Coasteering – say what?
We were mildly surprised to find coasteering listed in the Oxford English Dictionary. From the combination of the words coast and mountaineering, coasteering is defined as: “the sport or activity of exploring a rocky coastline by climbing, jumping, and swimming.” It’s a bit like kloofing – just in the sea.
This unusual pastime originated in Wales, where the average sea and air temperature is a good few degrees lower than along our shores. That being so, we figured that either it must offer a good dose of fun… or the Welsh are just one sandwich short of a picnic. Fortunately it turned out to be the former.
Who is this activity aimed at? Everyone really; however, if you don’t like kelp, are afraid of heights, and swimming in the ocean is not your thing, then best you give this one a miss. We, however, found it to be an invigorating way to spend a couple of hours.
Gravity Adventures provides everything you need, from wetsuits and life jackets, to helmets, goggles and snorkels, and they can organise lunch if needed. Children from as young as seven can join in and there is no pressure to jump off the higher rocks (or any) if you feel unsure.
Andrew Kellett, owner of Gravity Adventures – the South African pioneer of coasteering – took us on our first coasteering adventure at one of the two locations that they use along the False Bay coast. For our trip it was Windmill Beach in Simon’s Town.
We started off by snorkelling around the sheltered bay and then headed around a large granite rock in the sea so that we were flanked by open water on one side and the rock and kelp forest on the other. If you have done some scuba diving around Cape Town, you will be aware that the snorkelling is nothing like in the Seychelles or even Sodwana Bay.
Around here, the underwater scene has a muted palette dominated by shades of brown and the visibility is acceptable but not crystal clear. It is still worth exploring though.
We paused on our swim to look at large starfish, blue and red anemones, soft feathery looking fanworms, nudibranchs, speckled klipvis and hottentot fish weaving their way through the kelp. The stalks of seaweed are quite handy if you want to pull yourself down for a better look. Having dived at that spot numerous times, I know that there’s a lot more to see down there than we did on this occasion. Once we had enjoyed a bit of exploring, we got on with the business of launching ourselves off the boulders.
The first challenge was to get out of the water and onto the rock. You can be helped or hindered by the tidal surge, it’s all about timing. Holding onto kelp and then rocks, we made our way onto the warm granite and manoeuvred into position for the first leap.
“See the hole in the kelp?” asked Andrew, “that’s the spot to aim for.” The first jump was about three or four metres high and after a demonstration, it was my turn. Fixing my eyes on the spot, I launched off the rock, trying to propel my body as far as possible. A second or two later I was enveloped by cool, salty water and was then buoyed to the surface like a bobbing cork by my life jacket. That was fun. I wanted more.
The next few jumps from the medium height of about seven metres were the most enjoyable, except for the one when I forgot to tuck my hands in and they smacked the ocean’s surface with a thwack – had I not been totally awake that would have done the trick.
A short swim later and then the seawater filtering through an inlet propelled us forward into the kelp. Like swamp monsters we pulled overselves over the top of the slimy stuff and onto the rocks. Up again and three, two, one – jump.
The final biggie is between eight and 10 metres above the water, depending on how high the tide is. This last jump feels slightly more challenging because the area that you land in is within the inlet and therefore narrower. We had got the hang of it, though, and so we plunged in one last time. After two hours of coasteering, just as I was starting to feel chilly, it was time to head back. Perfect timing I thought.
Plan your adventure
When to go: All year round, weather dependant.
Cost: One to two hours on the water (three hours including brief and
debrief for larger groups) R495.
Optional lunch – picnic-style R75.
Where: In Simon’s Town (Cape Town) with Gravity Adventures and near George, along the Garden Route with Paradise Adventures.
For more information, visit www.gravity.co.za
Text: Elise Kirsten
Photos: Andrew Kellet