Canoeing in South Africa

Many people can think of no better way to see the African bushveld than to paddle their way idly along a river, spotting animals and birds in the bush along the riverbanks as they go. While this option may appeal to some because it does not involve the physical exertion of walking as hiking might, it should be stressed that paddling or canoeing can still be physically strenuous – especially if the wind and current are against you. Still, when the opposite is true you may be fortunate enough to simply lie back and let the river take you where it wishes.

Canoe trails in South Africa are fast becoming a popular way of exploring the South African wilderness. The trails are offered around the country, both inland and in rivers near the coast. You baggage may be portaged to the overnight hut for you if you wish – a recommendable option since not only does the added weight make your journey more difficult but if your canoe should accidentally overturn your belongings will not sink or get wet. In some rivers, you may have an even closer encounter with nature than you imagined as fish leap over or into your boat in certain areas of the river. Fish eagles sometimes cry out from high above and often you can spot a variety of buck, warthogs and other mammals as they forage on the banks of the river. Birds of all sorts flutter and chirp as they nest in the reeds on the shore and bird watchers can really enjoy trying to identify them. Usually the trail will take the better part of the day to navigate but, if you leave at a reasonable time in the morning, you should arrive at your hut a few hours after lunch. Huts are normally comfortable and provide lodging for about 12 people with ‘braai’ (barbeque) facilities, a pit toilet and sometimes even a shower. It would be wise not to plan your dinner around a freshly caught fishy meal without first consulting local wildlife agents since often these trails take place in protected environments and you will need a permit in order to try your hand at fishing. Of course littering in any way would be strictly against the rules.

If Canoeing in South Africa or Canoe Hiking in South Africa sounds like an appealing way to discover the country for you, there are a few precautions you should probably take note of before setting off up river. Firstly, never canoe in crocodile or hippo infested waters without a trained guide to instruct you as to how to get about the river safely. Secondly, pack in a high-factor sunscreen to avoid severe sunburn and reapply the cream every two hours or even sooner. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses for the glare and your costume under some cool clothing as you will most likely get wet at some stage – even if it is only because you purposely take a plunge to escape the heat. Sandals are another good idea since closed shoes become waterlogged and uncomfortable. Lastly, if you feel you absolutely must take certain valuables with you such as cameras, binoculars and bird books, it is usually best to try to ensure they are waterproof or at the very least, encased in an airtight, waterproof casing. These should then in turn be tied to your canoe securely so that if it were to tip, the items could be salvaged without too much difficulty.

So come and explore South Africa’s riverbanks, work on your tan (despite layers of sun block), and enjoy the quiet tranquillity of nature. It’s an experience you’ll never forget!