He came, he rowed, he conquered: rowing 350km along the Garden Route

Posted on 6 February 2023

Frederik van Deventer didn’t exactly set sail from Storms River as he ventured out into the deep blue. Armed with nothing but a kayak, his paddle, plenty of sunblock and a hat – he took on the treacherous Garden Route coast. His destination; Witsand, 355 km away.

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In case you missed it, Getaway covered Frederik’s journey earlier this year. This was a journey long in the making. Inspired by adventure documentaries on Discovery Channel as a child, he had always had the dream to undertake a challenge like this.

His journey began even before he set foot on the beach. ‘It started off when I drove down from Johannesburg to the Garden Route in the Cape. 1200 kilometres with my 5.5m kayak on the roof of my 3.8m Suzuki Swift,’ He said as he drove his kayak down through pouring rain and gale-force winds.

‘After driving for 18 long hours, we finally arrived at Fernery Lodge in the Tsitsikamma at two in the morning. With just five hours to rest before I had to start my first day of rowing, the pre-adventure jitters consumed my thoughts.

‘there were a couple of instances where I had a “nou gaan ek hard *!#” (essentially, now I am to struggle) moment.’ Frederick said.

‘The biggest and most important one I experienced on my first day during a spring tide at Nature’s Valley. The waves reached heights of 2.3 metres, but with my arrogant attitude, I thought I could keep my head down and storm the castle. After being thrown around like a rag doll by the waves, I was quickly humbled. I learnt that I will have to have a much smarter approach and much more respect for the ocean if I wanted to complete – no, survive – my expedition. I also realised that fear is a good thing if you use it wisely.’

Needless to say, there is a psychological battle when taking on an arduous journey like this. ‘Although it is of utmost importance to be physically prepared for an expedition like this, the physical aspect will only get you so far,’ Frederik had to say.

‘It’s the mental strength that will help you control your fear and get you through tough and dangerous situations by making smart decisions. You must be resilient and focused, to keep rowing for hours and still be motivated to get back in the water the next day. At the end of the day, a strong mentality is a factor that will determine whether you will pull through and make it.’

‘Too much! Almost 4 bottles during the 16-day expedition,’ when we asked how much sunblock he used for this challenge. ‘But rather safe than sunburnt.’

‘Something I did not expect however, was that my stomach shrunk due to the long hours of rowing without a proper meal,’ he had to say about the toll it took on his body. ‘The trouble with this is that your intake of water and food is reduced, which causes you to have less energy. After realising this, I started controlling my intake of water and food.’

‘The scenery from on my journey was incredible. From dolphins jumping and playing around next to my kayak to a great white shark – that was on a clear mission to catch a nice fat seal and didn’t even pay a second’s attention to me in the safety of my leaking kayak –  the wildlife was beautiful.’ adding that it wasn’t just toiling and trouble

”I was able to see the coastline from the perspective of the Indian ocean – a gift that only a handful of people will ever experience.

‘But the most mesmerizing thing for me was when I had to go into the deep ocean where you can only see the coastline in the distance. With almost no sound, except the occasional splash of my paddle in the water and feeling the energy of the huge “rolling blue hills” – as I called them – lifting my kayak up and down effortlessly, I felt insignificant against the mighty blue mass stretching on forever.

Paddling in the Knysna Lagoon

‘There was a great deal of thoughts running through my mind and emotions as I finished my last stretch of 48km at Witsand…Mostly, I was just grateful and humbled after completing the two-week journey that day.’

In finishing off our catch-up with Frederik, he remained humble and wanted to ‘thank the people who supported me along the way from friends – especially my teammate Renaldo van Wyk who was with me the whole journey helping and assisting me the entire journey and family to family friends’. He also made a special mention to all the accommodation providers along the way and to Decathlon for supplying him with the necessary gear. ‘Lastly, I am grateful that God,’ Frederik concluded.

It’s fair to say that the younger Frederik sitting in front of the TV would be proud of the achievement. On 21 January, he picked up his kayak and paddled the bellowing Witsand tides.

His journey

Day 1 – 6 January

  • Depart from Storms river mouth camp on the 6th of January 2023
  • To Oakhurst huts(Otter trail), 16 km in – Sleep/Camp here


Day 2  – 7 January

  • Depart from Oakhurst huts
  • To Natures valley, 31 km in – Pitstop
  • To Keurbooms Strand/Enrico’s Restaurant 42 km in – Sleep/Camp here

Day 3 – 8 January

  • Depart from Keurbooms
  • To Robberg 5 Beach, 54 km in – Pitstop
  • To Fountain Shack Robberg Nature reserve 62 km in – Sleep/Camp here

Arriving in Plettenberg Bay

Day 4 – 9 January

  • Depart from Fountain Shack
  • To Crooks river, 76 km in – Pitstop
  • To Knoetzie Beach, 88 km in – Sleep/Camp here

Day 5 – 10 January

  • Depart from Knoetzie beach
  • To Brenton on Sea, 100 km in – Pitstop
  • To Buffelsbaai (Caravan Park) 104 km in – Camp here

Day 6 – 11 January

Buffelsbaai Beach

  • Depart from Buffelsbaai
  • To Goukama Nature Reserve, 119 km in – Pitstop
  • To Sedgefield (Pilli Pilli Beach Cabanas) 122 km in – Sleep here

Day 7 – 12 January

  • Depart from Sedgefield
  • To Dolphin Paragliding (beach), 136 km in – Pitstop
  • To Wilderness 143 km in ( Far Niente Beachfront guesthouse) – Sleep here

Day 8 – 13 January

  • Depart from Wilderness
  • To Aqua Eden Camping Ground George, 160 km in – Pitstop
  • To Herolds bay (Oppie-See self-catering apartments), 165km in

Day 9 – 14 January

  • Depart from Herolds bay
  • To Groot Brakrivier Mond, 180 km in – Pitstop
  • To Klein Brak Beach Park, 189 km in – Camp/ Sleep here

Day 10 (15 January)

  • Depart from Klein Brak
  • To Santos Beach (Mossel Bay), 200 km in – Pitstop
  • To 1st Beach Dana Bay (Brander Buksie Guesthouse), 216 km in – Sleep here

Day 11 (16 January)

  • Depart from Dana Bay
  • To Vleesbaai (Fishermans Flat), 234 km in – Sleep here

Day 12 (17 January)

  • Depart from Vleesbaai
  • To Gouritsmond Beach (Gourits Self Catering units) 247 km in – Sleep here

Day 13 (18 January)

  • Depart Gouritsmond Beach
  • To Reisiesbaan beach, 270 km in – Camp here

Day 14 (19 January)

  • Depart Reisiesbaan
  • To Rooikrans, 285 km in – Pitstop
  • To Still Bay (Ellensrust Caravan Park), 295 km in – Camp here

Day 15 (20 January)

  • Depart Still Bay
  • To Jongensfontein, 305 km in – Pitstop
  • To Blomboschfontein Nature Reserve (Blombosstrand), 321 km in – Camp here

Day 16 (21 January)

  • Depart from Blombosstrand
  • To Puntjie Nature Reserve 340 km in – Pitstop
  • End at Witsand 355 km in

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ALSO READ: A River Runs Through Us: Hiking through Makuya Nature Reserve

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