cape-canopy-tour

Travel Review: Zipping Through the Skies With Cape Canopy Tour

Tucked away in the picturesque Elgin Valley – itself an extraordinarily beautiful, fruitful place – and set on the slopes of the majestic Hottentot Holland Nature Reserve mountains, one discovers the incredible Cape Canopy Tour. This is where, visitors conquer new fears or return to familiar outdoor territory.

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At Cape Canopy Tour in Elgin, one can look forward to epic ziplining. This means sailing through the skies, like an eagle, as you traverse the beautiful mountain folds and river gorges. This memorable outdoor adventure is interrupted by nothing other than the wind whispering through the secretive cliffs…

Best of all, at Cape Canopy Tour, the agenda is simple: stay safe and have bucketfuls of fun!

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What To Pack in on The Day

On the day of your trip, the most important thing is favourable weather conditions. This is because it gets extremely cold and windy up in the mountains. If conditions are deemed unsafe, cancellations/rescheduling may occur.

This happened to us the first time we were meant to go – but, in hindsight, I am really glad that our first date was cancelled… The weather when we went a few weeks later was perfect – not too hot, not too cold – and there was no rain and very little wind!

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In terms of what to bring along, I suggest the following:

  1. At least a warm, fleecy top or windbreaker jacket. This will need to be put on before you get into your harness. So just remember if you leave your jacket off, there’s no putting it on later.
  2. There are no clothing requirements but I recommend active-wear or shorts and a t-shirt. Purely because the harness and safety cables hug you closely and aren’t entirely comfortable (although you get used to it). You can also don a peak cap or Buff headwear, if desired. Note: In rainy conditions, rain gear is provided on-site.
  3. Pack in sunscreen. Our South African sun is no joke – and you are out in the elements for four hours solid. There is always a chance of burning, even in seemingly cloudy weather.
  4. Ensure you are wearing comfortable shoes. Although this is not a strenuous outdoor activity, your body gets tired so you definitely want comfy shoes. And there is a one kilometre hike at the end, so easy walking is essential.
  5. Finally, cameras, GoPros and smart phones are all allowed – and, when possible, photography is encouraged. However, please be advised that taking these with is entirely at your own risk.We took our smart phones and my Nikon camera, which we safely stowed away in a plain backpack. This was perfectly safe and, despite my fears beforehand, at no point during the trip was I worried about my camera getting damaged or anything getting lost.

Tip: In closing, I would suggest arriving at the destination least fifteen to twenty minutes before your trip is scheduled to start. So plan your route in advance. (Travel time from Cape Town Airport is 50 km – and 40 km from Caledon.)

Arriving at Cape Canopy Tour Elgin

Although the entrance requires a slight detour at present (largely due to flood damage from winter rains) and some slow, careful driving… Once you arrive at the reception area, the excitement of adventure mounts and nerves first appear.

You begin your check-in process by tapping your details into a touchscreen. This is to sign the indemnity form, provide your contact details and choose your complimentary, post-tour pie… You can choose between a springbok, chicken or spinach and feta pie from the famous Peregrine Farm Stall, another Elgin gem. The pies are excellent, so be sure to savour yours afterwards!

Check-in Time for Our Ziplines

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Tours run for approximately four hours (our time slot was the Saturday 14:00 pm – 18:00 pm time slot – and the timing was spot on, even with a slight delay in setting off). Because of this, you do build up quite an appetite… ziplining is hungry work, after all! You might also get thirsty, so take a backpack with water or sports drinks along. Otherwise, you can secure a 500ml water bottle into your safety harness.

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If you require ‘supplies’, there is a lovely little cafe/shop, Sunbird Cafe, with a host of snacks, ice-creams, cool drinks, water and more for purchase. And some great indoor and outdoor (deck) seating to enjoy while you wait. (I also exercised extreme maturity by enjoying some time on the outdoor swing! :))

Also, because you are out in the mountains for four to four-and-a-half hours, it is strongly advisable to use the bathroom before setting off. (Although, as our guides joked, what happens in the mountains, stays in the mountains…)

Gearing up for Adventure… Cape Canopy Tour-Style

Once check-in is complete, the friendly, efficient Cape Canopy Tour staff will guide you through the preparation process. This begins with a fun, yet vital safety briefing. Along with your fellow tour members, you will run through the three golden safety rules. It’s important to pay attention and listen carefully during this session, as it’s essentially all you need to remember for your experience – but crucially important nonetheless.

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Each tour experience has two guides: a lead and a safety guide. The lead guide always goes first – and once all tour members have gone, the safety guide follows. For our tour, we were assigned to Tommy (lead) and Nicky (safety) – and I might be biased but I feel we had the best guides! 🙂

Groups are usually kept small, with eight participants maximum, and each group member chooses their ziplining number. If you are in a pair or friends’ group, you can choose among yourselves. In our case, we chose numbers one and two. This meant that we would be up first after our safety lead… No pressure, right?

