Tau 4×4 Trail (old Protea Safari Trail)
Review: Drive Out #43 | March 2011
A bush-felt experience
If you are pining for some bush solitude, but are short on time to really get out there, Tau 4×4 Trail may be just the thing for you, says Geoff Levey. It’s good wholesome fun for the whole family, just beyond the city limits.
On the Tau 4×4 Trail in the Krugersdorp Game Reserve, you can drive your 4×4 across an array of terrains and obstacles while those members of the family not so interested in bumping around, can go looking for game.
Just 45 minutes from the Joburg city centre, at the Tau 4×4 Trail, you can get close to game and birds while at the same time testing your driving skills. Best of all, it’s fun for the whole family (except maybe for little Luzanne on the back seat, who seems to be more interested in a bird called… Twitter?)
It is run by the off-road and environmental enthusiast Jannie Rykaart of Protea Eco Adventures.
The 25 km trail winds through the 1600 hectare Krugersdorp reserve, one of Gauteng’s most scenic wildlife sanctuaries. It has three of the big five – (white) lion, leopard and buffalo – as well as the rare sable antelope.
The trail weaves across rivers, through mud, bushveld and savannahs and over rocks on roads that are only open to trail-goers. It’s challenging here and there, but there are escape routes.
The trail is guided, ensuring 4×4 instructors are always at hand to give advice on approaching certain obstacles, and to share their knowledge of the park and its people, plants, animals and history.
If you want to fine-tune your skills, you can do so on the off-road track at the end of the trail.
Fun and game
We meet at the Ngonyama Lion Lodge, just inside the park gates, at 8.30am on a Saturday. After signing in, the members of our convoy of eight vehicles are treated to light snacks and coffee. Before we start, we are given an overview of the day’s travels.
From the start, extra help is at hand for the beginners as tyres are deflated for off-roading and two-way radios handed out. The guides remain in constant contact with the convoy throughout the day.
We head off, instructors bringing up the front and rear.
Soon we arrive at a well-frequented waterhole where we stop to watch hippo, tsessebe, eland, waterbuck, springbok and impala.
Then it’s a short trip to the cemetery on jeep tracks through a forest “maze” of tamboti trees.
The cemetery dates back to the 1860s and is the final resting place of the Du Toit family who lived in the nearby homestead, of which there is little left. The house was part of a concentration camp during the Boer War.
Dirk Brink, the previous owner of the reserve, also lies buried here. He was mauled to death in 2007 after suffering a stroke while feeding the lions.
We continue across typical bushveld terrain, lumbering to and fro up and down the rocky slopes like a herd of elephants.
Our next stop is on a hilltop, where a buffalo herd is supposed to hang out. It takes us ten minutes to spot them in the dense bush.
We continue up the hill across a particularly demanding rocky patch where you should engage the diff lock. Then it’s back onto the savannahs.
We pass the sable and oryx camps, safety enclosures built to protect the sable from two- and four-legged hunters. A few more rocky sections and hills later we arrive at the aviary. The kids are out in a flash. We are led into the aviary and it is like entering another world where you are surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature. More than 100 indigenous bird species such as different types of cranes, hornbills and ibises can be observed at close quarters.
Soon we head off again, back onto the savannah and the serious game-spotting part of the journey. Since the driver’s eyes should remain on the track, the passengers come in handy. Put them to work and make a list of the game that you spot, such as rhino, tsessebe, eland, waterbuck, kudu, oryx, red hartebeest, blesbok, wildebeest and giraffe.
Then, with all senses on high alert, it’s time for the highlight of the trail, that which turns your in-town 4×4 experience into a bush-felt one – the white-lion enclosure.
We queue patiently at the entrance, waiting for the go-ahead to enter, one at a time.
Lions surround the vehicle after we have driven in, making us feeling distinctly like dinner. But then the lunchtime “Mr Delivery” bell tolls and a vehicle carrying a carcass for the lions arrives. Off the menu, we watch the lions feed.
Lunch time over, we exit the lion enclosure, pass the playpen and head for the Ndubazi Boma for a late lunch.
The playpen is open to all visitors for the rest of the day. It features a few river crossings, axle twisters, side slopes and dongas. At the end, just before the boma, you can cross the swing-log bridge and see if you can balance your vehicle on the bridge. It’s a lot of fun. Reassuringly, instructors are on hand throughout.
Guests can overnight in the Ngonyama Lion Lodge or the Ngonyama Caravan Park in the park.
Drive Out says: Jannie Rykaart goes out of his way to offer a special experience that combines off-road driving with game viewing.
What you should know
WHY SHOULD I GO?
It’s a great learning opportunity for a novice, and a fun day of game viewing out with the family for the more experienced.
How long is the trail? 25 km
How long will I be driving? 5 hours
Maximum number of vehicles? No limit
Do I get a map? No
Will my car get scratched? Not if you stay on the well-maintained trails and follow instructions
Should I remove my running boards? No
Should I take a compressor? It’s unnecessary.
