Date – 29 May 2021
Venue – Babanango Game Reserve, Matatane Camp
Distances – 42km Mountain Marathon, 21km Mountain Challenge, 10km and 5km
The Babanango Story
It’s common for all of us to wonder how things would be if Covid had never been. Lots of things would be very different. Many have lost things, but many have gained things to. One thing that the Mountain Marathon Series gained was stunning Bushveld course in the form of the newly established Babanango Game Reserve. I hear you say “Bushveld and Mountains?” – YES, all rolled into one including White Umfolozi River frontage.
Andrew McGill, one of the project managers at the Babanango Game Reserve had been on KZNTR’s case about getting out to the reserve. On a number of occasions in 2018 and 2019 we tried to pin down a date, but busy schedules snuffed out each opportunity. Then is June when KZNTR was facilitating trails out of The Barn Owl coffee shop along came Andrew McGill for a mornings running in the midlands. After his run we got chatting and he extended the offer to visit the Babanango Game Reserve once again. This time we did not need a second offer and we ventured out of the house on our first trip in months to the stunning Valley Lodge.
It was obvious why Andrew had been on us about getting out there to prospect it for an event. With 22 000ha, 20km of iMfolozi River frontage, Granite koppies dotted everywhere and some real elevation between this high and low points, if offered everything we needed. Then we saw the new family orientated Matatane Camp with views over the White Umfolozi River, and the vision for bringing the Mountain Marathon Series to northern KZN in a somewhat unexpected mountain space was born!
Thanks for coming to The Barn Owl that day Andrew McGill, it was the perfect moment that finally got us to this piece of paradise you are helping create.
Of course there are always two parts to the story of how we came to be and this next piece is how the Babanango Game Reserve came to be, taken from the website www.babanango.co.za
HOW THE BABANANGO STORY HAS UNFOLDED
Creating a game reserve is a mammoth undertaking – consider the process of securing the land, to fencing it, building roads and infrastructure, building the right team of people to manage the reserve, stocking the reserve with the right species and managing these in a sustainable manner, not to mention putting together the funds to support and drive such a project.
Like all endeavours that are challenging but worthwhile, passion is the key ingredient to make a game reserve successful, and passion is precisely what has driven the formation of Babanango Game Reserve.
“A little selfish part of me wanted Zululand as the location for this project. I was always fascinated by the Zulu culture after growing up in the area and watching Shaka Zulu. I was determined to make the project happen here in KZN,” says Jeffrey van Staden, South African owner of a German-based African tour operating company.
Van Staden was approached by German clients, Barbara and Hellmuth Weisser, to identify an investment opportunity in African conservation. At a turning point in his life, about to leave Germany to return to live in South Africa, van Staden was also in the market for a new project to sink his energies into and he swiftly earmarked KZN as the ideal region for this endeavour.
A seasoned authority in the conservation lodge industry, van Staden understood that it wasn’t a lack of effort that was losing the battle against poaching but rather a lack of cooperation. He had in mind the idea to find a green fields site that was unprotected and under threat, and preserve it.
As luck would have it, he met with Conservation Outcomes, a non-profit organisation that provides support to developments in biodiversity conservation which contribute to socio-economic development in rural Southern Africa. They took van Staden to Babanango, a near-pristine region in Northern KZN that is in dire need of socio-economic upliftment – something that a game reserve, with its attendant conservation benefits, could bring to the area.
This neatly aligned with the Weisser’s passion for conservation; having travelled Africa extensively he’s witnessed its urgency and is the benefactor of other conservation and anti-poaching projects in South Africa.
Presented with the feasibility study and financial model for Babanango Game Reserve, the Weisser’s recognised the impact on the region’s biodiversity that his investment would make and gave the go-ahead to begin the very first project for African Habitat Conservancy.
“Although this reserve was the most stunningly beautiful I’d seen, it was also the most challenging, but the risk reward was the best I could foresee. If we can get it right here, then we are adding another 22,000 hectares of conserved land to KZN,” says van Staden.
Together, van Staden and the Weisser’s are in the process of creating something truly special and unique – the sustainable conservation of endemic flora and fauna, and the upliftment of local communities through job creation, skills development and education.
It’s a story which is still unfolding, and which every guest to Babanango Game Reserve contributes.
3pm Registration Opens
6pm Dinner and Briefing
8pm Registration Closes
6am 40km starts
6.30am 20km Starts
7am 10km starts
7.15am 5km starts
8am-4pm Runners finishing
11am – Lunch Opens
4pm Lunch Closes
6pm Dinner and Prize Giving
Below we have plotted to prospective routes to be finalized.
The 42km has 1800m of elevation gain.
The 21km has 900m of elevation gain.