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ENJOY WINTER IN THE WATERBERG AT SUMMERPLACE

Warm fires, stunning sunsets, midday walks, runs or rides through the Bushveld. What’s not to love about a winter escape to the Waterberg? Summerplace Game Reserve is perfectly geared for winter breaks with a range of accommodation that includes cosy indoor fireplaces, outdoor braai bomas and wood-fired hot tubs.

Swap the smog that settles over the Highveld cities in winter for crisp countryside air that’s rich in Bushveld aromas. Experience night skies that enable stargazing from the comfort of your private hot tub. Sip sundowners from a viewpoint after a late afternoon game drive. Leave the urban noise behind and listen to the sounds of the Waterberg wilderness.

Just over two hours’ drive north from Pretoria, Summerplace Game Reserve offers a wondrous winter escape. There’s a range of accommodation to suit every budget. From camping, to glamping, to small country units to luxury villas, Summerplace Game Reserve makes it possible for anyone to afford a winter escape in the Waterberg.

There are over 40 species of large mammals at Summerplace Game Reserve, including Zebra, Giraffe, Warthog, Brown Hyena and Black-backed Jackal. There’s also a wide range of antelope including Eland, Roan Antelope, Kudu, Sable Antelope, Waterbuck, Tsessebe, Common Reedbuck, Mountain Reedbuck and more. And there’s the smaller mammals such as Aardvark, Aardwolf, Pangolin, Civet, Badger, Serval and others.

The dry winter months, with less dense vegetation, makes for more successful game-viewing. Summerplace Game Reserve is one of the few game reserves in South Africa where you can enjoy wildlife encounters while riding a mountain bike, running or walking on our broad network of purpose-built trails. If you don’t own a mountain bike, you can hire a regular mountain bike, a kids mountain bike or an eBike (electric-assist) from our fleet of Specialized rental bikes.

Our relaxed game drives are also a great way to enjoy wildlife encounters. Our knowledgeable guides are able to offer useful information on the animals you see from the comfort of our game drive vehicle.

Summerplace Game Reserve is also home to a wide range of trees and bird species. There are at least 130 different types of trees and at least 107 bird species, including several raptors, making it an ideal destination for dendrophiles and birders. Summerplace Game Reserve is also where you will find the tallest Aloe in South Africa.

A Bushveld break at Summerplace Game Reserve can be ideal for couples or families. Ideal lodges for couples include, Hideaway (10 ultra-luxury glamping tents, launching late July 2024), as well as New Wine, The Shed 2 and Saringa lodges. Family-friendly accommodation includes camping, Rosemary Cottage, Marula Cottage, Bushwillow, The Shed 1 and 3, Yorks View, Summerhill and Summerview lodges.

Most of our accommodation is self-catering but we also offer meals twice a day at our Bike Village restaurant with brunch/lunch and dinner. The Bike Village, which has plenty of comfortable seating inside and on the veranda, also has a fully stocked bar and coffee station, a big-screen TV and free, uncapped WiFi. There’s also a shop where you can buy Summerplace-branded apparel and mementos as well other useful items.

Whether it’s during the school holidays, a quick mid-week break or a lazy, long-weekend escape, a winter break in the Waterberg is best enjoyed at Summerplace Game Reserve.

To book your winter escape, see the range of Summerplace Game Reserve accommodation here.

COME AND SEE THE TALLEST ALOE IN SOUTH AFRICA

The Aloe marlothii is the primary image on the Summerplace Game Reserve logo. That’s because our reserve is home to an abundance of Aloe marlothii (Mountain Aloe). We also have several large marlothii forests and, what we now know is officially the tallest Aloe in South Africa.

The giant Aloe at Summerplace Game Reserve was recently measured and is officially confirmed as the tallest Aloe marlothii in South Africa. Measuring 9.80 metres, the Giant Aloe can be distinctly seen on the ridgeline from a couple of kilometres away and is even more impressive up close.

“The marlothii growth at Summerplace really is quite something. Summerplace has a terrific population of marlothii with large concentrations in some places, such as along the southern boundary,” said Warwick Tarboton, author of multiple bird books and Wildflowers of the Waterberg. He is also a Waterberg Biosphere expert and co-edits the website, waterberg-bioquest.co.za, a valuable resource for the region.

South Africa’s tallest Aloe marlothii is at Summerplace Game Reserve. Photo: Josh Baber

Tarboton assisted the South African Dendrological Society to measure the height of the Giant Aloe at Summerplace Game Reserve.

“We have long poles with a mirror to be able to examine eagle’s nests. We used those poles to measure the height of the Aloe marlothii. When I first saw the Aloe, it was flowering, so it was taller. But when we measured it in mid-May 2024, the flower head was on the ground. It’s another metre long, so when flowering (usually between May and September), it is even taller, at around 10.80 metres, which is unusually tall” explained Tarboton.

According to the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), ‘Aloe marlothii is a large, perennial, succulent, single-stemmed aloe, usually 2-4 m tall (occasionally up to 6 metres), with old dried leaves remaining on the stem below the upper living leaves. Leaves are large, broad and succulent, light green to greyish green to blue-green, up to 1500mm x 250mm, having a broad base tapering to a sharp point, covered with spines on upper and lower surfaces and maroon-coloured teeth with orange tips along leaf margins’.