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Your helmet (numbered in the order you are going to zipline) and safety harness come next. Your guides will assist you with these and ensure they are secure – both when you first put them on and before you set off on the first zipline.

Setting off into the Hottentot Holland Mountains

Once you are geared up and most importantly, weather-permitting, your guides will explain about the filming process. Because, if they can shoot, your adventure will be captured on a nifty GoPro and a video will be sent to you a few hours after your tour has ended.

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We were filmed in snippets for basically every leg of our tour and it really added to the experience. You get to relive the experience afterwards (and share across your social media, if you like!). And remember, show how much fun you are having on the tour – you’ll love watching it play back later.

From there, we finally set off, hopping onto a personalised Cape Canopy Tour 4×4 vehicle. Vehicles do offer minimal cover and they are comfy and secure, but remember to hold on while you enjoy your ‘African massage’ (the road can be bumpy)! 🙂

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If you have younger children (there was a boy of six on our tour), please request a guide secures them with a cable for added safety. It works really well and provides added parental peace of mind! I must say, I was surprised to see a child that young on the tour.

However, if you bring a young kid along, you can have them zipline in tandem with a safety guide. Our safety guide, Nicky, was absolutely amazing with this little boy. She shielded and secured him around herself, meaning he was just as safe and excited as the rest of us. 🙂

We Are Going Higher and Higher and Higher

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The 4×4 drive up into the mountains adds to the experience. This is your first taste of the fresh mountain air and the imposing setting, as cliff faces, valleys, distant dams and fauna and flora provide an amazing natural backdrop.

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Your local guides are extremely knowledgeable of the area and all that dwells within it. So take note of all the insights they provide; it’s fascinating and educational. (We also had some fun spotting weird rock formations… Mr Smiley and the Shark rock were particular favourites!)

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As you travel up, you might pass hikers or fellow ziplining teams. And, just when you think a vehicle can’t possibly ascend any higher into the Cape fold mountains – it does!

The drop-off point offers a particularly stunning vista, so have your camera/smart phone at the ready for that. I loved gazing off into the distance, seeing sights like Theewaterskloof Dam and the reserve’s hidden valleys.

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Few regions in the Cape are as spectacular and rich in nature as the Overberg Region… It’s a priceless experience in and of itself. (Although I am not sure many people truly take the time to appreciate the beauty; they’re far too excited about the adventure at hand. :))

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Time to Be Brave!

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Once you disembark (there are excellent stair mounts, which make getting on and off the 4×4 vehicles wonderfully easy; such a treat!), your guides will give you a pulley. This must be attached to your harness at all times.

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You will also receive a pair of leather gloves. If you are left-handed like me, please mention this in advance so that you can get your ‘special’ gloves. It is vital that you have your gloves, especially for your strong, dominant hand, because they protect your hands a lot. And even though at times I was convinced my gloves would catch alight (what can I say, I’m exceedingly paranoid and overcautious…), they really handle the cables and speeds well.

From there, gloves in hand, we headed off down the beautiful, fynbos-lined path, towards our first zipline platform and slide.

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13 Platforms, 11 Slides, A Swing Bridge – and Plenty of Fun!

Cape Canopy Tour offers thirteen sturdy wooden platforms. These serve as a type of ‘launch pad’. They are also where you stand in signal file, waiting for your guides to give the go-ahead to zipline across.

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Then, of course, there are the eleven zipline slides themselves – which allow for varying speeds and lengths – and one bouncy bridge. Above all, this is four to four-and-a-half hours of epic fun.

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And don’t worry, despite being thousands of feet high on the platforms, perched like eagles in cliff-hugging eyries, you are perfectly safe and secure at all times. Your guides ensure you are constantly tethered to the supporting cables. These feed around the rock faces and ledges of the wooden platforms, providing a sense of tangible security.

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Each of the platforms bear information boards, offering up fun facts and imagery. It’s a nice touch and there is definitely some creativeness at work if you read them… I won’t spoil it too much, as they are fun to read on the day – – but some of the names include Klipspringer, Valley Vista and Eagle’s Rest.

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Daring in the Air

Our lead guide, Tommy, went first, kick-starting our adventure… Securing his three primary cables to the pulley device – which gets clipped on and off of the slide at each leg of the zipline tour – he sped off across the gorge. We watched in mild amazement as he cheekily showed off his ziplining ‘moves’, twisting and turning theatrically in the air. Spiderman would be jealous, there’s no doubting that!

I have to admit, I was a bit envious myself – but if you do this twice a day, seven times a week most times, you probably pluck up the bravery to be daring. 🙂 For the rest of us, I think we just wanted to focus on staying attached to the zipline, managing to break (I failed… 13/13 times – and the emergency safety break is not my friend) and avoid crashing into Tommy or the cliff.

