Ziplining Grabouw Elgin Valley, South Africa

Elgin Valley Vista

For years I’ve wanted to experience ziplining. Saturday was the day, and it didn’t disappoint! The adventure was rich with adrenaline rushes, indescribably beautiful South African landscapes, and good company.

Heading Out

I discovered Cape Canopy Tours with the help of a Hermanus kayak company – Walker Bay Adventures. After four attempts at joining a Cape Town kayak group and as many cancellations due to wind and swell in Table Bay, I gave it up. It can be clear on land but wind, tides, and waves put the kibosh on kayaking. Weather permitting, I’m scheduled for a Walker Bay sea kayak trip later this week.

Walker Bay Nature Reserve – Open Africa

It’s early for whale season but there are interesting birds, fish, and animals in and around Walker Bay – sun- and sugarbirds, cormorants, pelicans, herons, penguins, otters, dolphins, seals, sharks, and a local fish – galjoen, kabeljou, and steenbras.

Rocky Fynbos Hillside

Elgin Valley

Elgin Valley canopy tours take place near Grabouw in the spectacular Hottentots Holland Mountains. A South African World Heritage Site, it’s a “pristine, previously inaccessible” wilderness area about forty-five minutes from Hermanus. The endemic floral diversity is spectacular. Mammals include klipspringer (Oreotragus), baboon, leopard, and grey rhebok. Shy nocturnal animals, Cape leopards are rarely seen.

Backroad to Zipline Platforms

Cape Canopy Tours

Cape Canopy Tours is noted for its safety and high-quality zipline structures and equipment. We began the day with a safety briefing. Our guides explained how the ziplines work and what to expect. I quickly learned that the safety briefing wasn’t preparation for a stunning aerial perspective of the Cape Overberg!

Hottentots Holland Mountains

There were six fun people in my group – a couple from Ireland and a family of four from the UK – father, two daughters, and young son. I was the only first-timer, as everyone else had experienced ziplining before.

After the briefing, we were fitted into harnesses, helmets, gloves, and jackets. Our adventure began with a 30-minute ride over rough backroads in an open 4×4 safari vehicle. The views were amazing as we drove over bumps, potholes, and puddles from an overnight rain. Clouds framed the mountain range and created interesting shapes, shadows, and colors. The truck dropped us off and we hiked a short distance to the first of eleven zipline platforms!

Waterfall Ravine

Eleven Ziplines

There were over 8,000 feet of ziplines – the longest was 1,100 ft. Each zip point had a small plaque describing the length of the slide and the nature and geology visible in the surrounding wilderness area. There were abundant rivers, waterfalls, rocky ravines, and fertile valleys. Near the end, we passed over an 82 ft. suspension bridge situated above a double waterfall.

Cape Canopy Ziplining – Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust

The zipline process begins when you step onto a wooden platform where a guide connects you to the zipline cable. You wear heavy leather gloves; one has a reinforced palm for the hand that rests lightly over the cable behind the pulley – the right for right-handed people. Tightening your hand over the cable slows you down, but the guides told us not to do that without their signal.

Cape Leopard – TimesLIVE

The other hand goes around harness lines under the cable. As you lean into the harness and pull knees to chest – the guide releases the cable, and off you go!!

Walker Bay in Distance

Wind and Speed

Our wild card was the wind. It was substantial! At the first zip platform, we were given the option to reschedule, but everyone wanted to continue. It took me several zips to relax and get into the free, magic feeling of flying through the air on a zipline! Of course, the longer the slide, the faster you go. The guide waiting at the next platform puts on the brake to slow you down for landing. The most difficult part (for me) was trusting in the brake. Without it, you would slam violently into the mountain on the other side!

Hike to the First Zip

The speed you travel depends on the length of the zipline, your weight, and the wind. The guide waiting takes all things into consideration in deciding when to pull the brake. Our guide was skillful and my landings were soft and painless.

Fynbos Hillside

In heavy wind during the second or third slide, I missed a signal to tighten my hold on the cable and slow down. I’m still not sure what happened, but suddenly the cable stopped and I was hanging in the middle of the slide looking down at the valley below –yikes. The guide zipped out to meet me and ferried us both back to the other side. Scary as that sounds, it really wasn’t – maybe more so for the guide. Focusing on signals is challenging when you’re moving fast.

