By Staff Writer
People travel to different places for different reasons. Some are looking for history or local culture, others for scenery or wildlife, health and wellness, or just to spend lazy days on palm-fringed beaches with a cocktail in hand.
And others are looking for adventure and action…the adrenalin rush and sheer excitement of taking on and beating the next outrageous challenge.
In the latter department, South Africa is the adrenalin junkie’s undisputed paradise.
The country’s warm, sunny climate, its geographic and topographic features, its wide open spaces, and the fact that its natural attributes range from varying oceanic and coastal conditions, to rivers, mountains, forests, arid semi-desert plains, desert dunes and more, makes it a natural home for outdoor sports and adventure. Thrown into the mix are many man-made features and facilities that add to the range of options on offer. On top of it all South Africans love the outdoors and all the action, adventure and challenges associated with it.
Some of the best surfing conditions in the world are found along our coast, regardless of whether for regular, body board or big wave surfing. Not only do these surfing spots offer quality waves and conditions, but they are usually located in places of much natural beauty. Many excellent surfing destinations come to mind, such as Jeffrey’s Bay (J-Bay to surfers), which has several superb surfing spots, among them the world-famous Super Tubes, and where international competitions such as the Billabong Pro are hosted.
Dungeons, at Hout Bay, Cape Town, is legendary among big wave surfers who once a year do battle with giant waves here in the local leg of the Red Bull Big Wave Competition. There are many other excellent surfing spots at Elands Bay on the West Coast, or the various beaches at and around Durban, where former world champion Shaun Tomson grew up, or Long Beach and Kommetjie at Cape Town, Muizenberg, Big Bay, Melkbosstrand, Mossel Bay with its Inner and Outer Pools, Victoria Bay (Vic Bay in surfer language), Port Elizabeth, East London, Port St Johns and many more.
Other popular activities up and down our coastline include stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, jet skiing, rubber-ducking, windsurfing, and sailing all classes of boats and yachts. There’s also rock angling or deep sea fishing, as well as scuba diving, snorkelling and spearfishing to consider. With about 3,000 shipwrecks along South Africa’s 3,000km-long coastline, wreck diving is very popular.
Some of the more popular diving sites are found on the Aliwal Shoal and Protea Banks off KwaZulu-Natal, the various reefs off Sodwana Bay, Rooiels and Hangklip on the southern side of False Bay, Cape Point, Jongensfontein and Gourits River mouth in the Southern Cape, The Point area, Roman Bank and Mitch’s Reef around Mossel Bay, the Arniston wreck at Waenhuiskrans, the Gamtoos and Storm’s River mouths in the Eastern Cape, and various dive sites off East London and the Wild Coast, to name but a few.
For all of the above activities there are numerous clubs at all the major cities, towns and beaches, where visitors will find many locals eager to guide them around. There are a large number of scuba diving academies where novices can learn and be certified, or where gear can be rented. For those looking for charter opportunities or just wanting to learn more about the local yachting scene, there are world-famous yacht clubs like the Royal Cape Yacht Club in Cape Town (Tel: +27 (0)21-421-1354), the Royal Natal Yacht Club in Durbann (Tel: +27 (0)31 301 5425), or the Algoa Bay Yacht Club in Port Elizabeth (Nelson Mandela Bay).
The beaches at Table View, Big Bay, Melkbosstrand, Langebaan Lagoon and others along the West Coast are renowned as a global mecca for kite surfers, when raging Southeasters churn up these seas in summer and the kite surfers reach awesome speeds and jumping heights. (Contact the SA Kitesurfing Association at Tel: +27 (0) 829 0344/56 for more info).
Shark cage diving is very popular too, and a large number of operators are found in coastal cities and towns from Cape Town to Sodwana Bay.
South Africa’s many majestic mountain ranges, from Table Mountain in the Western Cape, to the Drakensberg Range in the northeast of the country, offer superb opportunities for alpine climbers, rock climbers, traditional climbers, sport climbers, bouldering, top rope climbing, free solo climbing, abseiling, hang gliding, and more.
Some of the more popular climbs are to be found at Waterval Boven and Blyde River Canyon in Mpumalanga; Magaliesburg in Gauteng; Table Mountain, Hottentots Holland Mountains, Cederberg Mountains, Du Toitskloof, Klein Winterhoek, the Swartberg and Outeniqua Mountains in the Western Cape; Hogsback and Baviaanskloof in the Eastern Cape; and the Drakensberg which can be approached from the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, or Free State. For visitors a good starting point for advice and assistance would be the Mountain Club of South Africa (Tel: +27 (0)21 465 3412), which has 14 sections or branches distributed across the country.
If you are less adventurous or daring and simply want to enjoy the mountains on a good walk, there are numerous lovely hiking trails ranging from absolutely easy to very difficult in mountainous areas all across the country. Local tourism organisations can provide details of these or you can call SANParks at +27 (0)12 426 5000.
Among the more demanding, but more beautiful hikes are the Hole in the Wall, Amatola, Dolphin or Otter trails in the Eastern Cape; the Blyderivierspoort and Fanie Botha trails in Mpumalanga; the Magoebaskloof trail in Limpopo; the Leopard’s Kloof, various Table Mountain, Swellendam, Du Toitskoof, Cedereberg, Outeniqua, and Cape Point / Olifantsbos trails in the Western Cape; the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park and Sentinel Peak trails in KwaZulu-Natal. Of course, these are but just a very few of the many superb hiking trails around the country.
South Africa has a very large number of rivers that run through some of the most spectacularly scenic parts of the country, and they accommodate a wide variety of river-based sports and adventure.
Some great whitewater river rafting and kayaking trips can be undertaken down the Orange, Breede, Doring, Blyde, Umkomaas, Vaal and Palmiet Rivers, among others. These range from easy-going one-day downstream floats to more demanding challenges and multiple-day river safaris with overnight camps along the way. You will be exposed to some of the best natural scenery in the country, while some parts also have wildlife along the banks. Many of these rivers are within under a day’s drive of Johannesburg, Cape Town, and other major South African cities and towns.
There are also a number of blackwater tube rides to be found on major rivers around the country. Many rivers also allow for more mellow kayaking trips. Many of these rafting and kayaking experiences can be enjoyed with national parks.
Among the many other river-based activities to be found in South Africa, some of them on lakes and dams, include canoeing, fly-fishing, power boating, water skiing, paragliding, river cruises, crocodile cave diving, sunset cruises, and houseboat safaris. For more information the excellent website of SA Venues at www.sa-venues.com/activities can be consulted.
On Land & in the Air
A great number of land-based activities are also to be found. These range from 4X4 trails, to hiking trails, bird watching, canopy tours, clay pigeon shooting, cycling, elephant back safaris, game viewing, horse riding, bungee jumping, kloofing (boulder hopping), mountain biking trails, pony treks, quad biking, rhino tracking, running, sand boarding, skate boarding, turtle tours, and walking safaris with game watching.
For those who believe in getting out of aeroplanes before they have landed, or doing other silly things hundreds of meters above terra firma, the options include helicopter flips, skydiving, paragliding, hot air balloon flips, microlight flying and hang-gliding.
Again the website of SA Venues at www.sa-venues.com/activities can be consulted for more information.
So, if its adventure, adrenalin, testing your limits, or simply just being close to nature in the great outdoors, there is no better place to experience it all than South Africa.