South Africa's canoe marathons traverse three lively rivers that take you through some of the country’s most exquisite scenery. The races are well-organised and are famous for the camaraderie among paddlers and the warm-hearted spectators. Can there be a better way to immerse yourself in South Africa?

Did you know?

Canoeists like the Gauteng province because of the sunny climate and high altitude.

Canoe marathons in South Africa are famously hard. The rivers run strong, the weather is often against you and your fellow competitors are very, well, competitive. It's tough, but if you're part of the world paddling fraternity, 'tough' is not a word that gives you nightmares.

South African canoe marathons are generally staged amidst some of the most thrilling wilderness areas you'll ever find yourself in. By racing in the top three world-class canoe marathons in South Africa – The Dusi, The Fish and The Berg marathons – you're seeing the haunting Midlands of KwaZulu-Natal, the world-famous Karoo Heartland and the Western Cape winelands.

OK, there's not much room service, or time to take romantic photographs, but that's how real paddlers like playing 'tourist' in most countries.

The grandaddy of South African canoe marathons is the Dusi, run from Pietermaritzburg in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands down to Durban on the Indian Ocean. The oldest South African canoe marathon, it attracts up to 2 000 entrants each year.

The Fish River Canoe Marathon is a hard-fought paddlers' run from Grassridge Dam in the deep Karoo down to the river town of Cradock, one of the most beautiful settlements in the Karoo Heartland. Although it's fiercely competitive on the water, on land it's a family affair – and the post-race festivities are legendary.

The Berg, as they say, is not for sissies. Run in harsh Cape winter conditions, paddlers fight their way on a tough river from Paarl in the winelands down to Velddrift on the Atlantic Ocean, home to the Benguela Current fishing community. Here you're in the land of the Crayfish Festival – enjoy!

Each race has its loyal fan base, but their unofficial mottos are the same: paddle, portage and party...

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