King of the kloof
Updated: Aug 19
KLOOFING DOWN A BEAUTIFUL GORGE UNDER THE DENSE AND VERDANT COVER OF THE TSITSIKAMMA FOREST IS SOMETHING EVERY ADVENTURER WORTH THEIR SALT SHOULD EXPERIENCE AT LEAST ONCE.
I had heard the term thrown about before, but hadn’t the fuzziest inkling what exactly ‘kloofing’ or ‘canyoning’ entailed, apart from the suspicion that it likely takes place in a canyon.
Arriving at AfriCanyon’s base camp, which is a stone’s throw from the popular Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary and the celebrated Birds of Eden, we were each promptly handed a wetsuit, helmet and life jacket and strapped into a complicated harness by a smiling bunch of adventure guides. The eight of us were then loaded on to the back of a shuttle and carted down to the nearby kloof, still unsure of what to expect.
Easily one of the Garden Route’s most attractive little areas, The Crags – near Plettenberg Bay – is nestled between forest and coast and shrouded in lush greenery. The canyon we were headed for is carved deep into the forest floor and meanders for a few kilometres until the stream finally spills into the ocean. We would apparently only be covering about two kilometres of it though, and struggled to envisage how that would take four hours, but would soon learn.
The little truck turned off the main road, trundled on for a few hundred metres down a dirt track and then dropped us off at the start of an unmarked footpath. After a short walk, we reached the edge of a cliff and were called to a halt by our river guides. A quick safety briefing followed, as well as a few pointers on how to successfully descend down a cliff face, which caused a ripple of excitement to surge through the group as we realised we would be abseiling. I had done it a few times at various other places, but abseiling doesn’t lose its appeal, nor, indeed, its fear factor. Leaning backwards over a cliff and kicking off, praying the rope holds, is guaranteed to induce a bit of adrenalin. It’s about 20m to the bottom of the canyon where, once everyone had successfully rappelled their way down, we stood perched and closely packed on a tiny ledge, wondering what was next.
The gorge is only a few metres wide here, and we were standing on the edge of a small but deep pool, which (fortunately, we were only informed later or I would’ve had a rather dubious girlfriend on my hands) is allegedly home to a three-metre eel. ‘Well, what are you lot waiting for?’ one of the guides shouted before plunging into the pool. Needing no convincing on a scorcher of a day, I also hurled myself into the cool, crisp water, and the rest followed.
We swam around a rock formation where the pool sloped on to dry land and, in single file, we hiked for a stretch, negotiating boulders and admiring our surroundings as the kloof gradually opened up into a wider valley covered in luxuriant and diverse foliage.
I heard the sound of rushing water before I saw it. Suddenly, we were on the precipice of another canyon, with the river in full flow below, but this time we wouldn’t be abseiling down. ‘You can either jump from here, or climb down to the lower shelf and jump from there,’ the guide informed us. Most of the group opted for the smaller jump, but my girlfriend and I thought we’d be the brave ones – totally worth it; what a rush!
We drifted down the narrow stream for a bit, marvelling at the sheer walls of the canyon and the thin, green-fringed sliver of sky far above, until we got a foothold and could climb up some rocks again. Swim-hiking our way downstream, constantly gaping at our surroundings and the stunning effects created by the erosive powers of water and time, we were eventually faced with a huge waterfall cascading into a large pool. ‘Who’s ready for some zip-lining?’ Only then did I spy the cable running from the cliff face above our heads over the waterfall and deep into the dim cavern below.
One by one, our group zipped down, whooping and shrieking until finally splashing into the water below. For many, this was the best part of the whole experience, and I’d have to agree. Zip-lining over a waterfall and between rocks so close that you’re unsure if you’re going to squeeze through, and then accelerating into the dark depths of a cave and eventually crashing into a pool of icy water is quite exhilarating.
Afterwards, we continued our way down; swimming, climbing, jumping and sliding our way down the gorge and, as we were drifting on our backs for yet another stretch of the river, gazing up at the seemingly laser-cut cliffs and beautiful flora around us, I finally knew what kloofing was and realised that I had fallen in love with it – especially at The Crags – and that I would be back for more before long.
A Standard Canyon Trip takes about four hours and costs R700 per person. It includes swimming, abseiling, optional jumps, and zip-lining.
Trips start at 9 am, 11 am and 1 pm daily.
What to bring:
swimming gear, shoes that can get wet and have good grip on rocks (shoes can be rented at R35 a pair), and a towel.
What AfriCanyon provides:
all adventure equipment, including wetsuit, harness, helmet and life jacket.
Get in touch
044 534 8055, 082 323 4349 firstname.lastname@example.org