The Bivane River

A fairly unknown river just south of Swaziland, this beauty was un-run until only a few years ago. The section described below is from the wall at the Paris Dam, entering the beautiful Itala Nature Reserve and then joining the larger Pongola River. Take-out is in the reserve and the staff there are very friendly and helpful. The Bivane can only be run after good rains when the dam is overflowing or when they release water. Releases are almost always on weekends and coordinated with the Vryheid Canoe Club. A fiberglass race is also held on the Bivane called the Itala Challenge.   

The wall at Paris Dam.


This is a forty kilometer long paddle and although it can be done in one long day, the majority of people opt to take their time and take in the absolutely wonderful scenery. The section is not difficult and there are many fairly continuous sections that provide good fun.

Kallie on the trailer and Marik, our trusty driver.

Werner in the foreground and Carl sitting deep in thought.

The river winds between the hills…

Brendan in a demo large Fluid Solo. 


Lunch break on day one.

Carl van Wyk.

The rapid that ended Brendan’s trip.

After an unlucky situation, Brendan dislocated his shoulder.

At just after midday Brendan was unfortunate enough to have dislocated his shoulder. Being a fairly remote river, the walk out would be serious. Luckily, Eugene, a local from Vryheid was with us and he graciously offered to walk out with Brendan. This left us with two boats without paddlers! With some clever rope work, the boats were secured to two of the crocs. No problem, on we went.

Brendan had his own mini epic walking out. But with Eugene’s local knowledge they soon came across a village. If memory serves me correctly, the only car in that village was either not there or broken. So on they went. After paying for a ride and having their transport break down on them, they eventually came out to civilisation and a doctor. A rough ending for them to an otherwise fairly uneventful trip for us.


The rapid where Werner managed to pin his boat.

Werner standing on shore wondering what is to become of his boat.

Adrian T on one of the biggest rapids the Bivane has to offer.

Adrian T.

As can be seen, the Bivane is not too big but is long and technical and makes for a very worthwhile and relaxing trip. Shortly after this rapid comes the overnight camp spot.

Overnight on the Bivane River.

Kallie the next morning.

As can be seen from the above photo, there were quite a few of us on the river. This is fairly standard practice because of the limited water releases. The rapids on the second day are easier than the first and the pools are longer.

A fully loaded croc is portaged around this rapid.

The confluence with the Pongola River.

Once the Bivane joins the Pongola, the rapids are broader and if the Pongola is running low then a struggle through shallow rapids can be guaranteed. The pools are also fairly long and home to several crocodiles. They are mostly shy and no incidents have been reported yet! A few kilometers before the confluence with the Pongola, the Itala Nature Reserve can be found on river right. If one is lucky and quiet then there is the possibility of seeing animals alongside the water. This adds to the beauty of this trip.

Brendan with his stuffed shoulder, but still in good spirits despite the pain.

We grab a bite to eat at the café.

A White Rhino is seen close to the road on the way out of the Itala Nature Reserve. Another incentive to get out and paddle this river!

A rather large moth.

A smaller but more colourful one.

With boats loaded there is nothing else left to do except to drive back to Johannesburg.

Thanks to the Vryheid Canoe Club and Kallie from Outrageous Adventures for making this trip possible and to Marik for doing the LONG shuttle drive and your help with Greg and his TWO flat tyres. Cheers guys!!!

BY: Adrian T.

All photos by Adrian Tregoning.

This story is not really meant as a guide, so don't blame me for any errors. If you'd like add your own description of this spot then please contact me. Thank you.