The African continent is full of opportunities for taking part in extreme sports, and as such, it’s the perfect destination for the consummate adrenaline junkie. From the snow-capped peaks of Morocco to the shark-filled reefs of South Africa, those in search of adventure won't have to look hard to find it.
Whitewater Rafting, Uganda
The Ugandan town of Jinja is the perfect destination for rafting addicts in search of a fix. Located near the source of the River Nile, Jinja is home to several rafting operators who offer the chance to experience some of the finest Grade Five rapids in the world. There are easier options for inexperienced rafters or those traveling with young children, while the calm sections in between rapids are ideal for swimming and paddle-boarding. Most operators offer half and full-day tours, as well as the option to combine rafting trips with other activities including stand-up paddling and Nile River cruises.
Bungee Jumping, Zambia
The famous Victoria Falls bungee jump may not be the highest jump in Africa (that accolade belongs to South Africa’s Bloukrans bungee), but it is undoubtedly one of the most scenic. The jump takes place on the Victoria Falls Bridge, which spans the no-mans land between Zambia and Zimbabwe and offers spectacular views of the mighty waterfall rated as one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. Bungee pros can choose from a variety of different jump styles, while every jumper gets to experience the adrenalin rush that comes from a 364 feet/111 meter drop and a four-second free-fall.
Shark Diving, South Africa
South Africa offers so many opportunities for adventure that it’s hard to choose just one, but shark diving is perhaps its most unique adrenalin rush. There are several places to meet the world’s most feared predators along the country’s coastline. In the south, operators in False Bay and Gansbaai run cage-diving trips that allow visitors to get up close and personal with great white sharks; while the kelp forests near Cape Town are home to the prehistoric sixgill shark. Further north at Protea Banks and Aliwal Shoal, you can ditch the cage and free dive with tiger, bull and oceanic blacktip sharks.
Quad Biking, Namibia
The town of Swakopmund on Namibia’s west coast is the gateway to one of the world’s most dramatic dune belts. Several operators offer a high-octane way to experience this arid wilderness in the form of adrenalin-fuelled quad bike safaris. There are a variety of different packages available, with some including lunch in the desert, and others combining quad biking with sand-boarding or go-karting. If quad biking the dunes of Namibia sounds like your cup of tea, make sure to choose a reputable operator that takes the area’s delicate flora and fauna into consideration when choosing bike routes.
It seems incredible that it is possible to hit the pistes just 45 miles from sun-soaked Marrakech; and yet, at the tiny ski resort of Oukaïmeden, this fantasy becomes a reality. Nestled at 8,530 feet/ 2,600 meters in the High Atlas Mountains, Oukaïmeden offers a chairlift to the peak of Jebel Attar, from which there are five dizzying downward runs. There are also nursery and intermediate slopes for beginners, as well as a sledding area for families. The pistes are not groomed to the standard of European and American resorts, however, the view is spectacular, the prices are cheap and the novelty is unbeatable.
Magnificent Mount Kilimanjaro is an icon of Tanzania and a must-do item on the bucket-list of any keen mountaineer. As the highest peak in Africa and the world’s tallest free-standing mountain, it’s undoubtedly a mountain of superlatives - and yet, for a major peak, it remains relatively accessible. With the appropriate training, even inexperienced mountaineers can reach Kilimanjaro’s 19,341 feet/ 5,895-meter summit, although it is not an endeavor to be undertaken lightly. Altitude sickness is a main cause of failure, and as such it is recommended to spread the climb over at least five nights to allow for acclimatization.
If you’ve ever dreamed of following in the footsteps of iconic surf movie The Endless Summer, Senegal deserves a place on your vacation wish list. The friendly West African nation is known for its incredible waves, especially near Dakar and the Almadies Peninsula. N’Gor Island is particularly famous, as it’s home to The Endless Summer surf spot N’Gor Right and has its own dedicated surf camp. However, despite the quality and consistency of Senegal’s waves, you won’t have to fight for space on backline as the recent dip in West African tourism means that these are some of the least crowded breaks on Earth.
Those with a head for heights are well adapted to the sport of canyoning, which involves descending into a canyon by any means necessary - including abseiling, rock-climbing, swimming, and caving. The tropical island of Mauritius offers several challenging guide-led canyoning opportunities, the most famous of which is beautiful Tamarin Falls. Here, adventurers will find no fewer than 11 waterfalls, which can be navigated through a series of zip-lines, vertical jumps, and abseil cliffs. The thrill of the sport itself is complimented by the Falls’ stunning natural scenery, which ranges from lush vegetation to deep pools and lacy veils of water.
For paragliders, Kenya’s Kerio Valley is the ultimate African destination. Part of the Great Rift Valley, Kerio is overlooked by the 6,000 foot/ 1,830 meter Elgeyo Escarpment and is famous as the setting for five paragliding world records. 62 miles/ 100 kilometers of unbroken ridge-line make it the perfect spot for experienced paragliders in search of distance flights, while those that aren’t qualified can sign up for tandem flights with local operators. Paragliding safaris are also an option, offering a unique perspective of the area’s jaw-dropping scenery. The best flying conditions in the Kerio Valley last from December through to March.
Drive 30 minutes north of the popular Red Sea resort town of Hurghada and you’ll find El Gouna, a veritable mecca for kitesurfing enthusiasts. Golden sands and turquoise water are a draw for tourists of all kinds but it’s the constant wind and huge expanse of shallow lagoon that make it ideal for kitesurfers. There’s an established infrastructure at El Gouna too, with several kite schools offering gear rental, courses, repair services and safety equipment. For those traveling with non-kitesurfing friends or family, El Gouna is also ideal because of the diversity of activities offered there - including wakeboarding, scuba diving, and snorkeling.