The Swazi Culture & Scenery Trail- 2 Rides left on our September Trail!

2 Rides left on our September Trail! (2-11 September)

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Chubeka Trails’ Swazi Culture & Scenery Trail is a real African trail – wildlife, mountains, bushveld, community.  Variety is the essence of this experience, from accommodation through to landscape.  6 days on horseback through Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, rural communities and commercial forests culminate in 4×4 safaris with big game on Hlane Royal National Park and Mkhaya Game Reserve.  Our Swazi Culture & Scenery Trail reveals the Kingdom of Eswatini as a destination.

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Chubeka Trails is great for experienced and intermediate riders, first-time African travellers, adventurous spirits, horse lovers.

 

ITINERARY:

Day 1
Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary (Accommodated)
Arrive in the afternoon.
Drive to meet the horses
Dinner and accommodation – Rest Camp

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Day 2
Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary (Accommodated)
Breakfast at the Hippo Haunt Restaurant
3-hr Morning ride, game viewing and getting to
know your horse
Lunch at the Hippo Haunt Restaurant
2-hr Afternoon ride
Dinner and accommodation – Rest Camp

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Day 3
Mlilwane North Klipspringer Camp (Camping)
Breakfast at the Hippo Haunt Restaurant
09h00 Depart on 5-day trail
+-4hr ride
Afternoon to relax in camp
Dinner and Camping

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Day 4
Forester’s Arms Hotel (Accommodated)
07h30 Breakfast at Klipspringer Camp
08h30 Depart on full day’s ride through
commercial plantations, saddlebag lunches
Dinner and accommodation – Forester’s Arms

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Day 5
Mlilwane North EmaSomini Camp (Camping)
07h30 Breakfast
08h30 Depart on full day’s ride through
commercial pine plantations, dismount for
scramble, ride through rural Swazi community
and onto Mlilwane North. Saddlebag lunches
Dinner and Camping

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Day 6
Mlilwane North EmaSomini Camp (Camping)
08h30 Breakfast
10h00 Depart on full day’s mountain ride or split
morning / afternoon ride.
Dinner and Camping

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Day 7
Hlane Royal National Park (Accommodated)
No electricity
07h00 Breakfast
08h00 Depart on full day ride home to Mlilwane
Rest Camp by 12h30;
Finger Lunch at Rest Camp
14h30 Transfer to Hlane arrive 16h30
Dinner and accommodation – Ndlovu Camp

#Grasslands & #Wetlands

Day 8
Mkhaya Game Reserve (Accommodated)
No electricity
07h00 Breakfast at Hlane
08h30 Game Drive
12h00 Lunch
14h30 Transfer to Mkhaya Game Reserve
16h00 Arrive Mkhaya, transfer to Stone Camp
(Game drive en-route)
Dinner and accommodation – Stone Camp

Big Game Parks Shoot 2015

Day 9
Mkhaya Game Reserve (Accommodated)
06h00 Game Drive
08h00 Breakfast
11h00 Game Walk
13h30 lunch
16h00 Game Drive
Dinner and accommodation – Stone Camp

Big Game Parks Shoot 2015

Day 10
Depart Eswatini
06h30 Early Breakfast
07h30 Depart Stone Camp – transfer to meeting
point
10h00 Gables Shopping Centre, Ezulwini – shuttle to OR Tambo International Airport

 

Sound like this is something for you? For more info or to make a booking contact:

reservations@biggameparks.org |+268 2528 3943

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Black Rhino Moved from SA to Eswatini!

An exciting addition to Big Game Parks & The Kingdom of Eswatini

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Following 11 months of preparation and planning, 16 critically endangered Black rhinos were successfully captured, translocated, dehorned and released into the Kingdom of Eswatini on 9 and 10 July 2019.  An entire founder breeding group of Black rhinos was acquired during 2018 by Big Game Parks, the National Wildlife Authority for the Kingdom of Eswatini. This demographically complete group consisted of adult breeding bulls and cows, sub adults and small calves.

