The South African winelands are not only home to some of the world’s finest vintages and award-winning estates, but also incredible adventure experiences. From mountain biking to quad biking, zip-lining to trail running and sky diving to abseiling, for those seeking adrenaline-fueled adventures, those brave souls willing to tackle the extreme, you will get your fix in the winelands.
The Constantia Wine Valley in Cape Town is a gateway to the extreme. Centrally located, the valley is about 20 minutes away from Table Mountain, where after taking the aerial cableway to the top, you can find another, quicker way down, by simply stepping off the edge… Abseil Africa provides you with the opportunity, but it’s up to you to steel yourself and take a plunge. With plenty of gallows humour at the edge – sure to test even the hardiest adventurer – epic views of the Atlantic Seaboard await those brave enough to take on the challenge. Trust us, it’s totally worth it.
If you would rather stay in the valley for your adventurous pursuits, and are up for some high-flying fun, the Cape Town Zipline tour at Silvermist Estate is a must. With up to 500 metres of lines running high above the tree canopy, this incredible experience is an adrenaline-fueled ride that will have you hollering with delight as you zip over the valley below. Just make sure you remember to take in the beauty that lies below.
Continue on a bit further into Hout Bay and you can prepare for an epic seal snorkelling adventure in the Atlantic Ocean. Seals are naturally inquisitive and are amongst the most interactive of sea animals, meaning they will be as interested in you, as you are in them. It makes for a compelling experience, particularly with the young pups, which are always up for a bit of fun. The seals come up to breathe on the surface, meaning you will get to see plenty of action without having to go too deep yourself.
The Durbanville Valley is a mountain biking mecca with a huge amount of tracks to explore throughout the valley. With over 150km of linked trails criss-crossing through the Durbanville Hills, encompassing some of the area’s most beautiful farms and vineyards, you will find something to suit your skill-set and fitness levels! Managed by the Tygerberg Mountain Bike Club – the largest in the country – the trails include Majik Forest, Hillcrest, Meerendal, Contermanskloof, and Hoogekraal.
Families can also find adventure in the Durbanville Valley, with Zipzoom Adventures opening on the Altydgedacht Farm in January this year. With two zipline course and two mountain bike pump tracks, the kids – and the adults – will be well looked after here. The mini-zipline course allows children from as young as 4, while the larger course is also suited to adults. You will also find activities for kids aged 1-3.
Ah, the Cape Winelands, perhaps the most famous of the South African winelands, with some of the most iconic estates found here, but this is also a place of great adventure with plenty of things to keep you occupied. Get a bird’s eye view of the Cape Winelands with a tandem paragliding experience with Winelands Paragliding. With jump sites in Paarl, Franschhoek, Du Toits Kloof and Sir Lowries Pass, you are guaranteed some seriously amazing views. Launched earlier this year at Val du Charron Wine & Leisure Estate in Wellington, the Wild Boar Trails is made up of six mountain bike routes, catering to all types of riders – from single track demons to those who riders who prefer open gravel or jeep track meanders. The routes vary in distance, ranging from short 3km loops to more challenging rides of 40km and more.
Then, for a ride of a different kind, Scootours in Franschhoek is serious fun. These are push scooters, but on steroids. Custom-built by the Swiss, they are seriously hardcore. Weighing in at about 25kg, the frames are heavy-duty metal and the tyres are big, thick and willing to go over everything in their path. There is also enough room for an adult and kid (aged between 3 and 9), which makes this the perfect tour for families looking for a bit of adventure. The Franschhoek tour covers sections of the historic 1825 Holloway Pass and 1819 Cats Path ox wagon trail, before ending at Haute Cabrière Cellar Restaurant. A truly incredible way to take in the valley.
The Western Cape is renowned for its wine, outdoor pursuits and adventure experiences, and nowhere brings all of this together quite like the Elgin Valley. Home to some of the most glorious trails in the country, mountain bikers and trail runners consider this valley heaven on earth. If you’re keener on using something other than your own legs to propel you through the magical scenery, you will be happy to know there are a number of quad bike operators in the area, all ready to guide you through this incredible valley. There is nothing quite as exhilarating as sitting astride a quad bike, cruising through one of the most diverse biospheres on the planet.
Adventure seekers cannot visit the Elgin Valley and not take on the Cape Canopy Zipline in the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve. With a total of 11 slides – the longest being 320m – and open to ages of 5-75, it is perfect for families of adrenaline junkies. Your adventure starts before you even get to the ziplines, with the drive up through the reserve a somewhat ‘bone-rattling’ ride, and provides you with a more ground vantage point of the mountains you are preparing to soar through. Once on the lines, however, you will be treated to beautiful, panoramic views of the valley below, as you zip through the Hottentots Holland Mountains.
