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Who is ARA?

Association for industry providers & role players



The Association is a voluntary, independent, non-political and non-governmental body which provides a service to the Adventure Based Learning Industry, Outdoor Centres and Trainers who operate in the entry level adventure market.


To advance the education of the public in and through professional Adventure Based Learning programmes for personal and social development opportunities.


-To promote adventure based learning experience activities that will enhance .a healthy life-style and active concern for the environment, through participation in outdoor recreational/educational programmes

-To enhance the standard of outdoor adventure recreation leadership and adventure based learning experiences by means of professional training programmes. Aligned with ABL unit standards

-To negotiate a beneficial relationship with insurance brokers to underwrite and insure the Adventure Based Learning Industry specific needs

-To accredit adventure based learning experience experts on merit to license them as ARA training providers with an accredited licence number

-To keep a record of trainers that complete ARA training programmes and qualify for an ARA training certificate.

NOTE: All ARA certificates and accreditations are valid for a period of 3 years from original date of issue. Renewals are subject to assessment and possible training and not guaranteed. Membership is renewed on an annual basis.

Intro to the Adventure Recreation Association

ARA is a membership based professional body for the Adventure Based Learning Industry of likeminded people actively involved with a passion for the ABL industry. The organisation strives:

-To establish an ARA Training Institute to monitor, evaluate and oversee national training standards for the Adventure Based Learning industry that is benchmarked against international ABL standards

– To appraise good practice of instructors, outdoor centres and any other role player in the outdoor recreation industry by means of an Award scheme – with categories to accommodate those role-players who show all the qualities that make up a great Adventure Based Learning or outdoor recreation, instructor, facilitator or guide.

– To provide for those who seek to achieve relevant outdoor recreation industry Qualifications and who continuously challenge themselves for personal development or continual development and to assist and further develop the outdoor centres that promote professional ABL programmes and client care

-To evaluate outdoor recreation centres by means of an accreditation programme in all regions with a specific status in presenting adventure based learning activities and programmes to learners,

Where required, ARA members will be referred to other professional bodies in the outdoor industry to assist them with information needed on specialised training programmes and opportunities to enhance their career path in the outdoor recreation industry .


We aim to reflect the passion, determination, and spirit of our members. ARA has promoted the training of ABL instructors through qualifications for professionals since 1987.

We are the qualification body for most of the entry level ABL activities and disciplines offered by residential centers with four levels of qualification, which are regarded by employers throughout SA as the benchmark of professionalism.

ARA members were involved in the writing of Unit standards registered on the SAQA website and these members used the opportunity to write state of the art ABL Unit Standards compliant with safety standards benchmarked against international ABL practices

ARA provides instructor training in line with the content of relevant ABL Unit Standards ensuring the enhancement of the profession with our commitment to training and standards that are  supported by the ARA code of conduct

Limitations and mandate

ARA members operate in the Adventure Based Learning (ABL) environment that caters for the entry level adventure participants. The fundamental cornerstone of any ARA operator is to understand their limitations and abilities or qualifications when providing programmes to their clients.

Members make use of pre-determined environments that have have been secured from a safety perspective and that cater for entry level experiences whether in a fully artificial or semi artificial environment. Programmes are of an educational and recreational nature with learning and development at the forefront of any experience.

What Does ARA do?

We’re responsible for promoting the highest standards of ABL instruction and facilitation, and striving to ensure that ABL activity participants enjoy quality experiences in improving their personal and social development opportunities

Assessment, through formal peer review of our instruction and practices, has improved our way of working.

ARA is run by people of the industry, for the industry – comprising of people with extensive outdoor and ABL backgrounds and experience.

They are members of ARA and qualification holders themselves and are subject to the same standards and processes that all ARA members are required to adhere to.

ARA members commit to:

  • Fostering strategic partnerships with other governing bodies to build good relationships and to reach common goals for the broader outdoor recreation industry
  • Promote professionalism for the ABL industry as a whole with sound conservation practices of the natural heritage
  • Providing a nationally recognised assessment scheme for ABL instructors
  • Establishing benchmarks for instructional quality and safety management
  • Promoting and supporting the interests of our members, by providing a voice at decision making levels in the outdoor sector and governmental levels
  • Maintain a register of qualified ABL instructors that the public and industry can access
  • Communicating regularly with our members through newsletters, our website and national trends and workshops
  • Contribute to industry projects and offer expert advice
  • Acting as an advisory and disciplinary body ensuring the highest level of professional conduct within our membership

What does ARA provide to its membership?


