“I promised myself that I would never paddle a river with crocodiles again. I now know that never is not a very long time.” These were the words of Paul Marais as we drove to the put-in of the rarely run Mutale River, in the remote northeast of South Africa.

The Mutale, which runs into the Kruger National Park close to the northernmost gate of Pafuri, is a fairly easy run, with some of the most stunning scenery of any river in SA, and barely gets paddled once a year. One doesn’t go run this river for large, technical rapids, but rather for the amazing birdlife, baobab trees, hot weather and unspoiled beauty of one of less visited areas of the country. I organised a trip to this river with Neil O’Leary, Jo Fisher, and Paul Marais. Paul has had a number of near-misses with crocodiles on other African rivers, hence his apprehension to paddle a river which is known to have crocs (as well as hippos in the flats near the take-out). But the chance to paddle this gem was just too much for him, and he came along.


Take heed! Or not… DSC_0305Sunset, the day we arrived at the camp. Next morning we drove to the put-in.


Unloading boats off the parents’ cruiser at the put-in.DSC_0309The villagers checking us out at the put-in.


Neil at the put-in. DSC_0312Jo, ready for action!


Neil on one of the first rapids. DSC_0337Jo on the same rapid.

DSC_0343Jo and Neil having fun with some trees. Luckily the flow was not too strong.

DSC_0362Paul enjoying himself on one of the many small rapids on day 1.

DSC_0372 Jo on the same rapid.

IMG_0875Cooling off in the river.

IMG_0878Our camp spot for the evening.

The river is generally run as an easy two-day trip (although it is possible to do it in one day) owing to the long drive to the put in and take-out. It all starts with a 7 hour drive from Johannesburg to the Pafuri River Camp, where we have traditionally stayed (although the construction of a new camp right at the take-out may make life easier in the future). Early the next morning we got the parent-shuttle to the put-in, a solid 2 hour drive on some awful roads (although large amounts of construction promise easier access soon). Once on the river, we paddled down various easy rapids and slides, until we reached our campsite for the night. The river was very low (although I have paddled it lower), but still paddleable. It’s difficult to catch this river with good water as one has to wait until just after good rains for it to be up, as it is in quite a dry part of the country. The easy rapids and decent pools make it pretty good for beginners, and Jo (who just started kayaking at the beginning of the season) soon got into the swing of things, although had a close call with a tree which had fallen across the river, and had to be rescued by Neil. We soon reached our camp, and spent the afternoon drinking Amarula and lying in the river to escape the 40˚ C + temperatures.

IMG_0905Amarula. Delicious!


Chilling in the river enjoying the evening scenery. DSC_0422

All four of us around the campfire. DSC_0424aMutale 2010! Can’t wait for the 2011 trip!


Neil, early on day 2. DSC_0503

Neil running ‘What Lies Beneath’. DSC_0509

Paul. DSC_0524

Me (Luke)  {I didn’t write this article in case you didn’t realise, it’s thanks to Luke Longridge… Cheers, Adrian} DSC_0532Jo.


Neil running ‘Slippery Seconds’ DSC_0599Paul running it too. Him and I then swam it (but we have no photos)


Waiting under a baobab tree before Paul walked 5km in the blazing sun to fetch his car. IMG_0949Me climbing the baobab, an amazing and beautiful tree.


Paul driving us back. DSC_0650On the road back to camp.

The next morning we continued down to the take out – this day takes one through an amazing gorge, where it’s all about enjoying the scenery and the amazing birdlife, as well as having fun on the rapids which are slightly bigger than the first day. At Slippery Seconds (one of the bigger rapid of the stretch) Paul and I decided to swim the rapid after kayaking it, which proved to be quite fun. The new lodge at the take-out was looking close to completion, and we hope to be staying there next time (Hopefully January/February 2011). Jo, Neil and I sat around at the lodge while Paul walked to go fetch his car, which we’d dropped off about 5km from the take-out.

White Fluid Name deep etched with white inside copy_250



Photography courtesy Luke Longridge and friends.
Words by: Luke Longridge. Thanks Luke!!!