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After that, once he gave the all-clear signal, it was our turn… I think by that time, we were both extremely nervous but also incredibly excited. This first zipline wasn’t the longest but it offers a good taste of what to expect. It is enough to give you a chance to adjust without terrifying the wits out of you or lasting too long.

You go by so fast, one by one in single file, that you barely have enough time to gather your wits, let alone focus on photographing your partner or friends. Because of this, I suggest going somewhere in the middle or towards the end, then you get a bit longer to take memorable snaps and watch your loved ones in action.

Stepping Off into Thin Air

When my turn came, I stepped forward, too aware of those waiting eagerly behind me to hesitate. Nicky guided me closer and hitched my three cables (which you hold with your weaker hand) to the pulley, before telling me I could go.

I paused at the edge of the platform, looking over the edge. The drop below looked pretty daunting – and there was nothing more than a silver cable, flickering in the warm, afternoon sunlight, between me and the opposing ledge. This was where Tommy was waiting to catch me… I had to set off.

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“Do I just go? Like, just jump off it?” I asked Nicky, receiving an encouraging nod. As I stepped off the lip of the platform, I thought, “Here goes,” and flew out into thin air.

Then, focussing my attention on keeping my dominant hand behind the pulley at all times and my free hand gripped to the three cables, I whizzed across faster than you can say ‘jet speed’!

1 Down, 12 to Go…

After bashing into the safety break (it’s used to control your speeds when can’t slow yourself down… something I never quite managed, although I at least didn’t speed… much), Tommy caught me and jokingly remarked, “Don’t worry, I’m not a traffic officer; I won’t give speeding fines today!”

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I gave a nervous giggle, as he secured me to the platform cable and gently ushered me along, so that the next participant could join us.

While I was speeding across, I had been worried that I would clatter into him (or worse still, the cliff) but the guides are so smooth and professional that they stop you long before you get anywhere close. Even so, try tuck your legs in underneath you as you near the end so that you don’t knee the guide. It’s just good manners. 🙂

I will be honest with you: after the first zipline, my legs felt like jelly. But, with the adrenaline coursing through my veins, I knew I would not be turning back. (You get the chance to do this at the third zipline. So if you are petrified or it’s not for you, just hold on…)

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We waited as our companions joined us, some accidentally twisting sideways in the air (Tommy called this the 3D effect), some cool and collected having previously ziplined. Then, Nicky came across and we were ready to head onto the next slide.

Last Chance Dance

I have to say, the first two zipline slides go by so fast that you don’t really have much time to be nervous or worry about the heights. They are there more to acclimatise you with the zipline slides than anything else. Something they do this well.

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At the third zipline slide, aptly dubbed ‘Last Chance Dance’, you have the option of stopping. However, if you decide to carry on from this point, please note there is no turning back. You have to finish the slides… So trust your gut feel – and choose wisely.

This slide is 230 metres in length, so it’s a great one for enjoying the scenery around and below you. By this point, I was thoroughly enjoying myself and any lingering nerves had almost entirely faded away.

Everyone else wanted to venture on too, so our ziplining band travelled on, like some adrenaline-craving Fellowship of the (Ziplining) Ring…

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Hanging Around

With each successful ziplining slide, I think we all gained solid confidence. And slowly but surely, we became relaxed enough to take in the views as we sped across too.

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For some of the slides – which are longer, meaning you need more speed for them – you might need to lift your knees towards you, forming a human cannonball. This provides the necessary momentum to ensure you make it across without slowing down too much.

But for those who are more lightweight, you inevitably gather less speed than your weightier counterparts. For we unfortunate few, this meant that Tommy had to ‘rescue’ us mid-air, as we stopped just before the emergency brake.

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It happened to me at least once and I was completely chilled, despite dangling in the air for a few seconds. It’s not as frightening as it sounds though. Besides, your guides make quick work of helping you across, so it is no big deal.

Smile and Enjoy the Views…

As we progressed and our enthusiasm grew, we admired new sights and even more beautiful views. Some highlights include: a secret waterfall (I missed it…), the river flowing far below, some interesting natural flora and much, much more.

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As I zipped across, I started taking the time to look down more, and the sensation is pretty indescribable. I have always wondered how a bird of prey feels as it glides through the air, surveying the land beneath it – and now I know.  If I can give one tip, it is to truly take in your surroundings when you can. Don’t just get taken in by the thrill of the slide or the incredible speeds you pick up.

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Nicky and Tommy filmed us more and more, capturing fun moments of our experience together. Sometimes we smiled back at the camera before zipping off along a 330-metre slide (which is the longest and sadly, the last) or as we jiggled our way across a suspension bridge, spanning across a double waterfall.

