Five-Day Orange River Tour

QUICK REFERENCE

WHERE Prieska area, Northern Cape
WHEN Upcoming tour dates:
– April 2020 (dates TBC)
Custom tour dates can be scheduled – contact us.
Minimum group size: 8 | Max. group size: 12
DURATION Five (5) days of paddling, four (4) nights on the river, one (1) night in Prieska before the start of the trip.
DIFFICULTY Easy. Flowing flatwater with some class 1 features.
COST R4,950 per person. R4,360 for children U18.
DOWNLOADS Booking form and read our Booking Ts&Cs

This 80-kilometre section of the Orange River is primarily flowing flatwater with a number of islands, channels and friendly class 1 rapids, which are easy to paddle through. This distance is split over five days of paddling. Paddle With Us for an active yet leisurely getaway.

THIS FIVE-DAY TOUR

We spend five days and four nights on the river. You’ll need a travel day either side of the trip.

Our Vagabond Mazowe double-seater kayaks are stable and a pleasure to paddle. They have more than enough space to stow your gear in the tankwells and hatch for this five-day trip. These are family-friendly kayaks that a parent can paddle (mostly on their own) with a child in the front seat.

We cover an average of 14-20km each day as we enjoy the scenery and nature of this beautiful section of river. Our kayaks are perfectly suited to this environment.

Paddling pace is steady and easy, with regular stops for snacks and lunch. We make camp each day in the early afternoon to enjoy leisure time for chilling, reading, fishing, walking and bird watching. With no electricity, wi-fi or Netflix, this is the perfect opportunity to really unwind.

We spend four nights camping wild on the river bank.

On Day 5, we take out around lunchtime. Your vehicles will be at the take-out so you can either return to Prieska for the night or begin your journey home.

TRAVEL TO PRIESKA

Prieska is located 700km from Johannesburg (7h30 drive time). Take the N12 to Kimberley and then the R357 to Douglas and on to Prieska.

CATERING

For the night when we arrive in Prieska, join us at the restaurant at Riverview Lodge. They have a lovely menu that covers all bases. This is for your own account.

From the first morning, catering is in our hands. Before we get on the river, we will enjoy a solid breakfast and then we brief you on river safety and kayak packing.

For each of the five days on the river, we make regular stops on the water to hydrate and to munch snacks. We take longer, more leisurely stops for lunch and to stretch our legs. We prepare and provide breakfast, lunch and dinner for you.

Remember to pack your favourite beverages as we do not provide these. We also recommend bringing your own favourite treats and snacks to enjoy between meals.

ACCOMMODATION

You need to arrive in Prieska on the afternoon before Day 1 of paddling. We stay at the lovely Riverview Lodge the night before we get on the water.

We spend four nights camping wild on the riverbank. For this you need your tent, camp mattress and sleeping bags. We do have tents and mattresses for hire.

We get off the river by 12h00 on Day 5. It is quick to load gear into your vehicle, which will be waiting at the take-out. Depending on your destination, you can either travel home, stay overnight in Prieska or book accommodation at a town on your route home to break the journey.

GEAR

Our team is on hand to make this trip that much more comfortable for you by assisting in setting up camp, cooking meals and helping you to pack your kayak efficiently. The experience of paddling from A to B down the river and camping wild is a wonderful one that is enhanced when you are totally involved and immersed. It is your experience. We’re there to guide and assist but not to do everything for you.

Kayak and safety equipment, drybags, and guides are included. You’ll need to bring along your clothing and kit (we’ll provide you with a list of recommended items), personal sleeping gear (mattress, sleeping bag, pillow) and your favourite beverages. Sleeping under the stars is possible for most of year in this area, but we do recommend that you bring a tent (1-3 person sized) along too.

Ahead of the trip, we will provide you with guidance on how to organise your gear to pack into the drybags provided. We do have standard camp equipment for hire.

MEDICAL

Please pack all your medical essentials – from headache tablets and Voltaren Gel to your asthma pump, diabetic meds, hormone replacement therapy tablets, blood pressure meds, antihistamine tablets, and even an Epipen should you need one for bee stings and the like.

We are on hand to mend cuts and scrapes, and to deal with any emergencies but we are not permitted to hand out pills.

COST BREAKDOWN

Our minimum group size is 8 people and maximum group size is 12. Custom group bookings can be made by arrangement.

Five (5) days & four (4) nights on the river incl. meals R4,950 per adult

Children U18: R4,360**

** No children under 8. Note that children aged 8-15 must paddle on a double kayak with a parent. Children aged 16 and up may paddle single-seater kayaks, if you have your own Vagabond kayak. A parent must be on the trip with all children under 16. Teens over 16 may come on these trips without a parent; parental consent is necessary.
INCLUDED EXCLUDED
·         Guided trip with five (4.5) days and four (4) nights on the river

·        Vehicle shuttle to take-out for drivers

·         Kayaks and safety equipment

·         Personal drybags

·         Meals  from dinner the night before we start to lunch on day 5.

·         Tea and coffee

·        Accommodation in Prieska the night before we begin.