Compared to most mature Aloe marlothii in the area, the Giant Aloe is immense. Photo: Josh Baber

Aloe Marlothii is found mainly in bushveld vegetation along mountainous areas, rocky terrain and slopes where temperatures are warmer and frost infrequent. Mountain ranges of the Drakensburg, Lebombo, Zoutpansberg and Waterberg have large populations of the species.

“The generally accepted definition of a tree is a plant with a woody stem two metres or more in height. Aloe marlothii is essentially a plant until it’s taller, then it classifies as a tree,” explained Tarboton.

In addition to the height of the enormous Aloe Marlothii, the Dendrological Society measurement includes stem girth (0.93m), stem diameter (0.30m), average crown diameter (1.50m) and crown spread (1.80m-squared). All of these combine for a size index of 6.53.

It is noted via one theory that the clustering of Aloe marlothii on the Polokwane Plateau is could be associated with African Iron Age archaeological sites of Ndebele village ruins. Ndebele occupied the area from 1650 to 1880. It is believed the seeds were brought to the Ndebele villages from plant material they used for a variety of uses such as scraping hides to prepare women’s dresses, using ash from dried leaves for an additive to snuff, eating nectar from the flowers, leaf extractions to treat roundworm and tapeworm and fresh leaf sap used on women’s breasts to wean babies.

The Ndebele left the region around 1885 and large thickets of Aloe marlothii continued to flourish in the area. Although no ruins are obvious, this may explain the unusually large marlothii forest at the southern border of Summerplace Game Reserve. It also indicates that some of the larger Aloe marlothii  trees may be in excess of 130 years old.

The protection offered by the surrounding trees and mineral-rich ground are likely reasons for the Giant Aloe’s success. Photo: Josh Baber

The Aloe marlothii Forest, which  sits at one of the lowest points of the reserve, is a key feature on the reserve. A mountain bike trail ­– fittingly name Aloe – winds its way through the forest, which is also a favourite location for wedding and special occasions photographs.

After co-authoring the book, Wildflowers of the Waterberg, Tarboton is currently working on a new book that focusses on trees of the Waterberg. He believes the reason for the unusually high Aloe marlothii on the northern ridge is two-fold.

“That side of the reserve is underlain by dolerite, and the soils from these rocks have more nutrients than the soils from sandstones which make up most of the Waterberg. Coupled with this is that this marlothii is growing on a large old termitarium (termite mound) which provides even more plant nutrients’ explained Tarboton.

“The other reason it may have been able to grow so tall is that it is surrounded by a clump of other trees, which both protect it from the elements and add nutrients into the soil,” he added.

The Giant Aloe can be seen on the Grey Mountain Bike Route, shortly after the start of the appropriately named Marlothii Trail.

The Giant Aloe at Summerplace Game Reserve is visible from a long distance away. Photo: Josh Baber

To see the Giant Aloe for yourself, book a stay at Summerplace Game Reserve. Here are the accommodation options.

SUMMERPLACE GEARS UP FOR GRAVITY FESTIVAL

The South African Gravity Racing community will descend on Summerplace Game Reserve in June 2024 where the Summerplace Gravity Festival will see Enduro and Downhill SA Cup events consecutively hosted on the slopes of the beautiful Waterberg.

Running from Friday 14 until Monday 17 June, the Summerplace Gravity Festival will be held over the long weekend – Sunday 16 June is Youth Day, making Monday 17 June a public holiday.

The Enduro will include six stages ­­– five that were used at the SA Cup event in 2023 and one brand new stage.

Photo: Dominic Barnardt

“The feedback on the 2023 event was so positive, so we are going to use five of those stages again this year. We will use Tumbleweed, Load Shredder, and Red Mountain as we did last year. Skyfall will feature again, but not the top section as that will form part of the new Downhill course this year,” explained David Baber, Summerplace co-owner and trailbuilder.

“We will use Summerflow again too as the final stage and have added a brand-new stage called Green Moss, which is around three minutes in duration for the fast racers and which has a nice range of natural features, including rock gardens and a drop-off near the end. Obviously, there will be B Lines where necessary,” added Baber.

The Lite Enduro will use Red Mountain, Green Moss and Summerflow as its three stages.

Photo: Dominic Barnardt

The new Downhill course uses the top part of Skyfall and is then all new from there.

“Downhill racers can expect a very natural course with limited man-made features. It’s about 1.7km long with a drop of around 200 metres. I expect the top racers to do around 2 minutes 45 seconds or so. We have opened it up quite a lot in places, especially over rocks and ridges to give riders a range of line choices,” explained Baber.

The Summerplace Gravity Festival has been designed to accommodate racers that want to compete in both the Enduro and the Downhill events. The Enduro race day will be Saturday 15 June, offering the days leading up as practice days. The Downhill race day will be on Monday 17 June (a public holiday), allowing for practice and qualifying on Sunday 16 June.

Photo: Dominic Barnardt

Cycling South Africa has scheduled Summerplace Gravel Festival to coincide with government mid-year school holidays, which start on Monday, 17 June and run until Monday 8 July, making it easier for families to schedule a trip for the two events.

Summerplace Game Reserve is one of South Africa’s premier mountain biking destinations. There is more than 120km of marked and maintained mountain bike trails on the 3500-hectare game reserve. Summerplace offers trails for all levels of mountain biker, from enthusiastic newcomers to seasoned veterans. A large volume of the trails are hand-build singletrack, designed to be challenging and rewarding. There are more than 40 species of large mammals at Summerplace and wildlife encounters while mountain biking are common.

