If you’re looking for a trail for the tougher outdoorsman, the Marakele trail may be right up your alley. If you’re looking for a quick weekend trail, however, this is not the one to choose.
The 4×4 Eco Trail lies within the Marakele park and while it’s guided, you have to be completely self-sufficient. It opened for the 2013 season last weekend. Only vehicles with low-range gearing are allowed to participate, and groups of up to five vehicles with four occupants each can be taken on the three-day excursion. On the trip, you overnight at completely undeveloped camp sites, with a porta-loo at the first and a loo with a shower at the second. By undeveloped, we mean that you take your own braai, wood, food, lights, sleeping gear and off-road gear. This is roughing it at its best, and the scenery and trail meet the challenge as well.
Marakele National Park is set in the Waterberg biosphere and the scenery is rugged, thickly vegetated and diverse. The Leisure Wheels team recently travelled to the park to find out what’s changed with several improvements made over the last year, and you can read about the trip in the June issue of the magazine, or go to the photo gallery here.
The Eco Trail is a separate event, however. The group departs from the main gate/reception every Tuesday and Friday at 13h00, and returns Thursday and Sunday respectively. Campers still have to book, however, and the route ends at the Moralane gate on the other side of the park. Your guide ranger will equip the group with radios and stop regularly to enlighten guests about the rich wildlife in the park, and this is an especially good destination for avid birders.
The actual 49km trail is challenging, hence the exclusion of vehicles without low-range. It crosses the Matlabas river and countless small streams, and is in places incredibly marshy and muddy. There are also several rocky sections, so a tyre compressor is an absolute must. Waterfalls along the way make it not only beautiful but interesting, and there are a few very steep inclines to negotiate as well.
Costs and information:
Open: From the first Sunday in April until the last Saturday in October
Rate: R3007 per vehicle, catering excluded
Children: Kids under the age of 12 are not allowed on the route without prior arrangement being made with SANParks.
Bookings: Call 012 428 9111 or email [email protected] You can also phone the Marakele main gate/reception 014 777 6928/29/30 for information about the weather, state of the roads and space available, but not for bookings.
For more information on the trail from SANParks, go here: SANParks
IMPORTANT NOTE: Since some of the reviews above were written, improvements have been made at the Park. It is, in fact, a Big Five park, with Buffalo having been added recently. The self-drive route and 4×4 trail are not the same as the Eco trail, and the former is a completely different experience. The little shop at the reception gate was well stocked with ice and provisions when our team visited the Park in March. There are now three ablution facilities at Bontle camp with 12 to 13 electrified camp sites each, and new facilities being built. The Tlopi tented camp is well maintained and definitely our pick.
What to take:
Trail-goers must take their own food, firewood, water, rubbish bags, tyre compressors and sleeping gear. There’s no place to turn around, so only low-range vehicles are allowed and seed nets for radiators are recommended. Below is SANParks’ suggested packing list:
Tent, tent pegs and hammer.
portable shower, ground sheet, spade, broom
Sleeping bag, towels and pillow
Inflatable mattress and pump
Two torches with extra batteries
Folding table and chairs
Gas stove/cooker, handy braai and gas bottle
Refuse bags, toilet paper, pot scourer and dishwashing liquid
Hot water flask, washing cloth and drying cloth
Braai grid and stand, wood
2 x 25 litre water containers
Refrigerator or cooler box for ice and meat
Cooking pot and kettle
Plastic tub for washing up
Fire extinguisher, insect repellent, paper towels
Table cloth, cutlery, crockery, mugs, classes
Wooden spoon, carving board, can opener, egg lifter and cutting knife
All necessary spanners, sockets etc.
Gas utility spares
Tyre repaire kit
Cable ties and tie-down straps
Epoxy glue and prestik
Personal medication, antihistamine (tablets and ointment), eye drops, paracetamol, stingose, cotton wool or gauze, plasters and bandages, scissors and tweezers
Personal toiletries, road maps, camera, binoculars, hat/cap, raincoat, reference books for birders etc., food and beverages