Kayaking in Africa: Awesome Spots to Launch Your Yak

From raging rapids to landscapes dotted with wildlife and pristine paradise islets, kayaking in Africa is anything you want it to be. Choose rivers that wind through soaring canyons or coastal routes on a backdrop of dramatic cliffs. Wherever you choose to go, this is a continent that provides heaven on earth for paddlers. 

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Where to Go Kayaking in Africa

Cape Town, South Africa

kayaking in africa

Cape Town is surrounded by a rich marine world that dazzles kayakers from across the globe. Along with majestic seascapes, there’s a good chance that you’ll see dolphins, seals, penguins and even whales between August and November. Paddle the Atlantic Seaboard and False Bay for different views of this stunning city from the water. For ocean kayaking, it’s best to choose a kayak that’s super stable with plenty of storage, like the Ocean Kayak Zest Two Expedition

Lake Victoria / White Nile River, Uganda

victoria lake

Lake Victoria is Africa’s largest by area and offers calm, friendly waters for a paddle around astounding scenery. Sunset is the best time to go, for afternoon breezes and gorgeous colours drifting across the water. This is also a top spot for sport fishing, with popular catches including mud and silver fish. If you’re looking for more of a challenge though, upstream is the famous whitewater playground of the White Nile River. Expect thrilling action like a 12-foot waterfall drop! 

Zambezi River, Zambia/Zimbabwe

victoria falls

In terms of bucket list destinations for kayaking in Africa, the Zambezi River – especially below Victoria Falls – is on every paddler’s list. Monster class IV and V rapids greet you here, so heart-stopping adventure is a given. However, there are delightful sections that even complete novices can take on. So, if this is you, go with an instructor because you don’t want to miss out on the action! It’s important to be prepared for tackling rapids with a suitable yak, like the Riot Magnum

Blyde River, South Africa

africa kayaking

Located in Mpumalanga province, the Blyde River Canyon is among the largest in the world. The sweeping scenery includes cascading waterfalls, unique geological features and abundant wildlife. You’ll enjoy both peaceful, slow sections and wild class IV rapids for an adrenaline boost. If you can’t get enough of the extraordinary landscapes, stay close by in a range of lodges and guesthouses. 

Okavango Delta, Botswana

okavango delta kayaking

The vast, river delta that is the Okavango floods seasonally and transforms into a wonderland filled with wildlife. It’s a prime spot for safaris via the shimmering waterways to spot elephants, hippos and crocodiles – with a guide of course. You’ll find that most operators use fantastic, versatile touring kayaks, like the Wilderness Systems Tsunami, for a comfortable and stable day out kayaking in Africa within UNESCO-listed natural wonders. 

Garden Route, South Africa

kayaking in africa

Stretching from Mossel Bay to the Storms River Mouth, the Garden Route is a coastal paradise. From picturesque beaches to shimmering lakes and serene lagoons, there are plenty of spots to launch your yak. Float in peace on Knysna Lagoon which sits between two dramatic cliffs and offers sport fishing for mullet, skate, grunter and white steenbras. If you’re a keen birdwatcher, don’t forget to take your binoculars to spot the Knysna turaco, yellow-throated warbler and olive woodpecker.

Zanzibar, Tanzania

zanzibar kayaking

When paradise island beaches are calling you and your yak, kayaking in Africa doesn’t get any better than Zanzibar. Launch from the surface of incredibly fine, white sand and slide into the crystal clear, turquoise waters. Take a snorkel with you to pull up and snorkel with colourful fish, coral gardens and perhaps even some friendly dolphins. For a whole day trip, don’t forget a waterproof bag to keep your stuff safe and remember the sunscreen. 

Once you’ve ticked kayaking in Africa off your list, check out the world’s top island kayaking adventures


Nicole West

Nicole Leigh West is an internationally published travel and lifestyle writer. She's traveled to more than 60 countries and you'll most often find her kayaking, diving and swimming across the globe.

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