Nowhere in Africa can seriously compete with Cape Town when it comes to outrageous adventure activities combined with a unique urban and outdoor playground like nowhere on earth. Whether your adrenalin levels respond best to water, land or air, on foot, pedal-powered or motorised, there's more than enough to keep your body's thrillometer dialled into the red for weeks on end.
Two aspects of doing adventurous stuff in Cape Town stand out in particular: 1) It's a really pretty place to get your kicks 2) There are plenty of different activities to choose from in one place. Be it in the sea, caves, hills or clouds (the list continues) there's something fun for just about any traveller to do!
Voted one of the most beautiful cities in the world by Forbes, TripAdvisor and Buzzfeed, Cape Town is also a preferred African destination for the sophisticated urbanite and laid back leisure-seeker, but that's a whole different story - back to what the city has to offer the adventurous spirit...
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- Snorkelling with the Seals in Hout Bay
- Abseiling off Table Mountain
- Go-Kart Racing in Cape Town
- Kayaking with Penguins & Other Marine Animals
- Horse Riding on Noordhoek Beach
- Hint Hunting in Cape Town
- Tobogganing at Cool Runnings in Tygervalley
- Surfing the Waves of Cape Town
Leave us a comment if you want to know more about any of these activities and we'll get back to you. Also, if you've had some great experiences or know of brilliant budget activities not mentioned here - feel free to add them in the comments below!
Here are some of the adventurous things you can do in Cape Town to take your heart rate up a notch without blowing your budget.
Take a boat out to Duiker Island and get up close to plenty of playful seals in their watery natural environment!
You get to snorkel or scuba dive with hundreds of Cape Fur Seals at Duiker Island near Hout Bay. Seal diving experts at Animal Ocean take anyone who can swim and is over the age of 6 to dive with the seals in the chill Atlantic - one of Cape Town's most highly-rated adventure activities. This is a spring to autumn (September to May) activity, with the best time being March to April when you can interact with the seal pups that are just beginning to swim.
Animal Ocean runs 3-hour morning and afternoon trips to Duiker Island, which is home to some 15000 Cape Fur Seals. They provide 5mm wetsuits with hoods, as well as booties, vests and gloves to keep the cold at bay. The one-hour snorkel/dive takes place between a depth of 1 and 5 metres, exploring the kelp forests around the rocky island which lies inside a marine protected area of the Table Mountain National Park. Prices include a professional diving guide, the 15-minute boat trip, snorkelling or diving gear, sweet snacks and hot chocolate to warm you up after your swim.
In answer to the 'what about the sharks?' question: Great White sharks aren't an issue, because the water is too cold and the reefs around Duiker Island are too shallow and sheltered by thick kelp forests. Animal Ocean says: "The well-established and long-running seal watching ships have not seen a shark at the island in over 20 years of operation."
You can book a swim with the seals on the Animal Ocean Facebook page or on their mobile-friendly website with your phone.
Abseil off the cliffs of Table Mountain with Abseil Africa, dropping 112 metres down the sheer cliff face. As you descend you will be taking in the views of city and ocean from over 1000 metres above sea level, abseiling off the top of one of the world's natural wonders. Originally the highest commercial abseil in the world, this is an activity that will get your heart racing.
Abseil for 45 minutes between 10:00 and 15:00, weather permitting. The price includes an activity demo, kitting-up for the abseil and the hike back up to the abseil starting point on top of Table Mountain. The price excludes the cable car ride. Alternatively, you can hike up and down Table Mountain via Platteklip Gorge with Abseil Africa for a fee, or on your own (own risk too) - for free.
The Abseil Africa team pay close attention to safety, maintaining their impeccable safety record, whilst making sure adventurers have loads of fun too!
A super affordable, high-speed one that comes in kiddie-friendly options for adventurous families. You get to zoom around the specially designed 310-metre racing track in high-tech go-karts, under watchful supervision - to keep it safe without taking the rush out of it.
Choose between the Killarney Race Track replica at Kenilworth Karting in the Southern Suburbs, or Century Karting at Canal Walk - two of the best indoor karting circuits in the country. The 'Arrive and Drive' go-kart adrenalin thrill is priced for adults from a 10 lap race up to a 40 lap race, and then there's the junior racing option for 10 minutes. The racing experience includes a safety briefing and driving instructions for the first-time racer.
Go-karting is a great activity for rainy days and family or group outings and parties. Options include special bookings (12 to 18 drivers), slightly longer block bookings for up to 24 drivers, under 16 group bookings and more. The Karting race tracks are open every day of the week from 9:30 during the week and 9 over the weekend until 23:00 so this is one of the few night-time adventures on the go.
