I visited the iconic Orlando Towers in Soweto (Johannesburg) with a friend on a Sunday afternoon to check out their climbing wall. The site originally housed a coal fired power station which was active from 1964 to 1989. Since 2008 it is an adventure sport facility which is currently owned and managed by Nico Myburg.
Janine Kleinschmidt was the local graphic designer that was commissioned by FNB to design and paint the murals on the cooling towers which represent various aspects of life in Soweto.
On offer is 100m high bungee jumping, a tower swing, abseil and rap jumping (which is face down abseiling), a 25m climb, base-jumping (only for experienced base jumpers to jump off the top of the tower with a parachute), paint balling, and a viewing platform on the western cooling tower.
The worlds highest scad free-fall is inside the western cooling tower:
The staff on site are very friendly and highly-skilled.
Underground soccer is available, although I did not see anyone playing during my visit.
We tried out the 25m climbing wall which may soon be increased to 100m in height. The climbing pitches are on the exterior of the western cooling tower and it’s fairly easy to climb. There are 2 pitches and a skilled belayer holds you while you’re climbing. It’s fairly easy and can be a good introduction to climbing for someone new to the sport.
For the regular climber this may be too easy. Perhaps the facility should add a few more climbing pitches with more difficult grades to attract more regular climbers? I definitely see the potential to attract more local climbers by perhaps involving them in route setting on the exterior and perhaps interior of the cooling towers (if it’s not going to compromise the integrity of the towers).
I contacted Orlando Towers and was advised that there are plans to extend and upgrade the climbing facility this year. The staff told me that they still get plenty of visitors who want to climb. It is popular, although it’s not as popular as bungee jumping.
There’s also Chaf Pozi, a local “Shisa Nyama Braai” restaurant on the site which had quite a few patrons when I visited.
Beside the Orlando Towers facility is Soweto Outdoor Adventures which offers quad biking, go-karting, and some of the Orlando Towers activities.
Check out their packaged specials (combining paintball, quad biking, climbing, go-karting, target shooting and/or lunch). More activities are planned in the near future.
The activities at Orlando Towers aren’t just for tourists and thrill seekers.
It’s a good facility for local individuals, families and corporate team-builders looking for a good time outdoors. The place has a nice vibe if you just want to check it out.
To get there from Johannesburg take the N1 towards Bloemfontein. Then take the M68 Soweto/Southgate/Old Potch Road off-ramp and turn right on Old Potch Road. After about 3km (passing Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital) turn right into Dynamo Road.
Contact details for Orlando Towers can be found on: http://orlandotowers.co.za/Home/Contact
You don’t need to make any advanced bookings as they work on a first-come, first-served basis. However, do check out their days of operation (generally from Thursday until Sunday)