Defender enthusiasts, ready your vehicles. The Wild Defender Trophy overland challenge is back, this time unfolding at the exquisite Addo Elephant National Park. Gear up for the outdoor experience of a lifetime! By Nell Hofmeyr
From 16 to 20 May 2019, teams of overlanders will gather at South Africa’s third largest national park for an adventurous weekend of 4×4 driving, game viewing, wilderness camping and a little friendly competition.
Since the first Defender Trophy event in 2004, this fun and accessible challenge has become a highlight for owners of the iconic Land Rover vehicle. With the untouched beauty of the Eastern Cape to set the scene and plenty of remote travel in store, this year promises to be one for the books.
For the love of nature
“The aim of Defender Trophy is to explore our provincial and national parks, promote awareness of our natural heritage and share in the joy of the wilderness with like-minded Land Rover Defender owners,” says founder and organiser Johan Kriek.
The idea is to create a family-friendly event, complete with natural obstacles and off-road trails, where participants get to hone their navigation skills, display their bush knowledge and build camaraderie with fellow nature lovers.
While a passion for Defenders is part and parcel of the experience, this is not a driving contest. Participants score points by answering a daily questionnaire about the local flora and fauna, culture and history of the area, Land Rover Defender and the event’s sponsors.
Importantly, drivers must have T4A GPS maps loaded on their Garmin device in order to take part, as these will become necessary once the competition kicks into gear: “The daily questionnaire will include questions at certain waypoints, such as ‘identify the big tree on your left’,” says Kriek. “In terms of preparation, don’t forget to bring along your mammal, tree and wildflower books for the Eastern Cape.”
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What to expect
Day 1 kicks off at Schotia Safari’s, a private game reserve bordering Addo, where guests will enjoy convoy game drives in Big Five country, topped off with a complimentary dinner at the famous lapa.
Friday through Sunday is when all creatures comforts are left behind and the real adventure begins.
After briefly exploring Addo’s tourist sector, everyone will head deeper into the park for three days of scenic driving and undisturbed bush camping under the stars. What could be better?
“The absolute highlight of the trail is that Addo Elephant National Park is allowing us to traverse their non-tourist wilderness areas, which include spectacular vistas and mountain scenery,” says Kriek.
Mountain enthusiasts can also look forward to tackling the famed the Bedrogfontein 4×4 trail which runs between Kabouga Gate and Darlington Dam. From east to west, the route boasts diverse vegetation and picture-perfect views.
The terrain will be tricky to navigate in some places, but by no means should that deter less experienced overlanders from entering. That said, drivers must have basic knowledge of off-roading as certain tracks will feature steep ascents and descents that require the use of low-range first gear.
Expertise or none, Kriek recommends Defender Trophy as the perfect starting point for further 4×4 travel: “Events like these are a great way to practise for longer self-drive trips as not only do you get to test your own kit, but also learn from other overlanders at the event.”
• You need to be self-sufficient in terms of food, drinking water, firewood and camping equipment. Dinner is included only on the first and last evenings.
• You need a two-way radio and a GPS loaded with Tracks4Africa maps in order to navigate the routes and answer the questions.
• There are many exciting prizes up for grabs including BF Goodrich tyres, SuperWinch winch, spare wheel covers by Melvill & Moon, as well as prizes from Tracks4Africa, Madman, Enertec, Mastersons and Stones accessories.
The entry fee is R8,000 per vehicle (two participants)
Additional participants are charged at R1,000 per person
Have you ever taken part in an overlanding event before? Tell us about it in the comments.