Ziplining in Knysna is an exhilarating way to experience the Garden Route

Louise Pannell takes a leap into the unknown, and loves every minute

13 December 2020 - 00:01 By Louise Pannell
Louise Pannell flying through the air on her first zipline ride.
Louise Pannell flying through the air on her first zipline ride.
Image: Supplied

"You did what?" my friend asked, her look confirming that I had become senile.

"You shouldn't be doing such dangerous things at your age," she added for good measure.

That I had just successfully completed all four sectors of the Knysna Ziplines, and what's more enjoyed it, was to me quite plausible. And for someone to suggest that at 79 I was too old for this kind of escapade was both an affront and mortifying. For goodness sake, I'm always ready to step out of my comfort zone for the challenge of a new adventure.

You don't need to be an adrenalin junkie or a youngster — or delusional — to enjoy the Garden Route's newest attraction, the Knysna Ziplines.

The longest and highest zipline on the Garden Route is made up of four separate lines totalling 2.2km in length, 200m-250m above a spectacular gorge in the Harkerville section of the Garden Route National Park, an area rich in temperate forest and fynbos.

The project, a collaboration between SANParks and adventure company SA Forest Adventures, was conceived and initiated in early 2017, but the devastating Knysna fires as well as the coronavirus pandemic delayed the official launch to mid-September 2020.

Check-in for the zipline adventure is at Harkerville Forest Lodge, situated just off the N2, halfway between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay. Pre-booking is essential.

After sanitising and the digital signing of indemnity forms, we were kitted out with harnesses, ropes, pulleys, gloves and helmets. All masked up, my fellow "zippers" (is that what you call them?) and I boarded a safari truck to drive through the forest to the Kranshoek picnic and view site (R35 entrance fee or show your Wildcard).

There were only six of us, accompanied by our four professional adventure guides. After a short briefing, we climbed onto a sturdy wooden platform where our guides attached our harnesses to the first zipline, to be launched into the void, one at a time. Those who didn't fancy a solo crossing were able to zip across in tandem with one of the guides. I wasn't one of them! Only a few screams pierced the silence.

Louise Pannell, third from left, ready and waiting.
Louise Pannell, third from left, ready and waiting.
Image: Supplied

This being my first zipline experience, and in spite of my bravado, I was slightly apprehensive during the few minutes it took to cross the gorge. Would I stop in time? After a quick peek into the chasm below I looked straight ahead, focusing on the distant landing platform. It was a relief to arrive safely on the other side.

The return crossing on the second zipline was much easier — I could look around, become aware of the speed I was travelling and also the silence, thanks to the noise-reducing cables used on the lines. I lowered my mask to savour the smells of forest and sea, feeling amazingly good.

By the third crossing, now confident, I could enjoy the scenery — small waterfalls cascading from the ridge into the gorge, the ocean panorama of waves crashing onto rocks below. The fourth and last crossing, closest to the sea, was exhilarating and gloriously thrilling, my senses at one with the magnificence of nature around me. Stepping onto the final landing platform I was on cloud nine. I had just had a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and my friend was wrong!

Too old for this? Humph, you're never too old to explore and discover — take the plunge and dare to fly! 

IF YOU GO ...

WHERE IT IS: 11km from Knysna on the N2 towards Plettenberg Bay (turn right at Sasol petrol station).

THE COST: R800 per person (5% off until December 15 2020).

INCLUDES: Four zipline experiences, equipment and safety gear and the assistance of adventure guides.

WHO CAN DO IT: Anyone older than eight.

CONTACT: For information and bookings, visit saforestadventures.co.za.


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