Top 10 Hidden Gems – Adventure and Nature Seekers
If you are one of those people who just love the rush of adrenaline and are looking for the next adventure to tick off your bucket list, then this is for you! Not many locals and tourists know that Durban and KZN are full of exciting adventures that include natural wildlife, superstructures, and some hair-raising experiences. When you think of adventurous things to do in Durban, the Big Jump at Moses Mabhida and the Slides at Ushaka immediately come to mind, so we decided, along with our partner Avios, to look for the hidden gems that lie within our city and province of KwaZulu-Natal.
Shark Cage Diving
There are numerous species of sharks to be found in our warm waters on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast. The species of sharks include the Ragged Tooth, Tiger, Hammerhead, Black Tip, Giant Guitar and Bull Sharks, which make their appearance from April through to November. Whale Sharks can be seen from December to March when there is an abundance of plankton in the water for them to feed on. From Rocky Bay to Scottsburg, they swim close inshore, there can be anything from 1 – 7 on a given day. A typical shark cage dive involves getting into a wetsuit or a costume, donning a mask and climbing into a floating stainless steel cage with between 5 and 20 sharks gliding gracefully by the cage walls. You can check out sharkcagedivingkzn.com for more details.
If you haven’t heard of zorbing before, Zorbing (globe-riding, sphering, orbing) is the recreation or sports of rolling downhill inside an orb, generally made of transparent plastic and trust me, it’s a whole lot of action and fun! You probably didn’t know this, but Groovy Balls in Hillcrest, just outside Durban has the best and biggest facility in South Africa. There are 2 types of Groovy Balls: The Aqua ball which is a wet ride and consists of a strapless ride with 20 liters of water placed in the ball with you so you are free to slip, slide and spin in the bottom of the huge ball surrounded by a pocket of air. The second is the Wild Harness Ball, which is a dry ride, where you are strapped to the sidewall and sent down the hill facing your partner. You will certainly have an adrenaline rush doing this! OUR RECOMMENDATION: We suggest you wear your bathing costume if you are going to try the Aqua Ball as it can get pretty wet.
The best place in KZN to experience the magic and thrill of microlight flying is in Ballito. Here you will be able to experience the magnificent green hills of the sugar plantations and the beauty of the warm Indian Ocean.
Ballito Microlight School offers these 3 options:
• 10 Minutes
This is an inland flight over rolling sugar estates with views of the Indian Ocean, feel the sensations of flight flowing through your veins and experience the thrill and emotion of open cockpit flying.
• 20 Minutes
This flight routes from Ballito Airfield and after a few minutes you join the alluring Indian Ocean. You then route along the coastline past Sheffield Beach to Salt Rock. This coastal experience will allow you to enjoy the regular sighting of Dolphin and a variety of sea life, while taking in the spectacular views of the Dolphin Coast.
• 30 Minutes
This is their Premier flight and after take-off from Ballito Airfield, you fly across beautifully manicured sugar estates toward the coastline. Once over the Indian Ocean you will route south past Sheffield Beach, Salt Rock, the famous Chaka’s Rock, Ballito and the Millionaire’s Estate of Zimbali. This flight almost guarantees viewing of Dolphin & Gamefish with chances of sighting Whale Sharks, Giant Mantas and Turtles, a truly breathtaking experience. OUR RECOMMENDATION: If you own a Go-Pro, you can strap it to your gear as you are guaranteed to get some amazing pictures of the Coast.
All Out Adventures – Aerial Cable Tours Situated in Kwazulu-Natal’s scenic Drakensberg. They offer eight great adventures at one fantastic venue, central to all northern ‘berg’ resorts. The center caters for families, couples, friends, corporate groups, school groups, and special occasions. Guests can experience the thrill of sliding at 60 km/h on 90 m of cable between 7 forested platforms, throwing triple backflips on the bungee bounce or flying on a circus trapeze For a bigger thrill there is Africa’s highest wooden spiral staircase and a 17 m freefall on the King Swing.
The most popular activity is the Extreme Cable Tour, an aerial cable tour through the pine treetops that offers some of the longest and fastest slides around (reaching up to 60 km/h on some slides). Walk right onto the first platform, built into the side of a hill, then slide across the valley and land safely on a platform high in the forest canopy before you even have a chance to be nervous of heights. A guide-operated braking system ensures a smooth, safe landing on each platform, making it possible to accommodate young children. This is the only aerial cable tour that requires no gripping of the cable to stop. OUR RECOMMENDATION: We recommend the Extreme Cable Tour as the views and thrill of sliding over the treetops is exhilarating!
White Water Rafting
Experience the thrill of rafting on one of South Africa’s best white water rivers: the Umkomaas, Zulu name ‘Mkomazi’ – “place of the cows”, with Umkomaas Rafting Adventures. Situated in rural KwaZulu-Natal between Richmond and Creighton, the Umkomaas River offers warm, high-volume white water, interspersed with short pools to get your breath back and take in the beauty of its untouched valley and gorges.
