One of the perks of being a Mountain Club member for at least a year is the opportunity to kloof Visgat canyon, usually in January or February. Each year the Cape Town Section has been fortunate to be granted a number of permits for trips, each with a maximum allowable group size of eight.
Visgat canyon is near the headwaters of the Olifants River. Much of it has been proclaimed a Natural Heritage Site, and is part of the “Groot Winterhoek Protected Environment”, a stewardship arrangement of private ownership in partnership with CapeNature. The Olifants River harbours a number of species of indigenous fish of conservation concern, and much of it is still in a pristine state.
Our trip was nearly cancelled at the last moment as our leader fell ill, but it seemed a shame to waste one of the few precious opportunities to do the trip, so Mo Oliver and I, mainly for self-serving reasons, co-led the trip.
Even though both the weather and water were warm, a wetsuit made it a lot more comfortable as you are in the water for long periods of time – unless you have natural insulation or are one of those hot-blooded creatures.
Prepare to go back to your childhood days as you enter a natural waterpark full of rapids, chutes, waterfalls, languid pools and jumps. An inflatable, preferably a canvas lilo, is highly recommended as you often have to squeeze through narrow cracks and are then are faced with rocks to glide over in the river bed. You do not want to give your orthodontist or orthopaedic surgeon unnecessary business. If you buy a cheap inflatable like I did, take a lot of duct tape along and consider buying a second inflatable to carry with you as a spare.
Overall an epic trip with great people. But as with all things outdoor, be careful out there, especially when jumping off rocks. The water is dark and it can be very hard to assess from above whether there are rocks lurking close to the surface. And do Google what siphons, sieves and undercuts in rivers are if you want to be safer.