Outdoor Activities in the Western Cape
Outdoor Activities in South Africa
There are few countries in the world to rival South Africa when it comes to outdoor activities. The country has everything from rugged mountains to endless desert plains, rushing rivers and crashing waves, big five reserves and wetlands, lush forests and fynbos-covered hills that beg to be explored.
Large numbers of farms are now focusing on eco-tourism activities and the low population density, history of conservation and vast areas of inhospitable terrain has resulted in extensive areas of pristine, protected wilderness, where adventurous types can escape and sleep out under the stars.
The extensive coastline, with the cold Atlantic Ocean to the west and warm Indian Ocean to the east, is a haven for watersports enthusiasts. Scuba divers and snorkellers can enjoy tropical diving on some of the world’s most southerly coral reefs, while adrenalin junkies can get up close and personal with fearsome apex predators – including, from the safety of a cage - great white sharks.
Sea kayakers can marvel at the spectacular coastal landscapes in the company of whales, dolphins and seals, while the many rivers offer rafting from mild to wild. Kayakers can take guided tours of hippo- and crocodile-infested lakes and fly-fishermen can enjoy the grand mountain symphony being played around them as they cast into the many well-stocked rivers, dams and lakes.
Hiking, mountain-bike and 4x4 trails criss-cross the country, giving access to treasures such as rock art or to otherwise inaccessible beaches, mountain peaks and rivers. And it’s so easy to get away from it all here, even if you can’t leave town. All the cities have wonderful day walks and mountain-bike and 4x4 parks, where you can get some fresh air, grind your gears or improve your skills.
The sunny climate is ideal for enjoying the outdoors and while parts of the country suffer climatic extremes, the weather is predictable – so activity plans are rarely scuppered. Best of all, while the outdoor industry is well regulated, there is little of the nanny-state mentality you find elsewhere. In South Africa, the prevailing attitude is one of individual responsibility. There are few restrictions and even fewer crowds; permits and guides are easy to come by and if you want to go out and do your own thing, no-one is going to stop you.
Indeed there’s no room for any excuse, so get out there now!
Articles & Blogs
Coming Together to Effect Positive Change in Paarl2:37pm 7 Jan
Paarl in the Western Cape came alive with the spirit of hope and opportunity at a recent distribution of 175 bicycles by non-profit organisation Qhubeka in collaboration with Nederburg and Team Dimension Data, Africa’s only pro-cycling World Tour team.
The majority of the bicycles, 150 of these funded by Team Dimension Data and its partners, were given to learners of the Charleston Hill Secondary School, while 25 bicycles sponsored by Nederburg were donated to Paarl East Neighbourhood Watch volunteers to better equip them to carry out their role in fighting crime and promoting...
Get Your Feet Wet!4:55pm 29 Jan
Words Olivia Wickstrom, Langebaan Lagoon pic Alessandro Bonora
Paddling in Tsitsikamma National Park
Imagine an adventure that begins on a kayak on the Indian Ocean and ends with jumping off a cliff into the Storms River. Untouched Adventure’s kayak and lilo trip is a three-hour outing that encompasses adrenaline-inducing activities, spectacular views and relaxation. Start with an ocean paddle under the suspension bridge at the Storms River mouth and up the river. Swap to a lilo and relax while you float along, then embrace the excitement when you jump into the pools of...
Expedition Africa 20166:30am 15 May
Nightjar Travel's very own Fiona McIntosh will be part of the Merrell Mentored Adventure Team setting off at 8am on Sunday 15th May on the Expedition Africa Adventure Race 2016. The 500km multi-discipline endurance race in the Garden Route combines mountain biking, trekking, kayaking, rope work and orienteering, and teams are required to complete the entire Expedition distance together (always within hearing and visual distance of each other), helping and assisting each...
The Merrells Do Expedition Africa1:10pm 14 May
Pics Bruce Viaene, Shaen Adey, Carmen Froneman
No arguing with airlines and customs officials this time, Graham ‘Tweet’ Bird of the Merrell Adventure Addicts gets to roll out of bed and straight on to the course of Expedition Africa 2016 in the Garden Route. You know you’ve chosen the right place to live when it is the epicentre of a 520km adventure race encompassing mountains, sea, lagoons, rivers, canyons, harsh semi desert, lush indigenous forest and endless vistas of open space in all directions...
