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.