More than 30 million tourists make Africa their destination each year. They come for a variety of reasons from business to adventure. While Africa proves synonymous with safaris, there are countless ways to see this continent’s many wonders.
In fact, places to go kayaking abound in Africa. From the Zambezi to the Mathioya, these rivers represent the lifeblood of the great continent.
What’s more, they offer epic white water and the adventures that come with it. Here are some of the best rivers for those longing to check out the splendor of Africa from a unique perspective.
Tanzania’s Rufiji River
Where the waters of the Kilomero and Luwegu Rivers merge, they give birth to the Rufiji. The Rufiji River runs through Tanzania, rises in the southwest, and empties into the Indian Ocean.
The territory surrounding the Rufiji boasts some of the best animal safari lands in the world. What’s more, the Rufiji River contains the largest mangrove forest on the planet.
While paddling through the Selous Game Reserve, keep your eyes open for animals and birds congregating along the riverbanks. Home to the largest elephant family on the planet, prepare for plenty of pachyderm sightings, too.
Learn more about Tanzania’s legendary landscapes and how to find the right safari company for your next adventure.
Botswana’s Okavango Delta
Are you torn between a traditional African Safari and a kayaking trip or canoe trip? Then, the Okavango Delta offers the perfect solution. A protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Okavango Delta proves rich in wildlife and natural beauty.
It floods the savannah bringing life-giving water to the land and gathering animal herds. This makes it the largest inland delta on planet Earth.
The Okavango Delta provides habitat for endangered species including:
- African wild dogs
- White rhinos
- Black rhinos
A network of traditional safari outfitters and eco-lodges make the area accessible to tourists of various ages and interests. For an authentic experience of the Okavango Delta, opt for a tour of the wetlands in a native-powered dugout canoe.
South Africa’s Buffalo River
The Buffalo River once served as the border between the British colony of Natal and the kingdom of Zululand. So, you’ll enjoy many historic sites while paddling along this river. As a tributary of the Tugela, it also boasts some challenging rapids.
In fact, this little corner of Zululand boasts some of the most exhilarating rapids in South Africa. Winding for 19 kilometers through private game reserves, you’ll gain breathtaking views of animals and birds along the way.
Zimbabwe and Zambia’s Zambezi River
The action-packed adventures never stop on the Zambezi River. In fact, it offers one of the most challenging stretches of white water in the world. Just south of Victoria Falls between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Rafting proves best between August and January. That’s when water levels drop, and the rapids get gnarly. It boasts more than two dozen different rapids including Gulliver’s Travels, a stretch of Class V white water nearly one kilometer long.
Despite the wild adventures to be had on the Zambezi, the river has a gentler side. A canoe journey into the Mana Pools proves tranquil. But you’ll still enjoy a pulse-pounding rush from up-close wildlife viewing.
Mana Pools was voted one of the top 10 spots to view elephants in Southern Africa by Getaway magazine.
South Africa’s Mkomazi River
The Mkomazi River sits about 60 minutes from Durban. Despite its breathtaking location, paddlers come here to do battle.
Their foe? The largest river along KwaZulu-Natal’s southern coast. It runs nearly 300 kilometers from Giant’s Castle in the Drakensberg to the Indian Ocean.
Known for fast run-off and capricious swells, the Mkomazi River proves a must-see and must-do for adventurers.
In the section from Hella Hella to Number 8, you’ll enjoy the largest navigable white water this side of the Zambezi.
Swaziland’s Great Usutu River
The Great Usutu River promises numerous thrills for kayakers and rafters. For serious adventure seekers, check out the Bulungu Gorge section of the waterway.
Rapids go from mild to mind-boggling in close succession. Fortunately, even the wildest Class IV rapids prove navigable by first-time rafters. Just come prepared for heart-pounding adventures.
During the dry season, water levels drop and rapids slow. But other ways to pursue adventure remain. Like rappelling or jumping off the cliffs into the river below.
Uganda’s White Nile
Kayakers can’t get enough of the 25-kilometer portion of Uganda’s White Nile River from just above Lake Victoria to the town of Jinja. That’s because it proves chock full of Class V rapids.