The Hemel-en-Aarde Valley in the Cape Overberg has a variety of adventurous pursuits to explore, both by sea and by land. The coastal town of Hermanus is largely considered to be the jewel in the crown of the Cape Whale Coast with a wealth of marine life found it its waters. Walker Bay Adventures has a number of options available to those looking to explore the ocean and get up and close and personal with some of the ‘locals’.
Sea kayak tours departing from the Old Harbour are one of the best ways to navigate this stretch of coastal paradise, with sighting of cape fur seals, penguins, cormorants and other sea life all but guaranteed. If you’re looking to explore life under the water, shark snorkelling is an incredibly unique (and safe) eco tour. On this tour, you can interact with the harmless local shysharks and take part in conservation research in the process. The shark snorkel and tagging tours are run twice daily from the Old Harbour and you will spend around an hour exploring the kelp forests before being treated to a free Shark Lab tour for a closer look at the sharks and their nursery.
If you’re more of a landlubber and want to find your adventure fix on dry land – or in the treetops – SA Forest Adventures has you covered on both counts with a quad biking or ziplining adventure. Rev up your engines and hit the quad bike trails – after a short introductory course to ensure you can ride one by yourself – with the route taking you through the Hamilton Russell and Southern Right wineries, up the mountain and through the fynbos kingdom into the Fernkloof Nature Reserve. The lookout point here will take your breath away and then it’s an epic downhill cruise back home. The zipline adventure consists of 9 to 12 platforms, ranging from 8 to 50 metres above ground, and set up in the forest canopy, with the safe-breaking system allowing you to manage your own speed – slow and steady or whippet fast!
Namaqua West Coast
The Namaqua West Coast is a vast region, boasting an awe-inspiring natural beauty that is ripe to be explored. Small wonder then, that there are so many adventurous pursuits to take on here, from mountain biking to canoeing and SUP’ing it’s basically one big playground for the bold.
Mountain biking is huge along the Namaqua West Coast with plenty of trails to explore. The Viswater Mountain Bike Route is a 30km ride and covers some epic terrain, with everything from soft, ash-coloured sand to rocky single-track, while in some sections you’re so close to the ocean, you can almost taste the salt. There are some tough single-track sections that you can opt in – or out – of and your reward for completing them will be an ice cold beer at the Jetty Restaurant.
Speaking of beer, the Maskam Brewing Company has a 9km loop running from the brewery. Boasting fantastic views of the vineyards and Maskam Mountain, the trail runs through sandy, rock terrain, while the additional lure of lounging on the lawns after your ride, sipping on your choice of Maskam Brewing’s Blonde Ale, Amber Ale or Weiss will no doubt make for a quick ride! If water sports are more enticing, the Olifants River is hugely popular for swimming and canoeing, while the mouth of the river is a frequent draw for kayakers – both locals and visitors. If it’s river rafting that you’re after, the Doring River near Klawer is your first stop. The rapids are graded 2 to 4, with organised trips available between the end of winter and early spring.
Plettenberg Bay on the Garden Route is another smaller town well set up for big adventure.
Take to the skies and experience the joys of skydiving with a tandem jump over one of the most scenic drop zones in the world with Skydive Plettenberg Bay. Once the plane ride ends, you will exit the plane and experience the adrenaline-fuelled rush of a 35-second free fall, reaching speeds of 200km/hour. If you’re up for it, and the weather plays ball, there is also an option to experience an out-of-bounds skydive, landing at Central Beach.
For something far more ‘grounded’, experience the rush of a river adventure with AfriCanyon Adventures.
Regardless of your experience level, this canyon adventure has you navigating through the river shallows, swimming through – and ziplining over – fresh mountain river pools, slipping and sliding down natural water slides and abseiling in and around waterfalls. Open 365 days a year, there are two options to choose from: a standard canyon trip that included all the fun and a shorter canyon ‘dip’. Both options include swimming, abseiling and optional jumps.
The Klein Karoo has some magic adventure experiences and, of course, perhaps the most famous involves the iconic Cango Caves. If tight spaces are your thing, or you simply want to face your fears head-on, side-step the ‘Heritage Tour’ and plunge head-first into the ‘Adventure Tour’. With names like ‘The Devil’s Chimney’, ‘The Ice Chamber’, ‘The Coffin’ and ’Devil’s Kitchen’, you just know that this one is not for the faint of heart, be warned, it’s a tight squeeze down below! If you would rather soar up high, than scramble through tiny cracks down below, the zipline at Cango Caves Estate is probably more in line with what you’re looking for. Take in the view of the beautiful estate below as you zip down three lines, the longest of which is 180m. The estate also boasts some of the best coffee in the area…
Finally, you’ve heard of shark cage diving, but what about diving with crocodiles? The Cango Wildlife Ranch offers you with the opportunity to get up close and personal with these toothy beasts in a specially designed cage. The water is crystal clear and allows you to observe these powerful animals operating in their natural habitat. You can also rest assured that there is no chumming used to lure the crocodiles to the cage and the experience has a largely minimal effect on them. It’s a unique experience and one to tick off the bucket list.