Olifants River – Witbank to Bobbejaan

This is a must-do for competent kayakers, and even skilled paddlers with crocs can enjoy it. It goes through spectacular gorges and has continuous rapids when the water is up. Witbank Dam controls the flow of the water, and prolonged rain is needed before enough water is released to make it paddleable.

  • Ideal for: Kayak
  • Grade: 3 to 4
  • Length: 26km
  • Duration: 5 to 7 hours
  • Type: Pool-drop, continuous at places
  • Put-in: Hotel next to river
  • Take-out: At the huts of the Bobbejaan hiking trail next to river
  • Dam controlled: Witbank Dam
  • Permits: Permission for entering hiking trail on farm (call 013-282-6101). Ask for directions to the huts. A 4×4 or at least a vehicle with high clearance is needed.

MAP 45

The section just after the put-in below the hotel is relatively calm before the gradient picks up. Once it does, there are continuous sections of class 3 rapids. Look out for a natural weir; it has shootable lines, but scout first. Further on is a high drop across the river, also with shootable lines. Closer to the end is a section with technical class 4 rapids.

The take-out can be recognised by a few huts on the right bank. It is also possible to book one of these huts to sleep over. This will make an overnight trip on this and the following section an easy possibility, and seconds will be able to meet the paddlers at the overnight spot.

Scouting is difficult when all the sluices of the dam are open. There are lots of reeds on the sides when the water is low, and at high levels, only reeds will be found where the eddies should be. Scouting on the run is necessary at this level, making for an interesting, if not scary, ride.

There is also a stretch to do upstream from this one, from the R555 between Witbank and Middelburg down to the hotel, but it is mostly flat with small rapids.

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