Orange River – Thunder Alley, Hopetown NC

No Passports required, central to all major cities, plenty of fun rapids and nights around the campfire!

Orange River – Thunder Alley

Where: Hopetown, N Cape
Distance covered: 55km over 4 days
Difficulty:  Class 2 – 3 . Suitable for all skill levels and children aged 8 and older.
Season:      All year round. High season school holidays and public holidays

Map Orange River 2018


Hopetown is central to all our South African clients and only 1 hour from Kimberly, and important landmark in South African history. There is no need for passports as the trip operates on in South Africa and the water level is very stable as it is located just downstream from Vanderkloof dam which releases daily for electricity.


Starting just outside Hopetown in the Northern Cape, this section of the river flows through an historic area which was first settled in 1850 when Sir Harry Smith extended the northern frontier of the Cape Colony to the Orange River. Hopetown was a quiet farming area until several large diamonds, most notable the Eureka Diamond and the Star of South Africa, were discovered there between 1867 and 1869. Once the diamond rush had passed, the region returned to agriculture – today, there are several game farms in the area along the river, which makes for great game viewing!

How it works

We use two-person inflatable boats that are easy to paddle and steer. We also have a raft which is very stable and perfect for less confident paddlers (dependent on water level – medium to high level only). This section offers many class 1, 2 and Class 3 rapids and we portage around the only class 4/5 rapid, the infamous Hells Gate!

Our standard trips are four days and five nights long. The first night is spent on the banks of the river easily accessible form Hopetown. There is an option to upgrade into chalets if available. The last night is spent on a local game farm, Witfontein, which is close to our take out. We camp on the lush green grass and there is an option to upgrade into the lodge with luxury beds and air-con! The other three nights we wilderness camp on beaches under the stars along the river banks.  *Note: Our start and ends points are both in South Africa so NO border crossing or passports are required.

We cover around 55kms during the trip, so we spend a large portion of the day on the river, but we like to get to camp early to allow time for fishing, hikes and some downtime. Each trip is run as a self-contained wilderness expedition – we carry everything we need with us and take everything back out again at the end. This trip will provide you with a complete break from reality – no electricity, cell phones, computers and no stress. It is truly an opportunity to recharge your batteries and reconnect with yourself, your friends and nature.

All you need to provide is your personal camping gear, small tents are advisable, and drinks of your choice. All meals, camping are included, as are qualified guides, boating and safety equipment.

Depending on which camp we start from, there will be a bus transfer or a vehicle transfer at the start or the end of the trip to make sure your vehicles are safe and accessible after the trip.

Standard itinerary;

Your first evening will be spent at base camp. You’ll enjoy a light supper under the starry night sky around the campfire and the next morning, after breakfast, your guides will give you advice on how best to pack your dry bags for your trip down river. Before getting on the water you’ll also have a thorough safety briefing and some paddling instruction.

Day 1:  paddling consists mainly of flowing channels, small rapids and flat water which takes you under the ‘old Hopetown bridge’, dated back to 1871. This is a steel cast bridge, the first built over the Orange river. We camp under trees on a grassy bank where the fishing is good.

Day 2: brings bigger rapids and we enter the ‘Lava Gorge’ through ‘Hell’s gate’, a short compulsory portage. We camp on a black beach named ‘Full Moon’ beach.

Day 3: is full of excitement with lots of class 2 – 3 rapids which are loads of fun. You spend most of the day in the shallow Lava Gorge. We camp above the gorge with a pool which offer great fishing.

Day 4: opens up with fast flowing sections and ends off with fun rapids before take-out. We normally take out around lunch time and transfer back to the campsite we used on the first night. The last meal is enjoyed around the camp fire.

Check out our suggested Kit list


*NOTE – Low season rates apply until end January due to Covid Relief

High Season: All Long weekends and School holidays (except June-July)

Low season: (May 15 – Sept 15)

Prices include all meals, 2 nights camping accommodation, guides, equipment and logistics at the river. 

*2020/21 Web prices may change without notice. 

Standard trips

This is the best value option for families and groups – legendary Gravity quality, a simple and delicious menu and a minimum group size of 20 in a group = great value for money!

