Tag Archives: Orange River

Canoeing on the Orange River

I’ve always suspected that our family has a number of adrenalin junkies hidden in the closet and so it was no surprise when we unanimously decided to try white water rafting on the Orange River.  As we were staying at Norotshama, a resort some sixty kilometers from Noordoewer on the Namibian side of the river, the obvious choice for our trip was Felix Unite, a company well-known for their river tours.  They very obligingly allowed us to book a half-day trip on the river on New Year’s day.

We were somewhat apprehensive about the wisdom of going on New Year’s day as we weren’t sure how hung over our party would be, let alone the condition of the guide who was to take us.  However, when we arrived at Felix Unite, our guide turned out to be a sweet young lady who was quite capable of leading the group.

After fitting ourselves out with life jackets we climbed onto the back of a truck and were driven a few kilometers upstream to the starting point of our trip.

All aboard

We were given a short briefing on what to do and then we were off!  The scenery in that part of the world is amazing, with the river flowing alongside high mountains on the left bank and the dry Namibian landscape on the right.

Mountains at the start

There are numerous birds in the reeds and in trees on islands in the middle of the river and it was lovely to watch them take off effortlessly as we neared them.

Tranquil scenery as we rowed

The smooth water ahead reflects the mountains and a sense of peace and tranquility overtakes one as one paddles silently down the river.

Andy, Katy, Phillip & Nancy

Mick, Lauren, Andy & Katy

It has to be said that calling it “white water rafting” along this stretch of river is a bit misleading.  For starters we were in ordinary two man Mohawk canoes (not rubber dinghies as we had hoped) and the rapids that we had to negotiate were extremely tame.  In fact I’m sure we were all somewhat disappointed that it hadn’t been more of a challenge.  Having said that, however, another couple who tacked on to our group, did manage to overturn on the last rapid and ended up losing some of their gear, so either they were really unlucky or we were pretty good to keep afloat!

Rob takes a breather

A highlight of the trip was when we had canoed about halfway and we pulled over to the bank and went ashore.  Here we were encouraged to walk back a few hundred meters and then step into the river to catch the current, supported only by our life jackets which made us beautifully buoyant.  Our guide called this “nappy running” and it turned out to be such fun that we did it twice.

Enjoying the nappy running

Enjoying the nappy running

Felix Unite operate four and six day tours here as well and provide all the essentials for the trip.  They are a well-run organization and can be recommended for their canoe trips, which are reasonably priced.  However, if you are hoping for a white-knuckle experience over hardcore rapids, in rubber dinghies, I suggest you head to the Zambezi or you will be disappointed.  To be fair to Felix Unite though, they don’t advertise their trips as anything but canoeing down the Orange River, so we were slightly mislead by the resort which punted white water rafting!  Also, the strength of the rapids obviously depends on how much rain they have had upstream.  But it’s an awesome experience nonetheless!

Aussenkehr & Norotshama

We have just returned from the most amazing visit to Norotshama, a resort in southern Namibia on the banks of the Orange River. Amazing because it was a long-overdue family reunion (more about that in another blog) and also because of the awesome scenery in that part of the world.

Having traveled extensively in central and northern Namibia, I have always felt that the southern part of the country is somewhat lacking in tourist appeal, apart from Luderitz, the Fish River Canyon and Duiseb Castle. I have amended my opinion since doing this trip.

We stayed about four kilometers from the little village of Aussenkehr. This village is quite unique, not only because of its position – surrounded by breathtaking mountains and desert scenery, as well as wine lands and the mighty Orange River – but mainly because most of the houses are built of reeds from the river bank. It was quickly assigned the name of “straw village” by our party.

Straw Village of Aussenkehr

One wonders if the shacks are made from reeds because they are free and readily available or because reed houses are cool inside, giving their inhabitants some measure of relief from temperatures that can soar up over 50oC in summer. I noticed that some of the houses were built of corrugated iron and just cladded with reeds, whilst others were made from a combination of mud and reeds.

Straw Village of Aussenkehr

Because it is a grape-growing area and most of the local employment comes from the nearby wine farms, many houses have patches of grapes spread out on the ground to dry in the sun. These look like miniature tapestries and add a bit of colour to the otherwise dry, dusty exterior of the houses. With the sun beating down on them, the grapes soon shrivel up and turn into raisins providing food for the shack dwellers.

Passing Aussenkehr and heading west, the scenery can only be described as breathtaking. If one heads up a short 4×4 track just beyond the sign to Rosh Pinah, the views are spectacular in every direction.

4x4 Track beyond Rosh Pinah sign

In fact one has 360 degree views of different types of scenery – from dramatic mountains, to sandy desert and lush green where the river cuts a swathe through the valley.

Viewsite above Aussenkehr

It is a place of awe and wonder and a photographer’s paradise. A word of warning though, strong winds come up in the evenings, which is unfortunate because that’s when the light is best for photography. It’s also a magic spot to watch the sun go down with an ice cold beer in one’s hand.

Viewsite above Aussenkehr

From Aussenkehr it is a short drive to the entrance to the Richtersveld National Park. Alas our time was too short to go into the park, but it now sits firmly on our agenda for another visit to this amazing area.

Viewsite above Aussenkehr

The resort that we stayed at, Norotshama, is an oasis in the desert. With campsites and chalets overlooking the Orange River and rocky desert mountains as a backdrop, one is rewarded each evening with glowing pink and orange sunsets and an assortment of birds flying down the river. In fact the bird life along the Orange is abundant and at any given time one could see herons wading, cormorants sunning themselves with wings outstretched, kingfishers diving into the water and red bishops busily courting in the reeds. A lifer for us was the little green Orange River White-eye.

Orange River White-eye

Rob was in his element cycling through the grape vines and along the deserted roads, whilst the rest of us fished, paddled canoes up the river or relaxed in the swimming pool. The temperatures were quite uncomfortable at times, with one thermometer reading going up as high as 57.4oC in our braai area. It did cool down in the evenings though which made our supper times outdoors rather special.

Early morning cycle

The Norotshama Resort is very nice, although a little on the pricey side. They did sweeten the deal a bit by providing free canoes, which we made good use of, but the breakfasts were very ordinary and we found that management didn’t control noisy patrons very well. Although we booked as early as March for our December visit, there was a mix up with our reservation and our party had to be separated. We were also given misleading information about the white water rafting that we wanted to do. These were minor problems though and we can still thoroughly recommend a visit to this area and the Resort.