LA Sport 4WD Megastores Pretoriais one of South Africa’s oldest and most well-known fitment centres and has always had a true passion for their customers and the industry. So, to celebrate this commitment, LA Sport Pretoria hosts an annual weekend getaway for off-road enthusiasts and overlanders. ANTON WILLEMSE JNR joined the fun.
Over a weekend in March, we headed to Bela-Bela for the return of Camp LA Sport, one of the most popular annual events on the off-roading calendar. We made a few quick stops in town for supplies before proceeding to our destination for the weekend – Mabalingwe Game Reserve.
Upon our arrival at the beautiful campsite, we were greeted by many familiar faces, all equally excited to be there. After saying our hello’s we quickly set up camp, enjoyed a delicious meal and settled in for an early night. It was going to be a busy, adventure-filled weekend and we simply couldn’t wait!
Doing our part
One of the primary goals of Camp LA Sport is to remind the off-roading community why it does what it does. The goal of having an overlanding vehicle and adding all manner of additional equipment to it is to get a little closer to nature. There’s another side to the coin though.
Reserves like Mabalingwe rely on our contributions as overlanders to continue doing the sterling work they do in terms of conservation. To demonstrate this, we were treated to a tour of the Boschpoort Safaris Predator Park.
The mission statement of the park is to raise awareness, educate the public on how to get involved in conservation and act responsibly when it comes to wildlife. During our tour, the staff shared some of the true horrors these beautiful animals have endured, from the illegal and inhumane breeding of lions for the bone trade to the trading of animals as illegal pets.
While there are responsible and ethical captive breeding lion projects in South Africa that do a great deal for the conservation of the species, some unregulated vigilantes turned it into a truly heinous and immoral practice. On unregulated properties the cubs are bred in captivity and then raised to adulthood, only to be sold for the bone trade in Eastern countries. Tigers were initially used for traditional medicine practice, but since tiger hunting was banned in an attempt to save the species, lions have fallen victim to this trade in recent years.
Another pressing issue for predators in this country and abroad is the growing exotic pet industry. Most of the tigers at the predator park have been rescued from the pet trade. Usually, when an animal reaches adolescence it becomes unpredictable and potentially dangerous to its owners. If these animals do not find sanctuary, they are usually euthanised. The park does everything possible to keep the animals comfortable, happy and healthy, providing them with a natural habitat as far as possible to live out the remainder of their lives. Still, unfortunately, most of these animals can not be reintroduced into the wild due to the human imprint.
The tour around the predator park reinvigorated our joint passion for nature and conservation. It was refreshing to be reminded of what overlanding is all about. It‘s about taking the road less travelled, to be the voice for those animals without one, ensure a future for them so they can be with us for future generations.
Another great foundation in attendance during the weekend was Cheetah Cubs Conservation Adventures. Regular readers will recognise the name of Leilani Basson who supports her nine-year old daughter, Sabria, in running this foundation. Their goal is to plant a seed of awareness of and passion for nature at a young age and to educate future generations about the importance of conservation. During this weekend the dynamic mother-and-daughter duo took charge of the children’s activities and each little one received a great conservation activity pack (aimed, of course, at instilling a passion for conservation). Find them on social media to check out their great work or get in touch with Leilani to join their efforts (+27 82 779 0602).
Off the beaten track
After this great reminder of why we love this industry and hobby, we headed to the off-road track, which had been set up by LA Sport Pretoria. The weekend provided an excellent opportunity for skilled and novice 4×4 enthusiasts to leave their comfort zone and experience off-roading at its best.
The route was split up into two parts. The first part was highly technical, aimed at skilled enthusiast with a well-modified vehicle. On the other hand, the mountain track demanded a bit of care and proficiency. The layout of both allowed for a bit of fun for everyone.
After the off-road track, everybody gathered at the R&R Buffalo Bar located in the caravan park (which serves as an income stream for the predator park), for a chance to get to know one another and share their stories. In between all the banter there was also the opportunity to revel in the beauty of some of the contenders’ rigs.
One of these was a double cab SFA Hilux. It sits on some truly massive wheels with a custom-fabricated bumper and revised brakes, hubs and even the rear differential of a Prado. The big surprise of the rig was its engine. This SFA didn’t have a gas-guzzling and fire-breathing 1UZ Lexus V8, but rather its original 2.2-litre little petrol four-banger. It was a perfect example of not fixing something if it isn’t broken!
A bit of exploring
After our time at the bush pub, many of the guests retreated to the swimming pool area to soak the day away. We took a detour to the Kalahari Oasis, the pub famous for the Caltex ads featuring Boet and Swaer. This also allowed us to see a bit more of the reserve, which is exceptionally lush and teeming with wildlife.
On our way back to the campsite we spotted some beautiful plains game and enjoyed a bit of birding. It served as yet another reminder why we love nature and made us realise the importance overlanding for places like Mabalingwe – our contributions help them ensure the survival of our beautiful natural heritage.
Ending on a high note
After a lazy afternoon by the pool, everyone gathered at the bar to celebrate the weekend’s success with a spit braai and a prize-giving ceremony. Hanging out with like-minded people reminded me why I love my job and why I got into overlanding in the first place. It is so much more than travelling to a destination or camping at beautiful places like Mabalingwe. It is an awesome way to grow a bond with those you love and care for, a chance to sit around a fire to forget about life’s worries and too appreciate the things that make life worth living.
More about Camp LA Sport
Camp LA Sport seeks to become a must-visit annual event. The event is set to play host to some of the leading manufacturers and accessory shops within the South African overlanding industry. The aim is to allow guests to test the vehicles and equipment and provide a setting for companies to showcase new and existing products.
This year’s partners:
• Mabalingwe Game Reserve
• Boschpoort Predators
• Boschpoort Safaris
• LA Sport 4WD Megastores Pretoria
• Quick Pitch
• M tech communications
• Opposite Lock
• Land Cruiser Heaven
• Bosveld Canvas and Leather
• Front Runner
• Cheetah Cubs Conservation
• Adventure Afrika (media partner)
CONTACT: +27 12 808 9951 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.lasport.co.za
More about Mabalingwe Game Reserve
Spread over more than 8 800ha of malaria-free unspoiled bushveld, Mabalingwe Game Reserve is situated in the majestic Waterberg Mountains, 28km west of Bela-Bela, in the Limpopo province. With only a two-hour drive from Johannesburg, it is the ideal weekend getaway for family and friends alike.
Mabalingwe is known for its beautiful Big Five, and with its rich biodiversity and abundance of wildlife, magnificent sunsets, and starry nights, nature is left to be itself. The peace and tranquillity of the bushveld is to be enjoyed, embraced and remembered.
With different accommodation options – including self-catering units – and activities such as game drives and horse riding to choose from, you are sure to be entertained and left in awe with all nature has to offer. The hospitality of the staff combined with the wonders of the wild, will ensure you leave Mabalingwe with unforgettable memories and the realisation that you had the opportunity to form part of Mabalingwe’s legacy in conserving Africa’s wildlife.
CONTACT: +27 14 001 7010 | email@example.com | www.mabalingwegamereserve.co.za