• On yer bike - Africa’s iconic bicycle safaris...

    Text by Gareth Hardres-Williams
    Cover image courtesy of Wilderness Safaris

On yer bike!  Africa’s iconic bicycle safaris… 

by Gareth Hardres-Williams, 13 November 2017

A safari to Africa is a bucket list item for so many.  The idea of seeing Africa’s wildlife up close and personal, experiencing those ionic sights and sounds and immersing yourself in a travel experience like no other is what the safari is all about.  Now imagine doing all of that, but on a bicycle.  Madness you may think, but no, there are some great ways of experiencing Africa on two wheels as opposed to four, and here we take a look at a few ways you can do just that.

Now, obviously on a bicycle you are going to have a very different safari experience than you would have on a game drive vehicle and this difference should be expected and relished.  Don’t expect to be enjoying unrivaled views of a leopard in a tree, or to be up close and personal with a hungry pride of lions.  No, the cycling and safari option gives you a very unique safari experience and is perhaps something that should be considered for those who have already experienced the “traditional” vehicle-based safari.

There are a number of options available to those of you who enjoy cycling and wilderness and we explore just some of them below.  These options include the most untamed of mountain bike races, where game viewing is not the focus, to leisurely rides in the African bush where game viewing most certainly is the objective.  Whatever your fancy on two wheels, Africa has an option for you, so strap on your helmet and get pedaling…

Africa offers so much choice for the safari goer and now more and more there are safari options involving a bicycle in some way or another.  

Photo credit: Great Plains Conservation

The ABSA Cape Epic

“Africa’s toughest stage race“…

Right, so a very quick caveat on this event is that it is not a leisurely safari ride – this is a race and a tough one at that.  Why on the list of safari bike rides then, you may well ask?  Well, I don’t think any self-respecting list of “cycling adventures in Africa” can exist without including the Epic.  This is an enormously popular and extremely tough multistage mountain biking race that pits professionals against amateurs in a week of mountainous exploration around the Western Cape.  There is no time on this ride to stop and smell the fynbos, or even to really marvel at the gorgeous landscapes, even though you will traverse the stomping ground of the Cape Mountain Leopard as you huff and puff over the tough route.  What we do suggest doing though is rewarding yourself after the race with a relaxing luxury safari.  The “ABSA Cape Epic” typically happens in March, so a trip to the Greater Kruger National Park to recuperate is very much in the offing as the summer is in full swing here with adventure around every corner.  You will need to book early though, both for the race and the safari – two very popular adventures.

Highlights include…

  • Proper, internationally renowned MTB race
  • Superbly well organized
  • Chance to rub shoulders with the “who’s who” of  the international MTB circuit
  • Seen through the perspiration and dust are incredible mountains and wilderness of the Western Cape

The ABSA Cape Epic is a chance to race in Africa, but not a safari ride.  This is for the experienced mountain biker looking for that next challenge, but of course Mammoth Safaris will be ready and waiting at the finish line to whisk you off on a luxury safari as the ultimate reward.

Photo credit: Nik Muzik | Sportzpics

The Nedbank Tour de Tuli 

“Now, this is not a race – but what a journey”…

So we have spoken about the toughness of the “Cape Epic” – that race of extremes for the hardened rider, well here is something a whole lot different.  The most important distinction between an event like the Epic and the Nedbank Tour de Tuli (TdT)is that the Nedbank TdT is all about fun and DOES offer you the opportunity to stop and enjoy some game viewing along the way.  This 4 day event traverses 3 countries, taking in Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa – crisscrossing the famed Tuli Game Reserve and ending in the World Heritage Site of the Mapungubwe National Park in South Africa.  You will see wildlife en route and you have the chance to stop and enjoy it (albeit from a safe and well managed distance), but the emphasis is on the bike more than the game viewing.

There is a terrific “feel good” factor to this ride too, and more than the great riding in wonderful wilderness, one can take heart from knowing that your participation in this event makes a wonderful contribution to the children who live in these wilderness communities.  The Nedbank TdT is the primary fund raising event for the organization “Children in the Wilderness” and offers cyclists the opportunity to make a real contribution to both conservation and community in these remote parts of Africa.

The Nedbank TdT ride typically happens in late July and this is an ideal time to enjoy a safari in Botswana’s Okavango Delta and we would suggest twinning this ride with a delta adventure.

