Sporty South Africa

Nov 18, 2003
Outside Magazine

Niagara's South African cousin: Augrabies Waterfall    Photo: Wally Lang/Courtesy, South Africa Tourism

After a decade of nursing apartheidÂ’s hangover, South Africa is finally coming into its own as an adventure-travel destination. An influx of outdoorsy Europeans, a good exchange rate, and South AfricansÂ’ growing interest in the outdoor lifestyle have fueled a boom in the past two years. About three times the size of California, this country has more than 200 designated long-distance trails and almost as many sports.

Mountain Biking Around Sabie: In the northern province of Mpumalanga, Sabie is the hub for trails wending along the 1,640-foot Blyde River Canyon (the worldÂ’s third-largest). DonÂ’t miss the steep 13-mile Cylon Trail or the 28-mile Stables Trail. The Bike Doc (011-27-13-764-1034 or 011-27-82-878-5527; e-mail [email protected]) rents front-suspension bikes ($24 per day), provides guides ($3 for two hours), sells trail permits ($3 per day), and arranges guided multi-day tours. Bed down at the stone-and-wood Sabie Townhouse ($45 per person, including breakfast; 011-27-13-764-2292,

Rafting the Orange River: The Orange River snakes through much of the Northern Cape, South Africa’s largest province. At Augrabies Falls National Park, east of the Namibian border, the Orange plunges 213 feet into a granite gorge and then becomes fine Class III whitewater for rafting. You’ll see sandstone formations and glistening stands of wild olive—but not another raft. Khamkirri Lodge (011-27-54-451-0325, offers three-hour, full-day (13 miles), and three-day (30 miles) Orange raft trips; prices are about $28, $72, and $215. The three-day trip includes meals and lodging in tent bungalows and an A-frame house.

Surfing Jeffrey’s Bay: One of the most consistent surf spots on the globe, J-Bay, about an hour west of Port Elizabeth, churns out Eastern Cape supertubes. Take your pick of point, reef, and beach breaks or head a few miles west to Cape St. Francis for Bruce’s Beauties, the legendary waves named after Bruce Brown, director of the 1963 surf flick Endless Summer. You’re virtually guaranteed clean three- to four-foot surf any time of year. Cape Town’s Wavescape Surf School (011-27-21-701-3112, offers all-inclusive J-Bay surf vacations ($1,200 per person for a group of six, including accommodations, breakfast, and surfboard—you get to keep it).