For the thrill of it

For the thrill of it

In search of adventure? Adrenaline junkie Keith Bain rounds up some of Africa’s top experiences

Swim with giants 
Surrendering to the indifference of a humungous-yet-gentle whale shark is among the most magical feelings you can have in the sea. The warm blue depths of Mozambique’s Tofo Bay shelter the planet’s densest population of these mysterious creatures, which feed on fish eggs, krill and crustaceans. They’re docile giants and pay you little heed as you bob in the water alongside them. Experts (who admit knowing very little) say about 70% of Tofo’s whale sharks, which arrive each November are juvenile males – a statistic that causes tremendous speculation as to the whereabouts of the grown-ups (which can reach more than 14 m).

Channel your inner cowboy
Become a modern-day desert cowboy by climbing into the saddle of a four-wheel Honda quad bike and following your guide on a feel-good roller-coaster ride through the dune fields of Dorob National Park, which borders Swakopmund, Namibia’s adventure capital. Manoeuvring the bikes in the sand takes a little bit of getting used to, but once you’re familiar with the size of your turning circle and know just how far you can safely push these puppies, the chilled journey through the outback turns into a thrilling adventure.

Paddle on a liquid highway
Rapids aside, there are few gentler, more serene ways of experiencing the Richtersveld’s brutal beauty than floating and paddling down the Orange River where it cuts a path along the SA-Namibia border towards the sea. Most of the time, rafting involves gliding peacefully along, the silence pierced only by the caress of paddles dipping into water, the plop of jumping fish and the whoosh of goliath herons launching their bulky bodies into the air. When the water is high (as it usually is in February and March), though, fast-water channels can add a few capsizing thrills. You paddle between 14 and 25 km each day, striking camp on deserted embankments where you sleep beneath an ebony sky laden with stars. A few days of this, and you forget the world you left behind.

Carve a line in the sand
The curious love child of snowboarding and some crazy backpacker rolling down a tall sand dune, sandboarding (also known as duneboarding) is much easier than its wintry cousin. Still, most operators do in fact use modified second-hand snowboards, which you’re strapped on to before learning how to carve your way to the bottom of the dune. The downside for lazier action-seekers is that after you’ve made your way down the slope, you need to unstrap your board and walk back up to the start – that’s probably the most difficult part of the whole exercise. The next most difficult thing is picking up speed – the sand tends to slow you down until you’ve mastered the subtle body movements required to accelerate. If you don’t trust your balance but still want to experience a high speed descent, you can try lie-down boarding, which is precisely what it sounds like: You lie on a sheet of waxed board, launch off head first and let gravity take care of the rest., 

Abseil down Table Mountain
Okay, so you don’t abseil the entire length of the mountain, but you do go down a 100 m section at the top, which is enough to instil in you a sense of being truly alive (and for anyone with a healthy sense of fear, it may induce a few screams as you become aware of the fact that you are dangling high above the earth pretending to be Spider-man). Leopard-crawling vertically down this section of rock face is one of the more nerve-shattering things to do in Cape Town.

Soar like an eagle
There aren’t too many cities in the world in which it’s possible to fly off a mountainside and land on the beach: Cape Town is one of them, with tandem paragliding launches off the side of Signal Hill. Strapped to a qualified pilot, you typically spend 15 minutes floating on thermals before a butter-soft landing near Camps Bay beach or along the Sea Point Promenade. On the Garden Route, Wilderness is said to offer near-perfect coastal soaring conditions. There, you usually launch from a sloping grass field called Map of Africa: one instant you’re running, the next you’re airborne. On clear days, you can see as far away as the Knysna Heads, and there’s even a possibility of spotting whales and dolphins from the air.,


Fat-bike the beach
It’s slightly surreal zipping along beaches and down dunes of fine white powder balancing on a bicycle that doesn’t automatically want to sink into the sand and topple over. Fat bikes (literally, bicyles with fat, wide tyres) were designed for off-road fun in snow and sand. Riding one is a great way to explore the dune-lined beaches around Walker Bay in the Overberg, where (between July and December) it’s possible to spot whales from the saddle. Cycling down dunes is especially counter-intuitive – the sand slows the bike right down and the tyres magically ensure a controlled, smooth ride.

Explore by kayak
Get a different view of Cape Town’s glittering Atlantic Seaboard with a sea-kayaking tour commencing from Mouille Point. On the West Coast, you can enjoy a paddle in Paternoster, where the bay is protected by a roll of boulders, making the ocean extremely safe for kayaking. Daily tours set off from the beach to get a gander at the penguin colony, and you sometimes see dolphins, whales and seals along the way.,,

Go kloofing in the Tsitsikamma
In the shadow of the haunting Tsitsikamma Mountains, the little Garden Route hamlet of The Crags, near Plett, is the setting for a wild and wonderful kloofing adventure designed to help you plunge – literally – into nature. The outing combines adventure hiking, wading through shallow bits of river, zip-lining, abseiling, sliding down natural water slides, navigating across mossy embankments and squeezing through tight spaces carved through vast rock faces over time. Plus there are refreshing dips in mountain rock pools so you can appreciate the simple magic of your surrounds.

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