Rafting in the Desert & Swimming to Namibia

Rafting in the Desert & Swimming to Namibia

Rafting in #SouthAfrica was an #active expedition for me and my group. The river runs right through a desert, giving you the chance to explore and take in some beautiful #nature. When we tied up our rafts, some of us even swam over to #Namibia on the other side of the river! All in all, an awesome trip.


Local legend says the Orange River is home to a mysterious monster that’s been eating people and livestock for 2000 years. Would rafting it be safe?

Tales of the dreaded Orange River Monster weren’t going to stop me from rafting down this unique oasis of life in the heart of a desolate desert environment. Richtersveld National Park is located in the Northern Cape, South Africa’s largest and least populated province.

unique oasis of life in the heart of a desolate desert environment

While parts of the river can get rough, our route would pass through relatively tame water along the journey. However for some in the group, this was a scary prospect, as it was their very first river rafting experience.

But our guides Jan & Sass from Umkulu Adventures had everything under control.

Incredible Desert Landscapes
Incredible Desert Landscapes

Orange River Rafting South Africa

I teamed up with Kash from Budget Traveller who was slightly nervous about the rafting (because he can’t swim). Lucky for him I used to be a lifeguard!

We loaded up our little inflatable 2 person boat and pushed off into the river with kayak paddles, hoping to avoid a watery death at the hands of the notorious Monster.

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Orange River Rafting in South Africa

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 The Growcery Camp, Vioolsdrif Settlement, Northern Cape, South Africa
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Home to the indigenous Nama people, this rocky dry landscape surrounding the river is a mix of red, brown, and orange hues — except for the banks, where patches of green vegetation are able to thrive.

Floating past massive sandstone cliffs and small river islands, we occasionally stopped to rest or take photos. The environment here is really special. I’d never seen a river in the middle of a desert before, let alone raft down it!

The environment here is really special
Kash Powering Through the Rapids
Kash Powering Through the Rapids

Hunting for Diamonds & Rubies

The Orange River has a long history of producing gemstones like rubies, tiger’s eye, and even diamonds, so we sifted through the riverbed hoping to discover some treasure.

In fact South Africa’s first diamond, the 21 carat Eureka Diamond, was discovered by a young boy on the river’s bank in 1867, eventually helping to bring about South Africa’s famous diamond rush at Kimberly.

we sifted through the riverbed, hoping to discover some treasure

Unfortunately no diamonds or rubies were found on our trip, but Kash did manage to dig up some Tiger’s Eye, a semi-precious stone.

South African Bloggers Meruschka & Heather
South African Bloggers Meruschka & Heather

Illegal Border Crossing

Because the Orange River marks the border between 2 countries, South Africa was on our left and Namibia on our right as we paddled along. I started getting ideas…

How many people can say they’ve swam from one country to another?

Melvin, Heather, Meruschka, Caspar and I hatched a plan to swim from South Africa to Namibia. A slightly questionable border crossing without passport stamps! As long as the Orange River Monster didn’t get us, everything should be fine. Right?

Life Persists in the Desert 
Life Persists in the Desert 

Exploring The Northern Cape

Our swim was a success! However the journey to Namibia was short lived, and we quickly swam back to our tents on the South African side at The Growcery Camp where they were cooking up a delicious traditional South African Braai BBQ on an open fire.

My Orange River rafting experience was a memorable one, and we only scratched the surface of South Africa’s Northern Cape territory. It’s a huge area with a lot to see and do — and one of the least visited parts of the country.

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