Some people really do have ants in their pants. I mail Fiona McIntosh to find out where she is in the world. Jokingly, I ask if she’s lying on her couch eating junk food and watching TV. No? Maybe she’s careering up a mountain somewhere unpronounceable, practising her breaststroke alongside hammerhead sharks, or hiking a trail only ever traversed by the local tribes in Papua New Guinea?
Turns out I’m wrong – she’s actually climbing mountains in Utah. Silly me.
McIntosh is one of South Africa’s great adventurers and lovers of the great outdoors, and the good news is that she’s not scared to share her love of all things wild (and mild).
Her response to my request to tell me a bit more about her latest book, Mild to Wild Adventures & Activities in Southern Africa, underlines her can’t-sit-still nature: ‘I’m actually climbing in Utah – so yeah, I’ve become a couch potato … In fact, we got so excited on our last trip that we stayed for two extra days in the mountains on three packets of two-minute noodles and a couple of snack bars.’
She stays in worldwide web territory long enough to answer a few questions before heading off to challenge the elements once more. Here’s her take on wild and mild adventures in our part of the world:
What inspired you to write this book?
The fact that many of Africa’s great adventures are so little known. I have travelled all over Africa, and extensively elsewhere – in the United States, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, etc – and our adventures are seriously underrated.
While climbing Kilimanjaro, the Bloukrans bungee jump, shark cage-diving, Table Mountain, the adventures around Vic Falls, game viewing in Kenya/Tanzania and gorilla-tracking in Uganda/Rwanda are on most folks’ radar, most of the other exciting stuff is still a bit of a secret. We need to make more of a song and dance about our extraordinary range of adventures.
[quote]We need to make more of a song and dance about our extraordinary range of adventures.[/quote]
In your opinion, what’s the best ‘mild’ adventure on offer in South Africa?
Oh heavens, so subjective! I guess I’d go for turtle tracking on the beaches of Maputaland because it’s such a rare privilege – a truly spiritual experience.
In your opinion, what’s the wildest wild adventure on offer in South Africa?
Probably diving with tiger and Zambezi (bull) sharks off Aliwal Shoal and Protea Banks (Elephant Coast). In KwaZulu-Natal you dive without a cage – it’s a serious adrenalin rush. Some of our mountain-bike trails are also seriously wild – and South African rock is as steep, challenging and solid as you’ll find anywhere, so it’s heaven for rock climbers
Your top five ‘unusual’ adventure experiences that tourists shouldn’t miss on when visiting South Africa?
- Mingling with meerkats
- Mountain biking in the Namaqualand or the Postberg section of the Wild Coast National Park in flower season
- Hiking to rock art sites in the Drakensberg or Cederberg
- Bungee (or swing) off Orlando Towers – for a bird’s-eye view of Soweto!
- Great white shark viewing trip to Seal Island in False Bay, or to see blue and mako sharks off Cape Point
Why are South Africa and southern Africa such amazing adventure destinations?
Because of the diverse range of adventures – everything from bush to desert, ocean to white water, bungee jumping to skydiving, all in magnificent natural settings. And because of the large areas of wilderness where you can just take off for days or weeks and explore.
What’s your motto in life?
If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.
- Wild to Mild Adventures & Activities in Southern Africa by Fiona McIntosh is available through MapStudio.