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.

Active Escapes selected for Adventure Travel World Summit Alaska

When we were first informed that we'd been selected as one of ten adventure tour operators from South Africa to attend the Adventure Travel World Summit in Alaska, we kind of didn't believe it. Alaska. For real? It's one thing to visit one of the most beautiful (and harsh) countries on the planet, but to visit it with the crème-de-le-crème of the tourism industry is a tour operators travel fantasy come true. Adventure and business all rolled into one...and we get to go. Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 12.31.47 PM The dates of the Summit are the 19th to 22nd September, which is literally just around the corner. Sarah will be zooting off to Anchorage to take part in some of the pre-Summit adventure activities (mountain biking, paddling, hiking etc.), before diving head first into the Summit. The Summit itself comprises key note speaker sessions, and 'The Market Place'. Attendants can sit in on various lectures and discussion held by travel industry leaders (topics as wide as fine art travel photography through to women and leadership in travel), and then spend time at the Market Place where all different travel business can interact with each other through 17 minute meetings. As one past attendant said "In some ways, it’s the floor of New York Stock Exchange, a Moroccan bazaar, and a family reunion (the good kind) blended into one very productive setting". Sarah will be batting for Active Escapes in this very eclectic meeting space, and we're pretty sure our friendly-but-feisty blonde will smack it out the park and bring home some valuable insights, new ideas and solid connections. Massive thanks to Dirty Boots Adventure Guide for putting Active Escapes forward for nomination - we wouldn't be going without the support of the SA Travel Industry, and our clients - who seem to like us 🙂

Poorts & Passes

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While not an Active Escapes tour, every now and then a gem of an opportunity crosses our desks. The Poorts and Passes Tour is a unique trip at a price that wouldn't normally be found on a guided, fully catered tour. This being a 'first time round' tour, the guides have priced it basically at cost! Brilliant opportunity to get away from it all...into the beautiful Karoo. Poorts & Passes: George to Patensie Cycle Tour 2016 26 Nov - 6 Dec Have you ever fancied spending real quality time in South Africa's beautiful Karoo? Better yet, from the seat of your trusty bike? Well, the Poorts & Passes Cycle Tour may be exactly the opportunity you've been waiting for. Starting from George, our group will head off on 9 days of incredible riding through unmatched scenery. This is tour riding at it's best, panniers packed with the essentials and top notch meals and comfortable beds at the end of each day. On Day 1, the group meets in George to overnight ahead of the great trek. Final bike preparations and last minute packing, before a hearty meal and a good sleep. Day 2 takes riders through from George to De Rust, a 72km ride up the Montague Pass (opened in 1840, built with convict labour) that transects the Outeniqua Mountains. On Day 3, leaving De Rust we ride 88km to Prince Albert. At the end of the day, we would have crested and descended the mighty Swartberg Pass, something to be inordinately proud of. Waking up on Day 4, breathe a sigh of sleepy relief and remember it's a rest day, well spent wondering the streets of the arty little town, known for delicious food, olives and craft shops. Well rested, on Day 5 we return to De Rust via a completely different and equally spectacular 80km route through the Meiringspoort. It's a day for marvelling at the ancient nature of the Karoo, with the Meiringspoort formations being 250 million years old. There may even be a dip in a secret and beautiful waterfall en route, if we're in need of a cool down. On Day 6, it's flatter riding into the Karoo from De Rust to Toorwater over 83km. 12km in to the ride we will stop for breakfast at Numbi Valley, and experience an organic permaculture garden project. Leaving Toorwater on Day 7, we ride 67km to the Baviaanskloof, via the narrow gorges of the Groot Rivier. An incredible landscape, sometimes making one wonder what planet one has landed on, this area os able to support seven out of the eight biomes found in South Africa. Day 8 see's some rugged riding through the Baviaanskloof valley, levaning Makkedaat Caves to head to Zandevlakte. Farmer Piet will take us in the afternoon on a bakkie tour to see the spekboom and river catchment rehabilitation projects on Zandevlakte farm. Day 9 adds a zing of excitement, as we'll be riding through buffalo territory from Zandvlakte to Glencoe over 72km. Buffalo being potentially dangerous, mean that we will have a bakkie escort, who will also take our bags for the day - and haul the supplies for a lunchtime braai at Rooihoek campsite. From there we ride out to end the day in Glencoe. Day 10 see's the shortest distance, as we depart Glencoe and ride through to Patensie over 32km of patchwork farmland in the Gamtoos valley. After a coffee and a bight to eat, we are transferred back to George to spend one last night in George, before departing the following morning on Day 11.

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Trail Daze Series

Our friend Ewald Sadie is a very talented photographer from Cape Town, and he has been shooting a series called Trail Daze over the last year or so with some beautiful images. We've decided to reshare his published posts here, incase you're in the vicinity of some of these incredible trails and mountains. This weeks post is about Van Gaalen's Cheese Farm, and the lesser known Pofadder Trail...
The lads chasing rainbows to pots of single track gold
The lads chasing rainbows to pots of single track gold

Trail Dog – Salomon Running

Salomon have produced some great shows on Salomon TV, the best thing being that they don't gab on-and-on about Salomon, but about the places, people and experiences that occur in the outdoors. This one is particularly lovely, and really offers some great insights and advice for happiness (which you can take or leave, but some struck so resoundingly clear they're worth a double listen!). Enjoy...