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Arrivederci Means Farewell (For Now…)

Finally, as the clock wound down towards 18:00 pm and the wind began to make our eyes water, our adventure came to a gentle, yet altogether thrilling close.

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We finished first and thanking Tommy profusely, started our hike back to the pick-up point. This one-kilometre hike  offers you a chance to reflect on what you have just experienced (and achieved), as you trek through gorgeous Cape flora. I kept stopping to snap photos of the diverse flowers and rocks that we passed.

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Slowly, we made our way back to the waiting pick-up vehicle and hopped back on. I think we were all a bit sad that it was over – but also, really happy and tired in the best possible way.

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On the drive back down, Tommy provided more insights into the region. When we disembarked back at reception, Tommy went off to get our pies. Then, seated at a picnic bench table in the cosy reception hall, we were presented with a glorious plate of food. This consisted of the delicious, warm Peregrine pie and some tasty coleslaw. The food was the icing on a very wonderful cake. It really brought the whole day to a lovely, satisfying end!

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As we ate, Tommy explained to us about the video link and our certificate (which were jointly emailed to us shortly after we left) and the discount system, which Canopy Tours offers its participants. You essentially get a stamp card, which you can use at any of the Canopy Tour locations in South Africa. (They are: Cape (Elgin), Drakensberg, Karkloof, Magaliesberg, Magoebaskloof, Malolotja and Tsitsikamma respectively.)

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Then, after we thanked and tipped our brilliant guides, we bid farewell to the Cape Canopy Tour adventure and rumbled back down the reserve road… We felt wholly content with our experience – and eager to do it again soon!

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To Sum it Up

As a whole, the zipline tour is breathtaking and thrilling, while still having a prevailing feeling of safety surrounding it. It is great for couples, families, friends and team building groups.

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And there are very few limitations – barring weighing in or around 120 kilograms (although there is some wiggle room, if you are fit and in good shape) and being pregnant… But for most, these will not present an issue. Better still, it is suitable for most ages (5 to 75). So you can look forward to a really great adventure.

You don’t have to be an outdoor enthusiast or adrenaline junkie to partake in the tour. It is simply a well-rounded and thrilling outdoorsy experience.

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The setting (indeed for each of the tour locations) is incredible! Expect amazing natural beauty and a chance to enjoy rare sights from up on high… These aspects make the experience all the more special!

And the video, certificate of completion and email correspondence you receive from the Cape Canopy Tour is fun, informative and useful. They allow you to prepare yourself for your looming adventure – and to look back on it with fondness.

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How It Rated

Overall, I am happy to award the Cape Canopy Tour a firm 10/10 rating for all of the above – and so much more. It really is one of the most incredible and memorable outdoor experiences I have enjoyed anywhere in South Africa to date.

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Honestly, I cannot fault the experience we enjoyed. The entire process was slick from start to finish. The staff in particular really go the extra mile to make your experience as memorable, safe and enjoyable as possible.

Sure, I grant you that, at R855 per person, it may seem pricey – but I think it is worth the cost for the experience and the fun you get out. Plus, the fee covers nearly five hours of guided outdoor adventure, the reserve entrance fee and a great meal.

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Another cool thing to keep in mind is that once you have paid in full for a ziplining experience, you qualify for a free trip on your birthday! This can be used either three days before or after your birthday. (You will receive an email in advance, reminding you of this.)

To book, call and tell the staff you are redeeming your birthday gift. On the day, bring your ID (or any official personal document with your date of birth) and your certificate of achievement – or Frequent Flyer card – to redeem your free Canopy Tour!

Remember: Tipping your guides, while optional, is suggested. They put a lot of time and effort into the experience. What’s more, all tips are shared equally among the guides so it is a very fair system.

Thank You for the Memory

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Thank you very much to Cape Canopy Tour and its staff for making this incredible experience such a thrilling success. 

In particular, I must extend a special word of thanks to Skye Leask of Discover Overberg and our tour guides, Tommy and Nicky.

For more information on Cape Canopy Tourplease contact: +27 (021) 3000 501 or email them at: zipline@capecanopytour.co.za.

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You can also visit their website or find Cape Canopy Tour Elgin for yourself at: Forestry Road, Elgin Valley, Western Cape, South Africa. (GPS: S 34° 04′ 15″, E 19° 02′ 59″.)

Cape Canopy Tour is also on all leading social media platforms, so be sure to connect with and follow them on FacebookInstagramYouTube and Twitter.

Author: Tamlyn Amber Ryan

Content writer by day and blogger by night, Tamlyn Ryan passionately runs her own travel blog, called Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust, from her home base of Cape Town, South Africa. And, despite a national diploma in Journalism, in her free time, Tamlyn’s preferred niche remains travel writing.

Tamlyn is a hopeless wanderer, equipped with an endless passion for road trips, carefully planned, holiday itineraries and, above all else, an innate love for the great outdoors.

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