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More and more South African mountain bikers are discovering the gem that is Summerplace Game Reserve. And they’re returning for more. What is it about this Waterberg mountain bike trails venue, a short drive from Pretoria, that’s made it into one of South Africa’s premier mountain biking destinations? Here’s what…

Beautiful wilderness trails

There are more than 100km of incredible mountain bike trails at Summerplace Game Reserve. The trails network is still expanding and delivers a stimulating experience for all mountain bikers, from Beginner to Advanced. The mountain bike trails climb and descend the slopes of the Waterberg and are both challenging and rewarding, offering mountain bikers an opportunity to experience unspoiled natural beauty with flourishing Bushveld vegetation, indigenous birdlife, a range of wildlife and incredible views.

Hand-built and well-maintained trails

David Baber, the landowner and expert trail-builder has meticulously built all the trails at Summerplace Game Reserve using the existing natural features of the Waterberg to deliver trails that have flow and are fun to ride. As an accomplished mountain biker, David understands how to make the most of the gradient, rocks and gulleys to deliver one of the best mountain bike trails networks in South Africa. There is a full-time trails team that helps David to hand-build the trails and which ensures the trails are maintained all year round.

Range of trails to suit all mountain bikers

The trails at Summerplace have evolved to cater for all skill levels and the various fitness levels of mountain bikers. Beginner mountain bikers can cruise on the various gravel roads, while Novice mountain bikers will enjoy the tame, but stimulating singletrack close to the trailhead. Intermediate mountain bikers have a large range of trails and routes to choose from, while Experienced mountain bikers will love the ample challenging singletrack climbs and descents that Summerplace is well known for.

Ride routes or create your own

Some mountain bikers like to ride set routes and others like to be more spontaneous on their rides. Summerplace is ideal for both in that it offers marked and measured routes, which are denoted by coloured directional arrows. It’s also easy to ride a combination of specific trails using linking trails. For example, Enduro-focussed mountain bikers like to ride the Enduro lines, whereas marathon and stage-race mountain bikers like to cover ample distance on their rides.

It’s a safe place to ride a mountain bike

Mountain bikers at Summerplace often remark on how safe they feel. Besides being far from any main roads or urban settlements, Summerplace Game Reserve has a secure perimeter fence that is monitored by cameras. There are also regular patrols done through the reserve and surrounds by the local security company.

Wildlife encounters

Because Summerplace Game Reserve has more than 40 species of large mammals, your chances of wildlife encounters while on a mountain bike ride are high. Mountain bikers often encounter Roan Antelope, Sable Antelope, Kudu, Zebra and Giraffe. There have also been recent sightings of Leopard by mountain bikers.

The Bike Village is geared for mountain bikers

By nature, mountain biking is highly social. The Bike Village, which is the trailhead at Summerplace, has developed around the mountain biking culture. There’s ample comfortable seating indoors and outdoors as well as plenty of space for mountain bikes. There is a bike wash facility, free uncapped Wi-Fi (for post-ride uploads to Strava and Instagram), a pump to inflate tyres and high-quality coffee and cold beer to purchase. There are also excellent toilet and shower facilities and DSTV where local and international bicycle racing content is prioritised. Mountain bikers enjoy gathering at the Bike Village to watch live UCI World Cup XCO and Downhill racing.

Bikes and helmets to hire

Summerplace Game Reserve invested in a fleet of mountain bikes for rental. There are 10 eBikes, which are a blend of Specialized Turbo Levo (full eBike) and Specialized Turbo Levo SL (light eBike) and three Specialized Stumpjumper regular bikes. All the bikes are full suspension and there is a range of sizes. Specialized helmets are available to hire with the bike.

Trail guides and skills instructors

Many of the Summerplace staff members are mountain bikers. Several have completed the PMBI mountain bike skills-coaching and mountain bike trail-guiding course, so are qualified to offer skills lessons and/or guided rides.

Ideal for family breaks

Many mountain bikers take their family to Summerplace because it’s ideal for family getaways. It’s in the bush, but the large well-kept lawns and fun, flowy bits of trail in front of the Bike Village encourages kids to ride their bikes. For lodges that don’t have a swimming pool or hot/cold tub, there’s a plunge pool at the Bike Village, which also has uncapped Wi-Fi, great coffee, cold soft drinks, cold alcoholic beverages and DSTV.

