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

Harold Porter National Botanical Garden South Africa

Sea View from Harold Porter Botanical Garden

For the past few days, I’ve been preparing for a Garden Route drive beginning next week. Along the way, I’m excited to be joining a slackpacking group (total strangers) for a multi-day wilderness adventure exploring parts of the Tsitsikamma Hiking Trail.

Crassula Bloom

It’s isolated new territory for me and I’m traveling solo, so there’s some apprehension. Recalling the perils of a two-month African safari last year, I’m concentrating on packing light and paying attention to detail, hoping to eliminate unexpected surprises.

Tsitsikamma Lodge

We hike with daypacks while porters transport the heavier bags between rustic overnight huts. Hikers provide their own food and there is no electricity in the huts. Headlamps and candles are essential, but there’s abundant firewood for cooking. The hike will be an adventure deep in the Tsitsikamma Mountains – a stunning untouched forest and fynbos wilderness!

Yesterday the weather was glorious, so I spent part of it hiking at Harold Potter Botanical Garden near Betty’s Bay. October is spring in South Africa, but Mother Nature doesn’t seem to know that winter is over!

Sculpting of Xhosa Warrior along Circular Route

It’s not cold – 60s to 70s days and 50s at night – but the Atlantic Ocean puts a chill in your bones. Lately we’ve had strong wind, ominous skies, and much-needed rain. Heavy thoughts are of Cape Town approaching summer with water rationing.

History of Harold Porter Botanical Garden

During the 1930s, three South African businessmen purchased land in the Hangklip Area between the Palmiet (bulrushes) and Rooi-Els (red alder). The three partners – Harold Porter, Arthur Youldon, and Jack Clarence – called it “Hangklip Beach Estates and divided the area into three townships – Betty’s Bay (named after Youldon’s daughter), Pringle Bay, and Rooi-Els”. They sold plots to interested parties.

Disa Kloof Waterfall

Over the years the beautiful nature reserve changed hands many times, but after Harold Porter’s death in 1958, it was left to the Shangri-la Nature Reserve Company. “Finding it too difficult to manage from Johannesburg, the corporate committee offered the land to the National Botanical Gardens of South Africa, which renamed it in Harold Porter’s honor and took on financial responsibility for management”.

Nerine Sarniensis  – Guernsey Lily

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Harold Porter’s ashes were scattered in a favorite spot where Nerine Sarniensis bloom every March or April.

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In 1962, Hangklip Beach Estates added to the Botanical Garden property by giving it the adjoining area of Disa Kloof. Later, the Betty’s Bay Village Management Board donated another adjoining piece of land which reaches to the Atlantic Ocean.

Harold Porter Botanical Garden Vista

Today the Harold Porter National Botanical Garden stretches from the “top of the Kogelberg Mountain Range to the Atlantic Ocean, encompassing a whole river system”. Part of the land is a cultivated garden, and the rest a natural reserve included in the core zone of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve.

Harold Porters’ Legacy

Harold Porter “turned the first sod in the Garden” and marked out various pathways “augmenting naturally occurring plants with other special or colourful species from elsewhere”. He built the Zigzag Border Trail which leads to the top of Bobbejaanskop (baboon head) and is still used today.

Porter’s wife, Olive May, and son, Arthur, helped shape the garden. Arthur designed the entrance building from the stones of their home which burned down in 1960.

Harold Porter’s ashes were scattered in a favorite spot where Nerine Sarniensis bloom every March or April. A plaque of granite sunk into a large sandstone boulder marks the spot. Olive May Porter died in 1984, and her ashes were scattered near her husband’s memorial stone.

Rooi-Els River

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Harold Porter Botanical Garden stretches from the “top of the Kogelberg Mountain Range to the sea, encompassing a whole river system”.

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Pink Disa

The Garden’s original paths and vegetation have changed over the years. Today the centre includes a restaurant and fully equipped conference facility. “New facilities are part of a Public Expanded Works Programme, an initiative to provide wages and train previously disadvantaged individuals. South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism funds the Programme.”

Walking Paths and Hiking Trails

The Garden has seven paths and trails of varying length and difficulty:

  • Zigzag Border Trail – difficult hike taking 6 to 8 hours
  • Leopard’s Kloof Trail – permit required
  • Fynbos Trail – via the contour path to Bobbejaanskop
  • Nivenia Path – short easy path to Harold Porter’s memorial
  • Disa Kloof Trail – dead ends at a waterfall
  • Circular Route – easy trail around the Garden’s themed areas
  • Ecosystems Walk – forests, dunes, wetlands, and fynbos

Fires and Storms

Since the natural garden consists of fynbos, fires are a “necessary part of the cycle of this vegetation type”. Heavy storms in 2005 and 2014 caused extensive flooding and damage to the Botanical Garden.  The last major fire was in June 2010. A small fire occurred in November 2013 on the eastern boundary when “a young baboon climbed the electricity pylon, causing an electrical short-circuit with the subsequent shower of sparks setting the veld alight”.

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Since the Garden consists of fynbos, fires are a “necessary part of the cycle for this vegetation type”.

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“As always with disasters such as fires and floods, many Betty’s Bay residents have come to the aid of the Garden, helping put out fires and repair damage.”

