The Old Mutual Wild Series Three Cranes Challenge – a jewel in the South African trail running crown – kicks off in spectacular fashion this month.


The three-day trail run is held in and around the beautiful Karkloof Nature Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal and has become a much sought-after experience.


The route includes off-road tracks through forests and grasslands, paths through misty forests and magnificent views across the Gilboa escarpment.


The field is limited to 300 runners with registration on Thursday, February 23, a 32km opening stage the next day followed by 42km on Saturday and another 25km on Sunday.


All those taking part will be helping the Old Mutual Wild Series to raise funds for the protection of the endangered Crane species and to highlight their plight. In this case the Karkloof Valley is the breeding ground of South Africa’s endangered cranes: all three of South Africa’s crane species are in decline due to exploitation of their delicate habitat.


Race organiser Andrew Booth comments, “The course on Day Two has been slightly modified with the last 10 km being rerouted, it will create more variation on the day on some flowing track.”


“Exciting aspects of the race include two slides of the Karkloof Canopy tour on Day 1 and a ‘time-out’ zone at the beautiful Benvie Gardens, where runners will have the chance to go off the clock and enjoy the scenery for a while,” Booth adds.


The event race village is hosted at the Bushwillow Camp, in the Karkloof Valley. Each participant will be accommodated in his or her own tent for the duration of the challenge. Besides hot showers, clean ablutions and a great atmosphere, full catering will be available to all participants for the duration of the challenge. This includes  a 24-hour snack and coffee bar.


Wildlands’ Strategic Manager for Marketing, Buyi Dlamini adds: “The fundraising aspect of the Three Cranes Challenge is crucial as it supports a fabric of conservation work in the area – supporting Wildlands’ work in managing the Karkloof Nature Reserve, and the protection of our three crane species (crane, crowned and wattled), oribi antelope and the unique grassland and indigenous forest habitats on the reserve.”


“The funds further support the amazing work of the Karkloof Conservancy, which co-ordinates an array of environmental education and land conservation programmes around the reserve. Participants are encouraged to further raise funds through Old Mutual’s ‘More than Yourself’ platform.”


Booth adds: “The key is to maintain the habitat in a state that suits them. The conservancy is made up of a number of role players including local farmers. The Karkloof Nature Reserve does provide a sanctuary of pristine veld and wetlands for them to breed and survive, however the sustainability of the crane populations relies on co-operation between all land owners.”


A main aim of the Old Mutual Wild Series is to raise funds for Wildlands and its local partners (in this case the Karkloof Conservancy) as well as expose entrants to some of South Africa’s most spectacular landscapes,” Booth says.


Old Mutual Head of Brand Karen Thomas adds: “We are proud to be associated with the Wild Series, which aligns with many of our objectives. Besides introducing athletes to a stunning part of the country, the Three Cranes Challenge and the other Wild Series events support the conservation of our precious flora and fauna. We at Old Mutual are passionate about our country and the wellbeing of its people and environment, all of which are fostered by the Wild Series events.”


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