Summerplace Game Reserve offers a range of high-quality accommodation with various lodges as well as a campsite. To see the range of accommodation for the Summerplace Gravity Festival, click here.

INUS DU PREEZ – A YOUNG MAN ON A MTB RACING MISSION

Ignatius (Inus) du Preez is a member of the Summerplace Game Reserve mountain bike team. With the support of Summerplace and the guidance of his coach, he has transformed from a promising racer into a podium contender at high profile South African XCO and Marathon races. We spoke to him to find out more about his background, his role off the bike at Summerplace and his goals.

When did you first show an interest in mountain biking?

Just before high school I did a range of sports. In Grade 8 – my first year of high school – one of the sports I could do at Hoerskool Garsfontein, was cycling. At the time the Spur MTB Series was big and the school was among the more successful schools in the league. I had got a new bike the year before and I was keen to try something new. I did some Spur Series races, but only off cross-country running and hockey fitness. The vibe at these events was awesome and I think that’s what got me keen on mountain biking.

When was your first MTB race and what event was it?

In Grade 3 I entered a 10km MTB race. I was so excited! But took a wrong turn and ended up doing 30km. It was so tough and I was heartbroken by the finish! Looking back, it certainly helped me cope with something physically hard! My next race was in Grade 7. I had got a new bike and I entered the Windpomp Cherie, a 50km race in Stillbaai, where we normally go in the summer holidays. I did that with my dad. It was extremely hard! After 20km it became super difficult. I hadn’t done any specific training and I really struggled to finish. But every year after that I entered the race and last year (2023) for the first time, I won it. It was always a goal of mine since that first one to try and win it.

Inus during the 2024 Tankwa Trek stage race where he and his teammate, Johan de Villiers, finished eighth overall. | Photo: Oakpics.com

Was mountain bike racing a focus for you in your later high school years?

In my final year as a Junior, I started doing some XCO SA Cup races for the first time. Hockey was my main focus though. I did do some training for mountain biking – I trained for one hour twice a week.

When did you start taking mountain bike racing seriously?

I was in Grades 10 and 11 during Covid and there weren’t many races happening. I was first year Junior in Grade 11 and I realised I had a bit of potential and I also enjoyed it, so I started taking it a bit more seriously. I would say in Grade 12 (Matric), when I did all the SA Cups for XCO racing, that was when I started to really begin to focus on mountain bike racing.

Inus on his way to sixth overall at Round 2 of the 2024 Ford Trailseeker Series. Photo: Dominic Barnardt

What made you realise that you could become a successful mountain bike racer?

That’s a tough question. In my final school year, I would train two hours a week for intervals and if I didn’t have hockey on the weekends, I would do some longer rides.  I was never planning to race after school, so I was still racing for enjoyment. In my first year out of school, I started to experience asthma sometimes when racing, so it was an okay year, but not a great year of racing. I was also first year Under-23, which is a challenging time for a racer. I can’t say exactly when I realised I could become a successful mountain bike racer or decided to pursue it fully, but I do know that I wanted to reach my full potential. I still haven’t reached that potential, which is what keeps me motivated.

When did you first start training with a coach?

I started training with a coach in Grade 9. It was with Amrick, which is more group training sessions than personalised coaching. It was always fun because it was with friends and was mostly outrides. My first structured training was during Covid in Grade 10. My coach was Eugene Elliot. He saw my potential in the Spur Series races. He coached me twice a week until the end of my final school yea. In my first year out of school, I moved to Deon Carstens. I appreciate all these coaches who have been such an important part of my mountain biking journey. They have helped me to keep it fun, while improving.

After finishing 18th at Round 1 and sixth at Round 2, Inus has taken the lead in the Elite Men’s division in the Ford Trailseeker Series standings. | Photo: Dominic Barnardt

Who is your current coach and what difference has the coaching made to you?

Deon Carstens is my current coach. He’s my first real professional coach. He’s helped me move into a more serious phase where the hours on the bike have become a lot longer and the training is more specific. It’s great to have someone with his experience to monitor and guide me. It’s a long process to get where you want to be. I still feel I have a lot more improving to do. Deon also been so good in helping me shift my mindset to a serious racing one and helping me maintain my focus on my goals.

What impact has the support from Summerplace Game Reserve had on your progress in the last couple of years?

Everything that I have achieved so far is thanks to Summerplace Game Reserve. First off, the training grounds – I have some of the best mountain bike trails in my back yard! The whole environment is ideal. I can feel safe on my own, encounter wild animals on almost every ride, improve my technical skills and also do long rides. Starting quite late as a mountain bike racer, my technical skills were a weakness, but living and training at Summerplace has turned that into one of my strengths.

Dave and Simone Baber and Paul Rose are among the few people that saw my potential in cycling and have been incredibly supportive. I didn’t really have that many great results, but they saw more than those results and I am so grateful for them their ongoing support. I wouldn’t be where I am now as a mountain bike racer without them.

Inus on his way to fourth place in the Elite & U23 Men’s race at Round 1 of the XCO SA Cup at Thaba Trails. | Photo: Dominic Barnardt

What support do you get from Summerplace as a mountain bike racer?

