How we got down the falls and upped the engagement over one weekend.
By Casey Pratt, professional photographer – Love Africa Marketing
The Guinness World Record Abseil is a once-in-a-lifetime experience offered at Semonkong Lodge – something that has been on my bucket list since I started at Love Africa Marketing a few months ago. A site inspection to the lodge was planned, and we seized the opportunity to take on the Mighty Maletsunyane Falls.
As the latest members to join the team, myself and Janelle were up for the challenge.
We took this opportunity to capture the entire experience LIVE through social media platforms and professional photographs, giving our audience a first hand look into this adventure with us.
The abseil experience is split into two parts and is done over two days. The training tends to eliminate the less adventurous and for those keen to follow through, it definitely helps with that extra bit of confidence needed.
Our day started with a soft intro online to the day head of us as we sipped the coffee delivered to our doors at 6.30 am.
At 7 am, with nervous laughs and GoPro in hand, we made our way to the training area. The guides’ friendly smiles welcomed us as they began unravelling the ropes and Nicola, our other team member, kicked off the first event for the day with a “live” breakdown of what was happening – on the ground, as it happened. I had my camera on me to capture every moment and emotion.
As we were harnessed up we “learnt the ropes” before rappelling down the side of the basalt cliff. Janelle and I took turns down the 25m drop, making mental notes on how we could best capture the experience.
From the top, we caught the nerves of the unknown. The 25m drop is a little intimidating but short enough to get you excited, and long enough to gain confidence in your ability to manage the main abseil. A little taste of what to experience in the main event!
Nicola, who had already conquered this abseil, snapped short clips and pics to build the online story and draw our audience into the experience. Everything was captured and uploaded in the moment – making the whole online story raw and authentic.
“When capturing events and experiences online, it is important to tell the story in real time and in sequence to ensure your audience has a clear understanding of what is happening. We had 3 members of the team covering it on various platforms to get different shots and to ensure content was being released quickly” Janelle Barnard, Love Africa.
After a quick breakfast for those of us who felt we could eat, we piled into the lodge’s trusty Land Cruiser for the 30 min road trip to the iconic Maletsunyane Falls.
During the walk to the falls the team fell very quiet… 204m is a LONG way down!
Once we reached the launch point, I attempted to document everyone’s experience as they stepped over the ledge. I wasn’t quite brave enough to really get as close to the edge as I wanted – holding your camera over the edge of a cliff is a lot scarier than I thought it would be. I managed to get a few shots before it was my turn to take the plunge.
To see Myself and Janelle in action click here
All strapped in, my heart was pounding as I shuffled backwards, stepping over the ropes and prepared to go down the world’s longest commercially operated abseil. Nicola captured the raw feelings as we both stepped over the ledge which drew people in online – especially those who had stood in that exact spot before and knew exactly what we were feeling!
As I stood on top of the ledge I was convincing myself to concentrate on the beauty of the experience and not on all the things that could go wrong.
But not once did I feel like I wasn’t secure and safe – the guides were incredible and operated the equipment with smooth and efficient execution.
The initial drop over the edge is a 15m free fall. As I hung in mid air, I started spinning around, and even though I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be looking round, I was at the mercy of the rope which gave me little choice but to take in the majestic 360 view of the gorge while steering myself downward. The views were phenomenal. I entered the second half of the descent and received a welcome spray from the falls and was silently grateful that it wasn’t in full flow.
As I had photographed Janelle’s descent from the top, she captured mine from the bottom for a different perspective. We were both nervous about filming our abseil down, so handed over the GoPro to an experienced guide to help us get the descent – and what an amazing job he did!
“In fear of dropping equipment, we were unable to live stream while descending, but we have some great GoPro footage that we will be releasing shortly” Janelle Barnard.
Finally, after 10 minutes of non-stop adrenaline I reached the bottom – heart racing and lost for words. As Jape, an abseil guide, led me to solid ground my legs were still shaky. I looked up at the spray from the falls which created a mist along the dark cliffs, the whole experience mesmerizing – making it clear where the name ‘Place of Smoke’ comes from.
We sat and watched the final guest come down; disappearing and reappearing through the mist of the falls. Janelle captured our emotions at the bottom of the falls on video – feelings of relief and pure elation. These were quickly uploaded as soon as we were back in signal, as not to leave people now following the story on a “cliffhanger” for too long.
Then there was the trek back out of the gorge, which is not for the feint-hearted, and the day was unusually hot for Semonkong.
In an ideal world, the abseil and hike would have taken place early in the morning or much later in the afternoon when the sun is softer and less harsh to photograph in. When the light is directly overhead the photographs can lack depth and make the scenery appear very stark, especially as Lesotho was so dry at the time. In these conditions I was concentrating more on photographing the story of the day and used my fellow hikers to add scale and depth to the photographs.
Finally, we reached the top of the cliff and couldn’t wait to get back to the lodge for a well earned G&T and to recount the feelings and emotions of the day.
The reach and engagement across Instagram, Twitter and Facebook spiked over the three days that the experience was captured online – a clear indication that people are looking for authentic, on-the-ground content.
Kea leboha Semonkong Lodge.
I cannot recommend this experience enough and am so happy that I was brave enough to attempt it.
Now it’s your turn. I dare you!
Online reach from our experience:
Facebook: 79 700
Twitter: 125 800
Instagram: 7 665
Notes: Love Africa Marketing is a marketing consulting business and has been managing the digital media marketing for Semonkong Lodge for over 6 years.