Hosted top mountain bike events

Summerplace Game Reserve has successfully hosted several high-profile mountain bike racing events. In 2022 and 2023 a round of the South African XCO Cup that carried UCI grading status was hosted at Summerplace, attracting the country’s top XCO racers, including world-class performers, Alan Hatherly and Candice Lill. In 2022 Summerplace hosted a round of the Provincial Enduro Series for Gauteng, North West and Limpopo. And in 2023 it hosted a round of the SA Enduro Series.

Will be hosting more high-profile mountain bike races

In 2024, Summerplace will host the Glacier Waterberg Traverse, a three-day mountain bike stage race, organised by Dryland Event Management. Summerplace will also host a round of the 2024 South African Enduro Series, which will carry UCI grading status. There will also be a round of the South African Downhill Series hosted at Summerplace in 2024. The inaugural Waterberg Biosphere Bundu Bash will also be hosted at Summerplace Game Reserve in 2024. This event includes mountain biking over three different distances.

Range of accommodation to suit all budgets

Although it’s possible, day visits for mountain bikers are rare. Most mountain bikers book accommodation in order to make the most of the Summerplace mountain biking experience. There is a wide range of accommodation at Summerplace Game Reserve, ranging from camping through to luxury bush lodges. The accommodation is suited to the needs of mountain bikers.


Summerplace MTB Team’s Lilian Baber and Inus du Preez recently spent five weeks racing in Europe. They stayed in the new Summerplace Game Reserve camper van and travelled to races in Switzerland and Italy. It was an incredible experience to race in the hot bed of global XCO racing. Here’s what they thought of it.

What did you find to be the biggest difference between European and South African XCO racing?

In South Africa, it’s flat out straight from the start, but in Europe it’s more strategic. I could keep up with them from the start. At home, we push as hard as possible throughout the race, but I found there, they ease up a bit and recover on the flats and then push super hard on the climbs. They do it so intuitively though, which took me a while to get used to.

You are the dominant Junior female in South Africa. How did it feel to be in races where you weren’t the fastest?

It felt different, but good. I was chasing others instead of being chased. I pushed myself harder than I do at home. I felt like I achieved new levels of personal performance.

What are the key things you learned from your European racing stint?

You must know how to race technical climbs, especially the slippery ones! You also must be aggressive. Their starts aren’t super fast, but they are aggressive. You have to fight to get into the first singletrack in a good position. There’s no politeness in the races. And you must stay calm. You mustn’t freak out when someone passes you because often, they blow and you pass them again later.

What was your racing highlight from your trip?

I would say my first race, which was in Switzerland. It was 42 degrees Celsius on the start line and the whole experience of racing in Europe made such a big impact on me. And the last race, in Italy, which had a lot of mud, but also a bunch of pros racing and seeing how I compared to them on the same course.

What was the racing low point of your trip?

I would say the Swiss Bike Cup race, which was my fifth race in five weekends. I was really tired and I was fighting with the course. I needed a rest week, but it was an opportunity to get in another European race. I know I could have pushed harder, but my fatigue was a factor.

What are you doing differently in your training after your European trip?

I am working more on intensity. I have a good endurance base, so really have just been sharpening up, which is where I struggled a bit in Europe. I can go hard, but not for as long as the European girls. I have been working on that.

What is your goal for the 2023 UCI World Champs?

My goal is to finish in the top 20. I think only one South African has ever finished in the top 20 at the Junior World Champs before so that will be my focus.

What did you find to be the biggest difference between the European and South African XCO races?

Definitely the level of competition. The fields there are bigger and the level is so much higher. In South Africa you have your 20 top riders or so and you still end up alone somewhere in that field, whereas in Europe there is always someone just in front or just behind you, which pushes you to new limits.

What are your key learnings from your European racing stint?

The race isn’t over until you cross the finish line. It sounds obvious, but it’s more evident to me now. If there is a crash at the start and you get held up, you still have six or seven laps to make up for that. You have to keep on fighting to the end. I also learned that you can’t go by looks. Some riders look strong, but aren’t necessarily stronger than you. You must focus on yourself and not compare yourself to others. The racing speed is also higher there, so I have to learn to adapt my training to race at that speed.

What was your racing highlight from your trip?

Definitely racing the World Cup in Val di Sole, Italy. It’s so much bigger than I thought. You see it on TV and know it’s big, but when you are there and see all pro teams and the pits, it just feels so much bigger. Being able to start with the best guys in the world was amazing. I started quite far back, but just knowing than I was racing in a World Cup race was insane!

