White Water Rafting (full day)
White-water rafting was introduced to Swaziland in 1991 and is renowned as the best white-water in Southern Africa, south of the Zambesi. Operated by Swazi Trails the standard format is a half or full day guided river trip. The Great Usutu River offers a variety of Grade II to Grade IV white-water rapids. Trips are undertaken in 2-man, inflatable "croc" rafts and guided by local river guides in kayaks. Rafting in various formats is available 365 days a year. Departures are guaranteed for a minimum of two persons.
The Great Usutu is Swaziland's largest river. It flows from the South African highveld through central Swaziland and exits the Kingdom near Big Bend. Thereafter it winds past Nduma in KwaZulu-Natal and up to the Bay of Maputo in Mozambique. The Swazi Trails rafting stretch runs from a location between the villages of Sidvokodvo and Siphofaneni, which is known as the Bulungapoort. Although the river changes dramatically from full to low water levels, there is always a selection of Grade 2 to 4 rapids to be attempted. At certain medium and high water levels some stretches become Grade 5 in difficulty, with optional or compulsory portages at the river guide's discretion.
The river is wide and at lower water levels it winds its way between numerous islands and sandbanks, which are otherwise covered during the full water season. The location is scenic with tall mountains and forested riverbanks, interspersed occasionally by rural Swazi homesteads.
This booking option that you are currently browsing is for a full day White Water Rafting trip - generally available November through to May annually.
If you prefer a half day river rafting trip, which is available all year round then try - White Water Rafting Half Day.
If you would still like a full day of adventure, but are planning to visit in the winter season June to October, then try our great value White Water Rafting Abseiling Tubing Combo.
Visit the Swaziland Adventures section of our videos page for a quick look at the action.
The initial meeting at the Swazi Trails office at Mantenga Craft Centre, Ezulwini allows registration and the signing of waivers and indemnities to be done. Travelling time from the Swazi Trails offices to the river is 45-60min, with transport provided in a closed tour vehicle.
All rafting trips start with a thorough safety briefing and a flat-water stretch for practicing technique. Participants paddle and portage their own boats and must be prepared for vigorous activity. After approximately 1 to 1.5 hours of relatively gentle rafting, the action starts at the LUSIP weir and then carries on for the next hour of careful raft-by-raft progression through the carefully guided Holomi Station and Initiator rapid sections. At this point approximately 7 kilometres of river will have been covered and from 2 to 3 hours spent on the river, the variance caused by group size, ability and river conditions.
Lunch is a picnic-style affair, served normally near the Holomi Waterfall. The standard menu is a light and tasty: chicken and mayonnaise or ham rolls, together with cheese rolls, fruit, chocolates and orange juice.
After lunch rafts are portaged to below the Holomi Falls and the re-launched into the river for a relatively gentle afternoon interupted only by the fast and furious Zambesi Rapid. The take-out point is on the northern bank on a sandy beach, a further 7km after the lunch point. At very high water levels a further 7 kilometres of rafting is often possible which brings rafters past another series of waterfalls and down further sets of rapids. Approximately 1.5 to 2.5 hours is spent on the water in the afternoon.
The trip ends with sundowner drinks (beers & soft drinks) and light snacks on the riverbank. The return journey takes approximately one hour.
No prior experience is necessary to attempt this river. Participants must be between the ages of 12 and 65, though younger and older persons are accepted by prior arrangement. All equipment is provided, including buoyancy aids ("life jackets") and helmets. Rapids range from grade II - IV, all of which are manageable by absolute beginners after the pre-trip safety briefing. All participants must be of sound health and are required to sign a Waiver & Indemnity Form before departure.
Swimming costumes and tie-on or strap-on footwear is required. Strings for sunglasses, broad-rimmed hats and plenty of sun protection cream are recommended. No valuables are to be brought along on trips. Cameras may be taken on river at own risk, provided that the owner has a suitable waterproof casing.
The area visited on rafting trips falls marginally within a malarial zone. Precautions are only advised if staying overnight during summer months in the lowveld areas of Mkhaya, Big Bend or Simunye. Those staying in Manzini, Ezulwini or Mbabane need not be concerned as these areas are outside the malarial zone.
Swazi Trails is an Operating Member of the African Paddling Association and subscribes to the Codes of Safety and Ethics thereof. River guides are handpicked and experienced in river running, safety and first aid, with affiliation or endorsement from international bodies. Trips are accompanied by a safety kayaker and followed by a support vehicle. Basic medical assistance is within 45 minutes drive from the river. Paramedic assistance is available within 1 to 1.5 hours. At the time of compiling Swazi Trails boasted a 100% safety record over 18 years of operation.
Daily capacity is 40 people. For conference or incentive groups special formats can be used for 120 persons or more.
Participants are warned that this is an active and participative adventure pursuit and that considerable effort and physical activity is to be expected on and off the river. The capsizing of the raft is an almost certainty in certain areas of the river and participants are well briefed and prepared for this eventuality. River levels vary greatly from season to season, which can alter the level of challenge faced.
Participants are advised that crocodiles are known to inhabit rivers in Swaziland, though these are shy and seldom encountered on this stretch. Those with particular concerns are recommended to contact the Swazi Trails office for further information.
The Swazi Trails children's policy for the Full Day White Water Rafting trip generally restricts rafting to children of 12 years and above. However in lower water conditions participants as young as 8 years have been allowed to join in. A Special Request should be communicated at the time of booking for all children younger than 12 years of age. Participation is only possible if sufficient small or kiddies-size lifejackets are available.
Children under 18 years, accompanied by two adults may enjoy a 50% discount on the full adult rate.
Unescorted minors (under 18 years) require the written consent of a parent or guardian.
For Swazi Trails White Water Rafting full day trips: cancellations made 21 days or more in advance of arrival, will incur an administration fee of no more than 10% of the value of the amount paid.
If a Swazi Trails White Water Rafting full day trip is cancelled within 14-20 days, 25% of the total price is forfeited, if within 7-13 days, 50% of the total price is forfeited, if within 0-6 days, 100% of the total price is forfeited.
Book for more than 20 people, contact us directly
Trips depart Swazi Trails office between 08h30 and 09h00 daily. Swazi Trails are situated within the Mantenga Craft Centre in the Ezulwini Valley. There is safe parking for vehicles. A hotel or lodge pick-up in the Ezulwini, Mbabane and Manzini areas can be arranged at an additional charge.
Free pick-ups are often provided when logistically possible, especially for larger groups or for participants accommodated in the direction of the tour departure. If unsure just ask as a special request when booking.