WW kayaking guide to rivers in South Africa

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Sabie / Section U1 / Mpumalanga / South Africa

Sabie River – Upper Sabie (U1)

Sabie River – U1
Grading IV-
Levels / gauges Sabie @ Emmet (Inkomati)Low – 7 to 14Medium – 15 to 25High – 26 – 30

Pumping – 40

Put-in 25° 2’22.20″S ; 30°57’35.63″E (Get permission from  25° 2’30.43″S ; 30°58’7.20″E)
Take-out 25° 1’48.56″S ; 31° 1’32.31″E (Get permission from Induna Adventures)
Estimated time 4 hrs
Length 10km
Gradient 12m/km (Longish flats)
Portages Yes (2)
Hazards / Notes Logs
Fun factor 3 / 5

The U1 is the classic run.  The run starts at the take-out of the U2, alternatively you can get lower down and cut out a large part of flat water (grade 1 rapids).  Get permission for the put-in from the coffee shop across from Induna Adventures.  The put-in at Siphon falls is flat for about 3km.  The alternative put-in cuts out about 3km of flat, but you need a high clearance vehicle to get down to the river and even a 4×4 if the it is wet.

This section has changed in terms for bang for paddle time since you cut-out the section from Tanamara Bridge (now part of U2 section).  The better part of this section is the middle 3km.  The first rapid worth mentioning is similar to lock-stock-and-two-smoking-barrels.  The rapid ends just above a waterfall that you need to portage so set-up safety at the bottom of the rapid.  The rapid is easy to scout from the right and also to portage.  Get out immediate after the rapid on the right and portage past the falls.  If the water is high one can run a rocky line that drops into the pool below the portage waterfall (about 3 to 4m high).  Get in at the pool below the waterfall and run the drop below.   The drop below the portage is good to go and you can launch into the pool right at the top of the drop.

After the first portage (about 1km downstream) there is rapid marked by a weir that channels water to the left.  The weir does not stretch the whole width of river, so as you are coming down the main channel, get out on the island in the middle of the river and scout the rapid from there.  There are a couple of channels, but the common one taken is to the right of the island.  It is a fast shute that continues into a horse shoe drop.  At high levels the drop after the horse drop forms a natural weir.  It can dish out a beating if you are too relaxed.  You can easy skirt it on the sides or shoot the shallow channel on the left just before the drop.

The next portage is marked by a flat rock in centre to left of the river (about 6km in from the U2 take-out).  The river main flows to the right and forms a waterfall which lands on rocks.  At high flows the flat rock forms a large island with most of the water running right to the waterfall and some water running left to form a steep gutter run.  The main channel to the right consists of four drops in total. The first being un-runnable since it lands on rocks.  Portage down the middle and check out the last three drops.  There are lines open on all of these, but scout the second drop (below the waterfall falling onto to rocks) properly.  The last two waterfalls can be run by getting into the pool below the second drop.  The eddy surges at medium to high flows.  The line is either to the right cutting back to the centre of the run or from left to centre.

The last 3km is flat with small rapids.  Check with locals for hippos or crocs on the last 3km.  Take-out is at the confluence of the Mac-Mac, Sibaan and Sabie rivers at Induna Adventures.