There are currently three racers in the Summerplace MTB Team – Lilian Baber, Respect Ramashia and myself. Lilian and I have similar racing schedules and she is a great support and always helps me when I need it. Summerplace Game Reserve basically makes everything available so that all I have to do is train and race my best. They give us great quality kit and top-end bikes. They cover all our transport and race entries as well as our travel and accommodation costs. Everything we need as mountain bike racers we get from Summerplace. With cycling being such an expensive sport, it’s essential to have this kind of support to achieve your potential. I am and will forever be grateful to Summerplace Game Reserve for all the support they give me.

You also work at Summerplace, what is your role/job description?

I don’t have a specific job title. It ranges from doing game drives, trails admin, guide rides, skills coaching, helping with the wildlife, driving to get supplies and more. We all help here with what needs to be done.

You have gone from a top 20 finisher to a podium challenger in both top-tier XCO and Marathon races this year. Do you feel you still more improvement you can make?

There is definitely still more room to improve! It’s quite rewarding to start getting some decent results this year. As a cyclist, you are never quite satisfied with what you have achieved, but I am still young and growing into a more complete racer, so I am excited about what is still to come.

Inus raced to an impressive fourth overall at Round 1 of the 2024 XCO SA Cup Series against a strong field. | Photo: Dominic Barnardt

What are your three mountain bike racing career highlights so far?

I would say the first XCO SA Cup I did at Summerplace in my final year of school would be one of them. It was very different to the other races I had done as it was a very technical track against top competitors. Then, I would say doing the Tankwa Trek stage race earlier this year was another highlight so far. It was the first stage race that I have raced hard. It was absolutely amazing. My partner Johan de Villiers and I were actually competing and it was really cool to learn so much about longer distance racing and stage racing.

And then I would say the Val di Sole World Cup in Italy last year. It was amazing to experience. Racing on the same course as the pros that you see on TV. It was fantastic! I really pushed myself beyond what I thought I could do.

And I’m going to sommer give you a fourth highlight – the XCO SA Cup at Thaba Trails this year was an important milestone for me. Being in contention for second place at a SA Cup with all the top racers present was something I could only dream about last year. To make it a reality this year was fantastic.

What are your main goals for the rest of 2024?

The first one is SA Champs in Paarl in early May. I hope to get a good position and will try and challenge for the SA Under-23 title. The next one is to try gain selection for the XCO World Champs this year. And then also the World Cups that we plan to race this year. I would like to improve at those compared to last year.

INTRODUCING THE NEW ORANGE MTB ROUTE

There’s a new route at Summerplace Game Reserve that’s instantly broadened the riding options to a greater range of mountain bikers. The 22km Orange Route is ideal for lesser skilled recreational riders, but it also adds great value to experienced riders and wild-life lovers.

Already a premier mountain biking destination, Summerplace now offers even more to mountain bikers. During the summer, trailmaster, David Baber and his team added more than 25km of new mountain bike routes to the reserve’s trail network. Most of these additional kilometres went into the new Orange Route, which explores a fresh section of the reserve.

As you drive into the main gate at Summerplace, the land to your right, which includes a decent sized hill, now has many kilometers of engaging mountain bike trails. You need at least -4% gradient to create good flow and this slope ranges from -4 to -25%, which means plenty of flow.

We’ll get back to that hill in a bit though. It’s important to know that the Orange Route is a route that’s ideal for most mountain bikers. It’s got a couple of steep bits that might be a bit intimidating for some, but these are quite easy to dismount and portage. Ninety percent of the route is unintimidating and ideal for most mountain bikers.

The Orange Route starts near the Bike Village on the road that heads to the main gate. It hugs the side of the hill on a trail called Spook Huis, where many rocks have been cleared to ensure as smooth a ride as possible before it joins onto Drop to Gulley trail.

This piece of trail rolls gently down the slope in the direction of the main reserve road for a few hundred metres before it takes a left onto a trail called Old School. This is a completely new trail that winds its ways gradually in a northerly direction down to the low ground and then up the opposite slope, which is very slight in terms of gradient. It then turns east and takes you on an engaging path before turning north to join a gravel road.

You follow the gravel road for a while until you reach a boundary fence, turn right and then right again to begin the first of three ascents of the large hill that dominates this section of the reserve. David has masterfully crafted trail to make the most of this elevation, which delivers a moderate climbing challenge and stunning views.

The first descent is on a trail called Mountain Oak, which starts off steep, but which eases as you reach the gravel road where you can take a drink, chat excitedly to your mates about that cool descent before turning onto a long singletrack trail called Easy Going, which lives up to its name and allows you some freedom to enjoy more game-spotting.

The second ascent is more direct and on a jeep track road, which has some steep pitches but is superbly rewarding once you begin the second descent, which takes you about halfway down the slope before tackling the final ascent. This ascent brings you to the top of the hill again where you can appreciate some superb vistas to the south and west before dropping down the final descent on a trail called Ball Itch.

The name may be uncomfortable, but the trail is a delight! It drops 100 metres in 2km, has an average of -4.6 percent gradient and delivers some classic David Baber flow! This is sure to become one of the new favourite trails at Summerplace because no matter what your skill level, it’s so much fun.

The fun does end though, right in the dip, but you do get to take a steady pedal back to the end of the Orange Route on the gravel road, where you can process what you have just ridden or contemplate a second lap!