Tiny Bird Sculpture Last Zip Platform

Euphoria

Ziplining time passed quickly and at the end, it seemed like a dream. The hike to the vehicle pickup point brought us back to reality. It was an unforgettable experience that I hope to repeat! My zipline video is attached – minus the screams

Elgin Panorama – Visit Winelands

I’ve booked a four-day, three-night slackpacking hike in July on the Blue Mountain Trail. The trail is 31 miles long and “winds through wilderness, forests, fruit and wine farms, and lush fynbos fields”.

Elgin Basin Vineyard – Wade Bales Wine Society

The trail covers some of the same terrain we zipped over in Bot River and the Elgin Valley as well as areas of Kleinmond, Paardeberg, Kogelberg, and Palmiet. All are part of the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve. I’m hiking most days in preparation, as it will be a tough three-day hike for me.

Hottentots Holland Landdroskop Road – CapeNature

Hoerikwaggo Trail Table Mountain

Hoerikwaggo Trail View

Tomorrow I begin a hike in the Hottentots-Holland mountain range. The mountains are part of the Western Cape Fold Belt and form a barrier between Cape Town’s metropolitan area and the southern Overberg coast. There is one major highway that crosses Sir Lowry’s Pass and the Hottentots-Holland Mountains. The range is primarily Table Mountain sandstone and forms an impressive sight to the east of Somerset West and Gordon’s Bay. Steenbras Dam on the eastern slopes of the range is one of Cape Town’s main water suppliers.

Overseer’s Cottage

We follow the Hoerikwaggo Trail. “Hoerikwaggo is a Khoisan name given to Table Mountain by the nomadic Khoi people who hunted and gathered on the mountains. Constructed by people from the townships of the Cape Peninsula, the Hoerikwaggo Trail links Cape Point to Table Mountain. During construction there was emphasis on leaving little or no environmental impact on the earth.”

Table Mountain Dam

The hike passes most of the five dams on Table MountainWoodheadHelly-Hutchinson, De Villiers, Alexandria, and Victoria – built between 1896 and 1907. At the top of the mountain there is a small but amazing waterworks museum displaying artifacts used to build the dams. These include heavy machinery and tools unbelievably hauled all the way up the mountain! Some animals that live in the part of the range we will hike include Klipspringer and Mongoose.

John, Yango, Charles, Richard – Downhill

“At the start of the Great Trek in 1835 when migrants decided to leave the Cape Town area, or Cape Colony as it was known then, the first mountain range they crossed was Hottentots-Holland. Cuts and wheel markings from their ox wagons can still be seen in rock formations on Sir Lowry’s Pass.”

Waterworks Museum Steam Engine

“The climate in the Hottentots-Holland is typically Mediterranean but cooler and more verdant than other areas in the Western Cape. Annual precipitation exceeds 1500 mm (60 inches) and summertime temperatures rarely exceed 25 °C (78 degrees). Snow is not unusual on the higher peaks in the northern section of the range, like Verkykerkop, Somerset Sneeukop, and The Triplets. This area and the other ranges to the south are the hub of the Cape floristic region with the most biodiversity in the entire fynbos biome. The surrounding lowland valleys have rich alluvial soils supporting viticulture and other deciduous fruit farms.”

Valley Vineyards

Binny Ridgway of Ridgway Ramblers organized and led the hike. She’s a professional adventure guide and knows Table Mountain well. We begin at Constantia Nek and hike up the Constantia jeep track, the easiest way up the back side of Table Mountain. Parts of the jeep track are paved and parts are dirt and sand with loose gravel. A 70-year-old Englishman (John May) in a wheelchair and his wife (Tandi) are in the group.

Richard, John, Yango, Binny, Charles, Sue

Binny hired four strong young men to get John’s wheelchair up and down the mountain! One of them, Chris Laidler, is a member of the Table Mountain Rescue group. Chris, Yango, Richard Baxter, and Charles Charivanda will help John “realize his dream of hiking up the mountain”. On the way up, “two guys will pull, one will steer, while one rests”. On the way down, “they will attach the ropes to the back of the chair so they can act as a brake”. The way down is much more difficult. Big rocks and sandy patches could cause the chair to stop suddenly!

Swan at a Lodge Near Constancia Nek

Klipspringer

Springbok

We overnight in the Overseer’s Cottage on top of Table Mountain. It’s a well-equipped cottage with hot and cold running water. We’ll hike during the day and enjoy an evening braai (barbecue) overlooking the brilliant night lights of Cape Town’s southern suburbs. A sunrise over the Hottentots-Hollands will be memorable. This hike will be another wonderful experience of the beautiful Western Cape – more photos to follow….

Table Mountain Dam

Steenbras Dam

Gordon’s Bay

Valley below Hoerikwaggo Trail

Hottentots-Holland