Rafting the Umkomaas
Experience the thrill of rafting one of South Africa's best white water rivers: the Umkomaas , Zulu name 'Mkomazi' - place of the cows. Situated in rural KwaZulu-Natal between Richmond and Creighton, the Umkomaas River offers warm, high-volume white water, interspersed with short pools to get your breath back and take in the beauty of its untouched valley and gorges.
Summertime rafting on the Umkomaas is typically Grade 3, however when the mighty African thunderstorms unleash themselves on the Drakensberg, this becomes a fast flowing, high volume Grade 4 river. No previous rafting experience is necessary, but you do need to be reasonably fit to handle the physical nature of this rafting.
Our river guides are amongst the most experienced white water paddlers in the country, and strive to make your rafting experience, both safe and memorable.
- Trip DurationHalf & Full-Day Rafting Trips2 Day/ Overight - mid-week* Summer Season only: Nov - Apr
- Daily DistancesHalf-Day: 7km (aprox 3-4hr)Full-Day: 13km (approx 6-7hr)
- Trail Grading3 / 5 - Fitness. You'll need a reasonable cardio fitness and we need to be notified of any pre-existing medical conditions. Non-swimmers can be accommodated but must be pre-discussed.2-4 / 5 - Technicality. The Umko (during summer) is typically Grade 3 rapids - becoming fast-flow high-volume Grade 4 rapids after heavy rain. As SA rivers go, the Umko is not a very technically challenging river, but is also not a mellow float.
- River TerrainThe Umko River snakes its way though Valley bushveld, interspersed by pockets of indigenous forest. During summer, the river flows like a roller-coaster of high-volume rapids and big wave chains. Below St Josephine's Bridge the spectacular aloe-hung cliffs fall straight into the river.
- Accommodation2 Rustic Bushcamp / Lodges avail to book on (near) siteOwn Camping or basic bunk bed tents (which usually host school groups) also available
- Logistic SupportExperienced & APA Qualified GuidesAll Rafting and Safety Equipment provided - boats, paddles, life jackets, helmets and waterproof vests if cold.Catering: Coffee & snack on the half-day. Picnic lunch incl on the full-dayReturn 4x4 transfer (to start) and vehicle back-up support
- Group SizeMin 5 persons - maximum 24 persons/ per group. But more boats & guides can be organised if you are a larger group.
- PricingHalf-Day Trip (7km): R750/ppFull-day Trip (13km): R900/pp
The Umkomaas River originates in Giant’s Castle and follows a winding course down to the Indian Ocean. The white water rafting trips take place in a valley that lies just 95 km from Durban and 65 km from Pietermaritzburg. Summertime rafting on the Umkomaas is typically Grade 3, however when the mighty African thunderstorms unleash themselves on the Drakensberg, this becomes a fast-flowing, high volume Grade 4 river. No previous rafting experience is necessary; but participants need to be reasonably fit to handle the physical nature of this rafting.
Half Day Trip: 7km Raft / 3-4hr . Coffee and snack provided. Min of 4 persons needed to run a trip. Min age 12 years (under 18yrs to be accompanied by at least 1 parent/guardian per 2 minors) ** Ideal for those wanting a shorter white water experience, with the thrill of experiencing some of the largest rapids on the river.
Paddle Stretch: From Daisy Chain Rapid to Nyala Pans.
Meet at 9am - Umkomaas Valley Site. After a comprehensive safety briefing over a cup of tea/coffee, we 4x4 transfer up-river and embark on a 7km section of Grade 3+ (low water) to Grade 4+ (high water) white-water back down to NP River Camp. We arrive back at the meeting point around 1pm.
Full- Day Trip: 13km Raft/ 6-7hr . Coffee, snack & picnic lunch provided. Min 4 persons to run a trip. Min age 12 yrs (under 18 to be accompanied by at least 1 parent/guardian per 2 minors). A moderate to good level of cardio fitness required. ** Ideal for those wanting a full-on white water and wilderness experience with the thrill of experiencing most of the largest rapids on the river.
Paddle Stretch: From Daisy Chain Rapid to Lower Nkonka Rapid
Meet at 9am - Umkomaas Valley Site. After a comprehensive safety briefing over a cup of coffee/tea, we 4x4 transfer upstream to our put in point, and embark on a 13km section of Grade 3+ (low water) to Grade 4+(high water) white water to Lower Nkonka Rapid. Picnic lunch on the river. Take-out and return via 4x4 transfer to meet-point at around 3pm.
