Umzimkulu River – Oribi section


This used to be the best kept secret of the Umzimkulu River. The valley is deep with unspoilt vegetation for most part, with many exciting rapids to enjoy. There are no cliffs to overcome in the case of a mishap, but the hills are still steep, making the valley a bit isolated. It feels very remote once you are in it, adding to the experience.

  • Ideal for: Kayak, croc, raft, wildwater racer
  • Grade: 3 to 4
  • Length: 15km
  • Duration: 3 to 5 hours
  • Type: Pretty continuous
  • Put-in: Farm at horseshoe bend. Take turn-off to Rock of Gibraltar. Stay left when dirt road splits.
  • Take-out: Limeworks
  • Dam controlled: No
  • Permits: Permission from farmer at put-in. Contact Oribi Gorge Hotel to arrange access. Permission at Limeworks for take out.

lower Umzimkulu map

The water channels well and it can be run at very low levels, when the rapids become technical and continuous. The going is slow at a low level, so start early. At medium to high levels most part of the river becomes less technical, but a few rapids drop seriously, and scouting is necessary from the bank. The river is quite wide, and although all the major rapids have grade 3-4 chicken runs, some of them play host to grade 5 monster areas that should rather be avoided.

The nice rapids continue after the Limeworks for another 10km. A public road going down to the river on the right makes for an alternative take-out point, but it is not safe to leave a vehicle there unattended.

Playwaves abound when the water is not too low; a playboat is therefore recommended if you want to make the most of this section. Rafts can also be taken down at a high level, but then it should preferably be captained by someone who knows the section already.

A medium level is perfect for wildwater racers, as the section will be too tight at a low level. Wildwater racers can even consider going down all the way to the sea, as the long flat section, which is essentially a lagoon, poses no serious hazard to these fast boats.

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