Vaal River Overnight Tour


WHERE Parys, Free State (125km from Jo’burg)
WHEN Scheduled by arrangement for friend/family groups.
DURATION Two (2) days of paddling (approx 5hrs each day on the water), one (1) night at Savannah Game & River Retreat.
DIFFICULTY Easy. Flowing flatwater with some class 1 features.
COST R1,880 to R2,250 per person depending on the size of the group.
Minimum group size: 6  | Max. group size: 12
DOWNLOADS Recommended Kit List (PDF)
CUSTOM TRIPS We do arrange custom tours for groups (friends, families, special occasions, office groups) during the week or on weekends. Various accommodation options are available from rustic tented chalets to game lodge rooms with an early morning game drive.

This 22-kilometre section of the Vaal River near Parys is primarily flowing flatwater with a number of islands, channels and friendly class 1 rapids, which are easy to paddle through. This distance, which is split over two days of paddling, makes for an active yet leisurely getaway.

This Two-Day, Overnight Tour

We spend two days and one night on the river. Parys is close enough to Gauteng for you to pop through on the Saturday morning and to be home on Sunday with enough time to enjoy an afternoon nap.

Our Vagabond Mazowe double-seater kayaks are stable and a pleasure to paddle. They have space in the tankwells and hatch for your overnight gear. These are also family-friendly kayaks that a parent can paddle with a child in the front seat.

We cover 11km on Day 1 and 11km on Day 2 as we enjoy the lovely scenery and nature of this beautiful section of the Vaal River. The water is mostly flat and flowing, with a number of ripples and class 1 rapids along the way. Our kayaks are perfectly suited to this environment.

Paddling pace is leisurely and easy in terms of difficulty, with regular stops for snacks and lunch. We reach Savannah Game & River Retreat in the early afternoon where you can relax and unwind at the swimming pool, enjoy a river walk or fly fishing.

We spend one night at this beautiful game lodge.

Your vehicles will be at the take-out so you can head into Parys to enjoy the town’s vibrant main street, or off home.


Parys is located 125km from Johannesburg (1h15 drive time).

From JHB:

  1. Take the R59 from Alberton towards Sasolburg and onwards to Parys.
  2. OR Take the N1 South. Go through the Grasmere Toll Plaza (R20 toll) and past Vanderbijl Park. Take the R59 Parys offramp. If you get to the next toll gate, you have gone too far. The Parys offramp is just before the toll gate. From here it is 20km to town.


Have a solid breakfast before you arrive.

On the river, we make regular stops on the water to hydrate and to munch snacks. We’ll take a longer, more leisurely stop for lunch and to stretch our legs. Savannah will prepare an African boma braai for Saturday night dinner and your Sunday morning will start with a game drive (optional extra) followed by their delicious breakfast. On Sunday, we provide you with a light, early lunch, which we’ll enjoy as an island picnic before we complete our route.


If you want to come through to Parys on the Friday afternoon/evening, the town has dozens of accommodation options.

We get off the river by 14h00 on Sunday. It is quick to load gear into your vehicle, which will be waiting at the take-out. Depending on your destination, you can either head into town to enjoy the main street’s charms, travel home, or spend a few more days out here.


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). Even though days are hot, it can get chilly in the night. Please pack accordingly.

The experience of paddling from A to B down the river and staying overnight at a game lodge is a wonderful one that is enhanced when you are totally involved and immersed. It is your experience. We recommend putting your phone on flight mode for the weekend.


Our minimum group size is 8 people and maximum group size is 12. We can accommodate bigger groups and will assess enquiries individually in line with COVID protocols.

Two (2) days & one (1) night on the river incl. meals R1,880 to R2,250 depending on the size of the group.
* Note that children aged 8-15 must paddle on a double kayak with a parent. 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. We do not recommend this trip for children under 8.
·         Guided trip with two (2) days and one (1) night on the river·         Shuttle to put-in

·         Kayak hire and safety equipment

·         Personal drybags

·         Meals from lunch on Day 1 (with non-alcoholic beverages) to lunch on Day 2 (with non-alcoholic beverages).

·         African boma braai dinner at Savannah

·         Travel to Parys

·         Beverages at Savannah

Game drive at Savannah (R250pp)

·         Travel home


Bookings can be made by downloading and returning our booking form. 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 Vaal 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 one week (7 days) of the scheduled date and time of the activity.
  • For cancellations received within two weeks (14 days) of the tour, 75% of the fee will be charged.
  • For cancellations received within four weeks (28 days) of the tour, 30% of the fee will be charged.
  • Cancellations made 28 days or more before the tour will only be charged a 10% admin fee.
  • Paddle With Us reserves the right to cancel the kayaking component of any tour should there be insufficient guests and/or unfavourable weather. We aim to give you a reasonable period of notice of cancellations. Note that you would still be able to enjoy your night away at Savannah. A partial refund will be given.


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

A: The Vaal River in Parys offers both flatwater and whitewater sections. Rafts are slow and ideally suited to running rapids; they are sluggish on flatwater. Our trip focuses on flowing flatwater, which makes kayaks are 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 rewarding paddling 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. 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 in the afternoon having enjoyed the paddle and with enough energy to go fishing, watch birds and to chill.

Q: How long do we paddle for each day?

A: Our time on the water is around 4.5 hours. This includes a stretch-your-legs and a lunch stop. We aim to reach Savannah and our take-out by 14h00.

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: We’ll keep an eye on weather forecasts ahead of our scheduled trip dates. In the summer months, we could get rain – light showers or drenching thunderstorms. In the summer months we can expect hot days and mild nights.

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.

We appreciate common sense at all times – no diving into the water, and don’t run around on rocks where you could slip and fall. It’s just not worth the risk.

Q: Can we drink from the river?

A: 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 enjoy. 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 can 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: 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: How do our cars get to the end?

A: Tour participants will all meet at our finish venue. We will be collected by our shuttle driver, who will transport us to the start. Your vehicle will be parked behind locked gates for the night. We prefer for your vehicles to be waiting for you at the end so that you can use your time effectively to enjoy visiting the town of Parys or to head directly home.