Canoeing and rafting
Although Namibia is mostly an arid region, there are plenty of reservoirs and rivers suitable for canoeing and rafting. Canoeing is also offered as an additional activity on the Orange, Kunene and Okavango rivers by the lodges located on the banks of these rivers.
Down the Orange
Anyone could be forgiven for wondering whether the Orange River was named after the folded, ochre mountain ranges, the ginger-tinged water at sunset or the rising moon glowing gold with desert dust. Felix Unite River Adventures offers four-day and six-day canoe trips down the Orange, by all accounts the perfect activity to feed the soul.
Hot watery days are spent cruising with the current, or paddling against an unexpected headwind, interspersed with regular dips. Unlike most great African rivers, there is nothing harmful lurking in the Orange, although you might be startled by loud splashing sounds caused by huge but harmless barbels. You wouldn’t be tempted to eat these mud-dwellers, because the food prepared by the guides is nothing short of miraculous. They produce sizzling bacon-and-egg brunches, crunchy salad lunches and tender roast leg of lamb baked in the coals.
After several days on the water – swimming when it becomes too hot – you will be so captivated by the ambience of the Orange River that your inclination will be to stay forever and simply ‘row with the flow’.
On the Kunene
Only the lucky few go on the 10-day Felix Unite Rio Cunene Safari, as it runs just once or twice a year, with a minimum of 16 people. Setting out from Windhoek, the expedition starts with a drive through the Etosha National Park, then proceeds to the far north where the Kunene forms a border with Angola.
The guides are expert at leading you through challenging rapids on this remote and logistically difficult rafting experience, creating a luxurious campsite, producing extraordinary food and generating a jovial atmosphere.
The Kunene, strong yet calm, emanates a sense of peace, also reflected in the demeanour of the local Himba. These lean, beautiful people eke out an existence through grazing goats on sparse shrubbery and moving camp when necessary. The five days on the Kunene merges into a pleasurable blur, as the current does much of the work, except in the rapids where steering is required.
Braving the thundering white-water rapids for a swim is not encouraged, as they are powerful and there are crocodiles around. On the last evening, camp is pitched on the banks of the Kunene within hearing distance of the magnificent Epupa Falls, cascading down a sheer drop of 40 metres.
Epupa Camp also offers the opportunity for river rafting on the Kunene as a completely new way to experience the river and surrounding environment and bird life.
The Okavango River offers a different and very localized form of canoeing. Several lodges along the banks offer canoeists trips of varying lengths, giving them the opportunity to see life on the river from up close – people washing clothes, bathing and fishing and children playing, locals passing by on a mukoro (a traditional dug-out canoe), and plenty of hippos, crocodiles and birds. All in all canoeing down the Okavango is an enjoyable experience with only shallow and easily manageable rapids. Most of the lodges supply rafting kits, which include life jackets and helmets.
Kayaking on the Walvis Bay Lagoon and surrounding waters lends an opportunity to get up close and personal with the spectacular birdlife in the environs, including flocks of flamingos, cormorants, pelicans, and waders. Pelican Point with its resident Cape Fur seal colony is always a highlight. These tours are 100% eco-friendly, making them a must-experience especially for marine fanatics.
Other water sports
Namibia’s dams, the Atlantic Ocean and Walvis Bay Lagoon lend themselves to a variety of water sports. Waterskiing, sailing and board sailing are popular on Von Bach Dam near Okahandja, Hardap Dam just north of Mariental, and Lake Oanob close to Rehoboth.
With its fresh south-westerly breezes, the Walvis Bay Lagoon attracts board-sailing enthusiasts, especially for kite surfing and kayaking. Walvis Bay is one of the world’s hotspots for windsurfing.
The Walvis Bay Yacht Club organises regattas for hoby cats, fireballs and catamarans. The aim of the club is the encouragement of amateur yacht sailing and the operation of sea-going motor yachts in Walvis Bay and adjacent waters. In December the Club hosts the 31-km-long Off-shore Yacht Race to Swakopmund.
The Walvis Bay Kite Centre offers lessons in kite surfing, and equipment rentals and sales.
The Lüderitz Speed Challenge, a competition for speed sailors, is held annually in November/December. The first Lüderitz Speed Challenge was held in 2007, with a number of impressive performances by entrants suddenly placing Lüderitz on the world’s sailing map. The event is an international world record attempt at speed sailing, and since its inception the world record has been broken four times by kite surfers in Lüderitz. The competition is open for kite and windsurfers.
With waves ranging in length between 150 and 300 metres and with a swell size of about 2 metres, surfing, although not as popular, is possible at Cape Cross where waves are rated as the best in Namibia. The wave quality is described as world class and is very consistent. Surfers need to be mindful of the resident seal colony when tackling the waves.