A couple of years ago I spent one of the best weeks of my life on the mighty Orange River. I vividly remember the hot summer days paddling on the river, the delicious and well-deserved lunches on our midday stops, the not-so-easy second half of rafting after lunch and evenings beneath the stars! It was an unforgettable experience and the Orange River quickly reserved a very special place in my heart. That is why, when my parents mentioned spending our December holiday at the Orange River Rafting Lodge, I was first to pack my swimwear, inflatables and sunscreen ─ the idea of returning to this remarkable place made me very happy! 

A couple of weeks before our arrival, Vioolsdrif reached a scorching new maximum temperature of about fifty degrees Celsius! My mother, who is not a fan of the heat at all, almost cancelled our booking when she heard of these extreme temperatures and it took some convincing for her not to cancel. I succeeded and we ended up with two opposite moods on our seven-hour trip to South Africa’s border ─ I could not wait to lay my eyes on the river and mountains and my mother dreaded every kilometre that we got closer to it. 

The gravel road leading to the lodge is surrounded by contrasting landscapes. On one side you have the Orange River and lush vegetation alongside it and on the other side you have something resembling the moon’s surface. But there is immense beauty in this stark contrast and you feel very far removed from anything resembling a city. 

The Richtersveld Mountains | Photo: Daniëlle Terblanche

Some of my mother’s hesitation faded away once we were shown to our grassy and private campsite next to the river. Each spacious campsite has a covered camp kitchen with a table and seating and a sink with running water. Luckily we arrived just before sunset so the temperature had dropped a little, though it was still more than thirty degrees Celsius! We pitched our tents and unpacked the basic necessities, which obviously included my mother’s USB fan. Because of the heat this was some of our fastest pitching work to date! Once we were settled in we could not wait to light the fire and enjoy something refreshing. There is just something about sitting on a camping chair around a campfire. It finally felt like we were on holiday! And did I mention the view from our campsite? It was everything I wanted to see on my return to the Orange River ─ the pink and orange coloured Richtersveld Mountains reflecting on the water. 

A grassy campsite next to the river. | Photo: TravelGround.com

Our bathroom excursions were quite something! My mother and I are both extremely scared of spiders and tried to prepare ourselves for the famous red romans in the area. They are fittingly called Kalahari Ferraris by the locals and after our time at the camp I understand why: they are unbelievably fast! They also conveniently appear after sunset so spotting them is quite difficult, which makes them even more ominous. My father had to canvas the entire female bathroom every evening and remove any unwanted red friends before my mother and I stepped foot in there. They kept us on our toes, literally and figuratively, and we did our fair share of running to and from the ablution facilities. Luckily we never encountered one ─ maybe because they were more frightened of the scene we made each time we visited the bathroom. 

Besides our exciting evenings, we had one of the most laid-back holidays! Our days mostly consisted of eating, reading beneath the bird-filled trees and swimming. Most of the guests congregated in and around the swimming pool or on the lodge’s private beach next to the river. Families put up their own umbrellas and enjoyed picnics down there and others did some fishing. I spent hours floating on my inflatable pineapple and basking in the sun. You can also bring your own canoe for some extra fun in the sun. 

The swimming pool with built-in seating and a cabana. | Photo: TravelGround.com

When we did not feel like making lunch we ordered delicious pizzas from the affordable restaurant on the premises. They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and once again the view from the deck is unbelievable. And when we felt like enjoying something cold, we simply popped over to the bar next to the swimming pool. This is where we met other travellers, most of whom were on their way to Namibia or returning from a trip. This lodge is a very popular stop-over between the two countries, seeing that it is very close to the Vioolsdrif border post. 

The restaurant’s deck with the most beautiful view. | Photo: TravelGround.com

Besides the campsites, the lodge also offers air-conditioned, self-catering chalets. They are fully equipped, have private braai areas and their own bathrooms. My mother contemplated moving into one of these units multiple times!

A chalet with a river view. | Photo: TravelGround.com

As another way of cooling down we devised a plan to hop in the air-conditioned car and explore the area. We were surprised to see lush vineyards and mango orchards all along the river and it made for an interesting change of scenery. Some of the neighbouring farms also have restaurants and bars and there is even a small convenience shop for basic necessities.  

The Orange River Rafting Lodge hosts river-rafting trips that are great fun for the whole family. You can choose between a half-day trip that covers about ten kilometres on the river, a full-day trip where guests return to the basecamp for lunch and continue with the second half of the trip, and catered multi-day packages of about fifty kilometres where guests spend their evenings next to the river. 

River rafting on the mighty Orange River. | Photo: TravelGround.com

Whether you are looking for a convenient stop-over on a trip between South Africa and Namibia, in search of a life-changing river-rafting experience or on the lookout for your next holiday destination, the Orange River Rafting Lodge must definitely be at the top of your list! Despite the heat and visits from the local insects, it turned out to be one of our most memorable family holidays! 

Feature image: Daniëlle Terblanche