Tugela River – Middeldrift to Mandini

The last section of the Tugela down to the sea is characterized by long flat sections and wide rapids with many lines to choose from. It is not really used by anyone else but K1-paddlers, for whom this is one of the rivers where they can experience the wilderness of the KZN midlands without the threat of unrunnable rapids and waterfalls to look out for.

  • Ideal for: K1
  • Grade: 2 to 3
  • Length: 60km
  • Duration: 2 days
  • Type: Pool-drop, open wide river
  • Put-in: Middeldrift bridge
  • Take-out: On farm when access is arranged, otherwise bridge reachable from Mandini, which is 10km further.
  • Dam controlled: No
  • Permits: Permission for take-out on farm where race ends

MAP 40

All rapids are runnable in K1’s at all levels, but should not be underestimated. They are not small by any means and will get experienced paddlers’ adrenaline going. When the river is high some big wavetrains are encountered that can result in long swims, but the bad stoppers are easily avoidable. At low level the flat pools between the rapids reveal sandbanks and make intuition for locating deeper channels invaluable.

An annual race is held over two days with a stopover at Emabhobhane Drift. The marathon has developed into a cult race and every year attracts a rather small field that is more interested in the camaraderie of the event than the racing element. The overnight stop is also the venue for an infamous barbel fishing competition where ingenious tactics are demonstrated.

This is a section recommended for all competent K1-paddlers to test their river-running ability and appreciate a bit of true Africa.

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