What was the racing low point during your trip?

I would say that would be the last race. After racing six weekends in a row and going onto a seventh race, my body was really tired. I didn’t achieve what I wanted to. Your body can only take so much.

What are you doing differently in your training after your European trip?

I need to get faster overall. I will be getting on a gravel bike more and going on those long rides. The gravel bike will help me do longer intervals better. My base training also starts earlier so that I’m ready in January when the season starts.

What was it like racing a World Cup compared to other races you have done?

It’s hard to describe the feeling of being on the start line at a World Cup! The biggest race we had in South Africa was in Stellenbosch where we had about 50 riders on the start line. At the World Cup were had 120! It’s overwhelming. Going to practise the course you see the big international pro teams on either side looking at the lines and you are riding the course and they are watching you and the lines you take. In the race you have to deal with mistakes made by the riders in front you, which all add up, but you must stay focused on yourself. It was a massive highlight for me, not just for the trip but in my life.

You have improved significantly in XCO racing since 2022. What are your racing objectives going forward?

I just finished my first full season of racing. I’m happy with the improvements I made. Even just the improvement from the first races of the season to the last races. It can take months and years to build a foundation and speed. You have be dominant in your home country to even hope to make an impact in international races, so my goal is to focus on becoming one of the best in South Africa.



Summerplace Game Reserve is the host venue for the 2024 Waterberg Biosphere Bundu Bash, a multi-activity fund-raising event for mountain bikers, trail runners and hikers that will take place from Friday 5 to Sunday 7 April next year. The Waterberg Biosphere Reserve represents a considerable area of the savannah biome or wooded grasslands and has a rich biodiversity with more than 5 500 species of plants, 43% of which are endemic to Southern Africa.

The area is characterised by seven different vegetation types and at least 18 threatened or scarce plants species, 11 bird species, four reptile species, four species of fish, one butterfly species, and 18 mammals that occur in the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve. All are deemed of the utmost importance for biodiversity conservation.

In order to preserve the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve, funding is necessary, hence the establishment of the Waterberg Biosphere Bundu Bash. Summerplace Game Reserve, located in the Waterberg Biosphere, is an ideal venue for the event as it is both a conservation-focused game reserve and an established popular trail destination.

“The Waterberg Biosphere is a wilderness region that’s not only home to many animals and flora, it’s a region that benefits from year-round local and international tourism. The preservation of it is vital on multiple levels, and we are pleased to contribute as an associate sponsor and host venue of the inaugural Waterberg Biosphere Bundu Bash,” said Simone Baber, Director at Summerplace Game Reserve. Summerplace Game Reserve has hosted high-profile mountain bike events over the past three years and has an established, stimulating trail network that attracts mountain bikers and trail runners all year round.

The main activities will take place on Saturday 6 April and include the Run, Bike, or Hike in the morning and the gala dinner in the evening. Raffle tickets will also be sold to win fantastic prizes as a way to expand the fundraising effort beyond the Bundu Bash only.

The full itinerary is:

Friday 5 April

  • From 13h00: Registration and leisure activities of your choice (or just relax)
  • 18h00: Welcome dinner, introductions and orientation

Saturday 6 April

  • 07h00 Mountain bike 55km
  • 07h45: Mountain bike 33km
  • 08h00: Mountain bike 17km
  • 08h10: Hike (10km and 5km)
  • 08h20: Run (10km and 5km)
  • 12h30: Lunch
  • 13h30: Leisure activities of your choice (or just relax)
  • 18h00: Gala dinner, gin tasting and raffle prize draw

Sunday 7 April

  • 10h30: Brunch
  • 12h00: Checkout

Summerplace Game Reserve offers a range of accommodation options, but space is limited so early booking and payment is essential. Click on the Accommodation tag on this site to see the options.

In addition to Summerplace Game Reserve, Alexander Babich & Associates is an associate sponsor of the 2023 Waterberg Biosphere Bundu Bash. Alexander Babich & Associates is an independent retirement, investment and employee benefit consulting firm. More details here.

