Exploring Abelana on two wheels
Abelana Game Reserve is fast emerging as one of South Africa’s newest and most exciting mountain bike destinations, thanks to its breathtaking (and challenging) landscapes, outstanding natural beauty and, of course, its wildlife!
We’ve already hosted successful tours with leading mountain bike operator Escape Cycle Tours and recently welcomed them back again, this time with well known cycling journalists and influencers. With our very own trails guide John Fouche taking the lead, the groups were based at Abelana Safari Camp and ventured out into our wonderful 15,000ha wilderness, exploring the dramatic granite koppies and outcrops of the south as well as the wonderful riparian forests along the Selati River in the north.
“We launched our Escape Big Five MTB tours in September last year,” says Cameron Murray, who heads up Escape Cycle Tours. “It offers a unique safari experience in South Africa, not just for cyclists but for non-cycling partners as well,” explains Cameron. “It’s the perfect antedote for the lockdown blues for adventurers and nature lovers looking for a biking experience like no other, and is a great way to have a wilderness experience using a mountain bike as a mode of transport,” he adds.
Escape Cycle Tours was established in 2004 and specialises in crafting personalised cycling itineraries with the emphasis on guided wilderness safaris. “The diverse and breathtakingly beautiful topography at Abelana gives us the opportunity to bring riders to a Big Five reserve where the focus is not necessarily on the Big Five, but on a holistic, back-to-nature wilderness experience in an environment where you might also see these iconic animals,” says Cameron.
Fitness and experience are not a barrier to enjoying what Abelana has to offer from a cycling point of view. “Escape Cycle Tours offers e-bikes to guests who are worried about their level of fitness or abilities, allowing them to enjoy the trails and keep up with the more experienced riders,” says Cameron. “The Abelana cycle tours are also not overly technical, although we do like to throw in the odd challenge to our riders,” he adds mischievously.
“We do like to surprise our riders with the odd incline and ‘grind’ up steeper parts of the reserve,” says Cameron. “And there are always sandy river beds that need negotiating and require you getting off and walking your bike across,” he says. “But for the most part our trails are not difficult, being designed to give you the thrill of riding in a Big Five reserve, viewing game as you go and stopping regularly to take in the amazing views.”
The trails routes have been developed by Cameron and John and take in some of the most spectacular parts of Abelana Game Reserve, from waterholes and bodies of water like Lone Tree Dam, Hope Dam and Dube Dube Pan to stunning view points over the Selati and among the koppies that make the south of the reserve so special. Riders also have the advantage of John’s expert guiding skills and learn all about the fascinating Abelana eco-system, its geology and the flora and fauna that call it home as they go.
“Our trails include rest breaks at scenic spots where riders can fill up with coffee, snacks like muffins and fresh fruit and just take a breather while enjoying the bush around them,” says Cameron. “And there’s plenty of time to relax back in camp between rides, taking in the amazing viewing deck at Abelana Safari Camp or just relaxing with a cool drink on the patio of your luxury safari tent,” he adds.