- 2 Day/ 2 Night Multi-Day TripArrival / Day 1
Travel to our Umkomaas Bush Camp –approx. 1hr drive from PMB, 90min from Durban.
Overnight: One of 2 Bush Camps based on availability and group size (Dinner around the Campfire)
- Day 2Rafting Day 1
Enjoy an early morning run or hike on the reserve before breakfast (a guided hike can be arranged if the group wishes to do this) – abundance of non-dangerous game on the farm property - Nyala, Kudu, Giraffe, Warthog, Wildebeest and Zebra.
09h00: Get collected from the Bush Camp – 4x4 transfer approx. 25km upstream.
Comprehensive Safety Briefing on the River Banks
Todays rafting will take you from Daisy Chains Rapid to Lower Nkonka: 13-14km Raft / Grade 3+ (low water) to Grade 4+(high water)
Overnight: same Bushcamp (no need to pack bags) (Breakfast. Picnic lunch on the river. Dinner back at Camp)
- Day 3Rafting Day 2 & Departure
08h30: Today you will put-in, where you took-out yesterday – just below your camp, and continue your rafting all the way down & past Josephine’s bridge (approx. 15km)
Enjoy a picnic lunch on the riverbank before transferring 1hr back to the bush camp to collect your vehicles
Large Bush Camp 1: 9 x Ensuite rooms – accommodates up to 24 guests. River frontage with sundowner deck. Firepit and private swimming pool.
Bush Camp 2: Large Main House: Accomodates up to 20 persons. 4 Bedrooms on main level and 2 rooms in the loft. Open firelace in living room. Sundownders deck and firepit. Level lawn area.
Budget Alternative: Level and shady grass patches to pitch your own tent with communal kitchen and shower facilities OR Dormitory Style School Group Tents - with bunk beds, no bedding.
- Where does the rafting take place?
Our meeting point is a camp in the Umkomaas valley - nearest hamlet, Richmond. It is a 90min drive from Durban or 1hr drive from PMB (via the R56). You do NOT need a high clearance vehicle to get here. We will do the 4x4 transfer up-river and return.
- What are your age limits?
Minimum age of 12 years, and anyone under 18yrs should be accompanied by an adult. However, you can chat to us if your kids are under age but have proven rafting experience or strong swimmers. Decisions will be made (or changed) based on the river-level at the time.
- What is the best time of year for rafting?
Rafting is entirely dependent on RAINFALL in the upper catchment (central Drakensberg), and is thus restricted to Summer months - generally kicking off from November and extending through to April if we have been blessed with a good season.
- What happens if the river is not high enough after pre-booking?
This is always the difficulty, and thus we only open up bookings for the season from October. You need to pay a deposit to secure and we'll notify you regarding river levels in the week prior to your trip. You will get a date postponement or a refund less a small admin fee, if the trip is not possible due to poor levels. We DO raft in the rain though.
- Do I need to be able to swim to partake in this rafting?
This may seem a strange question, but it's actually one that is asked quite frequently. It seems there quite a few non-swimmers (or weak swimmers) who are still keen to do this activity. So the answer is YES - provided we have a higher guide to client ratio, based on the river levels, and that you will go in the 4 or 6-man rafts manned by a river guide. We DO need advance notification of non-swimmers, so we can make a call and the best safety arrangements.
Full-Day Rafting Trip: R900/pp
Experienced guides, all equipment, private reserve access fees, 4x4 transfers from meet point (upriver) and return. Coffee, snack, light refreshment and picnic lunch on route.
Half-Day Rafting Trip: R750/pp
Experienced guides, all equipment, private reserve access fees, up-river transfer from meet-point. Coffee, snack and light refreshment. * We do not provide lunch on the half-day, but can do so on special request.
- Certified and experienced Guides
- All Equipment – 4 or 6 man rafts or 2-man crocs depending on water levels & group's experience level
- Private Reserve Access
- 4x4 Transfers: upriver to start of rafting, and return on full day option
- Coffee & Refreshment and light picnic lunch on the river for full day trip