the desert of the Namibia border area.  Amazingly, our itinerary gets us to one of four rivers on each of the first eight full days in the country, after which we return to Capetown to visit world-famous Table Mountain and the Cape Peninsula.  To maximize the fun we mix in some time in inflatable kayaks on the Orange River with more conventional rafting on the Breede, Palmiet and Augrabies rivers.   Speaking of the Augrabies, we spend two days in the eponymous national park, enjoying the big game for which Africa is famous.

All this takes only twelve days.  It’s a little bit of everything in a little bit of time, an action packed adventure that will overwhelm you with its natural beauty, a paddler’s delight.   Escape the winter to luxuriate in the warmth of the southern hemisphere with us.


Day 1, Cape Town

On arrival at the Cape Town International Airport guests will be met and driven to our boutique Cape Town hotel, the Welgelegen.   A delightfully unpretentious yet sophisticated environment, the Welgelegen offers warmth, style and intimacy with its thirteen individually styled en-suite bedrooms. In each and every room, no comfort is spared, from Wi-Fi and aircon to home-made cookies and hot water bottles, as well as the personal touches such as evening chocolates on your pillow, daily fresh fruit, and Welgelegen’s own line of “green” toiletries that not only nourish your body but your senses, too.

At 6 pm the group will meet in the lobby of the hotel for a pre-trip briefing followed by a welcome dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Welgelegen Hotel, Dinner only


Day 2, Breede River


A 2.5 hour (220kms) drive from Cape Town takes us to our Round the Bend lodge with 5 star bush cuisine, comfortable beds, hot showers, flushing toilets and more.  Nestled amongst trees on the banks of the Breede river, Round The Bend is a favorite for those wanting a total getaway. You are accommodated in cozy thatched A-frame, en-suite chalets in a magnificent riverside setting.

After lunch we will head out for a quiet afternoon of Class II paddling on the river.  The Breede River flows through a vast, expansive landscape. The riverbank fluctuates between willow trees, vineyards, delta marshes, vertical cliffs, and farms; the Langeberg Mountains all the while towering in the distance. While paddling down this beautiful clear mountain stream, boaters may also catch a glimpse of a variety of birdlife, including Eagles, Cormorants, Herons and King Fishers. The expanse and grandeur of the surrounding scenery gives way to spectacular sunsets, making trips on this river all the more worthwhile.

Round the Bend Lodge, all meals


Day 3, Breede River and on

After breakfast and a morning on another lovely stretch of the Breede, we check out and travel a short distance to the Palmiet River, that tumbles through the fynbos (the unique natural heath or shrubland vegetation occurring in a small belt of the Western Cape) covered mountains of the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, just outside Kleinmond. The Kogelberg Nature Reserve, through which the Palmiet River runs, is renowned for its incredibly abundant and rich flora. With over 1600 different plant species to be found in the reserve, there is no shortage of vibrant color and lush greenery as you make your way downstream. Wildlife sightings could include leopards, antelope, numerous birds, and the freshwater crab. While the eye-level scenery is beautiful in and of itself, one can also look up to see the majestic mountain tops of Peak Formosa and Thumb Peak.

We check in to the Schulphoek Hotel, overlooking the bay from which it receives its name, an idyllic cove where whales often visit. A well known eco-conscious refuge, this protected cove and its shoreline is also home to many birds, small mammals and marine life which can be viewed on the seashore paths nearby.  The Schulphoek embodies contemporary luxury, simplified elegance and the lingering scent from rows of French lavender.


Schulpoek Hotel, all meals


Day 4, Palmiet River


After breakfast enjoy a day on the Palmiet River. The Palmiet is a friendly stream during the Southern Hemisphere summer months when we are paddling it, and we might navigate it in rafts or inflatable kayaks.   Its rapids vary from Class II-IV depending on flow levels.

We depart Kleinmont later this afternoon and travel over the Franschhoek Pass,  through Wellington and Tulbagh to Clanwilliam. The Clanwilliam Lodge is a colloquial gem emerging off the beaten track, oasis-like in its unforgiving semi-desert habitat, at the foot of the Cedarberg Mountains.

Clanwilliam Lodge, all meals


Day 5, Orange River


After breakfast we head for Pofadder in the Northern Cape, a five hour drive.  The rest of the day is free to enjoy the area from Gravity Base Camp, our home by the river.  The bird life is abundant and the scenery is wild and unspoilt.

Tonight  you will be welcomed to the well-tended and comfortable base camp by your guides. Relax and enjoy the view over orchards and vineyards, down to the river. You can also choose to have sundowners on a dramatic koppie. You’ll enjoy a light supper under the starry night sky around the campfire.


Gravity Base Camp, all meals


Days 6-7, Orange River


After a hearty breakfast, your guides will give you advice on how best to pack your waterproof bags for the trip down river. Before getting on the water you’ll also have a thorough safety briefing and some paddling instruction. Then, it’s time to get going for two days of relaxation and excitement!

The section of river that we explore offers a variety of conditions, from flat water to flowing channels, lots of exciting small rapids and a few ‘Big Ones’ to get the adrenaline flowing.  Each trip is run as a self-contained expedition – we carry everything we need with us and take everything back out again at the end. We make our way down river, choosing a different campsite each night. We use inflatable two person boats that are easy to paddle. We cover just over 30kms during the trip so there is ample time to relax, read your book or explore the camp surroundings.

