Great Kei River – N2 to ocean

This long section of the Great Kei River hosts an annual two-day race. To get access to the halfway mark, permission needs to be arranged on private land on the south side, but it is not easy to obtain. For the duration of the race, the organizers take care of that.Ideal for: K1, kayak, croc

  • Grade: 1 to 3 (4 at high level)
  • Length: 80km
  • Duration: 2-day race, 3 to 4 day trip
  • Type: Pool-drop
  • Put-in: N2
  • Take-out: Mouth at sea
  • Levels paddleable: Look at old causeway just below N2. If the water is level with the top of the pillars, it is excellent for everybody. 6 inches lower, cut-off for everybody. 6 inches higher, only for plastics.
  • Dam controlled: No
  • Permits: None

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Great Kei River – Kubusi River to N2

The Great Kei River used to form the border between the Cape Province and Transkei. Its eastern side is therefore very undeveloped, and access from that side is difficult. It drains quite a large area, resulting in a relatively big river on its lower course.

  • Ideal for: Kayak, croc, K1 at certain levels
  • Grade: 1 to 3 (4 at high level)
  • Length: 20km (16+4)
  • Duration: 3 to 4 hours
  • Type: Pool-drop
  • Put-in: On farm, where a 4×4 is needed
  • Take-out: First railway bridge, before N2 bridge. Leave car at Ultra City on N2. At end of trip, walk up to Ultra City and take car down to railway bridge.
  • Levels paddleable: Look at old causeway just below N2. If the water is level with the top of the pillars, it is excellent for everybody. 6 inches lower, cut-off for everybody. 6 inches higher, only for plastics.
  • Dam controlled: No
  • Permits: Pay at farmhouse (The Claims) at put-in

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Tsomo River – Lower

This excellent stretch starts on the Tsomo River, which runs into the Great Kei after 9km. About 20km further, the Kubusi joins from the right, from where the river continuous to the N2. The stretch from the Kubusi confluence down to the N2 is described further down as a separate section.

  • Ideal for: Kayak
  • Grade: 3 to 4 (5 at high level)
  • Length: 45km
  • Duration: 2-day trip
  • Type: Pool-drop
  • Put-in: Bridge on road to Nqancule
  • Take-out: First railway bridge, before N2 bridge. Leave car at Ultra City on N2. At end of trip, walk up to Ultra City and take car down to railway bridge.
  • Dam controlled: No
  • Permits: None

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Tsomo River – Middle

This excellent trip needs a bit of organizing. The put-in is difficult to find, and it is advisable to get a local to help with the driving since you might spend the whole morning trying to find it. It is obviously not safe to leave a vehicle at the put-in, so a shuttle driver is essential. One option is to make contact with the Border Canoe Club in East London, who might be able to help with the arrangements.Ideal for: Kayak

  • Grade: 3 to 4 (5 at high level)
  • Length: 21km
  • Duration: 4 to 6 hours
  • Type: Pool-drop
  • Put-in: Stop at shop, walk down to river
  • Take-out: Bridge on road to Nqancule
  • Dam controlled: No
  • Permits: None

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Tsomo River – Upper

The Tsomo is the major tributary of the Great Kei. It used to be part of the old Transkei, but access is not as difficult as in most parts of Transkei. It is generally paddled by Eastern Cape-based paddlers, hence its inclusion in this division of the book.

  • Ideal for: Kayak
  • Grade: 3 to 4 (5 at high level)
  • Length: 32km
  • Duration: Long day
  • Type: First 10km flat, rest is continuous
  • Put-in: Bridge at Tsomo village, tar road
  • Take-out: Bridge on dirt road
  • Dam controlled: No
  • Permits: None

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Thomas River

This river is not for the claustrophobic. It is tight, with some strainers to avoid. Look out for the trees and branches; there are not many of them, but they should definitely be avoided.

  • Ideal for: Kayak
  • Grade: 2 to 4
  • Length: 24km
  • Duration: 4 to 6 hours
  • Type: Continuous creek, narrow
  • Put-in: Low-level bridge
  • Take-out: Next to river at shop, near Bacela. Leave vehicle at Police Station.
  • Dam controlled: No
  • Permits: None

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Gqunube River

The Gqunube is probably the best section to paddle in the Eastern Cape. It is strictly for experienced class 4 paddlers, as things happen fast on this roller-coaster ride. There are lots of technical rapids, and many should be scouted from the bank. Expect to play on the way down; there are nice waves to be found at most levels.

  • Ideal for: Kayak
  • Grade: 3 to 4 (5 at higher levels)
  • Length: 10km
  • Duration: 4 to 5 hours
  • Type: Continuous
  • Put-in: Bridge
  • Take-out: Bridge
  • Dam controlled: No
  • Permits: None

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Nahoon River

The Nahoon is a favourite section for East London-based kayakers, as it is very close to the city and easily accessible. The river is totally dependent on rain and only worthwhile to attempt after good rains.

  • Ideal for: Kayak
  • Grade: 2 to 4
  • Length: 12km
  • Duration: 2 to 3 hours
  • Type: Tight, continuous
  • Put-in: Take dirt road turn-off to Touch Farm, put in at causeway
  • Take-out: Tarred road bridge just upstream of the N2 bridge (Abbotsford Causeway)
  • Dam controlled: Nahoon Dam, but still very much dependent on the rain
  • Permits: None

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Little Fish River

This a challenging section for K1-paddlers, but not hectic at all. Beginner plastic kayakers can also consider doing a trip on this river.Ideal for: K1, kayak

  • Grade: 1 to 2
  • Length: 27km
  • Duration: 3 to 4 hours in a K1
  • Type: Continuous, narrow
  • Put-in: Bridge
  • Take-out: Bridge
  • Dam controlled: Fish River Irrigation Scheme
  • Permits: Farmer at put-in, contact EPCU to arrange access

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Great Fish River – N2 to ocean

This last section of the Fish has substantially less water than the upper stretches, as most of the water coming from Grassridge Dam is channelled to the Little Fish, and what is left gets pumped out by the farmers along the way. A paddleable level is nonetheless maintained throughout the year.

  • Ideal for: Beginners, K1 and open canoe
  • Grade: 1
  • Length: 30km
  • Duration: 4 hours with high water, 6 to 8 hours with low water
  • Type: Pool-drop
  • Put-in: N2 bridge
  • Take-out: Mouth of river
  • Dam controlled: Fish River Irrigation Scheme
  • Permits: None

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