There’s a world of unforgettable adventures waiting to be had on the KQ network, from scaling cliffs to tackling whitewater and riding rolling surf. Why not get your adrenalin pumping with these five thrilling activities…
What’s the moment from your travels that glows brightest in the memory? More likely than not it was an adventure that took you out of your comfort zone, one that hit the sweet spot where you’re just – just! – more exhilarated than scared, testing your mettle and jangling your nerves. Perhaps you were paddling foaming rapids on a raft or swimming languidly alongside a giant of the ocean. Maybe you were clawing your way up a craggy cliff, descending into the depths of the Earth or bouncing on a bungee cord. Wherever you explore on the KQ network, you’ll discover new adventures. We’ve picked a selection of the most electrifying, and show how you can experience them for yourself.
1 Swim with leviathans
Snorkelling alongside whale sharks, Mozambique
• The experience You glance to your left, and a shadow appears in the distance just beneath the sun-dappled surface of the ocean. Smoothly it swells and grows, its outline becoming clearer as it approaches, until you can make out vast fins and a huge tail sweeping slowly from side to side. And the mouth – a gaping maw stretching the width of the head, gulping in gallons of water, with small fish darting around in front. Finally, the behemoth is swimming just a few metres away from you, and you can count the galaxy of pale spots on its bluish ridged back.
The whale shark is the world’s biggest fish, growing to twelve metres long. But though it’s the size of a truck, reaching to over 12 tonnes, it’s a gentle giant. Swimming alongside this colossal but graceful filter feeder ranks as one of the planet’s most electrifying wildlife-watching experiences. Whale sharks roam vast distances across the oceans, and make seasonal visits to hotspots in tropical waters. The southern coast of Mozambique is arguably the best place for a close encounter with these speckled leviathans. At Tofo, where the sharks feed close to shore, you’ve a chance of swimming with them year round, along with manta rays, dolphins and – in season – humpback whales.
• How? Dive outfits in Tofo offer ocean safaris to snorkel with whale sharks from 1000 Mozambican meticals (US$30) for around two hours, including equipment, transport, and an important briefing on how to swim safely and responsibly with these surprisingly vulnerable creatures. Two well-established companies are Tofo Scuba (http://tofoscuba.co.za) and Diversity Scuba (www.diversityscuba.com).
• When? Whale sharks can be seen all year off Tofo; visit June to October and you might also see humpback whales.
• Take me there Fly KQ to Maputo four times a week
• Kenya Whale sharks visit the Kenyan coast most frequently in January and February. Outfits near Mombasa, especially at Diani Beach, offer snorkelling trips, and you can join research expeditions with Whale Shark Adventures.
www.whalesharkadventures.org | www.bluemarinediving.com | Fly KQ to Mombasa daily
• Koh Tao, Thailand Though encounters aren’t guaranteed, whale sharks are occasionally seen at dive sites off the islands in the Gulf of Thailand. Fly KQ to Bangkok daily
• South Mahé, Seychelles Whale sharks migrate through the waters around Mahé between August and November.
www.diveseychelles.com.sc | Fly KQ to Mahé four times a week
2 Scale dizzy heights
Rock-climbing at Hell’s Gate National Park, Kenya
• The experience Dust your fingers with chalk from the bag hanging from your belt. Jam them into a crack in the rock, stretch your leg to reach far to the left and shuffle your toes onto a ledge, then haul yourself up another notch… and breathe. Beneath you, the precipitous cliff plummets to the dusty ground, far below; above, you can faintly make out a succession of crevices and shelves leading to the top of the rock face. This is, literally, life on the edge.
It’s over a century since early European climbers attempted to conquer the twin peaks of Mount Kenya, and since then a host of climbing options have been developed across the country. Pick of the bunch is Hell’s Gate, a national park in the Rift Valley close to Nairobi that – a rarity in Kenya – permits visitors to hike and cycle. And climb. Fischer’s Tower, a 25m-high volcanic plug that looms over the park, is a mecca for serious climbers, with several high-level technical routes on four rock faces to choose from. The vertiginous main wall of the gorge also offers plenty of demanding challenges.
Fortunately, you don’t need to be an expert climber to enjoy the experience: the entrance wall is a safe zone for learning the basics with a climbing school. Don’t forget to look around the rest of the park, too: herds of zebra roam its 68 sq km extent, and you’re bound to spot rock hyraxes, giraffes, gazelles and baboons – maybe even a cheetah or elephant if you’re very lucky.
• How? Climb BlueSky offers courses at Hell’s Gate every four weeks from Ksh2000, exclusive of park fees and transport. Two-hour classes are also available at the indoor Rock Gym in Nairobi (Ksh 3000), where a day pass is Ksh700.
