Roar Africa

Exploring Africa Since 1688

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bungee Jumping in Southern Africa

Back in "varsity days" when I was at the University of Cape Town (U.C.T.) in South Africa I was a member of the gymnastics club where I was more enthusiastic than skilled. It was a fun club that attracted a small crazy group of real gymnasts as well as adventure sports enthusiasts particularly rock climbers and surfers. We got on well with our rival club at the University of Stellenbosch and great ideas were born whilst drinking beers and doing hand stands above the braai (barbecue). Someone had heard of bridge jumping or bridge swing and bungee jumping and before long a couple of our more crazy members were off with climbing ropes to test the idea. Destination Gouritz River Bridges (also Gourits, Gouritsrivier) about 350km (a few hours) east of Cape Town towards the famous Garden Route.

Early Days:
We didn't have bungee ropes in the late 80's but we did have climbing ropes which stretch about a third of their length and climbing harnesses. That's not enough to risk a straight fall without injury but Gouritz had a unique layout. The new highway bridge is next to the road bridge and the old railway bridge. They are slightly closer together than the depth of the valley. We could tie climbing ropes to the new bridge and jump off the old one (65m or 213ft high). After a chilling 50m (164ft) free fall you'd take up the slack and enter and incredible swing/flight down the valley and under the other bridge. Before long we were making regular trips up to Gouritz sometimes leaving Cape Town directly from a party with some new recruits who'd wake up in the car alarmed at what had seemed like a good idea at the time. The bonus was that they soon found an instant cure for their hangovers.

Today the first "official" operation we used to jump with in 1989 still exists: Wildthing Adventures. Over 83,000 jumps later and with a sophisticated operation with accommodations, jumping platforms and so on it looks very different from the pioneering days but you can bet the effect is the same. And there are other options now too. Bungee ropes didn't take long to reach South Africa and other venues have opened up as well.

The Highest Commercial Bungee Jump in the World!
A few hours east of Gouritz in the Garden Route is the fantastic 216m (yes- that's over 708ft) Bloukrans Bridge. Bloukrans is the highest and largest bridge in Africa; the third highest in the world and the largest single span concrete arch bridge in the world. This absolutely dizzyingly high bridge is a beautiful arc across the forested valley within sight of the ocean. A bungee jump is different to a bridge jump in that the rope is more elastic. It's a giant elastic band and you fall and recoil as opposed to fall and swing. Face Adrenalin runs a professional operation there and if the jump seems a bit too much there are thrilling but less intense adventures like the 200m (663ft) Flying Fox "foofie slide" (zip line) and the bridge walk.

Further afield: Victoria Falls Bridge, Zimbabwe/Zambia
The bridge across the gorge just below one of the seven natural wonders of the world has to be about as spectacular a place to bungee jump as you could possibly find. The bridge connects Zimababwe and Zambia and is effectively in no man's land. At 111m (364 ft) is was until fairly recently the highest commercial jump in the world. You jump almost into the Great Zambezi River. In fact you are collected by a boat just a stones throw from where the world's greatest white water rafting trips begin. This is a jump that Roar Africa Founder Deborah Calmeyer tested herself years ago and much to her own surprise.
So the question is.....are you ready for Roar Africa to add some adrenalin to your trip?

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