iSimangaliso: riding for conservation

19 Sep 2016

The crowning event in iSimangaliso’s Eco-Series, the iSimangaliso MTB 4 Day powered by Nashua, exceeded all expectations this year with some 250 riders enjoying yet another spectacular trip through the World Heritage Site and surrounding lands.

A key component of the iSimangaliso MTB 4 Day, as with other Eco-Series events, is the compulsory contribution towards the iSimangaliso Rare and Endangered Species Fund. This single event raised a further R230 000 to be spent exclusively on conservation initiatives for the Park’s protected wildlife. And this year, in addition to the host of activities that included renowned history raconteur Rob Caskie keeping the audience enthralled with his stories of classic South Africa battles, an auction was held on the last evening for the opportunity for a group of four to experience the introduction of a coalition of three new male lions into the uMkhuze section.

The response was an incredibly generous donation of R27 000 by riders Anton and Sue Van Langelaar, seen below with daughter Karien and friend Bernard. The amount covered the full costs of fuel for a flight by Bateleur pilot Ryan Beeton to fly the lions from Tswalu Kalahari Reserve to uMkhuze, where the males will join resident lionesses to form new prides with stronger genetic diversity. The immobilising drugs and satellite collars for the lions are paid for through the Rare and Endangered Species Fund.

The three handsome young men will swell the ranks and strengthen the resilience of the current uMkhuze population.


One ride, eight eco-systems



While Mother Nature threw all sorts of weather challenges into the mix – including lightning, rain and wind forcing last second track changes to less muddy routes (with some incredibly fast remarking and redeployment of marshals!) – this only served to enhance the experience of a truly diverse ride that had the participants unanimously agreeing that “the ride and route just keep getting better and better”.

According to ride organiser Shane Webster of Skydata Events, “The feedback from every entrant has been overwhelming, and testimony to this year’s success has been the huge positive response to the social media campaign.”

Several daily posts on the event’s Facebook site by the team from Jarman Digital kept riders, supporters and armchair spectators riveted as the interactive medium allowed them to vicariously experience both the action and the spectacular changing scenery depicting the diversity of the Park.

It’s not just about sport

iSimangaliso Area Manager Robert Mhlongo (left) has for the past few events been responsible for the recruitment, training, deployment and associated logistics of twenty marshals from the surrounding communities. This year he was assisted by Mthokozisi Shelembe from Mdletshe (who worked the past two events as a marshal), who will take the lead as Marshal Coordinator in future. The marshals showed fantastic spirit as always, cheering and directing the riders onwards.
“Since its inception, the event has been a contributor to the delivery of tangible benefits from conservation in the region. With iSimangaliso situated in the second poorest part of South Africa, the iSimangaliso MTB 4 Day’s employment, training, and support to seven schools adjacent to the Park is significant. What is more, the number of community members enjoying watching the riders along the route is increasing each year,” commented Robert Mhlongo.


“Words from Italy here. Fabrizio and I, Francesco, have finally been able to find some time to put our heads together and write a proper Thank You to you!

The experience was amazing, the organization was flawless and the event was just stunning. This not only thanks to the setting, the scenery and the game, but also for the atmosphere and the people we met there.

The days after the event were beautiful and worth repeating!

Thank you and thank you again for the unforgettable chance you gave us!”

With the event now firmly placed on the annual MTB calendar and gathering a huge popularity countrywide (approximately one third of riders hailed from the Cape this year) as well as interest from abroad, iSimangaliso is now expanding its offering to include two new Eco-Series events: a trail run and a surf ski event. Both events are at pilot stage this year and promise to open up yet more opportunities for visitors to participate in sport, recreation and appreciation of the unique and outstanding universal values for which iSimangaliso was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Watch this space! And for those who are interested in participating in next year’s ride, don’t delay in adding your name to the waiting list at

Media enquiries should be directed to Bronwyn Coppola +27 83 450 9111 or