The Orange Route is mostly rideable for newer mountain bikers, but expect a couple of short portage bits. It’s all part of the adventure and it does allow you to pause and take in the natural beauty around you. For Intermediate and Experienced mountain bikers, the Orange Route is an absolute gem! The balance of climbing, descending and singletrack is just right and, like a small slab of your favourite chocolate, leaves you feeling both satisfied and craving more…

The Orange Route can also be considered a Mountain Biking Safari. A wide range of game can be encountered on this route, including Giraffe, Zebra, Roan Antelope, Impala, Kudu, Sable Antelope, Eland, Tsessebe, Warthog and Reedbuck, partly because the route covers a large area and partly because the vegetation isn’t too dense, which makes it easier to spot wild animals from your saddle.

For experienced/fit riders, the Orange Route is a great start or end loop as either a long warm-up or cool-down to a longer ride. It’s a highly engaging way to add another 20-odd kilometres of distance without too much toil.

To experience the new Orange Route – and all of the other mountain bike routes and trails at Summerplace Game Reserve, book your accommodation here. https://summerplacegamereserve.com/accommodation/

SUMMERPLACE: THE IDEAL VENUE FOR CORPORATE BREAKAWAYS

In a world where technology is increasingly dominant, corporate breakaways are more important than ever in creating opportunities away from the office for staff to build bonds, share energy, create ideas and align with company objectives. Summerplace is an ideal corporate breakaway destination. Here’s why…

If you own a small business, or run a division of a large company, then you will know the value of communication. Communication has become highly digital in this modern world, which is great for efficiency, but the human connection undoubtedly suffers. The best way to maintain or build that human connection within your company is to give your staff the opportunity to speak directly to each other – somewhere relaxing and away from distractions.

Less than a three-hour drive from Johannesburg and Pretoria, Summerplace Game Reserve is a modern game reserve that’s geared to host corporate breakaways that are meaningful and effective. Summerplace is big enough to ensure your staff enjoy a feeling of escape and freedom, but small enough to customise your company breakaway to suit your objectives.

Recently, a HR and payroll solutions company, DNA Outsourcing (Pty) Ltd, held a company breakaway at Summerplace. We asked Wilna van Heerden some questions about their experience.

Where did you hear about Summerplace as an option for a business conference?

My husband and I spent some time at Summerplace with another couple for a weekend. We fell in love with the five-star accommodation.  The men are avid mountain bikers and my friend and I loved hiking in the Bushveld. As owners of DNA Outsourcing, we decided to arrange our company kick-off party at Summerplace.

Was the booking and set-up process like straightforward?

I dealt directly with Simone Baber, the Managing Director, who assisted me in choosing the best options for accommodation.  We selected the full board option for the three-day, two-nights breakaway.

What were your main requirements for your conference?

We needed a place where our staff could relax and be spoiled by us as a company.  We needed comfortable upmarket accommodation, good food, and a place where we could relax and play a few games.  We also wanted an option where we could bring our own drinks when we relaxed at the lodges.  Summerplace offered all the above and more.

Do you feel that your conference at Summerplace was a success?

Yes, our conference was very successful. Simone and her team went out of their way to make this a special event. They immediately made us feel at home. Simone even assisted me with transporting our bus driver, who didn’t feel comfortable driving back on her own, to her accommodation.

What did Summerplace offer that was highly valued?

Summerplace feels like a five-star lodge and at the same time it feels like home. The accommodation is out of this world.  Beautiful interiors, fantastic views, and the option of relaxing in your own private hot tub, was the cherry on the cake.  Our staff felt appreciated, and we all fell in love with Summerplace.

Did your staff do some of the Summerplace activities?

Yes, we were treated with a hike to the top of the hill where we were served sundowners and snacks.  It was well worth the short walk that gave you such a good experience in the bush. The view from the top was out of this world.  Josh from Summerplace used his drone to take beautiful live footage of our group.

What was the Summerplace accommodation like?

As mentioned above, it’s five-star luxury accommodation.  We loved everything about our accommodation.

What was the standard of Summerplace catering like?

Catering at Summerplace is home cooked modern meals.  Lunches were served with fresh bread and salads.  Dinner was hearty and we felt right at home. Breakfast was a spread that could last you for the whole day – not forgetting the delicious cappuccinos.  They also offer drinks and wine at the bar.

Were there any wildlife encounters during your stay at Summerplace?

Yes, we saw quite a bit of wildlife while hiking and driving on the reserve.  This included Sable Antelope, Warthog, Giraffe and more.

Would you return to Summerplace for another business conference?

Yes, this was one of our most successful business breakaways.

Would you recommend Summerplace as a business conference venue to other companies?

Yes, I would highly recommend Summerplace for any business conference or private breakaway.  Cannot wait to visit again!

To find out more about booking your company breakaway at Summerplace, email bookings@summerplacegamereserve.com

SUMMERPLACE: WHERE WEDDING CELEBRATIONS ARE TIMELESS

These days, too many weddings are consigned to a compact afternoon/evening of commitment and celebration and then a flurry of Facebook photos and Instagram reels. Beautiful human moments, but all too brief. At Summerplace Game Reserve, weddings are a whole weekend celebration that are unhurried, uncomplicated and unforgettable.

