Written by: Andrew James Hofmeyr
Not for the faint-hearted, jumping off a 14 metre-high cliff feels like it should warrant a Japanese war cry. “Three,” cries our tour guide, “two,” joins in the group, “one,” ends the countdown and a high pitched squeal breaks from my lips as my feet leave the cliff ledge.
Before making our way at silly o’clock to the headquarters of Abseil Africa, we had spent the previous evening making sure we had everything on the list provided. The butterflies in my stomach fluttered with expectation as I looked at the posters in reception.
After a 45-minute drive passing Gordon’s Bay, we arrived at the foothills of the Kogelberg Mountain Range. Over a delicious breakfast, we were given a rundown of what to do and what not to do. Abseil Africa has been running the Kamikaze Kanyon itinerary for about ten years and they are the only operator still allowed in the Kogelberg Nature Reserve thanks to their good reputation of keeping the reserve clean and for using the facility responsibly.
The guide put us at ease, explaining that there was practically no risk but we were, however, warned to never smile at a baboon. Baboons apparently understand barring teeth to be a sign of aggression, and the flashy white of our smiles could enrage any protective male.
After the briefing, we headed off into the hills. We set off along Route 44, crossed a bridge over the Steenbras River and then turned left into the nature reserve. The path is well maintained and, with a good pair of walking shoes, the going was easy. We took breaks in the shade and passed a mother baboon with her baby and remembered not to smile or make eye contact.
The path winds into the grey rock of the gorge and after an easy hour and a half of walking, we arrived at the first of the four natural rock pools that make up Crystal Pools. The views across False Bay were spectacular.
The water was red at this pool because of the tannins that leach from the soil, but the water is fresh and safe to drink. It was also time to jump.
I consider myself to be a brave person and, in a lot of respects, pretty fearless. The crew had told us that there would be four potential jumps of 7, 14, 18 and 22 metres. Easy peasy, I thought to myself as we climbed up the cliffs.
However, it is only when you are standing on that rock at 7 metres that you really become aware of just how high that is. What’s more is that if jumping from a 7 metre rock face may seem scary, jumping from twice that height is petrifying.
The guides go first to show you how it is done and they check your jumping technique before you get to the higher jumps. However, standing at 14 metres, I kept getting that niggling thought of how hard the water would feel when hit at high speed. I was terrified.
It was a special kind of terror that only peer pressure can override and, as the group counted me down, I discovered the sound of my scream. What a feeling to then be swirling around in the Coca-Cola coloured bubbles, adrenaline coursing through my veins.
Needless to say, I was quite content to just watch as the scouts took on the 18-metre jump, and we all looked on in awe as they swam across the pool, climbed to the 22-metre jump and torpedoed into the water.
These heights sound much easier than when you are faced with jumping them! I have sworn that the next time I do this trip (and I will do it again), I will muster the courage to take the plunge.
The scenery is sublime and the exhilaration of even the smaller jumps is palpable. I just have to challenge myself one small step at a time.
After a quick snack and moment to unwind, we set off on a steeper climb to the 60 metre abseil point down the face of the waterfall. It made me happy to realise that even after these amazing jumps into these beautiful pools, the best was still to come.
The higher reaches of the Steenbras River Gorge offer gorgeous views over the Kogelberg Mountain Range as well as a sweeping vista down the canyon and out towards the sea.
In no time at all, we were called to put on our harnesses and file tentatively to a rock ledge that only just held the seven of us. Nervous giggles and glances at one another followed and, even though we were safely clipped into our harnesses and attached to the rocks, there were still those unmistakable nerves.
It was time for me to step off the edge and begin the 65 metre precipitous drop off Thunder Falls.
It has to be said that the Abseil Africa crew inspires a lot of confidence. They are careful and their obvious commitment to our safety was excellent. Having been reassured repeatedly and having had the rigging explained thoroughly, I moved backwards with my feet braced against the edge of the cliff.
Walking willingly backwards off a cliff and descending into a waterfall is a difficult sensation to explain – heart stopping, awesome, and exhilarating are but a few adjectives. Likewise, the pictures of this natural gem cannot possibly compare to the sheer breathtaking beauty.
I was in control of the speed with which I descended so I was able to manoeuvre myself downwards but also sideways into the falling water or across the rock face. It is wonderful being on those cliffs, a place seldom reached by humans.
The waterfall was an icy cascade, the rush of water providing an extra level of exhilaration. After abseiling 65 metres in and out of a flowing waterfall, I proudly gazed up in wonder!
After having our fill, we hiked back and piled back into the minibus, a satisfied grin plastered across our faces, and headed back to Cape Town.
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