The Orange River, or Fish River depending on who you talk to, is one of the longest rivers on the entire African continent, meandering its way through a number of countries and marking the border between Namibia and South Africa. Aside from providing a vital water source to the region, it is also a beautiful spot for a lazy summer paddle, which is how we find ourselves floating on down the Orange River this afternoon.
All the details: Orange River canoeing
Cost: Join a 3 hour guided canoe safari with Felix Unite for N$250.
Getting there: The Orange River is a 7 hour drive south of Windhoek, or a 2 hour drive SW from the airport in Karasburg.
Where to stay: Felix Unite Provedance Camp offers beautiful rooms as well as camping facilities right on the Orange River. Sites are N$175 per person, while cabanas run between N$1085-1925 per night.
Top tip: Even if you don’t find yourself on a canoe, make sure to take a dip in this beautiful, shallow river!
On our last full day in Namibia, we eat and pack up the truck as usual before hitting the road. It’s only a quick drive today to reach our camp on the shore of the Orange River, but it’s still cooking by the time we arrive around 10am. Before any fun or relaxation can take place, we have to transfer all of our stuff into a different truck, which means unloading lockers, clearing seats and racks, and then helping with all the kitchen supplies underneath the truck. As much as I’d prefer to just bolt straight to the pool, it isn’t a long job with all hands on deck, so we have our free time soon enough.
For the next few hours, the girls and I sit at tables overlooking the pool and sip on cool drinks. By the time our canoeing rolls around, I’m so comfortable that I almost wish I could just stay here, but I’ve already paid for it and the river is super beautiful, so I lather up in sunscreen, grab the GoPro, and hop into the van with Kate, Tess, Nicole, Di, and Grace. We get driven 12km up the river before parking at a tiny little sand launch, pushing our boats into the water, and setting sail.
Nicole has selflessly volunteered to be my paddling partner (selfless because I fully warned her that I would be too distracted taking photos to be much help at the actual canoeing), but I actually wasn’t expecting to do much work anyway because of the current. As it turns out, it’s the world’s weakest river current, plus the wind is blowing in the other direction, so there is considerable work involved just to keep us moving slowly forward.
Even with sore arms, though, the scenery is breathtaking. In the distance, rocky mountains peek over the meandering river and birds of all varieties flutter around on the banks, so there is no shortage of photography material. I am thoroughly enjoying our paddle, despite the unrelenting sun, and feeling like it was an afternoon well spent as I spot our accommodation on the bank ahead. Of course, it turns out to not be our camp site in the end, and this realisation is accompanied by the information that we are just barely halfway through our 12km. I feel like we’ve been rowing for 2 hours already— I don’t have a watch, so this is purely speculative, but still— another 2 hours? Really?
After a short swim break out of the canoes, we resolve to speed through the second half of the river and make it back to camp (where cold G&Ts await). I even put the camera away, so obviously I mean business. Despite wind that is picking up by the minute and a few crashes into the reeds, we soar back to camp in record time and all throw ourselves from the boats in excitement. It was a great time canoeing, but I think any more than 12km would have been torture, so I’m happy that we’ve quit while we were at least somewhat ahead.
I survey the blisters on my hand over a few drinks and then, before I know it, it’s dinner time. Rachel has whipped up an amazing braai (the bones of which I feed to the little stray kitties near my tent) and then we redraw names, objects, and locations for a second round of camp Clue. I doubt that I’ll have an opportunity in the next two days (or in any amount of time at all, for that matter) to kill Tess in a tree with Lucas’ underwear, so I resign myself to death, which comes on swift wings when Franco kills me at the bar with a beer just an hour later. At least I’m not the first to lose, and also now I can know what everyone else is up to, so it’s not all bad being dead.
Murders aside, we all stay up as a group far past our usual bedtime (I don’t get back into my tent until 10pm— rebel) playing another of Kerri’s game, this time a fun mix of Articulate and Charades that, in its final stages, involves acting things out from underneath a blanket while balancing a bucket on your head. It’s great to have everyone all together on one of our last nights, and it certainly reminds me how much I will miss the group when our overlanding ends in just 2 days. We still have wine tasting tomorrow and Cape Town for my birthday to look forward to, though, so it’s not time for any sappy goodbyes just yet.