THE BEST EXTREME ADVENTURES IN SOUTH AFRICA
When it comes to extreme adventures there is nowhere in the world to rival South Africa.
With high mountains, raging rivers, deserts, dense forests, plains alive with big game and over 3,000 kilometres of coastline, the southernmost country in Africa boasts a vast number of high octane adventures that are guaranteed to get the adrenalin pumping through your veins.
If aerial adventures are your thing leap off a bridge with only a bungee cord around your ankles to arrest the plunge; scream in fear and delight as you swing off bridges or high wires into deep gorges; feel the rush as you zipline over the ocean or forest; brave a freefall into a system of nets strung across the inside of a cooling tower; abseil off sheer, overhanging cliffs; skydive out of tiny planes; paraglide off high ridges or golden dunes or sign up for stomach-churning flights in acrobatic planes.
Many of these thrills are record holders – Gauteng is home to the world’s highest Suspended Catch Air Device (SCAD) freefall, KwaZulu-Natal has the world’s highest gorge swing and the fastest cable tour in southern Africa, the Original Extreme Zip Slide in North West was the world’s longest, highest and fastest zip slide for its first 6 years of operation while the adrenalin highs of the Eastern Cape include Africa’s only SkyWalk Tour and the third highest bungee in the world.
With momentous surf generated in the fringing Atlantic and Indian oceans and roaring rivers tumbling to the sea from its mountainous interior, South Africa offers fresh water and marine thrills aplenty. Running massive river rapids is exhilarating whether you’re in six-person rafts, plastic kayaks or one-person, inflatable tubes.
Kloofing, or canyoning as it’s known in the rest of the world, is arguably even more extreme. Popular in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and the Western Cape it entails compulsory jumps into brown, tannin-stained pools, abseiling down waterfalls and swimming through deep pools. The coastal equivalent – coasteering – involves scrambling over rocky promontories, jumping into the choppy seas and swimming across wild bays.
South Africa has the biggest and most radical surf break on the continent, though inexperienced daredevils might want to start off on the country’s predictable, mellow rolling waves! Daring SCUBA divers can expect intimate encounters with various species of shark, rays, whales and other denizens of the deep while the unqualified can snorkel with seals and eyeball sharks and crocodiles from the relative safety of a cage. Perfect wind conditions and gorgeous beaches and lagoons have made South Africa a kite-surfing and wind-foiling Mecca and there are numerous centres where you can try your hand at these fast, high adrenalin wind sports.
South Africa is world renowned as an extreme cycling destination. There are numerous spots where you can test your courage and mountain biking skills on gnarly downhills, but the ultimate rush is in Cape Town and KwaZulu-Natal’s dramatic Drakensberg mountains where you’re whisked by helicopter to 2,000m before hitting the trail. Breath taking in every sense! And if fast downhill adventures are your addiction sandboarding down high dunes is epic.
Complete novices (who aren’t vertically challenged!) can scare themselves silly by scaling the country’s precipitous cliffs and iconic peaks on roped adventures with experienced rock climbers. Spelunkers will find plenty of adrenalin rushes in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, North West and the Western Cape where extreme caving guides lead the way into deep subterranean caverns and fissures. Abseil in if you dare before squeezing and crawling through pitch black, narrow passages.
The list goes on…
Although by definition taking part in extreme pursuits carries risk, skilled, top-notch operators and guides ensure that in South Africa the highest standards of safety are maintained: adventure virgins are welcome! All equipment is provided and no prior experience is generally required. And if you’re seriously hooked by a new adventure then experienced instructors will teach you the skills to get your next fix.
The weather is reliable and extreme adventures in South Africa are generally quickly and easily accessible. The good news is that they’re also extremely good value. But what seals South Africa as the planet’s number one destination for adrenalin addicts is that, unlike many other countries, extreme adventures in South Africa are not all clustered in one location.
Sure, there are world famous hotspots where the concentrated array of extreme adventures means that, if time is tight you can be on an adrenalin high for days without going further afield. Alternatively you can map out your own extreme adventure tours that will take you to high adrenalin locations the length and breadth of the country.
For the sheer number and variety of extreme adventures there is simply nowhere to touch South Africa: the only limit is how much adrenalin you can withstand!
1. Kloofing Suicide Gorge
The name of this stunning gorge deep in the Cape’s Riviersonderend Mountains gives a good idea of what to expect from this adventure. It’s a big day out that includes some tough hiking through pristine fynbos before setting off down the gorge where you’ll tackle jumps, some of them compulsory, of up to 14-meters.
2. Bungee Jumping at Bloukrans Bridge
First a zip line to the launch site and an introduction to the jaw-dropping exposure you are about to plummet into. Then a 216-meter jump into the dizzyingly deep and spectacularly beautiful Bloukrans Gorge in the Garden Route. One of our first instinctive things to avoid as humans are falling. So Bungee jumping will always be a deep dive headfirst into scary!
3. River Rafting Clarens
Every list of extreme adventures must include some wild and wonderful white water rafting. The Ash River in Clarens sports some classic grade 3 and 4 rapids and maintains a consistently high level of water. There’s nothing quite like bucking, twisting, and lurching through roaring water and working as a team to keep your raft from tossing you into the maelstrom.
4. Skydive Cape Town
Freefall at 230km/h and experience a rush to shake up every fibre in your body! A tandem skydive allows you to go from earth-bound novice to highflyer in a matter of hours. While you’re falling through the sky near Cape Town, feeling totally out of control, your experienced tandem pilot will be keeping everything together, as cool as a cucumber.
5. Caving in Eswatini
The dark underbelly of the world calls to many adventurers and Gobholo Cave in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) offers huge scope for those who like to hang out with bats. Our caving adventure operators will guide you through part of this vast granite cave system (98% remains unexplored) where you’ll slither, crawl, slide and twist through a spectacular labyrinth of rock with all necessary gear and instruction.
6. Big Swing or Gorge Swing at Oribi Gorge
On the South Coast of South Africa, the world’s highest gorge swing awaits the committed extreme adventurer who wants to keep adding to their list of longest, highest, fastest, and steepest experiences! Leaping off a cliff next to a rushing waterfall, you’ll swing in an arc of over 100-meters (33-storey’s) finally coming to rest in the beautiful Oribi Gorge.
7. Heli Mountain Biking in the Drakensberg
The breathtakingly beautiful Drakensberg Mountains is a big adventure country for climbers, hikers, and mountain bikers! And it just got a whole lot more extreme for competent mountain bikers. Take a helicopter ride with your bike up to 2000-meter elevation and take full advantage of the open ridge paths, rock gardens, and super steep and fast singletrack.
8. Abseiling Lesotho
The king of all abseils in the Mountain Kingdom! This 204-meter abseil down the side of Maletsunyane Falls in Lesotho will blow your mind not just for the sheer length of the abseil but also for the remoteness and beauty of the location.
9. Mossel Bay Zip line
The Garden Route’s Mossel Bay offers adrenalin seekers an extreme zipline experience to rival the very best outdoor adventures! Imagine soaring over sea cliff’s and across wild and treacherous Indian Ocean rollers on a zipline so long (1.1-kilometers) that you can’t see where it ends. You’ll be wheeling with seabirds and, on big swell days, dragging your feet through the white crests of waves!
10. SCAD in Soweto
Get your quick fix of extreme adventure without even leaving the city! In the supercool urban environment of Soweto, Scad Soweto Towers will give you a free fall experience to rival your most hectic falling nightmare. You’ll rise towards the light at the top of the Western Cooling Tower, hang suspended there just long enough to get your heart rate pounding and then drop like a stone into a giant net!