Zip wiring, helicopter riding and open-sea kayaking: South Africa’s Eastern Cape is rising in popularity with those who like a splash of excitement on holiday. From sea water kayaking to quad biking, there are plenty of activities for adrenaline junkies there, but with elephant tours and wonderful luxury hotels, there is also lots to lure those who want a relaxing time. For those who live in the UK or Europe, you can arrive ready to start the day as there are overnight flights and only a one-hour time difference from GMT.
Thanks to Olivia Foster Mail Online Travel for the tips!
Swinging through tree canopies, canoeing across swelling seas and quad biking through the undergrowth, these are just some of the adventures waiting for the adrenaline junkie on South Africa’s beautiful Eastern Cape.
Whilst areas such as Cape Town and Johannesburg are well-trodden, the Eastern Cape has remained a relative mystery, until now, thanks to its rising popularity with the slack-packing generation.
What’s more, now you can arrive there ready to start your day, because South Africa Airlines offers an overnight journey from London Heathrow – and there’s only a one-hour time difference.
Guided by knowledgeable South African Craig Duffield of Mosaic Tourism we had a terrific time discovering what South Africa can offer adrenaline junkies and first-time adventurers, from Durban to the Tsitsikamma National Park.
Sea water kayaking
Looking out at the rolling waves coming into the Storms River Mouth you’d forgive even the most expert of adventurers for being a little bit scared.
But once out in the ocean you’ll paddle out through the rolling waves and round under the famous Storm River Suspension bridge, where you’re greeted with caves, cliffs and the type of landscape that wouldn’t be out of place on an episode of Lost.
Once further up the river you’ll be transferred over to lilos (yes, lilos) to continue your journey up-stream. Anyone looking for an extra thrill might want to try the cliff jump, but beware, the fresh water is very cold!
Top tip: Keep your wetsuit rolled down to the waist for the sea kayaking, when the waves get big, you’ll want the full use of your arms to paddle you through.
Booking: Price approximately £24pp. Visit www.untouchedadventures.com/activities/kayak-and-lilo.
Canoeing down the Sundays River
Those keen for a more relaxing journey down the river should try canoeing down the Sundays River.
Sit back in your two-man canoe from CrissCross Adventures and let the power of the current pull you most of the way down stream.
Seriously, for this three-hour-long cruise you’ll need minimal arm power, which leaves more time for trying to spot the elusive African fish eagle.
More common sights include seven different types of kingfisher and the goliath heron.
With drinks included you might be tempted to take one of the local beers, passed to you by your guide on the tip of his oar (even if the trip does start at 8.30am).
Top Tip: When you head towards the rapids (don’t worry, they’re not that fast!) make sure you heed the advice of your guide, or you may end up stuck in the reeds like we did!
Booking: Price is around £24pp. Visit www.crisscrossadventures.co.za/addo-river-safari.
Climb onto your Yamaha Grizzly – also from CrissCross Adventures – slip on your protective goggles and take a precarious ride around the Vally Bushveld.
With rocky paths and steep slopes this is not an activity for the first time driver as the hour-and-a-half-long trails take you through the South African undergrowth. Just be careful you don’t drive into the river!
Top tip: Take a few laps around the practice course before setting off into the trees where the paths can be more than a little bit rocky.
Booking: Price approx £21pp. Visit www.crisscrossadventures.co.za/addo-quad-biking/.
Segway ride through the forest
Take a relaxed Segway ride through the Storms River Village and into the surrounding forest with Segway Fun.
Before setting off your guide will give you a comprehensive tutorial of how to use your vehicle, before letting you loose on the training area. Don’t worry, it’s easier than it looks.
Then, with the speed dial turned up, you’ll have an hour-long tour taking in the sights and smells of the beautiful woodland as you zoom along on your Segway. Just make sure you stay in single file as the guides warn you to avoid any unwanted crashes.
Top tip: When stepping off the Segway be sure to take one foot off at a time, keeping a firm grip on the handle bars as you do, or you may end up running over your foot!
Booking: Price approximately £13-£15 pp. Visit www.segwayfun.co.za/.
