What a way to wake up! The Hlane Sun-up Cycle is a guided activity, with as much focus on the environment and wildlife as on the actual riding. By Jacques Marais

“What about the rhinos, lions and elephants?” is generally the first question the mountain-bike guides at Hlane Royal National Park, in the Kingdom of Swaziland, are asked. Never fear, you ride through the big game section for only about a kilometre before you enter another section of the park. Although you may still bump into the occasional dangerous creature – we saw crocodile drag marks! – your guides are there to keep you safe.

We enjoyed a dawn caffeine fix while the guides briefed us on riding in the bush,  then got ready to saddle up. At Hlane, you can either bring your own bike or make use of one supplied by Big Game Parks at no extra charge.

From the rest camp, we kept our eyes peeled along the initial pedal in the rhino and elephant section. Once we made it through the first gate, it was an easy gravel cruise of around four kilometers to Mahlindsa Dam. Coffee or tea and muffins can be arranged for you to enjoy when you reach the bird hide, with a passing parade of animals and birds to watch while you relax.

Guides point out interesting tracks on the ride. Picture by Jacques Marais.

Guides point out interesting tracks on the ride. Picture by Jacques Marais.

Thus fortified, we continued onto the Ngoti Road to navigate a track meandering through the typically dense thornveld vegetation. The riding is non-technical, except for the occasional patch of sand. Chances are good you’ll bump into plains game while swooping amidst the stands of tamboti and knob-thorn.

Depending on the fitness levels and speed of your group, you can decide on the best route to follow back to Ndlovu Camp. And when you feel the glow of the African sunrise, all will be well with the world.

About the ride

Grading Easy to intermediate

Duration 2 to 3 hours

Configuration 18km

Start point Ndlovu Camp

Terrain Track and dirt road

Access Entry fee of R40 a day (free with a Wild Card) plus R230 for the guided ride

Bike hire Standard bikes with perma-tube inners must be used for the guided ride. You can bring your own bike to explore selected day trails in the area with a guide.

Trip planner

Getting there The beauty of Swaziland is that you don’t need a visa, only a passport, which makes for an easy weekend drive from KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. Hlane Royal National Park is situated near Simunye, about an hour from Manzini along the M3.

Accommodation The campsite at Hlane’s Ndlovu Camp offers true tranquillity, with large trees to relax under, though no electricity. From R105 a person a night. Stay in cosy thatched rondavels from R415 a person a night and eat at the open-air restaurant, or opt for self-catering cottages from R445 a night.

Bookings Big Game Parks Central Reservations +268 2528 3943 or [email protected]. Visit www.biggameparks.org for more information.

*Header picture by Jacques Marais