Kenya’s Tana River is murky with hot-chocolate-coloured waters, and at the time of the year I visited, the water was low – but that didn’t stop me from enjoying a spot of white water rafting.
After the safety drills presented by Thomas, our guide, we hit the water and paddled according to his instructions, accompanied by the safety of guided kayaks.
Our first big rapid was ‘Captain’s Folly’. We followed Thomas’ instructions and easily cleared it. Next up was ‘Fish-Eye’.
“Since we’re the only boat on the river today,” Thomas said, “we can stop here and surf.”
Surf? I perked up. The word took me back to the last time I had ridden a wave on the shores of Dias Beach in the small town of Mossel Bay, South Africa. But I wasn’t really sure what Thomas meant as we hadn’t packed any surfboards.
We ran the rapid and landed straight in the eddy. Thomas paddled us to the bank where we disposed of our paddles. He then guided the raft directly into the thundering waters of the rapid. The boat locked in parallel to the crashing water, and lo and behold we were surfing.
We spent the next half hour surfing the rapid. Each time we got tossed out, sucked under and spat out. On the third attempt the boat went up on its rail and I fell in, getting sucked under.
Thinking I’d be spat out instantly, I became a little concerned when I realised that the surge of water was holding me down. I opened my eyes and could only see darkness. I began to think that this was it. My life and adventures would end in the brown waters of the Tana River.
Finally I popped up, sucking in a lungful of air and river water.
“Are you okay?” Thomas asked me.
“I’m fine,” I coughed up some brown water. “Let’s go again.”
I was only under for less than 10 seconds, but it felt like a lifetime.
After the fifth attempt at surfing, we continued to paddle downriver, twisting into ‘The Gorge’ and going around the 28-foot ‘Mission’s Falls’ through ‘St Joseph’s’ before stopping by the ‘Devil’s Water Bowl’, where we hopped out of the raft and slid down the rock into the toilet-like whirlpool.
From here it was a calm paddle back to camp.
Although the rapids weren’t as big as rafting on the Zambezi, the Tana River is a much more technical challenge.
And now I have a renewed appreciation of life …
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