iSimangaliso Trail Challenge Launched
Pics Terence Vrugtman, AdventureLifeSA
There is, quite simply, nowhere else like it: to watch – while running along game tracks on the top of the highest vegetated coastal dunes on the African continent – southern right whales in the Indian Ocean below, hippo and flamingo in Lake St Lucia to the west and big game in close proximity.
The inaugural iSimangaliso Trail Challenge – the latest addition to the Park’s Eco-Series events – will take place from the 7th-9th July 2017. It’s the first running event of this nature to be hosted in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Challenge offers a rare opportunity to unplug from the world – and instead move to the timeless rhythms of this miraculous land of prolific wildlife, magnificent birds, ancient fossil beds, sweeping vistas and haunting landscapes.
The full moon night run after registration (Stage 1) will be a great ice-breaker for participants to warm up the legs and take in the crab-strewn beaches in the light of the moon.
“The event has been a long time coming,” says Andrew Zaloumis, iSimangaliso’s CEO. “A number of possibilities have been discussed over the years, and it’s finally coming to fruition in a format that will give runners the chance to really immerse themselves in an authentic iSimangaliso experience. To be able to stand on the highest ancient vegetated dunes in Africa, watch southern right whales along the coast, see hippos to the left and buffalo in close proximity, is to truly appreciate the Park’s splendour. And on foot, particularly, the breadth, depth and diverse expanse of the Park can be felt – there is nowhere else quite like it on this globe.”
iSimangaliso is pleased to partner with seasoned trail running event organisers, KZN Trail Running, for this exciting event, and together, the team has devised an outstanding route. The trail run will consist of three stages. The first is a 6km evening beach run at full moon on Friday night that will take place after registration at the event village located at the Sugar Loaf campsite on the Lake St Lucia Estuary and is open to race entrants and spectators alike. The second and third stages – covering 37km and 38km respectively – will explore the Maphelane and Eastern Shores sections of the Park.
Participants will take in the Jolly Rubino ship-wreck, along with kilometres of pristine, deserted beaches.
“I think we’ll see people travelling from far and wide to experience the iSimangaliso Trail Challenge,” says Andrew Booth of KZN Trail Running. “The final stage from Cape Vidal to St Lucia along the Eastern Shores offers a particularly unique experience. The course runs along pristine beaches, rocky ledges and coastal dunes, and at times ventures inland to make its way through indigenous forest and across big game open grassland – under the watchful eye of game rangers, of course.”
The event follows strict environmental guidelines and best practice. Runners will be taken through a compulsory dangerous game briefing and the route will be scouted immediately before and during each day’s run. Participants will run in groups in the big game sections and routed away from identified big game. Route marshals will also be in contact with organisers throughout the event to communicate any dangerous spots.
“This is not a race to see who can finish first,” says Zaloumis. “It’s about giving runners the chance to connect with a place of global significance and beauty, to get off well-worn tracks and discover South Africa’s first World Heritage Site in the raw.” In fact, he recommends taking it easy and slowing down regularly to absorb the surroundings and get a real sense of the absolute splendour of iSimangaliso.
The towering forests at Maphelane are a feature of Stage 2, where participants will have red duiker and narina trogons for company.
Participation in the event is also about giving back. Thirty percent of the entry fee is a compulsory donation to the iSimangaliso Rare and Endangered Species Fund – which to date has made possible the reintroduction of lions and other species like wild dog and oribi back into the Park, contributed towards the cost of collars for tracking and research purposes, and much more.
According to iSimangaliso’s Marketing Manager, Lindy Duffield, “Multiple stage events are not always well-suited to family and spectators, but the iSimangaliso Trail Challenge takes place in the school holidays and provides several opportunities for spectators to enjoy the Park and its activities, including the popular Lake St Lucia Estuary boat trips. The first stage of the event – the full moon beach run – will also be open to everyone to enjoy. And for others taking quiet time out, there is little to match iSimangaliso’s tranquillity.”
The inaugural event will take place 7-9 July 2017. Entries are open on www.iSimangalisotrailchallenge.co.za and are limited to 220 participants.
For Park information, visit www.isimangaliso.com