Kayak with the penguins at Boulder's Beach, near Simon's Town with Sea Kayak Trips, who also do a full moon rising paddle in False Bay. They take a maximum of 18 people out in stable double kayaks, usually setting off in the mornings when the penguin watching and weather are generally better. The sea kayaking trips are available daily, last for about two hours and you don't need any kayaking experience. The recommended age is over 10 years unless the child is paired with a strong adult prepared to do all of the powering, and anyone with a mild level of fitness will be able to handle the paddle, even the senior citizens.
The Sea Kayak Trips rate includes your kayaking guide, an introductory 'how-to-paddle' and safety briefing, life jackets, kayaks and paddles (of course). Winter (June to August) is surprisingly a good time to go sea kayaking because it is less windy and it is whale watching season.
On the Table Bay side of the coastline, Kaskazi Kayaks is the place to go. They do paddling trips out along the Atlantic Seaboard towards Clifton Beach or Granger Bay, often encountering dolphins, seals and whales out in the water. Kaskazi launches from Three Anchor Bay, offering two-hour or three-hour trips (for more experienced kayakers).
The kayaking crew is hugely experienced, with fantastic guides that take groups out in sturdy double kayaks and catch some snaps of the paddlers in action. One of the most memorable aspects of the sea kayaking experience with this friendly owner-run business is the stunning perspectives you get from the sea, looking up at Table Mountain, Lion's Head and the Twelves Apostles!
Noordhoek is one of Cape Town's finest horsy neighbourhoods, where visitors can take exciting outrides on the beach.
Riding along the beautiful, long stretch of sandy beach at the foot of Chapman's Peak is what makes horse riding in Noordhoek so worthwhile.
The Imhoff Equestrian Centre at Imhoff Farm in Kommetjie does two-hour outrides through the wetlands and onto the pristine Noordhoek beach, offering three rides a day. Marine and land animals are sometimes spotted on the rides, including whales and otters, as well as various birds. Everyone is welcome, from beginners to experienced riders, but to go horse riding you need to be at least 12 years and under 100 kg. The horses at Imhoff are in excellent condition and they are well-trained, which helps to make the experience fun and safe. Although the outrides are exhilarating for most, if you're looking for a flat-out gallop then you'll be disappointed, because Parks Board doesn't allow galloping on the beach.
The horse rides are lead by one or two accomplished guides for groups of up to 8. The Imhoff Farm itself is an interesting stop with a coffee shop, restaurant, charming shops, a small farm where kids can pet the animals and a snake park.
Take the creative 60-minute challenge to escape from one of two game rooms (called John Monroes) at The Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock, Cape Town! HintHunt is an exhilarating mystery-solving game where contestants work together to figure out how to escape, using their ingenuity to solve brain-teasing puzzles.
Play in groups of 3 to 6 aged 9 up with adult supervision or 15 up without adults (recommended ages are due to the level of complexity and not safety issues). This indoor adventure activity is ideal for corporate team building outings and for groups of friends wanting to do something playful and different.
You can book both rooms for an inter-room competitive challenge, or 'double John Monroe'. The game takes an hour, but you need to arrive about 15 minutes beforehand for an introduction to HintHunt and the game plan. Rates differ, but there are also promotions that give you discounts on your bookings - they have a detailed booking form on their website.
Bundle the whole family into the car and head to Cool Runnings Theme Park to whizz down the 1.2km Toboggan track! This is one of some 300 toboggan tracks worldwide, and the only one in Africa.
The outdoor toboggan track (read: summer) is designed for all ages and budgets. What the beep is tobogganing anyway? This get-you-hollering activity entails sitting tight in your own bob-sledge (or with an adult if you're under 8) and speeding downhill on a winding track of steel half-pipe set on the ground. It's kind of like a land version of the supertube ride... in a sled, so the kids love it.
A day pass gives you as many rides as you can stomach in a day. They have special rates for during working hours and for families, with the cheapest option being one ride, but who only takes one ride?
The Cool Runnings Toboggan Track opens its gates Tuesday to Sunday until 18:00 and on Mondays that are public/school holidays.
Learn to surf or hone your existing surfing skills with Stoked School of Surf - the most happening surf school in Cape Town. These guys run mobile surf lessons around the in-credibly scenic Cape Peninsula, which means that you get to surf where the conditions and swell are best at the time!
Surfing lessons are for all shapes and sizes (that can swim), and they have special kiddie lessons. The group lesson includes a wetsuit, surfboard, digital photos of your surf adventure and the super qualified surf instructor who shows you how to paddle and stand up, and tells you about the ocean and staying safe in the water. The team at Stoked is passionate about sharing what they call the 'stoke' (i.e. being intensely excited about surfing) and they promise to get you standing by the end of your surf session!
There are plenty of great surfing spots to choose from in and around Cape Town and what makes the local surfing experience even better is that most of the beaches are absolutely gorgeous!
If you have some awesome, affordable activity ideas to add, leave us a comment and we'll look into them :)
To get to Cape Town on a budget, visit our Tours departing from Cape Town page or peruse our affordable Cape Town Tours. For a broader search see our South Africa Tours, many of which visit Cape Town.