Tranquilitas Adventure Farm, Mpumalanga

Going big in eMgwenya has never been more fun ... The Tranquilitas Adventure Farm boasts a range of rocking rides, including their big and bombastic ‘Mountain Traverse’. And sometimes, you can just chill out and enjoy the quiet tranquility of this exceptional nature destination.

Tranquilitas Adventure Farm, Mpumalanga

Total Tranquilo ...

Photographs & Copy: Jacques Marais

The Buzz:

Yup. The town of Waterval Boven is known as Emgwenya these days, and if you translate this into English, you get ‘Place of the Crocodile’. Right. This does sound slightly ominous, but luckily the trails surrounding this laid-back town are generally free of Flat Dogs (or any other reptilian dinosaurs).

There is a fair bit of wildlife, though, especially if you should happen upon one of the thousands of rock climbers who come to worship the amber cliffs towering here on the edge of the Highveld escarpment. Some even go as far as to say this little Mpumalanga dorpie is a ‘drinking town with a climbing problem’.

I say ‘Hell Yeah!’ to that; after all, it just gives us another way to get a natural high, right? But hang on: before we get side-tracked into that ‘Restaurant at the End of the Universe’ – that’s what one of the climbing crags are called – let’s first get the low-down on those MTB trails.

And boy, are they the business! There are a handful of guys in SA who you can trust implicitly to get a mountain bike trail ‘just right’, and Glenn Harrison is one of them. Plus, there is the BFF, or Behr Family Factor: they own Tranquilitas Adventure Farm, and a more rooted and earthy bunch of outdoor folk you won’t find anywhere.

These guys all ride bikes, often in a fast and furious fashion, so what a jol it was to have Mike, Ruth, Talia and Arielle there for the ride and shoot. Arielle is the youngest and she’s the current SA Junior Downhill/Enduro Champ, so the rollicking combo of Tranquilitas singletrack and off-piste trails may have just as well been purpose-built for her.

Add to this some lekker gravel roads and 4×4 tracks, and you’ve got something going on for every level of rider. Anything goes, from super-tight, fast-flowing sections, death-wish drop-offs and rock gardens to 270 Degree switchbacks swerving through the forest. At least the scenic viewpoints and historical landmarks will allow you to sneak in an occasional breather.

There will be climbing, but the ascents are very much rideable and following the landscape contours. On the up-side (if you’ll pardon the pun) the elevation gain is quick and very achievable, without too many gear changes. (If – like me – you’re used to riding at sea level, things could get tough)!

The descents are 98% rideable, even for a dodgy old codger like myself, and those of you with a big cojones will blast the many wooden bridges and drop-offs in your stride. All in all, the Tranquilitas routes are exceptionally well marked, with an easy-over Blue Trail suited to family outrides if the rest sounds a bit too sketchy to your liking.

Tranquilitas is a true ‘adventure farm’, and it delivers way beyond just mountain biking trails. Superb hiking and trail running come as part of the package, but the jewel in the outdoor activity crown has got to be the exceptional rock climbing.

Tranquilitas Cracks’ – and other nearby crags such as ‘The Restaurant’, ‘Waterfall’, ‘Triple Tier’ and ‘Wonderland’ – boasts more than a 1000 marked routes, and it is no wonder the area is known as the ‘J-Bay of Climbing’. Choose between solo, sport, trad and bouldering options, and chat to either Gus or Alex at ‘Roc ‘n Rope for info, gear, or accommodation –

Riding Wild

On the Bike


On the velo side of things, this paradise offers more than 80km of single-track and four lines of 4-5km where you can lock and load full stoke levels along sublime downhill flow-runs without ever having to turn a single pedal-stroke along the entire descent.

Whichever way you’re planning your ride – bar the Land Cruiser shuttle to the top trailheads – you can bet there will be some granny-gearing. The fun will find you along the way, though, especially along sections such as ‘Go with The Flow’. This new route through SAPPI forests features an oh-so-flow run of 2,4km through pine trees, with ducks and dives and wooden bridges within stands of pines. Minimal pedalling required!

Don’t get too chilled out, as you have both ‘Turnminator’ and ‘Stairway to Heaven’ waiting in the wings … Whereas most of the key route sections comprise downhill runs, here you are in for an ascent of calf-gnawing proportions: try your best not to dab as you take on the convoluted twists and turns as you pedal up, up and away …

Once you emerge as a cranking conqueror of note – this is after all a Category 4 climb with 120m elevation in 2km – you’ll be sucking on every molecule of oxygen available at a lofty 1 950m above sea level. So now you know where to venture to in search of your next high altitude training session!

