Gero Lilleike

I’m a sucker for an outdoor adventure. Immersing yourself in Nature is the most therapeutic experience you can give yourself, so imagine my excitement when my lovely wife booked us a 5-day Orange River rafting adventure. What a bucket list travel experience!

The Orange River forms a natural border between South Africa and Namibia. A seven-hour drive from Cape Town got us to the border post at Vioolsdrif, a stone throw from Bundi Lodge near Noordoewer, where we’d start our river adventure.

The Orange River is a fisherman's paradise.©Gero Lilleike
The Orange River is a fisherman’s paradise.©Gero Lilleike

If you’ve ever been to Namibia, you’ll know how hot, arid and desolate it is. The Orange River is a source of life here. Plant and animal life abound along the banks and as an enthusiastic fly fisherman, I was hoping to catch a fish. Any fish…

Orange River
The landscapes along the Orange River are spectacular. ©Gero Lilleike

We were due to paddle 85 km over five days, but with low seasonal water levels, we would only do 65 km, a fair distance for two amateur paddlers. We were, however, accompanied by experienced and resourceful river guides, Patrick and Erastus to ensure our safe passage on the river.

Another beautiful morning on the Orange River. Picture by Gero Lilleike

With camping gear and supplies loaded on our boats, we set off down the Orange River. Paddling quickly becomes the norm as the reality of the distance sinks in. Despite the aches and pains, you have no choice but to push on! A headwind is your worst enemy on the water, making  paddling exceedingly torturous as you fight for every metre gained.

For the most part, we had stunning paddling conditions and the water was clean and clear. The harsh landscape is oddly pretty with the vibrant colours of the dry mountains in stark contrast to the greenery along the river.

Camping on the banks of the Orange River is well worth all the effort. Picture: Gero Lilleike

Camping next to the river and sleeping under the stars is a highlight. The higher temperatures negate the need for a tent, but it is recommended if creepy-crawlies worry you.  Other campers were apparently forced into their tents when Red Roman spiders did the rounds in their camp!

Evening views on the banks of the Orange River. ©Gero Lilleike

A troop of baboons kept us up one night with their loud barks echoing eerily through the warm night while an owl hooted from a nearby tree. Sleeping in the wild makes the experience so much more exciting!

The Orange River in the morning light.©Gero Lilleike
The Orange River in the morning light.©Gero Lilleike

The Orange River is a paradise for fishermen with species including smallmouth and largemouth yellowfish, carp, barbell, bass and kurper. Erastus has been a guide for 24 years and I was amazed at the success of his fishing exploits. He regularly enjoyed his catch over an open fire every evening. What a champion!

Gero Lilleike catches a fish on the Orange River. Picture by Patrick Engelbrecht

By the end of the trip, I had caught four species of varying sizes while some of the fish were simply too big to catch on my tackle. Bent hooks were evidence of this. There are some monstrously-large fish lurking in the Orange River, so come prepared.

The names given to some of the rapids on this section of the river included Morning Shower, Rocky Waters, Snotklap, Root of Hell, Scorpions Tail and the biggest rapid on this route, Sjambok, but we found them to be relatively easy to navigate, making this paddle a great option for families.

Lunch time on the Orange River.©Gero Lilleike
Lunch time on the Orange River.©Gero Lilleike

Remember to pack eco-friendly sunscreen and wear protective, light, breathable clothing. On most days, the mountains literally bake and the heat can be stifling. We experienced temperatures close to 50°, but thankfully the river is always close enough for a refreshing dip.

The views from the Orange River are stunning! ©Gero Lilleike
The views from the Orange River are stunning! ©Gero Lilleike

The Orange River was our home for five days and the experience of this remarkable place was amazing. This adventure is easy to recommend and if you are in need of nature’s magical healing powers, then you know what to do…

Book your Orange River adventure with Bundi here!