Our editorial team headed to Quaggaskloof Dam near Worcester with everything one needs for a weekend getaway filled with camping, watersport and some rugged driving.
By Martin Coetzee
The popularity of stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) has shot through the roof in recent years. So, when we got the opportunity to test a few inflatable boards from the market-leading Red Paddle Co, we jumped on it.
Paddling these boards is fun, and really not as difficult as it looks. It’s rather a matter of choosing the right board for you.
In the beginning, stability is definitely your friend – the longer and wider the board, the easier it will be to stay standing up.
Long and narrow boards mean greater speed; conversely, a short board is generally slower and more manoeuvrable. It’s always best to try before you buy, and chat to an experienced SUP’er, or to the folk at Red Paddle Co.
Our test fleet consisted of the 9’4” Snapper MSL kid’s board, the speedy 11’0” Sport MSL, and the family-sized 14’0” Ride MSL. These boards are air-filled and have multiple grab handles, so they are easy to carry − two of us comfortably managed the 4-person board with paddles.
Packed away, the board is compact and can be stored in a backpack. Inflating the smaller SUPs with the supplied pump is relatively easy, taking about five minutes to reach a decent pressure and a few more to get it really firm.
In the water, the 14-foot Ride is large and stable enough to allow a family (with their gear) to paddle easily at a reasonable speed, and even to be used as a fun water-platform for the kids. Our 10-year-old companion loved the 9’4” kid’s board, and happily handled the multiple boat-wakes that criss-crossed the dam. I spent time on the 11-foot Sport, which is designed to be a little faster without compromising too much on stability. It’s a very comfortable board on which to cover a fair distance, and perfect for a paddler weighing up to 90kg.
The Quaggaskloof and Brandvlei Dams are known to fishermen as two of the best places in the country for smallmouth bass.
Water lovers from the area also flock to the dam to enjoy some time in their boats, on water-skis, and with inflatables. And for those who just like to set up camp near the water, Quaggaskloof Water Ski Club also has a camping site!
Our team was geared to get the full Quaggaskloof experience: we had a new Suzuki Grand Vitara, a Chobe 4-sleeper caravan from Echo 4×4, an Oracle 17 boat (fitted with a 4-Stroke Suzuki 150 HP), and some stand-up paddle boards from RED Paddle Co.
Quaggaskloof, just 15km outside Worcester in the Western Cape, offers 26 grassed campsites with electricity and water. (If you are finicky about drinking water, bring your own, as water used around Quaggas is from the dam).
Although shade is a little scarce, you can still keep cool in summer by simply taking a few steps from your campsite (some of which face the water) and going for a splash in the dam.
The sought-after sites, 1-15, are closest to the water, although those at the back offer plenty of space − and views of the surrounding hills. A few scattered trees provide shade, though it does get hot in summer and the wind can blow up a gale here.
Private homes next to the dam are available for holiday rental. (But not through the club).
When full, Quaggaskloof Dam joins with the neighbouring Brandvlei Dam, creating one big body of water. When the water drops – as it has currently during the drought in the Cape – the wall is exposed, forming two separate dams. Fishing is excellent near the dam wall.
The dam has a natural, clean, sandy bank between the camping area and the water, which is a great place for the kids to play.
But it’s not just the scenic views of water and the surrounding mountains that make Quaggaskloof such an enjoyable campsite; it’s also the cleanliness and neatness of the facilities. In fact, the entire resort is kept in tip-top shape by the staff and the on-site managers. The ablution facilities (5 showers, 8 toilets and a full bathroom) are cleaned three times a day during peak times!
The bathrooms are unisex, and parents are asked to accompany their children at all times.
Speaking of kids, apart from all the fun they can have on the water, the resort also provides them with a playground and swings for some land-based entertainment.
On the water, a strict “no cowboy” rule is enforced, as is compliance with the regulations – skippers must have a licence, and craft must have a valid Certificate of Fitness. Under-age skippering of a craft will not be tolerated – no skipper’s licence, no skippering allowed.
The main aquatic attractions are fishing (carp, big- and small-mouth bass, whitefish), as well as leisure fun like jet-skiing, speed-boat and waterskiing; however, long-distance swimming and rowing events are also held.
Jetskis are allowed at Quaggas only if the owner of the craft belongs to the Quaggaskloof Jetski Club.
A small tuck-shop positioned near the office stocks necessary grocery items, cold drinks, sweets, crisps, wood and ice. Please note that the tuck shop is open only at certain times, and these are indicated on the door of the shop.
For more information on tariffs, availability, South African water-safety rules and other essentials, visit the Quaggaskloof Water Ski Club’s website here.
Suzuki Grand Vitara
By Angus Boswell
Since its launch in 2009, the Suzuki Grand Vitara has appealed because of its chunky, squared-off looks.
The last eight years have seen some cosmetic updates, and the look has become even better with the more recent changes to the grille, bumper and air intake.
Adding real function to the SUV form are elements like the roof rails, swing-door-mounted spare wheel, decent metal underbelly bash plate, and 200mm ground clearance, thanks in part to 225/60 R17 (Dune spec) or R18 (Summit spec) tyres on stylish spoke alloys.
The Grand Vitara is available only in a 2.4-litre VVT (Variable Valve Timing) petrol four-cylinder engine, which puts out 122kW at 6000rpm and 225Nm at 400rpm. It gamely towed the weighty Oracle 17 about the resort, and launched the boat repeatedly without once breaking a sweat.
That said, a turbo and more gear ratios would be welcome, as it’s currently available only in a five-speed manual or (as in our case) a four-speed auto.
