Discover the various extreme activities available throughout South Africa.
Being cursed with an adventurous spirit and an indomitable will to try anything new, I constantly find myself searching for anything that’ll get the adrenalin going and the heart pounding. Living in the city, though, one sometimes has to search a little harder to find one’s thrills.
There are plenty of exciting and exhilarating activities to be found within some of our largest cities. The best thing about many of these is that you get to experience the city from a completely new and unique perspective.
So after bungee jumping, sliding down sand dunes, jumping off mountains and diving with sharks, I’ve come up with a list of my top adventures that you can do in the city or as a day trip over the weekend.
Even if you don’t live in one of these cities, you can still do some research and are likely to find plenty of kicks right in your own backyard.
CAPE TOWN, WESTERN CAPE
Sandboarding has been around since the time of the Egyptians and has since been revived and refined to be enjoyed by people of all ages, sizes and experience. Grouped together in the same family as snowboarding, surfing and skating – none of which I’m experienced in – I like to think of it as the more approachable cousin that requires enthusiasm instead of skill, making it the perfect activity for everyone to enjoy.
Taking place in Atlantis, just a short drive out of Cape Town, sandboarding is a fantastic adventure in the sense that everyone can do it in their own time, learn at their own pace, with no pressure – but lots of guaranteed laughs.
If you’re quite adept at it and advance quickly, you can move further up the dune and still enjoy it together with your novice buddies. Unlike snowboarding that involves great skill as well as lifts and long runs, and wakeboarding which can only be enjoyed alone behind a boat – sandboarding is the ultimate social adventure for friends or for a family outing.
Times: Daily, by appointment
SHARK CAGE DIVING
One of South Africa’s most popular adventures is shark cage diving with one of nature’s most feared predators – the great white shark. People travel from all over the world to experience this in Cape Town, which has become known as the great white capital of the world.
A mere day trip out of the Mother City and before you know it, you’re in the water, eye to eye with this enormous creature – truly an exhilarating, awe-inspiring and thrilling experience.
You don’t need a diving certification to enjoy this adventure. You’ll be given a full body wetsuit, weight belt, booties and face mask and then all you have to do is muster up the courage to submerge yourself in the chilly Cape Town waters and face “Jaws”.
Besides being nerve-tingling, shark cage diving is also humbling and educational – giving you some understanding of these massive fish. And even if you don’t have the nerve to jump into the cage, you can still enjoy fantastic views from the top deck while delighting in a light lunch.
Times: Daily, weather dependent (sightings better in winter)
Cost: R1 300
If you could experience the feel of flying, wouldn’t it be at the top of your bucket list? Paragliding off Signal Hill in Cape Town must be the closest thing you can get to soaring over the city like a bird.
As the gentle slope of Signal Hill drops away beneath your feet and you become airborne, your heart stops for an instant. Following the contours of the hill, you get incredible views of Lion’s Head, Table Mountain and the Atlantic Seaboard – you’ve never before seen Cape Town from this angle! You soar downward and suddenly your instructor levels out and you’re directly above the city, spanning out below you like a surreal Legoland with little toy cars driving through the gridiron.
You need no prior experience or training to go tandem paragliding, and even the landing is graceful with the expertise of your instructors from Fly Cape Town. Enjoy the rush, the panoramic view, the silence – and savour the feel of flying!
Times: Weather dependent
Experiencing Johannesburg from 10 000 feet above is a heart-stopping, take-your-breath-away, blood-pumping adventure that will stay with you forever – it’s an adrenalin rush of note!
A tandem jump is the easiest way to enjoy this incredible sensation and requires no experience or training. Attached with a special harness to your instructor, just take a very deep breath, count down from 10 and launch yourself into the air.
Get ready for the amazing 40-second freefall as you plummet toward the city below. With your heart in your throat, you’re relieved when the instructor finally pulls the ripcord to deploy the parachute and you can relax and have time to enjoy the view as you glide slowly back down to earth. You will help the instructor guide the parachute to a designated drop zone and finally touch down. Completely hyped, I guarantee you’ll be raring to get back in the plane and jump again!
Securely strapped to your tandem master, you’ll always feel safe and secure – even when travelling at 120mph. This experience will be one of the most thrilling of your life and is the ultimate in city adventure.
