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OFF-ROAD TEST

Malopeni Eco Trail





22 January 2018


Think that the Kruger National Park is all tar roads and big crowds? Think again. The park’s Malopeni Eco Trail offers a ride on the wild side… right inside South Africa’s most famous reserve.

There’s a lot to like about the Kruger National Park, but the driving experience on offer is not one of them. Smoothly tarred and teeming with tourists, it’s not a place you visit for 4×4 fun. But don’t dismiss it too quickly. There is a way for you to combine game viewing with some off-road driving in the Kruger. Drive a 4×4 eco-trail. Like the lesser-known Malopeni trail.

The Malopeni route allows the adventure tourist exclusive access to remote areas that are not accessible with normal vehicles. An experienced guide, who also acts as the trail leader and guide, joins the group (maximum of five vehicles and four persons per vehicle) in an official SANParks 4×4 and provides information on geology, biology, botany as well as cultural and historical elements.

All vehicles need to be fully self-sufficient with camping gear. The campsite is unfenced, and there is a fireplace, rubbish bin and two enviro toilets (or long drop, as they are better known). The trip is a self-catering one, so the guests need to cart their own provisions along, and prepare their own meals too.

So what kind of 4×4 will you need to complete this trail? Well, you can apparently complete this trail in a 4×2 with high clearance and preferably a differential locker of sorts. Africa’s favourite 4×4, a rental VW Polo, won’t be happy on this trail either, several plastic bits may be lost along the way. In the rainy season, a 4×4 is definitely recommended, with plenty of muddy patches along the route.

What about taking your caravan on the trail? Only genuine off-road caravans and trailers are allowed.

Also, no kids under 12 are permitted, unless prior arrange-ments have been made. This will only be allowed if one group books the entire trail (so all five vehicles allowed on the trail at a time).

Taking the 4×4 Muscle Trucks Toyota Land Cruiser 6×6 on this 71km-long trail was a bit like using an elephant tank to hunt down a poor rabbit. It was nevertheless a very special experience, say the lads from 4×4 Muscle Trucks.

“Camping in the wild, with no fences, is just amazing,” said the company’s Hansie Coetzee. “And you only spend one night without basic facilities, and don’t drive hundreds of kilometres over very rough terrain to get there. So the missus will enjoy it too.”

I WANT TO GO, TOO
Name Malopeni Eco Trail
Location Kruger National Park
Accommodation One night of wild camping
Food You need to carry all your own supplies, including food, tents, water and fuel.
Difficulty The trail mostly covers gravel tracks that are in good condition. There are some steep inclines and declines, as well as some mild axle twisters along the way too. In the rainy season some sections can turn into a muddy quagmire. The trail is just over 70km long.
Vehicle required A 4×2 with high clearance will mostly do. In the rainy season a 4×4 is the better option. Self drive: Nope. This is strictly a guided route, with only five vehicles allowed in a convoy at one time. A SANParks 4×4 with guide leads the convoy.
Price From R900 per vehicle, depending on the time of year
Contact [email protected] on Tel: 012 426 5111
Web www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/tourism/activities/malopeni_eco_trail.php#route

4×4 Muscle Trucks
This 4×4 trail review is brought to you by 4×4 Muscle Trucks, who specialise in creating off-road leviathans. Their most recent builds include the R2 million Hilux called Godzilla and Hellboy, the big and mean Jeep Wrangler featured on these pages. 4×4 Muscle Trucks is owned by Hansie Coetzee, who also owns TJM Pretoria-East.
More information:
Tel: 012 809 0090; tjmptaeast.co.za