Once in a Lifetime: An adrenaline junkie’s guide to Cape Town

By: Katie Manning

January 8, 2013

Every city has its must-see sites, however we’re passionate about getting to the heart and soul of Cape Town and finding things to do that are so unique and special to the city that it is a pity to visit without trying at least one of them. We love these once in a lifetime experiences, that are about stepping off the tourist trail and exploring Cape Town our way.

Complete the Hoerikwaggo Trail

Complete the Hoerikwaggo TrailHoerikwaggo Trail © sanparks

The full 75km mountain trail between Cape Point and Cape Town city centre takes you through a sublime, unspoiled landscape strewn with fynbos shrubs and blessed with unbelievable views in every direction – and all this within the vast metropolis of the city. It takes five days to complete, but we also suggest tackling smaller bits of the trail according to the amount of time you have. If you’re looking for a guide (the trail isn’t signposted, so this is a very good idea), we think Riaan Vorster is the best in business  (+27 21 438 6073 or +27 83 683 1876, (Tip: The trail itself is free, but you’ll need to book your overnight tents!) +27 21 465 8515/6,

Shark cage-diving in Gansbaai with White Shark Projects

Shark cage-diving in Gansbaai with White Shark Projects
Cage-diving with sharks © White Shark Projects

We’ve never found anywhere else on earth quite so fantastic for eyeballing Great White sharks on their home turf. South Africa’s cage-diving companies are actively involved in research that hopes to protect endangered Great Whites, while educating the world about their importance in the eco-chain. The thing we love about this is that you don’t need any special skills or equipment (all will be provided), except a strong constitution (or seasickness medication) for the boat ride. “White Shark Lodge”, 16 Geelbek Street, Kleinbaai, +27 76 245 5880 or +27 28 384 1774

Paraglide over Cape Town from the top of Signal Hill

Paraglide over Cape Town from the top of Signal HillParagliding over Cape Town from Signal Hill © birdmen

There aren’t too many cities in the world that we know of where you can leap off a mountain and then fly silently above the concrete blocks, before swooping down near the beach for cocktails with full on views of the sun setting over the Atlantic. But Cape Town is one of them, and “˜birdman’ Barry Pedersen is one person we trust to ensure an exhilarating ride and, of course, a smooth touchdown. Birdmen Paragliding, +27 21 557 8144 or +27 82 658 6710,

Attend a Concert at the Paul Cluver Forest Amphitheatre

Attend a Concert at the Paul Cluver Forest Amphitheatre
Gig at the Paul Cluver Forest Amphitheatre © Paul Cluver Forest Amphitheatre

Sitting on a wine and fruit farm just one hour from Cape Town, this devastatingly intimate outdoor venue plays host to the most exclusive concerts (there are only 600 “˜seats’) – all enclosed beneath a forest of towering ghost gum trees. One of the highlights here, for us, is the handful of live music performances by top South African acts staged each summer – the atmosphere is fantastic, and everyone feels like a VIP. Paul Cluver, De Rust Estate, off the N2, Elgin/Grabouw, +27 21 844 0605, Summer.

Fight Night at The Armoury Boxing Club

Fight Night at The Armoury Boxing ClubThe Armoury Boxing Club © Armoury Boxing

It’s no underground bunker-style gym, but we think it’s the most authentic place to train in Cape Town, and its occasional Friday evening White Collar Fight Nights are memorable social events attracting a mixed, cutting edge crowd into the intimate, no-nonsense space. The cleverly refurbished vintage Victorian gun factory hosts seven or eight matches, complete with ring girls, an MC, DJ, professional coaches, and a cheering crowd. We also love the bars and good company that add to the effervescent ringside excitement. Unit 104 Armoury Building, Buchanan Square, Sir Lowry Road, Woodstock, Cape Town, +27 21 461 9141,


Katie Manning

Katie is an author for the Virgin Atlantic blog. Despite her urban London residency, Katie can often be found exploring far-flung corners of the globe in search of exciting new experiences and stories. A self-confessed night-owl, she makes it her mission to search out the best cocktail bars and live music venues on each and every expedition. Follow Katie @kt_saramanning

Categories: Our Places