It was only towards the end of the last century that abseiling, also called rappelling, became an activity in its own right. Till then it was just the method climbers used to get off a mountain, cavers used to descend into the bowels of the earth and fire-fighters used for all sorts of macho purposes. But it's fun, so it's available as an activity in its own right.
In case you have no idea what abseiling is all about, it's the art of lowering yourself safely down a rope. You wear a climbing harness, and are clipped onto the rope with some manner of descending device (there are lots of different ones, and they all have technical names, which you'll either know already or not understand, anyway).
You then walk backwards down the cliff face (or dam wall or enemy headquarters, or whatever) supported by the rope, slowly lowering yourself down, enjoying the scenery en route. Most commercial abseils are belayed, which means they're almost idiot-proof. If you were to just let go in panic, the trip leader could safely lower you down remotely, either from above or below. It's also quite likely that there'll be a decent section of overhang, so you get to spend some time just hanging out, admiring the view. For something a tad more extreme - rapp jumping is abseiling with the climbing ropes attached at your back instead of your tummy, so you go down face first - usually running. Not for the faint of heart. One of our most spectacular abseils is on Table Mountain. The actual abseil is only about 100m high but you're hanging out about a kilometre above the city - which is great if you want to check out the scenery, but a tad scary if you're really not good with heights.
Also with fantastic views and close to Cape Town is acombination abseiling/kloofing trip along the Steenbras River Gorge, where you get to jump into deep pools and abseil down a waterfall. You could abseil down another pretty waterfall on the beautiful Kaaimans River, which is a landmark near the Garden Route town of Wilderness. There are three abseil routes on the spectacular western head at Knysna - including a really high, very exposed site hanging right out over the crashing waves - a pretty abseil at Oribi Gorge, on the KZN South Coast, a nice scenic one next to Howick Falls, near Pietermaritzburg, one over Sabie Falls, near the town of Sabie and another at Hazyview, both of which are in Mpumalanga, and another fun abseil at Hartebeespoort Dam in North West Province, near Johannesburg. For an urban adventure of note, you can rapp jump off skyscrapers in Johannesburg. There are also fun abseils in Swaziland and at Vic Falls, on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia. The small country of Lesotho, which lies entirely within South Africa's borders, has the highest commercial abseil in the world. It's 204m high. Try that if you dare.
To book Kloofing and Abseiling tours along the Garden Route contact Chris & Louise Leggatt at Eden Adventures.