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South African Adventures

South Africa is full of adventure but you’ll need to do a little research to find just what you are looking for.

Often when people think about South Africa the first thing that pops into their heads are the animals they’ve heard are abundant throughout the African continent.  There are the “big five” – lions, buffalo, elephants, rhinos, and leopards as well as all kinds of other animals, birds and plants.

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For those interested in experiencing Africa’s wildlife, there are a number of ways to do this. While this guide isn’t specifically about safaris and tours, we’ll give it a mention here just to get it out of the way.

Touring in South Africa can be done in a number of different ways. You can do a drive tour on your own as many of the parks and reserves have roads through them and you can stop at lodges and rest areas along the way.  Or, choose from and book, one of the guided safaris and tours that are available on the Internet. Many people prefer going with a guide and this often means all your lodging, food and transportation are included in your tour.

There is so much more to South Africa than seeing animals.

With literally hundreds of different sporting activities and outdoor adventures, for instance sand boarding, turtle tours, steam train rides, hot air ballooning, hang gliding, whale watching, white water rafting, diving around the second largest coral reef in the world or diving with great white sharks. For those who would love an adventure, fishing in some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, there are loads of lakes, rivers and streams to choose from as well as deep sea fishing in three different oceans!

Although we couldn’t possibly fit all the adventures you might have onto these pages, we’ll list some of the activities available so you get an idea of what awaits you on the land, on the sea and in the air of South Africa.

On Land

Regardless of the land sports you might be into you’ll find it in South Africa. From the highest peaks, to white sandy beaches, dense jungle or deserts, there is something for every adventurer.

Cyclists are Welcome.

South Africa has great weather throughout the year, so cycling here is great fun. Tour trips can be cyclistsarranged so you can see some of the major cities like Durban, Cape Town and Soweto by bike, or take a more leisurely ride through the wine country, or what about challenging yourself on a rugged biking holiday in remote locations high in the mountains?

Cycling adventures can last a few hours, a day, a week or longer – whatever you choose. High quality, guided tour companies can organize your cycling tour. Daytrippers in Maitland (http://www.daytrippers.co.za) is one such company. In the business for nearly 20 years, they are fully licensed, bonded and have become one of South Africa’s leading bike tour companies. With more than 200 bikes on offer, custom trailers and buses, you can enjoy your cycling tour and the rest breaks with the all the comforts you’ll ever need.  Packages available range from 1 day riding the Cape Point Nature Trail, 3 days on the Cederber Mountain Challenge Run, a 2 week cycling tour of the wine lands; they even do a whale watching tour plus many others. Daytrippers is just one of many tour companies available to help you organize and enjoy your cycling adventure.

If rock climbing is your thing, you can do it in South Africa.

MCSA or Mountain Climbing South Africa (http://cen.mcsa.org.za) is one of the companies from which you can choose your rock climbing tour. Their primary goal is to offer each adventurer unforgettable experiences.

Traditional or ‘trad’ climbing is among the oldest form of climbing practiced in South Africa and if you choose a tour of trad climbing you’ll place your protective gear, nuts, slings and cams in the rocks as you climb. Traditionally you follow the natural cracks and lines in the rocks so your gear can be placed without bolting because to preserve the natural beauty of the landscape in some areas bolting isn’t allowed. They offer sport climbing as well as competition climbing. You get trainirock climberng on an artificial surface and once you’re ready, you’ll move onto the natural rock formations.

Another popular rock climbing adventure is ‘bouldering,’ which is great for the less experienced. Doing bouldering means climbers use small hard sections of rock that are closer to the ground. No ropes are used, but there are crash mats and spotters to help break a climber’s fall.

For those who like an off-the-beaten-path adventure, South Africa has lots to choose from.

Hidden gems are literally right under your feet in South Africa, so if you want to try a truly unique adventure, how about caving? In the same mountains that attract climbers and cyclists, there are wonderful caves to discover and explore. In the Cape Peninsula alone, there are more than 100 caves.  Table Mountain has deep cracks, often running for more than a mile underground.

If caving gets you going, here are a few of the caves that might interest you – Tartarus Cave, one of the more dangerous ones, is a fifty meter long passage with many chambers. Or perhaps, you’d rather start with an easier cave, Peers Cave near Ou Kaapse Weg in the Cape Peninsula is one such.  The trip from the parking area to the cave and back again takes around ½ hour.

Before exploring any cave on your own, make sure you contact the CPSS in South Africa. Their members are familiar with many cave systems and have the right tools and equipment. For more information on specific caves and the option to hire guides who have caving and historical knowledge, check out this link http://www.sa-venues.com/activities/caving.htm.