Africa’s longest double zip-line
When you’re standing at the bottom of the Adrenalin Addo zip line you’d be forgiven for thinking it wasn’t very high, but after a steep climb up the mountainside there’s no mistaking that vertigo feeling once you’ve got to the top.
Join up with a partner for this experience as you travel 250 metres across the amazing SA scenery over the valley and down past the Sundays River. If you’re anything like us – or the other groups we spotted enjoying this experience – you’ll be screaming all the way.
Top tip: If you’re not feeling too fragile after the zip line itself, the Adrenalin Addo team also has a giant 18-metre-high swing you can have a go on.
Booking: Price approximately £14pp. Visit hadrenalinaddo.co.za/ for more information.
Tsitskamma Canopy Tour
Ok, so ten zip lines doesn’t feel like a very novice thing to do but with the expert team talking you through them all step by step it certainly feels less scary – especially after their extensive and informative safety briefing.
As you swing through the trees on lines of varying lengths (and speeds) the expert guides will talk you through the surrounding forest life even giving you a pop quiz on what you’ve learnt along the way – which is certain to take your mind off the heights.
Top tip: Make sure to check out your DVD at the end of the trip, quickly edited before you’ve even got back to the Village. There’s nothing funnier than watching yourself swinging through a tree.
Booking: Price approximately £27pp. Click here for more information.
At Surf Camp South Africa beginners are instructed on the art of riding waves at St Francis Bay.
Surf Camp South Africa’s instructor Cody Futeran gave up a corporate life to become a surf instructor at St Francis Bay and he’s been inspiring novice surfers ever since.
Whilst the waves looked too big for a beginner to take on – and you’ll definitely wipe out more than once – Cody managed to have our whole group of six riding the waves by the end of our hour-long session.
At one spectacular point we were joined by dolphins leaping through the bay to check out our efforts.
Top tip: While you might want to look like a beach god in your wetsuit by choosing one that’s tight fitting, opt for a looser one and you’ll have more freedom to move around in the water.
Booking: For a day’s surfing and overnight stay prices start at £45pp. Visit surfcampsouthafrica.co.za/ for more.
Addo National Elephant Park, Sundowner Tour
Wrap up warm as the sun starts to go down and take a drive through the Addo National Elephant Park in an open sided jeep.
At this time of night the spotting of elephants can be slightly more difficult as they retreat as the sun sets, but we saw warthogs, jackals and – the more impressive of the bunch – two male lions.
Sitting just metres away from us this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be close to these infamous predators. Shortly after we were driven up to the top of a hill for sundowner drinks and snacks before retreating to our beautiful cottages on the grounds of the park.
Top tip: It might sound pretty obvious but keep your arms inside the jeep, whilst there are no windows to allow you a great view and great photographs, moving yourself outside of its parameters can scare the animals.
Booking: For a half-day tour prices start at approximately £36pp. Visit www.crisscrossadventures.co.za/addo-elephant-park-tour/ for more information.
Up, up and away
Take the time to stop off in Durban where you can take a four-seater helicopter ride above the stunning coastline and crashing waves, giving you that total James Bond feeling.
Visit www.facebook.com/jncheli/for more information.
Where to stay
Dune Ridge Country House in St Francis is a four-star property with rooms boasting four-poster beds, your own private terrace and a free standing bath (perfect for soaking those muscles after a day of surfing).
At night you can enjoy dinner cooked by the friendly staff or have a tinkle on the piano, whilst in the day the pool area provides the perfect chill-out zone.
For more information visit www.duneridgestfrancis.co.za.
At Tsitikamma stay on site in their beautiful garden apartments. Wake up to see the mist rising above the nearby mountains whilst enjoying a cup of tea on your own little terrace before heading to the omelette bar at the nearby breakfast room. At night stop by the Tsitsikamma micro brewery to try out some locally brewed beers.
Where to eat
The Oyster Box restaurant in Durban boasts a stunning sea-front setting and a speciality curry buffet that has a host of famous fans, including Prince Harry.
Beware the over friendly local monkeys though – they have been known to sneak up and steal from the plates of unsuspecting diners.