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There are few more relaxing ways to spend a long weekend than paddling down the Orange (Gariep) River.

This is a place where the brain and soul can come to rest. The surroundings have a desolate beauty and you are far away from any internet connection, meaning that you can truly get away from it all.

Photo credit: Welchman family

Orange River paddlers pass through the Karoo semi-desert region; or, west of the Vioolsdrift border post with Namibia, the world’s only arid biodiversity hotspot: the Richtersveld.

It is worth adding a day or two onto your trip to explore the Richtersveld by car. This United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation World Heritage Site offers the highest diversity of succulent plants in the world (4 ˜849 species, 1 940 of them endemic), along with an intriguing local culture. The Richtersveld is so fascinating, we’ve put a special route together to help you get the best out of it. 

Photo credit: Welchman family

Rafting on the river is generally a relaxed affair, perfect for the moderately fit, but for the more adventurous, there are rougher rapids to be found. Most are grade one or two – easy or novice level.

Rising in eastern Lesotho, the Orange River is South Africa’s largest and longest river. It travels almost 2 500km from the Drakensberg mountain range to Alexander Bay on the west coast, where it spills into the treacherous Atlantic Ocean. Over millennia, the river left in its path rich diamond deposits that caused a diamond rush in the early 1870s.

Photo credit: Welchman family

Look up at night and you can see diamonds of your own. Because the area is so remote there is little light pollution, and you will enjoy some of the best views to be had of the Milky Way’s pearly sheen. 

Camp in a tent or take advantage of the region’s low rainfall and sleep under the stars. You’ll wake up to coffee brewed on an open fire, and another day of gentle activity in glorious surroundings.