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Full on adventure in Soweto!

Bungee jumping is not the first thing that springs to mind when you consider visiting South Africa's largest township, but now a Soweto landmark is being  turned into a fully fledged adventure facility.

Orlando Towers in SowetoThe brightly painted Old Orlando Power Station has for many years welcomed visitors to the sprawling township outside Johannesburg, best known for its famous former residents Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. But only since last year have tourists been able to experience the inside of the two towers in such a thrilling manner.

Known as Orlando Towers, the adventure centre first opened in August 2008, offering those brave enough a chance to take on the 'Big Swing' - a leap from one of the 100m-high Orlando Twin Towers culminating in a 40m free-fall between the towers. 

Now a R3.6 million (£240 000) loan from the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) means it is set to become a multi-purpose, adventure tourism facility. The Orlando Towers team hopes to be running abseiling, bungee jumping, basic climbing and even inner-tower swings at the facility by June this year.

"Since our opening we have installed a basic facility at the Towers, but it is really a fore-runner of what we are becoming," says Orlando Towers founder Bob Woods. "The DSBA loan will allow us to take the site format further with more extreme activities as well as creating a pleasant tourism environment for those who don't have an appetite for the extreme." 

Phase two of the development will include entertainment facilities, such as restaurants and bars and will also lend itself to retail opportunities. Phase three will see the team open up one of the towers in order to recreate the typical environment found inside a Magaliesberg kloof, with large, vertical rock walls, landscaping, flora and water. The DBSA believes that the tourism offering presented by the Orlando Towers will have spinoff benefits for Soweto, home to some of South Africa's poorest communities.

"Adventure tourism is a major growth market around the world, and the creation of an adventure tourism facility will undoubtedly contribute towards Soweto's economic diversification and tourism attractiveness," says DBSA tourism specialist Kate Rivett-Carnac.

The idea to create an adventure tourism facility at the iconic Orlando Towers was born in 2000 when Woods' rope-access company, Skyriders, was called in to advise on suspension equipment for the painting of the towers.
"The towers are so beautiful. Everyone that goes up there, even just for a view, comes down so impressed. There is magic in them. We are just trying to find ways of bringing that out."  

For more information visit, www.orlandotowers.co.za