·         Travel to Prieska

·         Drinks

·         Travel home

·        Accommodation the night of Day 5 when we complete the trip. This may be in Prieska or en route home.

EQUIPMENT HIRE

 1-person tent: spacious for one person.   R300 per tent
2-3-person tent: spacious for two people, and suitable for 2 adults and a child.   R600 per tent
Inflatable camp mattress   R300 per mattress

If you would like to purchase your own camping equipment (tents, mattresses, sleeping bags), please speak to us as we can order good quality gear that is perfect for this trip from our suppliers.

BOOKINGS & CANCELLATIONS

Bookings can be made by downloading and returning our booking form (see at the top of this page in the summary table). On confirmation of your booking, a recommended kit list will be sent to you.

We are well aware that life can get in the way of your plans for a lovely trip with us on the Orange River. As far as cancellations go, please take note of the following terms:

  • No-show, no refund.
  • No refund will be given for cancellations received within seven (7) days of the scheduled date and time of the activity.
  • For cancellations received within two weeks (14 days) of the tour, 85% of the fee will be charged.
  • For cancellations received within four weeks (28 days) of the tour, 70% of the fee will be charged.
  • For cancellations received within eight weeks (56 days) of the tour, 50% of the fee will be charged.
  • Cancellations made more than eight weeks (56 days) before the tour will only be charged a 10% admin fee.
  • Paddle With Us reserves the right to cancel any tour should there be insufficient guests and/or unfavourable weather. We aim to give you a reasonable period of notice of cancellations. A full refund will be given.

Q&A

Q: What are the pros of a kayak tour vs an inflatable raft tour?

A: Rafts are slow, great at drifting, super for toddlers and very young children, and they ideally suited to running rapids (i.e. class 2 and greater); but, they are sluggish on flatwater. Our trips focus on flowing flatwater, which makes kayaks the most suitable boats. Our kayaks are stable, fast in design, easier to paddle and ideally suited to our tour locations. They can also run class 1 rapids with ease. Kayaks allow us to cover longer distances with less effort. They have dry hatches to stow your gear and offer a much more self-sufficient experience.

Q: How big is a class 1 rapid?

A: Rapids are graded according to difficulty, accessibility and risk. Class 1 would be those where the river flows over rocks, making ripples and small waves, but with no serious obstructions nor danger.  Little skill or manoeuvring is required. These rapids add variety to flatwater with no risk to your safety

Q: Do I need any paddling experience?

A: No, you don’t. BUT… you should have a reasonable level of fitness because going from the couch to five days of paddling will not be very comfortable. If you haven’t done anything for some time, we recommend that you do our Vaal River Overnight Tour first and then join us on the Orange River.

As far as paddling is concerned: When we first get on to the river, we’ll teach you some basic techniques to best paddle and steer your kayak. This is a friendly section of river. The water is flat, with no nasties or scary rapids. This is an active getaway with a leisurely pace to ensure that you get to camp each afternoon having enjoyed the paddle and with enough energy to clamber in the hills, fish, watch birds and to swim in the river.

 Q: What is included in the tour fee?

A: From dinner when you arrive in Prieksa before the trip, all meals, tea & coffee in the morning, filtered drinking water, overnight camping, and kayak and safety equipment – including drybags – are included.

Q: What is not included in the tour fee?

A: Your travel to Prieska, accommodation in Prieska the night before Day 1, your personal camping equipment (tent, mattress, sleeping bag) and clothing, drinks, and travel home after we take-out from the river on Day 5. Depending on your destination, you may want to book accommodation for your homeward trip in advance.

Q: Are there showers and loos at the campsites?

A: On the river, we’ll be camping wild on the river banks where there is soft sand, open rock, scattered trees and grassy knolls.

Wild camping means that there are no toilets at the river camps. Your guide will teach you how to ‘sh-t in the woods’ (an excellent and very funny book btw) making as little impact on the environment as possible. There are no showers but as we are on a river with clean water we swim in the river to freshen up. Take along a facecloth and eco friendly soap for a wash.

Q: What should I pack?

A: If you pack everything that we have on our recommended kit list, you’ll be covered for all eventualities. Don’t be tempted to pack much more than what we recommend as you will have to carry it on your kayak and you’re unlikely to use the extras (we know, because we’ve done this!).

Q: How will I keep my clothing and gear dry?

A: We provide you with drybags that fit into the hatch of your kayak and onto the deck in the tankwell. There will be more than enough volume for what you will need to pack. We’ll guide you as to how best to pack your gear in the drybags and on your kayak.

Q: What will the weather be like?

A: Being the Northern Cape, the chance of rain is negligible, which is always appreciated when one is camping!

In September, we enjoy hot days (25-31°C) and cool nights (9-14°C). After the short days of winter, daylight hours lengthen with the sun rising around 06h15 and setting around 18h30. We miss the full moon, but will enjoy a half moon that rises in the middle of the night. The starlit sky of the Northern Cape is always spectacular. We can look forward to sightings of planets, shooting stars and satellites.

