Putting their bodies on the line – correction – down the river

Filed in Spirit by on August 31, 2015 • views: 2058

Andrew Chin and Henko Roukema: ‘Rivers for Life

Andrew Chin (46) and Henko Roukema (24) are going to swim the length of the Berg River from source to mouth (290km) in 10 days to raise awareness on the issue of fresh water pollution in South Africa.

Andrew has committed to swimming a river (minimum 100km) in each province for this cause and has already swum the Wilge River in the Freestate a few months ago.


Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rivers-for-Life/1429604643990439

I met them quite aptly at The River Club in Observatory to learn more about this and what makes them tick.

Andrew Chin an accomplished long distance and ice water swimmer has the following swims under belt (or should that be his speedo)

  • Bering Strait, Alaska, Straits of Magellan, Cape Horn
  • Length of Orange River (in sections over a 4 year period), Wilge River – Freestate
  • Cape Point, Antarctica and Alcatraz


Henko Roukema, the younger member is an adventurer in his own right and has known Andrew since his High School days

  • Member of Mike Horn’s Young Explorers Programme
  • Ice Swimming, Long distance cycling (+1000 km) and Rock/ice Climbing
  • Expedition through the Canadian Arctic for 1.5 months


Andrew grew up in the Freestate and in the centre of his town is a  river where he and his mates spent every free minute after school time. Returning to his home town a few years ago, this same river that brought him hours of pleasure as a youngster was fenced off due to pollution. This was the catalyst that created the cause: ‘Rivers for Life’.

15585_10151201571240945_287571671_nOn their swims, they raise awareness to the devastating effects of pollution. This can be caused by farmers, industry and even individual members of the public. “Water in South Africa is a finite resource and we are far too flippant about this” – Andrew says to me. “It is easy for us too forget, because water simply comes out of a tap”.  (not)

 “The long term effect is eventually going to filter into our oceans. We need to act today.”


I questioned how 2 people swimming down a river is going to create this awareness?
“The chances are very good that we are going to get sick” – “When we get sick, then people will hopefully take note and see the immensity of the problem we face in South Africa”

“On my swim down the Wilge River, a farmer stopped us and said that he does not even allow his cattle to drink from the river. Around the next bend, we saw raw sewerage being pumped into the river. A phone call to a couple of journalists and action was taken. We found out later that this sewerage stream was cut off the minute it went public” (PS: Andrew did get sick on his Wilge River swim and felt the effects for 10 days after finishing)

What Andrew and Henko are doing may only be a small drop in a big pond. But I am betting the ripple effect of what they are doing will travel far and long and with time, we the public of South Africa will stop being so flippant about our most important resource: WATER

11866472_1642246622726239_3538170857293015191_nThe Berg River (also called Great Berg River or in Afrikaans: Bergrivier) is a river located just north of Cape Town in the Western Cape Province of South Africa.

It is approximately 294 km (183 mi) long with a catchment area of 7,715 km² (2979 mi²) and outlets into the Atlantic Ocean.

About 65% of the Berg River area is under agriculture. The major towns in the Berg River area are Velddrif and Laaiplek near the coast, Piketberg, Hopefield, Moorreesburg and Darling further inland, and Wellington and Paarl in the upper catchment.

The lead source of the Berg River is south of Franschhoek in the Drakenstein Mountains.

Andrew Chin will be teaming up with Henko Roukema for the swim. The swim will take approximately 10 days, depending on conditions of the river.


They will depart on their swim at the Bergriversnek Dam on the 14th of October and plan to finish 10 days later in Velddrif. You can follow them on their Facebook Page: Rivers for Life and if you feel you can assist with any thing, I urge you contact these two awesome ambassadors for our South African rivers.


“Thanks Folks, we need you to get behind us to make the swims worth while, we going to be putting ourselves into water you would choose not to swim in. Reason: We want our children to be able to make the choice to swim in them as well without the associated current risks. And then there is the drinking, watering , environmental stuff as well……..”


The least we can do is share their story and spread the word.

 Andrew and Henko: You both are AWESOME South Africans.


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