By Keri Harvey
We live in a land where adventure is everywhere—land, sea and air. You can do barrel rolls high over Joburg, zip slide in the heart of Durban, or exhaust yourself at the mere thought of all the Cape has to offer. Without trying too hard, you can adventure all the way through summer. Here are some ideas.
When in Gauteng
There are plenty of aerial options up north, from BARREL ROLLING in an aerobatics plane over the city—you’re not the pilot because you need to hold on tight—to BUNGEE JUMPING off the 100m, zanily painted Orlando cooling towers in Soweto.
Still in the city, a new use for mine dumps is to SANDBOARD down them at high speed, followed by a slower walk up again. It happens in Benoni and tuition is available on site, so you don’t need to be a pro to try.
Others may prefer to descend into the depths at BAT CAVE at the Cradle of Humankind. Caving here offers an extreme subterranean adventure, which is guaranteed to be cool, quiet and close to the earth.
Heading North West
SCUBA DIVING doesn’t happen only in the ocean. Imagine jumping into the water against the backdrop of the Magaliesberg, and marvelling at endemic freshwater fish species. You can dive at Bokfontein, near Brits, hundreds of kilometres from the ocean. It’s for beginners and advanced divers, too.
If you prefer staying dry, but don’t mind getting dirty, take on the MARAKELE 4X4 ECO TRAIL. It’s a three-day, two-night, wilderness-on-
wheels experience inside the national park and led by an expert guide. It’s extreme 4x4 and not for sissies.
Madikwe Game Reserve is for everybody and offers some of the best WILD DOG VIEWING in the country. These endangered carnivores are arguably the most successful hunters of all, so seeing them in their natural habitat is a must for wildlife enthusiasts.
Scuba diving – www.dirtyboots.co.za
Marakele 4x4 eco trail – www.sanparks.co.za/parks/marakele/tourism/4x4_eco_trail.php
Madikwe – www.madikwegamereserve.co.za
Living It Up in Limpopo
A MICROLIGHT TRIP over the Limpopo bushveld will clear your head and get your blood pumping warm. It’s also a unique way to see the area and even view wildlife from above.
A wildlife experience closer to ground level is an ELEPHANT-BACK SAFARI at Kapama Private Game Reserve. They pioneered this popular experience for their guests in South Africa and also welcome day visitors.
If you overnight in the reserve, you could do a BUSH SLEEPOUT too—sleeping in a king-sized bed under mosquito netting, on a raised platform, and surrounded by wilderness.
Mashatu reserve offers an UNDERGROUND WILDLIFE EXPERIENCE, to photograph wildlife from a subterranean hide. It’s where last year’s World Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Greg du Toit, got his winning shot of elephants from ground level.
Microlight trips – www.golimpopo.com
Elephant-back safaris and bush sleepout – www.kapama.co.za
Mashatu photo safaris – www.c4images-safaris.co.za
Place of the Rising Sun: Mpumalanga
It takes only between two and three seconds to FALL 18 STOREYS. But you can do this safely, and in an upright position, if you step off the platform and jump into an otherwise unremarkable gorge near Graskop. It’s guaranteed you’ll be fully alert when it’s over.
CUSTOM-DESIGNED TUBES are used for adrenalin-fuelled trips down the Blyde, Sabie and Olifants rivers—all magnificent and unpolluted. It’s a racy river trip and a completely different experience from being in a canoe or kayak.
To explore Mpumalanga’s dramatically beautiful scenery up close, go QUAD BIKING through mountains, valleys and forests. From slow, scenic rides for the family to fast and furious, the trails are all unique, and all picturesque. There’s also a 120km marked route and a 160km forest ride to enjoy.
Gorge bungee jumping – www.graskop.co.za/adventure/#gorgeswing
Endless Summer in KZN
Before leaving Durban for adventures beyond, zip across the Moses Mabhida Stadium on the BIG RUSH SWING—from one side of the stadium to the other. Or for less of a rush, take the SKYCARthat runs on rails to the top of the 106m high arch and view Durban from the very top of the stadium.
The North Coast is for true nature lovers and summer is high season there. HUMPBACK WHALEScan be seen from mid-May to mid-December with registered whale-watching boat operator, Advantage Cruises. They launch out of St Lucia and collect whale data from sightings, too—so it’s a full-blown whale experience.
Even further up the coast, around Mabibi, are the TURTLE BEACHES. Leatherback and loggerhead turtles lay their eggs on these beaches from mid-October to mid-December, and the little turtles hatch and scurry back to the ocean from January to March. To see this rare wildlife spectacle, visit Rocktail Beach Camp or Thonga Beach Lodge and take a guided tour. They also do ongoing turtle monitoring and conservation.