Professional Association


Peer Groups


Reputational Affiliation


Industry Information

Marketing Benefits

ARA Code of conduct


The Adventure Recreation Association exists to promote the development and professional standing of its members engaged in the fields of Adventure Based Experience Learning, Outdoor Recreation training, and assessment.

The Association encourages the highest standards of performance and conduct, and requires all its members to abide by this Code of Professional Conduct.

The Association Code of Professional Conduct is founded on three fundamental principles which deal with:

  • Standards of service to the Employer/Client
  • Responsibilities to the Learner
  • Responsibilities to the Profession

    Principle 1 – Standards of Service to the Client

    Members will carry out their duties diligently, competently and with due regard to the clients interests. To achieve this, members will need to:

    Ensure that their training and development programmes are aligned with the clients programme objectives and reflect the best practices to be obtained within operational constraints.

    Ensure the accuracy of any information or advice given through a training intervention. Use the most effective method of training intervention in any given situation. Continuously develop their skills and knowledge.
    Respect their clients legitimate need for confidentiality.

    Principle 2 – Responsibilities to the Learner

    Members will at all times treat their learners with respect and fairness. To achieve this members will need to:

    Maintain fair and reasonable standards in their treatment of individuals. Ensure non-discriminatory training practices.
    Ensure prescribe recreation activity standards at all times.
    Provide the highest standards of development practices.

    Principle 3 – Responsibilities to the Profession

    Members will at all times conduct themselves in a manner which will enhance the standing and public regard for the profession. To achieve these members will need to:

    Continuously develop their skills and knowledge.

    Promote best practice at all times.

    Share information and experience and ideas with other members for the benefit of the profession.

    Note: Members are encouraged to submit articles for inclusion in the ARA Website. Such submissions will be a strong indication of continuing professional development

History of ARA

A Historical Overview Of Organised Adventure Recreation Training In South Africa and The Role Of ARA

The Deputy Minister of Education, Arts and Science; pledged to support youth development as an alternative to stabilise communities at a conference in 1961.

A consequent needs assessment for the provision of recreation services was introduced and followed a grading of all recreational facilities nationally.

A “National Strategy” was adopted that stipulated that Local Authorities have to provide recreational facilities together with the Business sector and National Government to provide required funding and strategic alignment.

Although this “conceptual framework” was adopted, scepticism regarding Government involvement was on the increase (Heunis: 1991).

The South-African Government tabled a five-year plan during 1981.

A Government sponsored NGO, SAFSLOR (South African Federation for Sport Leadership and Outdoor Recreation) was established and TRIMSA (Trim South Africa) as a specialist section of SAFSLOR, was formed with the mandate to register all organised adventure and recreation service providers in South Africa.

Another aim of TRIMSA and NACSA (National Adventure Committee of South Africa) was to coordinate the fragmented South African Adventure and Recreation industry

TRIMSA was task in 1992 to appoint Mr. Peter Robins former Head of the Kinloch Rannoch Adventure School in Scotland In 1982.

His employment contract included:

A. To determine the demand for adventure recreation training in SA
B. Identify and apply rigorous assessment criteria to identify a suitable site to serve as a first national Adventure and Recreation Training centre
C. Compile a national training guide for outdoor activities
D. Training of adventure leaders to present adventure training programmes at provincial level.

The following guidelines were introduced to identify a suitable site for a National Adventure and Recreation Training Centre:

1. A wide variety of outdoor adventure experiences should be available
2. Exposure to extreme weather conditions and training of students that wish to specialise in specific activities
3. The training facility should be accessible by road, close to a major airport and infrastructure
4. Medical back-up and easy access to fresh supplies
5. Access to mountain ranges, caves, wilderness areas and rivers or a dam (with no threat of participants being exposed to polluted water, bilharzia-or malaria)
6. Mountains should provide access to rock climbing and hiking expeditions.
7. The training centre should provide basic infrastructure for accommodation (dormitory), communal ablutions for males and females, electricity, telephone lines and reasonable access by road.