A Little Optimism Goes a Long Way6:40pm 15 Mar
Cape Town father, big wave surfer and open heart surgery survivor Greg Bertish, plans to go where no sail boat its size has ever gone before to raise funds for the Red Cross Children’s Hospital Trust.
The 200km voyage from Cape Hanglklip across False Bay, around Cape Point to Langebaan Lagoon on the West Coast, will be a mammoth undertaking for the tiny 8ft, single-handed children’s sailing dinghy, referred to as an Optimist. The sailboat is more commonly used by children under the age of 15 weighing no more than 50kgs.
45 year old Bertish plans to launch the...
Garden Route Trail Park9:29pm 6 Aug
Words and pics Tim Brink
Along the Garden Route lie the historic remains of South African mountain biking’s beginnings. And some exceptional brand-new trails, as Tim Brink discovers.
Sedgefield’s Fat Tyre Festivals are a 20-years-plus distant memory, but the Southern Cape still calls mountain bikers from far and wide to ride some of the iconic trails in this region. Harkerville’s Red Route is the seminal mountain-bike ride here, if not in the country, with forest singletrack, cliff-edge speed-play and weather variables that turn any ride there into an...
On High8:07pm 30 Apr
Words Fiona McIntosh pics Shaen Adey
Cape Canopy Tour leader Ricardo Juries beamed as he set the scene. “Once we’ve done the briefing and kitted you up, we’re going on a 4x4 journey into the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom, a Unesco World Heritage Site. You’ll be going to the upper reaches of the Riviersonderend Gorge, to a place few others have ever seen.”
His enthusiasm is infectious. As he explained how a series of ziplines would carry us safely from platform to platform high above the gorge, his sense of pride and wonder was palpable. He has every right to be...
Kings of Board Grace the Kogelberg9:55pm 15 Mar
Words Dale Barrow, pics Lauren Barrow
What do you get if you combine a smooth tar road on the slopes of the Kogelberg Biosphere with speed fanatics on skateboards? The answer is Hot Heels Africa.
Started in 2003, Hot Heels Africa, a World Cup Downhill Skateboarding race, is the longest continuously-running event in the International Gravity Sports Association (IGSA) World Cup Series and attracts challengers from near and far. This, along with the fact that it is the final leg of the domestic competition, means that local and international gravity racers are...
Funky Fynbos Festival9:55pm 7 Sep
The Funky Fynbos Festival MTB trails lead through the incredible fynbos of Walker Bay.
Words Fiona McIntosh, Pics Shaen Adey, Michelle Privett
Taking the title of Funky Fynbos Festival Iron Man or Iron Woman at the inaugural festival in Gansbaai next weekend will be a stiff challenge. But fortunately there’s plenty to amuse fun runners, mountain bikers and more sedentary types!
When Sean Privett announced that he was organising a weekend of trail running and mountain biking events in Walker Bay as part of the inaugural Rockets Funky Fynbos...
Balancing Act9:55pm 21 Aug
Words Mark Samuel
I’ve got that Elvis shaky-knee thing going on, and I’ve probably only been at it for about 25 minutes. I was convinced I’d be way better at this, even though it’s my first time… And it’s not only in my legs that the exertion is taking its toll: I can feel it in my shoulders, my tummy muscles and my arms – even in my toes! But I’m loving every minute of it.
SUPing – that’s stand-up paddle surfing, or stand-up paddle boarding, if you’re being pernickety – has taken the water world by storm. In just under a decade, it’s gone from being a virtually unknown...
Atlantis Sandboarding9:55pm 24 Jun
Words Shan Routledge, pics Kyle Solms
My previous forays into anything ending with a ‘boarding’ have been relatively unsuccessful, resulting in a broken wrist when attempting to combine it with snow and numerous embarrassing face-plants when adding it to water. So I was a tad apprehensive at linking it with sand - which I consider a great deal harder than snow or water! But, being cursed with an adventurous spirit and an indomitable will to try anything new, I found myself heading to Atlantis.
Now I don’t mean the lost city of Atlantis but rather Atlantis, Cape Town, which is...
Spot the Shipwreck!6:30am 16 Apr
Spot the shipwreck! Explore beaches on horseback with Sleepy Hollow Riding School
Carla Gontier for Cape Town Tourism
Sleepy Hollow Riding School is nestled in the heart of Noordhoek, close to the sprawling beach and right next to the wetlands – right near the majestic Chapman’s Peak. It was established in 1975 as a riding school, and is the oldest riding school in the Noordhoek valley.
