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17 February 2020
Plans are afoot to officially launch the fully-guided and catered Desert Kayak Trails in June this year.
The adrenaline-pumping five-day Desert Kayak Trails will see participants kayaking along the magnificent Orange River within the parameters of the transfrontier park.
Participants will need to arrive on a Thursday afternoon, in time for dinner at the Gamkab base camp, and will be reunited with their vehicles, back at Gamkab, by Monday at noon.
Local communities will be doing the catering and assisting with camp attendant duties and river guiding. During the day’s kayaking, the resident Nama guides will therefore give participants a fresh take on this alluring area, and will keep everyone entertained with their storytelling skills.
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To prepare for the Desert Kyak Trails as a tourism product, the African Paddling Association was approached to help select and train river guides. Thanks to funding from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and Peace Parks Foundation, the first training took place during February 2014. In February 2015, the transfrontier park’s management committee members and community-sourced river guides attended an advanced river guide training course in preparation for their work on the Desert Kayak Trails, and for their accreditation tests.
A detailed concept plan was also prepared for the Gamkab adventure trail camp, which will serve as the base for the Desert Kayak Trails.
During the weekend of Easter 2015 (2 – 6 April 2015) the park’s Desert Kayak Trails team hosted the first commercial event. The purpose was to test-run the event with friends and family to see how the team would cope, on and off the water, as well as how best to plan the journeys.
The five existing trained, licensed and employed river guides all participated, along with a trails leader, while four community members assisted the support teams with on-the-ground preparations.
The test-run proved that the Desert Kayak Trails would offer the ideal opportunity to introduce participants to the transfrontier park. Between the time spent kayaking on the river, participants were taken on short vehicle drives to exploit the beauty of the park. Evenings were spent around the campfire, where more was learnt about the development of the transfrontier park, its joint training and tourism products, as well as the Nama folklore, with colourful storytelling that has been passed from one generation to the next over many centuries.
The teamwork and skills enhancement of the guides and community workers, including the interaction with participants, was exceptional.
In June, the directors of the park’s joint management board, along with invited members of the press, will undertake the 5-night journey down the Orange River.
The Desert Kayak Trails promises to become another excellent product to further unlock tourism to the /Ai /Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, with its spectacular arid and desert mountain scenery. The first cross-border tourism event, the Desert Knights Mountain Bike Tour, that comprises five days of cycling, some of it at night under the full moon, and one day of canoeing on the Orange River, has become so popular that it is now offered twice a year.