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Kruger National Park

Mountain Bike Trails

Justin Fox, a journalist who once visited Bateleur Bushveld Camp on assignment, wrote an article about the camp, it’s facilities and activities.

Head Guide John Adamson took him on various guided bush walks in the region, and one evening told him all about new projects in the Kruger National Park (KNP). He wrote in his article (Getaway Magazine, Sins of the Sons, August 2002, p. 78), jokingly accusing me of one of the forth-sighted sons of the KNP, with new ideas and fresh plans to take Eco tourism in the KNP one step further. Adamson didn’t agree with him then, but when this dream of Mountain Bike Trails in the KNP materialized, he knew what he meant.

In 1999 the idea was to start Mountain Bike Trails in the Kruger National Park. This project was started by Head Guide John Adamson this project and it was initially going to be launched at Bateleur Bushveld Camp, in the far northern region of the KNP. Adamson was transferred to Olifants Camp in the Northern Region, and re-assigned the project with me. Finally, after many proposals, the KNP Executive Committee approved the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment, also approved by DEAT). The Conservation Committee of the Board (SANParks) at Groenkloof in Pretoria awarded the final endorsement.

For the first time in the history of the KNP, we took 5 paid guests (USA) out on a Morning Mountain Bike Trail from Olifants Camp on 4 September 2003. The Mountain Bike Trails at Olifants Camp was officially opened. As far as New Zealand and America, guests and travel agents are inquiring about the MTB Trails.

The procedure for MTB Trails is very similar to the guided bush walks. There is place for a maximum of 6 participants per trail. Two qualified and armed field guides will lead the trails. Olifants Camp will supply the mountain bikes. Backpacks, water bottles, bicycle helmets and snacks will also be provided.

Departure times for the Mountain Bike Trails from Olifants Camp must be confirmed with reception. Times vary depending on the season. We offer Morning Mountain Bike Trails (4 hours duration) and Afternoon Mountain Bike Trails (3 hours Duration). The tariffs for the Mountain Bike Trails are as follows:

  • Morning Bike trail: R 550.00
  • Afternoon Bike trail: R 300.00
  • No persons under the age of 16 years are permitted on the MTB trails.

Olifants camp is situated high on a rocky outcrop, overlooking the Olifants River. This is the base camp for the Olifants River Hardekool Draai MTB Trail. Travel with your guide, in an open game-viewing vehicle, in a western direction on the main road. A dedicated Mountain Bike Trailer carries the bikes behind the vehicle.

The MTB trail starts at Hardekool-draai (the name originated from a huge Lead Wood tree, Combretum imberbi), on the banks of the Olifants River. A certain degree of fitness is necessary. The trail leads through Mopane veld, with the occasional view of the Olifants River. There are many "wild high ways" crossing the road. These "high ways" are game paths, constant used by hippo and other general game, walking to and from the river. After about 5km cycle, it is time to walk a "wild high way", designed by wild creatures.

The bikes are left and a short walk down to the river will have any wildlife enthusiast excited. Remember to wear comfortable walking shoes, a pair of binoculars and your bird reference book in your daypack. The guides are armed and have excellent knowledge of the area’s fauna and flora. The MTB trail continues over rocky terrain, superb for mountain biking for a further 5,7km where a small hippo path turns to the south, towards the Olifants River. Enjoy sumptuous snacks under a huge Sycamore Fig tree, overlooking grunting hippo wallowing in the Olifants River below. There are plenty of crocodile, elephant, buffalo and general game in this area. The bird life along the river is also outstanding. Return back to the game drive vehicle and remember the unspoiled wilderness encountered by foot and mountain bike. The cycle distance of this MTB trail is 21,4km.

The second Mountain Bike Trail is the longer of the MTB trails from Olifants camp. Only a short distance from the camp is the Mozambican boundary. You can look on a map and wonder what does it look like at the international border between South Africa and Mozambique, or you can join us on a morning out in the wilderness on a mountain bike. The guides will take you with a game viewing vehicle to the start of the Klipkoppies - Mozambique Border MTB Trail.

Cross the Letaba River on a fire break road, straight east. The vehicle is left and final preparations on the mountain bikes are done. Cycle early morning, straight into the sunrise through fantastic scenery of the KNP. Game encountered along the MTB trail can include buffalo, water buck, zebra, elephant, kudu and impala and many more. At a fork in the road, the guides will lead you southeast to the border between South Africa and Mozambique.

Enjoy your snacks on a hill, overlooking the Olifants River in the distance with Mozambique to the east. Be daring and put your hand through the fence to touch foreign soil before you take the trail back to the vehicle. Cycle down towards the Letaba River, enjoying the wonderful vista of unspoiled wilderness.

A fair level of skill and fitness is required for all the Mountain Bike Trails. Please remember appropriate comfortable bush clothing, insect repellent, binoculars, camera, correct footwear, hat, sun block lotion and personal medication. The guides carry a first aid kit and a hand held radio for communication with the base camp in cases of emergencies.

The two fully trained and skilled field guides will lead the trails. It is not a race and full bush interpretation will be done on the trail (interesting nature signs and wild life sightings). All safety drills and aspects regarding the trail will be demonstrated and communicated by the guides prior the trail. It will be compulsory to wear cycling helmets during all Mountain Bike Trails (supplied by Olifants Camp). Indemnity forms will have to be completed before the trail (makes the trail and the expectations more adventurous).

Should participants want to utilise their own personal Mountain Bikes, they are welcome to do so. The participants must then remember to take their own equipment i.e. puncture repair kits, tools, spares, tubes etc.

Since this is a new Adventure Activity offered by SANParks, we reserve the rights to change any procedures, tariffs and routes without prior notification.

As some clever guy, sometime in history stated "We set our lives by the images we get, but we get our lives by the imaginations we set"!

These Mountain Bike Trails was an image of an imagination, and is now reality created from a dream. Come and join us, and live the dream to cycle amongst wildlife inside the world-renowned Kruger National Park. It will be the best thing you have done in your life.

This Adventure Activity will generate much needed income for conservation and South Africa as a whole. The project might extend to other camps in the KNP, with Mopani Rest Camp and the 5 Bushveld Camps as possible venues.

To avoid disappointment, make a reservation today!

Bookings

At this stage reservations can be done directly with Olifants Camp, 2 days in advance by phoning the camp at (013) 735 6606 / 7. It can also be reserved directly with our central reservations office in Pretoria at (012) 428 9111 or reservations@sanparks.org

Acknowledgements:

All SANParks staff that contributed to the planning of the project and in particular Mr. David Mabunda, Mr. Glenn Philips, Mr. Josias Chabane, Mr. Ben Van Eeden, Mr. Joep Stevens, Mr. & Mrs. Herman & Suzi Mills, Mr. Robbie Powell, Mr. Fritz Pienaar, Mr. Heinrich Richter, Mr. Frans Laubsher, Mr. Louis Olivier, Mr. Oupa Modirwa, Mr. Joe Nkuna, Mr. Willie Engelbrecht, Mr. Piet Van Wyk, Dr. Freek Venter, Mr. Scott Ronoldson, Dr. Willem Gertenbach, Dr. Danie Pienaar, Mr. Jeffrey Makwala, Me. Mari Du Plessis, Me. Antionette Van Wyk, Mr. Don Boysen and Mr. Julia Makansi. Last but not least, all the enthusiastic Mountain Bike cyclists that will support this project, thank you for your commitment towards conservation and wilderness.

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