Life Afloat!

17 June 2015 by Katy Johnson

Mpumalanga and the Genesis Route has so much to offer, but if you are looking for something unique and fun for all the family then Vygeboom Dam is your place!

Built by Eskom in 1969, Vygeboom Dam can be found on the R38 just outside of Badplaas and is home to the OppiDam experience. Here you can hire house boats, picnic boats, canoes, dam houses, quad bikes, peddle boats, function boats, caravans and so much more. That will keep the whole family entertained for days, whether it is adrenaline pumping water sport you love or the tranquillity of canoeing along the Dam to find the ideal fishing spot. The sheer vastness of the dam means that everyone one is catered for and no one’s fun gets in the way of anyone else’s. The Dam also has the cleanest water of any Dam in South Africa, making it the ideal swimming pool too.
Our OppiDam experience started with an afternoon cruising on the dam in their picnic boat. This is definitely the best way of getting to know the dam, especially if you don’t have a skipper’s licence. You can hire a skipper, for a small fee, who will give you a guided tour of the best places to swim, fish, and take in the sites. The landscape surrounding the dam is picturesque, with its impressive mountains, ancient trees and bird filled reed beds. The picnic boat gets its name from the stainless steel braai (BBQ) and food prep area at the back, which allows you to cook as you cruise. Simply writing about the experience of braai’ing wors (sausages) while we sailed the dam makes me long to go back and do it all again next weekend! What makes the ten person picnic boat unique is its versatility. The boat can really be turned into whatever you want it to be, whether that is the family holiday experience we enjoyed, a social party boat for friends or a serious fishing expedition boat. This makes it the ideal boat to hire for almost any situation. For those looking to entertain bigger groups OppiDam’s one of a kind party boat ‘Floating Cocktails’ with its drinks bar and laser lights and 45 person capacity is the ideal for any function looking for a unique venue.
 After an afternoon seeing the sites and learning about the best places to moor up for the night, it was our turn to take the wheel of one of the house boats. The 5-sleeper boats don’t require you to have a skippers licence. So after a 20 minute driving lesson with our picnic boat skipper and OppiDam owner Rassie, we were on our way! The house boat gives you a completely different Dam experience to the picnic boat. It is more sedate and where the picnic boat is completely open and you are very aware of being on the water, on the cosy comfortable house boat you can almost forget you are even on the Dam. After a while cruising the dam, waving to the occasional fisherman and canoeist, we choose to moor up at one of Rassie’s favourite spots.’ Visarend Sloep’, roughly translates to ‘Fish Eagle Inlet’ in English.
Here he had promised we would be woken to the cries of the fish eagles that use a dead tree close to the mooring spot as a perch. What he didn’t prepare us for was the spectacular sunset and the remarkable light show that followed. As hundreds of fire flies lit up the reed bed, their rhythmic flashes appearing to keep time with the frog chorus providing us with a phenomenal natural music and light show. The still water of the inlet combined with the fresh dam air and croaking lullaby from the frogs all contributed to one of the best night’s sleep I have ever had. Allowing me to feel fresh and invigorated when my alarm woke me at 5am so I could experience the sun rise over the Dam, it is awesome and well worth the alarm call!. The early morning mist rising from the lake is illuminated by the first shards of morning light transforming the Dam into something truly magical, and the silence is only broken by the eerie calls of fish eagles ringing out across the dam.
One of the unexpected bonuses of the Dam was how quiet it is, the sheer size of the dam allows you to find those ‘out of the way’ spots that give a real feeling of exclusivity. We spent the whole morning exploring the dam, finding the fishing spots Rassie had pointed out the day before, without bumping into many other people. What we did find in abundance was bass, making Vygeboom a must for any keen fisherman. At Rassie’s special spot ‘Two Poles’, made legendary after his young grandson pulled out 3kg bass, after bass, after bass, we had similar success. While we choose to throw back our ‘trophy’ fish, Vygeboom isn’t a catch-and-release dam meaning you can enjoy a fresh fish supper if you are lucky with the rod. 
 In contrast to the tranquil morning spent fishing, in the afternoon we embarked on some adrenaline pumping fun. While Rassie doesn’t hire out his ‘Sunseeker’ speed boat, for those keen on a bit of super tubing or wake boarding a trip can be arranged. The overcast weather and chilly wind meant none of our party were brave enough to take the plunge, but we did enjoy the high speed cruise aboard a boat you would associate with the rich and famous! It was a real privilege getting to spend the afternoon listening to Rassie’s hilarious stories, tapping his knowledge for the best fishing spots and marvelling at spectacular scenery.
Our final night was spent in one of the OppiDam dam houses. For people with young families or big groups these spacious, welcoming, self-catering houses are ideal. You can enjoy all the fun of the Dam during the day, but also have all the space you need for kids to play and for large groups to sit down and enjoy a meal together. 
The real magic of the OppiDam experience is it makes boating and water sports accessible to everyone. There is simply so much to see and do here and anyone can enjoy it, next on my list are the canoe adventure and the new quad bike trail. 
After arriving as a guest and experiencing all the wonderful attractions the dam has to offer, you leave feeling like a friend. Rassie and Valerie are the perfect hosts and Vygeboom Dam is somewhere that once you have discovered it you will keep coming back! 


·         Open 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

·         For Public Holidays and the School Holidays (especially the December Holidays) book in advance.

·         Vygeboom dam is situated on the R38 just before Badplaas on the right if you are travelling from Barberton. Follow the OppiDam signs along the gravel road for approximately 3km. You will pass the Barberton Yacht Club gates and then get to the OppiDam campsite.  For the Houseboats and Dam Houses go past the Campsite until you reach the Kijat gate on your right hand side.

·         House boat hire is R1300.00 per day (additional R150.00 per person for groups over 2).

·         The Picnic Boat costs R1350.00 to hire and accommodates 9 plus a skipper (Skippers licence is required, hiring a skipper costs an additional R350.00)

·         The two Self-Catering Dam houses are also R1300.00 per night and sleep 11-12 people.

·         Camping site costs range from R50.00 – R100.00 depending on season and whether you require a plug point. There is a R50.00 per person daily fee.

·         3 sleeper caravan costs R400.00 per day and the 4 sleep costs R550.00 per day (for bother there is an additional R50.00 per person fee).

·         Day Visitors (8am – 6pm) entrance is R50.00 and Jet Ski / Boat Launch fee is R100.00 (proof of skippers licence required)

·         For reservations and more information contact Valmari Maritz:

o   oppikoppi@promattron.com

o   +27 (0)13 712 2365

o   +27 (0)13 712 4512

o   +27 (0)82 458 5713