It’s no secret that Cape Town is in the throes of dastardly drought, but on the flipside, it’s good to know that we’re not living in a desert. On one side lies the ocean; on the other are lush nature reserves pierced by raging rivers and waterfalls.
So, while there may be a shortage of municipal shower water, there’s no shortage of ways to get wet. Whether you’re diving to the depths of the ocean, surfing waves, or riding river rapids, here are some of the best water-soaked experiences in the Cape.
Important note Although the Cape is rich in natural beauty, tourists and locals alike are urged to take necessary precautions when exploring secluded areas, as crimes and accidents do happen.
Those venturing into the Table Mountain National Park should have the following emergency numbers on hand: 086 110 6417/ 107 or 021 480 7700. Criminal incidents should be reported to the nearest police station as soon as able.
We also recommend @safetymountain as a useful resource for hikers. This free safety tracking service allows you to notify local trackers of your contact details, intended route and travel time via Whatsapp. You are then able to provide hourly updates on your progress and to notify trackers when you are safely off the mountain.
You may have heard of kloofing – an activity where adventurers don wetsuits and make their way down a ravine, swimming and cliff-jumping along the way. Well, coasteering is the same concept – but applied to protected coastal areas.
Pioneered in Wales and Scotland (those crazy Celts!), the rugged watersport involves making your way along a section of coastline; swimming and rock scrambling where necessary. There’s the opportunity for exhilarating cliff jumps into the sea (though you don’t have to do those if you prefer not to), as well as snorkelling amid the diverse marine life.
Cost R550 (1 to 2 hours on water, plus an extra hour for briefing and debriefing with larger groups)
R95 (picnic-style lunch in Simon’s Town)
R150 (transport from Cape Town – up to 8 participants only)
Minimum group size of 4 (smaller groups by arrangement)
Contact Gravity Adventures: 021 638 3698, firstname.lastname@example.org
Operating times Tours start any day of the week at 9.30am
Subject to weather conditions
Bookings must be done 24 hours in advance
Where to find it Tours start at Windmill Beach, Simon’s Town
Transport can be arranged at additional cost.
Ever stood on the edge of the Sea Point Promenade and gazed out towards the vast ocean, wondering what it would be like to just sail away into the horizon? Well, you can do exactly that…
Kaskazi Kayaks and Adventures offers two-hour guided tours of the Atlantic Seaboard coastline that depart from Three Anchor Bay beach and venture along the coastline towards the V&A Waterfront (or Clifton Beach) – depending on the weather and your preference.
Kayak Cape Town in Simon’s Town offers kayak tours of the resident penguin colony at Boulder’s Beach, granting you the opportunity to get up close and personal with these wonderful aquatic birds.
Cost Kaskazi Kayaks and Adventures (Sea Point): R400 per person
Kayak Cape Town (Simon’s Town): R300 (penguin trip); R400 (full moon rising trip)
Contact Kaskazi Kayaks and Adventures (Sea Point): 083 346 1146, email@example.com
Kayak Cape Town (Simon’s Town): 082 501 8930, firstname.lastname@example.org
Operating times Kaskazi Kayaks and Adventures (Sea Point): Daily. Trips depart in the morning and are around three hours..
Kayak Cape Town (Simon’s Town): Daily, 8.30 (summer), 9am (winter)
Where to find it Kaskazi Kayaks and Adventures (Sea Point): 179 Beach Road, Mouille Point, Cape Town
Kayak Cape Town (Simon’s Town): Simon’s Town Waterfront, Wharf Street
The wrecks that lie strewn across the shores and seabed of the “Cape of Storms” tell a storied history of war, exploration and industry. Into the Blue Scuba Diving Centre offers guided tours, with the aid of experienced dive instructors, allowing you to plunge into history as you explore such famous wrecks as SS Maori (a British cargo steamship that sank in 1909), SS Clan Stewart (a British steamer vessel blown to shore by a southeaster in 1914), and the Antipolis (sank in July 1977).