Can I turn around halfway? No
Can we have a braai en route? No
Best time to go? All year round
Can I take my family along? Consider it a pre-requisite.
Just for the day or the weekend? A day or a weekend will work.
Are there ablution facilities for day visitors? Yes, at the lodge
Can I see game? Yes, the game includes white lions and sable antelope.
The nearest town? Krugersdorp
How do I get there? Follow the pointers from the R24/N14 to the Krugersdorp Game Reserve and Ngonyama Lion lodge or use the map at www.passport2adventure.co.za
GPS points: Ngonyama Lodge S26.08864 E27.71706
The nearest fuel? Krugersdorp (1 km)
WHERE CAN I STAY?
Ngonyama Caravan Park: 52 stands, each with electrical points and a braai area. R190 per night for 4. Contact Joanne Meintjes 082 337 3432; email@example.com
Ngonyama Lion Lodge: B&B in 2-bed chalets (R710 pn), 4-bed chalets (R1000 pn) and 2-bed rondavels (R640pn). Four-bed self-catering chalet (R950 pn). The lodge has a restaurant and bar. Contact Tanya Steyn 082 928 3234; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.afribush.co.za/adventures.htm. Note: Prices increases that were due in March 2011 were unknown at the time of going to print.
Should I take anything special? Game-viewing books, sunscreen, binoculars, camera and drinks
What else can I do there? Game viewing, horse riding
Trail: R400 per vehicle (2 persons), which include
s coffee, tea, and lunch Additional adults R60 pp, children under 12: R30 pp; Group rates are available for groups of over 10 vehicles. It is essential to book because the trail is only done about once a month.
Jannie Rykaart *083 268 0566; 011 764 2220; email@example.com; www.passport2adventure.co.za, firstname.lastname@example.org
101 Trail Guide | 2010
Tau 4×4 Trail
Owned and managed by Jannie Rykaart, Protea Eco Adventures offers a variety of off-road experiences.
One of them, the Tau 4×4 Trail (previously Old Protea Safari Trail), is an ideal family outing.
This guided trail follows private jeep tracks through the 1 600 hectare Krugersdorp Game Reserve.
It has a 2-4 grading but is suitable for all off-road vehicles – with or without low-range – as the more challenging sections can be bypassed if necessary.
On tracks not normally accessible to the general public, the trail winds through savannahs and bushveld, across mud, rock and rivers, with instructors leading you all the way.
It takes you up to a plateau and into grass savannahs – but on the way you will encounter a rocky section where diff lock is advantageous and a steady right foot imperative.
After few more rocky sections and some intimidating descents, you will come to one of the trail’s many highlights – the game reserve’s aviary.
From there the track continues through more savannah, and this is where you are most likely to spot antelope, wildebeest, rhino and giraffe.
Next stop is the lion enclosure and the white lion camp, both of which are a must.
You then make your way to the Ndubazi boma via a 4×4 “playground”, which has a selection of obstacles, including river crossings, axle-twisters, side slopes and dongas.
At the end, just before the boma, you can go over the swing log bridge and see if you can balance your vehicle on it – a lot of fun.
The playground is a perfect place to brush up on those rusty off-road skills, under the watchful eye of experienced instructors.
What you should know
You can stay at Ngonyama Caravan Park or Ngonyama Lion Lodge. The latter offers 2- and 4-bed chalets. See www.afribush.co.za for more details
Protea Eco Adventures also offers tailor-made, guided, self-catering, affordable safaris to other parts of South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique.
Nearest town: Krugersdorp (1 km)
Best time to go: All year round
Trail distance: 25 km
How long will I be driving? 5 hours
GPS: S26.08864 E27.71706
What you should know
083 268 0566
25km | 5 hours
Owned and managed by Jannie Rykaart, Tau 4x4 Trail, previously Old Protea Eco Adventures, offers a variety of services and experiences that includes a 4x4 safari trail, safari tours and team building events.
The self-drive Tau 4x4 Trail, is some 20 km long and winds through a 1600ha game reserve. It can take anything from two hours to a full day to complete. The trail consists of three sections: a 4x2 route, a 4x4 trail and the clearly-marked, more extreme red trail. The Red trail is the toughest, and is for drivers with sound off-road experience, with a winch or back-up 4x4 essential. The Green trail is less technical but still challenging in parts, making low range vital, but there are escape routes around all the tricky sections. Recovery is available on the Green Trail at a fee. The 4x2 trail is aimed at novice off-roaders, soft-roaders and 4x2s with differential lock. Protea 4x4 is a must for those who want to put their vehicles to the test and get in some practice without having to drive vast distances to get there. It is well set-up for training.
There are 2 options: Ngonyama Caravan Park and the Ngonyama Lion Lodge. The latter is B&B. with full restaurant facilities.