• Cape Canopy Tour
  • Cape Canopy Tour
  • Cape Canopy Tour

01 January 2014

Cape Canopy Tour Opening - Early 2014

Canopy Tours South Africa are proud to announce the latest addition to the growing Canopy Tour group with the design and construction of the new Cape Canopy Tour® currently being underway. 

A first for South Africa, the Cape Canopy Tour® in partnership with Cape Nature Conservation is situated in a pristine World Heritage Site within the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve, Grabouw. The tour will consist of at least twelve platforms constructed on the cliffs and fynbos covered mountain slopes above the Riviersonderend gorge and joined by thrilling slides up to 300m long. Clients will also get to experience - a unique bridge crossing between a narrow sandstone gorge high above a spectacular double waterfall below.  

The Cape Canopy Tour® is a fully guided nature experience with a strong emphasis on the endemic fynbos and geology of this World Heritage Site. Two trained guides will accompany each group on the 2 1/2 hour tour, which will also include a 4x4 journey through the nature reserve, refreshments on one of the cliffside platforms and a light lunch after the activity. The Cape Canopy Tour® is suitable for almost all ages (5 - 75 is the recommended limit) and will operate in most weather conditions. Opening is scheduled for early 2014! 

For more information or booking enquiries please contact Ryan 072 2177 753 or email ryan@capecanopytour.co.za.

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14 July 2013

The Witness - Canopy of stars

ON the longest night of this year, 10 of us stood together on a small, open platform, like mariners in a crow’s nest. Nothing stood between us and almost 50 storeys of darkness but the tethers securing us to the platform’s mast. Below us, a sea of treetops rippled in the moonlight. 

The indigenous forest in Karkloof is the second largest in South Africa: only Knysna is bigger. And we were about to tour it by zip line - in the dark. 

The Karkloof Canopy Tour is a thrilling way to see this still-wild place, an ancient indigenous forest containing trees that sprouted on the kloof’s steep, south-east-facing slopes at around the same time that Christopher Columbus was sailing to the New World. The idea of seeing a forest canopy by zip line first began with scientists studying the forests of Costa Rica, and the commercial aspects for tourism were soon realised.
Mark Brown, an engineer, and the franchiser of seven canopy tours in South Africa, built one of the world’s first commercial canopy tours in Costa Rica, before coming to South Africa to emulate it in the Tsitsikamma indigenous rainforest in 2001. He built another five over the following nine years, at Karkloof, Magaliesberg, Magoebaskloof, the Drakensberg and in Swaziland, and is now busy building one in the Cape. 
Tonight, we’re fortunate to have him with us on the tour. He explains how he built the zip-line system at Karkloof himself in 2003, carrying in materials by hand and abseiling down cliffs to laboriously install the triple-redundancy safety features that make this an exciting but safe experience. The Karkloof zip-line canopy tour is the longest in Africa, he says, and it took him eight months to construct. 
“Of all the canopy tours in the franchise, Karkloof is the most adventurous,” smiles Brown. 

Nice to know when you’re about to launch yourself into the dark on the first night-time version of this thrill ride. 

The idea to give visitors the experience during the full moon each month is the latest offering at Kar­kloof Canopy Tours, and they’re hoping that it will catch on with people who want more of an edge to the “soft” adventure experience of zip- lining. Because if seeing a forest canopy while suspended on a zip-line is exciting, not seeing a forest canopy while careening through it on a steel cable at night takes the experience to another level. There’s something about not knowing what awaits you at the other end, about not being able to see your destination, that heightens the senses. The pulleys running over the cable screech like an air-raid siren. Every vibration from the cable runs through your body. The full moon is brighter than a street lamp. The smell of leaf litter from the forest floor far below fills your nostrils. Every rustle in the bush around you demands your attention and you have a sense that the forest is watching you. And if you thought that darkness might help to dull your sense of vertigo, in this case it’s only in exchange for the kind of trepidation that you would feel when diving into a dark pool. What awaits?

But now it’s time to take that leap of faith. “Let us step into the night,” as J.K. Rowling wrote in Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince, “and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.” 
We’re at the delightfully named Last Chance platform. The short zip-line ride to here was like wading into the shallows: nothing too demanding, a small taste of what’s to come. From here out though, there’s no turning back. Commit or capitulate are our choices. 

One by one, we let go. Sparks fly from the steel line as we each vanish into the dark. Some scream, others are deathly silent, just the diminishing wail of pulleys over steel wires marking their descent. We wait for the far-off call from the guides to assure us that all is well and that it’s now our turn. For the next two hours, we wind our way through a kilometre of tangled timber giants. The distance is broken into sections. Some are fast, others more technical, requiring you to work your way around tree trunks or over huge rocky outcrops before letting go again and sliding into the dark. We pause on a cliff face to contemplate the almost perigee full moon as it hangs over the Karkloof valley, then at a waterfall for a cold drink. Then we plunge back under the roof of the forest, through leaves and branches and the smell of damp undergrowth, to burst back out into the open over a deep gorge. There’s time to breath deeply and quickly take in the silver-lit landscape as we fly though the air, and then we must pull down hard on the cable to brake as the next platform looms into view. 

It’s getting colder as we sink towards the valley floor. Some of us start to shiver as adrenalin and the chilled night air make themselves felt. A last ride to the final platform and a short hike through trees, over boulders and across a stream, are all that separate us from a hot dinner back at base. And then we’re there. We exit from the forest by a lantern-lined pathway that leads us to two roaring fires and a chance to warm ourselves while we relive our adventure. Some are relieved it’s over, others want to do it again. All of us feel that little bit more alive because, as John Shedd wrote in Salt from My Attic: “A ship in harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for”. We all need a little adventure in our lives. 