If nothing among the previous activities meets your requirements for fun, what about these – riding 4×4 trails, abseiling, bird Weaver birdwatching, bungee jumping, canopy tours, clay pigeon shooting, elephant back safaris, game viewing, hiking, horse racing, horseback riding, kloofing (descending by various means into a deep ravine or watercourse, wet or dry), mountain biking, mountain climbing, ostrich rides, pony trekking, quad biking, rapp jumping (similar to abseiling), rhino tracking, rock climbing, running, sand boarding, skateboarding, steam train rides, turtle tours or walking safaris.

And, of course, this isn’t all there is to do on land – how about doing some shopping, enjoying fine dining, vineyard exploring, or luxuriating at a spa?  South Africa has it all.

In / On the Water

There are also lots of water-related activities, with rivers, lakes and 3 oceans to play on. On the east coast of the Indian Ocean the water is warm and inviting. To the south, the Antarctic Ocean offers wonderful opportunities to see plentiful marine life. The Atlantic Ocean offers diving and surfing activities, deep sea fishing and even a chance to see the world famous Galapagos Island where Charles Darwin studied the animals that inspired him to write about the origins of the world’s species.

Durban and the surrounding Archipelago, have always been a mecca for those seeking fun in the sun.

There are literally hundreds of tiny islands to explore, many accessible only by boat. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to see a number of species of dolphin and whales as they migrate to and from their feeding/breeding grounds. Sea turtles come onto the beaches to lay their eggs. Sharks, including some of the most aggressive – Great White, Tiger and Hammerhead – are abundant in the water along the eastern coast of South Africa.

One of the most popular water activities is sport fishing.  With almost 3,000 kilometers or 1865 miles of coastline and 15% of the world’s known species of fish and marine wildlife living in these waters, just think of fly fishing, deep sea fishing, surf fishing, fishing from a kayak or just watching these wonderful creatures in their own habitat. Some of the big fish you are likely to encounter are tuna, sailfish and barracuda.

Permits are required and there are a number of charter boats available in all the major port cities. You have IBY Charters out man with fishof Port Elizabeth on the Eastern Cape, Hakuna Matata Charters in Durban and Classic Cape Charters sailing out of Cape Town. These companies offer a wide variety of services, use state of the art ships as well as catamarans. You can go out on a day trip, spend the weekend or longer out on the water.

It isn’t just the seas that attract sports fisherman either, you can also enjoy river and lake fishing for bass, trout and carp. If you are interested in fly fishing, some popular areas are the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal Midlands and the Province of Mpumulanga. These areas have large mountain ranges, both brown and rainbow trout flourish here. As many of these areas are accessible only by four wheel drive vehicles, the natural beauty of the landscape is preserved.

We could go on and on about all the great places to fish while in South Africa, but this guide is about all sorts of different sports adventures that await the traveler.

Another of the major attractions on offer is diving. Two major currents run along the three thousand kilometers of coastline. The Mozambique Agulhas flows south along the eastern and southern coastlines and the Benguela System flows north out of the Antarctic Ocean up to Angola.

While these two contrasting currents account for the differences in the vegetation on the two coastlines, they have quite an impact on the marine life as well. The colder western waters bring in more phosphates, plankton and are much richer in oxygen than the warmer waters of the eastern coast. Whichever coastal waters you decide upon, you will find plentiful opportunities to see sharks, whales, dolphins and over 1200 different species of fish. You will also be able to explore sunken ships, the coral reef and the archipelago on the east coast.

Dive centers have a number of organized activities from day trips to the coral reef to week long excursions to see great whitesshark and whale sharks. Check out the Internet for the companies and resources available.

Whether you are into floating leisurely along watching the landscape or braving class three rapids that can only be found on certain days of the year, there are many exciting white water rafting trips available in South Africa.

You could travel on the little known Bivane River that flows near the Ithala Game Reserve, seeing some of the awe inspiring scenery and abundant wildlife. Or, travel the Vaal River near Parys, the Ash river near Clarens. In KwaZulu-Natal, there are four inspiring rivers, the Pongola, the Mkonazi, Umzimkulu, and the mighty Tugela. You could take a more challenging adventures or a less strenuous trip, rough it along  side the river or sleep in a 5-star accommodation – it’s your choice. A whitewater rafting trip can be just the thing for business groups to bond, families, couples, even honeymooners.

These are just some of the many different water adventures available in South Africa. If you are interested, go whale watching along the Garden Route or watch the elusive Southern Right Whale, humpbacks and even killer whales which have been known to play near Plettenberg Bay.

Check out websites for the sea expeditions that will enable you to see great white sharks breaching as they hunt for their favorite food – sea lions. Book day trips or multi-day packages many of which include food and lodging and can get you to some of the most remote and secluded places in South Africa.

If none of the water activities whetted your appetite, how about these – board sailing, canoeing, crocodile cave diving, deep sea crocks diving, kite surfing, para-sailing, power boating, river cruises, sailing (yachting), sea kayaking, seal trips, shark cage diving, snorkeling, spear fishing, sunset cruises, surfing, tubing (floating on a large inner tube on the current, down river rapids or being towed behind a speed boat or jetski), water skiing or white water rafting.

