WW kayaking guide to rivers in South Africa

Umtamvuna / Kwazulu-Natal / South Africa


Umtamvuna River – Port Edward

Grading -IV (V) (High water IV+)
Levels / gauges *   Gauge is down at the momentUmtamvuna @ Umtamvuna WTW (Mvoti to Umzimkulu

Low – Below 15

Medium – 15 to 25

High – 25 to 35

Pumping – 35

Put-in 30°53’39.80″S ; 30° 7’5.85″E
Take-out 31° 4’1.06″S ; 30°10’51.33″E
Estimated time Overnighter (12 hrs – 14hrs) or long one day.
Length 32 km
Gradient 18m/km
Portages None
Hazards / Notes Ledge holes / isolated gorge
Fun factor 4.0 / 5 (Classic 5 if the water is up)

The Umtamvuna is located on the boundary of Kwazulu and the Eastern Cape.  The section is within an isolated gorge which is spectacular.  The isolation ups the level of the run as well, with proper preparation required to ensure that a walk-out does not become an option.

The put-in is at the pumpstation for the Umtamvuna WTW.  To get there, drive along the Izingolwene Road (when entering Port Edward from Durban, it is the road to the right at the traffic lights).  Have a chat with the guys at the water works.  They can give good info on the water level for future paddles down this section.  The take-out is either at the Old Pont resort or push to the beach.

This section is great because there are no portages (can change if there is wood) and a competent paddler can boat scout almost the entire section.  The action starts as you round the corner from the pumpstation.  The nature of the run is fairly continues with ledge holes and some tight lines.  At higher flows, swims should be avoided due to the continuous nature of this section.

This section has been done in a day, but you need to get on early to allow for enough daylight.  You know you are well over halfway when you pass a large tributary coming in from river right.  Other action in this section includes a ledge drop of about 2-3m.

There are sections that you will have to scout.  A competent paddler class IV (which should lead this section) will spot the hazards and/or horizon lines.  Note that there are higher graded rapids on this section and this is why the (V) in the grading section is there.

This section is fun, but the water levels are fickle.  Best to do this run when you are in the area or if you have confirmed info on the water levels.  The section does not hold water for too long, so you need good rains probably one to two days prior to the mission.


3 thoughts on “Umtamvuna / Kwazulu-Natal / South Africa

  1. Hi, your last piece description on the Umtavuna River is incorrect. Celliers pic on the cover of his book is actually the 1 st waterfall on the “waterfall section” of the Umzimkulu.

    The Umtavuna also has a nasty waterfall / multiple slide on the last day. It is a MUST scout with a very dangerous siphon at the top and some MUST make lines down the rest of the of the way in high and low water

    Hope this helps

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