Recreational 4×4 clubs have long been a thorn in the eye of many, but particularly conservation enthusiasts, leading to the beach ban laws which were introduced to South Africa in 2001.
However, as with most things in life, if you dig a little deeper, things are not as one might have first imagined. 4×4 clubs can actually contribute to a more sustainable management of protected areas. In fact, South African 4×4 clubs that subscribe to a 4×4 Code of Conduct are an underexploited niche market that can prove to be an asset for protected areas.
Many of the protected areas have demarcated 4×4 areas and available space in the group facilities and camps. Well run, committee managed groups of passionate conservation minded 4×4 drivers fit perfectly into that sphere providing exposure and valuable revenue for the protected areas.
4×4 trek in the Richtersveld National Park. (Image: field ranger)
The Richtersveld National Park (RNP) is one such protected area. A Cape Town 4×4 club first visited the RNP in August 2017 and returned in September 2019. They stayed in the Richtersveld World Heritage Site, the Richtersveld National Park in South Africa, the /Ai/Ais National Park in Namibia, used the Sendelingsdrif Pont and various other local Richtersveld establishments.
More needs to be done to attract 4×4 clubs to protected areas. This will not only provide much needed revenue to the custodians of such areas. It will also change the perception about four wheel drivers from nature spoilers to nature supporters.
4×4 trek making its way through the landscape (Image: field ranger)
Oscar Osberg, a Senior Section Ranger, who is part of the GEF-5 PA Project in the Klein Duin Protected Area, /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park (the South African side) over time developed a delightful recipe, using different local and seasonal ingredients.
- 1 x 4×4 club –complete with committee and established Code of Conduct;
- 20 club members and 10 vehicles minimum;
- 1 x Protected Area – National or Provincial Park;
- 1 x cultural or heritage aspect – essential ingredient;
- 1 x bushell of campsite variety;
- 1 x sprig of interesting and challenging drives and day destinations;
- 1 x generous dollop of adventurous spirit and passion.
Preparation time: 1 year
It all starts out with an e-mail to the club committee, followed by a meeting to describe the adventure potential and stir up some interest. 4×4 clubs are excellent ingredients who seem generally to love their vehicles and have a passion for conservation and the outdoors. This ingredient has to subscribe to the 4×4 Code of Conduct and have a strong committee which will organise and control the other ingredients in the mix.
A future date and itinerary is agreed on and built into the club’s annual programme. Due to the distances involved and time constraints (members have kids at school, businesses, jobs and other commitments) the itinerary is as detailed as possible, including venues, distances and times. There also needs to be flexibility to include breakdowns, fuel and bread and milk stops.
An all-inclusive price package is agreed for the itinerary and collected by the club and paid over as a lump sum in advance.
Once the trip gets under way, the 4×4 drivers are joined by park officials at certain sites who share interesting local conservation issues and events and answer questions.
Oscar Osberg, senior SANParks official (in green uniform) explaining conservation issues to enthusiastic 4×4 club members. (Image: field ranger)
The Richtersveld recipe has a mix of local and international flavour combined with a dusty scenic 4×4 ruggedness all drawn together with a passion for conservation and supporting the local region.