Life-changing, life-affirming events are a dime-a-dozen these days. Every adrenalin-filled activity claims to change your perspective on life and, to be fair, many of them do.
But here is a list of South African adventures that are more akin to journeys; personal inward journeys to change your life. For each of them takes place in such incredible natural beauty, and involves just enough adrenalin-filled action, to facilitate a change in perspective…
Photo: Storms River mouth in the Tsitsikamma
BLACK WATER TUBE STORMS RIVER
Similar to kloofing; when the water is low, black water tubing the Stormsriver is a gentle paddle through pools, interspersed with walking. Optimally, you want the water to be medium to high (usually during periods of rainfall), which is when the action kicks in and rapids become runable.
At some juncture en route is the ‘point of no return’ whereafter you enter the narrow gorge, which takes some four to five hours to exit, finally, at Storms River Mouth in the Tsitsikamma Coastal National Park. Incredible scenery, loads of fun, and a fair rush of adrenalin.
Contact Tsitsikamma Blackwater Tubing to book.
Photo: Explore the Baviaanskloof in the Eastern Cape
EXPLORE THE BAVIAANSKLOOF
The Valley of the Baboons lies between the Kouga and Baviaans Mountains in the Eastern Cape, the third-largest nature conservation area in the country – roughly two hundred and seventy thousand hectares. The roads are navigable by most vehicles, except the Geelhoutbos/Cambria route, which needs a 4X4.
The Baviaanskloof is a World Heritage Site for its unrivalled diversity. Seven out of eight of the country’s plant biomes are represented, as well as an array of insects, animals and birds. In the east find the Gamtoos Valley, the towns of Hankey and Patensie, the Groot Rivier/Steytlerville road and the Elands River valley.
In the west is the north-south Trekker route to the coast via Willowmore and Uniondale. And south is the Kouga Wilderness area, the Langkloof and a shortcut to the Garden Route. The access to unspoiled nature is unrivalled.
Photo: Coastal Hike in Coffee Bay on the Wild Coast
HIKE THE WILD COAST
The Wild Coast is called such because no other words more aptly describe one of the only sections of coast in South Africa to have remained so undeveloped that it is untouched, a supreme strip of coast that is indeed wild. Sandy coves, ragged cliffs, rivers, rocky headlands and the crashing of the sea accompany you on various slack-packing or backpack hiking trails that combine walking, beach-combing, swimming and visiting local Xhosa villages.
The absolute emptiness of the region, save for the dramatic coastline, the odd shipwreck, Nguni cattle, and the locals, makes for complete rejuvenation.
Hikes include: Wild Coast Meander, Wild Coast Hiking Trail, Drifters Wild Coast Trail, Diaz Cross Trail.
Photograph: Log next to the lagoon at Kosi Bay
KAYAK KOSI BAY
Explore the waterways of the lakes of Kosi Bay by sea kayak. Kosi Bay Nature Reserve, incorporated into the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, surrounds the impressive Kosi Bay estuarine lake system. Self-explore or take a guided tour in your kayak along the myriad waterways, around the sand flats on which you will find different mangrove species and a feast of birds.
You will explore the Thonga fishermen’s fish traps, catch a glimpse of one of the five different species of turtle, or sight whales in season.
Amangwane Lodge holds the only sea kayak concession.
Photo: Orange River Rafting
RAFT THE ORANGE RIVER
Rafting the Orange River, or the ‘great river’ as it is called by the local Nama people, as it cuts through the Richtersveld is about exploring one of the most remote parts of South Africa. The Richtersveld is a large mountain desert, its rock formations, volcanic rock and a host of indigenous succulents the scene of another lifetime.
Gently paddling downriver with only the odd rapid to navigate, sleeping on the banks of the river under the stars, and spending three to six days in the great outdoors comes highly recommended by those who have gone before you.
Various companies offer rafting packages for groups.
Photo: Horse back Safari at Kololo Game Reserve
RIDE YOUR BIG FIVE SAFARI
Explore the bushveld on horseback. Two to ten-day overnight trails in the wilderness mean you build a relationship with your mount and ride in amongst game in a way you never thought possible. If you are a competent horse rider then this way of seeing wild game is one of the best ways to explore the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve, or the Limpopo Lowveld.
There are a number of horse riding opportunities throughout the country.
Photo: Rhino Tracking
TRACK LIONS AND RHINO ON THE IMFOLOZI WILDERNESS TRAILS
There are no roads through the wilderness of the Imfolozi, only foot paths. Most of the wilderness area of the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park lies wedged between the White and Black Imfolozi rivers, an untouched wilderness area.
Wilderness trails go one step beyond sighting dangerous game from the safety of a game vehicle. Instead one stands on shared territory, deep in the African bush, far away from the safety of a veranda or vehicle, the possiblity of facing down a black rhino, elephant or lion a very real prospect.
If you have ever wanted to feel vulnerable in the face of nature, to appreciate the silence and rejuvenation of the bush, then any of the Imfolozi Wilderness Trails will afford you a journey you won’t regret taking. To book one of the five wilderness trails contact KZN Wildlife.