A hiking party of twelve people, which included five children, ran into trouble when attempting a kloofing trip down the Kaaimans river near Wilderness on January 3 2019 around 3.45pm. The trip started to go south when the group discovered they had underestimated the distance of the route as well as the difficult terrain and rapids which were intensified due to rain the day before.
A member of the group realised the dangers ahead and called a relative early on to inform them that the group’s trip was taking longer than expected. A second call to the relative around 6pm was disconnected due to poor reception in the river gorge. A number of failed attempts to contact the group lead the relative to alert emergency services.
EMS rescue and George Fire and Rescue services responded as well as an NRSI Wilderness rescue swimmer operating in the area and the NSRI Wilderness crew at Station 23.
The rescue group assembled at the Map of Africa Viewpoint in Wilderness Heights and began searching three different sections of the river.
Meanwhile, the group of hikers had split up, with three members going down the river ahead of the rest of the group to seek help, while the remaining four adults and five children (ages 3, 6, 7, 8, 8) continued along the route at a slower pace.
Rescuers came across the faster group around 8pm and confirmed that the remaining nine were still on the river.
The remainder of the group was found later uninjured but exhausted and cold, while the children were distressed.
The rescue parties assisted the group in swimming a section of the river and led them to a point where they could proceed, using headlights, down the rocks and along the river bank, with the children all being carried.
At this point, a team of three volunteers from the Outeniqua Trail Running Search & Rescue team had made their way down from near the river mouth and they reached the group of hikers and rescue team members. Space blankets were used to help warm the hikers and all individuals continued down the canyon to reach the emergency vehicles waiting for them.
After medical assessments by NSRI and George Fire Department medics, the group was transported back to the Map of Africa and reunited with their families.
Locals or visitors planning a hiking trip in the Western Cape are urged to do their research and be well aware of the route and its possible challenges in order to protect themselves from getting hurt or lost.