By Casey Pratt, professional photographer – Love Africa Marketing
I’ve been told that the Guinness World Record Abseil off the Maletsunyane falls in Lesotho is a once in a lifetime experience, so we decided to put this theory to the test.
As the latest members to join the team, myself and Janelle were up for the challenge on Love Africa Marketing’s recent return to Semonkong Lodge. And now that I have done it, I couldn’t agree more.
The abseil experience is split into two parts and is done over two days. The training tends to eliminate the less adventurous and for those keen to follow through, definitely helps with that extra bit of confidence needed.
Our day started with coffee delivered to our doors at 6.30 am. As we enjoyed our morning cuppa we watched the valley turn golden and listened to the sheep bells, hooves clopping and birds calling as Semonkong woke up.
At 7 am, with nervous laughs and anticipation, we made our way to the training area situated near the lodge. The guides’ friendly smiles welcomed us as they began unraveling the ropes, preparing for training on top of the 25m high ledge. A little peep over the edge revealed the Maletsunyane river below and a perfect pool where the locals bring their Basotho ponies to drink.
As we were harnessed up we “learnt the ropes” before being rappelled down the side of the basalt cliff. The 25m drop is a little intimidating but short enough to get you excited, and long enough to gain confidence in your ability to manage the main abseil. Two smooth sailing runs off the more subdued cliff and we were told we’d passed and were ready for the main event!
The next day, after a quick breakfast for those of us who felt we could eat, we piled into the lodge’s trusty Land Cruiser for the 30 min road trip to the iconic Maletsunyane Falls.
A Basotho pony helped us trek the heavy abseiling gear to the edge of the waterfall. Before we headed to the abseil point, our guide led us to a viewpoint of the falls and the reality of what we were about to do set in. 204m is a LONG way down!
Once we reached the launch point, the butterflies arrived in my stomach with a vengeance as I tried to capture everyone going over the falls. I wasn’t quite brave enough to really get as close to the edge as I wanted. Holding your camera over the edge of a cliff is a lot scarier than I thought it would be. I managed to get a few shots before it was my turn to take the plunge.
To see Myself and Janelle in action click here
All strapped in, my heart was pounding as I shuffled backwards, stepping over the ropes and prepared to go down the world’s longest commercially operated abseil. As I stood on top of the ledge I was convincing myself to concentrate on the beauty of the experience and not on all the things that could go wrong. I am on the edge of the 204m drop!
But not once did I feel like I wasn’t safe and secure – the guides were incredible and operated the equipment with smooth and efficient execution.
I was surprised at how much I had to force my weight down the rope to get moving. I was holding on to the ropes for dear life, more because my mind was telling me that’s what I should be doing, and less because I felt I had to.
The initial drop over the edge is a 15m free fall. As I hung in mid air, I started spinning around, and even though I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be looking around, I was at the mercy of the rope which gave me little choice but to take in the majestic 360 view of the gorge. The views were phenomenal. I entered the second half of the descent and received a welcome spray from the falls and was silently grateful that it wasn’t in full flow.
Watch me step over the edge here
Finally, after 10 minutes of non-stop adrenaline, I reached the bottom – heart racing and lost for words. As Jape, an abseil guide, guided me to solid ground my legs were still shaky. I looked up at the spray from the falls which created a mist along the dark cliffs and was mesmerized – at that point it was clear where the name ‘Place of Smoke’ comes from.
We sat and watched the final guest come down; disappearing and reappearing through the mist of the falls. None of us could quite put our experience into words just yet so we sat quietly taking in the views.
Then there was the trek back out of the gorge to tackle. The hike back is not for the faint-hearted, and the day was unusually hot for Semonkong. Our guides were once again amazing. They had water and Powerade on hand whilst encouraging us as we walked and took much needed breaks in pockets of shade.
Finally, we reached the top of the cliff and couldn’t wait to get back to the lodge for a well earned G&T and to recount the feelings and emotions of the day.
Kea leboha Semonkong Lodge.
I cannot recommend this experience enough and am so happy that I was brave enough to attempt it.
Now it’s your turn… I dare you!
Love Africa Marketing is a marketing consulting business and has been managing the digital media marketing for Semonkong Lodge for over 6 years.
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