Although river rafting adventures are fun and enjoyable, there are a number of important things people need to be cognizant of in terms of their safety, so let us run through them.
Instructions from the trip leader and guides
It is of the utmost importance to listen attentively to instructions from the trip leader at all briefings during the adventure. The trip leader is in front of all the rafting participants on the river and gives everyone instructions on where to go, what to avoid and look out for, and what direction to move in on the river. You must always pay attention when the trip leader briefs or signals you, as it could mean the difference between navigating through a rapid easily, or going for a swim!
Please also pay careful attention to the safety briefing on how to use all the rafting and safety equipment, what rafting signs are used to direct the 'traffic' on the river, and what hazards can be expected going through certain stretches or rapids.
If you don't understand something please ask. There is no such thing as a stupid question! The guides and trip leader are great resources with lots of rafting experience, so tap into their knowledge base whenever you can.
No alcohol and drugs policy while rafting
Please refrain from drinking any alcoholic beverages while rafting on the river. The reason for this is that alcohol has sedating effects on you so makes people tired. You need to have all your strength, senses, and wits about you while rafting through rapids and technically challenging stretches of the river, so please only consume alcohol once you reach the camping spots daily. Even one beer can impair your judgement while rafting, so please abide by this requirement for your own peace of mind, and that of others.
All exotic, mind-altering drugs such as dagga (cannabis) and others are DEFINITELY not allowed at any stage on the rafting adventure, nor at the base camp.
Hazards on the river
There are various hazards to look out for on rafting trips, such as rocks, submerged trees (called strainers), debris, logs, whirlpools, boils, and any obstacles that could obstruct your rafting. The guides will constantly be pointing things out potential hazards to you, so pay close attention to their briefings and regular alerts. The guides are spaced strategically between the rafters for added safety, so consult with them if you are unsure about something, or if you need help with anything.
Hazards often depend on the flow of the river. If there has been a flood recently, you can definitely expect trees, logs, and other floating hazards along the way.
You must wear your safety jacket and helmet at all times while on the river in case you fall out of the raft going through a rapid. The guides will instruct you on what to do if you do happen to fall out, however, please NEVER try to stand up straight on the floor or bottom of the river. Foot entrapment can be very dangerous, so never try to stand up in the river if you happen to fall out of the raft. Always float on your back with your legs in front of you and if your raft is close by, grab onto it and float alongside it.
Snakes and wild animals
Occasionally there are sightings of snakes, however, these are very infrequent. Be aware of the potential presence of snakes thought in the hot, summer months, especially amongst trees and bushes at camping sites. Snakes always try to avoid human beings, but always just be alert if you walk through the bushes and while on land. There are lots of birds along the river, as well as antelope, vervet monkeys, and the occasional baboon family. Thankfully there are no crocodiles and hippos!
Occasionally you might see a caracal (rooikat), jackal, or bat-eared fox, but larger predators are never an issue.
Scorpions and spiders are present too in the bush, but very seldom cause issues. Mosquitos don't like wind and there is always a gentle breeze along the riverbank at night. It's always advisable though to bring along some insect repellent on trips.
Although the river water is relatively clean and safe to wash and swim in, it is NOT recommended that you drink it. Adventure Rafting only uses bottled water for making tea and coffee daily and we recommend that you only drink bottled water on the adventure. It is recommended that you bring with you at least 1.5 to 2 liters of bottled water per person per day for these trips. That should be sufficient to stay hydrated, brush your teeth, etc.
Finally, younger children under 14 are generally placed with guides to raft with, as this enhances their safety.
I hope you found this article useful. Please ask the guides about anything you are unsure about, as they are there to assist you at all times, on and off the water.