Expedition Africa 2019 - The Island of Rodrigues is calling!
650 km east of Mauritius lies the smallest of the Mascarene Islands which comprises Mauritius and Reunion. A breathtakingly striking piece of paradise named after the Portuguese explorer; Diego Rodrigues in 1528. With only 96 days to go until one of the biggest international events are hosted on this dynamic island, planning is in full swing to welcome 240 athletes who will tackle a unique and dynamic version of the gruelling Expedition Africa.
Exquisite self-feeding coral reefs, micro islands, beaches, caves, creeks and sheer cliffs are amongst the natural beauty that makes Rodrigues island so attractive. This gorgeous island is a result of volcanic activities, meaning the island is made from basaltic rocks and hosts 30 limestone caves, of which only two are open to the public.
"The island is a gem - the warm turquoise water, the palm trees, the unspoilt beauty - who wouldn't want to race on an island?! The teams who have entered, are the fortunate ones who will experience all that makes this place so special. Rodrigues is clean, not over populated, it is not commercialised and just the place for adventure. We have done our best to include everything this island has to offer into the race, and we hope the teams will love it as much as we do" shares co-race director, Heidi Muller.
Only 18 km in length, 8 km wide, with its highest peak; Mont Limon at a mere 389.3 m. The island will officially be the 'smallest' playground for race director; Stephan Muller's highly anticipated course, however it will feature many disciplines; mountain biking, trekking, paddling, SUP-ping, caving, snorkelling, orienteering, rope work, swimming and sailing.
The route has been carefully designed to incorporate all the beautiful aspects of this magnificent island; not only exposing teams to such beauty but creating experiences that teams will unite over and lead to the most memorable expedition. According to Heidi Muller "our goal for each Expedition Africa is to create life changing moments; this event involves heart and soul.
“Expedition Africa 2019 will be unique. With over 100 checkpoints scattered all over the islands it will require team’s constant concentration to choose the shortest route at all times. Nowhere will the route go over the same area twice. The route is one continuous leg, with 30 map transitions, where new leg maps will be issued as the race proceeds, teams will have to bring their “A game” in navigation and decision making. The checkpoints on the outer islands will require a lot of strategy from teams, on when to swim, paddle or sleep, and when to collect the checkpoints, especially at night time. Multiple swimming legs from island to island, snorkeling to collect underwater points, sailing with the help of local sailors and multiple rope works challenges including: ziplines, Via Ferata and a bridge abseil will make this edition the ultimate adventure course of 2019" shares course designer and race director; Stephan Muller.
The most intriguing element of this year's Expedition Africa, is that each of the 60 teams will receive a 6-metre-long fibre-glass boat, which will house their bicycles, food, water and gear for the entire duration of the event. Muller further states that there is "no support in any transitions, all the logistics, cooking, food sourcing, collecting drinking water etc will be the team’s own responsibility during the 3 to 6 days of racing. These challenges will be unique to Expedition Africa 2019".
The winning teams are expected to complete the 320km course within 72hours, transitioning 30 times throughout the event where each team will receive a new map to plot their respective routes.
Over time Rodrigues has developed a unique environment, including many endemic and different fauna and flora. The François Leguat Giant Tortoise and Cave Reserve is home to fruit bats and giant tortoises, plus underground caves like the stalactite-filled the “Grande Caverne”. This year, Heidi and Stephan Muller have chosen Francois Leguat Reserve as their official environmental project to support.
François Leguat, a French explorer and naturalist who visited the island in 1691, wrote that there were so many tortoises on Rodrigues that 'one can take more than a hundred steps on their shells without touching the ground'. Sadly, the Rodrigues version of the giant tortoise became extinct, but this reserve is recreating the Eden described by the island's early explorers. Hundreds of tortoises, outcome of a breeding program, roam the grounds and more than 100,000 indigenous trees have been planted. The reserve offers unique learning opportunities for students at all levels, from primary school to post doctoral. In the caves, spirited tour leaders point out quirky rock shapes and discuss the island's interesting geological history.
Just a mere 4km up the west coast of Rodrigues lies a shallow unspoilt sand bar with coconut palms, casuarina trees and colonies of bird life. Île aux Cocos is an island that is inhabited by an abundance of seabirds. It is estimated that about 4500 birds can be seen on Île Aux Cocos at any moment. Teams will visit this dazzlingly white beached island that is surrounded by pure beauty during the gruelling 320km race.
Excitement is truly brewing all over the globe, as athletes from South Africa, Mauritius, Norway, Costa Rica, Namibia, Belgium, Denmark, USA, Sweden, Ireland, Germany, UK, Australia, France, Canada, Netherlands, Switzerland, Israel, Argentina, Peru, United Arab Emirates, Russia and Rodrigues including 30 international volunteers prepare for their island expedition race. Host resort, Le Cocotiers Hotel and other partner hotels of Expedition Africa - Rodrigues are finalising their plans, and preparing to welcome all teams to their magical island, in full anticipation of what is in store for them at this year's African leg of the Adventure Racing World Series.
"It is a great honour for Rodrigues to host such an international event. It is the first time that we are involved in such an adventure. We are eager to welcome teams from so many countries on our beautiful island. The population of Rodrigues is enthusiastic to encourage the different teams in their adventure and discovery of our island. The most popular part of the race is the regatta on the Sunday afternoon which is a traditional part of our culture" shares Louis Serge Clair GCSK; Chief Commissioner and Commissioner for Tourism in Rodrigues Island.
According to Louis Serge Clair "In Rodrigues, we are closely knitted to nature and we have a deep-rooted tradition as fishermen and farmers. We are thus proud to share our culture, our identity to the various nations coming to visit us. It is indeed a great sports race but above all, it is human adventure where cultures meet and share and bonds are developed. This event matches our vision to make Rodrigues the first ecotourism destination of the Indian Ocean. Thus, hiking, biking and regatta, part of the activities that the athletes will be undertaking, are those activities which are being promoted in Rodrigues as an ecotourism destination. In addition, Expedition Africa will position our Paradise Island on the tourism world map".
The Adventure Racing World Series (ARWS) unites the worlds best endurance athletes at premier qualifier events around the globe. The first team that cross the finish line at this year’s Expedition Africa will gain a coveted position on the state line of the annual pinnacle event of the sport; the AR World Championships, set to take place in 2020.
Get ready to experience an array of emotions as these teams tackle this adventure race of a lifetime. Follow this incredible event and witness your favourite teams chase down the winning title of this year's Expedition Africa via the Live Tracking available from the comfort of your couch. This site conveniently features all race media content, social media highlights and so much more, so get ready to sit back, relax and dot-watch your way through Expedition Africa 2019.
Photos by Terence ActionMan Vrugtman