In December, it is preferable to be on the river (and in the water!), lounging under the shade of trees and enjoying ‘river floats’ from our camps as respite from 33-39°C midday. Mild nights, at 16°C, are welcomed. New moon in December offers dark nights with exceptional star viewing. With the sun rising around 05h30, we can get onto the water earlier to make the best of the cool temperature. With sunset around 19h30, the days are beautifully long.

Q: Is there medical support?

A: In advance of the trip, we ask you to complete a form and to list any medical conditions that you may have like hypertension, diabetes, asthma and allergies and whether you are taking any chronic medications. Remember to clearly label and pack them in an accessible place.

Our guides are first-aid trained and we have a medical kit on hand that can deal with regular cuts, scrapes, gashes, burns and bites. For anything more serious or life threatening, we will put our emergency plans into action. Take note that access to the river is limited and evacuation can be quite difficult, depending on where we are at the time.

We appreciate common sense at all times – no diving into the water, don’t run around on rocks where you could slip and fall, and don’t go stomping around in long grass or putting your hands into rocky holes where snakes may reside. It’s just not worth the risk.

Q: Can we drink from the river?

A: The water here is relatively clean but while it may be A-ok for swimming, we don’t recommend drinking from any river in South Africa! We will provide you with filtered drinking water.

We recommend that you bring powdered juice, like Game, to add to the water for some variety. Please decant anything that comes in glass bottles into plastic bottles. I’m sure you can understand the risk that broken glass presents.

If you’d like to enjoy a tipple in the evening, you’re welcome to bring along drinks of your choice. Please note that this is not a booze cruise. In terms of our safety requirements, alcohol may not be consumed on the water. A glass or two in the evening is quite ok but getting trashed will result in you feeling awful the next day and will make you a safety risk. That’s not cool.

Q: Can I use my own kayak on your tours?

Yes, but… Just as a mountain bike is different from a road bike and a faster time trial bike, so kayaks have applications and speeds. We use Vagabond kayaks – the Tarka, Kasai, Marimba and Mazowe models – for our tours and we do offer a discount if you bring along your own Vagabond kayak. We do request that your kayak is one of these Vagabond Kayak models so that your pace will be similar to that of the group. Longer sit-in touring kayaks are faster, while other sit-on-top kayaks from other brands are slower than ours (and take more effort to paddle).

Q: Do you cater for allergies and different dietary requirements?

A: Our menu offers meals that are tasty with great flavours and variety. Yes, we will gladly accommodate for different dietary requirements, within reason. Please make sure that you fill in the dietary requirement and allergy section of our booking form.

Q: Can we do a car pool for the drive to Prieska?

A: We will gladly put trip participants in contact with each other. Financially and environmentally, it makes no sense for people to travel alone.

Q: How do the cars get from Prieska to the take out?

A: Depending on the trip, the evening before or on the morning of Day 1, the vehicle drivers will drive to the take-out, which is about an hour from Prieska by road. The vehicles will be parked on an inhabited, working farm (it is safe). Our shuttle driver will bring us back to Prieska. We prefer for your vehicles to be waiting for you so that you can take the most efficient route home instead of having to return to a specific location.

NATURAL HIGHLIGHTS

While being on the river is a treat, it is the geology and nature of this area that adds to its allure. The scenery each day is captivating, especially the rock features and bird life. Pack your binoculars and camera!

The quiver tree (Aloidendron dichotomum, Afr. kokerboom), a succulent tree aloe, is seen on rocky hills on the banks of the river. These are tough,

long-living, slow growing trees that live for 80-250 years and can reach heights of over seven metres. They first flower at 20-30 years of age and if you trip the river in winter, you may see these yellow flowers in bloom between June and August. The young flower buds can be eaten and apparently they taste like asparagus.

These trees are an important source of food, water and shelter for the birds, insects and creatures that live in this harsh and arid environment. But, they are under attack. Climate change is reducing their distribution range and they are also being plundered for trade, as garden inclusions, despite being a tree that is difficult to grow outside of its natural habitat.

The rock features of the area are spectacular. You will marvel at the layered and folded cliffs, and huge seams of the semi-precious rock, Tiger’s Eye. The area boasts one of the world’s largest deposits. This brown/amber gemstone looks dull in its natural state but when polished, it reflects light like a cat’s eye. Tiger’s Eye is made up of quartz crystals and crocidolite (iron-bearing asbestos) fibres; the latter are responsible for the iridescent bands that make this stone so attractive. The Prieska area was an asbestos mining hot-spot after asbestos was discovered there as early as 1803. But it was only in 1897 that mining started and by 1929 the first scientific report of asbestosis was presented (14% of miners didn’t last five years!). Mining of asbestos reached its peak in 1977 but it was only in 2001 that all operations were halted. New mines are after diamond, zinc, copper, tiger eye, gold and other minerals of the area, which could help to rejuvenate Prieska’s economic situation.

And the birdlife! The diversity is extraordinary. Year-round residents include fish and Vereaux’s eagles, Goliath herons with their two-metre wingspan flying above the river, bee-eaters, ducks and geese, kingfishers, herons, chats, weavers, lapwings, and water-regulars of coots, darters and cormorants. In September, summer immigrants start arriving to further boost the diversity count.