Rivers of the Western Cape

Paddling in the Western Cape is the closest thing to an Alpine experience you can get on the sub-continent. The rivers are mostly creeks, some very continuous and steep. Unfortunately the rivers are not as consistent as their European counterparts because there is no guaranteed snowmelt to feed them. The Western Cape has a mediterranean climate, which means it receives rain in the winter, unlike the rest of the country. If you are excited by the idea of paddling with neoprene garments, the rivers will do the thing for you.

The rivers are bone-dry when it is not raining, so paddling is obviously limited to the winter months. Small catchment areas ensure that the water has to be caught within days after rain, and sometimes even hours. Excellent scenery, clear water and challenging rapids will reward you for the fight against hypothermia. Many of the rivers run through Nature Conservation areas and the surroundings are pretty unspoilt.

Paddlers in the Western Cape have the unfortunate circumstance that it is difficult to obtain access to many of the rivers. This is an illogical ruling, as paddlers are in general very much conservation orientated, and are the ones who appreciate the pristine river environments the most.

Permits should be obtained from Cape Nature Conservation (CNC) to gain access to the rivers that runs through their properties. Your best option is to join theĀ Cape White Water Club (CWWC). This club was initiated to assist kayakers in acquiring permits and organising access to the rivers that go through private land. It is therefore advisable to become a member of the club.

Apart from the creeks, the area offers superb rivers with long flat stretches and small rapids, which is ideal for K1 and K2 racing. A prime example is the famous Berg River marathon that is held annually between Paarl and Velddrif. The race is considered to be one of the toughest in the world and attract top international paddlers every year.

Because of the climate and few suitable whitewater rivers to learn on, the local river paddling scene is small compared to the rest of the country. Fortunately the Cape is surrounded by a beautiful coast with excellent beaches and sometimes big surf. Many of the river paddlers turn to surfskis and paddleskis to keep fit during the summer months.