Sleepy Hollow is a horse riding school, but offers Bush Trails and Beach rides on Noordhoek’s 8km beach, where you can take a gentle walk or...
Surfski School - Fun on the ocean waves9:55pm 18 Mar
Words Fiona McIntosh, pics John Hishin
‘Attack the wave,’ Dawid Mocke had drummed into us in the briefing. ‘Don’t faff around. Point your ski head-on into the foamie and keep paddling. The impact zone, where the waves are breaking, is barely 30 metres, a maximum of 40 strokes. So pick your moment and go for it. Once you’re beyond the back line you can relax a bit.’
It all sounded very straightforward as we sat on the grass outside Fish Hoek Yacht Club listening to South Africa’s top surfskier explain the ABC of his sport. The Mocke family is legendary. Nikki Mocke, who, with...
Snorkeling with Cape Fur Seals6:30am 26 Feb
Snorkeling with Cape Fur Seals in #lovecapetown
Natalie Roos for Cape Town Tourism
Think “adventure in Cape Town” and your first thoughts will probably be along the lines of shark cage diving, hiking up Table Mountain and kite surfing in Blouberg. Now, along with a helicopter flip around the Atlantic, there’s a new activity to add to your adventure bucket list.
Just 20 minutes out of the Cape Town city bowl, in the quaint harbour town of Hout Bay, you’ll find Animal Ocean’s boat, ready and waiting to take you just offshore to Seal Island...
K-Way VOB Running Club8:30am 4 Feb
Run, run as fast as you can (or just for fun) with K-Way VOB Running Club
Summer, winter, morning or evening, there are few activities as convenient as walking or running. No matter where you are in the world, all you need is a suitable pair of shoes and comfy clothing to get some exercise – indoors or outdoors. Set aside 20 minutes. Inhale deeply. Stretch out your legs. Left-right, left-right. Get your heart pumping. It really is this easy.
“We’ve supported many athletes over the years across a variety of outdoor disciplines,” says Nick Bennett, Marketing...
Spreading the Sabrina Love4:00am 29 Jan
Words & Pics by Jacques Marais
Summer in South Africa is tough to beat, especially if you’re fortunate to find yourself somewhere along the beautiful Garden Route. Think Blue Flag beaches, ocean waves, scintillating views and tranquil forests.
Add a few trails meandering down gravel roads, across mountain streams and onto some sweet single-track, plus a bunch of legendary athletes in a number of adventure sporting...
It’s Mocke and Mocke at the Cape Town Downwind11:03pm 21 Jan
Jasper Mocke elated at the win. A sweet victory for him on his home stretch of water in front of his home club, his family and friends.
Words Dawid Mocke in Ocean Race, Pics courtesy John Hishin, Jacques Marais
Fish Hoek – The Cape Town Downwind was held in perfect ocean conditions with a stiff South Easter whipping False Bay, and the world famous Miller’s Run downwind route, into a frenzied chop, perfect for downwind open ocean surfski racing.
Madiba’s Left4:45am 18 Nov
Words & pics Alan Van Gysen
''Mandela” he said in a husky whisper, “are you awake? You are a lucky man; we are taking you to a place where you will have your freedom. You will be able to move around; you'll see the ocean and the sky.” He intended no sarcasm, but I well knew that the place he was referring to would not afford me the freedom I longed for.
- Nelson Mandela, prior to his incarceration on Robben Island, Pretoria 1964.
As early as the...
Nightjar Travelled11:55am 9 Sep
Sky Dive Atlantis
Cape Town is known for its scenery, and tourists are often advised to get up high to take it all in, with Signal Hill or Table Mountain being on most itineraries. However, you could go even higher than that - we recently strapped ourselves to rugged looking men, crammed into a tiny plane like sardines, and then flopped out... yes, we went skydiving. Granted, the terrifying rush of adrenaline makes it hard to concentrate on anything else, but this was definitely the most beautiful way in which I've seen Cape Town yet, and I've been here for over a...
MUIZENBERG - Same as it ever was5:55am 6 Sep
Words by Andy Davis, pics by Alan van Gysen
Suddenly the board broke free of the foam and started to glide along the face. The boy, using a bit too much knee, got unsteadily to his feet, crouched and leaned slightly into it, directing the old Safari single fin down the line. That release from the foam, the sudden acceleration. You know the feeling. The wave left him in the shallows, tripping all his switches: ctrl-alt-delete. Goodbye old world. He picked up the...