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Bossies for the Berg

Kwa-Zulu Natal

Durban - KwaZulu-Natal’s majestic Drakensberg is not just about taking in the beautiful mountain scenery, but about experiencing the great outdoors, as tourism operator Lori Kelly and professional photographer Michelle Lutener found out when they began planning weekend adventure getaways in aid of rhino conservation.

The idea was to give their charges a peek at the fun side of the mountains while giving something back to conservation initiatives that make it possible for them to run businesses and offer tourists the chance to experience KZN’s many attractions.

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Michelle Lutener and Lori Kelly.Greg McBey of Falcon Ridge Bird of Prey Centre in Champagne Valley with a black eagle.

Now labelled the Intaba Adventure Weekend and still in its early days, the initiative donates a portion of the reasonable amount paid for travel, accommodation, food and adventure activities to an organisation or charity of choice while providing either team-building groups from corporates or family groups with the luxury of having adventures planned ahead of time.

There’s also a strong chance they’ll come up with adventures that the average visitor wouldn’t even consider in the first place.

A lot of the fun, according to Kelly and Lutener, has been trying out the various “adventures” on offer for themselves, as well as enjoying watching their guests take time out from city life and couch comforts.

According to Kelly, the most recent tour took 12 intrepid city slickers to the beautiful Champagne Valley in the Central Drakensberg and introduced them to a number of activities including a personal favourite, the Drakensberg Canopy Tour.

Kitted up with a full body harness, pulley, gloves and safety helmet, you slide through the magnificent Blue Grotto Forest canopy, giving having a bird’s eye view a whole new meaning. Led by trained guides, participants glide between platforms perched in trees and on cliff faces on steel cables, not only enjoying an incredible rush of adrenalin, but also appreciating the peaceful ancient indigenous forest and waterfalls.

Kelly and Lutener have also included another more unusual activity on their must-do list – an off road stunt on two-wheel segways.

Team members take on an obstacle course. The general idea is to use the obstacle course to make sure that all new operators are confident, comfortable and cautious before heading out on a gentle single sand road glide. Then it is out on to the farm with its purpose built routes meandering through acacia trees.

Tours and activities are tailor-made to groups and specific requests and can go from intensely physical escapades to quieter times discovering the ins and outs of conservation. One such time out is a trip to the Falcon Ridge Bird of Prey Centre in Champagne Valley, which not only rehabilitates majestic raptors but also educates the audience about the antics and aerial acrobatics of a black eagle, barn owl and a somewhat cranky fish eagle. This is falconry at its African best.

The next Intaba Adventure Weekend is planned for October and funds raised will go to rhino conservation initiatives, which are close to both Kelly and Lutener’s hearts. “That way, you can enjoy having fun and experiencing our beautiful province conscience free, simply because you know you are not just taking an unforgettable experience back with you, but also investing in returning the favour,” says Kelly. - Sunday Tribune

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