Dome Drift

Easy Float

This one-day trail on the Vaal River through the Dome Bergland is one of our most popular offerings. The river flows along with no rapids, just riffles. This makes for a leisurely trip with fantastic scenery.

We supply boating equipment. No experience is required. Children aged 6-12 are welcome. The trip is ideal for people who don’t want adrenaline but would like to enjoy the spirit of the river in its most beautiful phase. The day is a Dome Tour with lots of information about the area from our expert guides.

Delicious lunch

Picnic on river! The meal features starters, a selection of meats, cheeses, rolls and salads. We also cater for vegetarians. Wash it all down with fruit juices and finish with tasty treats.

Choice of Boats

We use comfy inflatables as well as sit-on-top kayaks. Choose what suits you.

A two-seater sit-on-top is stable and fast
Two-seater Croc inflatables accompanied by 4-6 seater rafts

Amazing scenery

Mountains created by the meteorite impact 2 billion years ago loom over the Vaal River.

The Dome Bergland or Collar of the Dome Core, represents the first ring of a three-ringed crater – the world’s biggest asteroid impact site. As we drift along the story of what happened here unfolds, with typical features pointed out.

We have been running Dome Tours for 20 years and in that time have seen much new research to enrich the presentations. Apart from the tours & briefings, we sell a self-drive map kit.  Get a copy.

Anyone can do it

The Dome Drift is for anyone, young and old. Join this scenic river trip through one of the wonders of the world. Families love the shared adventure.

What to expect

After the 1-hour Dome briefing we head for the river downstream of the major rapids. Our put-in point is at the gateway to the Dome Bergland, soaring mountains that flank both sides of the river. Total distance of the trip is between 7-11 km depending on river flow that day. No experience is required and we supply all river equipment.

Gateway to the Dome Bergland, first ring of the world’s largest meteorite impact crater

The river is moving and the paddling is not difficult. There are small riffles, easy to negotiate, where our professional guides direct you through. The banks are covered with thick forest where monkeys, fish eagles,  goliath herons and leguaans live in paradise. The February 2023 flood has left enormous piles of debris.

We use comfy inflatables but don’t run any major rapids. We may use several types of inflatables: 2-seater crocs, 4-6 seater paddle rafts with a guide on board, and passenger oar-rafts.  You will get splashed but it’s highly unlikely anyone will take a swim (unless you want to). River water quality in this region is good.

Choose to stay over

The Dome Drift group meets at Otters Haunt Eco Retreat for the initial Dome briefing (about the meteorite crater) and to equip you with a lifejacket.  If you choose to stay over at Otters Haunt we have a delightful bush camp, guest house and chalets. Ask for a quote.

The cosy Full Moon Bush Cabins at Otters Haunt are ideal for groups.
Your hosts, Karen and Graeme Addison at Otters Haunt. They know the area intimately and are always keen to show you around.

Second day: canoe or hike

If you’re staying over, use the next morning to get better acquainted with the Dome and river.

Hiking trails

Our guided hiking trails take you to spectacular viewpoints to see the immense landscape of the Vredefort Dome and Bergland. Trails range from 8km x 3 hours, through 14km x 5 hours to full day 20km. We also offer overnight backpacking and slackpacking.

Canoe Trails

Canoeing among the waterways from Otters Haunt is very popular with residents. Guided trails take 2-3 hours. You may hire a canoe for a few hours or a day.


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About the Vaal

This is the only major river on Earth that flows right through an impact crater – and it’s the world’s biggest such crater. The Vaal is also one of the oldest rivers on Earth. Long before the Orange River was born, the ancestor of the Vaal flowed through the Kalahari into the Atlantic. The Vaal is now a tributary of the Orange. We run river trips on both rivers. Ask for info.

View from a raft


  • If staying over, check in the night before.
  • 8am – Meet at Otters Haunt for Introductions and Dome Briefing
  • 9.30am – Depart for river. Use own vehicles, which are securely parked.
  • 10.15 – We get on river after a safety talk. The lead guide describes the landscape as we float along, explaining the landforms. The asteroid impact two  billion years created the crater rings of the Dome. The Dome Bergland with its eight ridges is just the first ring.
  • 1.00pm – Picnic lunch on riverbank. No alcohol is allowed. (All meals are self-catered unless you have made other arrangements with us).
  • 2-4/5pm – We carry on downriver. Evenings are sometimes the best times, but depending on the group we may finish earlier.
  • Collect vehicles and drive back to Otters Haunt. End of trip.

