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Old Willow No. 7 House Boats, Vaal Dam

Messing About in Boats


Johannesburg gets a lot of bad press, being a big city with big city problems. But like all big cities, if you look just beyond the city sprawl soon, or eventually, you are going to bump into bucolic beauty. In the case of Johannesburg, if you head south you'll eventually get to the Vaal River and the Vaal Dam (or Barrage), which has long been a weekend retreat for nature lovers, fishers, gamblers and the “my holiday house is better than yours” kind (think Fort Lauderdale on an African lake).

Here I'm thinking water, I'm thinking cruising, I'm thinking - like Mr Toad of Toad Hall from The Wind in the Willows – about messing about in boats. To be more exact I'm thinking about hiring a little cabin cruiser from Old Willow No. 7 houseboat charters, and what a pleasant thing it is to contemplate.

Captain of Your Own Boat

You can chose to be totally self-sufficient, or you can moor and take advantage of the waterfront watering holes and even lodges if you prefer to sleep on land (not to mention golf courses, spas and the like). Thing is, you are captain of your own cruise. The water here is easy going and no previous boating knowledge is necessary. You can also choose to lose yourself up quiet backwaters for the duration of your cruise.

This is no French Riviera, even though there is a nearby hotel of that name. It's more low-key and casual, and it sure beats a weekend fighting traffic and traffic-light touts in the city of gold, should you want, or need, to be there. Old Willow No. 7 is located at Millionnaire's Bend on the Vaal Barrage, about an hours' drive south of the city. (The Vaal is a major tributary of the Orange: think Missouri–Mississippi).

Rates for two people start at R595 a night midweek, low season, to R1,795 a night in peak season.They have two-, three-, four- and five-person boats. There are additional charges for fuel, fishing rod rental, DVDs, towels and so on.

Vaal Barrage, Sasolburg
Tel 016 973 1729

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