First Hikes

by Kath I vaguely remember my first hiking experience, when I was about four years old my family went for walk somewhere out in the Berg area. I remember getting really tired, moaning about not being able to be carried on my Dad's shoulders...and there is photographic evidence where I am sitting on the ground in the middle of a dirt road refusing to walk any further, fists balled into my teary eyes and my two year old sister is motioning to me to get up and carry on. Hows that for embarrassing? I may not have taken to hiking on my first go, but when my legs were a little longer I began to enjoy the places they could take me to. Adventuring down river beds, scrambling through bushes, swimming in pools, slipping down bum slides, clambering up boulders to pump my fist in the air at the top. Sophie, Sarah and Matt's 3-and-half-year-old daughter, recently experienced her first proper hike. Matt joined a group of Dad's all taking their kids up for a night in a cave in the Injasuthi area of the Drakensberg. Sophie is still quite small, and to expect a 10km walk up a mountain from her was not realistic, so Matt muled a backpack crammed with sleeping bags and food, while Sophie was slung around his neck - tiny kiddy Size 7 shoes flapping about his ears. For weeks leading up to the hike, Sophie had been enthusiastically describing how she was going to sleep in a cave, "but not a cave with a dragon, although that would be quite exciting". Sophs would detail the food they were going to eat, the colour of the sleeping bag she would choose, what she would pack - her excitement was so tangible it was hard not to immediately grab my rucksack and join in. I couldn't wait to hear how the hike went, and when Monday rolled around and Sophs came back from school I was full of questions. Her eyes went wide and her hands shot in the air clutching a piece of bread to explain the size of the water slides, where the slept, that they "didn't see the dragon or a leopard but that's okay", and she became fixated on explaining all the fairies she saw on toadstools in the indigenous forest parts of the hike. I totally know what she meant too, those fairies are everywhere!
Sophie, intrepid three-and-half-year-old hiker, off to catch dragons and spy on fairies
Matt later explained to me that it was one of the most exhausting hikes of his life, particularly when Sophie fell asleep on his shoulders and flopped around like a 16kg pack of potatoes. He eventually let her slide off his shoulders and she slept soundly for 15  minutes on the side of the hiking trail while he recovered. Seeing the pictures of the kids swimming in pools, huge smiles, clutching walking sticks, all cuddled together in the cave at night, it really makes one realise the essence of a hike up a mountain - where you leave the security of home behind and find new security in the sides of caves and the down filling of sleeping bags and blue glows of gas stoves. First hikes are awesome, and judging from Sophie's experience it went a bit better than my first hike - but kids are never too young to march off into the wild with the guiding hand and heart of a parent. Sets the tone right from the get go, well we think so anyway.  

Growing Up Outdoors

By Kath Recently I was lucky enough to spend a night at a farm in Newcastle, where some friends have been living for two years after moving from Johannesburg. They moved after 18 years in the thick of the rat race to a farm covered in bushveld, rich in rocks and wildlife and they've set about developing their lives as farmers of pecan nuts - quite a contrast to investment banking. It was awesome to see how their seven year old and nine year old boys have settled into farm life. It's not a total transformation, kids personalities are strong from the early months, but I was fascinated with how they seemed to meld in with the landscape, tussling on the grass, hopping motorbikes over logs, playing with the dogs, jumping off cliffs into the deep quarry, pelting each other with clods of algae, nibbling on food and racing off again to play another game or ride horses, having spats and forgetting about them ten minutes later, gazing into the fire at night and looking for shooting stars, discussing satellites, moons and galaxies. I came back from an outing to find they had painted skeletons over their skin in bright blue and red paint, still half dressed in their motorbike kit. Man! The bliss of being young in South Africa.
Fire side discussions on shooting stars, satellites, moons and galaxies
Fire side discussions on shooting stars, satellites, moons and galaxies
The thing is though, it's so easy to get hemmed in by our day-to-day lives, walls of houses, fences of yards, digital screens and countless obligations. We forget how simple it is to enjoy being alive and learning important lessons just from playing outside. The nine year old boy asked if we had jumped off the "Ghost Jump" at the quarry, and I asked why it was called that. His response was one I will never forget. "Well you see when the water level dropped because of the drought, the jump became a lot higher. It's scarier, and I was scared to do it. But when I did do it, it was like my spirit stayed at the top and watched me jump in and as I hit the water it came back in to my body! That's why I call it the Ghost Jump".
An adult braving the "Ghost Jump"
An adult braving the "Ghost Jump"
In one simple explanation I could see that this young boy had started to make sense of fear, of risk, of adrenalin, of his own spirituality, of what he could push himself to do and how he will manage new challenges in the future. Of course his parents careful guidance influences this, but it's a lot harder to learn these lessons by playing video games than it is by experiencing what the outdoor world has to offer. It made me think twice about opting to veg out in front of movie or series, versus taking the dogs walking somewhere new. What lessons am I missing out on every time I choose the indoors over the outdoors?

South African Adventure Tourism

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 2.09.18 PMJohan Radcliffe is well known in South African adventure tourism circles, in particular for his adventure guide website Dirty Boots. Johan recently endeavoured to generate statistics on the adventure industry to help guide and also promote the growth of adventure tourism in South Africa. "So after 10 years in the adventure industry, with no reports that I know of coming from the powers that be I decided to do my own survey. So after hundreds of hours on the phone, this is the result of that survey" says Johan. It is a fascinating report, and includes some surprising facts. For example, who would have thought that horse riding as an activity has the most operators in South Africa, while trout fishing has the least? Or that the highest income generating activity in adventure tourism in South shark cage diving? It is a cleverly constructed piece of research, which is well worth flipping through. It can be found here.