Tried and tested by our brave reviewers, these 17 adrenaline adventures will unleash your inner thrill seeker… guaranteed.
Choose your own adrenaline adventures from our list below:
Western Cape adrenaline adventures
Kloofing, abseiling and canoeing, Wilderness
Sandboarding, Atlantis Dunes
Bungee jumping, Nature’s Valley
Sandboarding Dragon Dune, in the Eden District
Coasteering False Bay
Spelunking, Near Oudsthoorn
KwaZulu-Natal adrenaline adventures
Gauteng adrenaline adventures
Limpopo adrenaline adventures
Eastern Cape adrenaline adventures
Lesotho adrenaline adventures
There’s no shortage of adventures on the Garden Route, but one of my favourites is Eden Adventure’s full day of kloofing, abseiling and canoeing in the Kaaimans River Gorge near Wilderness.
Kitted up in wetsuits and buoyancy aids, you hike into the tannin-stained river then boulder-hop, wade and swim through rock pools to the dramatic, steep-sided Cappuccino Canyon.
It’s an exciting but mellow kloofing trip – there are some optional jumps into rock pools for adrenaline junkies but it’s as much about being in the pristine gorge as it is about thrill seeking.
After lunch it’s time for a 45m abseil next to a tumbling waterfall, with the added excitement of landing in a small boat at the base of the falls.
Your day in the country ends with a lazy canoe trip out of the gorge, enjoying the silence, the birds and the vegetation clinging to the sheer cliffs. Simply magical. – Fiona McIntosh
ANOTHER ADVENTURE TO TRY: Kloofing in Riviersonderend
Deep in the gorge formed by the Limpopo River in Magoebaskloof, you will begin the adventure of a lifetime. Bright yellow ‘gecko tubes’ wait to carry you through crystal waters that lead you towards the roaring white-water rapids.
The first leg of your journey is a pleasant and peaceful meander down the river, giving you enough time to admire the dramatic scenery of towering cliffs and indigenous vegetation.
As the tube picks up speed in the water, your adrenaline matches the pace, so when you hurtle over the waterfall or down the rapids, all you feel is pure exhilaration.
If you want more excitement, there are optional jumps which are not for the faint-hearted. Or you could try 11 ziplines, kloofing, mountain biking, abseiling or quad biking all offered by Magoebaskoof Adventures.
Highly trained guides make sure that you are in safe hands so you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. – Lisa Martus
083 866 1546, www.magoebaskloofadventures.co.za
If you’ve always fancied rock climbing but lack the gear or the expertise, try bouldering. This is climbing at its most minimalist – all you need is a pair of climbing shoes, perhaps some chalk to give you better grip and a friend to steady you if you fall off one of the low boulders.
If you plan to take it more seriously, a crash mat to fall on is a good idea, but in the beginning you can just get the feel of the rock and see if climbing is for you.
There’s no better introduction to the sport than on the bizarrely shaped, rough sandstone boulders of Rocklands in the northern Cederberg.
These weather-sculpted orange rocks are world famous, attracting top local and international climbers who come to pit themselves against the ‘problems’ set by the overhangs. But this rugged piece of wilderness is mind-blowing for more reasons than just rock.
One of the eight protected areas of the Cape Floral Region World Heritage Site, it’s a place with magnificent fynbos and bird life – a wonderful playground for hikers and mountain bikers.
CapeNature permits are on sale at the info office in Clanwilliam or at the campsites or lodges in the area. If you’re staying at one of the Kliphuis campsites or chalets you can boulder there for free. – Fiona McIntosh
The ocean version of land-based wildlife safaris, snorkel safaris are available in some of the world’s most biodiverse places. KZN’s Dolphin Coast is one of these.
According to figures listed by uShaka Marine World in Durban, 2 500 fish species, 28 types of whales and dolphins, five different sea turtles, 46 species of sea birds, and tens of thousands of invertebrates occur along the East Coast.
On a random snorkel hunt on your own, you might get to see a tiny fraction of these and even then you might not know what you’re looking at.
That had been my experience until I joined a snorkel safari with knowledgeable guide and enthusiastic marine conservationist, Michy Morris of Tidal Tao, a company that offers snorkel safaris in Ballito and Salt Rock.
Michy not only identified magical critters we encountered, but also told us of their private lives. On top of that, Michy knows all the secret spots where you can find these special creatures.
