DEFENDER TROPHY – A YEARLY EVENT
Sponsored by BUNDUTEC
TRAVELING WITH MY LANDY
Written by Johan kriek
Where is Maputaland? Are we going to Mozambique? Do we need passports? Some of the questions I received when Defender aficionados started registering for the event. And the answer is plain and simple, no it is not in Mozambique, it is the portion of northern KwaZulu-Natal that lies between the Lebombo mountains and the Indian ocean – that is Maputaland. The name was probably derived way back from the hunting fraternity, who hunted in these areas around the Usutu River, which then becomes the Maputo River as it flows deeper into Mozambique to Maputo bay. But that is the interesting part – the origin of the name Maputa- land is clouded in mystery!
“THE CONVOY OF DEFENDERS SAW PLENTY OF GAME BEFORE EXITING THE PARK”
The Bundutec Defender Trophy Maputaland started from Nyalazi campsite which is situated close to the Nyalazi gate of the iMfolozi Game Reserve, the oldest game reserve in Africa, established in 1895! The Sixteen Defenders entered the Park and drove via the edge of the iMfolozi wilderness area – where operation Rhino took place during the late 1950s – 1960s. It is widely acknowledged that this initiative by Dr. Ian Player and the then Natal Parks Board was responsible for saving the White Rhino from extinction.
The convoy of Defenders saw plenty of game before exiting the Park. At this stage, we were still in Zululand as we had not yet crossed the Lebombo mountains, and we traveled on old 4×4 tracks to explore rural Zululand. Some of us did get stuck as the recent heavy rains turned some areas into mini swamps.
Our first night at the event was spent wild camping at the community-owned Big 5 Somkhanda Game Reserve – and the cherry on top was encountering a pack of wild dogs as we entered the reserve.
Day two saw us crossing the Lebombo Mountains before entering the beautiful Mkuze Game Reserve. Another gem of a reserve, Mkuze is renowned for an astonishing diversity of natural habitats,
from the foothills of the Lebombo Mountains along its northwestern boundary to broad stretches of Acacia trees, Savannah, swamps, a variety of woodlands, and riverine forests as well as a rare type of sand-forest. The uMkhuze River, with a beautiful stretch of fig forest along its banks, curves along the Reserve’s northern and eastern borders. uMkhuze Game Reserve is a “Big 5” Reserve, due to the re-introduction of Lions to the Reserve in 2013. After entering the reserve we proceeded to the nearby Bushbaby campsite which is situated in the sand forest of the KwaJoba community. The Defender Trophy was the first group that they have ever been hosted here – what a privilege.
Day Three was short and sweet. How can you not allow time for people to enjoy the warm azure blue waters of the Indian ocean? So it was only a short hop before we had lunch at Sodwa- na beach, and an afternoon at leisure at Sodwana Bay.
The next day was a long day – not in distance but in driving time. The iSimangaliso Wetland Park proclaimed as a world heritage site in 1999, is one of the most outstanding natural wetland and coastal sites in Africa. Covering an area of 239 566ha, it includes a wide range of pristine marine, coastal, wetland, estuarine, and terrestrial environments which are scenically beautiful and virtually untouched by humans. From Sodwana, the convoy headed north past Lake Sibaya through the coastal dune forests in the iSimangaliso conservation area. We had plenty of fun driving the lovely sand tracks through this pristine bush, before arriving for lunch at Black Rock beach.
From Black Rock, we turned away from the coast and drove past the town of Manguze before arriving at KZN’s birding paradise – Ndumo game reserve.
A total of 430 birds have been identified in this lush park which shares the wide Usutu River with Mozambique.
Our last day took us away from the marshlands of Ndumo and we drove to the top of the Lebombo Mountains to “Border Cave” which is situated on the border between SA and Swaziland. From here you have magnificent views into Swaziland and one can try and imagine what the area must have looked like some 2000 years ago…
“Homo sapiens skeletons, stone tools, and chipping debris were found dating back 2000 years ago! The site produced not only the complete skeleton of an infant but also the remains of at least five adult hominins. Also recovered were more than 69,000 artifacts, and the remains of more than 43 mammal species, three of which are now extinct.”
After a quick lunch, the Defender Trophy convoy drove out of the Lebombo’s, and crossed the Jozini dam wall, before arriving at the lovely Baobab Inn which is situated close to the town of Mkuze – an ideal stop-over and the perfect venue for our prize giving.
The Defender Trophy is an event for people with green blood in their veins. It is a family-orientated overland event and each participant receives a daily questionnaire that covers local culture, fauna & flora. The highest-scoring team after three days are declared the winners and the father and son team of Chris and Tean Joubert were the proud winners of a Bundutop electric rooftop tent supplied by Bundutec!
The Defender Trophy Maputaland 2022 will be broadcasted on Ignition TV from 04 – 10 June 2022.