The Umkomaas River originates in Giant’s Castle and follows a winding course down to the Indian Ocean. The white water rafting trips take place in a valley that lies just 95 km from Durban and 65 km from Pietermaritzburg. Summertime rafting on the Umkomaas is typically Grade 3, however, when the mighty African thunderstorms unleash themselves on the Drakensburg, this becomes a fast-flowing, high volume Grade 4 river. No previous rafting experience is necessary; however, participants must be reasonably fit to handle the physical nature of the rafting. Their river guides are amongst the most experienced white water paddlers in the country to ensure that your experience is safe and memorable. OUR RECOMMENDATION: Remember to plan your trip, as rafting on the Umkomaas is ONLY available in mid-summer months (generally November through to April) as the river level is highly dependent on rainfall in the catchment.
Quad biking has a short learning curve. Unlike motorcycle tours, you don’t have to balance the thing – that’s the beauty of having a wheel at each corner – but you do need to learn to steer it. It’s much more like a bike than a car and you use your whole body. The fun begins when you start heading off the gravel roads and into the hills on a variety of quad bike tracks. Check out dirty boots.co.za for the best packages and terrains for your net quad biking adventure. OUR RECOMMENDATION: Quad biking is a great way to see a game and we suggest that if you want an up-close and personal experience with wildlife then choose the experience that offers this.
Deep Sea Fishing Charters
We are blessed with a coastline that stretches from the north to the far south, and with plenty on offer in the deep Indian Ocean, a catch is almost guaranteed. I remember my first trip on a deep-sea charter at the tender age of 11 years; it has remained one of the most exhilarating experiences I have experienced. Deep-sea fishing is an adventure open to all, from the first-time angler to an experienced fisherman. KwaZulu-Natal’s waters offer a vast variety of species such as Yellow Fin Tuna, Barracuda, Dorado, Big Eye Tuna, Couta and plenty more.
If it’s more adventure fishing you’re after, strap in and head on a Marlin charter. From Durban, fishermen have caught Black Marlin, Striped Marlin, Blue Marlin, and Sailfish. Further north in Richards Bay, fishermen have added Short Bill Spear Fish to the list. Our warm Indian Ocean offers Deep-sea fishing trips all year round, during any season. OUR RECOMMENDATION: There are many deep-sea charter companies, so make sure you book with a reputable and qualified deep-sea charter
Durban Beach Horse Rides
Horseback Beach Adventures specializes in exhilarating Beach Adventures on the beautiful Reunion beach in the south of Durban. All rides have at least one experienced guide to show you the way and look after you to the best of their ability, and basic instruction is given on every ride. So on every ride, you will learn something new.
They are also willing to tailor rides to suit your needs and wishes, within reason and safety limitations. Thrill-seekers and experienced riders will be delighted with their selection of fit and healthy horses. And those who have not had much experience, never ridden or are a little more nervous are mounted on safe and reliable horses. You will be pleased to know they are still the ONLY legal Beach Riding establishment in Durban and are very strict on safety and kindness to animals. OUR RECOMMENDATION: The Sunset Rides are spectacular and much cooler in the hot Durban summer months.
Now, this is not for the faint-hearted!! Sky Adventures in KZN offers thrill-seekers the chance to tick this one off their bucket list. If you want to know what it takes: you begin your experience after a 20-minute briefing on the tandem skydive. Thereafter you accompany a qualified Tandem Master (TM) to 9500 feet above the ground.
Then, using tandem skydiving equipment designed to carry you both, exit the aircraft and experience about 30 seconds of exhilarating and extraordinary free-fall tandem skydiving, after which the Tandem Master will deploy the canopy and do the canopy checks. You can then assist the Tandem Master in flying and landing the canopy, or leave it all to him and just enjoy the skydiving experience. The tandem skydive flight will last 5 – 7 minutes. OUR RECOMMENDATION: This is also a great opportunity to strap a Go Pro for amazing pictures of the dive as well as the aerial shots of the surroundings.
Important Things to Note:
- Is there an age limit? 16 is the youngest and if you are under 21 you need your guardian’s signature. If you are over 40 you need to state your medical fitness.
- Is there a weight limit? Yes, 100kgs.
Did you know that Palm Beach in KZN, South Africa has been and continues to be rated as one of the best wind sport wave riding venues in the world? If you want to learn to Kite Surf then Kite Sports at the La Mercy Lagoon offers a perfect flat water area for kitesurfing/kiteboarding lessons in Durban. There is no need to worry about getting battered by the waves, or tumbled in the shore-break at this idyllic location. La Mercy Lagoon is situated between Ballito and Umhlanga, bordering Umdloti.
With KITESPORTS your Kite surfing lesson is made a lot easier, safer and quicker, with their experienced IKO qualified instructors. With over 12 years of experience, they have developed teaching methods that are second to none, and will have you up and riding in no time at all. OUR RECOMMENDATION: As someone new to the sport, you should look for a kite of appropriate size that has a reliable safety release, a good amount of on-demand depower, easy relaunch, a wide wind range, and stability.