Off the Beaten Track
Pics Wild magazine, www.nightjartravel.com
Bivane 4x4 Trail, Ithala Game Reserve, near Vryheid
This scenically spectacular reserve stretches from sandstone cliffs to forested riverbanks, with bushveld and grassland in between. The 17km Bivane Trail is a self-guided routes that requires low-range. It tackles rocky terrain and a few river crossings, offering drivers a technical challenge, grade 3 to 5. Do check conditions in the rainy season and remember there are no escape routes. The views alone make this trail worth doing, but you also have the chance of seeing elephants and giraffe, among other game. To enjoy that sense of being alone in the bush throughout your stay, overnight in Thalu Bush Camp, from R1 230 for three people, R205 an extra person. A second 4x4 trail, Ncence (24 km, grade 3), must be done with a guide and costs R200 a person.
Cost: R75 a vehicle, maximum seven vehicles a day.
Contact: Book with reception on arrival or on 034-983-2540. For accommodation, call Ezemvelo Central Reservations on 033-845-1000.
Bedrogfontein 4x4 Trail, Addo National Park, near Port Elizabeth
If you’re looking for a new perspective on Addo, take this 45km route climbing high into the Suurberg. Graded 2 to3, this trail features steep inclines and hairpin turns, as well as the option of a Grade 5 river crossing. Highlights include dramatic views, wildlife sightings and cycads. Allow all day as you need an hour’s travel time from Addo main camp to the start at Kabouga and another two hours back from Darlington. You could also stay at Kabouga the night before or after the trail. Keep things rustic and camp, which costs R120 a night for the first two people, R33 an extra person, or get comfortable self-catering in the cottage at R480 a night for two people, R172 an extra adult, R95 an extra child.
Cost: R515 a vehicle.
Contact: Book the trail and accommodation with Addo reception on 042-233-8619 or [email protected]
Caracal Eco Trail, Namaqua National Park, near Kamieskroon
It’s all about variety on this route, which wends its way from Skilpad rest camp in the heart of the wildflower reserve to Groen River Mouth at the coast. Picture game-rich grassy plains, gigantic boulders, dune fields and pretty bays. The driving isn’t very technical, although you’ll have to brave some steep dongas and soft sand. A detailed booklet with grid reference points will keep you on track. You’ll have to get an early start if you want to cover the nearly 200km and get back to Skilpad in one day. A better option is to pitch your tent at one of the coastal campsites, which are remote and almost completely wild. For the ultimate in seclusion, overnight at Luiperdskloof, a stone cottage tucked away in the mountains.
Cost: None for overnight visitors, otherwise R100 a vehicle.
Contact: Book the trail and Luiperdskloof with Namaqua reception on 027-672-1948.
Nyonyane 4x4 Trail, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, near Mbabane, Swaziland
The way up to Nyonyane Peak isn’t nearly as frightening as its other name, the ominous-sounding Rock of Execution. It’s a relatively easy off-road ramble with some steep bits and a few rocky sections. This trail is not about white-knuckle driving but about the incredible views of rolling hillsides and sculpted peaks. The distance can be easily covered in a morning, but pack a picnic and enjoy the outing. The way up leads past grassland where you may be lucky enough to see an oribi, one of the rare antelope that call Mlilwane home. There is a range of accommodation to choose from, but for something out of the ordinary stay in a traditional Swazi beehive hut.
Contact: Big Game Parks +268-2528-3943
Mananga 4x4 Trail, Kruger National Park, near Nelspruit
The game-rich plains around Satara are the setting for this 48km trail. If you’ve ever wondered what lies beyond Kruger’s tourist roads, this is your chance to venture into parts of the park that rarely see visitors. Because only six vehicles are allowed on the trail each day, you definitely won’t find yourself crowded at sightings. The trail starts 11km outside Satara and explores the knobthorn and marula savannah to the east of the H1-4. This area is known for herds of zebra, wildebeest and buffalo, as well as the big cats that prey on them. Be warned that the route may be closed after rain as in order to limit environmental damage the track is given time to dry out again.
Cost: R631,25 a vehicle, plus R100 cash deposit which is refunded on your return.
Contact: Book the trail with Satara reception on 013-735-6306 the night before you want to do it.
Source: Wild Magazine