3 days, 4 nights Adults R5,550.00 per adult

Children under 18 – R4,950.00

4 days, 5 nights Adults – R5,950.00 per adult

Children under 18 – R5450.00

Premium Trips

The best in bush cuisine and a maximum group size of 24 – this is great if you are a small group or want to join up with like minded people for a more personal experience. Minimum group size is 10.

  3 days, 4 nights  High season – R6550.00 per adult

Children under 18 R5600.00p/p

Low Season  – R5600.00 per person

Children under 18 R4750p/p

  4 days, 5 nights High Season – R 6,950.00 per adult

Children under 18 R5900.00p/p

Low Season – R 6000.00 per adult

Children under 18 R5270.00p/p

Family rates – Less 15% for kids 18 and under                           

Add Ons

 Camping set (2 man tent, 2 x roll mats)   RR950.00.00 for the trip
 *Extra Porter Boater:   R3,950.00 for trip
 Upgrade to chalet accommodation R600.00 per person(approximate)

*The porter boater will help carry extra gear, help to set up and break down camp and help to pack and unpack your boats. This is a participative trip, so it is important to note that the guide will HELP you, not do everything for you…

River Safari Trips – Highly recommended!

This is an all-inclusive package aimed at those who prefer glamping to camping! Very small group sizes from minimum of 4 and a maximum of 16. Tents, mattresses, sleeping bags are provided and set up by extra guides. Table and chair for sit down meals and an upgraded level of comfort and cuisine make this the ultimate river experience. The prices per person vary according to group size so ask us for more info if you are interested in this option.


Why Gravity?

Gravity has an unwavering attitude towards quality and safety on all of their trips – some of the aspects which make Gravity one of the leading adventure companies in SA include the following;

  • All inclusive – 2 nights in base camp and ALL meals – no hidden extras
  • Small groups – for safety and environmental reasons
  • Only APA qualified guides, in the recommended guide: client ratios
  • Top notch equipment
  • The best in bush cuisine – all fresh prepared on river
  • Undiscovered sections of river – no crowds
  • No border crossings or passports

Are you a member of APA?

Yes, we are Operating Members of APA and our guides are APA members, trained, qualified and experienced.

Do you have your SAMSA Licence to Operate?

Yes we do, we were the first rafting operator to become compliant with the law.

What does the trip include?

It includes all of your meals, from the evening of your arrival, to a light breakfast on the morning of your departure, camping at base camp on your first and last nights, 4 full days and 3 nights on river (3 days and 2 nights if doing a 3 day, 4 night trip), qualified and experienced guides, all boating and safety equipment and no, you don’t have to bring your own loo paper! We also provide crockery and cutlery.

How do I get up to the river?

You can drive up in your own vehicle or we can recommend a vehicle rental company or coach with driver. The road is a good tar road all the way up from Cape Town and takes around 9 hours. The road is also good tar coming in from the Gauteng direction. The last section of +/- 50 kms to the camp is usually a good dirt road. This road does, however, become difficult after heavy rain (not common in this area). We recommend that you contact the Pofadder Police Station (tel: 054 933 0022) or Onseepkans Police Station (054 951 0002) to check the condition of the road and choose the alternative route if required. Full directions will be supplied on confirmation of booking. We can also make recommend accommodation en route for you if you’d like to do the drive over two days. Fly in tours can also be arranged.

Do I need my passport?

No, you don’t. The trip starts and ends on the South African side so no border crossing is required.

What are the camping facilities like?

Our base camp is a grassed campsite on the river banks. Rustic ablutions and flush toilets are provided. On river, we’ll be free camping – all catering equipment is supplied. You can also upgrade to a dome tent or to a nearby guest house for the nights in base camp.

What about ablutions?

On river, your guide will give you a thorough briefing regarding ablution procedures. Generally, you will wash in the river – we don’t supply showers or hot water on standard trips but these are provided on upgrade trips. We usually use the environmentally friendly ‘cat hole’ toilet method (don’t worry – your guide will explain!) but, depending on the season and the size of your group, may also provide a porta-loo.

What do I need to bring?

A full kit list will be supplied on confirmation of booking. Remember that whatever you choose to bring will get very dirty so don’t bring your new clothes!

Will my clothes & sleeping bags get wet?

There are no guarantees on a river trip but it’s extremely unlikely – you will be supplied with a dry-bag, which will keep your clothes dry even if the bag lands in the water. You can also pack your clothes into black bags inside the dry bags to make sure. Your guides will explain to you the best way to pack your bags. Space is sufficient but limited so don’t bring too much with you.

