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A new kind of recreational park, Go Ape, has arrived in Modderfontein

Go Ape is an aerial forest park in Modderfontein where children and adults can complete tree-based obstacle courses. We chatted to owner, Mike Catton, about how he left the corporate world to Go Ape!

How did your business start?
I was involved in a high-end security business but was tired of being in the corporate world. I’d seen the idea for these kinds of recreational parks in the UK, and I thought that I’d like to start one for myself, so that I could wear shorts and strops to work. So in 2014, I found the trees, recruited a team of guys to help me build, and here we are. Those guys are my guides today.

Why did you choose this area to set up shop?
To build this kind of obstacle course, you need thick, straight trees. I’d been searching for the right location with mature trees, but hadn’t managed to find anything. I was even starting to consider doing it with poles – but then I came to collect someone to take them to the airport, and I spotted this site by fluke. I did some research, contacted the owners and they agreed to lease me the land.

How did you find your premises?
I live in Fourways, but I had to be in an area with suitable trees, so the premises actually found me!

Why are they ideally suited to your business?
The trees make the business, people want to come and be in the outdoors, and they are hard to come by in an urban environment. We were also able to hire toilet facilities from the church next door. The people who own the land are also building more infrastructure for us to use as offices and store rooms.

Who are your neighbours?
We have the church on the one side, and residential all around us. Further afield there are the Modderfontein restaurants and breweries.

What are the shop rental / sales prices like in this area?
Office space in the area is relatively affordable because it’s a destination in its own right – nobody passes through. I pay a reasonable rate per square meter, but until recently, I didn’t have any infrastructure. And when I do, the prices will go up.

How many people go through your store each day?
We get 80% of our business on weekends when children from about four or five to 15 come through but, in the week, we do get teambuilding corporates – I’ve had banks and attorneys coming through. Each month, we average around 1,000 to 1,100 people.

Do you have any expansion plans?
Yes, but not necessarily on this site. We’re looking at creating climbing walls for gymnasiums, and building an indoor arena for fun climbing for kids.

Do you operate online as well?
We have a website, and you can make booking queries online.

What’s your most popular item?
Our most popular courses are the orange course and the blue course, which are the mid-length and mid-difficulty courses. The longer and higher you go, the more costly the course. And we also have a green course for kids between five and seven.
See for yourself:
Go Ape
072 544 0415

Words: Georgina Guedes | Images: Supplied

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