Big Rush Swing and SkyCar – www.mmstadium.com
Whale watching – www.advantagetours.co.za
Turtle tracking – www.wilderness-safaris.com; www.isibindiafrica.co.za/mabibi
Place of Antiquity—the Free State
The biggest meteor impact crater on earth is at Vredefort Dome in the Free State. For intrepid HIKERS there are 60km of trails criss-crossing this unusual World Heritage Site—some are circular and take just a few hours; others take a day or two, or as many as five. Trails range from easy to difficult and there’s SAN ROCK ART to see, too.
Dinosaur enthusiasts should head directly to Clarens. Unique FOSSIL-HUNTING TRIPS happen there, where plenty of dinosaur and fish fossils have been found, along with dinosaur eggs. It’s an invigorating step back into prehistory.
The eastern Free State is prime MOUNTAIN BIKING terrain amidst sandstone cliffs with rivers running between them. Free and paid trails are on offer through farms and conservancies—from 11 to 44km long, ranging from easy to downright tough.
Vredefort Dome hiking – www.tourismnorthwest.co.za
Clarens Fossil Tours – Tel: 058 256 1314 (Gideon or David)
Mountain biking – www.clarensxtreme.co.za
Enigmatic Eastern Cape
TREETOPS CANOPY TOURS started in Tsitsikamma and remain wildly popular. You swing through the lush tree canopy to land on aerial platforms, while all safely strapped in and attached to the steel zip line. If ever you wanted a Tarzan and Jane experience, this is it. Bloukrans Bridge nearby boasts the WORLD’S HIGHEST BUNGEE JUMP,and the operator, Face Adrenalin, has an impeccable safety record. If you’re going to jump, this is as extreme as it gets. And as safe.
At Samara Private Game Reserve, near Graaf-Reinet, TRACKING AND WALKING WITH WILD CHEETAH is a unique offering. Tracking is by vehicle using telemetry, and then there’s also time on foot, walking wherever the cheetah leads.
Treetop canopy tours – www.stormsriver.com
Bungee jumping – www.faceadrenalin.com
Cheetah tracking (advance booking essential) – www.samara.co.za
Wild Times in the Western Cape
Langebaan on the West Coast doesn’t just have a long beach and a massive lagoon, but also a lot of onshore wind, making it ideal for KITE BOARDING. There’s also a kite surfing school if you want to learn, and to earn very strong arms.
Crocodile Dundee enthusiasts can now CAGE DIVE WITH 4M-LONG NILE CROCODILES near Oudtshoorn. It’s as close as you can get to the prehistoric predator without becoming a snack, as the cage you will be in is purportedly croc-proof.
Far more sedate is clambering over rocks and into CAVES in the Cederberg to see ancient San rock art. The Sevilla Rock Art Trail is about 5km long, and follows the Brandewyn River to nine sites—all completely different and well worth the climb. Take along water and your camera.
Crocodile cage diving – www.cango.co.za
Kite surfing – www.kitelab.co.za
Sevilla Rock Art Trail – www.travellersrest.co.za
Arid Beauty of the Northern Cape
Imagine seeing the arid vastness of the northern Cape, then the Orange River, vineyards, and a gushing waterfall in the middle of it. It’s magnificent, but from a HOT AIR BALLOON it’s just surreal. Yes, it’s gently adventurous, but offers a unique experience of wafting weightless above earth—as well as a new perspective of Augrabies Falls.
Near Kimberley is a swathe of unremarkable TUMBLED ROCKS, strewn across a large area. If you look a little closer, you’ll see an ancient outdoor-art exhibition. Over 400 ancient petroglyphs are engraved on a field of stones at Wildebeest Kuil, and are thought to be almost 2 000 years old. Most engravings are of animals—along with unknown symbols which are still being deciphered.
CAMELS are alive and well and living in the Northern Cape—and you can ride them at Koppieskraal Guest Farm. The camels were used to patrol the Kalahari before 4x4s were in use; now they have an easier life. Trips from half a day to overnight are offered—or a 101km endurance ride for diehards.
Hot air ballooning at Augrabies – www.experiencenortherncape.com
Wildebeest Kuil petroglyphs – www.wildebeestkuil.itgo.com
Camel rides – Tel: 083 564 4613 or 082 336 9110; email: email@example.com
Whatever speaks to your spirit of adventure or tickles your adrenalin button, do it now. You will be living your passion while pushing back fear to the furthest reaches.