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For the first time ever, 4×4 enthusiasts will have the opportunity to experience routes in the Garden Route National Park normally inaccessible to visitors. This September, get ready for the exclusive 4×4 Forest Experience. By Arnold Ras

Hosted by the SANParks Honorary Rangers, the 4×4 Forest Experience promises enchanting landscapes rarely seen by the public. The event takes place in the Garden Route National Park’s Wilderness Region from 23 to 24 September 2017. For two days, participants will get the chance to explore the park’s diversity of forests, fynbos, mountain streams and wetlands.

On offer are three distinct routes, each boasting unique locations and all departing from the Wilderness Common. “All the routes will be led by an Honorary Ranger who will be both guide and information officer. Many of the guides have lived in the area for many years and will be able to provide detailed information on the ecology and cultural history of the area,” says Zane Erasmus, SANParks Honorary Ranger, Wilderness Region.

The excursions have scheduled departure times and a limited number of vehicles will be allowed. Although 4×4 vehicles with a low-range gear are recommended, none of the routes exceeds a grade three difficulty rating. “It’s worth noting that the massive wildfires in June [2017] did not affect any of the planned routes.”

With three exhilarating, strictly guided options, you might find it tricky to choose. Here’s what you can expect on the various 4×4 excursions.

Take your pick

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#1: Voortrekker Pass Route

Distance: 94km – the event’s longest route and perhaps the most challenging
Duration: 4-5 hours
Route: Seven Passes Road passing the Bergplaas Forest Station and traversing the Outeniqua Mountains at Voortrekker Pass. The route descends the northern aspects of the mountains to a private farm, Louvain, from where vehicles will proceed to Montagu Pass via the N9.
Highlights: Views of Tsitsikamma and Outeniqua Mountains
Times: Three trips are scheduled with a maximum of 15 vehicles each – 23 September (09:00 and 11:00), and 24 September (09:00).
Cost: R350 per vehicle (excluding conservation fees)

#2: Windmeulnek Route

Distance: 69km – the event’s shortest route, but most diverse
Duration: 3-4 hours
Route: Passing Karatara Forest Station, the route scales Cornelius Kop – one of the Garden Route’s most popular viewpoints.
Highlights: Vehicles will pass through indigenous forest, fynbos and plantations to exit at the Farleigh Forest Station.
Times: Three trips are scheduled on both the Saturday and Sunday with a maximum of six vehicles each – trips leave at 08:30, 10:00 and 11:30.
Cost: R350 per vehicle (excluding conservation fees)

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#3: Goldfields Route

Distance: 92km
Duration: 4-5 hours
Route: This route heads into the forest at Jubilee Creek and drivers will make their way through some of the oldest and tallest moist indigenous forest in South Africa.
Highlights: Keep your eyes peeled for elephants. Stops are scheduled at the Old Goldfield Mine for guests to explore mine workings and the area’s forestry history.
Times: Two trips are scheduled with a maximum of 20 vehicles each – 23 September (09:30) and 24 September (09:30).
Cost: R350 per vehicle (excluding conservation fees)

The Garden Route National Park may not be home to the famous Big Five, but its landscapes are breathtaking and the biodiversity unique. Just think of iconic species like the Knysna seahorse, found only within the park’s estuaries, not to mention the remnants of the Knysna elephant populations.

“We are hoping that this can become an annual event. It provides an opportunity for SANParks to showcase some of the remarkable work they are responsible for in managing the mountain catchment areas,” explains Zane.

4×4 Exhibition

As part of the event, 28 leading and local manufacturers of 4×4 equipment will showcase must-have products. Do show your support – all participating manufacturers have donated generously towards this fund-raising drive.

Good to know

  • All vehicles must register at Wilderness Common on the mornings of the event.
  • Special parking arrangements have been made so that vehicles may depart in an orderly and safe manner.
  • Favourite South African fare will be on sale at Wilderness Common.
  • Make sure not to miss the prize-giving and lucky-draw events held at the end of each day.

Questions?

Contact Frances Feig ([email protected], +27 (0)82 559 3757) or Derek Oldfield ([email protected], +27 (0)82 550 2075) for more information.

Pictures courtesy of SANParks Honorary Rangers