Words: Sam Bradley│Photos: Various
They say you never forget your first jump and for that reason, Victoria Falls will always be close to my heart. Once the nerve-wracking part of the ordeal is over, you have the unique experience of hanging upside down above a roaring river, with an amazing view of Victoria Falls a few hundred metres away. The bungee site’s reputation took a serious knock in 2011 when an Aussie tourist’s bungee rope snapped (luckily, she survived the incident). Since then, the operators have been working very hard to restore the reputation of this jump site, with many extra safety precautions implemented. Tourists continue to flock to the bridge and most feel that a trip to Victoria Falls is not complete without a leap off the ledge.
Photo credit: Face Adrenalin
I’m standing right on the edge of the platform and my legs are shaking in nervous anticipation. On the horizon, I can see a typical African landscape of arid trees and dry vegetation. I’m currently perched in no-man’s-land, on the border bridge between Zambia and Zimbabwe, with a sudden and long drop in front of me. Behind me I can hear the roar of Victoria Falls, the world’s largest volume of falling water, while the powerful Zambezi River swirls below, crashing about in a terrifying series of whirlpools and rapids. I am about to attempt the world’s most beautiful adrenaline activity, the mighty Victoria Falls bungee jump. The guide standing next to me gives me the countdown. With everything playing out in slow motion, I give out what I think is a confident yell (which the video will later confirm to be a timid squeak), as I take the scariest and most nerve-wracking step of my life.
Bungee jumping is defined as, ‘The activity or sport of jumping from a height while attached to an elasticised cord.’ It was originally practised as a rite of passage to manhood in the islands of the South Pacific, with young men leaping off tall wooden platforms with vines tied to their ankles, to prove their courage.
The first modern-day bungee jump was done by a group of daredevils called the Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club, and the ‘sport’ was later commercialised by New Zealander AJ Hackett. Today, bungee jumping is an activity performed all over the world, with adrenaline seekers in southern Africa particularly spoilt for choice.
Gouritz River bungee jump, just outside Mossel Bay, is where it all began in South Africa, although sadly it closed in 2009 due to the condition of the bridge. However, in the Garden Route's Tsitsikamma, and 20 km from Storms River, is where you will find the Bloukrans River bungee jump. At 216 metres, it’s the highest commercial bridge bungee jump in the world and holds various claims to fame (Scott Huntley set the world record of 107 jumps in 24 hours, while Mohr Keet became the world’s oldest bungee jumper at age 96). The majestic view over the Bloukrans River valley makes this a must-do jump on any adrenaline junkie’s bucket list. Also worth trying is South Africa’s most colourful bungee jump from the Orlando Towers, in Soweto. Here, you jump off a 100-metre bridge between two brightly painted cooling towers.
Another adrenaline attraction not to be missed is Durban’s Big Rush Big Swing. It’s the only stadium swing in the world and holds the Guinness World Record for the tallest swing (jumpers free-fall 60 metres, swinging out into a mammoth 220-metre arc over the pitch). The views over the city and ocean are an added bonus. They say you never forget your first jump and for that reason, Victoria Falls will always be close to my heart. Once the nerve-wracking part of the ordeal is over, you have the unique experience of hanging upside down above a roaring river, with an amazing view of Victoria Falls a few hundred metres away. The bungee site’s reputation took a serious knock in 2011 when an Aussie tourist’s bungee rope snapped (luckily, she survived the incident). Since then, the operators have been working very hard to restore the reputation of this jump site, with many extra safety precautions implemented. Tourists continue to flock to the bridge and most feel that a trip to Victoria Falls is not complete without a leap off the ledge.
The jump itself is 111 metres above the water, which is definitely high enough to get the adrenaline pumping. Those wanting the full experience can sign up for the ‘Big Air’ experience, which includes the bungee jump, bridge swing, and a zip-line across the gorge. The jump can be done with the cord tied around the feet or around the waist (while less conventional, the waist knot allows the jumper to fall in the upright position instead of upside down). The bridge swing is similar to the bungee jump, except that the person swings in a giant arc below the bridge, instead of straight down and up again. This is probably a safer option, as there is less risk of whiplash, and it allows for the option of two people to jump in tandem. Lastly, there’s the zip-line (aka Flying Fox), which is a slow and relaxed slide across the gorge from the Zambian side to the Zimbabwean side. While the minimum age for the bungee and bridge swing is fourteen years, the zip-line is suitable for six year olds and upwards. As the jump is located on the bridge between the Zambian and Zimbabwean border posts, you will need to bring your passports, although there are no visa requirements or border crossing fees. There’s no doubt that the process of getting strapped up and ready to jump is one of the scariest moments you’ll experience, and it’s easy to regret your decision at this point. But the feeling of flying through the air and getting to tell everyone about it for years afterwards, makes a bungee jump a truly memorable experience. So go on, take the plunge!
What you need to know
Bungee jumping injuries can occur, so you do this activity at your own risk. Most injuries are caused by the sudden stop at the end of the jump, which can lead to whiplash or eyesight damage (this is more common in the USA, where the elasticised cords do not stretch as much as the latex cords used in southern Africa).
• Bloukrans River - R750. For information, email
• Orlando Towers - R480. For information, email
• Durban’s Big Rush Big Swing - R695. For information, visit www.bigrush.co.za
• Victoria Falls Big Air experience - R1,700. For information, email
Photo credit: Kevin Goss-Ross
Big Rush Big Swing Competition
Answer this easy question correctly and you could stand a chance to win one free jump at Big Rush Big Swing in Durban.
Q:After a 60-metre free-fall at Big Rush Big Swing, what speed do you accelerate to?
To enter, email your answer to . The competition closes at midnight on 20 January 2014, and the winner will be drawn from all correct entries. DO IT NOW's competition rules apply. This prize, one Big Swing, is valid for one year and worth R695.
About the jump
On arrival at the Big Rush Stadium Shop, you will first be asked to sign an indemnity waiver form. You will then be fitted with a full body harness and taken to the practice area for a demonstration of correct technique. Thereafter you will be accompanied to the base of the stadium arch, where you will be attached to a safety line for the ascent.
At "ladder rung 4", a member of the Jump Crew will assist you to descend a ladder to the jump platform and introduce you to the Jump Master, who will confirm that you have clearly understood jump procedure, and make sure you are ready for the leap of a lifetime! He will attach you to the main jump line and count you down "3-2-1, Big Step". After a 60-metre free-fall, accelerating to a speed of over 120 kph, you will swing in a huge arc over the football pitch. When the swinging finally stops, a recovery winch will bring you smoothly back to the jump platform, where you will be reattached to the safety line, and guided back down the arch. All jumps are relayed live to the Base Café in the Big Rush Stadium Shop, and you will be able to watch your jump on video within a few minutes of your return. Videos are available for purchase.