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A gentle paddle up the Keurbooms River takes you to a secluded waterside cabin where chilling out is the main activity. The Whiskey Creek canoe trail is perfect for a group looking to take it easy. By Ron Swilling

“Do you know there’s a speed limit?” a member of our party shouted as we glided through the golden, whiskey-coloured water of the Keurbooms River. We glanced at the map and the 10km/h speed limit. “Think we’re doing okay,” we shouted back, novices in the art of paddling, laughing as we tried to synchronise our movements to progress forwards.

The gentle 7km Whiskey Creek Canoe Trail in Keurbooms River Nature Reserve led us past vegetated hills with large Outeniqua yellowwoods strung with old man’s beard like Christmas decorations and past families lunching happily on Sunday picnics along the riverbank. We found a sandy shore midway to beach the canoes for a leisurely swim stop before we continued upstream, moving with the incoming afternoon tide to dock between the water lilies at the Whiskey Creek jetty.

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A short walk, laden with our heavy dry bags packed with firewood and delicious supper ingredients, took us to the fair-sized wooden cabin, surrounded by leafy hills. Soft river song greeted us as the water tumbled merrily over small rapids below.

We eased into evening, enjoying the seclusion and pleasure of having the well-equipped cabin to ourselves. A sizzling fire, a sprinkling of stars and the waxing moon did the rest. The large wooden deck and open outdoor kitchen provided ample space for kitchen preparations. While cheese sandwiches grilled on the fire and lanterns glowed warmly, we raised glasses and toasted the blessings of nature.

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During the night the clouds cleared and we awoke to bird song and a clear blue sky. After coffee, breakfast, hot showers and a lazy morning we were prepared for the paddle back. This time we were all quiet. It was only the soothing, soft splash of paddles against the glittering water as we pushed off downriver through the lily pads. Gliding along, we saw the flash of red wings as Knysna touracos flitted between the trees. At a picnic site, we waded into the warm water for a final swim.

A low tide and a head-on breeze kept our mouths shut and arms working on the last leg, never detracting from the peacefulness of our river sojourn. When the caravan park, bridge and N2 came into view, we weren’t quite ready yet for civilisation.

Trip planner

Getting there Keurbooms River Nature Reserve is 8km east of Plettenberg Bay.

Whiskey Creek Canoe Trail This overnight trail involves a 7km (±3 hour) paddle to the Whiskey Creek jetty and a 400m walk to the cabin. It is suitable for the whole family and no previous paddling experience is necessary. Canoes, dry bags for belongings and life jackets are provided. Water shoes are recommended.

Accommodation The cabin sleeps 10, in four double-bunks and two single beds. It has solar-powered lights and hot water, a small fridge and a gas hotplate, crockery and cutlery, plus pillows and pillowslips. Bring your own bedding, towels, food and firewood. At off-peak times, the cabin costs R1,450 a night for the first four people, R365 an extra person. The peak season rate is R2,180 for six people.

Bookings CapeNature Central Reservations +27 (0)21 483 0190