The Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho is a land of vast treasures, ranging from picturesque views, diamonds, fauna and flora, the friendliness of its people and last but not least, water!
Indeed Lesotho has an abundance of water many countries in Africa could only dream of, which has made it not only famous but provided it with much needed revenue. Pristine mountain streams home to wild trout, tumble and gurgle their way into rivers and a number of man-made dams before flowing down into South Africa. Lesotho’s many beautiful rivers, dams and tourism infrastructure associated with the Lesotho Highlands Water Project present opportunities for water activities such as fresh-water fishing, white water rapids boating, kayaking, canoeing and small boat sailing which only adds to the variety of sports / activities available in Lesotho.
Katse Dam (Phase 1a):
Seen by many as the jewel in the crown of Lesotho, Katse stands testament to the power of human endeavour to harness the elements and today, stands as Africa’s second largest dam having been completed in 1996. A popular tourist attraction in its own right, Katse Dam provides visitors with water sports, excursions, tours of the dam wall and scenic views.
Boat Excursions on Katse Dam vary from 45-minute Sundowner cruises to 3 – 4-hour trips to Katse Dam , with stops at the Malibamatso Bridge and the Matsoku Intake tunnel, and the two islands with their abundant birdlife and indigenous flora.
The waters of the dam are clear and tranquil, thus suitable for both experienced sportspeople and beginners. With the dam stretching for almost 40km there is ample opportunity for long distances kayaking, canoeing and surfing. Should you want to kayak or sail on Katse Dam, visitors are encouraged to bring their own watercraft. The necessary precautions must be taken, bearing in mind the depth of the dam (up to 90meters), the tree remains that are not visible under the water and the nearby Katse Fish farm. Those using their own craft must ensure that they are appropriately licensed and understand all boating rules.
In early October 2011, a group of post-matric students from Treverton College spent eight days combining adventure with environmental activism by hiking, cycling and kayaking along the route of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, stopping along the way to educate rural schools about water conservation.
The Clover Lesotho Water Wise Expedition, which ran from 10 to 17 October, began with the students paddling the Katse Dam in Lesotho, then cycling and hiking through Lesotho along the Katse water pipeline into South Africa, where they followed the course of rivers to finally end at the Vaal Dam.
“This is the best experience of my entire life,” said Ross Marshall, one of the “posties” on the expedition. “It felt so surreal when we got to the Vaal Dam.”
|Tour of Dam Wall||+266 229 10805 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9|
|Other Tours at Katse||+266 633 20831 / 289 10202|
|GPS||S 29º 19′ 53.6 E 028º 30′ 36.6|
The Mohale Dam is the second-largest dam in the Lesotho Highlands Development Project and was completed in 2002. Although the dam wall is different to that of Katse, it is the highest concrete-faced basalt rockfill dam in Africa, standing at 145m. Mohale Dam offers excellent opportunities for water sports and recreational activities.
The Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) operates a small cruiser around the Mohale Dam through Thaba-Chitja Island to the dam wall.
|Mohale Info Centre||+266 229 36217|
|Boat Rides||+266 6274 5547|
|GPS||S 29º 27′ 43.6 E 28º 06′ 20.8|
Polihali Dam (Phase 2):
Construction of the Polihali dam should start in 2012/13 in the Mokhotlong district of Lesotho. Although it is at this time uncompleted, the Polihali dam should comprise two major reservoirs, enclosed by a 145 metres high dam wall. Water from the dam will flow through a series of tunnels and via the Ash River in the Free State into the Vaal system in 2018/19. This is one to look out for, especially for those keen to tackle the infamous Sani Pass nearby.
In addition to the large dams of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, there are several other smaller dams in Lesotho, primarily used for municipal water supply. These dams include: Muela Dam, Thaba Phatsoa (Hlotse), Sebaboleng Dam (Maseru), Maqalika Dam (Sebaboleng) and Rasebala Dam (Mafeteng)
Rivers are the lifeblood for Lesotho and provide visitors with a more “fluid” experience when tackling water sports such as rafting, crossing or Kayaking in the Mountain Kingdom.
Senqu / Orange River
Starting at 3000m above sea level on the Lesotho side of the Northern Maloti Drakensberg Mountain range (Mont Aux Sources), it flows westwards 2’200kms until eventually reaching the Atlantic Ocean in the Northern Cape, making it South Africa’s longest river. It flows through six dams and along three international borders, making this magnificent river the lifeblood of both South Africa and the Mountain Kingdom. It is up in the Lesotho Highlands where the river is fast flowing as it builds up its strength and volume. Here it is filled with tremendous scenery and wild landscapes making for a beautiful retreat for anyone wishing to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. It is old style Africa and a good part of it is navigable.
During the temperate months of March and April, given good rains and the sluices of the dams being open a canoeist (or rafter) can easily travel 30 km per day. The lower reaches of the river are most popular, because of the spectacular topography as it passes between the borders of South Africa and Namibia.
The Ash River, near the small town of Clarens, in the Free State, is the most dependable whitewater river – courtesy of the Lesotho Highlands Water Projects, which releases icy cold, crystal clear water on a regular basis offering exhilarating grade III to IV rapids for white water rafting year round.
Lets end in something that’s a bit fun: Winter snow kayaking near Semonkong.