A two-hour 15-minute drive from Pretoria and less than three hours from Johannesburg makes Summerplace Game Reserve close enough for a weekend escape but far enough to leave the chaos of the city behind. No traffic, no load-shedding and no fear of crime. Peace and serenity prevail. Located just north of Vaalwater in the Limpopo province, Summerplace offers the best of the Bushveld and the Waterberg.

At Summerplace, your special union of love isn’t just one of many on a long list; it’s as much a significant occasion for us as it is for you. Our remote location in the heart of the Waterberg bush allows for a connection to nature throughout the weekend, with particular emphasis on the ceremony photos and video.

Depending on time of year, we have several stunning photo locations that offer wilderness backdrops, foregrounds and skies that enhance any image; and our safari-style game-drive vehicle adds character as a mobile prop – if desired.

Weddings at Summerplace can accommodate up to 90 guests in our spacious modern functions venue (70 if only indoors), adjacent to our wooden deck which overlooks an open savanna and faces the setting sun. Our open-air chapel allows for optimising the ample space and shade of the indigenous trees. The sound of birds and sighting of wildlife is guaranteed as we have over 100 bird species and more than 40 large mammal species.

We have several lodges on the reserve that can accommodate up to 86 guests sharing – including the bridal suite. They’re all fully furnished self-catering homes with uncapped Wi-Fi, solar power and gas geysers. Some of them have swimming pools and wood-fired hot tubs; all of them have bush views. You can find details on each of our lodges here.

Outdoor activities are a primary attraction at Summerplace Game Reserve. We have a world-class trails network with marked routes for mountain biking, trail running and hiking. Self-guided bush walks and guided sundowner game drives are offered and we have a fleet of mountain bikes to rent, including eBikes and kids’ bikes. Our recently upgraded tennis court is popular with groups.

“We enjoy hosting weddings at Summerplace. As a family-owned and managed venue, we understand the importance of getting everything just right to ensure magical, memorable moments for this significant milestone. We get personally involved in the organisation of weddings because we have experience, not only with weddings, but all types of celebrations and know that timing and details matter,” says Simone Baber, Director of Summerplace Game Reserve.

“One of the benefits of hosting your wedding at Summerplace is that it’s a full weekend celebration for the bridal couple and family and friends. It’s not only the few hours of the ceremony and reception but a wonderful unrushed way to commemorate and share such a special occasion,” added Baber.

To book a viewing appointment, send a message via WhatsApp on 083 302 5123, or call on 064 732 6211. For more information on weddings at Summerplace Game Reserve, see the information brochure here.

MAIDEN STAGE RACE SUCCESS FOR SUMMERPLACE MTB RACERS

Summerplace Game Reserve’s mountain bike team racers, Inus du Preez and Lilian Baber, contested the Tankwa Trek for the first time in early February. The four-day stage race in the Cederberg is considered one of the toughest short stage races on the international calendar and it attracted a strong field comprising top South African and international racers. It was a huge success for them. Here’s how it went.

Since it’s a two-rider team event, Inus and Lili needed to find appropriate partners for the race. This can be a challenge as a good team dynamic isn’t a given and can often become a weakness if teammates are mismatched on any level. Fortunately, both found very solid teammates. Inus paired up with Johan de Villiers of Project Dream SA to form the Summer Dream team; while Lili partnered with Karlise Scheepers of Skynet Worldwide Express to form the Summerplace Game Reserve team.

The weather was hot and the stages were generally quite technical, ranging in distance from 26km to 96km to offer a formidable allround challenge to the competitors. As a UCI-rated event, the route needs to change each year, but, as with every edition, the organisers included the Merino Monster on Stage 3. This climb is one of the toughest in South African mountain bike racing and is generally feared by most.

Inus and Johan raced in the UCI Elite Men’s category and finished eighth overall, while Lili and Karlise raced in the UCI Elite Women’s division and also secured eighth overall. Very respectable results for such inexperienced stage racers in a stacked field.

We had a chat to Inus and Lili to find out more about their Tankwa Trek experience:

INUS

This wasn’t your first stage race, but it was the first one you have done with a teammate. How did that dynamic feel for you?

It was quite special. We did train for a week and a half together beforehand and we also share the same coach. That helped a lot. But training together and racing together can be quite different. Fortunately, from the first stage we just clicked immediately. We already knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses and we used that to our benefit. I’m grateful to Johan for being such a great teammate. We are very chuffed with our performance.

You and Johan were 10th (Stage 1), 10th (Stage 2), 8th (Stage 3) and 7th (Stage 4). You moved up the positions as the race got longer. What do you attribute this to?

A lot of things happen over four days of racing, such as injuries and illness. It’s really important to look after yourself, which we managed to do well. Some teams unfortunately had to pull out because they didn’t’. We are both quite inexperienced in terms of racing those distances, so we went in quite conservatively. The longer the race went on, the more we realised our potential. We started pushing harder as the race went on, looking for our own and each other’s limits and that saw us finishing higher up by the final stage.

Which do you feel was your best stage – and why?

I would say the last stage. The terrain on the last stage suited us as XCO racers. Very rough, rocky and with a lot of singletrack over a shorter distance than the previous two stages. Because we raced mostly on the conservative side, the legs felt really good still and we still had quite a bit left to give on that last day.

The Merino Monster is a huge climb by anyone’s standards – how did you tackle it and was it as hard as you had heard?

