When I was presented with the opportunity to shoot a Trail Daze episode that included riding in a game reserve, among wildlife, I didn’t hesitate. There is something magical about the thought of sharing the soil with free roaming creatures. It’s a riding experience that isn’t available around every corner and certainly not back home in the Western Cape (as far as I am aware). We headed to a province not yet featured in Trail Daze – Limpopo. It is scenic, diverse, and rich in wildlife. Our destination was Summerplace Game Reserve, a 3,500 hectare family-owned guest farm just a few kilometres outside the small town of Vaalwater.
Traveling from Cape Town, it is a quick and easy flight to O.R. Tambo International Airport. Followed by a 3 hour mellow drive along the N1 / R33 towards Vaalwater. Our vehicle for the week was the spacious and ultra-luxurious Mercedes-Benz V-Class V300d, which ate up the kilometres effortlessly.
The small town of Vaalwater is your last chance to stock up on supplies. It offers a Spar, an excellent bakery, and butchery. It’s only a few kilometres (with a bit of gravel road) to the game reserve gates. It’s not long before you’re exposed to an abundance of wildlife as you make your way to the Bike Village – the centre point of your Summerplace experience. During our stay we saw giraffe, roan antelope, sable, tsessebe, blue wildebeest, zebra, impala, and warthogs to name a few. There are apparently also a handful of leopards in the area but as it goes with most wild cat species, they are very elusive and typically avoid all human contact, and do not pose a threat to cyclists.
As for the riding, Summerplace offers an exceptional amount of diversity and options. With over a 100 kilometres of marked trails, there are endless combinations offering different difficulty levels. They cater for marathon riders looking for hours in the saddle, but also XCO, trail and enduro riders looking for technical ascents and descents. Landowner, trail builder and avid mountain biker David Baber cleverly makes use of the natural flow and topography of the hills to include rock features, gullies and other elements unique to the bushveld – ensuring an engaging and interesting ride with mega stoke each time you head out.
You don’t even have to bring your own bike. The Bike Village offers (among other things) rentals of a wide range of the latest Specialized mountain bikes, including e-bikes. This was particularly convenient for us coming from Cape Town, as traveling with a bike can be a bit of a hassle, and one less item to worry about is a huge bonus.
Summerplace offers a truly unique mountain biking experience amongst the natural African bush and wildlife. It has become one of our favourite riding weekend getaways. The trails are raw and engaging, but still have an amazing flow to them. Dave and his trail building team have managed to incorporate the natural features of the area into their trails perfectly. To start the day with a good coffee, ride, and then finish with a beer or glass of wine at the Bike Village just adds to the world class experience. This place ticks all of the boxes and is one of those must-visit destinations for any mountain biker.Sam Bull
My family and I like to visit Summerplace quite regularly for the great trails and peaceful bush getaways. It’s not too far from Jo’burg and the accommodation is reasonably priced. As an Enduro racer, I love that the trails are well-built and while there are proper technical sections, there’s always good flow, even in the rocky stuff. Also, the scenery is beautiful and being a game reserve, wild animal encounters are quite common.Cade Badenhorst
Directions & permits
Google Map: Summerplace Game Reserve
Day visitor permits can be purchased at the Bike Village for R150, otherwise it’s all included with your accommodation for the duration of your stay.
Be sure to keep an eye out for the next episode, where we bring you a visual essay from another awesome South African trail.