Adventure tours South Africa: Shark cages, ziplining and skydiving in Cape Down

Cape Town, with its mountain in the city, its wild seas and plethora of long-toothed creatures, can confidently lay claim to being one of the world's adrenalin capitals. This is music to the ears of those travellers who travel for the thrill of doing mad and dangerous things, then posting them on social media.

For a start, the city is splendour personified, its beauty writ large in the granite crags, luminous bays, mountain pastures and indigenous fynbos​ vegetation. And where there is physical beauty there are physical things to do – scary, adrenalin-pumping things – that allow you to fully experience your surrounds to the tune of a hammering heart.

So for those whose bucket list is a rickety object hanging by the thread off a precipice, with sharks circling below, here goes with 10 ways to take a leap on the wild side.

CAPE TOWN ZIPLINE TOUR

What better way to appreciate the view? None of this rubbish about cowering behind a guardrail, while the view remains static. Much better to hop onto one of the longest ziplines in Africa, up to 155 metres above the ground, and accelerate, while Cape Town's mountains and bays rotate wildly past.

Ignore the occasional shrieking ninny deeply regretting their decision. Rather plunge into the beautiful Constantia abyss, zooming nonchalantly between the 2.7-kilometre-long stretch of eleven platforms and seven cables measuring between 270 and 500 metres.

Cape Town Ziplines lets you experience Table Mountain, the Twelve Apostles range, the Constantia Nek valley and the ocean as well as views of fynbos from high above. A two-hour tour costs $44 a person. See saforestadventures.co.za/

It's in the Cape Town suburb of Constantia's Silvermist Estate, which is also home to the excellent restaurant La Colombe. Treat yourself afterwards. Unfortunately, if you weigh more than 120 kilograms, are pregnant or have a heart condition, you will be grounded.

Rather choose an activity where floating and screaming underwater are the required skills? This leads us to…

GREAT WHITE SHARK CAGE DIVING

After growing up snorkelling among the kelp at Cape Town's Boulder's Beach in False Bay or diving off the Fish Hoek boardwalk, unconcerned about the great white hunting ground at nearby Seal Island, I don't intend to push my luck.

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Shark cage diving, however, is the adrenalin junkie's top pick. Gansbaai, near Africa's southernmost tip is the No 1 spot, but it's a five-hour round trip.

You can eyeball a shark equally well in False Bay with various operators between February and October (Gansbaai is year-round). It takes about 30 minutes to get by boat to Shark Alley/Seal Island for a four-hour excursion. The cage is galvanised steel with flotation devices. No experience is required and equipment is provided. You should also see predatory breaching, natural predation and possible bowel evacuations. From $173 a person. See sharkzone.co.za/ or apexpredators.com/

BEACH HORSE RIDING

This is more my cup of tea – flying along one of Cape Town's longest, most unspoiled and spectacular Atlantic beaches on horseback.

Noordhoek Beach is a wide, wild beach, framed by Chapman's Peak and the Kommetjie Lighthouse. This eight-kilometre slice of beauty is remote – backed by National Park-protected wetlands.

Much loved by horse riders, walkers and surfers, this is no place for swimming. The rusted shell of the steamship Kakapo that ran aground in 1900 on its maiden voyage from Britain to Australia is testament to the treacherous seas. But galloping (or trotting, if you must) along the surf's edge with the wind in your hair is a wonderful way to experience this majestic coast. Various operators offer guided Noordhoek Beach rides, including Sleepy Hollow in Noordhoek and Imhoff Farm in Kommetjie.

Hire a car and drive the spectacular coastal Chapman's Peak Drive beforehand. Most operators offer three daily rides of about two hours. You will enjoy spectacular views, birdlife, otters, seals and seasonal whales.

In the event of a little tumble, be comforted that Noordhoek's sand is soft and white. Bookings essential at sleepyhollowhorseriding.co.za or horseriding.co.za/

ABSEIL OFF TABLE MOUNTAIN

Yes, I think I'll leap off Table Mountain into space, 1000 metres above sea level. Only true adrenalin junkies need apply for this one – yet another way to experience the view at full throttle.

As you descend the side of a sheer cliff, take your eyes off your feet if you dare and check out Camps Bay, the Atlantic Seaboard and the ocean below, with the Twelve Apostles Ranges alongside.

The Table Mountain Abseil includes safety briefing and harnessing, abseiling instructions and a hike back to the top. It will take about an hour and costs $74 a person from Abseil Africa. See abseilafrica.co.za/

Of course, this may be far too tame for some. They may prefer…

KAMIKAZE KANYON

Adrenalin plays havoc with one's spelling, but this is where you basically jump off rocks with no harnesses. This is a full-day outing into the beautiful Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve outside Cape Town, known for its cliffs, rockpools and remarkable indigenous vegetation.