Cost R650 per dive (includes transport to and from the dive)
Equipment rental: R650 per day, R160 per extra cylinder
GoPro rental: R400 per day
Contact 021 434 3358 / 021 433 1883, email@example.com
Operating times Tuesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays
Where to find it Into the Blue Scuba Dive Centre, 88 Main Road, Sea Point, Cape Town
Stand-Up Paddle-Boarding in a river
The art once employed by ancient fishermen (and African warriors to launch stealth attacks, using their spears as paddles) is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, and it’s no surprise. Humans figured out long ago that we move faster on water than on land, but we’re much better at standing than we are at swimming. So, we found a way that combines both: Stand Up Paddle-boarding (or SUPing) – a watersport hundreds of years in the making.
Gravity Adventures offers a variety of SUP tours, including river and ocean experiences, day trips and multi-day trips. Some of the locations are an hour’s drive out of Cape Town, but worth it for the chance to feel like an adventurer of old, as you follow the course of the river into the heart of the countryside.
Good to know SUP tours are a recent addition to Gravity Adventures’ itinerary, and each tour is treated as a tailor-made package with a maximum group size of six people.
Trips currently take place in the West Coast Nature Reserve, with future tours planned for the Orange River and Breede River.
Cost River experience: R695 per person (includes instruction, equipment and light lunch)
Ocean experience: R495 per person (includes instruction, equipment)
City waterways: R495 per person (includes instruction, excludes board)
SUP rental: R495 per person per day (includes pump and paddle)
Contact 021 683 3698, firstname.lastname@example.org
Operating times Tours take place all year round in various locations.
Minimum group size is 2, and all trips are subject to availability and weather conditions.
Bookings must be done 24 hours in advance.
Meeting time is flexible, but usually in the morning to avoid the wind.
Where to find it Kraal Bay, West Coast Nature Reserve
Gravity Adventures can link you with a transport provider if required.
Also known as “canyoning”, kloofing is an adrenaline-pumping adventure sport that turns a river gorge into a natural water slide, requiring participants to slip-slide their way down, leaping off cliffs where necessary as they follow the course of the mountain stream.
A popular destination for kloofing is Suicide Gorge, a CapeNature-operated area in the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve, near Grabouw. Recommended only for hardy and experienced hikers, the Suicide Gorge trail takes you high up into the mountains… and then downhill through a gorge that gives it its name. At certain points, you’ll be required to leap off cliffs – some as high as 15 metres – into the pools below.
Good to know If you’d prefer a less intense adventure, the nearby Riviersonderend Route offers a similar challenge, but with fewer drops – the highest being a more manageable 7 metres.
Please note Suicide Gorge and Riviersonderend Route may be closed at any time at the discretion of the reserve staff (due to inclement weather or other unsafe conditions). Please call ahead to confirm that the routes are open.
Hikers are advised to start early (no later than 9am), and must be out of the reserve by 7pm.
No children under 12 are permitted.
You must have a permit to access this route. Permits can be acquired from CapeNature (contact details provided above)
Cost From R325
Contact 021 483 0190, email@example.com (for permits)
Operating times Daily, 8am – 7pm (1 November – 30 April)
Closed from May – October
Where to find it Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve
Swimming in a dam
The Cape is blessed with an abundance of picturesque rivers and dams, where leisurely swims in nature abound. Of course, it’s best to seek out swimming spots that fall within the jurisdiction of CapeNature and SANParks Nature Reserves, as these areas will be safer, and better cared for. Popular locations for swimming include Palmiet River in the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, the Breede River in Bontebok National Park, and Klein River in Stanford.
Important note Naturally, some of these swimming spots will have been affected by the drought, so call ahead to confirm that swimming is still possible. Furthermore, please take note of the warning at the beginning of this article about safety, as there have been some tragic incidents at Silvermine Reservoir in recent times.
