What is Coasteering?

Coasteering is a physical activity that encompasses movement along the intertidal zone of a rocky coastline on foot or by swimming, without the aid of boats, surfboards or other craft. A defining factor of coasteering is the opportunity provided by the marine geology for moving in the ‘impact zone’ where water, waves, rocks, gullies, caves etc., come together to provide a very high-energy environment. – Wikipedia

Being in the adventure business, I get asked on a daily basis what coasteering is, so I thought I would dedicate this article to shedding some light on this incredibly exciting activity that offers loads of exciting experiences in one day – guaranteed!

The first time I heard the term coasteering was when I was based on the north coast of Ireland, back in 2011. Although not a well-known adventure activity around the world, it is a very popular activity that’s practiced along the UK coastlines. In fact, the UK is one of the biggest coasteering destinations worldwide, boasting the most commercial operators.
Whilst here, I had my first ‘official’ coasteering experience with Matt Wright, who owns a coasteering operation called IrishC, based out on the north coast in Portrush and right next to one of the world’s natural wonders, the Giant Causeway. We would jump off a big cliff into the ocean and then swim alongside the cliff to the next big jump while exploring this beautiful coastline in a very exciting and different way, and so we went along. What makes it all so exciting is that you are very much a part of the ocean, in the swell, and are able to explore cool spots, like sea caves, which are not otherwise accessible.

My time spent exploring with Matt, as well as assisting him with taking out groups to some of the incredible spots he had scouted along the coastline, enabled me to really get to grips with this activity and understand what makes it so special and unique. For example, not any section of coastline is feasible for coasteering. One needs something different and spectacular to show people, something that would generally be inaccessible to most without the proper knowledge and experience. What one needs is a section of coastline that is rugged and unspoilt, with various adventurous aspects to it, like big, adrenalin-pumping jumps.

Bitten by the coasteering bug, I decided to create the ultimate aquatic adventure in South Africa that offered a blend of rock hopping, shore scrambling, swell riding, cave exploring and cliff jumping.
However, this trip is different to what I was doing in the UK, as there were a number of ‘local’ factors that had to be taken into consideration. The first was the sharks that frequent our coastline, which make taking clients into the sea somewhat risky. The other big, limiting factor was access to the cool spots that are actually worth exploring and doing trips on. The result is a trip that takes place along a private reserve on the coastline, about 15 minutes from George, which is incredibly beautiful and untouched.
Go coasteering locally
The trip kicks off with a 1,5 km hike through indigenous coastal forest to the cliff’s edge and then an abseil down to the sea. Once back on terra firma, there is no trail, so there’ll be lots of boulder hopping along a very rugged coastline, in and out of the intertidal zone.

There are a number of safe spots I’ve found along the way where you can swim, while at the same time enjoy the wave action in tidal pools that are protected by rock formations. What’s so awesome about this is that you’ll have the opportunity to get a close-up view of the coastal ecology as you walk and wade, depending on tides, in the intertidal zone.

After a few spots that are sure to put most out of their comfort zone, you’ll get to a sea cave that is quite special as it has stalagmites and stalactites. Thereafter, there’ll be a steep walk up a valley and through pristine coastal forest back to the start.

One thing I can guarantee you is that this adventure will get your pulse racing as you abseil off huge cliffs, swim through caves and scramble along rocky coastline – and leave you with memories of a lifetime.

Other trips
In addition to this trip, the only other coasteering trips offered in South Africa, which I’m aware of, is around Simon’s Town, by Gravity Adventures.

But if you ever find yourself in Northern Ireland, the Giants Causeway area is a coasteering paradise and definitely worth a visit. And afterwards, be sure to treat yourself and head down to a local Irish pub for a steak and Guinness pie, all washed down with another pint of Guinness to replace all the calories lost in the cold water.
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