Highlights include…

  • Traverse 3 different countries
  • Exceptional African terrain
  • Superbly well organized and fabulously catered
  • Your participation makes a significant contribution to conservation and social upliftment

The Nedbank Tour de Tuli is a truly special cycling experience, with ample opportunity to take in the majesty of the regions you cycle through. Elephant tend to proliferate in this area and cyclists are lead by experienced cycle leaders who understand the inherent risks and accordingly manage things very effectively 

Photo credit: C. Culbert | Wilderness Safaris

Great Plains Conservation #rideforlions

“experience Kenya like never before”…

Kenya and the Amboseli-Tsavo region are synonymous with safari – and now you can experience that safari on two wheels, all whilst making a contribution to conservation by participating in the Great Plains “Ride for Lions”.

The Ride for Lions is a conservation initiative as much as it is a cycle adventure and is aimed at raising awareness as to the plight of lions in Africa – whilst also raising much needed funds for the land required to conserve lions.  The Ride for Lions takes groups limited to 10 cyclists on an unprecedented cycle adventure and thrillingly combines an active conservation experience with the comforts and security of the professional Great Plains operations.  A prefect adventure for a large family group or collection of 10 friends.  The Ride for Lions is a 4-day cycling exploration of Kenya’s spectacular Amboseli-Tsavo region.

Never far from the bulk of Mount Kilimanjaro, riders follow bush tracks, elephant trails and footpaths. Cyclists will pick there way though the savannah and wetlands, all teeming with game, before gradually climbing into the lava world of the Chyulu Hills.

Highlights include…

  • Great Plains luxury
  • Cycling through incredible scenery
  • Riders make a real conservation contribution
  • An intimate connection to an iconic part of Kenya

Up close and personal with some of Kenya’s quintessential wildlife – these are some of the experiences that can be enjoyed whilst “riding for lions”.

Image credit: Great Plains Conservation

Cycle Mashatu

“A mountain biking safari holiday”…

Cycle Mashatu has been pioneering mountain biking holidays in the African wilderness since 2003 and operates these cycling safaris in South Africa and Botswana.  The tour packages range from 4 to 10 day guided mountain bike safaris.

A Cycle Mashatu safari is an opportunity to experience Africa from a different perspective, allowing one to traverse a variety of terrains, from picturesque mountain trails to flowing single track in big game wilderness reserves.

Mashatu Game Reserve is located in the Northern Tuli Game Reserve of Botswana which is situated between the Tuli Safari Area, a national park in Zimbabwe and the Mapungubwe National Park, a World Heritage Site in South Africa.  It is here that Cycle Mashatu offers its tours, sharing unfenced borders with both the South African and Zimbabwean national parks in the south and north respectively.

Highlights include…

  • Experienced guides
  • True African Wilderness
  • Cultural heritage
  • Cycle in a World Heritage Site

The team from Cycle Mashatu have years of experience guiding cyclists around the African bush and expertly and safely combine the adventure of cycling with the thrill of safari.

Photo credit: Wetu

African Safari on a bike – a summary

Suffice it to say, Africa offers a number of cycling options to the enthusiast who is keen to experience more than just a quiet stretch of single track or yet another mountain climb.  Here is a brief summary of the options we suggest exploring…

The Cape Epic, Cape Town – a tough, proper race in beautiful surrounds.  Race first, then safari as reward. When – MARCH

The Tour de Tuli, Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa – challenging enough terrain to test any level of cyclist, but this stage “race” ridden at a pace that allows for enjoyment of the scenery.  The cycle is the safari.  When – JULY

Ride for Lions, Kenya – A truly spectacular way to experience Kenya.  This is a more of a luxury safari on two wheels. When – MAY

Cycle Mashatu, Botswana and South Africa – experience the thrills of mountain biking and the comforts of safari lodge accommodation.  When – YEAR ROUND

For the cycling enthusiast  Africa does offer so much opportunity to twin the love of bicycles and the open spaces with a wonderfully unique wildlife experience.

Photo credits: Great Plains Conservation

How to arrange the cycle safari of a lifetime…
For more information on how to book your African cycling expedition, twinned with a search for wilderness, adventure and a safari, please contact a member of our sales team by sending an email to info@mammothsafaris.com and visit www.mammothsafaris.com for more destinations and journey ideas.