Cost CapeNature reserves require a conservation fee to gain access (R40 for adults; R20 for children).
SANParks Nature Reserves, which include Table Mountain National Park and the West Coast Nature Reserve, also require an entrance fee. Rates may vary between reserves. For more info, visit the SANParks website.
Contact CapeNature: 021 483 0190, firstname.lastname@example.org
SANParks: 012 428 9111, email@example.com
Stanford Tourism (for the Klein River): 028 3410 340, firstname.lastname@example.org
Operating times Varies between reserves.
Good to know Dogs are not permitted in CapeNature reserves.
SANParks Nature Reserves allow dog-walking, but require you to purchase a Level 1 My Activity Permit (R270). For more info, contact the Tokai Tourist Office at 021 712 7471
Where to find it Various CapeNature and SANParks Nature Reserves
Abseiling down a waterfall
Looking for water-saving ways to shower? Try doing it in a waterfall. Eden Adventures, a tour operator based in The Garden Route, offers a unique activity that allows you to dangle on a rope above Kaaimans Gorge, abseiling down 45 metres and landing safely in a canoe at the bottom.
Fear not, there are no actual kaaimans (the Dutch word for crocodile); it’s believed the name refers to a species of monitor lizard that once dwelt here, that locals may have confused for a fiercer reptile.
Fun fact Another theory is that the river is named after the San water god Ki-Man.
Cost R600 (adults); R450 (children aged 10 – 15)
Contact 044 877 0179, email@example.com
Operating times Tours: Daily, 1.30pm – 4.30pm
Office hours: Daily, 8am – 5pm (extended hours in summer holidays)
Where to find it Eden Adventures, Fairy Knowe Hotel, Dumbleton Road, Wilderness
Good to know If you are staying in the Wilderness area, Eden Adventures can arrange transport from your accommodation.
The Kogelberg Nature Reserve receives plenty of rainfall in winter, which turns the otherwise serene Palmiet River into a series of white-water rapids. Gravity Adventures offers guided white-water rafting in two-person inflatable vessels (“crocodiles”) – and in one-person inflatable tubes (“gekos”) when water levels are lower.
Whichever option you choose, the lush and mountainous valley makes for an enchanting backdrop to your river-soaked adventure.
Contact 021 683 3698, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cost Rafting: R550
R100 wetsuit hire for the day
R95 packed lunch
R195 braai or cold buffet lunch
Please note Tours require a minimum of 10 people and a maximum of 24 people.
Minimum age is 8 years for tubing and 12 years rafting.
Children under 12 receive a 15% discount for tubing.
Operating times Rafting tours: Winter & spring
Tubing tours: Spring, early summer, autumn
Tours are subject to availability and weather conditions.
Meeting times are flexible, but usually at 10am.
Gravity Adventures can link you with a transport provider if required.
Where to find it Kogelberg Nature Reserve
At the Cape Fur Seal Colony in Oudekraal, you’ll find hosts of these playful creatures suntanning on the rocks and frolicking in the waves, where they’re occasionally joined by dolphins, whales and penguins. Adrenalised Diving provides snorkelling trips for groups of up to eight people, allowing you the opportunity to see the Cape’s iconic marine-dwelling mammals up close.
Contact 021 418 2870, 081 777 0066, email@example.com
Operating times Daily, 7.30am
Dependent on conditions.
Check their weekly schedule for availability.
Where to find it Adrenalised Diving, Shop 8, Quay 5, V&A Waterfront
Some surf the waves, others surf the wind. Kite-surfing utilises the power of the wind to propel you across the water, by means of a parachute, enabling you to perform numerous acrobatic stunts in the process (though its best to wait until you’re more experienced before trying those).
Coastline Kite-Surfing offers pay-per-day lessons, as well as multi-day kitesurfing courses that will teach you how to master the ways of the wind.
