The map above shows our route in orange along the Vaal and Orange Rivers and the shaded in region is the extent of the Vaal and Orange River watersheds.
About our Route to the Sea
The Vaal River starts close to Breyten, Mpumalanga. It passes through the Mpumalanga Highveld grasslands biome. The Highveld is a massive catchment feeding the Vaal, Usuthu, Assegaai, Nkomati, Crocodile, Olifants and various other critical rivers on which South Africa depends for it water security and sovereignty. Agriculture, opencast coal mining, heavy industry and municipal sewage systems have potential impact on this section of the river.
By the time the river reaches the Vaal Dam the river receives water from the Lesotho Highlands (Senqu and other rivers), Heyshope Dam (Assegaai River) and Usuthu River through a water network diverting water from other catchments to feed the water hungry and heavily industrialised Gauteng Province.
Around the Vaal Dam, which supplies water to Gauteng for personal and industrial use petrochemical plants and heavy industry are located in the catchment, and just below the dam the Klip River brings water from municipal areas and the gold mining sector into the river.
By now the Vaal has become a big river. It enters the Free State, where various towns nestle next to the river. This area is characterised by huge grasslands, resembling the plains of the Americas. Municipal water management, agriculture and diamond mining can impact the water and biodiversity in this area.
Where the river enters the Northern Cape the landscape becomes more arid. Human survival depends on water, and as a result small towns and settlements congregate around the river banks of what has now become the Orange River. Farmers irrigate arable land next to the river and some mining (mostly diamonds) occur close to the river in search of alluvial deposits.
Different cultures start to become more visible, where the Swazi, Zulu, Ndebele, Sotho and similar cultures are more prevalent in the East, the San and Khoi people are indigenous to the arid Karoo landscape. Languages change, and among common languages the dialect differs. With scarcity comes greater awareness for conserving water. Yet human settlements, agriculture and mining still have potential to impact the river system negatively.
Fracking in the Karoo also has potential to impact negatively on the river. The scale of the impact will only be accurately verifiable if permission is granted and actual operations start their extraction cycles.
At Augrabies National Park a massive waterfall awaits, which means a forced portage, probably the longest portage for the team. Entering the falls in a boat is certain death. This unique water feature in an otherwise barren landscape may soon be affected by hydro-power initiatives.
The river finally meets the border between South Africa and Namibia, entering desert area, and then exits into the Atlantic Ocean at Alexander Bay (South Africa) or Oranjemund as the Namibians call it on their side of the border.