After a year of intense research – Peter Robins identified a Water Catchment Reserve of 7000 hectares that belonged to the Municipality of Oudtshoorn.

This area was surrounded by 120 000 hectares wilderness area that formed part the Swartberg Mountain range and managed by the Department of Nature Conservation was established as the first national adventure training centre.

Government soon realised with the deployment of Mr. Robins, that a national training centre should precede ad hoc training of instructors at provincial level.

The first South African National Adventure and Recreation Training Centre was opened in 1986 by the Minister of National Education. The plan was then to develop similar facilities in other provinces of South Africa.

With this facility becoming reality, Government gave the first step towards provision of facilities to execute its five-year plan.

The following organisations became stakeholders in the National Training Project and sponsored certain services:

1. Directorate Sport Advancement: Represented on the Governing Body of the Adventure and Recreation Training centre.
2. Department of National Education: Who was tasked to Appoint and employ a manager/specialist in adventure recreation training.
3. Oudtshoorn Municipality: Administration services.
4. National Adventure Committee of South Africa: (NACSA) provided an accreditation of training programmes and introduced standards and quality control measures.

The Adventure and Recreation Training Centre became known as CARO (Cape Adventure and Recreation Centre Oudtshoorn)

Contrary to the policy of the Nationalist Government at the time, this facility was open to all nationalities and races.

The manager of CARO, Mr Chris Heunis, was informed by the Minister of National Education that the future of the National Training Centre would be short lived and jeopardised as Government subsidies, on which the centre relied, would discontinue in the near future as a result of the financial impact and political changes that were foreseen on government resources.

He was advised that the only way to guarantee the future of CARO would be through sponsorship from the business sector or privatisation of the centre by providing paid for certification, of all training programmes, presented at CARO and endorsed by NACSA (National Adventure Committee of South Africa) as a funding vehicle for the centre

In 1996 the Municipality of Oudtshoorn and the Directorate of Sport Advancement decided to end its responsibility to CARO.

The Team Building Institute PTY (LTD) (TBI)successfully secured a ninety-nine year lease of CARO. The dream of a National Centre for adventure leadership training once again became reality, this time without government involvement.

The South African economy was characterised by a high inflation rate, since 1982 and  regardless of this weaker economic environment during the late eighties – CARO experienced an increase in the demand for adventure leadership training. (Heunis (1991)

The services, provided by NACSA (National Adventure Committee of South Africa), were formally adopted by SAFSLOR in 1989 – at an organised National Conference for the future of Adventure and Recreation Training, which was held in Bloemfontein.

Delegates, at the conference, representing a broad range of service providers in the outdoor adventure and recreation industry indicated that NACSA did not totally fulfil all the requirements of the Adventure and Recreation Industry in SA. This gave rise to a notion that a need existed for an association – that could fully represent the broader Adventure and Recreation Industry in SA.

The outcome of the conference was that the Outdoor Adventure Recreation Association (OAA) was officially founded based on the aims and objectives of NACSA. The first chair person of OAA was James Cantor of Outward Bound who endeavoured to align OAA to international guidelines and to establish OAA as a professional member organisation.

OAA continued to provide a service to CARO by endorsing the training programmes administered by NACSA. During an annual OAA Conference held in 2002 – the name of OAA was changed to ARA (Adventure Recreation Association). This was mainly for strategic reasons that included more inclusiveness to a wider range of offerings within the industry.

The task of the ARA elected Executive Members were to focus on the following “wish list”to assist in further professionalising ARA:

• Providing a clear voice to represent the interests of participants or clients to access information by means of newsletters; an informative website and access to various membership categories that will increase membership.
• Formation and implementation of the ARA Code of Conduct – that would act as a guideline to members and allow for registration of members on the ARA database register.
• To liase with international role players within the same industry that represent similar interests that would enhance the knowledge, expertise and safe practices within the industry as a whole.
• Record keeping and updating of volunteers and full time instructors’/facilitator’s qualifications.
• To create a forum for debate and ways to adapt the changing nature of the Outdoor and Adventure Recreation Industry.
• Create a logo/badge that represents the purpose of the organization with a clear description of the meaning of the logo.
• Engage the Insurance industry to negotiate a tailored insurance package that suits the needs of the industry.
• Prevent bureaucratic stumbling blocks that could frustrate members and service delivery by rather simplifying the work to be done.
• Develop standards Code of Professional Ethics and Safety compliances to licence private outdoor adventure and recreation centres.
• To introduce an ARA Award system that could be used to acknowledge outstanding practices and further the  .
• Provide specialist training according to distinguished “generic” training courses, that would fit the specific context of application at outdoor and adventure /ABL centers.

