Edited by Bev Mortimer
The Adventure Racing World Championships is coming to Africa for the first time in October 2023 and will be using the Kouga region and surrounds of the Eastern Cape as its springboard for the 700km international race.
This is thanks to the enormous efforts of ARWS directors, Heidi and Stephan Muller, who are finally filling a +10 year-old dream.
The 2023 Adventure Racing World Championships will be hosted by Expedition Africa and will be the 18th Adventure Racing World Championships, and the first to be held not only on the African continent but in the Eastern Cape and Kouga area. The race will be the culmination of the 2023 Adventure Racing World Series, which unites the world’s best endurance athletes in competition at premier expedition adventure races around the world.
And the Mullers are doubly excited as Expedition Africa will Host the World Championship. The husband and wife pair launched the ‘Adventure Racing World Championships Kouga 2023’ last night, at the Lombardi Game Farm, which actively works in Rhino conservation.
“We are honoured and delighted to be chosen by the Adventure Racing World Series to host the most prestigious race in the adventure racing calendar,” says Heidi Muller. “When we staged our first Expedition Africa 11 years ago, we never dreamed of this.”
Heidi recounts that over the years they have met wonderful athletes and teams from all around the world. “Our race is always as much about the people as the place, and it has become a global family.
“We want them all to share in our African World Championship in Kouga next year! It will be a celebration of all that is good about adventure racing, exploration, achievement, teamwork and connecting people from around the world.”
The first Expedition Africa was held in 2011 in the Western Cape and the race has since taken place in most provinces, plus in neighbouring Swaziland and in 2019 on the he island of Rodrigues, and this year, on the occasion of the race’s 10th anniversary, the race was held in in the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho.
The Estonian ACE Adventure Team members, who are regular competitors, and who won the Lesotho race, said through their captain, Silver Eensaar said: “Expedition Africa is a very special event. It’s a race that always delivers great adventure courses in unique terrain and a cultural environment.
“Above all, it provides a sense of community and love that is different to other races. Expedition Africa is probably the most loved adventure race in the world, and teams keep coming back. Dot-watchers enjoy exploring Africa while following the teams and the race always provides world class media content for fans around the world. Expedition Africa will stage a great World Championships.”
Why the Eastern Cape?
Stephan Muller spoke at the official announcement last night about the exciting possibilities for the perfect location of Kouga and the Eastern Cape, which he has already begun scouting and planning. “For an Adventure Race of this magnitude we need to find an area which is far away from any human development, to ensure teams have a true wilderness experience and race in unique terrain.
“At the same time we have to be able to deliver fast and dependable logistics, transition areas that offer a welcome respite from the wild and accommodation with strong internet facilities for the world’s media.
The Eastern Cape has all that, and so much more, he said. It has a comfortable climate in October, plus it has an UNESCO World Heritage site, world class game reserves, and a rich culture. It’s an exciting and diverse area and the perfect location for an Adventure Racing World Championships.”
The Eastern Cape is the second largest of South Africa’s nine provinces, situated between the Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal and bordered by the Orange River and Drakensberg Mountains.
The Eastern Cape slogan of “Yours to Explore” is fitting. The province has 800 km of unspoilt, picturesque coastline and some of the world’s best beaches. Southern Right Whales and their calves are regularly spotted in the Indian Ocean, the Wild Coast has dramatic cliffs and dunes, and the Sunshine Coast has more sunshine than anywhere else in South Africa.
Wildlife is abundant and the big five (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and the African buffalo) are easily spotted at private reserves, such as Kariega Game Reserve, and National Parks like the Addo National Park, which are spread across the province.
The wilderness Stephan Muller seeks for his course in plentiful in the Eastern Cape. The Karoo Heartland is dominated by vast, dry plains, and is renowned for its seemingly endless, star studded skies, and its idiosyncratic little towns that take you back in time.
The 60,000 square km Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve was recently created a World Heritage Site and the Kouga Wilderness area is a vast expanse of rocky passes and gorges, indigenous forests, crystal mountain streams, sheer cliffs and waterfalls.
“We believe the variety of landscapes, coastlines, wildlife and peoples which teams will experience in the Eastern Cape will make the race a fitting and memorable World Championship,” says Muller.
He adds, “We will do everything we can to make it the best ever!”
Teams will fly into Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth), and it’s then a 90 minute transfer to the race venue. Sarah Baartman District Municipality and Kouga Municipality will host the race and the venue will be the Cape St. Francis Resort. The resort has world class facilities and a magnificent beach side location. Plus it also hosted Expedition Africa in 2017.
“Cape St Francis Resort is the host sponsor for the Adventure Racing World Championship 2023 and has re-enforced its commitment to bringing sports tourism to the Kouga region said resort owner, Fasie Malherbe. “This event will be a big boost for this region as 600 competitors from all corners of the planet travel here with media, medics, volunteers, friends and family members.”
It’s been a privilege to work with our co-sponsors, Sarah Baartman Municipality Kouga Municipality and Merrell to put this event together, Fasie said. “However, none of this would be possible without Stephan and Heidi Muller and their passion for adventure racing.”
Heidi Muller commented: “We cannot imagine a better venue than the Cape St Francis Resort. The village feeling we will have there is vital to create a welcoming experience for everyone.
“Family and supporters are welcome to join their teams and visit the Eastern Cape, and while waiting for them to reach the finish line, family members can relax on the beach or view the Big Five in nearby game parks.”
Speaking at the event launch the Sarah Baartman Municipality Mayor, Deon de Vos said, “Sarah Baartman District is proud to be part of the Adventure Racing World Championships, which will be hosted in a true African style.
“Adventure waits in our beautiful and diverse District, home to the 7 Wonders; The Addo Elephant Reserve, Baviaans and the Gamtoos Valley, Makhanda, Jeffreys Bay and St Francis, Karoo, the Sunshine Coast as well as Tsitsikamma and the Langkloof.”
Kouga Executive Mayor, Horatio Hendricks, welcomed the event and said the Adventure Racing World Championships is a powerful marketing tool, which helps to keep the Kouga region on the tourist map.
You can find out more about Expedition Africa and see details of the 2023 Adventure Racing World Championships, including entry pricing at http://www.expafrica.net
Entries for will open on 1 November 2022 and places will be limited. Interested teams are advised to sign up for the ARWC 2023 mailing list on the website, and follow @expafrica.net (Facebook) and @expafrica (instagram).
Expedition Africa is supported by Merrell South Africa and SPOT Tracking South Africa.
Photos; First two by Bruce Viane, showing the Mayor of the Sarah Baartman District Municipality , Deon de Vos, cutting the ribbon to mark the official announcement of the race. Other photos by Bev Mortimer (More from Bruce to follow)