As one of the top 5 destinations in South Africa, the Garden Route has entrenched itself as an essential part of travellers itineraries for cuisine, culture, marine, wildlife and outdoors sports enthusiasts.
For some though, it has become the adrenaline hub of South Africa where activities that extend adventure seekers beyond their daily comfort zones of urban lifestyle. Activities that thrill while confronting fears.
It was while supporting on an abseiling outing that the desire of travelers to challenge their comfort zones was highlighted. The abseil wasn’t particularly high at 37m, but the ‘landing area’ was into a canoe on the Kaaimans River at the base of the cliff.
A young Irish woman had just aborted her abseil and I had to paddle around to collect her after she had walked down to the river so that I could escort her upstream to see the waterfall and wait for her colleague.
To say that she was devastated at not being to complete the abseil would be an understatement. Awash in emotion she fluctuated between disappointment, anger and frustration for half an hour before enquiring what other ‘dangerous’ activities she could do in the area.
Considering her recent failure at abseiling, I proposed a few exciting activities that would thrill, but would possibly be achievable for her. I was surprised by her response which was ‘Can I die doing any of these activities?’
Most definitely not was my answer, to which she answered that she only wanted to do activities that she could potentially die while attempting them. And this from someone who was incapable of stepping over a cliff ledge attached to two safety ropes a mere half an hour before.
In reality, it was not death that she was seeking, but rather an activity that went beyond her perception of safety during everyday living.
If you are in the Garden Route and are looking for something that push you beyond your comfort zone, here are five activities to do.
Abseiling : While there are a few abseiling sites in the Garden Route, the two sites in the Kaaimans River are the most accessible with two commercial operators offering their services with heights of 37m and 75m abseils available.
For those that haven’t abseiled before, the hardest part is approaching the ledge and ultimately stepping over it. It is that moment when, especially if you suffer from vertigo, that a deep sense of self preservation battles with a desire for adventure.
Once you are over the edge, you simply hang in there and enjoy the descent and hopefully the view.
Who to book with : Eden Adventures and Fearless Adventures in Wilderness.
Swimming with seals : For most nature lovers, the prospect of a wild animal encounter is thrilling and potentially poses an unknown outcome. Swimming with seals has an extra element of excitement as they are nimble and fast in the ocean and extremely inquisitive. Out of nowhere, a seal can rush up to you and mere centimeters from your face, stops to inspect you.
An added thrill of swimming with seals in the Garden Route is that the ocean is also home to a healthy population of Great White Sharks which frequently visit and feed on unsuspecting seals. So, if your seal playmates start vacating the water, best that you do so as well.
Bungi Jumping : The Bloukrans bungi jump east of Plettenberg Bay is heralded as the highest bungi jump in the world.
Irrespective of who you are and what your tolerance for heights are, when you walk out along the bridge infrastructure to the jump zone, your heart rate increases.
Standing on the jumping mat with the rope attached to your ankles and the ‘launch’ crew on either side of you your pulse races ahead as your subconscious survival reflex wrestles with your thrill seeking desire.
On the count of three, your knees buckle, and in one bound you plunge into the 216m gorge.
By the time you are rebounded up, you are already budgeting for another jump as the post adrenaline surge flushes through your system and ignites your endocrine and neural systems.
By the time you have been winched back up to the bridge, you are ready for a repeat jump.
Again, the thrill seeker trumps the survivalist.
Who to jump with : Face Adrenaline at Bloukrans Bridge
Sky Diving : The idea of jumping out of an airplane is enough to deter all but a few. It may be a personal thing, but standing in the doorway of a light aircraft, a few seconds away from jumping into thin air was less intimidating than preparing to bungi off the Bloukrans bridge.
Looking down at the Mossel Bay coastline from 12000 feet, is almost surreal. Cars are ant like, the mountains look like a screen shot from Google Earth while the ocean is a mere swimming pool.
My fingers lingered a fraction longer on the door frame, then we diving, accelerating head first to the earth below. Five seconds later we were tumbling into our first somersault, a quick stabilization, into a second somersault and all too soon the parachute was up and we drifted down to the beach.
Very little prepares you for your first tandem jump, and very little compares to it. In an adrenaline buzz we were ready to enroll for a sky diving course, such is the intoxicating level of adrenaline.
Who to jump with : Mossel Bay Skydiving in Mossel Bay and Plett Skydiving in Plettenberg Bay.
Paragliding : Should your adrenal glands and heart desire a less intense means of stimulation, but you still want a boost, then paragliding may just be the right choice.
Garden Route is touted as being in the Top Ten paragliding destinations in the world. With prevailing southerly winds, it has become a popular area to learn how to fly.
As with abseiling and bungi jumping, kitting up into the harness and attaching to the ‘wing’ is the moment when the conflict between sensibility and thrill seeking flare up.
For a few brief steps apprehension kicks in and then with your first step on air dissolves into bliss as you fly along the ridge, as list as a feather.
Just as you have affirmed that you could quite easily spend the rest of the day flying, it is time to land and relish the lingering flush of adrenaline.
Without a doubt, the first attempt at any activity that is outside of your comfort zone is the most memorable, especially if it challenges your natural sense of survival. With all of these activities, you will extend your self and notch up an enduring memory of the Garden Route.
For an action packed tours in the Garden Route :