South Africa provides adrenaline junkies with numerous opportunities to reach new levels of excitement through a huge range of adventure sport activities that set the pulses racing. Suicide Gorge presents experienced hikers with some of the best kloofing Cape Town has to offer and is definitely a pursuit that needs to be ticked off any avid adventurer’s bucket list.
Canyoning, or ‘kloofing’, is the act of pursuing a water course to a predefined location by any means necessary and often involves walking, running, jumping, swimming, bouldering, climbing, and abseiling. So, while most people try to steer clear of cliff-edges, some of us enjoy seeking them out and jumping off them into the icy water below.
Kloofing Cape Town – Suicide Gorge
The mother of all kloofing spots in Cape Town is Suicide Gorge. Suicide Gorge is a steep kloof located in the Hottentots Holland Reserve that is surrounded by beautiful cliffs and features an impressive waterfall. It is a 15km route which equates to about 9 hours of hiking in total and contains a number of compulsory jumps which means it is not for the faint-hearted and should only be tackled by experienced hikers with high levels of physical fitness. Entries are limited per day to keep the gorge uncrowded and safe.
To introduce my brother to the Viral Dreaming concept and to the Adventure Dream opportunities we have presented to travellers, I asked him what his adventure dream was. Without hesitation he told me he would like to go canyoning in a place as raw as it can get. Well, when he said this, there was only one place that came to mind – Suicide Gorge in South Africa! We invited a bunch of friends because sharing moments, excitement and adventures like these create relationships of a higher level. So off we went on our next trip.
We parked up packed our bags considerately and set off on the hike high into the mountains which is a route of about 8 km and acted as the starting point for our kloofing adventure. It was a 2 hour walk in Hottentots Holland Reserve which consisted of dirt roads, trails and the flanks of several hills and mountain tops. The views of the flower fields along the way are absolutely breath-taking. This is one of the places that is not commercialised. The scenery is very conserved in the way nature intended. I can truly say, after many years of travelling, that there are only a handful of places as ancient and pristine as Hottentots Holland Reserve
At the very start of the descent there is a pool with a water slide where we changed our clothes and packed everything into dry bags. From then on, our descent consisted of hiking, exhilarating leaps, sliding down a waterfall slide, swimming, and a whole lot of fun! There are many good places to stop and re-energise at pools along the way where we jumped several times from different rock formations and ate our lunch. It’s very healthy to feel like a kid again.
The 2-hour hike back to our car began with a steep climb and then onto a beautiful plain with long luscious grass. The scenery here is very surreal and makes you feel as if you’re cut off from the rest of the world. As you can see from our photography, the views were absolutely stunning!
Useful Info and Tips
Here’s what you’ll need to bring with you on your kloofing trip;
- Lightweight hiking/sport shoes. They will get wet, softer rubber soles will give you more grip on slippery rock.
- Light wetsuit: Water can be fresh. A 3/2 mm or more is very comfortable. Best if you don’t take a new one
- Spare clothes (leave them in the car)
- Drinking water (but you can also drink from the river – but only fill up in small rapids where water is oxygenated)
- Food and carbohydrate-containing snacks (don’t take food that will be squashed such as a banana – you’ll be throwing your bags from cliffs in the water)
- Sunblock (waterproof)
- Take a rope of 15m if you don’t want to throw your valuables down.
- Hiking permit
As with any adventure sport activity, accidents can happen. A guy of the group ahead of us dislocated his shoulder while landing on the water. To make it worse they broke his rib while trying to get it in. You don’t want to be in that position in Suicide Gorge. There is a well trained rescue team on stand by and they have a helicopter to their disposal. So we also advise anyone thinking of kloofing to obtain a travel insurance policy beforehand. For more information on what type of insurance you require as an adventurer and the best companies to get your insurance from, you can read our extensive guide to Adventure Sport Travel Insurance.
You must also have a permit which you can get on the CapeNature website but you must have someone in your group who has done the route at least twice (everybody in your group must be over the age of 12). It’s worth noting that you must enter the Hottentots Holland reserve before 9am and return before 7pm when the reserve gate closes. If you did not arrive before 7pm at your car, a rescue team will come looking for you. Also, keep an eye-out for the signage provided by CapeNature which will ensure you’re on the correct path and you don’t get lost.
If you intend on getting a flight into Cape Town, the nearest airport to Suicide Gorge is Cape Town International Airport which is situated about 53km away.
Stay Safe When Kloofing
Suicide Gorge really does provide some of the best kloofing Cape Town has to offer but, as always, safety must be at the forefront of our minds when participating in any adventure sport so please read our safety guidelines carefully.
- Kloofing is an intense activity and the jumps are potentially dangerous so always try to travel with an experienced hiker. The highest mandatory jump is around 4m. There are about 14 waterfalls or jumps up to 20m (more or less).
- Always check the weather forecast before setting off and do not go ahead with your activity if there is a high risk of poor weather. Remember that weather conditions in the mountains can be unpredictable.
- Wear a wetsuit and carry warm (waterproofed) clothing in your pack.
- Tell family and friends where you are going and when you expect to return. Once you reach the gorge, the only way to make your way out again is by travelling down-river so it is a long way down and there is no mobile phone reception. (In case of emergency, you can call 112 even without reception).
- Do not jump into the water without testing its depth first. (Especially at the end of the summer when water levels are lower). Cape mountain water can look very dark due to the natural tannins and underwater obstacles cannot be seen.
- Do not dive – land feet-first with your legs together and arms by your sides.
- If you’re booking a guided trip, always ensure that they are suitably qualified and whether or not wetsuits are provided.
- In the event of rain, be aware that flash-floods can cause the river to rise within minutes.
Note: The staff at Suicide Gorge may close the reserve at any time if weather conditions deem it unsafe for public use.
Keep on Viral Dreaming
If this post has inspired you to try kloofing or any other adventure activity in South Africa and beyond, consider sharing your dream with us and create an opportunity to LIVE your dream adventure for free.
Also, we are heading on our very first Viral Dreaming surf camp very soon! This trip has been designed for experienced and advanced surfers (surfing green waves) alike and will provide you with the opportunity to, improve and refine your skills quickly as Cape Town provides really good conditions with any forecast. It is a surfer’s paradise. You can learn more about some of the surf spots we’ll be chasing. Take a look at the Suicide gorge video Below