KwaZulu Natal has welcomed competitors from around the world for the biggest canoe marathon in Africa, the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon, which kicked off on Thursday, February 14, boosting sports tourism in the province.

This year, canoeists come from the US, Europe, South America, South Africa and Africa at large. The FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon has become a bucket-list event, and this year has attracted the largest contingent of international paddlers in the history of the race.

The marathon started in Pietermaritzburg, and will finish at the Blue Lagoon on Saturday (February 16),

The final day of the race will be live streamed, allowing spectators from around the world  to get a front-row seat of the event, further placing KZN on the global stage.

“Events of such magnitude are pivotal for the province’s economy. Over the past few years, we have seen a massive growth in international participants. The use of technology such as live streaming this event will enable us to position KZN not only as a top sporting destination but these audiences will get to see the beauty of our Zulu Kingdom,” said MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Sihle Zikalala. “This will possibly encourage them to consider KZN as their next holiday destination.”

According to Zikalala, the marathon ventures through some of the most scenic parts of KZN, making this the ideal adventure tourism destination for both participants and the support teams.

“This year we have canoeists coming from as far as Austria, Denmark, the US, Sweden, UK and Colombia, most of whom have been in the country for almost 10 days to learn the rivers and the course,” added Phindile Makwakwa, acting CEO of Tourism KZN (TKZN).

‘’This race is one of many big sporting events that puts the province on the global tourism and adventure sport map,” she said, pointing out that KZN also hosts the Vodacom Durban July, the Tsogo Sun Amashova cycle classic, the Comrades Marathon and the Midmar Mile.

The marathon is expected to contribute significantly to KZN’s economy too, as last year its contribution to the economy was just over R6 million (€376 840). 

According to TKZN, canoeists and their supporters are tending to arrive earlier in the province and are staying longer after the event to sample some of the nearby tourism attractions.

TKZN said many canoeists came with their families and brought up to 20 crew members to support them along the route.