Yearning for adventure in our nature reserves and national parks? Take a ride on the wild side when you hop in your 4×4 and make these untamed locations your playground. By Gaynor Siljeur

The Nuweveld and Afsaal eco-trails, Karoo National Park

With breathtaking vistas, endless plains and an impressive  variety of wildlife, Karoo National Park is one underrated park you have to visit. The off-road enthusiast is in for a particular treat as there are four 4×4 eco-trails to explore at no additional cost.

Experience the remote areas of this national park and admire the Nuweveld mountains in all their glory when you take on the 90km Nuweveld Trail and the 13km Afsaal Trail. Both these routes divert off the Potlekkertjie Loop to explore the lesser-known western section of the park. Their eco-trail designation means the focus is on the enjoying the surrounds rather than technical driving, but the trails are still strictly 4×4.

Accommodation: You could make this trip in one day, but then you would miss out on  Embizweni Cottage. This secluded cottage is situated 45km from the main rest camp and sleeps up to seven people. Make this trip a weekend getaway as you have to book a minimum of two nights.

Rates: R 1,310 per night for up to four people. R263 per night for an additional adult, R132 per night for an additional child.

Contact: SANParks Central Reservations at +27 (0)12 428 9111 or book online.

Picture courtesy of SANParks

The 4×4 Fishing Trail, Walker Bay Nature Reserve

Have you ever gone whale watching in your 4×4? Picturesque Walker Bay is a real whale watchers’ paradise and gives visitors easy access to angling sites along this stretch of the coast.

As hundreds of southern right whales seek shelter in this bay to breed and calve, there are few places better for whale watching than Walker Bay. The reserve also has bountiful coastal and marine life – look out for the endangered African black oystercatcher, grysbok and steenbok

The popular 9km 4×4 Fishing Trail starts at the reserve’s entrance, close to Wortelgat, and then winds its way along the coast to Mierkom. Make sure to pack a blanket and some snacks for a picnic at Sopiesklip.

Good to know: The fishing trail is open daily from 07:00 to 19:00. While entrance to Walker Bay is free with a Wild Card, the 4×4 trail carries an activity fee.

Contact: CapeNature at +27 (0)21 483 0190 for more information.

Picture courtesy of CapeNature

The Mafunyane 4×4 Eco-trail, Kruger National Park

This 4×4 eco-trail puts the ‘fun’ in Mafunyane. South Africa’s flagship park has plenty to offer and meandering along the Mafunyane 4×4 Eco-Trail is a leisurely way to explore the wonders of Kruger’s western section.

The Mafunyane Trail stretches between the Olifants and Luvuvhu rivers and covers a distance of approximately 270km. You have to be self-sufficient to tackle this four-day trail: you need to be kitted out with a 4×4, camping gear, water, firewood and food. Leading the way is a professional trail guide so you don’t have to worry about getting lost in the wild.

The road conditions can vary from good to sections with steep inclines, muddy patches to crossings of rivers and streams, so only vehicles with proper off-road trailers or caravans are allowed.

Good to know: Overnight sites have firepits, environmentally friendly toilets and a shower. The Kruger National Park is a malaria area and participants must take the necessary precautions.

Rates: The base rate for 4 people is R6,658.

Contact: SANParks Central Reservation at +27 (0)12 428 9111

Picture by Magriet Kruger

The Zebra Crossing 4×4 Route, Gamkaberg Nature Reserve

As part of the Cape Floral Region World Heritage Site, Gamkaberg Nature Reserve is home to pristine fynbos and renosterveld. The Zebra Crossing 4×4 Route takes you up onto the Gamkaberg and allows you to discover a big and rugged section of the reserve.

There is a spectacular lookout point at the top where you can feast your eyes on the surrounding mountains and see as far as Ladismith. Along the way look for caracal, red hartebeest, honey badger and the rare Cape mountain zebra.

It’s approximately 32km to Oukraal and back, so you can easily do it as a day trip, but it is well worth spending the night at this rustic camp.

Accommodation: When night falls, make yourself comfortable in one of Oukraal’s four herder’s huts at the top of the Gamkaberg plateau. Each hut sleeps two guests and there is no electricity, giving you  the peace and quiet you  deserve.

Rates: R320 for two people per night. R200 per vehicle.

Contact: CapeNature at +27 (0)21 483 0190 or book online.

Picture by Kate Collins

Also read: New rock art trail opens in Gamkaberg