The rhinos were acquired from a private game ranch in South Africa, where the current rhino horn poaching pressure has driven the protection costs of all rhinos to unsustainable levels, both in the private and public sectors, leaving many rhinos at risk and rhino custodians forced to disinvest in rhino conservation.

While the poaching threat levels are potentially no different in Eswatini, very stringent and deterrent laws, together with solid political will and support for wildlife conservation, has seen Eswatini being able to keep poaching levels relatively low. Only three rhinos have been poached in the Kingdom in the last 26 years, while the Southern African region has lost over 8000 rhinos to poaching since 2008.

Many delays were experienced with this translocation, especially with respect to the bureaucratic nightmare of issuance and re-issuance of permits and ensuring that these animals were moved in the best manner and at an optimal time to minimise unnecessary stress.

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The National Park to which the rhinos have been moved has been professionally assessed to have ideal Black rhino habitat and has been highly recommended by the IUCN’s African Rhino Specialist Group as a release site for this species.

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Mr Ted Reilly, Chief Executive of Big Game Parks had the following to say:

“After more than 10 years of searching for a suitable group of Black rhinos for this introduction, last week’s relocation marks the end of the first phase of this project. With all 16 rhinos safely captured in South Africa, transported over 700 km across an international border, dehorned and safely released into prime habitat, the second and most arduous phase of monitoring and security has just begun!

“Intensive post-release monitoring is underway to ensure that any problems are quickly identified and that the rhinos all find water and settle into their new home. Additionally, anti-poaching measures have been increased in various forms, including the dehorning of all the rhinos.

“The success or failure of such a logistically complex operation rests very heavily on the team  assembled to do the job. In this instance, Big Game Parks spared no effort or cost in ensuring that the best team possible was used for this translocation, and it included some of the world’s most creditworthy, experienced and renowned rhino vets and translocators. Given that calves less than six months of age have been translocated and successfully reunited with their mothers and that no notable injuries or mortalities have occurred, this has been well worth the effort and a testament to the team’s professionalism.

“Additionally, following the export of elephants from Eswatini to three AZA accredited American Zoos (Dallas, Omaha and Sedgwick County Zoo) four years ago, Big Game Parks is pleased to note the continued support of these zoos in funding aspects of Eswatini’s rhino conservation work, including a portion of the costs of the acquisition, translocation and security of these Black rhino, as well as the preparation of the release site for their introduction to Eswatini. This negates the allegations levelled at the zoos and Big Game Parks that the purpose of the elephant export was solely mercenary.

“In light of the fact that only 5000 black rhinos remain on earth, this is a very significant conservation initiative and we are very grateful to all of those that have selflessly contributed their efforts and expertise to this project.”

OSSU Rhinos
The Operational Support Service Unit of the Royal Eswatini Police escorts the rhinos to their destination
Rhino Baby
Black rhino mother and calf, after their 700 km trip in separate crates and dehorning for their own safety, reunited and bonded before release onto free range

 

Mlilwane Wild Fires

On Friday 19th July 2019, run away fires lept into Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary from 3 sides.

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Our neighbours, Montigny Investments called midday Friday to notify us that a fire started on a private property to the west of Mlilwane had got into their forests and while they were fighting, they were losing the battle with the incredibly strong winds (67kmph) working against them.  They advised the fire would soon be on Nyonyane Mountain (Execution Rock).

Our Conservation department raced out and worked magic keeping the fire out, with Montigny’s help and effective firebreaks.  The fire travelled south down the firebreak through the pine forests.

During the late afternoon a new fire sprung up in the Malkerns sugarcane further south.  This got away and jumped into the Montigny forest further south.  This fire was in direct line with Mlilwane’s Rest Camp and of extreme concern.  Our 84 guests staying at Mlilwane were notified to pack their belongings and be ready to evacuate.

Around 19h00, rangers noticed a new fire west of Reilly’s Rock on the Mlilwane Hill.  It became evident that the only way this fire started was by an air-borne ember from the first fire, which must have flown right over Nyonyane Mountain.  The fire gained momentum fast in the long grass and indigenous thickets, but the swift action and the existing firebreak brought it under control swiftly.  There was still concern that the strong wind was blowing sparks into the forest around Reilly’s Rock Hilltop Lodge, and we notified our 14 guests to pack their belongings ready for evacuation.  Some decided to leave immediately.

At approximately 21h30 the Head Ranger and Rest Camp Management called the evacuation of the 84 guests at Rest Camp and 45 at Sondzela Backpackers.  Our Manager on duty, Ntsiki Ginindza, notified all guests in the restaurant, which was full at the time.  She then manned reception, receiving accommodation keys and through receipt of all keys, knew all guests had evacuated.  Our night watchmen then did the rounds to ensure guests had left.  Management realised that guests might be disorientated and panicked in the dark, so opened the boom gate to allow guests to leave via the day access.  We had 2 vehicles on this route ensuring guests knew where to go.   A tour group had gone ahead and taken a wrong turn, but this was quickly seen and rectified.

Guests streamed out Sangweni Gate and every staff member was called to the fire – housekeepers, chefs, guides, labourers, managers – we were all there fighting for the beehives, which were a mere 60-odd meters from the flames.

Forest and Emergency teams had fought a gallant battle on the south western boundary, but again the winds prevailed, and the fire raced through our south western fence, across boundary fire breaks making short work of the grass plains and wreaked havoc in the eucalyptus forest, racing down to the Mhlambanyatsi River below Rest Camp.  The wind had the fire cross the river in no time and the indigenous forest was alight, lifting the flames to dangerous heights, spewing sparks across the firebreak towards the beehives.  The wind pulled the flames at last 6m across the firebreaks – never before have we been so grateful for firebreaks and for such dedicated staff.  By 01h00 the fire was under control, but vigilance was held.

In the meantime, the fire had circled the camp and crossed to the Sondzela side, flying through the river thickets and grass plains. In fact, at one stage 3-4 separate fires had started from flying embers on the southern plains.  With a huge amount of luck and grace and the help of neighbours, our conservation team got on top of these fires before midnight and some guests returned for the night.

At 01h30, the wind whipped up the fire behind Reilly’s Rock and a team set about it, saving Reilly’s Rock a second time, while the fire headed up the eastern slopes of Nyonyane Mountain, caught again by firebreaks.  The first fire had now jumped the fence and wrapped around the northern slopes of Nyonyane, burning a lot of the ridge.

The emotional impact experienced, thinking we were finally winning the battle with one fire, when a message came through of yet another, was inexplicable.  It was a constant theme that night, a true test of endurance of both mental and emotional grit.  There is no doubt that without our firebreaks and our incredible staff, we would have lost all three camps.  The conservation team got to bed well after 03h00, leaving individuals to stand sentry on any fires.

Saturday morning Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary normalised.  The wind had graciously removed all residual smoke, leaving individual plumes of smoke rising from burning logs.  Shonalanga Plains, the southern Sondzela plains and half the Central plains were charred.  Arriving through the main Sangweni Gate, through the Mphumalanga Plains, baffled people – it looks like no fire had touched Mlilwane.

Rangers set about opening roads, removing fallen trees and patrolling the river banks.  A number of casualties were found, especially nyala which sought refuge in the thickets and were trapped.  The true impact may never be known, with small mammals, reptiles, birds, insects and flora untallied.  For the most part though, the herds are back on the plains, both burnt and those untouched by fire.  Guests have extra interest in their activities, marvelling at the impact of the fires, and how relaxed the wildlife appears to be.  It is a dramatic scene.

The Management of Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary and Big Game Parks would like to thank all our staff for their incredible dedication and commitment to saving Mlilwane on Friday night.  We would also like to thank our guests for remaining calm and cooperating with our staff.  We would also like to thank all those who sent messages and well wishes post-fire – we are for the most part safe and back to normal, thank you!

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8 Ways to #BeatPlasticPollution This World Environment Day

Talking about changing the world and making a difference seems like a daunting task. But in actual fact, every small thing you do counts.  Just start with saying “No to Plastic”- it’s that easy.

It is our duty to protect this planet and one of the easiest ways to do this is by saying no to single-use plastics.

Here are 8 ways to get started:

  1. Reusable shopping bags- skip the plastic bag at the till when doing your grocery shopping and bring along a reusable bag. These are often available at tills points at most grocery stores. Make a point of keeping a few in your car so that they are easily accessible when you need them.

2. Refuse the straw– In the U.S alone up to 500 million single-use plastic straws are used daily. Straws are small and lightweight and as such often evade recycling efforts. If you must use a straw look for a reusable alternative such as Bamboo, glass, metal or even single use ice straws. Wondering where to get these in Swaziland? Currently all Big Game Parks curio shops stock multiple-use bamboo straws from #TheBambooProject.

 

3. Alternative Drinking Water Bottles–  nearly 35 billion plastic water bottles get thrown away each year. Switch to glass or metal water bottles as a reusable alternative.

4. Reusable Plastic Containers When Buying Meat & Deli Products- The next time you buy meat or deli products from your grocery store bring your own reusable plastic containers for staff to pack your items into. plastic container

5. Mesh Bags For Vegetables- take your own reusable mesh bags when buying from the fresh produce aisle at your grocery store instead of using the plastic option made available from the store.

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6. Choose Glass Over Plastic- Make a conscious decision to choose items which are packaged in glass instead of plastic where ever possible. For example; when buying peanut butter, chutney, jams & preservatives, mayonnaise etc.

 

7. Shop at Local Markets- Support local markets, local markets more often than not use no plastic packaging when selling you fresh produce. Not only are you helping the environment by not using single-use plastics, you’re also helping a small business and contributing to the community around you.

 

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8. RECYCLE! Make a conscious effort to take note of packaging that is recyclable- buy that instead of single-use packaging. Also, take time to find out where your closest Recycling Plant is. *Remember to separate your waste at home

 

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#REDUCE #REUSE #RECYCLE- It starts with YOU the individual! Every little thing helps!

 

 

Imvelo MTB Classic 2018: What you need to know so far…

 

Erik picIn case you missed our email yesterday (read haven’t checked your SPAM folder) here is the long and short of what you need to know about our race so far…

 

Firstly, thank you for your entries and payments!  If you paid before 22nd May 2018 you would have  received a confirmation email containing a race number and some details regarding race starting times and registration specifics.  Please let us know should you not have received this confirmation email by emailing us imvelo@biggameparks.org

If you have not paid, please do so at your earliest convenience with cut-off date of 31 May in mind.  Any unpaid entries after 31 May will be cancelled. (Don’t be THAT guy!)  Should you wish to cancel your entry please inform us via email.

 

 

IMG_5865New Routes & Race Starting Times:

 

As communicated before, we are debuting some new routes this year.  Please familiarize yourself with the race you have entered and the changes you can expect:

 

65km Momentum CLASSIC ROUTE

“The most spectacular route in Eswatini” – is how our guinea-pig cyclist describes our new Imvelo Classic route!  He followed this with “extremely tough, and now I know I need to work on my fitness!”  Be warned – He is one of Eswatini’s top 10 MTB cyclists, so please take his lead!

Imvelo MTB Classic 2018 will be a very similar warm up through the plains, up and over Mantenga View Point and then heads for Mlilwane North through rural community.  The trail through community is on dirt road (good red clay, so slippery when wet) offering challenging climbs and some scenic single track.  The King of the Mountain is now at 1230m asl, celebrating a tough dirt road climb which leads onto Mlilwane North. Here, dirt roads give way to 6km of immature single track, with opportunities for over-taking on ancient jeep-tracks. A 6km downhill section requires good brakes, and provides technical riding, which will thrill our top riders.  We’ve nick named this downhill “Nagashima” which is the worlds’ longest roller coaster.  Crossing over a river brings cyclists back onto Mlilwane South for a final climb and drop to the finish at Rest Camp. There will be water tables at roughly 9km, 16km, 20.5km, 40km and at 57km

NOTE:

  • Our new grass tracks are still rough at some sections
  • Total elevation gain/loss is 1737m
  • Time to ride Imvelo Classic route is expected to be a lot longer than our old 64km.  In our test rides we found that it will add between 45min (top riders) and 1h30 (back of the field) longer than our previous routes.  We are therefore planning to start our 65km Classic this year at 07:00 instead of at 08:00
  • It is strongly recommended that you have done some distance on your bike in the last 4 weeks before considering taking part in this one (It’s not too late to downgrade-  but please do so before 31 May!)

 

37km Purejoy CHALLENGE ROUTE

Yes you read right! We’re giving you a whole 2 extra kilometers for free- SURPRISE!! The major route change includes Nyonayane Mountain and removes the Usuthu Forest. There will be water tables at roughly 9km; 16km;  26km and 30km

 

12.5km MilkyMax HOGLET & 22km Emasi Umdeni FAMILY ROUTES

Minor adjustments will be made to the start of these these routes, still meandering through the plains relatively close to Mlilwane Rest Camp. There will be water tables at roughly 9km and 16km (Family Route)

 

 

IMG_62102018 STARTING TIMES

 

65km Momentum CLASSIC                           – 07:00 ** PLEASE TAKE NOTE **

37km Pure Joy CHALLENGE                         – 09:15

22km Emasi Umdeni FAMILY FUN              – 09:45

12.5km Milky Max HOGLET                         – 09:50

 

Good luck and get training (if you haven’t started already!)

Best Regards,

The Organisers

Imvelo 2018 Entries Closed!

The deadline to enter the Nedbank Swaziland Imvelo MTB Classic 2018 was Monday 30th of April! Did you miss it? Here’s what you can do:

Send an email to our race organisers at imvelo@biggameparks.org and BEG for a spot- just kidding! However, we are serious about emailing our race organisers- drop us an email asking to be added to the Waiting List. We aren’t promising any miracles but we will see what we can do!

 

Imvelo 2018 JPG

Imvelo Entries: Open Tomorrow

Final reminder that entries for our 2018 Imvelo MTB Classic at Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary on 9th June 2018 open TOMORROW 10th April 2018 at 6am:

Enter Online:
www.imvelo.co.sz / www.entrytime.com

At Our Parks:
Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary – at Our Resevations Office (Vickery Road)
Hlane Royal National Park – at the Main Gate

Enter In-store:
Adventure Sport Cycle Shops in Mbabane & Manzini

**PLEASE READ & TAKE NOTE OF CHANGES BEFORE CHOOSING YOUR RACE**
Time has come for recreating our Imvelo routes!  With future potential challenges traversing neighbouring land, we have brought Imvelo almost entirely onto Mlilwane.

HOGLET & FAMILY ROUTES
Minor adjustments will be made to these routes, still meandering through the plains relatively close to Mlilwane Rest Camp.

35Km CHALLENGE ROUTE
The major route change includes Nyonyane Mountain and removes the Usutu Forest.

CLASSIC ROUTE
“The most spectacular route in Swaziland” – is how our guinea-pig cyclist describes our new Imvelo Classic route!  He followed this with “extremely tough, and now I know I need to work on my fitness!”  Be warned – He is one of Swaziland’s top 10 MTB cyclists, so please take his lead!
Imvelo MTB Classic 2018 will be a very similar warm up through the plains, up and over Mantenga View Point and then heads for Mlilwane North through rural community.  The trail through community is on dirt road (good red clay, so slippery when wet) offering challenging climbs.  Crossing into Mlilwane North, dirt roads give way to 18km of immature single track, with opportunities for over-taking on ancient jeep-tracks.  The King of the Mountain is now at 1357m asl, celebrating a tough single-track climb and rewarded by a momentary view of Mbabane before wizzing down towards Ezulwini.  A 6km downhill section requires good brakes, and provides technical riding, which will thrill our top riders.  Crossing over a river brings cyclists back onto Mlilwane South for a final climb and drop to the finish at Rest Camp.
NOTE:

  • Our new grass tracks are still rough at this stage, although we will be working to reduce the resistance over the coming 2 months to provide a smoother ride.
  • Our route is currently 69km, but may be reduced slightly due to the toughness of this course.The route will not be shorter than 65km.
  • Total elevation gain/loss is 2043m
  • Time to ride Imvelo Classic route is expected to be a lot longer than our old 64km

 

Imvelo 2018 JPG