Full experience

  • Entry fee: R7000 per person sharing | R8000 per single person. This includes:
  • Entry to the Run, Bike or Hike event
  • Two nights’ accommodation at a Summerplace Game Reserve lodge
  • Friday night dinner
  • Saturday breakfast
  • Saturday lunch
  • Saturday gala dinner and gin tasting
  • One raffle ticket

Bundu Bash Event

Entry fee: R550 per person (includes event access on a marked, monitored route, post-event lunch, R100 raffle ticket)

Gala Dinner

Cost: R650 per person (includes multi-course dinner, gin-tasting experience, R100 raffle ticket

To book or find out more, click here or email


There are over 40 species of large mammals at Summerplace Game Reserve, including Giraffe, Zebra, Blue Wildebeest, Eland, Roan, Kudu, Sable, Tsessebe and many more. And, occasionally, you might spot our herd of Boran cattle. While they’re not nearly as exciting to spot in the bush, they fulfil an essential role in our ecosystem. Here’s why.

In order to have a balanced and functioning ecosystem in the wild, there needs to be animals that feed on the various types of grass, bushes and trees. Buffalo is the natural bulk-feeder in the bushveld, but because of the challenges that come with having Buffalo at Summerplace, a herd of Boran cattle has been introduced to fulfil this important role.

“Buffalo is a natural bulk-feeder because it has a broad mouth. Hippo and White Rhino are also bulk-feeders, but they prefer short grass, whereas Buffalo favour longer grass,” explained Summerplace Game Reserve Conservationist, John Mackie.

“The Zebra is also essentially a bulk-feeder, but, like a horse, it pulls the grass out from the roots as opposed to cutting it off. Cattle try to choose the best grass, but as they have broad mouths, they tend to hoover up everything. As long as they are continuously moving, they perform the role of cleaning up grass that other animals avoid. They essentially eat the less palatable grasses, which helps stimulate new-grass growth and a more balanced eco-system.

“We need cattle that mimic the movements of Buffalo, which is why we chose Boran. We need to keep them moving or else they will stay in one area where they like the grass. Moving them daily is important, which is whey they can be seen in many different parts of the reserve over time. A herd of Buffalo in in wild is essentially a moving echo system and we can mimic that with the cattle,” added Mackie.

Because Summerplace Game Reserve is a mountain biking and trail-running destination, it’s risky to have Buffalo as the bulk-feeder. According to Mackie, the herds would probably not be an issue, but the old bulls would be a danger and not worth the risk.

The Boran is a medium-sized animal with a short head, small ears, loose dewlap and a large hump above the shoulders. They can be horned or polled and vary in height from 114cm to 147cm tall. The bulls weigh between 500kg-850kg, while the cows weigh 380kg-450kg. Their skin is loose, thick and extremely pliable for added insect repellence and they also have dark pigment with fine short hair, which is good for heat tolerance.


Originating from East Africa, Boran cattle have developed adaptive traits of crucial importance for their survival. Some of these include the ability to withstand periodic shortage of water and feed, the ability to walk long distances in search of water and feed and the ability to digest low quality feeds. The herd instinct of the Boran makes it easy to manage and survive in the bush and ideal to perform the bulk-feeder role at Summerplace.

“The other important role the cattle play at Summerplace is that of tick control. Like other animals, they pick up ticks. It’s impractical to capture and treat wildlife for ticks, but with the

cattle herd, regular tick treatment is possible. This helps us reduce the overall volume of ticks and lowers the risk of tick-borne disease for animals and humans,” added Mackie.


Summerplace Game Reserve successfully hosted another high-profile mountain bike event when Round 2 of the 2023 South African Enduro Series was staged on our trails network on Sunday 9 July. Most of South Africa’s best Enduro racers contested the event and were full of praise afterwards. South Africa’s leading male Enduro racer, Keira Duncan of KwaZulu-Natal, claimed the men’s overall title. He masterfully won all six stages and was highly complementary of the trails in general and the stages in particular.

“Summerplace Game Reserve stepped it up a notch from last year’s event, adding four new stages to the enduro this year. Getting to know the new stages, plus settling into the different terrain was a fun process. Arriving a few days early to practice took some of the pressure off and gave me time to really enjoy the different trails, most of which are reasonably long, loose, rocky and fast. I was in my element!” said Keira. Wade Prinsloo from North West and Danny Fowler from Gauteng completed the top three positions overall.

“Summerplace is a Bushveld gem! A beautiful mountain biking hotspot in our country… It has some proper technical enduro stages and even some mellow stuff for my mom to ride. It’s a great family mountain bike destination for sure. In the race, Stage 1 had some proper rocky tech and high speed, while Stages 3 and 4 were some proper long stages, which is what we need in our enduro community. I’m excited for next year’s Enduro at Summerplace!” said Wade.