Good to know Coastline Kitesurfing courses come with a unique guarantee: If you still cannot ride after five private lessons, one of the trusted instructors will continue to train you for free until you feel confident on the board. Also once you have completed any of the courses on offer you will receive an internationally recognised IKO certificate, which allows you to rent gear worldwide!
Cost Pay Per Day (3.5 hours): R950 per person (group lesson); R2 250 per person (private lesson)
Power Kite course (1 hour, suitable for all ages): R350 per person (group lesson); R700 per person (private lesson)
2 day, 3 day and 5 day packages available.
Contact 082 550 0076, firstname.lastname@example.org
Operating times Daily, 8.30am – 8.30pm (provided the wind is strong enough)
Where to find it Coastline Kitesurfing, Shop 5, 14 Beach Boulevard, Table View, Cape Town
Visit a sea cave
If you have pirate tendencies (and are seeking a place to bury treasure), Waenhuiskrans is the cave you’ve been looking for. It lies just off the sandy shoreline of Arniston, but explorers will need to wait for low tide before making their way through the shallow water to the cave entrance (be careful as you navigate the slippery, seaweed-strewn rocks that lie beneath the water’s surface).
Once inside, take a moment to marvel at nature’s craftsmanship (the cave was fashioned over the course of centuries by the movement of the tides), then you can explore the many rockpools that lie scattered throughout. All manner of sea dwellers have been carried in on the tides, and many of them have taken up residence within the cave rather than return to the open ocean. There’s a variety of rock-dwelling marine life, and one explorer even found an octopus.
Fun fact Waenhuiskrans, the name of this cave, means wagon house cliff and arises from an old legend that the cave is big enough for an ox wagon to do a full turn inside.
Important note You can only access the cave during low tide, so be sure to contact Cape Agulhas Tourism (details provided below) for information on the tides.
Contact Cape Agulhas Tourism: 028 424 2584 or 028 424 2883, email@example.com
Where to find it Arniston, via N2 and R316 (2 hours and 42 minute drive)
This motorbike-jet ski hybrid that was famously utilised by Roger Moore in The Spy Who Loved Me makes for an exhilarating (albeit challenging) way to ride the waves. Elite Wetbikes offers guided wetbike rides from the jetty at Club Mykonos towards Schaapen Island and back, allowing you to enjoy perfect views of the beautiful West Coast Nature Reserve, as you glide across the tranquil turquoise waters of Langebaan Lagoon.
Important note Participants must be able to swim.
R100 for an extra passenger
Booking is essential
Contact 072 155 2611, firstname.lastname@example.org
Operating times Dependent on weather
Where to find it Elite Wetbikes, Club Mykonos Marina, Langebaan, West Coast
(one hour’s drive from Cape Town)
Surfing enthusiasts will tell you there’s no greater way to destress than to be out in the ocean, riding the waves. To which the uninitiated will respond: “Sounds great, but I’ll probably just end up rolling under the waves”. Well, that’s where Stoked School of Surf comes in. Their qualified coaches provide lessons at the Cape’s best surfing spots (since the school is mobile, they can pick whichever spot will have the best conditions on the day).
They provide the board and wetsuit, and will even transport you to the chosen location (or you can drive there yourself, in which case they’ll notify you of the location the day before). Lessons are limited to small groups to ensure everyone receives the necessary attention, and there’s also the option of private lessons.
Good to know Know how to surf, but not where to surf? Stoked provides surfing guide services as well, to help intermediate and advanced surfers find the location most suited to your skill level.
Cost Group lessons:
R450 per person (self-drive option)
R650 per person (transported option)
Private lessons: from R1 500
Surf guiding: from R1 750
Contact 082 412 8781, email@example.com
Operating times Morning lessons: Pick-up from the city between 8am and 9am (depending on suburb)
Afternoon lessons: Pick-up from the city between 1pm and 2pm (depending on suburb)
Where to find it Muizenberg or Big Bay Beach
Researched by Matthew Flax
Discover more of the Cape’s secrets by subscribing to our weekly newsletter.