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

MAP 25

The Mzimvubu Falls is about halfway on the section. Take out on the far left hand side of the falls and then either abseil down or do the long portage around. The confluence with the Mzintlava River is just a few kilometres after the falls.

At the confluence of the Tina and Tsitsa Rivers further down, expect a maelstrom if the water is high. The take-out is about 20km after the confluence, but don’t expect any road there. The river bends sharp to the right here, and it is the second big bend to the right after the confluence. It can be recognised by steep cliffs on the left, with a gentle slope on the right. It doesn’t stay that gentle, though; one has to do a steep 6km hike to get to Dikela. The best option would actually be to carry on; the worst stuff is over in any case.

This river description is taken from my book “Run the Rivers of Southern Africa”.
If you have any pictures or recent information on this section of river to share, please contact me:
I appreciate any contributions to keep this content up-to-date.