Ngwempisi River

The upper reaches of the Ngwempisi are still unchartered. The lower section through the Ntungulu Mountains though, is yet another gem. The scenery through this valley is phenomenal. It is very remote and uninhabited and you certainly won’t be disappointed by the river.

  • Ideal for: Kayak
  • Grade: 4, few 5
  • Length: 34km
  • Duration: 5 to 8 hours
  • Type: Fairly continuous
  • Put-in: Dirt road off Mankayane, crosses river
  • Take-out: Dirt road to clinic, crosses river
  • Dam controlled: No
  • Permits: None

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Mkhondvo River

The Assegaai River enters Swaziland – where it becomes the Mkhondvo – through the Mahamba Gorge, which is short and sweet, containing some solid class 3+ to 4 drops. The river then mellows for quite a few kilometres before starting its descent into the Grand Valley. The put-in for this trip is just in time to catch this awesome descent.

  • Ideal for: Kayak
  • Grade: 3 to 4, few 5
  • Length: 54km
  • Duration: 2 days
  • Type: Continuous, technical
  • Put-in: Bridge on road between Gege and Nhlangano
  • Take-out: Where road between Nhlangano and Sidvokodvo comes close to river
  • Dam Controlled: No
  • Permits: None

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Little Usutu River

This river may be only the little brother of the Usutu but it holds every bit as much action. Its Swazi name is the Lusushwana.

The section described here is a fantastic piece of river, with impressive slides and big drops providing good photographic and video opportunities. There are some steep and technical sections, requiring good boat skills and quick reactions.

  • Ideal for: Kayak
  • Grade: 3 to 4+ (5 at high water) and a big 6 to finish off
  • Length: 15km
  • Duration: 4 to 5 hours with sufficient water
  • Type: Mostly pool-drop with some big slides and some quite continuous, tight sections
  • Put-in: Travelling from Mbabane on the Mhlambanyatsi road you will cross the river just above the inlet to Luphohlo Dam. Roughly 6 km later, turn left onto gravel road at school sign.
  • ollow the road until it gets within 100m of the river and walk down. A shuttle bunny is essential!
  • Take-out: Road bridge
  • Dam Controlled: Luphuhlo Dam
  • Permits: None

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Usutu River – Commercial section

The commercial section is obviously the most well known stretch to paddle in Swaziland. It is a wide and open section with stunning scenery. The section is below the three major tributaries and a paddleable water level 365 days a year is almost guaranteed. All major rapids can be portaged, making this trip an ideal introduction to real whitewater.

  • Ideal for: Kayak, croc, also raft at high water
  • Grade: 2 to 4
  • Length: 20km for full section
  • Duration: 4 to 6 hours
  • Type: Open river, long pools, few steep rapids
  • Put-in: Dirt road goes over dry riverbed. Stop and walk 500m in riverbed to Usutu.
  • Take-out: Bridge at Siphofaneni
  • Dam controlled: No
  • Permits: None
  • Commercial operator: Swazi Trails

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Usutu River – Power station

This is a superb piece of river and probably the most popular run for locals. For most of the way, the flood plain is very wide, with numerous channels to choose from. This produces a unique combination of big volume drops interspersed with some more creeky runs. Hence the class 3 to 4+ grading.

  • Ideal for: Kayak
  • Grade: 3 to 4+ (5 at high water)
  • Length: 10 km
  • Duration: 3 to 5 hours
  • Type: Combination of pool-drop and more continuous sections
  • Put-in: Low-level bridge on Mankayane road. Take Rosecraft turn-off.
  • Take-out: Magaduza power station
  • Dam controlled: No
  • Permits: None

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Usutu River – Below Bhunya

This section is only for those who can handle the unexpected. It lies above all the major tributaries, hence the narrow and steep nature. The river splits up every now and then, forming really narrow, fast channels that suddenly disappear over drops.

  • Ideal for: Kayak
  • Grade: 3 to 4
  • Length: 8km
  • Duration: 2 to 4 hours
  • Type: Steep, continuous, small channels
  • Put-in: Bridge at Sappi factory at Bhunya
  • Take-out: Where road comes closest to river
  • Dam controlled: No
  • Permits: None

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Usutu River – Introduction

The Usutu is Swaziland’s major river and provides lots of action. It starts in the vicinity of Amsterdam before it enters Swaziland, where it is also known as the Lusutfu. It carves its way through the mountainous western part of the country before entering the eastern flats. On its lower course it first forms the border between KwaZulu-Natal and Swaziland and then between KwaZulu-Natal and Mozambique. It finally joins up with the Pongola, which becomes the Maputo River in Mozambique.