• When? June to October are the driest months. | www.blueskykenya.org
• Chiang Mai, Thailand Crazy Horse Buttress is a beautiful spot, with safe bolts and well-trained guides – a great place to learn or develop your climbing skills. www.thailandclimbing.com | Fly KQ to Bangkok daily
• Waterval Boven, South Africa There are more than 700 routes climbing spectacular red-rock cliffs east of Jo’burg.
http://rocrope.com | Fly KQ to Johannesburg three times daily
• Hong Kong Granite rock faces around the territory offer climbing opportunities for beginners and experts.
http://hongkongclimbing.com | Fly KQ to Hong Kong three times a week
3 Ride the wildest waves
Surfing at Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa
• The experience Lying on your belly, you paddle slowly with your hands to keep in position, rocking gently as the ocean bobs you rhythmically up and down. Then you spot it: a swell bigger than the others, fringed with a whisper of white, and surging towards you. Patience, you tell yourself: patience… and then it’s underneath you, and you sweep your hands frantically through the water. Suddenly you feel the pull as the wave catches hold and thrusts your surfboard forward. Palms flat on the board, you hop forward and pop up – and that’s it: you’re surfing!
South Africa isn’t short on great breaks, with many superb beaches including Durban, False Bay near Cape Town and Victoria Bay in the Western Cape. But the pinnacle of surfing in South Africa – indeed, one of the world’s top spots – is Jeffrey’s Bay, known more usually as J Bay, in the Eastern Cape. Here, the enormous hollow waves at Supertubes offer superb surfing, with fast, smooth tubes providing rides for hundreds of metres into shore – no wonder the Billabong Pro tournament draws the world’s best surfers each July.
But though the big breaks and tubes pull ardent wave-riders, J Bay and other nearby beaches are also great places to learn to surf, with lots of smaller, quieter breaks. St Francis Bay just along the coast is quieter. It’s easy to hire boards and wetsuits or book lessons at either spot to get you out on the ocean.
• How? Wavecrest Surf School has been teaching in Jeffreys for a decade, offering daily lessons year round. A two-hour beginner lesson costs R300 including board and wetsuit hire, while advanced and private lessons cost R500 per person for two hours. Longer packages are also available. www.wavecrestsurfschool.co.za
• When? Supertubes is most consistent in winter (May to August), but summer (November to April) has warmer water and weather.
• Take me there KQ flies to Johannesburg three times daily, with Kulula codeshare connections to George
• Dakar, Senegal Atlantic breakers surge towards the coast near Dakar, with particularly good sites at N’gor Island and the Almadies Peninsula. Board hire is available at Tribal Surf Shop. https://www.facebook.com/TribalSurfShop | Fly KQ to Dakar six times a week
• Southwest India A surprising number of breaks offer good surf all around the Indian coast – but reaching them can be tricky. Some of the most accessible areas line the shores of Karnataka and Kerala south of Mumbai, where you can combine yoga with surfing.
http://surfingindia.net, http://soulandsurf.com | Fly KQ to Mumbai twice daily
4 Raft raging rapids
Whitewater rafting at the source of the Nile, Uganda
• The experience “Paddle left! Paddle Left!” Your rafting guide yells through the roar and spray – and you strain to remember what to do next as the inflatable bucks and leaps like a crazed bull in the tumultuous whitewater. You jam your feet beneath the float and paddle furiously, praying that the raft doesn’t flip and toss you into the maelstrom – but also, just a little bit, hoping that it does.
The raft pops out of the whirling dip in the waves, right way up and with all of you rafters still aboard – for now. There’s a brief lull in the action, time enough for you to catch your breath and laugh nervously with your companions, before the rising mist ahead warns you of the approach of the next rapid.
Rafting the foaming waters of the Nile is one of the most exhilarating antics you can experience in Africa – and you don’t need any experience. As long as you can remember a few simple instructions, and aren’t afraid of getting wet (VERY wet), you can raft. But take note of the names of some of the rapids: Big Brother and Silverback, Kulu Shaker, the Bad Place and Vengeance. You have been warned!
• How? Adrift Uganda, an outfit with many years of experience operating on the Nile, runs full- and half-day Whitewater Rafting tours (US$125/115, for runs of 31km and 15km respectively). Need more thrills? Try the Extreme Rafting and River Surfing tour (US$145). Prices include all equipment and safety kayakers. http://adrift.ug
• When? The flow of the river is controlled by water release from two dams, but low and high water mean that different rapids are more exciting – there’s never a bad time. If you want to combine with gorilla-tracking in Bwindi, the drier seasons (June to September and January to February) make trekking easier.
• Take me there Fly KQ to Entebbe five times daily
• Zambezi River, Zambia Below Victoria Falls, rapids with names such as The Terminator and The Gnashing Jaws of Death offer some of the world’s most challenging whitewater rafting. www.safpar.net | Fly KQ to Livingstone three times weekly
• Sabie River, South Africa With rapids graded II and III, this is an accessible family-friendly adventure. http://sabieriveradventures.co.za/white-water-rafting-sabie-rivertures.co.za/white-water-rafting-sabie-river
| Fly KQ to Johannesburg three times daily
5 Plumb the darkest depths
Caving at Cango Caves, South Africa
• The experience Head first or feet first? That’s the choice you face as you gaze in disbelief at the Devil’s Post Box, a slot just 27cm high through which you’ll have to squeeze, slip and slide. Taking a deep breath (but not too deep – you don’t want your chest to expand too much!) you poke your head into the gap and slither through, emerging from the cavity like a baby at birth.