Can I bring my camera?

Yes. Although there can be no guarantees on a river trip, we do provide watertight dry buckets for cameras, binoculars etc. It is also worth considering buying a disposable waterproof camera.

Do I need to be fit? What if I’m not a strong swimmer?

Although this is an exciting trip, the distance covered over the four days is not very long (about 37kms) so you don’t have to be an athlete to do the trip. A reasonable level of fitness and good health is required, though. Temperatures can be extreme, especially in summer so please bear this in mind. There is no age limit but you should familiarise yourself with what the trip entails and make an informed decision on your ability to participate, based on your own fitness. Our general recommendation is a minimum age of 8 years and a maximum of 70. Expectant mothers are welcome – up to about 4 months along. Each client is issued with a PFD (’Lifejacket’) and is instructed on how to handle him or herself in the water, you don’t need to be a strong swimmer but please let us know if you are not confident in the water. There is always the option to walk around rapids you are not happy to do. You also have the option of requesting a very stable raft, which is steered by a guide (dependent on water level – medium and high levels only)

Is it difficult to steer the boats? Will I fall out?

We use 2 person inflatable ‘crocs’ that are very stable and easy to paddle, even for beginners. This section of river has lots of fun rapids and a few challenging runs. There is therefore quite a good chance that you’ll have at least one swim! You will be equipped with a PFD (‘lifejacket’) and will have been given instruction on exactly how to behave if you fall out of your boat. We also use only highly trained guides who will be on hand to rescue you if required. You also have the option of requesting our very stable 5-person raft, which is steered by a guide (dependent on water level– medium and high levels only).

Is it safe? What about if I hurt myself?

Whilst there is an inherent element of risk in every adventure, running rivers with our professional guides should not be considered dangerous. Our guides are all trained in First Aid and we carry a First Aid kit. It is your responsibility to inform the guides about any allergies or medical conditions you may have and to make sure you have any personal medication with you (e.g. asthma pumps, allergy medication etc.). This trip does take place in a remote wilderness environment where evacuation can be difficult and time consuming but we have put plans in place to cope with any emergencies. We do not carry a sat phone as there is cell coverage from high points at various locations along the river. In general, evacuation by helicopter is not possible due to the rough terrain and the distance from the nearest helicopter but in our 19 years of operation, we have not needed it!

What about my drinks?

Gravity provides all meals but you can bring your own choice of drinks. We will supply you with cooler boxes but if you intend bringing a large amount of canned drinks, it is worth it to bring your own cooler box as well. It’s also a good idea to bring drink mix such as Game, which can be mixed with water – purified water will be supplied at each stop.

Is the water safe to drink?

Generally, the water is clean enough to drink but we use water purification tablets to be on the safe side.

What will the weather be like?

In summer (September-April), days are very hot (30-40 degrees) and the nights are also warm. In between seasons, the days are still warm but the nights can be quite cool – a change of warm clothing and a good sleeping bag are required. In winter (June-August), days are warm (20-25 degrees) and nights (and water) are cold. The rainy season is late summer but since this is a semi-arid region, rain is not a frequent occurrence. Thunderstorms do sometimes occur but are usually over quickly.

What will the meals be like?

We pride ourselves on providing our clients with the best in bush cuisine. All meals are prepared fresh on the river and consist of hearty, healthy main courses, followed by desert. Sundowner snacks are also served.

Why restrict group sizes?

We generally limit our group sizes to less than 24 per group – small groups are easier to control and, therefore, safer and the negative impact on the environment is minimised. Finally, we have found that a small group size results in a better and more intimate trip for our clients.

Any other restrictions?

The APA code of safety requires us to warn you against consuming alcohol or drugs in the 8 hours preceding the trip as well as at all times on the water.

How do I book?

To book, we will need a completed booking form as well as a 40% deposit into the following account: Gravity River Tours, FNB, Claremont branch: 200109, account: 623 790 739 60. Your booking is NOT confirmed until we have received both completed the form and payment. Please make sure to reference your deposit with your name and the dates of your trip e.g. “Smith Gorge Dec 12-15”.

More Questions? Give us a call!

Tel: (021) 683 3698. Fax: 086 551 7523