An advisory – you’ll be hooked. Tidal Tao safaris are tide and weather dependent. Advanced booking is essential. – Andrea Abbott
079 307 0608, www.tidaltao.com
SEE ALSO: Salt Rock snorkel safari
Okay so we don’t get much snow in sunny SA but we do have sand and plenty of it. No doubt that Cape Town’s sandboarding hotspot is the dune fields of Atlantis, just 30 minutes up the N7 (the main West Coast road) from the city centre.
Although sandboarding is similar to snowboarding, you need to ride steeper dunes if you want to reach the same speed. And of course if you happen to wipe out – as most beginners do – you eat dust not snow, but it’s all a good laugh.
Downhill Adventures run full- and half-day trips to the dune fields, with equipment, permits, transport from the Mother City and a quick lesson from the pros included in the price.
And after all the action, just chilling on the summit of a beautiful white dune and looking at Table Mountain in the distance is fantastic. – Shaen Adey
SEE ALSO: Surf’s up in Jeffrey’s Bay
The Bloukrans Bridge, at a whopping 216m above ground, is home to the world’s highest commercial bridge bungee jump and scares off even the toughest of bravehearts.
The music they play in the build-up has a similar effect to that in the movie Jaws and certainly had my heart thumping with fear.
The walk out to the bridge is incredible – and even though my nerves were jangling I couldn’t help but appreciate the magic of this area in the Tsitsikamma National Park, with the blue mountains, deep gorges and the Bloukrans River snaking far below.
When the guides started their chorus in the countdown I found myself questioning my sanity. But as my friend Fiona said when she saw me hesitate, “Remember that fear is temporary; regret is forever!”
The Guinness World Record for oldest jumper is Mohr Keet who jumped at Bloukrans in 2010 aged 96. The record still stands. – Shaen Adey
READ MORE: Tsitsikamma Sutra in Nature’s Valley
And now for something completely different offered by Outdoor Focus – cycling on water. The hydrobike is a bicycle that’s had its wheels replaced with pontoons.
You sit upright, which is super comfortable and all you need do is enjoy the scenery. The bikes are easy to pedal, amazingly stable and easy to manouevre.
And while they aren’t exactly a replacement for a spinning class, they’re way more fun and reach cruising speeds of 4 to 6km per hour.
Kids love them, especially little ones who aren’t comfortable in water. The bikes (and life jackets) can be rented from Outdoor Focus based on Beach Road on the banks of the Kowie River. – Shaen Adey
SEE ALSO: Must-do markets in the Eastern Cape
I’ve always loved climbing trees but All Out Adventures has made it super easy with a 17m spiral staircase curling up a trunk.
At the top you step onto a suspension bridge and face a 17m freefall before the G-forces kick you into a swing.
I sounded a bit like Tarzan being throttled as I stepped off the edge, my stomach simultaneously lurching into my mouth.
The adrenaline rush is awesome and I went back for another dose.
If the King Swing isn’t your thing there are several other activities to choose from including foefie slides, quad biking, mountain biking and paintball, flying trapeze and bungee bouncing at All Out Adventures in the northern Drakensberg.
But it’s the swings that really draw the loudest screams. – Shaen Adey
ANOTHER ADVENTURE TO TRY: Swing through the trees with Tsitsikamma Canopy Tours
Drakensberg adventures mostly involve mountain climbing, abseiling, hiking, white-water tubing, trail running and horse riding.
But Scootours does things differently – they offer a 4.5km guided downhill tour on a giant scooter in the Dragon Peaks Mountain Resort, Champagne Valley.
A first in South Africa, Drakensberg Scootours use robust, non-motorised scooters imported from Switzerland. Giant pneumatic tyres and disc brakes make the scooters stable and easy to control, so even children as young as 10 can ride solo.
Younger riders can double up with mom or dad. A 4×4 bakkie takes groups to the top of the hand-cut trail that’s also used by MTB riders and goes through a forest, across grasslands, down thrill-producing slopes, and round tight bends like Suicide Corner.
Top speed is as fast as gravity will take you (yee-ha!) but those who prefer a sedate descent can easily control the speed. Sheer exhilaration in a World Heritage Site. Booking essential. – Andrea Abott
074 103 3613/ 074 192 8258, [email protected]
SEE ALSO: Sani Pass wild flower walk
Rugged and remote, the Wild Coast is a place of feral wonder where adventure seekers are spoilt for choice.
Topping bucket lists should be an ocean excursion with Offshore Port St Johns, the only operator of its kind along the Wild Coast.
A trip to sea with dive masters Debbie Smith and Rob Nettleton, who is also a skilled skipper, is an unforgettable experience that starts with a thrilling launch through the breakers at the Umzimvubu River mouth.
Best time to go is June/July during the annual feeding frenzy that is the Sardine Run, the marine equivalent of the Serengeti migration.