“I really enjoy the trails at Summerplace and think they are built well with good flow and enough variety and features to keep you entertained as well as challenge all levels of skill and fitness. I prefer the longer stages as these are what real enduro is about in my opinion. The climbing made it challenging for most riders as pacing themselves meant riding uphill for longer and even walking and pushing their bikes,” said Danny.

“Stage 1 was technically challenging and required more precise line choice and speed, while Stages 3 and 4 tested concentration, upper body endurance and anaerobic fitness. This, combined with the other three fun stages ensured a stimulating, challenging and rewarding race,” added Danny.

In the women’s division, Gauteng’s Julia Kotze claimed the overall win, but was challenged by three junior racers, Amber Cole from KwaZulu-Natal and the Limpopo pair of Tashane Ehlers and Carla Jansen van Vuuren. Julia won three stages, Amber won two and Carla won the other. Amber finished just six seconds behind Julia in the overall standings, with Tashane just edging out Carla for third spot by less than one second! A fantastic contest and confirmation that the women’s division is constantly gaining depth. “It was an absolutely amazing event with proper trails for both down and up!” smiled Julia afterwards.

Some competitors arrived days before and enjoyed the warm, comfortable Summerplace accommodation as well as the Summerplace trails network as they prepared for race day. Official practice the day before the race saw Summerplace make vehicle shuttles available all day, which helped riders prepare for race day without spending too much energy. The kitchen was really busy preparing meals and the bar was constantly serving drinks from the chilly mornings until the chilly evenings. On Saturday night a Springbok victory over Australia lifted the mood of the guests and Fritz, the musician, delivered some good music for those that stayed on longer at the Bike Village.

Following the success of the event, Cycling South Africa is exploring the possibility of applying for UCI status for the 2024 edition of the Summerplace Game Reserve Enduro. There’s a very good chance it will be successful, which further confirms Summerplace as a premier mountain biking destination.

To read the detailed race report, click here.

To watch the summary video, click here.

Wide range of wildlife at Summerplace Game Reserve

While the large animals like Giraffe, Zebra, Eland, Kudu and Roan usually get the most attention, Summerplace Game Reserve is home to over 40 species of larger mammals. This variety not only makes visits more interesting for guests, but it helps ensure a balance of the local ecosystem. Here’s a summary of which animals you can expect to see at Summerplace Game Reserve.

Summerplace was originally a cattle farm, which underwent a shift to a self-catering family accommodation and mountain biking destination in 2020. Then, in 2021 the owners acquired the neighbouring farms and transformed it into a game reserve. It’s now all three – self-catering family accommodation venue, mountain biking destination and game reserve.

As a farm in the Waterberg, there was always some resident wildlife, including Kudu, Waterbuck, Impala and most larger mammals, such as Duiker and Warthog. But the removal of the fences from neighbouring farms, which already had some game, saw the arrival of Zebra and Wildebeest and an increase in the number of Waterbuck among others.

The introduction of Giraffe in the past year was quite exciting. They’re not easy to transport and they’re a wonderful addition to the reserve. A total of 18 were brought in and there have already been two babies born on the reserve. Other animals recently introduced are antelope, including Eland, Roan, Sable, Tsessebe and Southern Reedbuck. These antelope species are all part of the Summerplace conservation programme. In early April 2023, more Mountain Reedbuck will be introduced to the reserve.

In terms of canine predators, there are Brown Hyena, Black-backed Jackal and Bat-eared Fox; while the feline predators include Leopard, Caracal, African Wild Cat and Serval. Other small predators at Summerplace are Honey Badger and Small-spotted Genet. Other interesting small mammals include the Ground Pangolin, the Cape Porcupine, the Aardwolf and the Aardvark.

Here’s the full list of mammals at Summerplace Game Reserve as at end of March 2023: Aardvark, Rock Hyrax, Scrub Hare, Jameson’s Red Rock Rabbit, Cape Porcupine, Springhare, South African Ground Squirrel, Tree Squirrel, South African Galago (Bush Baby), Chacma Baboon, Vervet Monkey, Ground Pangolin, Aardwolf, Brown Hyena, Leopard, Caracal, African Wild Cat, Serval, African Civet, Small-spotted Genet, Slender Mongoose, Banded Mongoose, Bat-eared Fox, Black-backed Jackal, Honey Badger, Striped Polecat, Plains Zebra, Bushpig, Common Warthog, Giraffe, Greater Kudu, Bushbuck, Eland, Blue Wildebeest, Tsessebe, Roan, Sable, Common Duiker, Southern Reedbuck, Mountain Reedbuck, Waterbuck, Steenbok, Impala.

