18 July 2014 by Thrishni Subramoney

KwaZulu-Natal on adrenaline

​There’s a certain kind of traveller who doesn’t truly appreciate a landscape until they’re speeding above, along and, sometimes, toward it at breakneck speed.

On the Karkloof Canopy Tour. Image Thrishni Subramoney

For that traveller here are three of the most adrenaline-charged ways to experience KwaZulu-Natal's three must-see tourism ‘Bs’: the berg (not the actual Drakensberg, though), the bush and the beach.

The bush: Karkloof Canopy Tours

The Karkloof Forest, situated in the Karkloof Nature Reserve, is a tranquil place, the hush broken only by the sound of bird calls (you can spot the emerald cuckoo and the Knysna turaco here).

But, if you listen carefully, you'll hear a sound you've probably never heard before. It will go something like this: 'Woooo-hoooooooo!' and be followed by a curious zipping sound.

That is the call of the Karkloof Canopy Tourist, who has probably just stepped off the first of nine wooden platforms to glide along steel cables through the forest.

The wooden platforms are built high in the tree tops, and your journey sees you swinging, flitting and flying over breathtaking landscape (admittedly the landscape is mostly a green blur, and the speed at which you travel is largely responsible for taking your breath away).

Safety: You're kitted out with a helmet and gloves. There’s also a safety harness, so you're secured to the cable at all times. You can control your speed by tugging on the line behind you. If you lose momentum and end up dangling in the air, mid-slide, fear not, the guides can pull you toward the next platform.

Downside: If you have long hair, you need to wear a hairnet, so your photos may document the adventures of the world's most daring lunch lady.

Tip: The forest is just 22km outside of Howick, so a visit to the Nelson Mandela Capture Site is a valuable detour. This is where Mandela was arrested, a capture that marked the start of his 27-year imprisonment.

Price: R495 per person
Website: http://www.karkloofcanopytour.co.za/

Enjoying the Karkloof Canopy Tour. Image South African Tourism

The berg: Groovy Balls

Despite its very Seventies sounding name, Groovy Balls (popularly known as zorbing) is a relatively new phenomenon in South Africa.

Zorbing was invented in New Zealand in 1994, and it's against a very similar, Tolkien-esque backdrop in Cliffdale, west of Durban, that you will find it in KwaZulu-Natal.

(So it's ‘berg’ in the sense of the Afrikaans words for ‘mountain’ and not in the sense of the actual Drakensberg mountains, also known as the Berg, which are some distance away).

Here you will gasp in wonder at the rolling green hills, before getting into a giant, transparent, plastic ball, which is then rolled down one such hill.

For added thrills, just add water. No, seriously – this option is called Aqua Ball, and will see about 10l of cold water poured into the ball before you climb in.

The ball is then given a small nudge and you experience the landscape from every possible angle imaginable.

Safety: If you're climbing into the ball with a companion, only one of you will be handed a spongy helmet. Don't panic. It's not because you somehow drew the short straw. The headgear is just a way to protect both your skulls should you knock them together. Apart from that, you just take off your shoes and you're good to go.

Downside: Like many extreme sports, it's over very quickly – which will be disappointing to your inner child, you who will yell, ‘Again! Again!’ as you crawl out, hoping that none of your organs have shifted too drastically.

Tip: Don't breezily say ‘Sure, why not?’ when you're offered an extra bucket of water. It will feel like a washing machine. That's why not.

Price: R225 per person
Website: http://groovyballs.co.za/

The beach: Seafari tours

This activity will be jaw-dropping for city slickers who believe adventure activities are found at the end of a long drive out of the city. This quest to see wild dolphins and whales is just a short stroll down the beach from uShaka Marine World, just a short drive from Durban's CBD.

Here, you'll help to push out and then quickly scramble on to an inflatable rubber boat that bounces from the crest of one wave to another as you scan the ocean for your cetacean friends. You'll likely be rewarded almost immediately with schools of dolphins that venture quite close to the boat. The ride itself is rough, which is probably why the seats are shaped like saddles, with handles in front. You're instructed to hold on tightly – with both hands.

Safety: You're given a bright orange life jacket.

Downside: Even if you're an avid devotee of Instagram, don't even contemplate bringing a phone on this voyage. All the splashing ensures you will end up drenched from head to toe – fun for you, bad for most smartphones.

Tip: If you've got your heart set on seeing a whale, the peak season is between June and November, though sightings are possible all year round.

Price: Adults R300, children: R150 (must be accompanied by an adult)
Website: http://www.oceanventures.co.za/seafari/index.html

Getting up close to dolphins is a great experience. Image South African Tourism

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