A few weeks ago we booked to go zip lining through the trees in the Karkloof Valley of the Natal Midlands. As opposed to the rainy and cold two or three days we’d already spent in the Midlands, the day of our outing was sunny and gorgeous – perfect to enjoy the spectacular scenery this area has to offer.
Canopy tours originated in the rainforests for Costa Rica where biologists, hungry to study the diversity of animal life in the upper canopy level of forests devised a system of cables and platforms enabling them to explore this previously inaccessible terrain.
Before long this had become a popular activity drawing attention to the plight and beauty of indigenous forests the world over …
Our tour began with a safety briefing, the signing of an indemnity form and then, finally we were kitted out in very sexy looking harnesses, helmets and thick, protective gloves. After this we jumped into a Landcruiser and were driven to the starting point of the adventure!
Once on the first platform, our guide explained how to slow one’s self down – thank goodness for the gloves because your right hand needs to be on the cable at all times; pulling down gently on the cable will slow one down and if one pulls too hard one will come to a complete stop – not ideal if one comes to a stop between platforms because one then needs to turn around and pull oneself onto the next platform!
The first cable was pretty short, approximately 30 metres; just enough to practice slowing down and getting into the swing of things if you excuse the pun!
Each group has two guides, a lead guide and a follow guide – the lead guide obviously goes first and is therefore on the platform to meet you, and the follow guide waits behind with the rest of the party, ensuring everyone is always clipped onto the safety cable, explaining the next stretch of cable and where to slow down if need be and then ensuring everyone gets off the platform safely.
Each of the seven platforms offers a different view, whether it’s of the waterfall (where the Karkloof Canopy Tours staff have cleverly placed a pipe allowing everyone to have a cool drink of fresh mountain water), the beautiful surrounding forest, the vistas of the rolling farmlands of the Midlands or the forest stream far below.
The forest here is home to a variety of birds; Emerald Cuckoos, Knysna Loeries, the endangered Cape Parrot and the elusive Narina Trogon so keep your eyes open for all of them!
Of the eight slides, the longest is 170m and the entire tour should take between 2 and 3 hours depending on the size of your party.
Once you have reached the last platform there is a short walk back to the Karkloof Canopy Tour offices, where if you have ordered prior to leaving, lunch will be waiting for you.
This is such a fun thing to do – we enjoyed every second of it and highly recommend it. The views alone are worth seeing and the feeling of zipping through the trees is wonderful!
So next time you are in Karkloof remember to see the forest from above!