Thrilling, romantic, challenging, unforgettable – the Nedbank Tour de Tuli 2017
From touchdown on day 1 of the 2017 Nedbank Tour de Tuli 320 cyclists will find themselves in Botswana’s wilderness. Over the next four days – from 27 July till 1 August – they will experience Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa’s inimitable wildlife areas, riding 253 km on their mountain bikes. It’s an immersion in wildlife, community, conservation, networking, fitness and extreme fun.
Where else can you cycle along elephant paths in the bushveld and encounter the elephants and other wildlife that use these same paths? It’s thrilling, romantic, challenging, unforgettable … Many of the participants, the majority of whom are senior business executives from southern Africa and abroad, attest to it being the most special, best-organised event in which they have ever participated.
With Nedbank and Wilderness Safaris as the key sponsors, the Nedbank Tour de Tuli, now it in its 13th year, raises funds for Children in the Wilderness (CITW), a non-profit leadership and environmental education programme for children from communities in wildlife areas throughout southern Africa.
‘In 2016 the Tour raised R3,5 million for this programme, and over the past twelve years, the Tour has raised R18 million and hosted approximately 3 223 cyclists,’ says Nedbank Sponsorship Manager: Cycling, Golf and Running, Kelly Thompson.
On the Tour the cyclists get to meet some of the young learners whom this programme supports, as they cycle through participating rural communities where the learners and their teachers have established food gardens and water conservation initiatives through their ecoclubs.
On day 2 in Botswana the cyclists will have the opportunity to visit the village of Lentswe-le-Moriti inside the Northern Tuli Game Reserve.
‘The learners and communities we support with funds raised from the tour include the schools situated in and around the Northern Tuli Game Reserve in Botswana, the Maramani area in Zimbabwe and the Mapungubwe National Park/Alldays area in South Africa,’ says Janet Wilkinson, Programme Manager for CITW.
‘Several of the learners have gone on to do internships in wildlife and tourism through our partnership with the Southern African Wildlife College, Wilderness Safaris and African Parks. Thanks to the incredible generosity of the sponsors and participants of the Nedbank Tour de Tuli, which is one of the main fundraisers for CITW, we are able to play a meaningful role in developing Africa’s next generation of environmental leaders.’
The Tour and its beneficiaries reflect Nedbank’s ethos of ‘seeing money differently’ and ‘delivering new ways for people and nature to thrive’. A pioneer of environmental sustainability, Nedbank recognised the need to put corporate clout and capital behind conservation back in 1990, and has done so ever since through the WWF Nedbank Green Trust and the numerous environmental, social and educational sustainability programmes it supports.
The Nedbank Tour de Tuli is a unique approach to raising funds and bringing together influential people outside of the office and their usual environment.
‘It is a rare privilege to traverse these areas and we would like to thank the governments of Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa, as well as the various landowners and managers of the wilderness areas for making it possible,’ says Thompson.
After experiencing the Tuli Wilderness Reserve and Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana, the cyclists head into Zimbabwe on day 3, and ride 24 km on a single track, through riverine forests, with lala palms and ironwood, fig, mashatu and fever trees. They will visit the Shashe Primary School, where many of the learners walk long distances to get to school, before heading to Maramani Camp.
On day 4 they will experience 200-million-year-old fossil sites and enigmatic baobab trees as they cycle for 68 km, crossing into South Africa and the Mapungubwe National Park.
Complex logistics are required to host the Tour, with a support team of 150 people making sure that each of the cycling groups is doing well and on track, and setting up a tented camp in a different location every night for a total of 350 people, including preparing all the delicious meals and teas.
‘It is not only the cyclists that thrive on the Tour; the support crew do too, and many people book time off work to serve as volunteers. I love being part of it; you get people from all walks of life coming together and sharing in four days of unbelievable camaraderie in the African bushveld,’ says Wilkinson.
She has been part of the support crew for seven years and the cyclists will get to meet her somewhere between the Limpopo Valley Airfield and the Amphitheatre Bush Camp on day 1 of the tour. ‘My team and I are given GPS coordinates of where we must set up the midmorning tea and off we go,’ she explains.
This is no dry biscuit stop; it’s a sumptuous spread with superb coffee and tea, shortbread, fruitcake, boiled eggs, boiled potatoes, biltong and dried mangoes, among other things. ‘Everyone goes off banting here and they revert to carefree indulgence, pouring condensed milk into their coffee.’
They also need it as ‘it’s a fairly challenging ride, with lots of sand and thick Mopani bush,’ explains Malcolm McCulloch, a director and shareholder in Wilderness Safaris and a board member of CITW, who is one of the facilitators of the Nedbank Tour de Tuli. ‘Participants need to train for a minimum of nine hours of cycling per week ahead of the Tour, with at least one four-hour ride every second week, because during the tour you are in the saddle for up to seven hours at a time.’
Over the four days and five nights, the cyclists cross back and forth between the three countries, with temporary border posts set up to accommodate them. The route changes each year, providing new and interesting sights to see along the way.
‘If this year’s route launch, which took place on 23 May at the Nedbank head office in Sandton, is anything to go by, we are looking forward to an exciting tour,’ says Tour Director, Nicola Harris. ‘We can’t wait to host the group of cyclists, from seasoned regulars to first-timers, on this life-changing journey.’
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