There can surely be no greater mountain biking experience than the annual ‘Ride for Lions mountain bike tour with Great Plains Conservation and their Foundation in Kenya. Jacques Marais joined a select group of riders from around the world to pedal through Amboseli National Park within the shadow of the iconic Mount Kilimanjaro and recounts the experience here…
Close your eyes and imagine this: wide-sky horizons, unmatched Out-of-Africa hospitality, iconic landscapes, and the most incredible wildlife encounters you could imagine across the handle bars of a bike. This is the annual (and truly incredible) Ride for Lions, and here is how your four days of unforgettable cranking will unfold…
Day 1 starts upon the western edges of the matchless Amboseli National Park, with the imposing bulk of Mount Kilimanjaro towering high upon the horizon. From Nado Soit, it will be an exhilarating crank of 60km all the way to Bush Camp 1, with 400m of ascent along the way.
En route, you will leave behind the ecologically diverse wetlands of Amboseli – fed by the glacial run-off from the high mountain ice caps. This unique and water-rich environment draws wildlife from the surrounding, arid plains, and you are bound to encounter vast herds of buffalo, countless antelope, hippo and huge tuskers in abundance once in this premier African park.
Day 2 dawns within this unmatched savanna nirvana, and your route will pass herds of Maasai giraffe galloping at full tilt amidst the acacia thorns, with occasional villages, kraals and herds of Nguni cattle along the route. Gritty riding will blast you through lava flows, where you’ll need to carry your bike while keeping an eye open for buffalo and lion. Gravel roads give way to 4×4- and game tracks until you eventually reach Bush Camp 2 at the rural and tranquil Kimani Sanctuary, after 56km of riding.
Head off on your penultimate day towards Bush Camp 3, with the ancient calderas and verdant slopes of the Chyulu ranges looming amidst the wispy cloud scape. Tackle the tough climb up and over these ‘Green Hills of Africa’ – made famous in the eponymous Ernest Hemingway novel – all while taking in the breathtaking panorama stretching across the vast grassland plains unfolding towards Kilimanjaro. Although your riding distance is only 42km, you will climb a solid 1 380m.
Your final day cranks off along these self-same plains, and promises to be both bitter-sweet and unforgettable. It is an easier ride of 46km, and with only 360m of ascent. Navigate the savanna tracks as you watch giraffe arabesque upon the skyline, immersing yourself in your final moments on the trails before surrendering to the luxurious embrace of ol Donyo Lodge.
All in all, this unrivalled mountain bike cycling safari – organised by Great Plains Conservation – will be an unforgettable life event. Pedalling along a combination of more than 200km of wilderness and elephant trails; passing Maasai giraffe and long-necked gerenuk; portaging near-impassable lava fields; and pedalling amidst fairytale mist forests … this is the stuff of legends.
Best of all, your entry fees will contribute towards protecting and expanding both the wilderness conservation corridors and a predator compensation fund that will help alleviate human/wildlife conflict. Great Plains Conservation specifically created the Ride for Lions mountain bike tour to generate funds for this purpose, and any profit from this premium adventure will benefit these conservation programmes, while enabling participants to experience a wilderness adventure beyond compare.
ACCOMMODATION & TRAVEL
ol Donyo Lodge is a luxury 16-bed wilderness destination, nestling against the foothills of the Chyulu Mountains. The lodge serves as the finish venue for Ride 4 Lions, and the understated décor, excellent service and unimaginable natural surrounds make it the perfect destination for this incredible event. It is no wonder ol Donyo Lodge is rated as one of National Geographic Magazine’s ‘Unique Lodges of the World‘ and is a justifiably proud Relais & Chateaux member. The camps en route are of a similar premium standard, with no imaginable luxury spared.
Kenya Airways and a wide range of other international carriers fly daily to Kenya from major centres around the world. Once at Wilson Airport in Nairobi, the Great Plains Conservation crew will transport you to the rustic luxury of Nado Soit, your camp on Night One.
For more information or to book your place on this exclusive mountain bike journey taking place in May 2018, please visit rideforlions.com
Saddles are selling fast!