Conquering my fear on the Cape Canopy Tour
Ever since I read about the crazy construction of the Cape Canopy Tour near Elgin, I have had this irrational and mad desire to do the tour without really knowing what I was letting myself in for. So when Skye Leask from #discoverOverberg invited me to experience the tour, I jumped at the chance. However, that is when the rational side of my brain took over. I did my homework, watched some videos, and I started to get a little nervous….to be honest more worried than nervous.
Was I going to be brave enough or would I chicken out while standing on the first platform? Would I be able to take photos without dropping my beloved camera? And oh yes, of course, would the cable not snap while I dangle above a rocky outcrop? You would not believe the silly thoughts that were occupying my mind.
Arriving at the Cape Canopy Tour office, just inside Cape Nature’s Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve, I reached the peak of my anxiety. At that moment we were met by a smiling guide in the car park, who straightaway put my troubled mind at some rest. He confirmed that I could take photos by having the guide zip in tandem – yeah!
After a safety briefing and receiving our safety equipment, a bumpy, but dramatic 35 minutes 4×4 drive took us high into the breathtakingly beautiful Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve. The rugged and pristine mountain ranges support areas of mountain Fynbos with rare and endemic plant species. The area is also home to various bokkies, like grey rhebok, klipspringer, duiker, and grysbok, the elusive and mysterious Cape leopard, and some 110 bird species.
The sharp bleak peaks, craggy cliffs, green valleys with trickling clear streams, flowering Proteas, perfect blue skies, and the peacefulness of the reserve left me speechless and evaporated the last of my apprehension. I was actually getting quite excited now.
Tommy, our guide, was absolutely amazing. He was not only knowledgeable about the environment, but also flew tandem with me throughout, so I could continue taking photographs – not easy while dangling of a steel cable and flying at high speed many meters above the ground, but great fun.
Reading back the story on the Cape Canopy Tour construction, I am in even greater admiration of the team than before. While on the tour, construction seems near impossible, especially considering that most was done by pure and simple manpower. The steel cables, steel platform frames, all the wood, everything was hiked deep into the mountains and hoisted up the cliffs. They used no foundation or concrete in the construction to leave an as small as possible footprint, if ever the system is removed.
The zipline is really safe and suitable and fun for a wide range of age groups. Even the walk back to the vehicle at the end of the tour is short and not particularly challenging. Cape Canopy Tour’s website states suitability for ages 5-75, but Tommy told me that he hosted a 90 year old lady, so no excuses for most of us! Yes, the 11 slides and one swing bridge are exciting, but there is so much more to this activity than a plain adrenalin rush.
The more than 2 km of steel cables, hanging high above the valley floor and stretching between 13 platforms attached to sheer cliff faces, leave the low Fynbos vegetation dwarfed. Canopy tour is not the most apt name and Cape Zipline would definitely be more fitting.
However, whatever the name, it is the closest I have ever felt to being a bird. Soaring between cliffs, over gorges and waterfalls, high above the “canopy”, a bird’s-eye view of the natural world in the truest sense of the word is without doubt one of the most thrilling and at the same time mesmerizing experiences ever.
Words & Pictures: Louise de Waal