Local legend says the Orange River is home to a mysterious monster that’s been eating people and livestock for 2000 years. Would rafting it be safe?Tales of the dreaded Orange River Monster weren’t going to stop me from rafting down this unique oasis of life in the heart of a desolate desert environment. Richtersveld National Park is located in the Northern Cape, South Africa’s largest and least populated province.
We loaded up our little inflatable 2 person boat and pushed off into the river with kayak paddles, hoping to avoid a watery death at the hands of the notorious Monster.Home to the indigenous Nama people, this rocky dry landscape surrounding the river is a mix of red, brown, and orange hues — except for the banks, where patches of green vegetation are able to thrive.Floating past massive sandstone cliffs and small river islands, we occasionally stopped to rest or take photos. The environment here is really special. I’d never seen a river in the middle of a desert before, let alone raft down it!
The Orange River has a long history of producing gemstones like rubies, tiger’s eye, and even diamonds, so we sifted through the riverbed hoping to discover some treasure.
In fact South Africa’s first diamond, the 21 carat Eureka Diamond, was discovered by a young boy on the river’s bank in 1867, eventually helping to bring about South Africa’s famous diamond rush at Kimberly.Unfortunately no diamonds or rubies were found on our trip, but Kash did manage to dig up some Tiger’s Eye, a semi-precious stone.
Our swim was a success! However the journey to Namibia was short lived, and we quickly swam back to our tents on the South African side at The Growcery Camp where they were cooking up a delicious traditional South African Braai BBQ on an open fire.
My Orange River rafting experience was a memorable one, and we only scratched the surface of South Africa’s Northern Cape territory. It’s a huge area with a lot to see and do — and one of the least visited parts of the country.Just beware the Orange River Monster, it’s always hungry and enjoys the taste of tourists.