The Orange River is one of South Africa’s most stunningly scenic waterways. Its fast-flowing currents are surrounded by rugged mountain peaks, towering rock formations of volcanic lava, granite, and limestone, cliffs of swirling metamorphic rock and sedimentary mud, and finally a lush strip of riverside vegetation composed of reeds, grasses, tamarisk, raisin trees, and other desert riparian plants. At times, the river also flows past fruit farms and vineyards. Altogether the landscape is a vibrant mix of orange, greens, and blues, starkly contrasted against one another. Common wildlife sightings include baboons, Goliath Herons, the Great White Egret, bright green Malachite Kingfishers, and Water Monitor Lizards.

The first day’s paddling consists mainly of flowing channels and flat water.  The second day is full of excitement with a walk around Ritchie Falls.  The boats are lowered down the cliff by the falls, and anyone intrepid enough can rappel down as well.  Rapids like ‘42 man hole’, ‘Big Bunny’ and ‘Dolly Parton’ enliven the day.


Camping, all meals


Day 8, Augrabies National Park

As you leave the gorge today, the last section is just gentle drifting. The group will be met at the take-out after lunch and transported back to base camp to enjoy a final meal around the campfire. (Above itinerary may change slightly according to season and water level).

This afternoon we travel to Augrabies Falls, about a three hour drive.  Few sights are as awesome or sounds as deafening as water thundering down the 56m (175 ft) Augrabies Waterfall when the Orange River is in full flood. The Khoi people called it ‘Aukoerebis’, or place of Great Noise, as this powerful flow of water is unleashed from rocky surroundings of the Orange River Gorge.

Picturesque names such as Moon Rock, Ararat and Echo Corner are descriptive of this rocky region. Klipspringer and kokerboom (quiver trees) stand in stark silhouette against the African sky, silent sentinels in a strangely unique environment where only those that are able to adapt ultimately survive. The 55 383 hectares on both the northern and southern sides of the Orange River provide sanctuary to a diversity of species, from the very smallest succulents, birds and reptiles to Hartmann’s mountain zebra, springbok, gemsbok and giraffe.

We stay in the chalets of the Augrabies National Park, simple, self-catering cottages.

Chalets, all meals


Day 9, Augrabies Rafting

We raft the exciting and pristine 9 km stretch of the Garieb (Orange River), finishing only 300 meters (1000 ft) above the main falls.  We tackle grade 2 and 3 rapids such as Rhino, Rollercoaster, Klipspringer, Blind Faith and the Cascades while viewing the excellent bird and wildlife in the National Park.

Chalets, all meals


Day 10, Cape Town

Transfer to Upington for your flight to Cape Town.  On arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel.  Lunch and dinner are on your own at one of the many good restaurants in the area.

Welgelegen Hotel, BF only


Day 11, Exploring the Cape

A visit to Cape Town is incomplete without a hike up Table Mountain, rising to just over a kilometre (roughly 3500 ft) directly from sea level, Table Mountain ranks in status alongside famous African giants such as Kilimanjaro and the Atlas Mountains.  Mid morning we depart on a full day tour of the Cape Peninsula – one of the most dramatic coastal drives in the world. This tour heads down the west side of the Peninsula, along the Atlantic Seaboard via Sea Point and the magnificent beaches at Clifton and Camps Bay.  Travel via Llandudno to take in the breathtaking views before continuing on to Hout Bay, a quaint village and fishing harbor.

Further down the coast enter the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, which is home to a wide variety of plant, bird and animal life and the most south westerly point of the African continent – the towering headland known as Cape Point.   Enjoy a 20-minute ascent on an asphalt path at Cape Point. A lookout point greets you with the famous view of what is popularly perceived as the Atlantic Ocean meeting the Indian Ocean—absolutely stunning—although geographically these two oceans join just east at Cape Agulhas. On a clear day looking back, you can take in the entire peninsula stretching as far as the eye can see. The walk continues along the coast and through the nature reserve along a moderate path of varying terrain including dirt, boardwalk, rocks, and many steps. You pass the glorious flowers and foliage of the Cape—a variety of Protea, Cycads, and Pincushions. It is likely that baboon families can be spotted as well as the occasional buck.

We continue up the east side of the Peninsula to Simon’s Town, a village with a naval base and Boulders Beach – home to a large African penguin colony.   Return to Cape Town, and enjoy a farewell dinner at one of the local restaurants within walking distance of the hotel or in the in-house dining room.

Welgelegen Hotel, BF & D


Day 12, Depart


Transfer to Cape Town International Airport in time for your flight home.

Breakfast only




  • Wantok leadership and pre-trip assistance
  • 3 nights catered camping
  • 7 nights in hotels and lodges
  • Meals except where noted in the itinerary
  • All porterage at airport and hotels
  • All arrangements in the field, including camp meals, cook staffs, group gear and rafting equipment
  • Airport transfers on group arrival and departure days
  • Air-conditioned ground transportation during the trip
  • Sightseeing and activities as noted in the itinerary
  • All  entrance fees at parks and sites visited



  • Airfare Upington to Cape Town during tour
  • Airfare between your gateway city and Cape Town
  • Insurance of any kind, including travel insurance
  • Alcoholic beverages and drinks with meals
  • Items of personal nature (an equipment list will be provided)
  • Gratuities


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