“This kind of diversity, such as we have at Summerplace is a sign of a healthy eco system. If we were missing any key components, we would need to investigate why,” said John Mackie, Summerplace Game Reserve’s Conservationist.

Four animals that are found in the region, but have yet to be confirmed at Summerplace Game Reserve are: Striped Polecat, Dwarf Mongoose, South African Large-spotted Genet and Southern African Hedgehog.

“We’d like visitors to be on the lookout for the Southern African Hedgehog when hiking, running or riding,” said Mackie. “David Baber, who has lived at Summerplace for more than 50 years, says that they were quite common when he was a youngster. But none have been seen in 30 years.

“That matches a worrying pattern all over Southern Africa. When small creatures like that disappear, it could be a sign of bigger things to come. Certain frogs, insects and birds are good indicators of a healthy ecosystem. It’s a bit of a mystery as to what has happened to Southern African hedgehogs in general. We are very keen to hear if any hedgehogs are spotted at Summerplace for this reason,” added Mackie.


‘Your microphone is muted’. ‘Can you hear me now?’ You won’t experience this when you hold a corporate conference at Summerplace Game Reserve. Zoom or Teams meetings are fine for quick chats, but to establish real business progress, in-person discussion and debate is still the most impactful form of communication and strategisation. Here are five compelling reasons your business should book its next conference at Summerplace.


There’s something about leaving familiar surroundings and heading away for a corporate breakaway that helps create a sharp focus on the theme of the conference. By being distanced from daily chores and responsibilities, you and your colleagues or clients will sharpen your focus on the important matters being presented or discussed to ensure there’s efficiency and progress.


Summerplace Game Reserve is just a 2hr15min drive from Pretoria and another 30 minutes from Johannesburg. An easy travel distance that takes you away from the chaos of the city and into the tranquility of the bush. The roads to Summerplace are in good condition and the final gravel road has been rebuilt to make it possible for all motor cars to reach Summerplace Game Reserve comfortably.


Summerplace Game Reserve is fully powered by solar, which means that loadshedding won’t disrupt your business conference or your accommodation experience. Although remote, Summerplace Game Reserve uses satellite Wi-Fi to ensure you’re always connected at our conference venue and lodges.


At Summerplace Game Reserve there is no city noise, grimy air, or night-sky light pollution. It’s pure Waterberg wilderness, which means that the downtime at your conference delivers true relaxation in a peaceful environment for your colleagues or clients.


As one of the leading wilderness trails destinations in South Africa, Summerplace Game Reserve offers a network of engaging trails for mountain biking, trail running and hiking. We have a fleet of rental eBikes – ideal for those that don’t own their own bikes but who want a memorable riding experience. With over 40 species of large mammal wildlife, we also offer sunset game drives to bid a scenic farewell to the day.

To find out more about our corporate conference options, email


When you visit Summerplace Game Reserve, you’ll most likely encounter free-range Roan Antelope. This is quite special because in 1985 there were only around 200 left in South Africa. A concerted effort was made to capture, protect and breed Roan and today there are around 8000 in the country. Here’s why we have brought Roan to Summerplace and how they are faring.

At up to 300kg in weight and 1.4 metres at the shoulder, Roan is the second-largest antelope (after eland). It has a grey or brown coat, a black-and-white clown-like facemask (darker in males than females) and long, large tasselled ears. Both sexes have backward-curving horns, although they are shorter in the females.

Paul Rose, a Director at Summerplace Game Reserve has a passion for conservation and, in 2021, he wanted to focus on introducing the likes of Roan, Sable and Tsesebe to Summerplace. But it first needed to be determined if the environment was appropriate for these antelope.

“We commissioned Ecologist David Lotter to examine Summerplace’s suitability to these antelope and were pleased with his findings. Although Summerplace is in the Waterberg, much of the veld isn’t typically harsh. It offers a better feeding regime than most traditional Waterberg reserves,” explained John Mackie, Summerplace Game Reserve’s Conservationist.

