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Sports Festivals & Events You Shouldn’t Miss

Elaine Dodge in Stories 


South Africa is sports crazy! We love to play it and we love to celebrate it. Here’s a collection of as many sporting events and festivals we could find for this year!

We’d hate for you to miss out so, as we’ve mentioned before, please check the websites as dates and locations can change at a moment’s notice.


What: The J&B Met

Where: Kenilworth Racecourse, Cape Town
When: 31 January 2015 (Next J&B Met – 2016)

What to expect: The J&B Met is one of the most prestigious and glamorous events on the South African horse racing calendar. It one of the few times when the public can be a part of the action without having to break out into a sweat! Everybody who’s anybody; the rich, the famous and Joe Public, go to the Met. Horse owners, TV stars, fashionistas and fashion-wannabes as well as the leggy and muscular thoroughbreds all strut their stuff at the Kenilworth Race Course. The fashion stakes are almost as exciting as the gallops! The horses and their jockeys compete for a cool R2.5 million in the main event. This year, the four year old, Futura, won by 2.25 lengths.

Meanwhile, the humans compete in the Most Elegant Couple Competition. Every year has its own theme and entrants go to town with their often eccentric fancy dress or high glamour outfits hoping to win or at least be on the evening news! 2015 saw the opening of a Public Village on the winning straight of the racecourse with food and entertainment available.


What: The Midmar Mile

Where: Midmar Dam, Howick, KwaZulu-Natal Midlands
When: 13-14 February 2015 (Next Mile – 2016)

What to expect: The Midmar Mile is the largest competitive open water swimming event in the world. Each year, recreational swimmers, international athletes and Olympic medalists compete. Thousands of competitors take part. The distance covered is always a mile, however the race is unique because of the unreliable rainfall the distance actually swum varies. When the rainfall is low, so is the dam, and the swimmers have to face what has become known as the infamous Midmar Sprint. Despite the fact that five groups of swimmers set out at three minute intervals in separate races over two days, there are still thousands of bodies hurtling across the lake shore through sticky mud and then struggling through the shallows until the water is deep enough to actually swim in. Which group you are allocated to depends on your time achieved in a qualifying event earlier.

It’s great fun and people can enter as company teams, non-company teams, individuals, or families. It doesn’t matter if you’re five years old or eighty three. If you can swim a mile you’re in.


What: The TriRock Cradle of Humankind

Where: Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site
When: 15 February (Next TriRock – 2016)

What to expect: 2015 was the first time the event was held and it looks set to be a regular half Ironman sporting feature in the South African calendar. It was set in the World Heritage site of the Cradle of Humankind. It began with a 1.9km swim in Lake Heritage, Africa’s largest handmade stone dam wall. Following that, the 90km cycle took contestants to seldom seen areas of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site and the Hartbeeshoek Radio Astronomy Observatory. The final leg, the 21 km run followed a rolling course through the stunningly beautiful Hero Adventure Park. Anyone who wasn’t a TSA registered athlete was required to purchase a temporary day license in order to compete.


What: The Dusi Canoe Marathon

Where: From Camps Drift to 10km beyond the tidal estuary of Blue Lagoon in Durban. 124 kms in total.
When: Mid February (Next Dusi – 2016)

What to expect: The biggest canoeing event on the African continent, and one of the world’s most popular river marathons, the Dusi covers 12okms of rough river and portage terrain between Pietermaritzburg and Durban. The race itself is over 60 years old and attracts over 2000 local and international paddlers a year. South African paddlers must pass a basic proficiency test, have completed a specific number of both C and B rated river races and successfully complete a number of qualifying races. This is vital as the river is rocky and dangerous. Paddlers have to wear safety gear and carry enough fluids to meet their hydration demands. It can get hot out there. Extremely hot. Temperatures over 400C are common in the valleys, some rapids are Grade 3+ and some of the portages are 4kms long through thick bush and over hills.

What: Ultimate X

Where: Grand Arena, GrandWest Casino
When: 26 -27 February (Next X – 2016)

What to expect: This year the grand Arena was transformed into Africa’s first indoor, pyrotechnical laser extreme sporting event. The prize was a cool R150 000 and the best local and international FMX, BMX and Skate athletes competed for it. More action, more spills, more excitement, bigger, better, faster and more extreme was the theme of this year’s competition as MX/MTB Biking and Blading trials were included in the line-up. Which isn’t surprising when you consider that Ultimate X is South Africa’s largest Extreme Sport Festival. There was also massive entertainment with South Africa’s hottest bands and DJs during the competition and at the after party.


