Off-road adventures in KwaZulu-Natal
Did you know?
No special license is required to drive off-road, despite the numerous different techniques and practices this mode of transport entails.
By definition off-road adventures involve vehicles adapted to suit the rough terrain found off the beaten track. These vehicles usually come with customised suspension, extra ground clearance, thick, well-treaded tyres, and locking differentials and low gear ratios. The category includes All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs), trucks, Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs), snowmobiles, motorbikes, mountain bikes and quad bikes.
There’s no shortage of challenging KwaZulu-Natal terrain on which to put off-road modes of transport to the test.
Of these, one of the most scenic – with its characteristic zigzag trail heading up and over the Drakensberg escarpment – is a day tour by mountain bike or quad bike up the Sani Pass through a World Heritage Site. Passports are required since you will cross the border from South Africa into Lesotho.
The stunning vistas, rugged hills and valleys of the Drakensberg mountain range are a quad biker’s dream. Trails with names like Waterfall Gorge, Rocky Pass, Moon Donga and Waterfall Challenge give some indication of the demanding environment that welcomes riders to the northern section of the Drakensberg.
The eco-friendly guided quad trails of Hopewell Farm near Ballito on the North Coast, have been voted as one of the 10 best-guided trails in South Africa. Suitable for amateur and professional quad bikers, the routes meander through forests and include river crossings. Competent guides provide tuition for novices.
Every weekend mountain bikers head off to tackle newly created trails, so it’s no wonder that this continues to be one of the fastest-growing adventure sports worldwide.
One of the sweetest trails you’ll find in KwaZulu-Natal is the Sugar Trail on the North Coast, an hour-long round trip from the Ballito micro light airfield across four sugar estates. Traverse cane breaks, tackle hill climbs, slide through the mud, hit the water, negotiate bridges and follow narrow bush tracks, taking a brief stop along the way to enjoy ocean views. The trail can be adapted to include more technically challenging elements if required.
Dolphin Drive Lodge in Leisure Bay on the lower South Coast is the base from which safe, scenic four-hour motorbike scrambles leave for local villages at 10am. An experienced off-roader hosts the ride, which is suited to all ages.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
KwaZulu-Natal Tourism Authority
Tel: +27 (0)31 366 7500
Fax: +27 (0)31 305 6693
Tours to do
Some operators put together special packages that last for a few days. Although better suited to more experienced riders or drivers, these offer a variety of terrain and challenges.
What will it cost
Use your own transport or hire bikes, helmet, goggles, fuel, instructors and guides. Cost varies between off-road operators, modes of transport and length of trail.
What to pack
Old clothes, hiking boots or sturdy shoes are required since off-road travel is a muddy, dusty, dirty business.
Where to stay
Both the Drakensberg and Midlands regions are packed with B&Bs, country lodges and hotels that offer both simple and luxury accommodation. The north and south coast regions are popular holiday destinations where apartments and B&Bs are plentiful.