Sharks, dolphins and pelagic birds abound then, and so do whales as the run coincides with their annual migration north.
Awe-inspiring all year are the offshore views of the land where waterfalls plunge directly into the ocean, rock formations resemble cathedrals and shipwrecks tell of the perils of that wild coast. – Andrea Abbott
082 2569414 / 084 9511325, www.offshoreportstjohns.com
Flying silently over Limpopo bushveld as the sun rises and gilds the Drakensberg must be on everyone’s adventure bucket list.
You don’t have to be fit, fearless or fast to do hot-air ballooning. All the work is done for you. Meet pre-dawn near Hoedspruit and watch the magnificent balloons while you drink coffee, then step aboard the baskets and you’re off.
The pilot gives a few quick roaring blasts of the gas and then there’s this incredible silence as you float over the bush. Sometimes you are so low you almost feel you could touch the tree tops and then it’s up and away again.
If you’re lucky you might spot some game but the scenery from high among the gods is enough. You float where the winds take you but never too close to the mountains and when time is up (after about an hour) you just land somewhere in open farm land.
Sparkling wine ensures that any part of your body that is not already fizzing is given another chance and a complimentary breakfast at Otter’s Den on the Blyde River is the final touch.
It might take you a while to come down to earth after this adventure – it’s not cheap but it’s worth every cent. – Sue Adams
SEE ALSO: Pet-friendly places to stay in Limpopo
There’s nothing quite so exciting as navigating through a tiny crawl space to arrive in a magical grotto alive with sparkling crystals.
Spelunking is an adventurer’s dream – that’s if you don’t suffer from claustrophobia. The Cango Caves system near Oudtshoorn is a great place for both amateur and proficient spelunkers.
The aptly named Adventure Tour will see you shimmying and squeezing through tunnels, crevices and slots while you explore an offshoot of the main cave system.
Those who want something a little more ‘wild’ can contact the Team Building Institute to arrange a slippery, muddy, contortionist’s adventure in one of the Swartberg mountains’ many little-known grottos.
If spelunking isn’t your cup of tea but you’d still like to see some beautiful caverns, you can always just take a standard tour of the Cango Caves where concrete pathways and well-lit staircases negate the need to crawl around on hands and knees. – Dale Morris
ANOTHER ADVENTURE TO TRY: Take a one-week mountain bike tour through the Black Mountains of the Klein Karoo
5 more adventures for you to try
Adventure, sport and lifestyle photojournalist Jazz Kuschke shares his top 5 adventures.
Strap on a helmet, headlamp and climbing harness and go below ground with Wild Cave Adventures. They offer a variety of trips in the limestone caves in and around the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site near Krugersdorp.
These caves/abseils cater for the adventure-seeker looking for an opportunity to explore extreme areas safely.
011 956 6197, www.wildcaves.co.za
Get a Samango monkey’s eye view of the indigenous Podacarpus Mistbelt on the original canopy tour through the Karkloof Forest Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal.
Professionally-trained guides (all from the local community) provide insights into the forest and its creatures, while making sure you slide safely.
That entails traversing from one platform to another along a steel cable suspended some 30-metres above the forest floor.
Impact on the trees is minimal (the platforms are built on stilts) and the education of visitors goes a long way to the conservation of this (and other) shrinking forests.
033 330 3415, www.karkloofcanopytour.co.za
Dragon Dune outside Vleesbaai in the Eden District is a steep, groomed 300-metre-high sandy ‘ski run’. And it’s on private land.
Guide Leon ‘Bugs’ Billeon mixes patient coaching and informative banter in the relaxed manner that comes only after years working with clients. Suitable for all skill levels and ages, individuals and groups.
082 97 11 405, www.billeon.com
The hardy Basotho pony can get you to the remotest outposts of the Mountain Kingdom (Lesotho), places where 4x4s and motorbikes never get close to.
Do a guided three-day pony trek from Malealea Lodge. All supplies will be carried by pony and you’ll sleep in a traditional Basotho hut high in the Malutis.
082 552-4215, www.malealea.com
Coasteering is a mix of kloofing, snorkeling, swimming and rock jumping – in short, the funnest way to get up close and personal with the inter-tidal zone.
False Bay’s crystal clear waters and protection from the South Easter make this the perfect location for all skill levels and the ideal summer activity.
There are a number of rock jumps of up to 10-metres high (tide dependant) but none of these are compulsory.
021 683 3698, www.Gravity.co.za
Need any more travel inspiration? Check out our the ultimate South African Travel Bucket List