Established in 1994, the Mokolodi Nature Reserve is a 20 minute drive from Gaborone on the A1 Lobatse Road. The Reserve is 3, 700 hectares and home to a variety of animals and plants that are endemic to south-eastern Botswana. It employs 90 people, 75 of whom are from neighbouring communities. Of great significance is the Education Centre where approximately 9, 000 school children visit a year for various environmental education programmes. This Centre is largely funded by the activities in the Reserve such as the conference facilities, restaurants, camping sites/chalets, game drives, cheetah visit, picnic sites, as well as rhino and giraffe tracking. Although runners often do hill repeats on the road outside the Reserve, not many are aware that you can run in the Reserve, so I thought I’d share my experience!
On the Lobatse Road, turn right when you get to the Mokolodi Nature Reserve sign. Once on this road, it’s an upward climb for about 1.5km until you get to the entrance of the Reserve.
You then have to register and sign an indemnity form in the Reception. As there are wild animals in the Reserve, it is also advised that you run with at least one other person. There is a fee to enter but if you are a regular visitor to Mokolodi, you would benefit from membership to the ‘Friends of Mokolodi’ programme. This gives you free and unlimited access to the Reserve as well as other benefits and discounts. We have family membership and it’s really worth it! Once you’re registered, it’s time for the adventure! There are three trails, all starting at the same place – follow pink for 3km, green for 5km and orange for 8km.
The first section is quite rocky so expect a slow start for the first couple of kilometres! Be sure to watch your ankles to ensure safe landing as you get used to the terrain.
About 1.5km in, the 3km route veers to the right. Shortly after this (on the longer routes), you have to navigate another rocky section.
But the reward is a beautiful lake which is found around the 3km mark. It’s worth spending a few moments here even if you’re in a rush, just to admire all that is around you!
Around here, the 5km route breaks away from the 8km one. Whether you’re on the 5km or 8km route, I find the trail a lot smoother after the lake.
The final stretch (less than 1km) is on an uphill jeep track which always tests the mind, heart, legs and glutes as you push hard to finish!
FIVE Things You’ll Love About This Trail
1/ Running In The Wild! Mokolodi is home to several wild animals including impala, zebra, giraffes, spring hares, rhino and even two cheetahs (in an enclosed area). It’s not uncommon to hear a rustle in the bush as you’re running and a few times, I’ve been lucky to spot zebra and impala. If you don’t see them you’ll see signs of them in the form of footprints and droppings.
But alongside the bigger wildlife, there are so many small creatures that you’ll see up close – from spiders to butterflies to grasshoppers. Mokolodi really allows you to become immersed in its beautiful ecosystem and gain a true appreciation for the big and small creatures in nature.
2/ The Beautiful Surroundings. It’s not just the animals you will see and hear that will excite you but also the beauty all around in the form of the indigenous trees, plants and flowers. Many of the trees also provide some shade which makes the run feel relatively cool on a hot day.
Then there is my favourite – the gorgeous lake surrounded by reeds with lily pads floating atop. The hills and sky in the background also provide a beautiful backdrop.
3/ There Are Three Routes (Distances). The 8km route is the one I typically do on a weekend when I have a more time. The 5km route is one I try to do on Wednesday evenings if I’m able to beat the Gaborone rush-hour traffic. If you’re looking for a longer run, you can do all three routes consecutively or a combination of two, for example, 8 and 5 would give you a decent 13km run. The trails are well marked either in trees or on the ground but it is still important to remain alert so you don’t miss any (which I’ve done!).
4/ Good Training For Trail Running. Compared to the Tlokweng Trail, the Mokolodi Trail keeps you on your toes! It’s not overly technical but if you’re looking for a smooth and carefree run, this may not be for you. However, if you want to improve your trail running skills, you’ve come to the right place. Mokolodi has taught me to move my eyes briskly up and down watching for rocks and sticks on the ground but also looking ahead at where the next marker is so I don’t miss it. The rocky and uneven terrain makes it very good for strengthening your ankles and improving your balance. It is also a great place to test out your trail gear! Trail shoes and gaiters are a must to avoid the frustration of sticky seeds during summer and autumn! Here’s one of the culprits!
5/ Fun For The Family. The whole family can join in on the adventure! Just select the distance and pace based on the age of your kids. We’ve walked on the 3 and 5km routes with the kids. There are also several exciting mountain biking routes which are slightly technical with some rough terrain and climbs. My husband is here often and has also taken our kids on multiple bike excursions where the biggest sighting was a giraffe! There is a small café and a restaurant on site and many wonderful dinners have followed our evening bush runs. There is a snake park and a playground that kids can enjoy while waiting for their meals. And what beats enjoying a delicious meal and a glass of wine in the company of some impala, warthogs and zebra?!
Have you run or cycled on this trail? Have your children visited the Mokolodi Education Centre or Snake Park? Let me know if you try this trail!