The Drakensberg Canopy Tour is the longest and highest in Africa, so it was with some trepidation that I awoke at 6 am as dusk bathed the Spionkop valley in a tangerine glow.
A hearty breakfast helped settle my nerves and we took a scenic 45-minute drive from the Three Tree Hill Lodge to Catherine’s Peak via Winterton, past mealie fields and tiny villages where colourful lines of laundry danced between brown huts and smiling, waving children.
At the appointed hour we met our Canopy Tour leader who strapped us into our harness gear after a safety briefing and drove us to a point at the top of the Blue Grotto forest, with its endemic species of birds and plants.
From the rabbit hole, as the first platform was aptly named, I plunged like Alice into a wonderland of treetops, vines, dappled sunlight, waterfalls and rainbows. Dangling above it all like pantomime fairy, I waited for vertigo to strike but it never did.
Platforms are firmly bolted to cliffs, banks and boughs and the cables run like giant spider webs across the valley floor. It’s a way to experience nature like an eagle as you glide through the forest canopy, home to more than 150 species of birds.
At the Big Tree platform, where a gigantic old knobthorn reared its trunk up through all the foliage, our guide told us about cultural folklore and how the Zulus used knobthorn branches and snake spirits to increase the number of female calves to their cattle herd. A female puffadder is buried alive in a hole with a knobthorn stick while the male is ritually poisoned at the entrance to the kraal. Seemed unfair on the snakes and not something I’d try at home.
The dash of adrenaline from ziplining through the tree tops was more than enough for me!