Beforehand, looking at the maps and graphs and hearing what people were saying about it, that was an intimidating stage. With the climbing only really starting 70km into that stage, pacing is important. Johan and I paced well. When you come around the second or third corner you can actually see the top of the mountain and it’s quite daunting. Mentally it was quite hard because you want to hold back a bit to keep something for the last bit. But in hindsight, I think we could have pushed a bit harder on that climb. It really is a massive climb.

You and Johan finished 8th overall, beating some experienced pro teams. How did this make you feel?

We were super happy with this result. Especially me, who didn’t feel as good as I hoped to at the Trailseeker race at Banhoek the weekend before. I’m sure happy how we worked together to get a proper result. This is also a bit of a reflection of how well my base training went over the summer.

Did you have any major bad luck incidents during the race?

We didn’t have any bad luck or technical problems. But to an extent, you can avoid some incidents. We saw how rough the terrain was and we just tried to manage our bikes as best we could by being more cautious at times, rather than just charging and hoping for the best.

You are focusing mainly on XCO this year, but after that solid stage race result, do you see marathons and stage races playing a bigger role in your future as a racer?

XCO stays my main priority for now, but marathon racing will always be there and something I can move up to more in future. The marathon racing market is big in South Africa and I do look forward to exploring it more as I mature as a mountain bike racer.

What is your next major racing goal for 2024?

The XCO SA Cup Series and SA XCO Champs. Getting closer to the XCO season now and all my attention will be on those national level goals for the next couple of months.

LILIAN

You were the youngest competitor at the 2024 Tankwa Trek! Did you feel like the youngest or were there times where you felt more experienced than other riders?

I did feel very young in terms of the bigger distances, racing strategy and just being at a high-profile stage race, but technically I felt a bit more experienced than other riders.

What was the best thing about the Tankwa Trek experience for you as a first timer?

I would say I loved almost everything about it! It was also my first stage race ever. For years as a XCO racer, I do a lot of training for a one-hour race, so it was so nice to be racing longer and for a few days in row! The team dynamic was also something different for me and I really liked it.

And what was the worst part?

There weren’t really any worst parts for me. If I had to choose, I would probably say the early mornings where we had to warm up while it was still dark and quite cold. Also, after a stage when you feel your legs are sore and you know you must race again tomorrow. And maybe the fact that you have to eat so much to stay fueled for so much racing time.

As a skilled mountain biker, what did you think of the race route?

I loved the race route! I don’t think they could have made it any better. They included a lot of different features and a great mix of different types of riding. It was also good to hit really challenging climbs. I loved the climbing!

Was the Merino Monster climb easier or harder than you expected?

It was easier than I expected. Everyone built it up to be one of the worst climbs you can encounter, so I was expecting the worst on Stage 3. When I was overseas last year I did a lot of climbing. I have done bigger climbs than that before, so it wasn’t as bad as I expected. I actually felt that Stage 2 was harder than Stage 3.

You finished eighth overall against a strong field. How did this make you feel?

Our main goal was to finish top 10 overall. It was amazing to finish to eighth overall. It was such a competitive field, so that makes it more special.

You teamed up with Karlise Scheepers, who has more experience than you in these types of races. Did you connect well as teammates?

We connected really well! It was a bit of a risk because we had never ridden together before. The first time we rode together was on Stage 1! Karlise gave me bits of advice, which helped a lot. We used our strengths well. I would go to the front on singletrack and she would pull me along on the road sections. We also communicated really well, which I realise is so important in stage races.

Did you have any major bad luck incidents during the race?

I had some bad luck on Stage 2 with a puncture about 35km in. It cost us about five minutes. After that I noticed my back wheel was a bit loose, so we stopped to tighten it. Not too bad considering the rough terrain there.

You are primarily a XCO racer, but based on this stage race, do you see yourself doing more stage races in the future?

I loved it! I didn’t think I’d enjoy it as much as I did. So yes, for sure. I have already planned to do Cape Pioneer and Wines2Whales at the end of this year. People say stage racing can rob you of your XCO speed, so we have made sure the stage races I do are at the beginning and end of my season and form part of my base training. It’s so much fun. In a couple of years I can see myself doing the Cape Epic.

What is your next major racing goal for 2024?

Qualifying for the 2024 XCO World Champs. I’m a first-year Under-23 racer this year, so I’m up against some faster girls than before. It won’t be easy, but I am looking forward to the challenge and I will be honoured to be selected for World Champs.

Inus and Lili live and train at Summerplace Game Reserve, one of South Africa’s premier mountain biking destinations. They have daily access to a world-class trails network that appeals to all levels of mountain biker. To secure your own Summerplace Game Reserve mountain biking experience, book your accommodation here.

SUMMERPLACE – THE SCHOOL HOLIDAY SOLUTION

While school holidays are great for kids, they can be a real challenge for parents. You want your kids to have an enjoyable, wholesome experience during their mid-year break, but you’re not exactly able to take much time off work. Summerplace Game Reserve offers a school-holiday solution!

Less than a three-hour drive from Johannesburg and shorter from Pretoria, a couple of nights at Summerplace Game Reserve may only require taking a Friday afternoon off work to create an experience that is meaningful and memorable, for your kids and for you.

Our high-quality self-catering accommodation makes it relatively cost effective too. You have to eat every day anyway, right? Why not prepare your family’s food on a gas stove or over a fire and enjoy it in the quiet of the beautiful Bushveld?