How to prepare

We supply coolboxes for snacks, drinks and lunches. Wear sunscreen, a hat, and sandals or sneakers but not slipslops. You will get slightly wet so have a towel for the end.  Bring a windbreaker which we can keep dry until needed. In winter, bring a jersey. Days tend to be between 14-20degrees. In any season it can rain or blow or get very hot. Come prepared.

We take disabled people

Anyone able to sit up and enjoy nature is welcome. Please discuss the details with us.

Overnight with us

The Otters Den riverside guest house has four bedrooms, a fitted kitchen, sun porch, braai areas and large lounge with online TV.

Discuss accommodation with us.  Over weekends, bookings are for two nights. We are pet friendly. The area is very quiet. There is the guest house, bush cabins and chalets. Contact.

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Trip Choices

Overnight accommodation

  • Dinner, Bed and Breakfast in a riverside lodge. This is catered unless your group specifically opts for self-catering. We will obtain quotes for accommodation which can vary from dormitory style bungalows to private cottages.  We try to avoid splitting groups into different accommodations.
Thabela Thabeng bungalows are at the top end of accommodation costs.


  • Camping beside the river (supply own camping kit or hire from us). All camping is self-catered unless you specifically pay for catering.
  • Trips can be the equivalent of slack-packing in hiking, where your overnight kit and food are driven to a designated campsite. You would need to book that option specially as it involves extra costs. Then you would carry day snacks, water and clothing in your canoe.
  • Most parties prefer to travel self-contained and there will be no land support. Make it clear that this is what you want. It is the cheaper option as well as the more adventurous as we may stop to camp on an island.
River camping gets you close to nature. The stars at night, the noise of the water and the chirping of birds at dawn make this an unforgettable experience.
Dusk settles on the river.


We supply a detailed briefing in advance about canoe camping and catering.  Note the difference between vehicle supported and self-contained trips mentioned above.  Please be clear about your group’s choice.

Loaded sit-on-top canoes. In the foreground, a circular pop-up tent is tied on top of a braai grid and clothing bag. Sea kayaks may also be used. If you are using your own boat you are welcome but we do need to approve it in advance.

First Day

8am – Arrive at designated rendezvous in the Dome (we send Map pin and directions). Introductions and brief explanation of what the tour holds. On the Dome Canoe you will be paddling your own boat, perhaps a double with a partner, and we take all care to ensure a safe and enjoyable passage.

8.30  – Before we start, a briefing about the Vredefort Dome. Your expert guide explains what the Dome and crater are, how formed by an asteroid impact, the role of the Vaal River, and what we will see as we paddle along.

9.00 – Check paddling kit. Make sure everything needed is ready and packed in waterproofing. We can provide drybags. You need your own tent, sleeping bag and groundmat. Trips are self-catered so make sure you have planned a good menu. We may at this stage drop off your night kit at the overnight spot so that it is there when you arrive. We do not put up tents for camping parties.

9.30 – Drive to put-in. Use own vehicles. They are securely parked (there is a parking fee, latest price will be in the briefing).

10.00 – We get on river. After some paddling practice we head off downstream. The river is mainly placid with a few sections of fast water (no big rapids) where our guides lead and manage the group for safety.

1.00pm – Lunch stop at a shady spot. A short siesta is possible!

2.00-4.30/5pm – Paddle on downriver to the overnight take-out. Evening on the river is a beautiful time and here is where we relax and just listen to the birds while watching mist rise on the surface of the river.


Second day

Dawn: The energetic ones can rise early for a bracing hike while others enjoy a sleep-in. After a late breakfast, we check out and paddle on downriver.

Lunch is at or near the end point, and the trip ends around 3pm.

We take photos and video along the way and you can order your video production along with free stills after we send samples.

Want to know more? Just ask!

A fish eagle, startled by the canoeing group, is about to take wing.