And that’s just the deepest section of the Cango Caves Adventure Tour, a route snaking through the depths of a ridge in the Swartberg foothills east of Cape Town. To get to that point you’ve meandered through chambers slippery with water dripping through the limestone. You’ve descended the 200 steps of Jacob’s Ladder. You’ve craned your neck to gawp at stalactites and helictites hanging from ceilings and walls, gradually meeting stalagmites to form magnificent columns. And you’ve traversed tunnels and caverns with such tongue-tingling (and unnerving) names as Lumbago Alley, The Coffin, the Tunnel of Love and the magnificent King Solomon’s Mines.
The 90-minute Adventure Tour isn’t for the faint of heart – or the claustrophobic: there’s a lot of crouching, squeezing and clambering involved – but it’s a dramatic experience. If you’re not quite so intrepid, you can still drink in the grandeur of larger chambers including the magnificent Botha’s Hall on the shorter and less-intense Heritage Tour, which gives an idea of how parts of the cave formed, and also how powerful (yet also gentle) mother nature is.
• How? Adventure Tours depart every hour on the half-hour, and cost R100. The 60-minute Heritage Tour departs on the hour and costs R80. The caves are about 30km north of Oudtshoorn. www.cango-caves.co.za
• When? You’re underground – there’s no bad time to visit.
Take me there Fly KQ to Johannesburg three times daily
• Grottes de Anjohibe, Madagascar The most extensive cave of this system in the north of the island is over 5km long. Fly KQ to Antananarivo five times weekly
• Northern Thailand The limestone mountains around Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son province are riddled with marvellous caves. www.thailandclimbing.com/caving-adventures | Fly KQ to Bangkok daily
3 Other adventures to try
• Sandboarding in Namibia or Dubai
Fizz down sand mountains up to 100m high in the dunes near Swakopmund. Four-hour tours cost N$350 for lie-down boarding and N$450 for stand-up boarding. www.alter-action.info
The rolling dunes of the Arabian desert in Dubai also offer boarding opportunities, from 275 AED.
www.dreamexplorerdubai.com | Fly KQ to Dubai daily; KQ codeshare flights serve Windhoek
• Cage diving with great white sharks in South Africa
The metal cage around you should – should! – protect you from the 6m-long predators slicing through the ocean off Gansbaai. Time your visit between April and October for the best chance of seeing these magnificent creatures. Morning dive packages cost from around R4500.
http://www.sharkcagediving.co.za| KQ flies to Johannesburg three times daily, with codeshare connections to Cape Town
• Bungee in Zambia or Uganda
Hurling yourself from a high bridge or platform above a raging river with just a length of elastic to stop your fall might not seem the most sensible idea – but it’s one of the most high-octane experiences available. You could plunge towards the Zambezi at Victoria Falls (US$157, http://safpar.com/activities/other-activities/adrenalin/) or the Nile in Uganda (US$115,
http://adrift.ug/ugandan-adventures/jump-swing-the-nile/nile-high-bungee.7/. | KQ flies to Livingstone three times weekly, and to Entebbe five times daily.
A high scoring game
In September 2014 two international teams broke the record for the world’s highest cricket match – on the summit of Kilimanjaro
Under normaL circumstances, 82 runs wouldn’t be considered a great tally for a cricket innings. But when you consider that those runs were garnered in the thin air at 5752m, just below the summit of Kilimanjaro, the achievement is quite astonishing.
“Bowling was just odd,” recalls Matt Weihs, one of the organisers. “Most of the run-up was on volcanic ash – soft, like sand – so by the time you reached the crease your legs were like jelly!”
When people talk about playing a sport at the highest level, they don’t usually mean at the top of a mountain. But this crazy cricket match on 27 September raised the bar, not just in terms of altitude – the previous record was set on Mt Everest in 2009, at nearly 600m lower – but also fundraising. The project is raising money for three worthy causes: conservation organisation Tusk, Cancer Research UK and the Rwanda Cricket Stadium Foundation.
Weihs’, his co-organiser David Harper and their team worked for nearly 12 months to gather a support crew, top players and sponsors, including Kenya Airways, which backed the endeavour by transporting the innovative portable Flickx pitch to Tanzania.
A cluster of big names joined the party of 30 players, notably England women’s vice-captain Heather Knight and former captain Clare Connor, former England bowler Ashley Giles, and Makhaya Ntini, the first black player to play test cricket for South Africa. Also among the cast was Aliya Bauer, the force behind the Maasai Cricket Warriors.
The trek to the temporary pitch took eight days, the final morning’s climb beginning at 2am in temperatures of –15°C.
“Normally, your end goal is getting to the top of the mountain, so once you’ve reached the peak you can relax,” says Weihs. “But for us, the summit was just the start – we still had to play a game of cricket!”
The ‘Gorillas’ and the ‘Rhinos’, completed 10 overs each before the weather closed in and curtailed the planned T20 match. Even so, the world record was broken – and the Gorillas scored 82 for five to comprehensively defeat the Rhinos, who managed 64 for nine.
So far the Kili Madness has raised nearly £90,000 towards the target of £200,000. Find out more and donate at www.mtkilimadness.com