Fortunately, this is also where the route lets up, dropping into the glorious ‘Magic Carpet Ride’, a real 5-star segment super-tubing through shady pine plantations. This is one of the furthest segments from the camp site and the pine needles often cover the trail to deaden the sound of your churning wheels, making for true mountain biking meditation.

From here, it is a grassland blast onto the ‘Ridgeline’ segment of the route, with edgy twists and turns right on the edge of the rugged ridge. Majestic views unfold down into the valley, but the riding includes more than enough technical obstacles to keep you focused. Rip it up through the rock gardens to eventually crest the actual ridgeline, with 3,5km of winding summit single-track beckoning through the high grasslands.

Your final piece de resistance will be ‘Morphine Drop’, a no holds barred free-ride DH blast of 4.5km and with 320m of straight-down altitude drop. This is aptly named, as by now you’ll surely be in a mind-altered state after the many exhilarating excesses of this ‘Mountain Traverse Trail’.

The descent rushes you at pace, making for an adrenaline-infused run of legendary proportions.  Full-on focus is the name of the game if you want to survive the blind rises, sketchy drop-offs and tricky rock gardens, before you finally segue into a series of languid serpentine curves side-winding onto the river’s edge.

Five Ridgeline Favourites …

Finding a segment that stands out above the rest is hard going, but here is Mike Behr’s take on it. And as a man who rides and climbs here more than most, he knows the trail like the back of his hand!

Go with The Flow –A new section in the Sappi forests features a flowing 2,4km run through the pine trees, crossing some bridges in the open sections between the forest blocks. Virtually no pedaling will make you want to go back and do it again, just faster … watch those handlebars, though.

Turnminator / Stairway to Heaven –Whereas all the other new segments are downhill runs, these segments are climbs. Why, may you wonder? First off, there is the challenge of riding ‘Turnminator’ without dabbing, but it is also the furthest point on the DH runs. So, this is often where you stop to get shuttled back to the top, or if you’re really brave, head up to ‘Stairway’ to continue the climb. As mentioned, it is a seriously steep CAT #4 climb and you’ll be heading into proper ‘thin air’ territory!

The Magic Carpet Ride – This magical 1.8km single-track makes for 5-star riding as you fly through the forest, tucking away your handlebars, shoulders and knees on a super-fast forest blast. Try to pedal faster while hoping the section never ends, and then wondering if it ever will … this aptly describes the name.  If it weren’t for the anticipation of ‘Morphine Drop’, you’d want to head straight back and ride it again. And again!

Ridgeline- Immediately after the ‘Magic’, you’re thrust into the open grassland on the top of the ridge, with majestic views to your right looking down into the valley. This segment starts off with some tricky work at pace through rocks, but eventually picks up speed at its apex along 3,5km of narrow single-track snaking through the grass. Only the x2 setup riders will get full potential of the speed to be had up here.

Morphine Drop – You’re in for a serious dose of mind-altering substances on this wild zigzag ride. Dropping 320m in just 4,5km makes for an adrenaline-infused ride that will leave you amazed at how you managed to survive this fast-flowing and technical trail. The pain by now would have left your body, just as the segment’s name suggests … Pity its so far to get back up again, but maybe tomorrow!

Booking Details

The beauty of Tranquilitas Adventure Farm is that – although you are in a peaceful and rural environment, you are still only 20min from town (the Tranquilitas gravel access road has become properly gritty, unfortunately, so take it slowly).

Accommodation on the farm covers all bases (and pockets), with Camping affordable for all, and with hot showers guaranteed! There are also new Eco-Tents for those with a premium outlook on life, as well as the Tranquilitas Chalets and fantastically equipped Farm House (check out their mad midweek discounts)! A cool pool with a climbing wall for ‘deep-water’ soloing, great coffee, tuck shop and kiosk, and communal clubhouse with fridge and microwave … this is PARADISE.

Go check out or mail us at for info. If you prefer, there’s also our cell number – (079) 940 4097.

Best time of year
This is a year-round destination

Getting there

Follow the N4 towards Mbombela, then turn right after the Machado Toll Plaza into eMgwenya. Pass under the bridge along 3rd Ave, then turn right up the mountain. This becomes gravel after about 2km; keep going for another 7km until you see Tranquilitas Farm on your left.


A Look Around

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