Does Life Insurance Cover Extreme Adventures in South Africa?

Adventure tourism in South Africa is a growing industry with 11 million people participating in 2014 according to the South Africa Adventure Industry Survey of 2014 by Dirty Boots. No doubt, adventure activities are part of the attractions of the tourism industry. From shark cage diving to rock climbing, locals and tourists alike enjoy partaking in these thrilling activities.

One of the most important concerns when doing adventure sports is life insurance. Unlike normal policies, getting cover when you are doing extreme activities is an altogether different ballgame. But the good news is, insurance companies in South Africa will provide coverage based on several conditions and considerations. We take a look at how insurance companies will approach two extreme sports that are popular in the country.

Shark Cage Diving

According to the Dirty Boots survey, shark cage diving earned the top spot as the highest income-generating activity for operators and is also one of the 10 favourite attractions. Shark cage diving provides the opportunity to see the great white sharks up close. Popular sites in the world include South Africa, Americas and Australia.


Shark cage diving is not something you do every day and if you choose to go on a dive, it is usually organised by an accredited adventure travel company. The organiser provides safe and sturdy cages that are engineered for precision ensuring that sharks and divers are not hurt. There is an adequate escape route should a breach in security occur. Moreover, the White Shark Protection Foundation (GWSPF) in South Africa regulates and sets the standards for the industry.

Hence, if you are seeking insurance for an adventure activity, your provider will likely take into consideration the frequency of activity, accident rates and safety issues. As it is not highly probable you will go diving alone without a cage, this reduces the chances of accidents and injuries.

For most, however, shark cage diving is a one-time experience and getting a sports travel insurance is a practical solution. It can cover medical expenses, personal liability repatriation, baggage & personal effects and even sports equipment. Diving operators also carry a liability insurance in case something untoward happens to divers.

Rock Climbing

An extreme sport that a lot of people are into nowadays is rock climbing. For people who practice these high-risk sports, insurance companies offer life, disability or illness cover. Naturally, the risks differ from one climber to another.


The underwriter will assess several factors such as climbing experience or how long the insured has been climbing. An experienced climber has a lower chance of getting into an incident than someone who is inexperienced. In addition, a seasoned climber will be able to react better in a predicament than a novice.

Another factor that underwriters look at is the type of equipment that will be used. Rock climbing with ropes is less dangerous than free climbing. Use of helmets and proper equipment including communication devices in making the climb are important factors as well.

The country where the activity takes place is also considered. For example, if you’re rock climbing on Table Mountain, you are near a hospital and rescue teams are in proximity should an accident occur. Compare this to a rock climber scaling the Himalayas or the Colorado Rockies where you are in a foreign country and medical facilities are not close by.

Your health condition will be scrutinised as well by the underwriter. Pre-existing medical issues are considered. Other things that an insurance company will look at include typical heights that a climber scales and membership to a climbing club or association.


The insurance company will provide a list of exclusions if you are getting cover for rock climbing as part of your life insurance. Solo or free climbing are typically not covered so make sure to note what exclusions are in effect. In summary, there are loads of variables that affect how much coverage you can get or if you qualify at all when into extreme sports and adventure activities.

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