WW kayaking guide to rivers in South Africa

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Tsitsa Upper Gorge / Tsitsa River / Transkei / South Africa

    Tsitsa River – Tsitsa Upper Gorge

Tsitsa Upper Gorge : Tsitsa River

Grading  IV- to IV+ (V when high)
Levels / gauges None.  Check rainfall in area.  Best bet is to go Mid January to February.  Check with Tsitsa falls backpackers for river level updates.

Low – water is greyish and you can see bump&scrape lines.

Medium – Most of the rocks are covered on the lines.  Water is brownish.

High – Water is brown and pushy

Put-in 31° 1’9.39″S ; 28°28’56.35″E
Take-out Option 1 (Short): 31° 1’22.78″S ; 28°29’32.58″E

Option 2 (I like to hike):

31° 2’22.60″S ; 28°29’18.71″E

Option 3 (Long): 31° 6’21.37″S ; 28°30’53.39″E

Estimated time 1hr to 3hrs (Short)

3hrs to 6hrs (Long)

Length 2km (Short)

5km (Pot take-out)

15km (Long)

Gradient 25m/km (Short)

20m/km (Pot take-out)

10m/km (from Pot down)

Portages Waterfall at start
Hazards / Notes Logs / siphons
Fun factor 4 / 5

Looking to warm-up for some Transkei action?  Then the Tsitsa Upper Gorge is perfect.   It is continuous, tricky and can dish out a beating.  The best part is that it is on the doorstep of the best base camp for paddling in the Transkei – Tsitsa Falls backpackers (http://www.tsitsafalls.com).  Check with them for up to date water levels.

The put-in is a short walk from the backpackers.  Get-in at the bridge above the falls and paddle down to just above the falls and portage on the left, or get in at the falls (you can drive to the falls on either the left or right side of the river with the right side having a dedicated road).

The first two rapids need to be scouted for all levels.  The first one has a nice siphon in the middle of the rapid.  The line is to take a sneak on river right and then cut-back left through a slot to the main flow (Siphon will be on your left).  Best to scout on your way down while portaging the waterfall.


                       First rapid with line being right to left.  Siphon in middle of picture.

The second rapid is best to scout from river left.  The problem with the second rapid is that the main line is on river right, but there is almost always something stuck in the last slot (logs).  The line is to enter either river right and finish with a boof on river left, or to start left and end left with the boof.


Second rapid boof on river left

The action doesn’t let up from here and you need to be on your toes.  If you haven’t paddled this section before or one of the guys in the crew, best is to walk the rim of the gorge and scout the rapids from the top.  Scout on the left rim of the gorge.  Chat to AD (http://www.tsitsafalls.com) before you get onto the river.  Be aware of logs on the river. Once you get to a slide rapid (really fun at high water) be sharp for the following rapid with large boulders and then the one after this (second rapid after the slide) has a massive syphon on river left (keep right).  Check out Luke’s trip report at http://adrian.playak.com/index.php/sa-other-provinces-mainmenu-17/221-tsitsa-gorge-finally.

If you are a capable boater in class IV+ and up you will be able to boat scout the remainder of the rapids.  The river is steep and continuous and can be rewarding for the competent and confident paddler.

The upper gorge is short and a lot of fun.  You have three take-out options:  Option 1 is to continue until you get to a river wide hole with a double step.  Take-out after this on the left and carry your boat up to the top by cutting back slight upstream. (31° 1’22.78″S ; 28°29’32.58″E)

Option 2 might not be the best since the hike-out is hectic.  Paddle down to the confluence with the Pot River and take-out.  Take-out at the confluence of the Pot River on the right (river left of the Pot River).  Walk a bit upstream until you see the gully and walk to the top (pass two fences and then cut back to the left to the top – see details under the Pot River). (31° 2’22.60″S ; 28°29’18.71″E)

Option 3: Carry-on past the Pot River confluence until the gorge opens.  You will get to a village and this is the take-out.  The rapids in this section ease out and disappear when the gorge ends.  You can use this take-out if for the Pot River as well, however the drive around is long.  This is a great warm-up section.  (31° 6’21.37″S ; 28°30’53.39″E).  The turn-off for the take-out is on the Tsolo (R396) road from Maclear (31° 9’52.68″S ; 28°33’28.87″E). From Maclear look for the Mqokolweni Clinic sign on the left (about 24km from Maclear).  Follow the dirt road to the bottom of the valley and at a large T-junction keep left and onto a village called Nxgoto.  The take-out is here.

(*First pic from Brendan Bosman)