We did some dune driving in the Worcester area, and found the GV to be a competent off-roader. It is a permanent four wheel drive with a torque-sensing centre differential and limited-slip rear diff. It also offers low range step-down gearing of 1.97:1, which means double the torque at twice the speed when engaged.
A dial on the dash offers 4H (high range, open diff) with drive defaulting to the rear wheels and sent to the front only when needed there. Engage 4H Lock, and the centre diff is locked to divvy drive 50:50 between the front and rear diffs for slippery surfaces and for sand. 4L engages the lower ratio for more adept rock-crawling and tougher going.
On the road, the Grand Vitara offers a supple ride on high-profile tyres, aided by a mechanically robust suspension comprised of coil springs with MacPherson struts up front, and a multi-link rear.
It is not at all badly kitted for the price, with the Dune edition getting electric windows, central locking, aircon, and MP3 capable radio/CD player, plus a suite of safety kit items including disc brakes all round with ABS, front and side SRS airbags, pre-tensioner seatbelts, and Isofix rear fasteners. The Summit model we were driving adds those 18-inch alloys, along with electronic stability control (ESP), a sunroof, auto-sensing HID headlights and fog lamps, plus fabric/suede trim seats, satellite controls on the steering, cruise control, and a keyless start.
The GV ticks a lot of boxes. It is well priced (Dune R390 900, Summit R466 900), solidly built, retains an appealing functional look, and has no direct rival when it comes to combining agility on the tar with ability off-road.
Suzuki Grand Vitara 2.4 Auto
Engine 2.4 VVT petrol 4-cyl
Power 122kW @ 6000rpm
Torque 225Nm @ 4000rpm
Transmission 4-speed auto
Tare 1 630kg
Length 4 500mm
Width 1 810mm
Height 1 695mm
Wheelbase 2 640mm
Ground clearance 200mm
Price: R390 900 (Dune) R466 900 (Summit)
When it comes to the Chobe caravan, versatility is key. It is small enough to store in a standard garage, can be built to sleep 2 or 4 adults, but still comes with high ground-clearance for those off-road adventures.
The Chobe is the latest addition to the Echo4x4’s off-road caravan range, and is also the smallest, measuring 4,15m x 1,88m x 2.08m (L/W/H). Pop the roof, and you gain about 75cm inside to give you 1,91m of head space.
The front of the pop-up roof has an extended piece of canvas that goes over the front bed area.
The entrance to the Chobe is at the back − a removable step ladder is mounted to the rear door, a design that allows for sleeping space for up to four people on two double beds (one in the front over the A-frame, and another to your right as you enter) as well as packing space in the cupboards on the left wall. If you choose the two-sleeper variant, the right wall can be made into more cupboard storage space.
If that is not enough storage space, there is loads of room in the nose cone (doors on both sides), as well as in an outside hatch on the right side (opposite the slide-out fridge/freezer).
To set up the front bed, you fold it out from the inside of the caravan, then have to step outside and pull it out another 35cm, then step up on the coupler bar (the nose cone is big and covers the A-frame) to find the U-frame by reaching through the window. The frame has gas struts, so lifts quite easily. Then you hook the bush sail’s rods at the side and front, and finally fasten the canvas roof.
To finish setting up camp takes only seconds, since the 270 awning simply zips open, folds out, and can be secured with guy ropes if necessary. Optional side walls can be added.
As is standard in the outdoor industry, the awning opens above the outside kitchen area. Behind a smaller door at the front is a slide-out rail for your fridge/freezer, and a bigger hatch folds down to create workspace. There are numerous shelves for plates and cups and all your utensils. A two-plate gas stove is attached to the fold-down hatch. Although this design might be a bit inconvenient (watch out when using both plates, and need to reach over the front flame to the back), it does leave you with a large working area.
By Dean Castle
If you are looking for adventure on a river, dam or ocean, the Oracle 17 is a versatile craft, created to be fun. Whether you’re taking the kids for a day of watersport, or heading offshore with the boys in search of fresh fish, this craft bridges the gap between having to make the choice.
The 17-foot Oracle is the ideal size between easy handling and sufficient deck space. It is small enough to tow easily and to get in and out of the water, but is large enough to accommodate a few passengers. During our weekend at Quaggaskloof, we headed out on the water comfortably with six persons on board, and with a selection of slalom and trick skis.
The extra-wide helm seat allows for the skipper plus one, and a seat on the front of the helm can be flipped up and into place when needed, or neatly folded down. Additional rear-facing seats are located on the bow for two crew.
While the Oracle 17 is a good all-rounder, the design is especially favourable for the angler. There are sufficient rod racks in the gunnels for storage, plus those built into the sides of the binnacle. Rod holders are located in the top of the gunnels, as well as on the back of the skipper’s chair. When it comes to bait storage, a hatch at the transom with a window is right where you’d need it − or can be used as a cooler box when fishing isn’t on the cards.
The Oracle we enjoyed for the day was fitted with Suzuki’s 150 HP. The 4-Stroke provides powerful acceleration and torque − enough raw grunt to get a skier out of the water easily, even with five persons on board.
This Suzuki motor uses fly-by-wire technology instead of traditional cables, meaning that throttle adjustments and gear selection are instant and responsive.
The Oracle 17 is available from Atlantic Suzuki at R350 000 when equipped with the smaller-brother 115 HP four stroke, and a little more for the 150 HP.
By Francois Huysamen
For reservations at Quaggaskloof, fill out the contact form below.