Africa abounds with adventure. Over the centuries, explorers have found the allure of the unknown reaches of Africa irresistible. One giant playground filled with mountains, rivers, waterfalls, deserts, forests, lakes, oceans, wildlife and spectacular scenery. Whether you explore it on foot, bike, horseback, 4x4, bicycle, canoe, boat, underwater, free falling, kloofing or floating in a hot air balloon, you’re in for an unforgettable ride.
The following is our pick of the top 5 destinations guaranteed to get your adrenaline levels pumping.
1. Cape Town, South Africa
Perched on the southern tip of Africa, Cape Town has been named as one of the most beautiful cities on earth. Table Mountain, with its near vertical cliffs, flanked by Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head on either side, is an ecological marvel – there is more floral diversity here than in the entire United Kingdom.
To the south of the mountain cliffs rise above the Atlantic Ocean, ending in the spectacular Cape Point. The Cape of Good Hope, the southernmost tip of the peninsula was described by Sir Francis Drake as “The fairest cape and the most stately thing we saw in the whole circumference of the globe.”
Adventure wise, the list of activities is endless: From Harley-Davidsons, hikes, helicopters, horse riding and hot air ballooning, to kayaking, kloofing and kite surfing. From mountain biking, paragliding, micro light flying and quad biking, to river rafting, rock climbing, scuba diving, shark diving, sky diving, surfing, surf ski paddling and tubing. Safe to say, adventure is yours for the taking. These are our highlights:
Dangle Off A Mountain: Abseiling
Cape Town looks impressive from the top of Table Mountain but when you step off the edge, 1000 metres above sea level and hang from an abseiling rope a kilometre above the city, it's a whole other experience. Too tame? If you really want to get away from it all, experience a full day of adventure in the Kamikaze Kanyon, where abseiling down 65 metre waterfalls and kloofing with jumps up to 22 meters high might rev your engine.
Abseil Africa organises trips to Table Mountain and Kamikaze Kanyon.
Soar With The Eagles: Zip Lining
A short drive from Cape Town across the Hottentots Holland Mountains, you will find a series of platforms on the fynbos-covered mountain slopes. The Cape Canopy Tour was voted second best new attraction in the world in 2015 by Lonely Planet.
A first for South Africa, the Cape Canopy Tour in partnership with Cape Nature, is situated in a pristine World Heritage Site within the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve in the Elgin Valley.
The tour consists of 13 elevated platforms and a unique bridge high above a spectacular double waterfall. The platforms are built on the sides of cliffs and the banks of a steep ravine, and are interlinked by thrilling slides of up to 330 meters long.
Strap in and glide alongside waterfalls and down slopes, while marvelling at the sights and sounds of this previously inaccessible world.
Visit the Cape Canopy Tour website for directions, bookings and everything else.
Swim With Sharks
Few brave souls have swum cage less with Great White sharks and emerged unharmed. Whilst this is certainly the pinnacle of extreme adrenaline experiences, we suggest taking it down a notch and viewing them from the safety of a cage.
Check out our 1, 2 and 3 day shark diving tours here.
Hike Table Mountain
Around 500 million years in the making, and towering over Cape Town, Table Mountain boasts more plant species per square kilometre than a tropical jungle! Trails run the length and breadth of the mountain offering exceptional hiking for all levels.
Hike Table Mountain was voted the second best outdoor activity/company in Cape Town on Trip Advisor. Contact them for the ultimate mountain experience.
Other experiences include tandem paragliding and skydiving
Cycle the Cape Peninsula, mountain bike through the Winelands or across Table Mountain
Cape Town has some excellent roads for road cycling, such as the world famous cliffhanger, Chapmans Peak. It is also home to the world's biggest timed cycling event - the Cape Town Cycle Tour, which sees around 40,000 cyclists race round a 110km circuit of the Cape Peninsula coastline every March.
If you prefer dirt to tar, you'll also find plenty of good reasons to go for a pedal in and around Cape Town. The winelands are full of world class trail networks, from Jonkershoek in Stellenbosch (2nd home to Christoff Sauser), to Contermanskloof in Durbanville, Welvanpas in Wellington and even the slopes of Table Mountain have good (somewhat steep) riding terrain.