Flora and Fauna

The garden is home to mammals, butterflies, insects, frogs, reptiles, and 900 species of birds. Some of the animals include:

  • Leopard
  • Caracal
  • Baboon
  • Porcupine
  • Klipspringer
  • Grysbok
  • Genet
  • Clawless Otter
  • Mongoose

Palmiet River

The variety of flowers at Harold Porter is magnificent, including:

  • Guernsey Lily (Nerine Sarniensis)
  • King Protea
  • Honey Flower
  • Red Crassula Kip Bloom
  • Disa
  • Sugarbush
  • Blue Star

Grysbok

Chacma Baboon

Pensive Mongoose

Caracal

Klipspringer

Genet

The streams, ponds, and waterfalls are lovely – it’s an incredibly beautiful paradise. I hiked the Disa Kloof Trail to a waterfall and will return to the Gardens. There is much to explore and enjoy in this peaceful environment!

Restaurant Fireplace

Harold Porter Restaurant

Cape Town – MOCAA and Magic Club

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa MOCAA

I drove from Hermanus to Cape Town Monday to run errands before exploring the Garden Route later this month. The scenery along the way is wonderful, but driving over Sir Lowry’s Pass isn’t my favorite. Drivers are erratic and aggressive, and most of the N2 is not divided, so there’s no median strip to separate opposing lanes. It gets to me every time, especially when it’s windy.

Zeitz Interior

Zeitz Hotel

Zeitz Interior

Zeitz Exterior

Zeitz Exterior

Cape Town is one of my favorite places (no surprise to anyone), not only because of its exceptional beauty, but also its special charm, energy, and the friendly vibe of the people. It was nice to see Table Mountain, visit friends I haven’t seen for a while, and eat at favorite restaurants. The two days were fun but hectic. I stayed overnight at a B&B in Sea Point.

Garden at Sea Point B&B

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa

The only disappointment was not being able to visit the new Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) which opened September 22. The museum is closed on Tuesday and free to the public on Wednesday. I peered through the windows, walked around the exterior, took a few photos, and hope to visit the MOCAA soon!

Cape Town Waterfront Silo District

The unique museum has a five-star hotel and features African artists like Nandipha Mntambo and Nicholas Hlobo. The Silo District is Cape Town’s newest art, culture, and design area. It sounds like the opening event was quite a soirée!

“The Zeitz-Mocaa building is in a converted grain silo overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. The area was regenerated 30 years ago for retail, real estate, and tourism. Development was on the remnants of two dilapidated 19th-century harbour basins (Victoria and Alfred). The silos were built over coal sheds that once supplied steamships. They were part-funded by capital from slave compensation received after slavery abolition in Cape Colony.”

Elgin

Elgin

Elgin Cafe

Elgin Landscape

Cape Town Magic Club

Since I was in town Monday night, when many performing arts venues are closed, I decided to attend a Cape Town Magic Club performance. The show is in the “original basement bank vault of the 5-star luxury Taj Cape Town”. The small creative theater has a back entrance and is especially set up for each magic performance. The venue allows the audience to sit close to the magicians and interact with them.

Three magicians performed, and it was clear that they loved what they were doing and put their heart and soul into it. The show included two young, talented magicians:

The third seasoned magician / mentalist was impressive Larry Soffer. His magic and synergy with randomly selected members of the audience was mind-boggling!

Zeitz Exhibit

Zeitz Exhibit

Zeitz Exhibit

“Larry Soffer is one of the most influential names in magic across South Africa. As his brand grows, he’s fast earning an exceptional name abroad. Larry has performed for royalty, celebrities, politicians, and sports stars. His popular live show and corporate event performances inspire his audiences to ‘Believe to See’ instead of ‘Seeing to Believe.’ In so doing, he truly opens their minds to new possibilities by believing in the impossible and thereby creating their own dreams.”

Magic Show Crowd

Magic Show Crowd

Taj Cape Town

Back Entrance Taj Cape Townb

Back Entrance Taj Cape Town

Taj Back Entrance to Magic Show

I sat next to a fun woman – Portia – and her husband. It was their first time at the Magic Show. Portia’s husband interacted on stage with magician Josue Musenge. The exceptional magic delighted the audience and blew us all away!

Nandipha Mntambo Artist

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“The Zeitz-Mocaa is in a converted grain silo overlooking the Atlantic on the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront……”

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Table Mountain Backdrop to Silo District

Victoria and Alfred Waterfront Boats Silo District

Garden Route and Durban

On the way back to Hermanus I took a break in the lush Elgin Valley. Found out about a four-day slackpacking trip along Green Mountain Trail in the Kogelberg Biosphere.

Nicholas Hlobo Artist

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Larry Soffer inspires his audiences to ‘Believe to See’ instead of ‘Seeing to Believe’.

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I’m anticipating a slackpacking adventure somewhere along the Garden Route, if I can find an affordable one. Slackpacking is “enjoying the benefits of a multi-day hike, beautiful scenery, and fresh air – without carrying a heavy backpack”.  Sounds great – but some of the trips are pricey.

Back in Hermanus, I’m concentrating on planning the solo Garden Route drive beginning October 25th. Decided to take the N2 coastal route with a few inland side trips. I’m booked to arrive in Durban November 1, leaving 7 days to explore!