Times: By appointment, weather dependent
Cost: R1 750–R2 650 (including video footage and photographs)
With no prior experience, boat or equipment needed, simply show up with enthusiasm, grab a handle and hit the water. Cable skiing is fun, whether you’re an experienced athlete or a first-timer looking for some adrenalin-charged fun.
With 800m of aerial cable and a series of daunting jumps, StokeCity WakePark is fully equipped for a thrilling day. The park offers wakeboarding, wakeskating, kneeboarding and waterskiing.
The cable system can pull up to nine riders at a time, and if you fall it is just a quick swim to shore before walking back to the dock and starting again.
Times: Open 6 days a week; weekdays from 12pm to 6pm and weekends from 10am to 6pm
Orlando Towers is Joburg’s hottest adventure attraction and the epitome of adventure in the city.
Developed on the site of the disused Orlando cooling towers in Soweto, Skyriders’ vertical adventure facility is aimed at adventure enthusiasts with a taste for bungee jumping, power swing, abseiling, SCAD (suspended catch air device) freefall and more.
Besides the adrenalin sports, the view of Soweto from the top of the towers is incredible and a memorable experience in itself.
The bungee bridge is suspended between the two towers and is 100m above the ground – so before you even jump, you already have a thrilling walk to the platform. With the incredible panorama of Soweto and Joburg greeting you, you’ll barely hear the countdown before jumping off the bridge.
Bungee jumping is an electrifying yet terrifying adventure – what better way to experience these contrasting emotions than at such a local and proudly South African site.
Times: Friday to Sunday, 10am to sunset
A must for all daredevils is the Umkomaas River just outside Durban. Rafting in a two-man inflatable canoe, getting up close and personal with the rapids, is more gripping than you ever would’ve imagined.
It is white-knuckling negotiating the twists and turns of the river and mastering the white-water rapids. In between the rapids, on the quieter sections of the river, you can rest a moment to take in the spectacular views.
With no less than grade 2 and 3 rapids, the day trip is suitable and safe for beginners and those with little experience. Perfect for team building, the whole family, a group of friends or just an adventurous double date – river rafting on the notorious Umkomaas River is enthralling, to say the least.
Times: By appointment
Cost: R450 for a half day and R550 for a full day
The Karkloof Canopy Tour® is a unique eco-experience that takes you on a two-hour journey through the magnificent Karkloof indigenous forest, sliding from one platform to the next along a series of steel cables set amid magnificent natural surroundings. The tour comprises nine platforms and eight slides that zigzag down a pristine forested valley. You get to experience the beauty of the scenery and the incredible birdlife in their natural habitat, and at a height you wouldn’t normally reach.
The guides are fantastic and provide interesting facts about the forest ecology and the birds and wildlife as they lead you through the tour. Accompanied by the exhilaration of sliding in among the trees high above the ground, this is the perfect eco-adventure!
It’s suitable for all ages – the youngest ever to have experienced the tour was three years old and the oldest 90 – so, as long as you love nature and adventure, this is for you!
Come experience one of South Africa’s fastest-growing and exclusive eco-adventures and join the thousands of satisfied thrill-seekers who’ve already caught the bug.
Times: Daily, from 8h30am to 2pm
Cost: R495 per person
Just 15 north of Durban, you can escape to the wide-open seas with Casea Charters. When looking for an adventure in the city, there’s nothing quite like the challenge of some deep-sea fishing.
Not only can you trey and reel in one of the seasonal fish, but you can take in the beautiful views of Durban and its surrounds from a different perspective.
All-year round you can catch rock cod, salmon and reds and during the summer months you can catch a wide variety of game fish such king mackerel (cuda), queen mackerel (‘Natal snoek’), dorado, kingfish, queenfish, sailfish, marlin and three types of tuna – yellow fin, East Coast and sada sada. In the winter months you can still find tuna and queen mackerel, but the main target is garrick, a very strong fighting fish that makes for an exciting catch.
Deep-sea fishing is suitable for all ages and adventure seekers – even the launching and landing are exciting as the boats push off and onto the beach through the waves!
Times: By appointment, weather dependent
Cost: R1 250 per boat