Check out the MTB Routes site for a full listing of mountain bike trails in South Africa.
Event-wise, there are plenty of local mountain bike races, the most extreme and best known of which would be The Cape Epic. The Epic is an 8 day, two-person-team stage race, and one of the world's toughest mountain bike events.
If you would like to talk to someone about a personalised or group cycling tour in and around Cape Town, drop us an enquiry and tell us your requirements.
Our cycling tour guru Craig Edwards has an encyclopaedic knowledge of both road and mtb routes in the Cape Town area and beyond. 'Captain Craig' has also done nearly every major cycling event on the calendar, and if it's long and hard, usually more than once.
Craig and his team can build a tour around your personal riding preferences and fitness levels. Give us a shout via the enquiry form and we will put you in touch.
2. Jinja, Uganda
Once described as “the pearl of Africa” by Winston Churchill, Jinja is known as East Africa’s centre of adventure. Situated in southeastern Uganda where the Nile flows from Lake Victoria, adventurous travellers will find lots of activities to suit their tastes - from mild to wild!
Kayaking And Canoeing
What better place to experience white water action, than alongside beautiful sections of lush, green, scenery at the start of Africa’s longest river?
Kayak The Nile is the most experienced kayak operator on the African continent and offers the ‘kayaking holiday of a lifetime’. Based at the Nile River Explorers Bujagali Camp, they are passionate about helping people enjoy being on the water.
Ramp it up? Grade 5 Tandem Kayaking. Guided trips in the biggest volume tandem kayak journeys in the world; down all of The Nile's Class 5 rapids in specialised double white-water kayaks. “An in-your-face full-on experience for the brave.”
Bungee Jump Over The Nile
Nile High Bungee is located at Adrift River base, 3km upstream from Bujagali Falls. Leaping out over the Nile from a tower purpose-built for bungee jumping is a sure way to get your adrenalin flowing!
Prefer to get your thrills on land? Try a quad bike ride beside the Nile starting at Bujagali Falls and going off the beaten track and, “Into the warm heart of Uganda.” All Terrain Adventures come highly recommended. http://www.atadventures.com/
Have An Out of Africa Moment: Nile Horseback Safaris
Go old school and saddle up for a ride along the banks of the Nile. Experience the views from the hills overlooking the Nile Valley, canter through the stunning plantation vistas and relax in the tranquillity of Mabira forest.
Check out Nile Horseback Safaris for a top notch horse riding adventure in the Nile Valley.
From physically challenging rides to gentle meanders through villages, Explorers Mountain Biking will organise an unforgettable ride.
A country that boasts Kilimanjaro, the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Crater and Zanzibar, as well as Mikumi Reserve, the Usambara Mountains and Mt Meru, is teeming with wildlife, beauty and adventure.
At 5895m high and Africa’s highest peak, climbers summit above the clouds. It is very walkable – which allows adventure seekers without much trekking experience the chance to have one of the most exhilarating experiences, but, this is not a trivial trek. You need to commit to proper preparation and training. However, stunning views, mountain beauty and an incomparable sense of achievement as you reach the “Roof of Africa” make every challenging step worth it.
Hike The Ngorongoro Crater Highlands
The 19 kilometer wide Ngorongoro crater, is a place that holiday brochures call the “eighth wonder of the world.” It’s a cliché, but probably true. This natural amphitheatre is home to virtually every iconic animal in Africa.
The magic begins long before you reach the crater. As you ascend from the Rift Valley along a series of hairpins, through forests, you’re suddenly on the crater’s edge, surveying the scene laid before you. The kaleidoscope of colours shifts with the shadows and mist, an ever changing patchwork of yellows and greens with the spectacular backdrop of blueish purple on the crater’s sides. If viewing wildlife from a vehicle is too tame for you, escape the crowds on a hike through the Crater Highlands, in the company of a Masai guide.
Hot Air Balloon Over The Serengeti
The Serengeti is the most famous national park in the world. It is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and covers 14,763 square kilometres. Spectacularly documented, just the word conjures up images of wide sun burnt Savannah teeming with wildebeest, zebras, gazelles, lions, cheetah and leopards. Imagine seeing that in real life as you gently rise with the sun and float magically in the air. The sky lightens from purple to pink, clears the horison and floods the plains with golden light. Bucket list stuff.
