Tsitsa River – Lower Gorge

The Tsitsa flows into the Tina, about 5km before its confluence with the Mzimvubu. This river is similar to the Tina. The first half of the section to the confluence has mostly class 3 rapids, until the Tsitsa Falls are encountered. From here on, the river goes through a deep gorge. The rapids in the gorge are  intense and demand lots of respect. The section immediately below the falls is especially treacherous.

  • Ideal for: Kayak, raft
  • Grade: 3 to 5
  • Length: 70km
  • Type: Remote, big volume, technical
  • Put-in: N2 Bridge or Tsitsa Falls
  • Take-out: Dikela shop, hike up from river
  • Levels paddleable: Any
  • Dam controlled: No
  • Permits: None

(more…)

Read More

Tina River

The Tina is one of the major tributaries to the Mzimvubu. The section from the N2 down starts off with relatively easy rapids, mostly in the class 3 range. Don’t under-estimate it, though, there might be a few hidden surprises, especially when the water level is high. At the Tina Falls, about halfway down to the confluence with the Mzimvubu, the character of the Tina changes dramatically. It enters a deep, very isolated gorge, with class 4 to 6 rapids. This section can only be attempted by very experienced class 5 paddlers.

  • Ideal for: Kayak
  • Grade: 3 to 5
  • Length: 80km
  • Type: Remote, big volume, highly technical
  • Put-in: N2 bridge
  • Take-out: Dikela shop, hike up from river
  • Levels paddleable: Any
  • Dam controlled: No
  • Permits: None

(more…)

Read More

Umzimvubu River – Dikela to Port St. Johns

This section is commercially run and probably the most well known stretch in the whole Transkei, although well known is a bit of an overstatement.

  • Ideal for: Kayak and raft; croc at low levels only (winter months)
  • Grade: 3 to 4+
  • Length: 70km from put-in at low-level bridge
  • Duration: 5 days for full section
  • Type: From boulder gardens to steep gradient rapids; with open stretches between rapids
  • Put-in: Dikela shop, walk down to river
  • Take-out: Various options at Port St. Johns, check it out first
  • Levels paddleable: Beware of high water, as numerous rapids have nasty keeper holes and explosion waves at the bottom
  • Dam controlled: No
  • Permits: None

(more…)

Read More

Umzimvubu River – Welsh Bridge to Dikela

This is a serious stretch of river, with continuous sections of class 4 and 5 rapids, and a couple of unrunnable ones between.

The bush-covered gorge is hundreds of metres high. Walking out ceases to be an option if things go wrong. The gorge is totally isolated: once in, you have to go down. Scouting of many of the rapids is essential, but difficult. Also be aware of water level fluctuations.

  • Ideal for: Kayak, raft
  • Grade: 3 to 5
  • Length: 85km
  • Type: Remote, big volume, highly technical
  • Put-in: Welsh bridge
  • Take-out: Dikela shop, hike up from river
  • Levels paddleable: Any
  • Dam controlled: No
  • Permits: None

(more…)

Read More

Umzimvubu River – N2 to Welsh bridge

This section is probably the easiest accessible of all stretches on the Mzimvubu. Shortly after the N2 bridge is a weir with a boat ramp on the right hand side. From there on the river picks up gradient with rapids about every 100m metres. They are mostly of the pool-drop type and can be read and run by experienced paddlers.

  • Ideal for: Kayak, raft, croc
  • Grade: 2 to 4
  • Length: 90km
  • Type: Remote, big volume river
  • Put-in: N2 bridge
  • Take-out: Welsh bridge (follow the road south from Tabankulu)
  • Levels paddleable: Any
  • Dam controlled: No
  • Permits: None

(more…)

Read More

Umzimvubu River – Introduction

The Vubu, as it’s also known, rises in the Mount Fletcher region of the Eastern Cape, near Bushman’s Neck, and then passes Cedarville near Kokstad. The Vubu slices its way through gorges capped by soft grassland hills around Mount Frere. Its first major tributary is the Kinira River from the Thabo Putsoa Mountains. Just below the confluence, the river crosses the N2 near Mount Frere. Then it’s more or less 150km to the next major tributary, the Mzintlava River, with a short push to the Tina’s tribute. Just five kilometres upstream on the Tina River is the mouth of the Tsitsa River, originating from the Maclear highlands. The lower Mzimvubu starts at this conglomeration of the rivers.

The Mzimvubu River, like its sisters, is a dark chocolate brown, heavy with silt. Because of the severe terrain and the absence of dams the river can go from a shallow rocky stream to a flooded monster in a matter of minutes. Always camp above the flood line.

The Mzimvubu is considered to be the third largest river in South Africa, and it becomes very big when all the joining rivers are flowing high. The subtropical climate of the Wild Coast together with the moisture-laden air coming off the Indian Ocean, contribute to the summer rains and the luscious plant growth. It is normally at its highest level in January. The Mzimvubu basin is slightly unusual in that it can sometimes get winter rain or snowfall on the higher peaks upstream. In the winter months, the river lingers low and can become cold and barely runnable.

Read More

Transkei Missions – part 1

Every expedition starts with an idea. The idea grows until someone gets interested (or obsessed) enough by the idea to put a plan in action to make it happen. This process can take weeks, months, sometimes years. Getting to run the main Tsitsa Gorge was no different.

THE Transkei – literally meaning “Across the Kei River” – conjures images of endless mountains and valleys, inhabited by traditional Xhosa people and their mythical forefathers’ spirits. It’s a true image, but not the whole truth. The Transkei boasts the type of raw beauty that only Africa can deliver, where spectacular natural scenery goes hand in hand with poverty, violence and corruption. It’s a part of South Africa that feels so remote from the civilized world that it could just as well have been in Africa’s heart of darkness. (more…)

Read More