Here are a few more reasons it makes sense to book a Summerplace Game Reserve visit during the school holidays:

It’s safe

Summerplace Game Reserve has a secure boundary fence with access control as well as regular security patrols. The reserve itself is very safe for families and children.

There’s so much space

At 3500 hectares, there’s plenty of space for kids to roam and experience the feeling of freedom. No walls, fences, or gate remotes here!

Bicycles for the win

As a premiere mountain biking destination, we have built a world-class trails network. Several of the trails close to the accommodation are ideal for kids. The flowline between the Bike Village and the campsite if very popular with small kids, who can spend hours rolling down the gently sloping trails.

Bikes for hire

While most kids bring their own bikes, we do also have several kids bikes for hire. They’re high-quality models from Specialized that are very stable and easy to handle, with excellent braking power. We also have range of adult Specialized mountain bikes and eBikes for hire so you can do fun rides with your kids.

Exploring is fun

Safety and space make exploring the reserve a fun activity for kids. Whether on their bikes or on foot, they’ll find plenty of natural features to keep them engaged and connected to nature.

Wildlife

With more than 40 species of large mammals, including a wide range of Antelope, Zebra, Giraffe, Warthog and scores of bird species, a visit to Summerplace Game Reserve always delivers several memorable wildlife encounters. We also offer game drives which is a great experience for families.

Unlimited Wi-Fi

Although we’re far from any cities, we have unlimited Wi-Fi which is ideal if you need to keep on top of your work while visiting our reserve.

No load-shedding

With our own solar-power grid we are not affected by load-shedding, which most city visitors find refreshing! We also use gas-powered geysers and borehole water, making our reserve entirely self-sufficient and offering peace of mind for our guests.

DSTV

While our lodges don’t have televisions, we do have a large-screen TV with DSTV at the Bike Village, so any important sports events can still be enjoyed during your visit to Summerplace Game Reserve.

Catered meals

Of course we know that a break from the city grind is even better if you don’t have to cook all meals! We have a chef that makes the most tasty, nourishing dishes which you can order in advance and either eat at the Bike Village or have delivered to your lodge.

Cooling off

Some of our lodges have private swimming pools but there’s also a swimming pool at the Bike Village for any guests to use. Even in winter we get some hot days and a dip in the pool is most welcome.

Drinks galore!

Our drinks bar serves great coffee in all its forms, most cooldrinks, popular beers and gin and a range of cocktails and wines to help you unwind on our comfortable couches or pool recliners.

We currently have some vacancies over the July school holidays so be sure to plan ahead and secure a short – or long – visit to Summerplace Game Reserve. They’ll remember that school holiday forever and you’ll return to the city feeling refreshed.

To see our range of accommodation that suits all budgets, click here.

SUMMERPLACE GAME RESERVE – THEN AND NOW

Summerplace Game Reserve is a wonderful example of what can be achieved when ambitious humans combine their skills and commitment for a common, greater goal. In less than five years, the transformation of Summerplace from a cattle and pig farm to an international tourist destination has been remarkable. We have compiled a ‘Then and Now’ to reflect on our progress.

But first, a short summary: David and Simone Baber primarily farmed cattle and pigs for more than two decades. Floods and drought between 2014 and 2018 played havoc with their ability to remain a viable business as a farm and, with advice from a friend, they took a decision to change Summerplace to a tourist destination. They began to repurpose existing farm buildings one by one and by late 2019 were ready to accommodate guests.

Marula Cottage

Unfortunately, the Covid-19 virus sparked a government reaction that was detrimental to tourist destinations in South Africa and the Babers were faced with a disrupted start to their new business, which was called Summerplace Farmstay. But that didn’t deter them from making progress on creating a comfortable, tranquil destination in the Waterberg.

The Shed

Simone’s natural flair for interior decoration ensured that each of the self-catering cottages felt fresh, comfortable and like a home away from home. With an existing mountain bike trails network, hand-built by David over the years, it was mountain bikers that first began to visit Summerplace Farmstay. Instagram posts were noticed, word spread and accommodation was booked on a more consistent basis.

The Bike Village

Work was done on the Bike Village to ensure it became a homely communal place. Simone created a basic website and social media accounts and began to share the Summerplace energy. Non-mountain bikers started to book accommodation to explore this new Bushveld escape. And mountain bikers kept coming. One of those was Paul Rose, a businessman on the brink of retirement.

New Wine

Paul liked what he experienced and proposed a partnership with David and Simone and Summerplace Game Reserve was established, including the purchase of surrounding farms. More lodges were built and various species of game purchased and released. Old border fences were taken down and trails were expanded onto the new surrounding land. Investment was made in a fleet of rental mountain bikes, The Bike Village was extended further, the campsite was enhanced and meals-to-order became an option from the on-site chef.

Summerhill

Today, Summerplace Game Reserve is a world-class haven for those who seek a high-quality Bushveld escape where they can walk, run and ride freely to experience the variety of trees, birds and wildlife that find sanctuary in this piece of tranquil heaven in the Waterberg Biosphere.

Whether it’s self-catering or partially catered, more and more South Africans are discovering the magic of Summerplace Game Reserve with plans being finalised to start hosting more international tourists in 2024.

The Bike Village

To experience the magic of Summerplace Game Reserve for yourself, book a stay and discover just what it is that makes this such a compelling destination for outdoor lovers. See the full range of our tranquil Bushveld accommodation here.

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