What: Cape Town Cycle Tour (Previously known as the Cape Argus Cycle Tour)

Where: Grand Arena, GrandWest Casino
When: 8 March (Next Tour – 2016)

What to expect: The race, now in its 38th year, is one of the year’s most important competitive cycling races as it is the world’s biggest timed cycling event. It’s a huge tourist attraction bringing riders from all over the world in order to compete. 35 000 riders take part. Starting in the City Bowl in Cape Town the course winds its way through Blue Route, Simons Town, Smitswinkel, Chapman’s Peak and the grueling Suikerbossie Hill to finish at Green Point – a distance of 110kms. The Tour is the culmination of Lifecycle Week which sees the Tricycle Junior Cycle Tour, Cape Argus Pick ‘n Pay Mountain Bike Challenge and the Cycle Tour Expo – South Africa’s leading cycling exhibition. Most of the proceeds go to charity – Pedal Power Association and the Rotary Club of Claremont. Apart from the tens of thousands of cyclists there is also an army of volunteers manning the route’s refreshment stations and medical points.


What: ABSA Cape Epic

Where: Cape Town
When: 15 – 22 March (Next Epic – 2016)

What to expect: Starting at the University of Cape Town and ending at the Meerdendal Wine Estate in Durbanville the race that has been dubbed the Tour de France of Mountain Biking covers a challenging 800kms across farm roads and single tracks. It’s hot, gruelling and lasts for eight days. 1200 riders take part each year. The race is famous for not only being a real challenge and the most televised mountain bike stage race, but also being the largest full-service stage race in the world. It is fully catered, with tented accommodation, masseuses, bike servicing and entertainment at the overnight rest stops. Unlike other mountain bike events, the ABSA Cape Epic is a team race where pairs of riders compete not just for the winners’ title but also for charity.


What: The Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon

Where: Cape Town
When: 4 April (Next Marathon – 2016)

What to expect: South Africa has two marathons in Runner’s World list of 20 Races to do Before You Die. This is one of them and has been since 1970. Run through the spectacular Cape Peninsula it’s called the world’s most beautiful marathon and takes place on Easter Sunday every year. It may be called a marathon but actually it’s a 56km Ultra and like the name suggests the course takes in both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The route only varies if the authorities decide the usual route is unsafe. This could be due to the fires the Cape can periodically suffer or rock falls on Chapman’s Peak.

There are actually two races – the Ultra and the Half Marathons. Both start in Newlands. The Ultra Marathon follows a more or less circular route through Muizenberg, Fish Hoek, over Chapman’s Peak, through Hout Bay and Constantia Nek, finishing eventually at the University of Cape Town campus. The Half Marathon takes runners along Edinburgh Drive (the M3 highway), before turning into forest roads past Kirstenbosch. Here they join the Ultra Marathon runners and finish with them at the University. Altogether there are 27 000 runners.

But they’re not the only runners the Two Oceans see. Nearly 6000 toddlers and young children enjoy fun runs with their families. 1000 plus trail runners tackle the Table Mountain National Park. The International Friendship Run see a large number of locals and internationals alike.


What: The Knysna Speed Festival

Where: Knysna
When: 6 -8 May (Next Speed Festival – 2016)

What to expect: Crowds, cold, the smell of petrol and screeching tyres as well as some spectacular cars both old and new. The Knysna Speed Festival has become the premier motorsport events in the South Africa. In fact it’s acknowledged as the South African equivalent of the UK Goodwood Festival of Speed. Some of the finest national and international drivers have taken part, not to mention the cars. Classics like the Porsche 956, Porsche 917 and a 1961 LDS Formula 1 as well as more modern machinery including a March 79B Formula Atlantic, a variety of Ferrraris, the new McLaren MP4-12C and 650s, Lamborghini Gallardo and Aventador, Porsche GT3RS, Nissan GTRS, Jaguar XKRs Coupe and F-Type, and an Ariel Atom have all been seen on the tracks at Knysna. Although there were a variety of motor events during the festival last year saw a return to the real reason the event was created, although the Golf Day has been kept.

