The Drakensberg Polar Bear Swim Challenge


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The Drakensberg Polar Bear Swim Challenge is an annual swim that takes place every year in the Cathkin Park or Champagne Valley area, of the Central Drakensberg in the South African Province of KwaZulu-Natal.

The Drakensberg Polar Bear Swim Challenge started as a small challenge in the early 2000s at Dragon Peaks in aid of the Estcourt Animal Shelter.

The manager of the EAS is Nelson and may be contacted on 060 988 9495 if you would like to visit the EAS or require his help.

This event was initially convened by Ann Gray, a prominent member of The Cathkin Park Community. Before that, she had organised this Challenge in Winterton for the Winterton Primary School learners.

Ann Gray, the founder of the Drakensberg Polar Bear Swim Challenge

The event has grown over the last four to five years to support the Khetani Animal Rescue initiative. Estcourt Animal Rescue and Khetani Animal rescue receive fifty percent each of the proceeds in cash and kind.

The Estcourt Animal Shelter, (EAS) on the Kemp’s Road in Estcourt is a shelter and refuge for abandoned, abused, and surrendered dogs and cats. It was opened by David
Mc Fie when the SPCA closed down. He recognised the need for an animal shelter, where these animals could be housed, fed and protected. The EAS has been running, with the help of the community for six years. They rely heavily on community help as the area covered by this shelter is extensive. It not only covers the whole Estcourt District but also includes the Central Berg. At the moment there are 45 dogs and 15 cats being looked after by this shelter. They try to find forever homes for as many as possible. In the past the donations from the Polar Bear Swim have helped tremendously The donated food for the animals lasts a while and the proceeds from the raffle and entry fee goes towards their veterinary bill.

Polar Bear Swims or “plunges” are not unique to this area. They tend to be held in the winter where participants jump into very frigid water and swim a distance. In the United States, for example, polar bear plunges are mainly held to raise money for a charitable organisation. In Canada, polar bear swims are usually held on New Year’s Day to celebrate the new year. Similar events take place in Europe, especially in Italy.

Perhaps the most famous of these is the ‘Plunge into the River Tiber’. Several individuals dive into this river on the 1st of January each year. This event started way back in 1946. The founder, was an unemployed lifeguard who wanted to become a stunt performer. So he started plunging into Tiber’s near freezing waters to demonstrate his skills

We are not aware of similar events in South Africa or Africa. However, we would be very interested to learn about such events if they exist, as we would like to make the conveners of similar events aware of the Drakensberg Event so that they can put it on their “Bucket List” to come and join our special event. Please email us to let us know about such events.

If you would like to Enter the 2021 Event which may be a virtual event or a hybrid event due to Covid-19 will take place on the 26 June 12h00, please complete the entry form. ;

Be a sponsor please complete the relevant form; and

Be a volunteer for the event also complete a relevant form.

Please spread the word and like our Facebook Page in the footer of this site. Also, join us on the day it is a fun-filled family event.

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton