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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.

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/

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.

SUMMERPLACE MTB TEAM SETS SIGHTS ON 2024 GOALS

Following a successful launch year in 2023, Summerplace Game Reserve is pleased to confirm the continuation of its mountain bike racing team for 2024. There will still be a firm XCO racing focus, but the team members will also add some stage racing for variety and to gain experience.

The team members are Inus du Preez, Lilian Baber and Respect Ramashia, all of whom raced for Summerplace Game Reserve last year. They’re all employed by the reserve but are supplied with bikes, gear and the appropriate support required to train and race in pursuit of their goals.

Respect Ramashia

Respect will once again focus on the regional marathon races including those in Limpopo, North West and Gauteng. He secured a few podium positions at Limpopo events last year and will be looking for improved performances at the larger events this year, particularly the Ford Trailseeker Marathons.

Lilian had a very successful final year as a Junior last year, where she focused primarily on XCO racing. She was dominant in local events, including winning the South African Championship, the African Continental Championship and South African Cup Series. She also contested several international races in Europe and the World Championships in Scotland.

Lilian Baber

“This is my first year in Under-23 so I don’t have any significant goals. I will do a variety races, but XCO is still my main discipline. I will use this year to find my feet and see where I am in relation to the other Under-23 and Elite racers. I plan to gain more experience at international races in Europe and it’s also a chance for me to get more settled in marathon races, which I haven’t done many of,” said Lilian.

“I feel my base training in the off season has been good and has helped improve my strength and stamina. I’m so fortunate to live at Summerplace, which is the perfect place for mountain bike training. Not only is there more than 100km of singletrack ranging from tame to technical, but there also surrounding gravel roads,” added Lilian.

Lilian Baber and Inus du Preez

Among the races planned for Inus and Lillian in 2024 are: The Tankwa Trek, Cape Pioneer and Wines2Whales stage races, the South African XCO Champs, the African XCO Champs, the World XCO Champs (based on qualification) and four UCI XCO World Cups in Europe.

“Being supported by Summerplace to be able to travel around South Africa to race as well as compete in Europe has given me so much and I’m looking forward to making the most of that in 2024. Last year was my first full year of racing and I improved so much. I learned to race smart and my power improved significantly over the course of the year,” said Inus.

Inus du Preez

“My main focus for this year it so see how well I can do at the four UCI World Cup races in Europe and also to qualify for the South African Under-23 team to compete at the UCI World Champs in Spain. I have other races on my schedule, but those and the relevant South African qualifying races will be priority,” added Inus.

The Summerplace MTB Team do all their training at Summerplace Game Reserve. With an established trails network that includes more than 100km of singletrack, an altitude of 1400m above sea level, a wide range of trail types, several measured routes and beautiful bushveld scenery with wildlife, it’s the ideal destination for mountain bikers.

It’s easy to book your own mountain biking stay at Summerplace Game Reserve. Check out the various accommodation options here.

OUR SUPPORT FOR THE PLIGHT OF THE PANGOLIN

The Pangolin is a curious creature. It looks like a reptile but is a mammal. Pangolins are the only mammals completely covered in scales. Pangolins are also highly sought after in the Far East and are therefore either on the endangered or vulnerable wildlife lists. While rare, we have seen Pangolins at Summerplace Game Reserve. And we’re on a mission to help protect this amazing animal.

We were cautious about publishing an article that confirms Pangolins have been seen at Summerplace. The illegal trade of these unusual creatures – currently the mostly highly trafficked animal in the world – has understandably made location awareness a sensitive issue. However, promoting the plight of Pangolins is an essential part of helping save the species too and that’s the light in which this article has been published.

“I have lived, walked and ridden mountain bikes on this land my whole life and never seen a Pangolin,” says David Baber (52), co-owner of Summerplace Game Reserve. “So, we were quite excited when regular visitors, Sean and Joanne Badenhorst, came back from a late afternoon ride with photos and video of their Pangolin encounter.”

The Badenhorsts came across two Pangolins, a mother with a pup on her back on one of the popular mountain biking trails.

“We knew they were Pangolins, but we didn’t know that we were the only people to spot Pangolins here. We didn’t know how rare it is to see them in the wild. They were lying quite still in the middle of the trail when we saw them. We thought they would scurry off or roll up when they became aware of us, but they didn’t. I took a quick video and then wanted to get a bit closer to see if I could try and snap some photos,” explained Sean.

“They were aware of us because when I went around the other side of them to see their faces better, the larger one folded her head under her body. The younger one on top seemed unafraid and maybe even a bit curious. I knew that they roll into a ball for defence and I didn’t want them to feel threatened, so I only snapped a few pics. Interestingly, they never moved off the trail. Joanne and I walked our bikes around them and carried on with our ride,” added Sean.

“We are very pleased to have confirmation that there are Pangolins here. We haven’t seen any since that sighting in May 2023 and honestly don’t know how many there are here. As we grow our guest numbers, there’s a good chance there will be more sightings. Because we have such an established trails network, there’s a more consistent number of visitors enjoying riding, running or walking through the reserve in the early morning and late afternoon, when Pangolin are most likely to be seen,” says Baber.

“I don’t know much about Pangolins, other than they are very widely distributed in the Lowveld, Bushveld, Kalahari and Waterberg. You very rarely see them, but they are there. You can be sure that Pangolins live on any well-looked after farm. We probably have a good population of them at Summerplace, but it’s very rare that humans will ever see them here,” said John Mackie Conservation Director at Summerplace Game Reserve.

“The security at Summerplace Game Reserve – and the surrounding area – is of a very high standard. There are several properties in our region with Rhino, which are heavily protected by landowners and regional security companies against poaching and this no doubt also helps protect other species too, including Pangolins,” added Baber.

Pangolin primarily move around at night. | Photo: Pat Bonoir
Some facts about Pangolin:
  • There are eight species of Pangolins with four of those found in Africa.
  • Pangolins are insectivores and predominantly eat ants and termites, but also eat crickets, earthworms and flies.
  • They use their sharp claws to excavate into ant nests and their long, sticky tongues to reach the ants inside.
  • Little is known about their life span in the wild, but they have been known to live up to 20 years in captivity.
  • Pangolins are solitary creatures and are mostly nocturnal. They mostly live on the ground but can also climb trees.
  • The Temminck’s Pangolin, as spotted at Summerplace, can weigh up to 12kg and grow up to 90 centimetres in length.
  • When feeling threatened, Pangolins roll into a tight ball and use their hard, sharp-edged, overlapping scales as defence. They can also release a foul-smelling fluid from a gland at the base of their tail. Common animal threats are lion, hyena and leopard.
  • Pangolin give birth to live young – usually only one – with fully formed scales, which are still soft. When an infant, the pup will ride on its mother’s back.
  • Pangolins have poor eyesight but an exceptional sense of smell and hearing.
  • Pangolins are essential to the ecosystem in which they live. It’s anticipated they keep ant and termite populations under control.
  • Humans are Pangolin’s greatest threat. Organised crime syndicates traffic Pangolin illegally to Asia.
  • Pangolin scales consist of keratin, a substance found in fingernails, hair, and horns. They are used for traditional medicine in China and Vietnam and the Pangolin meat is also served as a delicacy in some places in Asia

According to the African Pangolin Working Group, the key to Pangolin conservation is to raise awareness about Pangolins. This can be done by sharing reliable and well-researched information on social media and in family and friends circles. Additionally, donating to verified Pangolin-focussed NGOs/NPOs goes incredibly far in Pangolin conservation. When donating to African Pangolin Working Group all funds go to research of the four African species of Pangolins as well as protection and rehabilitation projects.

There’s a very interesting 45-minute documentary video called, Eye of the Pangolin that’s worth watching if you have an interest in Pangolins. Watch it here.

To give yourself a chance at spotting a Pangolin at Summerplace Game Reserve, check out our variety of accommodation to suit all budgets here.

10 REASONS SUMMERPLACE IS THE IDEAL EASTER ESCAPE!

You may think that Easter Weekend is a long way away, but it isn’t! Easter Weekend this year is from 29 March until 1 April. It’s worth noting that Thursday, 21 March, is also a public holiday, essentially lining up two successive long weekends at a traditionally good-weather time of year. A good time to visit Summerplace Game Reserve. Here are 10 reasons why…

IT’S NOT TOO FAR

Summerplace Game Reserve is located in the Waterberg region of Limpopo province. It’s a 2h15m drive from Pretoria and less than 3 hours from Johannesburg. Most of the route is good quality N1 toll road. It’s not that far away from the big cities, but its far enough away to feel like another world!

IT’S A COUPLE’S RETREAT

Because our lodges are spaced to ensure privacy, Summerplace Game Reserve is perfect for a couple’s escape. You can either self-cater or book your meals in advance. We deliver meals to your lodge so that you can focus on relaxing and being present for your significant other. Walks in the bush, sundowner game drives and stargazing from the hot tub are all sure to elevate the romantic getaway to be a memorable one.

IT’S TRANQUIL

No matter what New Year’s Resolutions you made, it doesn’t take long to build up post-Festive Season stress. The city buzz gradually sucks you into chaotic routine that involves meetings, deadlines, school runs, traffic and loadshedding. There’s complete tranquility at Summerplace Game Reserve where the only delays are caused by wild animals crossing the road or trail…

IT’S FAMILY FRIENDLY

Summerplace Game Reserve is ideal for families. We love to see kids enjoying the outdoors and ensure that that there’s loads of space for them explore the freedom of the bush. They can ride their bicycles on fun trails right in front of The Bike Village, they can swim in our pool or play on the jungle gym. Whether you book a camping site, or one of our lodges (some of which have outdoor wood-fired hot tubs), you can be assured that kids will love their time at Summerplace!

WORLD CLASS TRAILS

If you are a mountain biker, then you’ll love our network of world-class mountain bike trails. We have trails to suit all levels of skill and fitness and because we don’t have Big Five animals on the reserve, the riding is safe – although you are likely to encounter wildlife on your rides as we have more than 40 species of large mammals at Summerplace Game Reserve. Find out why mountain bikers love Summerplace here.

MOUNTAIN BIKE HIRE

We have a fleet of high-quality mountain bikes for hire. These include regular bikes and eBikes, making it possible for anyone, even non-mountain bikers, to enjoy the freedom of a bushveld ride. Find out more about our rental bikes here.

ACCOMMODATION TO SUIT ALL BUDGETS

Whether you’re on a tight budget or have no budget limit, there’s top-quality accommodation to suit everyone at Summerplace Game Reserve. From our beautifully maintained campsite under the shady trees to our high-end luxury villa and everything in between, you’ll get the very best Bushveld escape experience. Find out more about our accommodation options here.

ABUNDANCE OF TREES & BIRDS

If you’re dendrophile or an ornithophile, you’ll love the variety of tree and bird species at Summerplace Game Reserve. While it’s situated in the Bushveld, Summerplace Game Reserve also enjoys some elevation, which see a wider range of vegetation and birdlife than most of the region. Find out more about our tree and bird species here.

WIDE VARIETY OF GAME

With over 40 species of large mammals, Summerplace Game Reserve is home to a variety of wildlife. Expect to see many species of antelope, including Kudu, Eland, Sable Antelope, Tsessebe, Roan Antelope, Waterbuck, Impala, Bushbuck, Mountain Reedbuck, Common Reedbuck and more! There are also the visually impactful Giraffe and Zebra as well as elusive creatures, including Pangolin, Aardvark and Leopard. Find out more about our wildlife here.

WE ARE PET-FRIENDLY

Several of our lodges are fenced, making them perfect for pets. It’s not always possible to take your pets away with you, but Summerplace Game Reserve is a fast becoming a favourite pet-friendly game reserve. The pet-friendly lodges are popular, so ensure you secure you Easter Weekend booking soon!

To be honest, there are a lot more than 10 reasons Summerplace Game Reserve is the best place to spend the Easter Weekend, but these are personal and developed by the hundreds and hundreds of guests that keep returning to invest their time in a place where peace is a priority.

To book your accommodation, check out the various options here.

SUMMERPLACE LEADS THE WAY WITH MOUNTAIN BIKE HIRE

Mountain bike hire is a relatively new concept in South Africa, and Summerplace Game Reserve is leading the way. Whether you’re a non-mountain biker just keen to enjoy the experience of riding casually in the bush, a committed rider eager to shred some quality singletrack, or have kids that love being active outdoors, Summerplace has a bike in its rental fleet for you.

If you’re a seasoned mountain biker, hiring a mountain bike is something you generally don’t consider. Firstly, most rental mountain bikes are relatively low-quality hardtails. Secondly, a hire bike feels different to your own bike. And mountain biking confidence requires a reasonably high level of familiarity. All of this was carefully considered when investing in a fleet of rental mountain bikes for Summerplace.

We have a wide range of eBikes, trail bikes and kids bikes for hire at Summerplace.

The other consideration is that Summerplace Game Reserve has a trails network that includes a high volume of challenging climbs. A few hours of riding in the morning can leave you spent for the remainder of the day. And then of course there are those that don’t mountain bike at all, but would like to experience it while visiting one of South Africa’s premier mountain biking destinations…

As a result, the Summerplace Game Reserve mountain bike rental fleet comprises both regular bikes and eBikes. All the bikes are from Specialized, one of the world’s leading performance mountain bike brands and the pacesetter when it comes to eBikes.

We ensure you get the right bike for your ability and fitness level, even if you’re not a mountain biker. We also hire out helmets.

In terms of eBikes, there’s a size curve of Turbo Levos, which are full eBikes. They have a large motor and generous battery range. These are ideal for those who are not conditioned to mountain biking as they offer ample pedalling assistance up steep and long climbs. Then there’s a size curve of Turbo Levo Super Light (SL) eBikes, which are lighter with a small motor, but which ride with the same agility as a regular trail bike.

And then there are Stumpjumper trail bikes. These aren’t eBikes, but regular mountain bikes that are designed to climb smoothly, corner with stability and descend with fervour. The Stumpjumper was chosen because it’s a superb allrounder and easy for anyone to find a good ride feel on the Summerplace Game Reserve trails.

We recently added several youth bikes to our mountain bike rental fleet.

For those who aren’t mountain bikers, but are active and would like to experience our world-class trails network with a good chance of wildlife encounters, you can either choose to self-guide or book one of our local guides for your mountain bike ride. We have marked routes of varying distance that are ideal for self-guided rides and which can deliver a wonderful feeling of adventure in the Waterberg bush. If you’re more into controlled experiences, a guide will ensure you have all the support you may need, allowing you to simply pedal the bike and absorb the experience.

We recently added several youth bikes to our rental fleet. We now offer Specialized Riprock hardtail mountain bikes for hire. Available in 24-inch and 20-inch wheel sizes they’re ideal for kids aged 6-12 years. The Specialized Riprock bikes are designed to give kids confidence and feature a relaxed headtube angle, short stem, Plus-sized tyres, hydraulic disc brakes and single-chainring drivetrain with a wide gear range. Made from A1 Premium Butted Aluminium, the frames are both durable and light, making it an ideal bike for kids to enjoy hours of fun.

Our fleet of rental mountain bikes are kept in excellent condition.

Our rental fees are based on a half-day or full-day system and are reasonable for both local and international guests. Our bikes are kept in exceptional condition with regular servicing and maintenance and our experienced staff will ensure you are set up correctly as well as educate you on the controls, brakes and gearing of your rental bike before you begin your ride.

Our rental bikes all have flat pedals, but you can bring your own pedals and swap should you be intending to hire a bike while visiting.

For more details on our mountain bike rental options, click here.

We have an expansive trails network that is suited to all levels of mountain biker. You can examine the details on our Trailforks Profile Page here.

SABLE AT SUMMERPLACE: A WATERBERG SUCCESS STORY

There’s a very good chance that when you visit Summerplace Game Reserve, you will encounter Sable Antelope. This regal buck with its beautifully arced horns is considered a very marginal species in this area, with survival not guaranteed. However, the Sable at Summerplace appear to be flourishing. Here’s why.

“Of the more than 40 large mammal species at Summerplace, Sable is definitely the most marginal. They may have occurred in the area in the past and if they did, it would have been a scattered population with low numbers,” said John Mackie, Summerplace Conservation Director.

“In order to introduce Sable to Summerplace, we needed to start with a herd that was adapted to this environment. We managed to locate a herd not too far from Summerplace. The farmer told us that he lost many animals over the years in his efforts to introduce Sable to the area,” explained Mackie.

“We purchased the entire herd, which numbered 32 animals, including three breeding bulls. It has a nice and diverse gene pool and was well adapted to the region,” added Mackie.

Photo: Josh Baber

Sable are more suited to grassy woodland areas in South Africa, such as the Mopane Woodland in the northern Kruger National Park and the Limpopo River basin. The Waterberg is largely Bushveld and therefore doesn’t provide the ideal habitat for Sable.

“But, as we have come to discover, Summerplace isn’t a typical Waterberg reserve and the Sable seem to have settled in very well. We have seen some young additions and we also recently introduced at new, younger breeding bull to Summerplace,” said Mackie.

The Sable is a large antelope, standing 117–140 cm tall. The bulls weigh about 235kg and females about 220kg. It has a compact and robust build, characterised by a thick neck and tough skin. It has a well-developed and often upright mane on its neck, as well as a short mane on the throat. Its general colouration is rich chestnut to black. Females and juveniles are chestnut to dark brown, while males begin darkening and turn black after three years. However, in southern populations, such as that at Summerplace, females have a brown to black coat. The Afrikaans name for Sable is Swartwitpens, which roughly translates to black with white stomach.

The Sable is a grazer and a browser. During the rainy season  it feeds on the grasses and foliage of woodlands, and in the dry season it emerges onto grasslands where it concentrates on green leaves after. It is water-dependent and visits pools and pans daily in the dry season.

Photo: Josh Baber

The Sable is a sociable and territorial antelope. Herds of females and young numbering up to 70 live in ranges of 10-50 square kilometres. Herds frequently break up into smaller units of variable composition and may remain separated for long intervals. The main predator of Sable is Leopard. Adult Sable are generally too large and formidable for leopards, but calves and yearlings are vulnerable.

“The Sable were among the first purchased game to arrive when we created a game reserve. They have been here for more than two years now and appear to be thriving.  We started with 32 and now have more than 50. They are obviously getting the right kind of grazing as we have a mixture of grasses here at Summerplace, but we did purchase a herd that was already adapted to this region, so are pleased with how they have settled here,” said David Baber, co-owner of Summerplace Game Reserve.

“Sable encounters are fairly frequent at Summerplace. The Sable aren’t too skittish and mountain bikers regularly ride near them. Sometimes the Sable herd is on one of the trails and when the riders approach, they move off on either side, but they don’t scatter in a panic like many other antelope here, they move away a bit and remain fairly close by,” added Baber.

To secure a chance of a Sable encounter at Summerplace, check out our accommodation options here. https://summerplacegamereserve.com/accommodation/

Photo: Josh Baber
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