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Jumps, swings & slides

©Jennifer Stern©Jennifer SternAdventure is all about going beyond your comfort zone, taking a leap of faith. And so – in most people’s minds – the epitome of adventure is to jump off a bridge or a cliff or a building. Or leap out of a plane. It’s that moment when you commit yourself, give in to gravity and place all your faith in your skills, judgement and/or equipment.

If you just want to overcome that fear and force yourself to jump when every cell in your body is screaming “no”, then you’ll probably want to do a bungy jump, bridge jump or gorge swing. They are all very similar in that they involve jumping off a solid platform into thin air while tied on with some sort of cord, but they differ in detail. In a bungy jump, you leap headfirst into space with a giant elastic band tied around your feet. After a couple of seconds, you are pulled back and you bounce around for a while before either being lowered to the bottom to walk back up, or being winched back up to the top. In a bridge swing or gorge swing, you jump – usually feet first – into a void with a rope attached to some point in front of you. So you don’t go straight down, you swing into a huge arc. It’s just as crazy. And just as much fun. If you’re only ever going to do one bungy jump in your life, make it the Bloukrans Bridge. It’s the highest in the world – officially, according to the Guinness Book of Records. Then again, if you want the thrill of a big jump, but you also want a bit more out of it, a tandem skydive or parachute jump will set you up to get involved in a whole new sport.

Zip slides, foefie slides and flying foxes are all variations on a theme. Basically, you’re attached to a strong cable with a harness and a pulley, with a few back-up ropes, of course. You take that same leap of faith off a stable platform but here there’s no freefall. You slide down along the cable, either quite slowly or very fast – it depends on the slope. All the above will give you a pretty hectic rush and – possibly – a nice view from the top. But, for a real scenic experience, a tree-top canopy tour is the answer. It’s basically a series of zip slides set up through or above the canopy of a forest. Here the emphasis is on the scenery, birds and trees, as opposed to the rush.

Also avoiding the freefall, but with a greater vertical component, abseiling and rapp jumping can both be pretty nerve-wracking, too, if you’re not too good with heights. And, of course, you’ll need to take a leap of faith or step off into the unknown if you want to paraglide or hang glide, or if you’re doing a kloofing or canyoning trail.

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