It includes return transport from Cape Town, breakfast, packed lunch, light dinner and sundowner, qualified guides, a 65-metre waterfall abseil, kloofing (canyoning) with jumps from three to 22 metres high, and lovely hikes into the Steenbras River Gorge. Cost is $111 a person. See abseilafrica.co.za/

MOUNTAIN BIKE ON TABLE MOUNTAIN

When in Cape Town, you must experience Table Mountain from every angle. What better way to do this than hurtling around its slopes on a mountain bike?

This one-day, 75-kilometre guided tour is difficult, hilly, requires fitness, experience and technical ability. Still interested? Excellent, because this is the Cape Floral Kingdom up close, though ideally not so close you're faceplanted in fynbos.

Start at the foot of Table Mountain, ride along the face to Newlands forest, then zigzag up through plantations and more than 900 species of mountain fynbos to reveal views across the Cape Flats, False Bay and Cape Point. Includes gorgeous Chapman's Peak Drive ($162 a person).

Cape Escape Mountain Biking Tours also has a less difficult 40-kilometre half-day tour for $135. See capemountainbikingtours.com/

CLIMB TABLE MOUNTAIN

While not shrieking, spinning, skidding or suspending (unless you trip over the edge), this one-day climb is my favourite. The pure joy of ascending the 1000-metre mountain, negotiating the "table", then descending by cable car with the glorious view spread out, is a massive adrenalin-rush, minus the abject terror.

I would recommend a guide, for the mountain can be tricky. Mike Wakeford of Guided by Mike is approachable, experienced, knowledgeable about the mountain and the Cape Floral Kingdom, the tiniest but richest of the world's seven floral kingdoms with 9000 plant species. Table Mountain alone has about 2000 species.

Discuss options with him. You could climb the mountain from Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens via Skeleton Gorge and the cooler eastern face (some ladders) and hike the valleys and ravines of the "back table" (some chains and ladders) to the front (northern edge of the mountain) and the cableway. If you want, you could also walk down Platteklip Gorge.

Or you could climb through afromontane forest up Disa Gorge from Orange Kloof, then hike the table to the cable car. See guidedbymike.co.za/

Another terrific way to see the mountain and wake up on top is with Frank Dwyer's Slackpacker SA. See the options at slackpackersa.co.za 

SKYDIVING

There are a number of companies offering skydives. Skydive Cape Town and its experienced instructors get good reviews. It offers skydives only 45 minutes from the city centre – with return transport at an extra cost (from $28). Its west coast position means that the glories of Table Mountain, the entire peninsula, Table Bay, Robben Island and the west coast to Langebaan are spread before you as you plummet (let me rephrase – float) earthwards.

If the day is clear, you will also see the Indian Ocean side of Cape Town with Cape Point, Muizenberg and Gordon's Bay visible.

A tandem dive from 2740 metres costs $214 for a 35-second freefall, then a five-to-eight-minute parachute ride. See skydiveafrica.co.za/

SANDBOARDING

Here we go again with the wind in your hair, but this one includes sand. Especially if you attempt to, as they say in sandboard-speak, "bust out backflips with 180-degree spins". Otherwise, you could just try staying upright.

Sandboarding Cape Town will take you to one of Cape Town's popular sandboarding sites – either the 35-metre-high west coast shifting dunes of Atlantis, or Betty's Bay on the east coast with its huge 250-metre sandcastle.

The 2½ to three  hours of sandboarding requires fitness and includes safety briefing, qualified instructor, equipment and cold drinks. You will be driven back up the dune after descents. The company will also transport you to and from the dunes for an extra charge. Cost for the ultimate sandboarding 4x4 experience is $56 a person. Quad biking also available. Dude, sweet! See sandboardingcapetown.com/

MASSAGE

If you've done all the above, you may need one of these. The Angsana Spa massage at Cape Town's Vineyard Hotel will drain the adrenalin right out of you. Try the blissful 120-minute massage, which includes a 60-minute body massage, 30-minute face massage and 30-minute Indian head massage ($92). See angsanaspa.com/en/angsana-spa-vineyard-hotel

TRIP NOTES

MORE

traveller.com.au/south-africa

capetown.travel

FLY

Fly Virgin Australia from Brisbane/Sydney/Melbourne to Perth, then South African Airways to Johannesburg and Cape Town. See flysaa.com/au

STAY

The Vineyard Hotel, Newlands, Cape Town. Double rooms from $225 including breakfast, VAT and tourism levy. See vineyard.co.za

Alison Stewart was a guest of SAA and Vineyard Hotel.

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