Bungy Jumping, Swings and Slides, Southern Africa


OK – why anybody would want to jump off a perfectly good bridge is a moot point but, obviously, lots of people do – and they pay good money to do so. It's not really a mystery – it's probably one of the wildest (safe) adrenaline rushes you can possibly have. Never mind the fact that you are securely tied in to about three independent back-up systems, when you jump and gravity clutches you in its inexorable grasp, you know (not think, know) you are going to die. And then – you find out you were wrong.

There are quite a few ways you can non-terminally fling yourself off a high place in South and or southern Africa. The most well known has got to be bungy jumping, which many people consider to the epitome of extreme adventure. It's pretty simple, really. You get someone to tie a giant elastic band around your feet and then you jump off a bridge. There are three options in southern Africa. The highest is the Bloukrans River on the eastern edge of the Garden Route. In fact, it's the highest in the world. It's official – it's in the Guinness Book of Records. And, at 216m, most people probably wouldn't want to try anything much higher. At 75m the much lower Gouritz Bridge, near Mossel Bay, also on the Garden Route, is a tad tamer – and much cheaper. The third – and possibly the most scenic – is off the Victoria Falls bridge between Zambia and Zimbabwe.

But there are other ways of scaring yourself witless. Bridge swinging or gorge swinging is equally popular and equally terrifying. Bridge swinging involves jumping from one bridge, while tied in to climbing ropes suspended from an adjacent bridge. As you can imagine, this can only be done when there are two convenient bridges next to each other – and closer apart than they are high. Think about it. The best (make that only) place in southern Africa where you can do this is on the Gouritz Bridge – just next to the bungy jumping. Now, if you don't have two convenient bridges, you can still play. All you need is a deep gorge and some strong (very strong) cable. String the cable across the gorge, attach the climbing ropes to the middle of the cable and – you have a gorge swing. Don't try this at home, but you can try it near Graskop, in Mpumalanga, or at Victoria Falls and Livingstone. (There's one on either side of the river.) And just to show that there is always the exception to prove the rule, you can do a bridge swing over the Sabie River, where there is only one bridge, but it's conveniently situated relative to the gorge.

In theory, Zip slides, foefie slides or flying foxes, whatever you want to call them, are somewhat less extreme. You don't have free fall, so there's less absolute commitment to Isaac Newton's pet theory but some of them are pretty darn extreme. You can do slides at Sabie, Livingstone and Vic Falls, at the same venues as the gorge swings, and there is a flying fox at the Bloukrans Bridge for those who don't fancy the bungy. Near Swellendam, the Buffeljags Dam foefie slide, which is a traditional foefie slide as it ends in water, was considered pretty extreme. At 40m high and over 200m long, it is. But that's paled into insignificance in the face of the Rossing Mountain Flying Fox in Namibia. It's 200m high and 1,100m long, which – we think – makes it the highest and longest in the world. It's faaaaast.

Oops! Hang on – not to be outdone, Sun City has gone higher, faster, bigger and longer. The Sun City Zip Slide is 280m high and two kilometres long!

A really fun form of zip slide is the relatively new concept of Tree Top Canopy Tours.

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