Experience the thrill and excitement of the ancient traditional Chinese sport of dragon boat racing in the incongruous setting of sunny South Africa. The cities of Cape Town and Johannesburg boast excellent clubs with authentic boats and skilled coaches who give lessons and plenty of encouragement to beginners.

Did you know?

Dragon boating originated in China 2000 years ago. In 1976 it became an international sport.

Dragon Boat racing is an ancient Chinese tradition that has found a new home with Dragon Boat adventures in South Africa. Dragon boats are long paddle boats crewed by a team of 22 people, with a drummer on board to give rhythm to the stroke.

The origins of dragon boat racing are somewhat cloudy, with a couple of theories on offer. One such tale relates the racing to the legend of Qu Yuan, a popular government minister in ancient China. Banished by his enemies from the court, Qu Yuan committed ritual suicide by drowning. Hearing of their hero's attempted suicide, local fisherman rushed to the site of his disappearance in their boats, beating the water to drive away the fish and attempting to retrieve him, albeit unsuccessfully.

South African dragon boat races only started in 1992 when this unique team sport was introduced to the country. Two wooden flag-catching dragon boats were presented to the city of Cape Town by its twin city of Taiwan. Johannesburg now also has a dragon boat racing association and a fleet of boats.

Members of the public can enjoy South African dragon boat activities by joining practice sessions. They can contact either the Western Cape or Gauteng association to learn more about this unique sport. Racing has also become increasingly popular as a corporate team-building event. There are helpful tips ontechnique, links to clubs, training schedules and events to be found on the association's website.

While the paddling technique used for dragon boat racing is not in itself too technically difficult, it is an unconventional movement, all on one side of the body, which beginners may take time to get used to. Other than that, it is a sport that newcomers soon pick up. Of course you will be a bit sore after your first session of unaccustomed twisting and pulling, but it's worth the effort!

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Dragon Boat Racing in South Africa
Tel: +27 (0)21 447 2820
Email: pam@dragonboat.org.za

How to get here

Dragon boat centres in Johannesburg and Cape Town are accessible by car and by bus

Best time to visit

The summer months (September to April) are best to try out dragon boating

What will it cost

Rates for a dragon boat experience vary from club to club. Contact operators directly for a quote

What to pack

Boats and paddles are provided by the boat clubs

Where to stay

Varied accommodation is on offer near both dragon boat clubs

What's happening

Check out the South African Dragon Boating website for details of upcoming events and special occasions.