Did you know?
Research indicates that the kayak as we know it has existed for around 4 000 years.
Kayaking is a great water sport that's so easy to learn that it can be enjoyed by travellers with limited time available.
South Africa's larger rivers and calm Cape waters are premier kayaking destinations, but there is also fun to be had playing in the waves or padding around on a lake or dam. The joy of kayaking is in the paddling itself, being out in the open and being close to magnificent scenery.
A kayak is smaller and lighter than its cousin the canoe, and is constructed differently, making it more manoeuvrable.
If you're a beginner, it's probably best to choose a flat river route or coastal trip with a more experienced paddler in a double kayak. For the more experienced thrill-seeker who's attracted by the idea of bouncing down white-water rapids, a stubby, more buoyant kayak is used for such demanding conditions.
River kayaking is popular along many of the country's larger rivers. The Mkomazi, Umzimkulu and Mngeni in KwaZulu-Natal are popular canoeing and kayaking destinations, while the relatively unexplored Eastern Cape rivers such as the Umzimvubu and Tsitsa offer exciting prospects.
The town of Clarens in the Free State Province promises an attractive combination of spectacular mountain scenery during a trip down the Ash River, while the Orange cuts through the mountainous Richtersveld desert and includes overnight camping on the riverbank. The Pongola and Tugela are two other substantial rivers worth investigating.
Try the Breede River for a one-day wine tasting trip, and if you're near Mpumalanga, the Blyde River is one of the most beautiful rivers in the country.
If your holiday is of the coastal variety, Cape Town's kayaking trips are matchless. Pick and choose from routes that include stopping at a protected penguin colony at Boulder's Beach, getting close to a seal colony at the base of the Robberg Peninsula or a slow trawl around the coastline of Hermanus, where the whales venture so close that you can almost touch them!
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
How to get here
Kayak tour operators are usually situated within easy access of departure points. Those that aren't will provide 4x4 transport for necessary kayaking gear.
Best time to visit
Kayaking in the Cape is best during summer (December, January and February) when conditions are hot, days are longer and there is no rainfall.
Adventure or adrenalin sports operators offering kayaking and white-water rafting are based near larger, navigable rivers and at suitable coastal points, mainly around the Cape coast, where conditions are favourable.
What will it cost
Expect to pay around R500 per person for a two-hour coastal trip. River trips may be shorter but more intense, with cost dependent on the number of kayakers, the river conditions and your adrenalin reserves. A whole-day whitewater kayaking experience including lunch will cost around R700 per person, while a half day is about R500.
Length of stay
Set aside half a day for a decent kayak trip, preferably in the morning before the wind comes up and it gets too hot.
What to pack
Tour operators provide equipment including the kayak, a guide and transport, but you will need a windbreaker, swimming costume, beach towel, peak cap and sunscreen.
What to eat
Expeditions will differ, but for day trips it is advisable to take your own food.