ARA then proceeded to render revised training and certification services to CARO and also focused on the accreditation of private outdoor recreation centres across the country to those centres and providers who abided by the Code of Professional Ethics, and the maintaining of safety standards – whilst delivering a variety of adventure and recreational activities.

The introduction of adventure experiences to thousands of learners who attended CARO and other ARA training programmes – introduced participants to healthy lifestyles and opened up opportunities of a career path in the Outdoor and Adventure Recreation Industry.

The training scheme introduced by ARA makes provision for Level 1 to Level 1V adventure and recreation instructor/facilitator training programmes with options in adventure recreation activities for ABL programmes depending on the needs of a specific outdoor centre.

The activities within the ARA Training Scheme varies from recreational indoors and outdoors or perceived low and medium risk activities; that include specialised technical training in artificial environments, with strict limitations – that are benchmarked against international standards

During 2003 Members of ARA were formally nominated and appointed by legislation to serve on the Standard Generating Body (SGB) for Guiding and Adventure Tourism of the Sectorial body for Tourism Hospitality, Training and Education (THETA) including the adventure and recreation industry.

This appointment included establishing of certificate qualifications and skills training programmes to the Adventure and Recreation Industry, based on the National Qualification Framework (NQF) criteria as part of an initiative by the National Government.

The ABL (Adventure Based Learning) SGB section of the Guiding and Adventure Tourism SGB leads the development of qualifications based on ABL unit standards.

The chairperson of the ABL-SGB section Mr Lood Spies, who was one of the founders of ARA was nominated to represent South Africa on an international workshop. This historic event was organised by the Australian National Training Authority between Canada, Australia, Britain and New Zealand to learn and share best practices,trends and challenges with regard to Vocational training initiatives in the Adventure Based Learning Industry (ABL) worldwide.

During June 2008 the Adventure and Recreation SGB section known as the ABL –SGB completed Phase 1 of writing NQF qualifications for the ABL Industry. NQF Levels 4 and 5 ABL Management qualification was registered with the South African Qualification Authority (SAQA) and the level 3 ABL qualifications regarding hard (technical) and soft (leadership and facilitation) skills training were submitted and awaiting final approval from SAQA.

ARA has never derailed from its original mandate to offer entry level training for the ABL Industry without compromising any quality and safety standards. ARA continues to offer training and certification programmes for instructors and facilitators and caters for the demand within the ABL and Outdoor Recreation Industry.

Over the last few years – ARA was faced with all kinds of challenges ranging from adversity or challenges from other similar industry role players that were competing in the same sphere, together with economical & political factors that lacked governmental backing or enforcement and a general uneducated industry perseption – that negatively influenced the organisations impact. During the month of MAY 2020 the ARA Executive Committee launched a Zoom meeting where the executive was mandated to rebuild the organisation – as the industry as a whole was in dire need of a voice and a specific organisation that could represent specific interests.

The following important action steps were identified:

• Create an updated and new website and to make online provision for free membership application and accreditation
• Build on the sound trek record of ARA and maintain the commitment /dedication to survive in tough times
• Visit and assess all ARA administrative policies and procedures
• Assess and relook the ARA Training Scheme which was tested and researched over many years with huge success
• Create an organisational culture characterized by professionalism and compliance
• To turn negative comments into positive solutions and opportunities

All like minded people in the ABL Industry are invited to enhance the ABL Industry by supporting a professional Governing Body to represent the views,interests, training needs,safety standards and good practice

We are looking forward to bring a new and revised ARA to lead, serve and facilitate solutions within a professional organization that will endeavor to serve and benefit the ABL industry in South Africa

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