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 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 run event organiser, 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, and will take place after registration at the event village located at the Sugar Loaf campsite on the Lake St Lucia Estuary. The second and third stages – covering 37km and 38km respectively – will explore the Maphelane and Eastern Shores sections of the Park.
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.
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.”