Have you already visited all the well-known hotspots in southern Africa, and had your fill of vineyards and sandy beaches, or are you simply an adventurer by nature who finds regular hiking too boring? Today we present eight leisure activities far away from all-inclusive tourism – on and underwater, at dizzying heights, in the desert, in the mountains, in the treetops and on horseback. Many activities don’t require you to be the biggest adrenaline junkie, but if you are, there’s guaranteed to be something for you too!
We have to admit, we have not done all of these but have asked input from others that have. Here is our list for those seeking a bit more adventure than your typical safari.
You will notice that surfing is incredibly versatile after a few surf lessons and visiting different surf spots at the latest. No two days are the same because you are extremely dependent on the weather and the surface – the wind, the wrong board or rocky surfaces can be fatal to you, so you should first explore each spot with an experienced local.
Cape Town is considered a surfing Mecca for beginners and professionals, also for kites and windsurfing if there is only wind instead of high waves. You should know that you can also encounter sharks, but you’ll soon realize that the locals are very relaxed about the subject, as there are only a handful of shark attacks worldwide each year. You’re far more likely to catch Africa’s most famous wave at Jeffrey’s Bay (“J-Bay”), a World Surf League venue. Namibia also has waves from north to south. Here you will have to watch out for sharks and seals in the lineup at Cape Cross.
If you are one of the few people who has not yet snorkeled, you should do so as soon as possible in Namibia or South Africa. You can snorkel near the beach, in less than two meters of water, as well as further out at sea. But no matter where you will be amazed by the biodiversity offered to you underwater. When snorkeling, you can drift in peace and you are not dependent on a commercial provider.
If you want more action, try scuba-diving, diving up to 40 meters deep with a scuba. Depending on your preferences, you can go diving in the warm Indian Ocean in the east, the slightly warmer False Bay in Cape Town, or the cold Atlantic Ocean in the west of South Africa. While diving, you can even play underwater hockey, swim with seals or watch the many smaller sea creatures. Some will, after the first open water dive, become addicted to it and love it, while others find this kind of recreational sport in the depths of the sea far too scary and are unable to breathe calmly with the breathing apparatus. Just try it!
Bungee jumping involves jumping headfirst from a tall structure, usually a bridge. You are secured by a combination of a belt and a rope. The jumper experiences a free fall lasting several seconds, sometimes with the option to enter the water if possible. Near the ground, you are automatically slowed down by the rope, spring back and slowly swing out. One of the highest and most famous jump spots is the Bloukrans Bridge in South Africa. But you can also jump off the Victoria Falls Bridge at the Victoria Falls. Beautiful scenery, the Zambezi River is below you, and it is a 111-meter deep and 4-second free fall. Alternatively, you can try a bridge swing. This activity is similar to swinging – only much higher, faster and more exciting.
Paragliding is the even softer version of “flying” because there is no free fall. You start from the ground, usually from a mountain, instead of the air. You sprint towards the horizon with your trained companion, take off and glide through the air in peaceful silence. For example, you can start in Cape Town on Lion’s Head or Signal Hill. The starting points often have to be reached by a long climb on foot.
The umbrella organization of paragliding in South Africa is SAHPA (South African Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association). It ensures that all providers and visitors with their own equipment have the necessary training and licenses, has stipulated that there are no official rental companies, and severely limits the areas for kite flying. So you don’t have to worry about your security with official providers.
Sandboarding is similar to snowboarding. However, it takes place on the sand, not snow, as the name might suggest. Standing sideways on a board, you ride down the highest sand dunes at up to 70 km/h. If you don’t have any experience in similar sports and can’t balance yourself or are too tired after a few descents, you can often sit or lie down on a flexible wooden board instead of using the board. The repeated ascent to the dunes in the blazing sun can be very exhausting if you are used to the lift from your snowboard or ski vacation. You can practice sandboarding in the Namib Desert, for example. There you will also find the famous 380-meter-high “Dune 7”. But you can also surf several dunes in and around Cape Town.
The white water rafting and kayaking offered in southern Africa is extremely diverse, so there should be something for everyone. It is possible to go on a family holiday with children to paddle along shallow rivers (even with an overnight stay as a very special adventure for young and old), as well as to push your body and psyche to their limits in the strongest rapids with high levels of difficulty. Rafting on the Zambezi River at Victoria Falls in Zambia and the Oranje River in South Africa is particularly popular. The tours that last several hours or days are often supplemented with abseiling, tubing, horseback riding, quad biking or climbing.
If skydiving and bungee jumping got the adrenaline pumping for you, but you still want to experience an unusual view, you could do an abseiling tour. In this trending activity, the participant abseils down a mountain, rock, hill or even a waterfall. However, the whole thing happens in a very controlled manner, in peace and abseiling (also: “rappelling”) probably gives you a greater sense of security than a jump in free fall. Given the altitude you are at, your heart will beat faster either way. Similar to paragliding, you should also be able to master the ascent if there is no cable car. On Table Mountain in Cape Town is the highest commercial abseiling course, which drops 112 meters. While you push yourself backwards with your feet off the rock face and dare to abseil in small jumps, you can see the beaches of Camps Bay.
Our Final Word
As you can see, southern Africa has something for everyone. Kati and I are the more snorkeling type of people rather than bungee jumping, but we love to see people out there giving it their all. When I lived in Zimbabwe, bungee jumping in Victoria Falls was extremely popular, but alas I chickened out. Anyways, you don’t have to and can do many of these activities on your next visit to southern Africa.
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We have traveled to Alaska and boarded a small plane. Flying through the Brooks Range, a mountain range in far northern North America stretching some 700 miles from west to east across northern Alaska into Canada’s Yukon Territory it felt like as if we were so close to the mountain tops that we could reach out and touch the peaks. Our destination was the arctic. The small village of Kaktovik.
And our goal? To encounter Polar Bears in the wild.