Get the heart racing in South Africa: 7 active adventures

The myriad of landscapes which patchwork South Africa aren’t just some of Mother Nature’s finest handiwork but a wild playground for adrenaline-seekers to enjoy. Here are seven active escapades…

Team Wanderlust
05 January 2023
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South Africa

1. Surfing

Surfers in Durban (South Africa)

The waters off South Africa’s coastline may once have been a navigational nightmare for merchant seafarers but these days its waves are now coveted surfing spots. With over 1,700 miles of coastline, there are plenty of breaks to pick from. South Africa is great for those learning the ropes, with the gentle waves of Cape Town’s Muizenberg Beach and the sand-bottomed Mossel Bay two fine starting points. For the more experienced surfers, Eland’s Bay offers westerly swells best tackled in summer while renowned Jeffrey’s Bay can serve up foamy rides of up to 800m long. For something trickier, the towering waves of Dungeons Beach in Hout Bay are as extreme as they come.

As well as the capital, Durban is also home to many coves popular with surfers. South Beach, with its slow waves and many surf schools makes getting up on the board a breeze for beginners while those who have already found their surf feet will enjoy the barrels at New Pier.

Over in JBay, Dolphin Beach is a great place to start, as is Lower Point

2. Hiking

Hiking Lion’s Head (Shutterstock)

From rugged peaks to jade-hued canyons and coastlines battered by frothy waves, South Africa’s natural splendour needs little introduction. The best way (and sometimes the only) to immerse yourself is on foot, with the real challenge choosing where to tread. Surrounded by rocky monoliths, Cape Town has several epic trails on its doorstep, from summitting Lion’s Head to climbing Table Mountain via the scrambling India Venster route. Beyond, plenty of trails vein the craggy slopes of the Drakensberg Mountains while the Blyde River Canyon Trail (37 miles) has you treading past waterfalls and rock pools. South Africa’s oldest walk, the Otter Trail, celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2022, so there’s no better time to pad through its thick forest and wildflower-speckled coastlines.

3. Explore the Cango Caves

Explore the Cango Caves (Visit South Africa)

Dating back 20 million years, the craggy chambers of the Cango Caves weave deep beneath the Swartberg Mountains. Ruggedly sculpted out of the limestone by Mother Nature, one-hour tours of its show caves are genuinely wow-a-minute with their striking formations, emphasised by the dramatic lighting. Too tame for you? You can ramp up the excitement on a 90-minute Adventure Tour, which forges further down into the cave system and has you crawling through narrow passages and squeezing through tunnels. You’ll tackle inventively named obstacles like the Crystal Palace, the Ice-Cream Parlour and the Devil’s Workshop – a decent level of fitness will be needed.

4. Go Ziplining

Brave zipling (Shutterstock)

Some of South Africa’s landscapes are so vast you can only truly appreciate them from up high, whizzing through the air on a zip-line. Take the Lake Eland Zip Lines for example, which have you flying over the forested Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve. Its 4.5km-long zipline network of 14 lines is the longest in South Africa and allows you time to spy its seeping waterfalls, craggy rock formations and the lake itself. Zip-lines soar over a previously inaccessible corner of Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve in the Elgin Valley, you can fly alongside African goshawks and greater double-collared sunbirds in Tsitsikamma National Park or whizz through the lush canopy of the Blue Grotto Forest in the Drakensberg Mountains.

5. Try river rafting

Rafting the Orange River (Shutterstock)

Few things connect you with nature like the raw power of its rivers on a white-water rafting adventure. South Africa’s longest, the Orange River, has gentle rapids and emerald-coated banks which contrast the ochre-hued ruggedness of the surrounding Richtersveld. A ride along the Doring River will see you hemmed in by craggy valleys and sawtooth peaks, while the muddy waters of the Umkomaas River in KwaZulu-Natal will have you paddling past indigenous forests and pristine bushveld. If you want crank up the adrenaline factor a notch or three, the Blyde River in Mpumalanga has raging rapids that are more akin to a foamy rollercoaster ride.

6. Head out on a mountain bike

Mountain biking in South Africa (Shutterstock)

For a high-octane injection when wandering South Africa’s scenery, take to two wheels on the mountain biking trails which criss-cross it. The Tokai Forest mountain biking trails weave through a lesser-visited wooden segment of Table Mountain National Park, while the tabletop peaks, dusty semi-desert and grassy plains of the Karoo are best seen from the multitude of trails which web this mystical wilderness. Can’t decide which slice of South Africa to pedal? The epic 1,500-mile Freedom Trail traverses the country from west to east, which can easily be broken up into chunks so you can whizz through the pancake-flat savannahs of KwaZulu-Natal or the sun-dappled Winelands in the Western Cape.

7. Go diving

Go diving (Shutterstock)

Feeling inspired?

Start planning your dream visit to South Africa now by heading over to the official website.

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