Do It Now – Canyoning Article

Explore a river system that is not usually negotiable by any other means, discover hidden gorges, swim through fresh-water mountain streams and slide down natural waterfalls; this is the thrill of canyoning!

The terms canyoning or kloofing are often loosely used to describe a river walk, but this is not technically correct as it is far more technical and requires skill in a number of areas, such as abseiling down waterfalls, jumping, swimming, hiking, down climbing and scrambling over boulder fields. In addition, the area should at least be enclosed by cliff walls to call it a canyon. Therefore, once you have committed to the first abseil, there is no way out except down river, where the canyon ends.

Although canyoning has increased in popularity in South Africa over the last few years, it is still an extreme activity that many people don’t know much about.
Overseas, especially in Europe, this activity is much bigger and a number of canyoning events and competitions are held.

The appeal
So what is the appeal of canyoning? For me, the appeal is about the opportunity to explore and discover new places that few people are able to get to, and often where no one has ever been. It’s about experiencing the raw, unspoilt beauty of nature; the technical parts are just a bonus. Then there’s the anticipation and fun of not always knowing what is around the corner and having to find a way down the next waterfall; especially when there is no way out but down.
The risks
As with any outdoor sport, there is always some risk involved. Canyoneering is no exception and has received some bad press around the world in the past, due to accidents caused by a rise in water level or flash flood. Some of these could have been prevented had experienced guides made the call not to go into the canyon in the first place. Unfortunately, with some operations money is more important than people’s lives. When done correctly though, by making informed decisions or getting help from someone who is knowledgeable and has experience in white water and mountaineering safety, it is no more risky than any other outdoor activity.

Try it
If you interested in getting into canyoning, go and experience one of the many guided operations in South Africa. If you decide that this is for you and you’d like to do some of your own expeditions, then I would recommend you first get some training at a mountaineering establishment, as well as undertake a white-water rescue course, a very important aspect of canyoning and something that should not be overlooked or omitted.

To be safe out there, a good knowledge of your environment is also vital. However, nothing beats experience, so find someone who has loads of it and then invite him or her along for the adventure.

Where to go
There are numerous commercial canyons around the world that have excellent safety measures in place to cope with high volumes of people moving through them, without you having to worry about anything other than enjoying the breathtaking scenery.

Great canyoning places to go to are Austria, Italy, France, Greece, Montenegro, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Australia, New Zealand, Nepal, Canada, Mexico and the United States.

In South Africa, we also have many amazing canyons all over the country to be explored. Unfortunately, due to a lack of knowledge regarding the activity, access has become problematic in some areas, which has prohibited visitors from being able to experience these great places. The best canyoning in our country, in my opinion, is in the Garden Route area. Saying that, the rest of the country also has great places, especially in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Natal. Generally, where there are mountains and rivers, your chances of finding a canyon somewhere along the rivers course, mostly closer to the source, are good. A quick internet search will also reveal the many operators found throughout the country, who will arrange to take you on a stress-free trip.

Breathtaking sceneryTip: If you ever decide on a canyon that is anywhere below a dam wall, check for any scheduled water release first. I prefer to avoid these canyons since I have experienced an unscheduled release, which was not the best experience ever! Furthermore, when water levels are high and there’s rain in catchments areas, canyoning trips should be called off because it is just not worth the risk.

Check out the full article on Canyoning, in the online Adventure Sports Magazine DO IT NOW at: