Adventure tourism is on the rise in South Africa, and Lowveld Extreme Adventures is helping to fill the growing demand.
Situated between Sabie and Hazyview on the R536 in Mpumalanga province, Lowveld Extreme Adventures is a dynamic adventure tourism small business. “We started the business in 2016. I used to work in the reception at a local tourism company and that was how I began to see the potential in this area for development around tourism,” says Innocentia Mbuyane, Director of Lowveld Extreme Adventures. “Growing up in a rural village, we were never exposed to tourism as a potential for work. It was always ‘I want to be a doctor, lawyer, accountant’. Tourism was always something for the white people or the rich people. So when I started seeing how big it was I wanted to start exposing local black people to the opportunities that existed.”
The business offers guests white-water tubing, water rafting, paintball and hiking trails. There are also team-building activities for larger groups as well as school educational outings. The activities take place on 62 hectares of land owned by the Mahushu and Shabalala Community Trust.
Like many small businesses in the tourism sector, Lowveld Extreme Adventures has faced some difficulties. Initially, Mbuyane and her co-director, Mandla Lekhuleni, had to put their own money into funding the purchase of the equipment for water tubing and it was only once they were able to start earning that they could buy more equipment. Recently, they have applied to Old Mutual and the Small Enterprise Finance Agency for additional funding to help grow their business.
Mbuyane says one of their achievements has been to collaborate with Crowned Eagle Tours, a local tour operator in the area. Together they offer combined packages, including overnight options, guided nature walks, game viewing and exciting adventure activities. “What sets us apart from other adventure operators is that we are very community minded. We are 100% black-owned with a special focus on empowering local women,” adds Mbuyane. The business currently employs seven freelance guides from the area and has visited local tertiary education campuses to encourage women particularly to become qualified adventure guides.
Mbuyane hopes that in the future they will be able to expand further, starting a campsite for overnight visitors. “Our aim is to let people experience and explore bush life through adventure tourism. People come to Mpumalanga for the Kruger National Park mostly. We want to prove there are other reasons to come here. For example, if people want to have a relaxed holiday or want to destress from city life then we have the perfect place for them.”
Further plans include buying quad bikes and building a zipline on the land. “We want to be able to offer international visitors the ultimate South African bush adventure experience. We are very excited for the future,” concludes Mbuyane.