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

MAP 25

Commercial operators also uses the road through Mxhino till where the road runs out of track, with a similar walk down to the river. This put-in is about 15km upstream of Dikela, adding another day to the magic trip.

Irrespective of which put-in point is used, a range of introductory class 2 and 3 rapids will lead to the bigger rapids. Expect behind every corner a set of rapids that need some scouting to confirm the line. Up until the next access point, the rapids are between class 3 and 4. Some 15km below Dikela, two rapids near the Mzintshana tributary need proper scouting, as well as the Delicious White Monster just before the next access point.

The next access point is reached via Majola, where a slow 35km 4×4 road will take you down to the river-bank.

This second section is an extension of the previous few days; medium cruising stretches with class 3 and some class 4 rapids at nearly every corner. Scout the rapids properly, as a waterfall lower down on the second afternoon requires portage. Thereafter the river starts to flatten out, as it gets closer to the estuary and the take-out point.

The local cattle farmers inhabit the few flat grass areas, and big camping spots are hard to find. The surrounding mountains appear majestic, but have eyes; reserved persons might start to feel like a celebrity. Don’t be surprised to get unending visits by very curious kids and farmers alike.

A trip down this section is an otherworldly experience, mixing awe-inspiring scenery with close acquaintance of true Africa. It will have been a certain adventure when one paddles through ‘The Gate’ of Port St. Johns into the sea.

This river description is taken from my book “Run the Rivers of Southern Africa”.
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