The Hillclimb runs over three days with the Vintage, Classic and Historic motoring community has a day of their own – Classic Car Friday for cars that are pre-1975 with both competitors and spectators taking advantage of the wonderful atmosphere to dress in period costume as well.

The King of the Hill Shootout sees some unbelievable speeds. Although there are a variety of classes, it’s the exotic and specialist race cars that get everybody’s hearts racing. Spitting fire, smoking tyres and powerful engines tear up the tarmac as the cars demolish 1.9kms of road in 41 seconds at 260km per hour – and that’s from a standing start! If you like drama and cars then this festival is the one for you.


What: The Comrades Marathon

Where: Durban City Hall, Durban
When: 31 May, (Next Comrades – 2016)

What to expect: The Comrades Marathon is the world’s oldest and largest ultramarathon and is a South African institution. It’s been run every year since 1921 except when it was put on hold over the war years 1941 – 1945. The history of the Comrades Marathon is fascinating and you really should take the time to read it.

Each year thousands of runners cover nearly 90kms between Pietermaritzburg and Durban. This year saw over 13 000 competitors taking part. Even more spectators watched the race along the route or on television. The direction of the run alternates each year – either starting in Durban or finishing there and is known either as an up-run or a down-run. But whichever way you run it – its still an Ultra marathon 89kms long!

If you’re fit enough to notice them there are many points of interest along the route. The subtropical beauty of the Kwazulu-Natal coastline, the massive, awe-inspiring peaks of the Drakensburg mountain range, the Wall of Honour at the halfway point established to celebrate the great achievement of all the participants, especially Arthur Newton. There is a place here known as Arthur’s Seat and it’s said that Arthur, who won the race five times in the 1920’s liked to rest here during the race. Another spot of great inspiration for runners is the Ethembeni School for Handicapped Children near Inchanga. The handicapped school children line the street enthusiastically cheering runners on. Needless to say, this the other race that Runner’s World lists as one of the 20 Races to do Before You Die.


What: The Knysna Cycle Tour

Where: Knysna Oyster Festival Grounds, Waterfront Drive, Knysna
When: 3 – 5 Jul 2015

What to expect: The Knysna Cycle Tour, an off-shoot of the Knysna Oyster Festival, is a great event for both road and mountain enthusiasts of all fitness levels. The event’s hosts are the Knysna Rotary Club. The tour proceeds support a number of educational and skills development programmes as well as hospital and health care projects in the area. This year, the event is more focused on fun for all the family, from beginners through to the professional cyclists.

Leon Evans who designs the Cape Epic has designed the loveliest routes through the Knysna Forest and mountains for the Knysna Tour. Distances vary between 15 and 80kms and while the mountain bike race is open to everyone, it’s been recommended that only fit riders tackle the road races as the shortest distance is 50kms. If you can handle that then you’ll enjoy views of the ocean, the lagoon and the mountains as the route runs along the famous Garden Route. As the Tour is part of the Oyster Festival, all the races begin and end in the Oyster Festival showgrounds.


What: The Vodacom Durban July

Where: Greyville Racecourse, Greyville, Durban
When: 4 July, 2015

What to expect: A fever pitch of excitement that’s what! July Fever starts in mid-April and reaches intense levels by July 4 when it explodes at Greyville Racecourse. High fashion in this year’s theme of the Captain’s Table promises to see some fabulous designs and creations. The 18 horse field also holds exciting possibilities as Futura, the easy winner of this year’s J&B Met is among the competitors and 55 000 race-goers, not to mention the millions watching the event on television, will be eager to see if he can repeat the performance as he battles it out against the rest of South Africa’s best thoroughbreds for the R3.5 Million prize.


What: Die Burger Mountain Bike Challenge

Where: Eikestad Primary School, Stellenbosch
When: 2 August, 2015

What to expect: A record number of 5000 riders is expected at this year’s event as it’s the 10th anniversary of one of South Africa’s largest one-day mountain bike events. Not only is it one of the largest, but it’s also one of the most challenging and the most picturesque. Six routes that wind their way through the beautiful Winelands in the Simonsberg Conservancy cater to all levels of riding. Don’t be fooled by the distances – the 50km route is easier than the 42km one! The main races take place on the Sunday and there’s a Trail Run on the day before.


