Tranquilitas Adventure Farm is one of the greatest rock climbing destinations in South Africa, but that isn’t the only activity it offers. There’s also a myriad mountain-biking options.
If you’re into rock climbing, you’re probably familiar with Tranquilitas Adventure Farm. Situated on the hilltops above Waterval Boven, and overlooking Elands Valley and Waterval Onder in Mpumalanga, it offers unbelievable climbing opportunities. In fact, it boasts no less than 600 bolted routes. But Tranquilitas isn’t just about rock climbing. The farm has also developed a network of phenomenal mountain-bike trails with quality singletrack that rivals just about anything else you’ll find in South Africa. The trails have been cut to cater for all skill levels, from the beginner to the advanced rider.
Trail master Glenn Harrison has designed the trails to be fast and flowing, incorporating as many landmarks and historical sites as the region has to offer. The climbs are smooth and follow the contours of the landscape, resulting in a quick elevation gain without too many gear changes. So, while the elevation gains mentioned below might seem daunting, you can rest assured that they will be challenging without becoming frustrating or bike-breaking. Moreover, Tranquilitas has a great mix of trails: you can go for a quick ride, or stay out all day, should you wish. There are both long and short trails that cater to every level. One of the toughest trails (Trail X), for example, is just 2.5km long, while one of the easier trails (The Gink) has a length of 18km.
THE TRAILS SECRET FOREST (BLUE) 7km
Start at the trail entrance of Tranquilitas Farm and snake up the path, following the blue arrows. Follow the singletrack through the forest and out onto the escarpment for an enjoyable ride with excellent views. Around 3km of fast downhill singletrack through grassland switchbacks will lead you back to the farm gate.
ROOIBAARD (RED) 12.5km
Start this trail at the trail entrance and follow the red arrows into the forest. Take the red split left, over the log bridge. Follow red arrows up a good forest climb, passing the Boer War graves, and through a gap in an old stone wall. This is followed by some fast-flowing trail through the forest to join up with the blue loop until just past a lookout point, where the trails split. As you exit the next forest, you cross a cattle bridge and follow singletrack through grassland with some amazing views of the Elands Valley. You then climb steeply up to the top of a koppie, with a spectacular 360-degree view of the countryside. A fast drop through an old quarry will see you back in the forest, heading towards some steep descents, a few drop-offs and some fun berms.
BLACK MAGIC (BLACK)4.5km
Opposite the start of the Red and Blue routes on the right-hand side of the road is the Black trail. The route climbs slowly up through a field, and then joins the Blue and Red trails. The trail then crosses a log bridge and climbs up to a gap in a stone wall. Here it heads left through a rock garden and down rocky drop-offs. Steep bridge drops follow, as well as narrow bridges and fast downhills before leading back to the trail start.
GREEN MILE (GREEN) 3km
This trail is a good warm-up, with its start either at the campsite or at the gate above the dam. It is a circular route that climbs up behind the campsite (a very rocky section) and around the front of the escarpment. The trail is short and fun, with great views of the valley below.
GREEN MILE (ORANGE) 2.5km
Start as per the Green trail and head right towards the waterfall. Be aware that the trail is shared for a short section with climbers and hikers. Head down a timber catwalk towards the waterfall and over the bridge, keeping right onto the bike trail for some more bridge crossings, serious switchbacks and great views of the indigenous forest and streams. Ride the trail back in reverse or take the steep jeep track to the top of the ridge.
THE GINK (PINK ARROWS) 18km
Follow the pink arrows. This route will take you into the Sappi forest with some amazing views of the hidden valley above Waterval Boven. A combination of jeep track and downhill singletrack will take you through a pine forest. You’ll find loads of interesting singletrack through the forest with relatively easy climbs and flowing downhills to finally finish on the secret forest downhill track that leads back to the campsite. Total elevation on this trail is 349m.
MOUNTAIN TRAVERSE (YELLOW 42km 986M ELEVATION)
This is the longest and most strenuous route in the Tranquilitas trail network, but it is definitely worth the effort. This trail takes you to the highest point on the opposite ridge to the farm, which provides truly spectacular views. You complete an exciting run through a pine plantation on the ridge, then tackle winding singletrack through grassland, and finally contend with a heart-stopping 5km drop to the river crossing. This is a great downhill, but there is little time to enjoy the view. This is followed by a relaxed climb back to the campsite.
THE TRANQUILITAS RIM TRAIL 8km
This trail is situated at the entrance to the main gate of Tranquilitas farm, opposite the old farmhouse and the climbers’ parking area. The trail starts and follows the cliff edge for 5km, and then exits onto the road above the rubbish dump. It can be ridden both ways.
THE CANDY STORE: FIREBALL, GOBSTOPPER & GUMDROP (PURPLE)
These three runs, measuring from 1.8km to 2.4km, are new sections in the Sappi forest, with elevation drops of over 9.5%. They start quite close to each other, and although they head in different directions, they finish together at the end. The downhill runs all start at the top of Stairway-to-heaven, and end at the start of Turnminator.
JUMP TRACK /4X TRACK
A great attraction for children is the 4X track: 800m of jumps and berms that will keep them occupied for hours. Take the blue arrows up to the end of the snake path. At the point where it crosses the road that leads to the farmhouse, the start of the track is immediately to your left.
Plan your ride
Drive on the N4 towards Nelspruit. A few kilometres after Machado toll plaza, turn right into Waterval Boven. Continue into town via the main road (3rd Ave). Pass under a bridge. From there, turn right and follow the road up the mountain. This road becomes a dirt road after about 2km. Continue on the dirt road for 7km, until you get to the entrance of Tranquilitas Farm. The entrance of Tranquilitas Farm campsite is on the eastern side of the road, while the entrance to the farmhouse is on the west. Drive up the jeep track. Where the road splits, turn left (red arrow) and continue to the house. You can park at the back of the house.
25˚ 40’ 45.13” S 30˚ 21’28.00” E
25˚ 40’ 38.29” S 30˚ 21’48.56” E
All riders must have permits.
Day permit: R30. Weekend: R50
Permits are available from Tranquilitas Farm Coffee shop.
Four rustic self-catering chalets can accommodate a maximum of four guests each. An open-plan kitchen and lounge area opens up onto a covered patio with braai facilities and outdoor furniture. R800 per night. Perma-tents either have two single beds or one double. R350 per tent per night. A large campground is situated around the farm’s pool. The lawn is in good condition, and there are trees for shade. There are several fire pits and a public braai facility. R70 per person per night. The farmhouse consists of three bedrooms and two outside double rooms. There are three bathrooms, two in the house and one outside. The house can sleep up to 12 people. There is an open-plan kitchen/dining/living area, and the kitchen is fully equipped. Braai area outside. R2 400 per night.
Text: Gert Van Rooyen. Photos: Supplied