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23 November 2011

Canopy Tours celebrates 10 years of playing Tarzan

On November 2 the picturesque Tsitsikamma Village Inn hotel hosted the 10 year anniversary extravaganza of South Africa's popular nature adventure activity, Canopy Tours - a company that believes strongly in the importance of community involvement and upliftment.

This lavish celebration was attended by the operators of all six Canopy Tours locations in the country - Karkloof, Magaliesberg, Magoebaskloof, Drakensberg, Malolotja and Tsitsikamma- as well as members of teh media, SANParks and toursim organisation representatives, and individuals who hav ebeen involved with this remarkable operation since the first treetop tour in Africa in October 2001.

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05 May 2011

Sunday Tribune: Double Delight

I've always wanted to get in touch with my inner Tarzan and last week I got the chance. First, though, there was the thorough briefing, which was followed by a signing away of my life. Then it was on with the necessary gear, a group photo and into a 4 x 4 for the steep ride to the first platform.

I don't want to give the plot away, by detailing the experience of zipping along at speeds of around 60km/h on 'foefie slides' as long as 180m, but suffice to say it was exhilarating. For the nervous, it's worth mentioning my companion had sampled such jaunts across the globe so was well qualified to praise the attention to safety by our three locally trained guides, and the efficiency of the emergency braking system.

Click the image below to see the full article...

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11 April 2011

Weekend Witness: Valley of a thousand thrills

I HAVE very few hang-ups, but I do have a fear of heights.

Karkloof Canopy Tours is one of the premier tourism destinations in the Midlands, but to be honest, when I was offered a chance of swinging like Tarzan I was a little um … petrified. I agreed to go along to compare it to my bungee-jumping experience (never to be repeated) and conquer my fear of heights.

Tarzan can swing from tree to tree, and those leopard skin undies … I say no more. I just had to try out for the part of Jane.

I had only heard glowing accounts of this famous canopy tour. For those looking for a different way to experience nature, it is a way of seeing things from a new perspective.

At the beginning our group was given a safety lecture and we were assured that no one had ever ended up on the bottom of the forest floor, left there to be devoured by scavengers.

The harnesses that attach to the overhead steel cables are not designed to make a fashion statement; instead they can hold up to 10 tons if necessary. I felt relieved. Kitted out with harnesses, leather gloves and a hard hat we set off on our adventure.

A group of women from Durban had come along to celebrate their friend’s birthday. I was not convinced that it was the kind of birthday gift I would enjoy. But I set my misgivings aside. They looked like they were tough girls out for a jol.

Ernest Zondi told us that it was a short walk to the first platform and then we would be setting off on our new adventure. The first platform is called “The Rabbit Hole”. It is named after the place in the story about Alice in Wonderland where she falls in and discovers a whole new world.

We were all attached to the platform with our harnesses and resembled odd characters all around a maypole. It turned out the birthday group were all cyclists, fit and fun-loving.

My bravado vanished at the first platform and I watched quietly as Zondi gave us the safety briefing again. This zipline is the shortest and a chance to get the hang of things. We all went one by one over the edge and while one should not compare it to bungee jumping it does have some similarities.

The ride is fast, the adrenaline pumps and you have to have your wits about you. The second platform is aptly named the “Last Chance” platform. Here you can decide to ride in tandem with a safety guide or you can opt out altogether.

My knees were knocking and I was obviously quite pale. I did not refuse when Whitehead Magwaza offered to ride tandem with me. Whew! The pros of riding tandem is that you do not have to worry about the technical aspects of the slide; the cons are that these safety guides call themselves the taxi drivers.

They love to whizz across the suspended cables like taxi drivers with their foot to the floor. This is no gentle scenic ride, it’s a rollercoaster rush. Feeling the platform beneath my feet was always a relief.

Not quite terra firma — but almost.

From the platforms you can see the most amazing scenery. Farmland stretched into the distance where cows grazed peacefully, while below us lay the dense emerald of indigenous forest.

Each platform has its own character and unusual view, the most refreshing one being next to a rushing waterfall where you can drink fresh water from a mountain stream.

You can hear the different bird calls and you can also hear the noises of the samango monkeys in the canopy below. The forest is the best place to spot Emerald Cuckoos, Knysna Loeries, and possibly the rare Narina Trogon.

Kai Schulz, the new manager of Karkloof Canopy Tours, said he plans to open tours that are primarily focused on birding. The safety guides are trained on the wildlife in the area and can point out areas of interest from the platforms.

The ziplines range in length from 40 to 180 metres. The longest is known as the “N3” and it feels like a spin from Pietermaritzburg to Howick. While the sensation is one of cool air rushing past and green below, one can only really absorb the details of the scenery from the platforms.

It is estimated that 80 000 tourists have experienced the tour in the past 10 years. The oldest person to have gone on the canopy tour was 89 and the youngest was four.

Children can go on the tour, but it depends on how they handle heights and the experience of being suspended. They may prefer to go tandem with an adult.

Schulz says they are renovating the facilities and putting more emphasis on the eco-value of the destination.

He said: “We would like to build relationships with existing con- servation­ projects in the area. The Cape Parrot project as well as some existing butterfly breeding programmes are already on the cards. We may add some new slides and introduce some early morning birding tours.”

As we walked back to base camp through the lush indigenous forest, I felt better looking up at the trees than down on them. I’ll never be a contender for the title of Tarzan’s Jane. But the posse of women cyclists could fit the bill. They seemed quite good at swinging! They were in great shape and had lots of fun. All in all it is a stunning experience for those who can handle it.

•For more information, phone 033 330 3415 or email info@karkloofcanopytour.co.za

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