Many people ask if previous rafting experience is necessary or not to do this rafting adventure!
Well, let me immediately state that no previous rafting experience is required to do this section of the Orange River.
Secondly, age should also not a barrier, as many participants have been over seventy years of age, and coped easily.
Let's expand a little on both experience and age to set your mind at ease.
The Experience factor
There is absolutely no need to have any prior rafting experience in order to do the Thunder Alley section of the Orange River.
Before embarking on the adventure, the trip leader will explain all the safety requirements to you and will also give you a lesson in rafting technique. Safety is paramount so please listen carefully to the briefing and ask questions too if something is not clear.
The trip leader will also brief you on what to expect on the river in terms of the hazards (whirlpools, strainers, rocks, boils) and of course the rapids. The rapids on this section of the Orange River are mostly Grade 1 and 2, but there are a few that could become grade 3, depending of course on the level and flow of the river. At lower level, Hell's Gate rapid becomes a grade 4 rapid, so gets portaged around. This is the most challenging rapid at lower water levels, however, when the water level is higher and flow is stronger, Hell's Gate rapid gets washed out and is very mild. Hubbly Bubbly rapid is another challenging rapid at lower water levels due to a strong pour over. If this is the case, there is a channel on the LHS to navigate through, or the guides can take the rafts through for you. At higher water levels it's just a brilliant, exciting ride!
The biggest tip I can give you is to listen carefully to the safety briefings and to practice your paddling once you start the adventure. It does not take long to get into the groove! Always keep an eye on where the trip leader is going and on what he/she is doing. Watch all the signs you get taught and as the old saying goes, 'Just follow your leader.'
The Age factor
Whether you are nine or ninety years of age really makes no difference. You need a moderate level of fitness and must be able to swim.
Young children of 9-11 years of age are placed with a guide for safety reasons. We use 2-man inflatable rafts, so the guide will sit at the back and the youngster in front. This has worked well so far. It is always recommended that younger children sit in the front of the raft, as a stronger person must always steer the raft from the back. Generally children from 15 years of age are more capable physically to sit at the back of a raft.
The guides are there to assist you on and off the river, so never hesitate asking for assistance if required.
So to summarize then, age is not a barrier to participating in this adventure, however, children must be at least 9 years old, and be able to swim.
Older people need to have a moderate level of fitness, and should not have compromised health. If you are uncertain about whether or not you are physically up for the adventure, rather consult your health professjonal in advance of doing any rafting trip. The adventure is a little physically demanding at times as you navigate rapids or paddle long stretches of flat water, but if you are physically capable, age should not be an issue.
Once again, just listen up at all briefings from the trip leader and do as he/she recommends. When you are rafting, the rafts follow each other in single file, and are around 4-5m apart. Watch the trip leader intently, keep your following distance, listen to instructions and most importantly, just have fun! If you do flip the raft, or fall out, the guides are trained to rescue and assist you, so don't panic!
I hope this article was helpful to faciliate your decision to do the rafting adventure with us, regardless of your level of experience and age!