3. Victoria Falls
Zambia shares its borders with 8 other African countries, yet it remains largely remote and untamed, filled with natural wonders. Its three shining lights are South Luangwa, Victoria Falls and the Lower Zambezi.
In The Deep End: White water rafting on the Zambezi
The Lower Zambezi rafting route begins in the dramatic location of the water of the Bakota Gorge – the steep sided ravine in the shadow of the 100 metre high Victorian falls. The rapids come hard and fast, water crashing on water, the sound and the fury of the power of nature. It’s nerve-wracking stuff. The names of the routes: Gnashing Jaws of Death and Oblivion (to name a few) set the scene.
Bungee jump 110 metres from the bridge towering over the Batoka Gorge between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Your screams will be swallowed up by the thundering roar of the Victoria Falls.
Fly Like A Bird: Microlight Flights
The microlight flights offer unobstructed viewing of the Zambezi as it transforms from a gentle river over the thunderous Victoria Falls and on to the steep Batoka Gorge.
A Dip In The Devil’s Pool
“Not for the faint hearted” is how Immersion Journeys describes it. “During the dry season, the low water flow of the Victoria Falls allows the guest to jump into the ‘bathtub’ that forms the lip of the falls before the water drops 355 feet. Adrenaline junkies with GoPro camera are seen enthusiastically photographing themselves peeking over the edge of the basalt cliffs or pretending to float over them.”
Canoe the Game-rich Waterways Of The Zambezi
Although significantly lower on the adrenaline pumping scale, canoeing in South Luangwa Wilderness Reserve is a unique wildlife experience that puts you center-stage in the middle of the raw African wilderness; “Large pods of hippo vie with shy crocs along the banks and herds of elephant come to the water to drink and browse the vegetation.”
Described as a desert playground, It's not necessary to be high on adrenaline to be captivated by Namibia. The beauty of its vast desert landscape, wildlife and national parks stops most people in their tracks. However, for those who want more action than just admiring the view, there is no shortage of adventure.
The coastal resort of Swakopmund (now vying with Victoria Falls, Jinja and Cape Town as the adventure capital of Africa) offers quad biking, sand boarding, parachuting, kite surfing, scenic flights and balloon trips.
Ballooning Over the Namib
The Namib, considered the world’s most ancient desert, was sculpted by water and wind. Its early morning landscape is painted in spicy hues of saffron, ginger, nutmeg, cumin, cinnamon and turmeric. Powdery 80 million year old dunes ripple and shift, like a magician’s slight of hand. Your balloon floats over this rich and subtle desert palette of sand, salt pans and skeleton trees. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot a long-shadowed Oryx ascending a dune or a small herd of zebra, searching for some elusive shade – reminders that even in this seemingly barren landscape, life survives.
Sand Boarding In The Namib Desert
The steep sides of the Namib’s dunes are challenging slopes to navigate on a snowboard, although at least wipe outs are met with a soft landing. If speed is your thing, “Rather than graceful turns, try the lie-down option on a greased-up sheet of Masonite.” Lonely Planet describes it as, “Much like tobogganing, participants zoom straight down the dune faces at up to 80km/h. If that doesn't get the heart pumping, the climb back to the top certainly will.”
Alter Action runs trips out of Swakopmund
Skydiving Over The Atlantic Ocean and Namib Desert
If falling towards earth at 220km/h doesn't blow your mind, the stunning aerial views of the desert and ocean during the 25-minute flight to the jump zone in a tiny Cessna aircraft might. “The deafeningly loud free fall from 3000m lasts for 30 seconds, before your parachute (and silence) takes over at 1500m.”
Ground Rush Adventures is based out of Swakopmund. It offers tandem jumps for beginners, as well as static-line courses and jumps, and accelerated free-fall courses.
Hiking The Fish River Canyon
Hike for several days through the world's second largest canyon.
Rock Climbing At Spitzkoppe
The rounded granite peak of Spitzkoppe towers 700m over the Namib plains of southern Damaraland and has been drawing rock climbers for three quarters of a century.