Explore our spectacular coastal rivers

Road trippin'

Explore our spectacular coastal rivers

Our coastal rivers in and around East London are one of our best kept secrets with our mild winters, sunny days and relatively windless conditions during the crisper months. It’s also the best time of the year to explore our rivers by canoe or kayak - Photo © Ryan Abbott
Barbara Manning

First up let’s start with a suggestion that you get on the water right here in East London by practicing your paddle strokes on the Nahoon and Gonubie rivers. Both are relatively safe with easy open access from nearby car parks although some do argue the Gonubie is cleaner than the Nahoon River. If you don’t have your own kayak or canoe, Areena Resort on the Kwelera River offers canoes for hire or visit the Border Canoe Club website on www.bordercanoeclub.co.za/ where you can find a handy conditions chart and obtain more information on the canoeing or rowing fraternity. Mail them on secretary@bordercanoeclub.co.za

360 asked local river buff Allan Booth who’s paddled every river between Port Edward and Bushmen’s River for some advice for novices, his top canoe trips and some rivers for the more adventurous.

360:  When’s the best time to take on a river paddle, winter (360’s favourite season) or summer?

Booth:  Personally, I prefer summer, long warm days when you can paddle with no shirt. Winter is not necessarily windless. The time of day that you paddle probably has more to do with how much wind you get. Early mornings or late afternoons seem better.   

360:  Any tips for novices?

Booth:  Any river with a shallow, sandy place to launch is good. The Nahoon, Gonubie, Bonza Bay and Keiskamma rivers are all easy. Jetty entries and getting in from a high bank are not for beginners. Also, take note of the tides … don’t launch on an outgoing tide near the river mouth if you are a novice. Choose a stable craft, get an experienced paddler to assist you if possible and join a club, the East London Surf Lifesaving Club or Border Canoe Club. There are some helpful guys at the Gonubie Club as well.

360: Your favourite rivers in our area?

Booth:
•   The Keiskamma River as I have been going there since I was 8 years old. It’s a long, clean and tranquil river with lots of birds and great fishing.
•   The Gonubie River if you live in East London. Long and clean, with a lovely beach and plenty of birdlife. Be careful if launching at the mouth on an outgoing tide.
•  The Kei River, starting at mThombe Kei, 8 km upriver. The Kei is a huge, wild and winding river with plenty of fish and birds. Don’t go down there if it’s raining as you will be stuck till it dries out!
•  A lovely paddle followed by an 8km hike sound like fun? Try the affable Dave Marais’ trail at Kleinemond. (See our adjacent listing).
•  For the VERY adventurous, go to the mTentu River on the northern boundary of the Mkambati Reserve in the Transkei. Giant Kingfish live in this river, but remember no fishing as it’s a reserve. You’ll need a good bakkie at the least, but preferably a Land Cruiser to get there. The mTentu is a giant, clean and spellbinding river. One of the best websites I have ever seen; www.mtentulodge.co.za
•  For something really wild and exotic across the waters in Madagascar, www.masoalaforestlodge.com and make sure your speakers are on.

Our top river paddles to explore

umThombe Kei River Lodge
A nearby option on the Great Kei is UmThombe Kei River Lodge which forms part of a 160 ha Dunneden Private Nature Reserve. Accommodation is offered in rustic thatched chalets (sleeping 4-6 people), each with magnificent views and fully self-catering. The Bush Cabin has 12 bunk beds, outside toilet and shower with hot water and a braai area. Kayaks are available plus other activities such as hiking and fishing.
Tel: 083 255 9693 | 082 570 6000, e-mail: reservations@umthombekei.co.za or www.umthombekei.co.za

Kleinemonde West River Canoe Trail
Experience the beauty of the river while paddling 8 km and hiking 3 km through Nyala Valley Game Reserve, to ‘Lily Pad’ hut. Birding enthusiasts will enjoy fish eagles, loeries, spoonbills, kingfishers, Narina Trogons, forest weavers and herons. Accommodation is available and children under 16 years should be accompanied by an adult. (Minimum age: 8 years). Ask about the Shipwreck Hiking and Canoe Trail as an alternative.
Tel: 046-675 1321 or 082 391 0647, Email: adrift@mweb.co.za or www.shipwreckhiking.co.za

Kowie Canoe Trail
The unique self-guided two-day canoe trail combines a trip up the scenic Kowie River in double canoes with a voluntary extra walking trail of 21km through indigenous forest. The route is suitable for ages 12 to 70 years old. The trail starts from Port Alfred and finishes at the Horseshoe Bend in the Water’s Meeting Nature Reserve. There are up to 6 double canoes available so younger children are able to ride with an adult. Limited to 16 people. Contact the Reserve Manager, Water’s Meeting Nature Reserve:  Tel: 046-625 0876 or contact the Riverside Caravan Park 046-624 2230 for bookings.

Tailor made canoe trails
For the adventurous paddler, guided canoe trails are available on high quality Sea Kayaks and light carbon fibre paddles with accommodation at Keiskamma Backpackers in Hamburg with the option of one, two or multiple days of kayaking. Email: xt500@mweb.co.za or
Call 0827831288 or 0728744927
www.canoetrails.co.za

For a really good overview on how to paddle, visit www.kayakpaddling.net, with an animated lesson that takes you through the correct way to paddle, step by beautiful step.

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