“At 3500 hectares, Summerplace is a nice large piece of land with lots of space, food and water. These are all very positive aspects for Roan. They’re highly selective feeders and they don’t tolerate competition at all. They will only eat and drink if there are no other animals nearby, which is why they don’t necessarily thrive in most national parks,” added Mackie.

“For this reason, at Summerplace, we need to keep the numbers of Blue Wildebeest, Zebra, Impala and even Waterbuck under control as they are competitors to Roan for feeding. We need to run with lower numbers of those animals than Summerplace can carry in order to grow the Roan population,” explained Mackie.

The long-term goal is to encourage the production of free-range herds of Roan at Summerplace. That means they’re not camp-bred and don’t require intervention of vets for survival. Mackie and his team, with significant input from friend and Roan expert Else van den Heever, were careful to source Roan from different gene pools with the right mix of ages and sexes in order to encourage free-range breeding.

“We have brought in a total of 56 Roan over the past 15 months. The good news that the calves that are being born are surviving. We have lost just one bull due to tick illness have probably had more than 12 calves,” explained Mackie.

“This is what you want. They are obviously adapting well to Summerplace and are starting to form natural herds and beginning to breed appropriately. It is however important to monitor them closely and look for signs of distress.

“Camp-bred Roan aren’t exposed to much in the way of disease and predators. Being quite a high rainfall area, Summerplace does have high tick volumes, which we actively manage (more on this in a subsequent article). And with Leopard, there is a natural predator here too,” he added.


Summerplace has undergone conversion to a game reserve over the past year and is now home to a wide range of game, some of which are endangered, vulnerable or protected species. The only member of the Big Five at Summerplace Game Reserve is Leopard. Although recently that changed when there were some unexpected visitors.

In late December, two Cape Buffalo were spotted at Summerplace Game Reserve. By the time Dave arrived in the area where they were seen, they were nowhere to be seen! A search was mounted to find the two visitors, who had somehow made their way onto Summerplace from a neighbouring reserve.

“We think they crept under the fence because we can’t find any damage to the fence,” said Dave. “They were two young females and we immediately set about trying to capture them to return them to their home next door.”

The Summerplace team began searching for the two buffalo, a surprisingly challenging task. With high summer rainfall, the bushveld vegetation is lush and where it’s dense, which is where buffalo prefer to be, it’s very difficult to see game.

The plan was to hire a vet to dart the two buffalo so that they would be sedated for moving to the other side of the fence.

“We eventually found them with a ground search. The vet managed to dart the one, but not the other. That one succumbed to the tranquiliser and we were able to load her onto a low trailer. We then woke her up and loaded her into a game transport trailer and returned her to where she came from,” explained Dave.

The search and capture of the second buffalo is ongoing. Twice a helicopter search has been carried out, but with no success. She’s been spotted on the ground though in a certain area, but the heavy recent rain has made it impossible to reach that area with any vehicles.

“She’s a young cow. If anything, she’s on the timid side. She’s certainly not aggressive. But we will eventually capture her. She’s in a part of the reserve where there aren’t any of our mountain biking or hiking trails, so no real danger to humans.” explained Dave.

“If you include the fees for the helicopter search (twice) and the vet as well as the amount of time our staff have invested in this search, we have spent a rather large amount of money and time on trying capture this remaining buffalo. It’s certainly been something different for us, but we will be happy once we can capture and return her to her home reserve,” added Dave.

There around 400 000 Cape Buffalo in Southern and East Africa. As a member of the Big Five, the large bulls are popular hunting trophies. Buffalo are high risk in terms of disease and projects to breed disease-free herds are seeing good success.

The Trail-shredding Experience

The Trail-shredding Experience – Summerplace Game Reserve – Friday 9-Sunday 11 June 2023

Join us for a weekend of trail-shredding at Summerplace Game Reserve, including the stages that will be used for Round 2 of the 2023 SA Enduro Series on 9 July. Experienced riders only please!

The Trail-shredding Experience cost is R1250 per person and includes:

  • Trails fees
  • Guided rides with qualified guides
  • Basic mechanical support
  • Meals: Friday dinner, Saturday brunch and dinner, Sunday brunch

Not included: Accommodation, drinks, any spares required for bicycle repairs.

Self-catering accommodation and camping available. To book, send a WhatsApp to 083 3025123 or email

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