Air Adventures

One of the best ways to see the landscape while traveling around South Africa, is from the air. There are quite a few ways to see this beautiful country by air and engaging in the other airborne sporting activities that are on offer. Again, with so many to choose from, there is no way to cover them all, but we’ll mention a few to whet your appetite.

While you can get great enjoyment from going on a ground safari, there is just no comparison to a hot air balloon safari. hot-air-balloonDrifting high above the land, you let the winds carry you over some of the most amazing landscapes imaginable.

You get a bird’s eye view of the animals, without disturbing them. Instead of seeing just a few animals, you’ll see whole herds of giraffe, bison and springbok. See families of elephants as they frolic at their favorite watering hole. Or, how about floating gently on the breeze over the wine country of the Paarl region and seeing the sun rise or set over the vast acres of vineyards.

Balloon trips are available in Durban, with which you’ll fly over the Drakensberg Mountains. You can find the peace and tranquility you want in Klein Karoo or balloon around the southern tip of Africa, around Cape Town and Table Mountain.

Get your organized tour just inside the Orpen Gate at Kruger National Park or from the Otters Den River Lodge which is located at the foot of the Drakensberg Escarpment; they offer an number of balloon safari packages.

You’ll have to get up early to see the big game animals and other wildlife. Balloons fly over Tshukudu, the Kapama Game Reserve, as well as other lodges. Once you’ve gotten a map from the main lodge, you’ll drive to one of the launch sites. Coffee is provided and you get to watch the 8 story balloon as it is being inflated. While waiting, you’re given a short safety course, then the flight begins as the sun rises.

What opportunities are there for thrill seekers looking for extreme sports?

Around Cape Town you can  do some paragliding if you happen to have an hour or two to kill.  Parapax (http://www.parapax.com), offers paragliding tandem-style or singles depending on your experience, plus numerous flights over South Africa including Cape Town and the Wine Country.

Paragliding tours can last for 1-2 hours or half a day and it’s not just for those with experience, newbies can join in too. You’ll always be flying with experienced guides.  One hour flights can start in the mountains around Cape Town and land in fields or on beaches like Camps Bay.

If you want an experience of a lifetime, why not try the Bloukran Bungee Jump on the lovely Garden Route. This adrenaline- Garden Routepumped plummet with send you headfirst 216 meters straight to the bottom of the gorge. Because of the height a full body harness is used. Surprisingly, when combined with ‘pendulum bungee technology’ it can be quite comfortable.

For those less experienced or not looking for a heart attack, there is always the old Gouritz Bridge just outside Mussel Bay on Highway N2.  At just 65 meters high, it is an ideal spot for beginners and tandem jumpers and you can jump feet first which makes it easier to get going.

If jumping off a perfectly good bridge isn’t your idea of fun, you could try the Bridge Swing which is just as exhilarating, but not as scary. While there are not a lot of places to enjoy this sport, where they are located, the quality of the jumping experience more than makes up for it. There are a number of other places, from the Kings Kloof Bridge to the 1493 meter Big Swing at Graskop. The Bloukrans Bridge is also close by for bungee jumping experiences.

For real thrills seekers, nothing beats sky diving.

Jumping out of a plane over South Africa is probably one of the most thrilling and enjoyable things you could do.  While the first few times you’ll probably scream your head off, after a couple of trips, you’ll relax enough to enjoy the scenery from a place from which few others ever see it. On the Cape Town skydiving excursion, for example, in one go you will see Table Mountain and the Harbor, False Bay, Robben Island, and Langebaan Lagoon.

Even if you have never been skydiving before, there are a number of flight opportunities and schools. If you are not THAT adventurous, but still want a real thrill, why not try zip lines? These are popping up all over the world. What are they? Put simply, zip lines enable a person to soar from one canopy to another, across canyons and other bits of landscape. The launch and landing platforms are usually reached by climbing high up ladders or going from one bridge to another. During a zip line adventure, you could easily take as many as 10 different zip lines in just one trip.

Skydiving gives you the chance for a bird’s eye view of South Africa’s scenery, animals and plants, all with the “comfort” and Elephant familysafety of a full body harness and being clipped to a steel line. One of the spots where this sort of adventure happens is in the Tsitsikamma Coastal National Park.

And if none of that gets your heart pumping, how about one of these – hang gliding, helicopter flips or micro-lighting?

Conclusion

As you can see, whatever your preference for a thrill-packed holiday, South Africa has something for everyone. From the more sedate to the downright mad, you’ll find ways you never dreamed of enjoying your time in South Africa. Pick your sport or activity, do some research, book your tickets and come visit South Africa.  You’ll go home a changed man or woman!

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