Are you looking for the perfect river paradise destination? Look no further than the Orange River in South Africa, the country’s longest and largest River, and the World’s largest river south of the Tropic of Capricorn.
It is unique and different to other South African rivers, because unlike most of the other major rivers in the country, it is not inhabited by hippos or crocs and its malaria free; the weather is very predictable, making it perfect for adventure seekers and holiday goers alike.
Previously known as the Gariep River, the Orange rises in the slopes of the Drakensberg Mountains in Lesotho as the Senqu River. It flows Westward for over 2.300 km to the Atlantic Ocean at Oranjemund in the Northern Cape. The last 450 km of the river divides Namibia from South Africa, acting as a natural border in between the two countries. The River gets its name not because of the colour of the water but in honour of the Prince of Orange of the Dutch East India Company.
2 South African National Parks are located around the River:
- Augrabies Falls National Park
- Richtersveld National Park also part of the “Ai Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park”
The Orange River Basin extents well into Namibia and Botswana, but the majority lies in South Africa where it literally serves as a River of Life. It now has 3 main storage reservoirs along its course:
- Gariep Dam – the largest in South Africa, 5.010 million m3
- Van der Kloof Dam
- Katse Dam – Newly build dam near the river’s origin in Lesotho
The River functions as the major source of hydroelectrical power in South Africa and contributes largely to crop irrigation throughout the country. It drains approximately 47% of South Africa’s surface, and not many large Towns or Settlements are found along its course, with Upington being the only city on its 2.300 km course, making it very naturally beautiful and scenic.
In 1867, the first diamond was discovered near Hopetown, on the Orange River. Two years later a second much larger diamond was found in the same area, known as The Star of Africa.
This was the start of a diamond rush that was very soon surpassed by another greater rush, when the prospectors started mining directly into Kimberlite which proved to be very productive. The site where this took place, became known as Kimberly and the name of the 21,25 Carat diamond that sparked this rush became known as The Eureka Diamond.
Today, only a handful of mines still operate along the River as alluvial diamonds are still being prospected. Most commercial mines operate on the last stretch of the River as well as the beaches around the River’s mouth, using dredgers as opposed to traditional means. South Africa and the Orange River Basin became a major World market supplier in the industry and for a long time, was the World’s leading producer of diamonds. Today South Africa produces between 8 and 9 Million Carats per year worth 1.22 Billion US Dollars, the 5th most globally.
The River has always been a traditional adventure seekers paradise, not only is it the biggest in the country and it is surrounded by never ending natural beauty, but also, compared to most of all the other South African rivers, has no dangerous predators inhabiting it. Crocodiles and hippopotamus were both hunted out of the area in the 18th and 19th centuries and the fact that it is a malaria free zone, makes it perfect for any kind of adventure or tour, from a safe family fishing and camping trip to an extreme adventure like white water rafting. The Orange River is the place to be!
At Greenlion Adventures we specialize in creating Tours that bring out the most of what the country has to offer. Contact us to book a Tour to the Orange River, the Northern Cape, or any other specific place in the area. These are only some of the activities that you and your family can come and enjoy:
- White water Rafting
- Mountain Biking
- Quad Biking
- Visiting World famous Wine Farms
- 4×4 Trails and Overlanding
- Visiting the South African Astronomical Observatory in Sutherland
- Visiting a Diamond Mine
Some cool facts
The word Augrabies is the derived from the bushmen phrase “the place of great noise” referring to the thunderous flow of the water that tumbles down huge rocks and gorges where the Augrabies Falls is located.
The Orange River flows from East to West, as opposed to the West to East flow of other major rivers in South Africa.
The Katse Dam in Lesotho where the Orange River originates as the Senqu, is the highest dam in the Southern hemisphere at over 3.000 m. above sea level.
Kanone Eiland (Canon Island) is the largest island in the River and the largest inhabited island in South Africa.
The Augrabies Waterfall, 40 km from Kakamas, is the 8th largest waterfall in the World.
The South African large telescope (SALT) at the SA Astronomical Observatory in Sutherland, is the largest single optical telescope in the Southern Hemisphere and one of the largest in the World.