White water rafting in South Africa reaches its peaks at the Tugela River. With names like 'the liquidiser' and 'the washing machine', you know this river’s rapids are not for the faint of heart. But despite its fearsome reputation, the Tugela River delivers a safe but thrilling rafting experience.

Did you know?

The Tugela River is the largest river in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

White water rafting down the Tugela River (also Thukela) is one of the most sought after adventure experiences in the country.

With excellent rafting conditions and mammoth rapids, it's not surprising the Tugela River is one of the top South African white water rafting destinations.

The Tugela River is the longest river in KwaZulu-Natal, flowing from its source in the Drakensberg mountains down to the Indian Ocean. If it appears a placid bubbling brook where it gurgles over the rocky shallows beneath the mountains, it certainly doesn't stay like this for long.

It cuts through two areas – The Canyon (near Weenen) and the Tugela Gorge further downstream – where it is transformed into a raging torrent. It's here that you will encounter the appropriately named 'jaws', 'shark's fin', 'horrible horace' and 'rocky horror' rapids.

Hold on tight, because you're going to get tossed around like a lone sock in a washing machine. But the Tugela expeditions are great fun, totally invigorating and, most of all, they're safe. No rafting experience is necessary as trained and qualified South African Rivers Association guides lead all trips.

There are a number of professional operators offering white water rafting trips down the Tugela, varying from half-day to four-day excursions.

Some operators, like Zingela Safari and River Company, also offer combined rafting, abseiling, 4x4, quad biking and horse riding packages. These activities provide the perfect opportunity to take in the area's stunning birdlife and fauna.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

KwaZulu-Natal Tourism Authority
Tel: +27 (0) 31 366 7500
Email: kznta@iafrica.com

Zingela Safari and River Company
Tel: +27 (0) 36 354 7005/7250
Email: zingela@futurenet.co.za

Southern Africa Rivers Association (SARA)
Tel: +27 (0) 12 667 1838
Email: sara@intekom.co.za

How to get here

Fly direct from any of South Africa’s major cities to Durban. From Durban take the N3 to Estcourt, then follow the signs to Weenen, about 40km away.

Best time to visit

Although this part of KwaZulu-Natal offers a moderate climate all year round, the best rafting conditions are in summer from November to March.

Around the area

Zulu cultural village tour at Rorke’s Drift, Wagendrift Nature Reserve near Escourt.

Tours to do

Take a battlefields tour through 14 historic towns that played major roles in the South African War.

What to pack

Plenty of sunscreen and a hat. Also, comfortable hiking sandals or water boots are recommended.

What to eat

Traditional Zulu fare at the Zulu cultural villages in the area, authentic South African cuisine at lodges like Zingela.

What's happening

Polar Bear Swim endurance race in Escourt in June.