orange river gorge 03 - Places To Paddle in South Africa

Places To Paddle in South Africa

South Africans are so blessed with amazing rivers, gorgeous scenery and a climate perfect for outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers. If you are looking for your next great paddling adventure in this beautiful destination, we have the low-down for you.



One of the most popular rivers for canoeing, paddling and kayaking is the Orange River – and for good reason! The river forms the country’s northern border with Namibia. It is incredibly scenic route with a good few rapids that are, while challenging, a lot of fun. This long, green-fringed river runs through a mountainous desert area known as Richtersveld.

The section of river below the Augrabies Fall is similar and there is a 1-day rafting trip above Augrabies which features some exciting, but not radical rapids. However, the Gorge section of the Orange River is a lot more technical and has some-high volume rapids. The Orange River caters for the casual paddlers and the adrenalin junkies alike.

orange river gorge in action

If you live close to Johannesburg, you will be familiar with the Vaal – a tributary of the Orange. It has some fun, mild rapids and, because of its destination, is a popular destination for corporate trips. Office parties will never be the same!

If you’re just looking for a day trip, the Crocodile River (also near Johannesburg) offers a pleasant day out with some small and mildly challenging rapids.

doring river

If, for some reason, you’re a fan of winter paddling, the Doring River in the Western Cape has a season towards the end of winter and offers exciting, technical white water – but it is quite cold so don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Palmiet River runs through Kogelberg Nature Reserve and offers technical rapids and beautiful scenery. They offer day trips that include all meals and sometimes a stop at a nearby winery.

If you get the timing right for a trip to the Molenaars, then it is well worth the trip, but it only works for a few days immediately after heavy rain in its catchment area. The Sonderend River is a smallish river where you can do a fun day trip or stay overnight.

When it comes to the Breede River, you have the choice between two trips. The first is a one-day wine-tasting trip near Worcester – really just an excuse to have a lovely picnic and sample some local wines with a bit of paddling chucked in. The second is lower down the river near Swellendam and is a two-day trip. This trip runs over some small rapids and quite rocky sections and is mainly used for corporate trips.

The Garden Route offers some fun canoeing in the lake areas, especially Wilderness and Knysna Lagoon. Other enjoyable flat-water trips include the two self-guided excursions near Port Alfred, one of which is up and down the conveniently tidal Kowie River. The other option is a short paddle up the Kleinemond River to a wonderful overnight spot aptly named Kayak Camp.

wilderness george canoe kayak river

If luxury is more your vibe, try the escorted trip through the biologically unique and equally as pretty Kosi Bay lake system. There are also escorted one-day trips on Kale St Lucia in northern KwaZulu-Natal. Here you might see crocodiles and hippos as well as on Lake Bhangazi, also part of the Greater St Lucia Wetland park.

Sticking to KZN, the Umkomaas River on KZN’s South Coast offers great paddling with some fun, challenging but not too technical rapids. The Umgeni also has some delightful rapids – this section forms part of the 3-day Dusi Marathon.

The Buffalo River, which used to be the border between the kingdom of Zululand and the British colony of Natal, hosts two-day trips with quite challenging rapids. The Buffalo is s tributary of the nearby Tugela River, which has some pretty impressive white water with some very scary rapids!

The Blyde River in Mpumalanga is probably one of the most beautiful rivers in South Africa – a somewhat hectic, technical alpine-style river with a steep gradient. A second trip on a tamer section of the same river is far easier, and the nearby Sabie River also offers an easy day out. The Olifants River, also close by, has some wonderful, big but not too technical rapids, and also traverses some beautiful scenery.

You can buy your kayak from Nautical Sports and we can have delivered to your door or destination in South Africa at no additional charge.

Also, Fluid kayaks will increase by a minimum of 10% on 1 July, so buy your kayak now to beat the price increase.

Happy paddling!


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