What: Redbull X Fighters

Where: Union Buildings, Pretoria
When: 12 September, 2015

What to expect: This is one event that the general public can’t take part in. It’s an invitation only competition and only the world’s best FMX riders get the nod for the as the event is the most prestigious and challenging of all the freestyle motorcross competitions. This year 37 riders will be competing. The Tour came to South Africa for the first time last year and every 22 000 seats were sold out. The setting is just as epic as the event. The riders battle it out in front of the Herbert Baker designed, 100 year old government facility – the Union Buildings in the heart of Pretoria.


What: The Tsogo Sun Amashova Durban Classic

Where: Pietermaritzburg City Hall, Pietermaritzburg
When: 18 October, 2015

What to expect: The Amashova is both the oldest Classic Cycle Race in South Africa, the most grueling and the safest in KwaZulu Natal. It consists of three race distances: 106km, 65kms and 35kms. The 106km race follows almost exactly the same route as the Comrades Marathon, starting at the City Hall in Pietermaritzburg and ending at the Moses Mabhida Staduim in Durban. The 10 000 cyclists get to enjoy the splendour of the Valley of a Thousand Hills and endure the rugged terrain of Fox Hill and the Drummond Bowl. If you want to compete you will need to have a full racing licence which you can get from, or from Amashova itself where you can get a day licence. Cyclists are completely safe as the roads taken from Pietermaritzburg and Durban are completely closed to other traffic.


What: The Ghaap River Extreme

Where: Broadwater River Estate, Douglas, Northern Cape
When: 23 – 25 October, 2015
Website: GhaapRiverXtreme

What to expect: Nestled on the banks of the Vaal River, Douglas plays host to the Ghaap River Extreme festival. This is a chance to get your fill of wake-boarding, barefoot ski, x-terra, road races, water ski tournaments, barefoot ski show, speed boat show, marathons, swimming the Vaal River, the Volleyball Xtreme Challenge, Miss Xtreme and Little Miss Waterbarbie.

This year judges from the Guiness Book of Records will be special guests. They’ll be there to verify whether there are enough people participating in the biggest green raft race in Africa to claim the title.

Other fun stuff includes helicopter rides, hot air balloon flights, paintball, stalls and exhibitions. You can also revel in the Landzicht wine, honey and nuts tasting. Music lovers will be delighted to know that the festival attracts talent like Jak de Priester and Charlize Berg, Johan Bakkes and Oros in ‘n lang glas.

All proceeds go to local charities including Douglas Droomdorp, Spes Bona Old Age Home, Outreach, High School Douglas, Project Brilliant Cut and Hospice.


What: The South African International Light Tackle Boat Championship

Where: Gariep Dam, Forever Resort, Northern Cape
When: 3 – 8 Dec 2015
Website:  See photos & details of 2015 South African International Light Tackle Boat Championship

What to expect: The largest dam in South Africa plays host to many angling tournaments including the South African International Light Tackle Boat Championships. A number of well-equipped skippers will be available for all fishing enthusiasts. The dam has an abundance of Carp and Barbel. You could easily weigh in up to a hundred Carp a day, each weighing up to 5kg and bags of over 300kg of Barbel. The waters of the Gariep hold some monster fish and Barbel over 20kg have been caught.

Friday the 4th of December is a ‘practice day’. 5 – 8 December sees all the real drama where fishermen and women compete for eight hours a day in this stunning location.


What: The Robben Island Classic

Where: Kite Beach, Bloubergstrand, Cape Town
When: 16 December, 2015

What to expect: Amateur, experienced and professional kiteboarders as well as other action watersports enthusiasts like windsurfers and SUPs from all over South Africa will congregate at Kite Beach in Milnerton, Cape Town for the start of South Africa’s most prestigious kiteboarding event. Not only is it a day of incredible kiteboarding expertise but also is a great opportunity for photographers, spectators and families to enjoy a day out, watch the best of national and international professionals racing, and capture some summer sun and great shots of the competitors as they race on the ocean in front of one of the Seven Wonders of Nature – Table Mountain. If that wasn’t enough the fact that the competition will be held in Cape Town, is a great reason to go. It’s been awarded the Best Beach Destination World travel Award.


Stay Local

Remember that, no matter where you are taking part, there is always the chance that you can stay with locals. Check out if TheRoomLink website has anything in the area.