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|River: Kenya, Nairobi area, the Tana.|
What's it like
The first section is a simple grade II warm up with a couple of small play waves before you come to an island. River left is a narrow continuous section of grade III at low levels and doesn't need inspecting. NOTE: the locals occasionally put up a small log bridge at the bottom of this section which you definitely won't get under. Easy portage left or right. A seal launch provides the entry to the first average sized rapid of the day; a fairly straightforward right hand bend that also can be run without inspecting. 200m down narrow channel meets river right. The river right route is very similar to the opening section by the put in. NOTE: there is a metre high drop at the bottom that you really need to boof otherwise you could get an interesting pin under a rather large tree root.
A short distance on from the island is the first major rapid of the day - 'Captains Folly'. This takes the form of a 3-meter high drop straight into a right hand turn. This should be run as close to the rock on the right as you can, otherwise you do a very nice splat/rock smear all the way down the rocks directly in front of the drop. Most of the river channels through this point so it is very boily and needs to be inspected before running. It goes at IV/V depending on water level and is named, as it has been the folly of many guides as they go airborne over client's heads and land on the laps of those in the front compartment!
The next rapid is 'Can of Worms' and does need inspecting. This rapid is a series of four 90-degree bends through some angular rocks at low water levels and again goes at IV/V. there are some very large recirculating eddies with big boil lines so watch out. In high water this rapid loses the bends and turns into one large bend and two large poor over rocks, with sticky holes. Either run the centre tongue, between the pour-overs, or the escape route on river left: beware of the boily eddie!
The best rapid of the day, is 100m further on: 'Sphincter Flexer' grade V. This consists of an accelerating chute, into a right hand bend, at the entry to a small gorge with a rather interesting corkscrew wave regularly catches people unaware and sends them down the rest of the rapid backwards swearing loudly, or upside down drinking a lot. The final section consists of a series of small drops before the big "raft surfing" hole 'Fisheye'. NOTE: get local knowledge about water levels, as this hole can either be a keeper in low water, or the best play hole on the river in medium to high water.
The river then mellows for a while with some grade II/III sections with good play-waves. You will probably want to portage the Gorge some 2km down from "Fish eye", as it is undercut all the way down and at a perfect height for sunny side down kayakers. A small village up on the bank river left is a good landmark to this danger. This is followed by 1km of grade III. A 20-min long flatwater section is next. A good opportunity to check out the Tana's excellent birdlife.The "calm before the storm" is a lake like section 300-m long, including a 90 degree bend to the right. There are three options available. Left of the island takes one over the 'Mission', a 28 ft clean waterfall, whilst on the right is 'St Joseph's' and 'Penetration'. The mission can be run in all water levels, the best place is on the right Take a good look though, as the slot of aerated water is extremely narrow, depending on water levels. Missing this would result in a severe headache. St Joseph's is a 3-m pourover, on river right. Care should be taken on this drop it is never run at anything over medium to high levels, as the hole is a keeper. Best run on the left, time your boof right or you will get trashed. Don't be alarmed if you pin above the lip, this is normal, "oh and watch out for flying monitor lizards at the bottom". Penetration avoids St Joseph's. Run just to the left of St Joseph's down a shallow narrow shoot. St Joseph's and Penetration meet in a small calm pool, after which a right turn enters a bouncy wave train before a 90 degree left turn down into 'Spasm' which is run on the left if you value your anklebones.
Below the Mission and Spasm is where some of the best play waves on the river along with a good splat rock. 'Childsplay' and 'Time for a Fag' the final two rapids. The former is worth a look at first. The river then calms before arriving about 30 minutes later at Sagana River Camp, the base of Whitewater Adventures.
How to get there
The main put in for the commercially run section of the Tana is just 110km from Kenya's capital city, Nairobi, at Sagana town, a small village on the foothills of Mt. Kenya. If you miss the huge Whitewater Adventures signs, 10km before getting to Sagana, let your nose guide you past the "herbal cigarettes" to the guys who man the Juggleman kiosk . Turn off here and follow a track to the right, you will the see the river on your left, put in.
Sagana River Camp is 5 acres of irrigated lawns. Depending on ones budget, one has the choice of self contained cottages, a bunk house or for the more budget concise one can camp. Apart from the usual facilities there are hot showers and a swimming pool for those who do not want to swim in the river. See www.whitewaterkenya.com for more information, or contact Whitewater Adventures in Kenya, as they are more than happy to assist you.
All pictures courtesy of C. Chick
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