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What is Adventure Tourism?

Adventure tourism is defined as the movement of the people from one to another place outside their comfort zone for exploration or travel to remote areas, exotic and possibly hostile areas. Adventure tourism is a type of tourism in which tourist do some adventure activities such as skydiving, hill climbing, scuba diving with the help of an Adventure Guide.

The adventure industry is not just about adventure tourism or recreation. There is also outdoor education, adventure therapy, and experience facilitation.

Adventure tourism has grown exponentially all over the world in recent years with tourists visiting destinations previously undiscovered. This allows for a new destination to market themselves as truly unique, appealing to those travellers looking for a rare, incomparable experience. Adventure tourism can be categorized into two categories: Hard Adventure; and Soft Adventure.

On the Trail

Adventure Guide

Adventure guides are a specialist type of tour guide that works for companies that organise events and trips. They are also employed in recreational and tourism industries that offer once-off trips or events.


Some adventure guides are freelance, and some are employed by one company. People attend these programmes to experience accomplishment while enjoying the scenery. Some travel with clients while others are situated only at one site. Both types of guides have similar basic qualifications.


Normally adventure guides organize and conduct expeditions in the wilderness or operate a specific activity only (e.g. bungy jumping) for clients who want to have an extreme experience. Guides are occupied with both technical and relational skills.

Adventure Guide
Hard Adventure

Hard Adventure

Hard adventure refers to activities with high levels of risk, requiring intense commitment and advanced skills. Hard tourism includes the activities like climbing mountains/rock/ice, trekking, caving etc.

Hard adventure activities are highly risked in nature. Professional guides with advanced-level skills are required to perform these activities. 

  • Caving

  • Mountain Climbing

  • Rock Climbing

  • Ice Climbing

  • Trekking

  • Sky Diving

  • Scuba Diving

  • Kayaking

  • Abseiling

  • Canyoneering / "Kloofing"

  • and much more...

Image by Johannes Andersson
Image by Clay Banks

Soft Adventure

Soft adventure refers to activities with a perceived risk but low levels of risk, requiring minimal commitment and beginner skills; most of these activities are led by experienced guides.

Soft adventure activities are low risk in nature. These activities are led by professional guides. Soft adventure is a popular category in adventure tourism.

  • Backpacking

  • Birdwatching

  • Camping (typically at established campsites)

  • Canoeing

  • Eco-tourism

  • Fishing

  • Hiking (typically day hikes on easy terrain)

  • Horseback riding

  • Hunting

  • Kayaking/sea/whitewater

  • Orienteering

  • Safaris

  • Scuba Diving

  • Snorkeling

  • Skiing

  • Snowboarding

  • Surfing

  • School outdoor education camps

  • and much more...

Soft Adventure

Outdoor Education

Outdoor education, also known as Experiential Learning, is an engaged learning process whereby students “learn by doing” and by reflecting on the experience.


Experiential learning activities can include, but are not limited to, hands-on laboratory experiments, internships, practicums, field exercises, study abroad, undergraduate research and studio performances.

Well-planned, supervised and assessed experiential learning programmes can stimulate academic inquiry by promoting interdisciplinary learning, civic engagement, career development, cultural awareness, leadership, and other professional and intellectual skills.

Learning that is considered “experiential” contains all the following elements:

  1. Reflection, critical analysis and synthesis.

  2. Opportunities for students to take initiative, make decisions, and be accountable for the results.

  3. Opportunities for students to engage intellectually, creatively, emotionally, socially, or physically.

  4. A designed learning experience that includes the possibility to learn from natural consequences, mistakes, and successes.

Some benefits of Outdoor Education:

  • It builds community

  • It raises expectations and standards

  • It increases connection

  • It builds culture

  • It develops positive feelings and memories around school or the workplace, and the outdoors.

People that work in the outdoor education are know as outdoor adventure learning facilitators. People in these occupations are facilitating experiences where the core purpose is not only fun but also to change thinking and behaviour whether for educational, developmental or therapeutic applications. The objective is to structure intentional activities to reflect on and transfer the learning from the experience to real life, making it applicable to different situations away from the adventure experience.


These people are working as either freelance facilitators or permanently employed at either a school campsite or a corporate team building provider. Some providers offer both these specialities. These facilitators will keep themselves busy with both the technical application of skills and interpersonal facilitation skills.

Outdoor Education
Image by Ross Stephenson

Adventure Therapy

Adventure therapy is a type of experiential therapy that uses challenging adventure activities to aid the therapeutic healing process. It helps promote healthy identity development, self-efficacy, grit, and a growth mindset.


At an adventure therapy programme, clients get the opportunity to engage in various new activities and experience several novel environments during their experience. 


Adventure therapy activities should be facilitated in an intentionally therapeutic manner. Clients are doing more than just rock climbing or skiing. They learn to listen, keep themselves safe, learn emotional regulation skills, and develop grit as they push themselves to overcome challenging tasks.


The challenges clients face through any therapeutic adventure programme should be designed to forge an identity, build resiliency, and improve self-efficacy, just to name a few.

Adventure Therapy is not common in South Africa, and there is a huge gap in the therapeutic space that accommodates safe adventure therapeutic programmes and practices.

Adventure Therapy

Experience Facilitation

The term expands beyond Outdoor and Adventure experiences but also using the methodology of outdoor and adventure to facilitate experiences with families, churchgroups, in-house corporate groups.

This refers to the offering of an experience where the following factors are integrated; people, the outdoors, adventure, business, facilitation, instruction, competence, learning, development, therapeutic awareness, the environment, and safety. The approach teaches that you cannot have a rich experience if these factors (at varying levels) are not part of the equation. 

Facilitating life/organisational/community changing experiences. Experience Facilitation is a combination of guiding, exploration, and learning.


Working with people is one of the most satisfying occupations in the world, working with people in the outdoors is even more satisfying. Seeing people’s reactions when they find an experience pleasurable or enriching is priceless. Experiencing it when someone changes their thinking and or behaviour after an intentional intervention is even better. Being part of a process where you contributed to where a person’s new found insights are impacting communities is more than encouraging!


The reward of appreciating adventurous endeavours in the outdoors is recognised but at the same time neglected. Not only is it an avenue to facilitate experiences in the outdoors, but also to use the methodology and spirit of outdoor adventure experiences in an indoor environment.

In South Africa, the outdoor and adventure industry is known for two main occupations.

The two occupations that combine people, the outdoors and adventure is Adventure Guiding (Tourism) and Adventure Related Experiential Learning Facilitation (Camp Facilitators). Some may argue that nature guiding is also part of this.

Image by Karsten Winegeart
Experience Facilitation
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