With just over six weeks to go, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage site is gearing up to host the second epic, iSimangaliso MTB 4 Day, from 21-24 August 2014 and the good news is that there are still a few spots open!
Following the massive success of the inaugural event in 2013, organiser Shane Webster and his team of experienced riders have been hard at work fine tuning an even better ride for 2014. The route encompasses some 270 km of some of the most pristine parts of this world heritage site’s eight eco-systems. The route will take riders though the 332 000 hectare park and adjoining conservation areas. Participants are promised a unique and unbeatable experience in big game country, including possible encounters with wildlife such as elephant, rhino, lion and hippo in some of the country’s wildest landscapes; pristine scenery and breathtaking natural beauty. From the heights of the stunning Lebombo Mountains, with views across to iSimangaliso’s False Bay and coastline – where the trail finally ends – the route drops off onto a downhill section and flattens out as the riders head towards the finish at Lake St Lucia Estuary.
“The new ride options are more exciting, bringing in lots of single track and stunning trails sections,” says Shane. “For example, the second day’s improved route through Phinda takes riders on a much more exciting track, and in the False Bay section, tar has been replaced by part of the Ingwe Trail through the forest – the single track specialists will be frothing at the mouth!” he adds. “Heading into Bonamanzi, changes include bridges, waterholes and single track again – an awesome ending to Day Two.”
Four of iSimangaliso’s main sections are covered: uMkhuze, False Bay, Western Shores, and Eastern Shores, as well as spectacular parts of Phinda, the floodplain areas of Hluhluwe River Lodge alongside False Bay, and the Bonamanzi bushveld. Riders traverse some really off-the-grid areas, using game paths, management tracks and as little actual road as possible. You don’t need to be superman to conquer the challenge but proven experience in long distance rides (>75km) is essential.
iSimangaliso CEO Andrew Zaloumis says: : “This is not a race to see who can finish first; it’s a ride experience that enables riders to get off the beaten track and discover Africa’s first World Heritage site in the raw.” In fact, he recommends taking it easy and slowing down now and then to absorb the surroundings. “Those who did so last year were rewarded with amazing sightings including elephant, white and black rhino and a couple of pythons. This year there is the added possibility of encountering uMkhuze’s new lions.”
The event follows strict environmental guidelines – riders cycle in pairs and are taken through a compulsory dangerous game briefing. Route scouting, immediately before and during each days ride is undertaken – riders are routed away from known herds or prides, and route marshals are in contact with race organisers to communicate any potentially dangerous spots. Riding pairs are also given a tracker.
With the last two days (Saturday and Sunday) using St Lucia as a base, it also offers spectators and families the opportunity to make a weekend of it, at this resort – beach, bush and bikes, it’s a winning combination,” he says.
Benefiting Communities and Environment
The event’s main sponsor, Nashua, will once again donate equipment including photocopier machines to schools in the park’s neighbouring areas through which the route passes – making a real difference to some of South Africa’s most under-resourced communities.
A key driver of the iSimangaliso’s Eco-Series, which includes this four day mountain bike ride, is the raising of funds for iSimangaliso’s Rare and Endangered Species Fund through the compulsory ‘conservation contribution’ portion of the entrance fee. Last year’s ride raised over R102 000 which was spent on the purchase of satellite collars for introduced oribi and lion, and horn transmitters for rhino in iSimangaliso. “This year iSimangaliso’s special conservation goal is the re-introduction of eland. Eland are the last species of historically occurring game still to be returned to iSimangaliso. We hope the 2014 ride will raise around R400 000 for hard conservation projects,” says Andrew Zaloumis.