Experienced kayakers will get their pulses pounding with numerous waterfall drops and crashing waves that appear to defy physics.
But there’s more to Uganda than the frenetic, green frothy waves of the White Nile. Uganda proves a breathtaking place to observe African wildlife. When not dodging waves and rocks, keep your eyes open for the area’s animals and birds.
South Africa and Namibia’s Orange River
Are you looking for a stunning water experience without the Class V rapids? Then, consider a trip down the Orange River. The longest of South Africa’s rivers, it doesn’t pack the white water punches of Africa’s other world-renowned waterways.
Nonetheless, you’ll enjoy an unforgettable adventure as you experience South Africa from the water.
You see, the Orange flows north from the Drakensberg Mountains across most of South Africa. It reaches the Atlantic Ocean at Alexander Bay, just south of the border with Namibia.
Kenya’s Mathioya River
The Mathioya River will give experienced kayakers and rafters the ride of their life. Descending more than 450 meters in a matter of only 22 kilometers, it boasts a collection of the most technical rafting courses in Kenya.
The water doesn’t prove especially big. But don’t let that fool you. Because of the river’s low volume and advanced rapids (up to grade 4), this is no place for beginners.
But experienced river-goers will enjoy an epic eight kilometers of almost continuous Class IV white water action.
South Africa’s Blyde River
The Blyde River doesn’t promise endless white water. But the scenic views afforded on a river trip through the Blyde Canyon still provide plenty of adventure.
The Blyde River Canyon (or Motlatse Canyon) ranks as one of the largest in the world. Twenty-five kilometers in length, it’s cut almost entirely from red sandstone.
But you may not notice since it also proves one of the largest green canyons. Its red sinewy mountains are thickly covered in subtropical foliage.
While floating down the Blyde, keep your eyes open for a wide variety of wildlife.
These include animals such as:
The area also proves rich in primates. Get ready to see:
- Samango monkeys
- Vervet monkeys
- Greater bushbabies
- Lesser Bushbabies
Bird enthusiasts will marvel at the diverse variety of species from Cape vultures to Taita falcons, Cape eagle owls, and Lanner falcons.
South Africa’s Ash River
The only river in South Africa that maintains consistently high water levels, the Ash River has earned a reputation among adventurers as a prime white water destination.
Located near the town of Clarens in the eastern Freestate, the Ash River’s waters prove pristine. They flow from the nearby Katze Dam, located in Lesotho’s Maluti Mountains, all the way down to the Vaal Dam.
The Ash River boasts grade 2 through 4 rapids year-round and is not rain dependent. Because of its high water volumes 365 days a year, it can accommodate everything from kayaks and canoes to large white water rafts.
Ethiopia’s Blue Nile
The Blue Nile originates in Ethiopia’s Lake Tana, flows towards Sudan, and terminates in Egypt when it hits the Mediterranean Sea.
Traveling the entire length of the river from Ethiopia to the Mediterranean requires nearly four months and was first completed in 2004 by adventurer and geophysicist Pasquale Scaturro and his crew.
But a much more practical multi-day guided tour will take into the heart of the best white water without costing you months of your life.
Kenya’s Athi River
Like the Okavango Delta experience, the Athi River in Kenya represents the perfect admixture between a white water kayaking adventure and a wildlife safari.
Just imagine the exhilaration of watching giraffe and elephants wander past as you navigate big rapids. Located near Tsavo National Park, an Athi River excursion includes Class III rapids and loads of captivating wildlife such as crocodiles.
Ready to learn more about the best African countries to visit in 2019? Check out our ultimate guide.
Places to Go Kayaking in Africa
While most people assume “safari” when they think about the continent of Africa, the best places to kayak in Africa allow you to explore this fabled land from an entirely unique perspective.
And when it comes to places to go kayaking in Africa, you’ve got almost endless options available. From exploring the grandeur of life along Tanzania’a Rufiji River to navigating Kenya’s Athi River, there’s an adventure for everyone in Africa.
Are you ready for your African adventure? At Earthlife Expeditions Unlimited we specialize in everything from custom safaris to climbing expeditions. We’re here to ensure your next trip to Africa proves unique and exhilarating.