A unique adventure – Desert Kayak Trails

8 April 2016

 © Pieter van Wyk
© Pieter van Wyk
During the Easter weekend, the Desert Kayak Trails hosted the first large group of participants down the magnificent Orange River, within the parameters of the /Ai /Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park.
Local communities work as river guides, set up the camps and assist with catering. The trails offer the ideal opportunity to introduce people to the transfrontier park. Between kayaking, participants are taken on short vehicle drives to enjoy the spectacular arid and desert mountain scenery, as well as some of the richest succulent flora in the world. On the river, there are tranquil stretches of still, glassy water, followed by exhilarating rapids. All the while, the river offers a unique perspective on the abundant bird life, riparian forest and animals coming down for a sip of water.
 © Pieter van Wyk
© Pieter van Wyk
Evenings are spent under the stars around the campfire, where Nama guides give participants a fresh take on this alluring area, with colourful storytelling and Nama folklore shared over generations.


To prepare for the Desert Kayak Trails, the African Paddling Association helped select and train river guides. This was a new and challenging experience for community members, most of whom could not swim - watch the guides tell their story in the video. Thanks to funding from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit and Peace Parks Foundation, the first training took place during 2014. In 2015, the transfrontier park's management committee members and community-sourced river guides attended an advanced river guide training course in preparation for their work on the trails and for their accreditation tests. Test trails with family members were held in 2015, to make sure that everything was shipshape.

Behind the scenes

The more adventurous started the day with a hike up a mountain to enjoy the view  © Pieter van Wyk
The more adventurous started the day with a hike up a mountain to enjoy the view © Pieter van Wyk
Ensuring that everything runs smoothly during the trails, takes proper planning and preparation. It starts days before the event, so that the participants can have a relaxing time on the water. It includes sorting out camp equipment, cleaning and putting up camps, transporting equipment and purchasing the necessary to cater food and drinks over five days. On the Easter weekend trip, three people worked on setting up everything on the Namibian side and another three on the South African side of the Orange River. There were also two river guides and one leader for the whole trip. These nine individuals worked hard to ensure that the 16 participants would have a memorable and adventurous time canoeing, and relaxing at the campsites. Vehicles drove over 931 km between camps to transport participants, camp equipment, food and kayaks. The canoeing took place between Loots and Boplaas, over a distance of almost 40 km, camping two nights in Namibia and two in South Africa. See map below.
The participants had a fantastic time and gave glowing reports of their time on the river and in the transfrontier park.

Click here to book for the Desert Kayak Trails, available throughout the year.

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