Imagine running through open savannahs and valleys, all while being surrounded by some of Africa’s most iconic wildlife.

The Big Five Marathon, named after the iconic Big Five (lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, and buffaloes) offers a perfect opportunity to do this. 

Set in the breathtaking landscapes of the Entabeni Game Reserve, this Marathon offers more than a physical challenge; it’s a journey through one of Africa’s most spectacular game reserves.

Established in 2005, the Big Five Marathon has grown into an iconic event for running enthusiasts and adventure seekers from all corners of the globe. Unlike any other marathon, participants run through territories that are usually reserved for the untamed residents of the African savannah. 

The course promises not just a test of endurance but also a rare opportunity to encounter some of the world’s most majestic animals in their natural habitat. 

Safety is paramount, with the race path closely monitored by helicopters and armed rangers to ensure a secure experience for all runners.

Overview Of The Big Five Marathon

Quick Facts

2024 Date

15th June 2024

Total Participants


Registration Cut Of Date

28 May 2024 or until sold out

Required Qualifying Time

Not Applicable


Big Five Marathon Cost & Packages

The entry fee for the Big Five Marathon is incorporated into the price of the travel package you choose and cannot be purchased independently.

Entry fees vary, with Travelling Fit providing comprehensive Big Five Marathon packages that include guaranteed race entry, accommodation, guided safari tours, and more, starting from a competitive price point of $5,011 per runner twin share. 

Our packages not only offer multiple game drives for close encounters with wildlife but also include the option for an extended stay with three additional travel packages:

  • Safari and panorama route over 5-days and 4-nights,
  • Cape Town and tour of the Winelands for 5-days and 4-nights,
  • Victoria Falls for a 4-day and 3-night adventure with the possibility to include Chobe National Park.

Race Types & Distances:

Race Type



42.195 km

Half Marathon

21.1 km

Big Five Marathon Map

The Big Five Marathon
Big Five Marathon map - Source: Big Five Marathon

Big Five Marathon course

The initial stretch leads runners past the serene Ravineside Lodge and the imposing Entabeni Monolith, setting the stage on red sand dirt roads that wind through the lower plateau.

At about the 10km mark, you’ll reach Hanglip Viewpoint, the highest point of the race at 1,702m. 

From here, you’ll start to backtrack and run towards the peak of Yellowwood Valley with the terrain becoming uneven with loose rocks, pebbles and holes.

The true test starts around the 14km mark when the steep descent into the Yellowwood Valley commences. While it is paved, this 3.2km long decline has a 42% gradient and will be the biggest quad burner of your life!

Getting to the bottom of the valley will provide a brief sense of relief once you reach the flatness of the valley however this relief is short-lived. 

The next 9km loop is almost 100% deep sand which tests even the most seasoned marathon runners. 

On top of this, at the completion of the 9 km loop, you are then required to go back up the same 3.2km hill at around the 26km mark. 

This brutal ascent is virtually impossible to run, and it is recommended to take this section slowly.

Once you’ve reached the top, congratulations, you’ve just completed one of the hardest 16km we’ve ever tackled in a marathon!

From here, you’ll be grateful for the dirt trails for the next 6km as you run a loop through a narrow valley called Long Drive. 

Once completed, the final part of the race is fairly hard but offers a wonderful view out over the plateau’s lake. 

You’ll traverse up and down a couple more hills with the surface being quite poor again, consisting of hard uneven stony ground, large rocks and a loose surface. 

While you’ll definitely be very fatigued by this point, it’s important you concentrate on the ground ahead of you to ensure you don’t injure yourself.

Eventually, this terrain will pass and you’ll be greeted with the finish line. 

When you make it to this point, you’ll feel an extreme sense of achievement, knowing you’ve just completed one of the most challenging and picturesque marathons in the world!

Big Five Marathon elevation

Highest Point

1,702 metres / 5,584 feet

Lowest Point

1,167 metres  / 3,829 feet

Largest gradient


Images Traveling
Big Five Marathon map - Source: Big Five Marathon

Big Five Marathon location

Entabeni Game Reserve is a private reserve located in the Waterberg region of Limpopo Province, South Africa. 

Spanning 220 km², it’s known as the “place of the mountain” and offers a diverse range of habitats and is home to a variety of wildlife, including the iconic Big Five (lions, elephants, giraffes, leopards, and buffalos), as well as warthogs, cheetah’s, and hippopotamus. 

The reserve is celebrated for its scenic beauty, big game viewing opportunities, bird watching, and being in a malaria-free zone. 

The closest major cities to Entabeni Game Reserve are Johannesburg and Pretoria, located less than a 3-hour drive away, making it an accessible destination for both local and international visitors seeking an authentic safari experience.

Big Five Marathon accommodation​

Legend Safari Resort – Outside Entabeni

Nestled within the Entabeni Safari Conservancy in Limpopo, the Legend Safari Resort offers a unique blend of luxury and wilderness. 

This resort is known for its peacefulness and the rich cultural legacy of Africa, providing guests with an immersive experience surrounded by vivid African bush. 

The resort features an 18-hole signature golf course, a luxury estate, and various other facilities on a Big 5 Game Reserve.


  • Free WiFi and parking
  • Access to BBQ facilities, a garden, and a terrace
  • Fully equipped kitchen in lodges
  • Private bathroom with shower and hairdryer
  • Activities like cycling and golf (with a unique 18-hole signature golf course)
  • The extreme 19th hole is accessible by helicopter for an unforgettable golfing experience

Lakeside Lodge – Upper Escarpment

Lakeside Lodge, positioned on the upper escarpment, provides guests with an ideal setting overlooking the lake. 

This serene location offers a perfect blend of comfort and natural beauty, making it a perfect retreat for those looking to escape into nature.


  • Comfortable lodging with stunning lake views
  • Access to outdoor activities and game viewing
  • Dining options showcasing local cuisine
  • Proximity to hiking trails and wildlife encounters

Wildside Tented Camp – Lower Escarpment

Located on the lower escarpment of the Entabeni Game Reserve, Wildside Tented Camp offers an authentic safari experience. 

This camp allows guests to stay in close contact with the wilderness, with luxury tents that provide both comfort and a sense of adventure.


  • Luxurious tented accommodations with essential amenities
  • Guided game drives to explore the Big 5 and other wildlife
  • On-site dining with a focus on African cuisine
  • Various outdoor activities designed to immerse guests in the natural surroundings

Big Five Marathon temperature

The climate is dry and generally sunny in June with daytime temperatures typically hovering between 15 and 25 degrees Celsius.

Due to the elevation changes and potential wind changes throughout the race, the temperature may fluctuate throughout the race.

It’s also important to be aware that mornings and evenings can feel quite chilly. Night-time temperatures average around 6 degrees Celsius. 

Training And Preparation For the Big Five Marathon

Preparing for the Big Five Marathon presents unique challenges and requires a specialised approach to training. 

Given the distinct terrain, potential wildlife encounters, and the marathon’s location within a game reserve, here are some training tips tailored for this unparalleled race.

Get Comfortable With Varied Terrain

The Big Five Marathon’s course encompasses dirt tracks, rocky paths, and even sandy stretches. 

Incorporating trail running into your training regime can help acclimate your body and mind to the unpredictable nature of the terrain. 

Focus on building stability and strength in your ankles and legs to navigate uneven surfaces confidently.

Prepare For Elevation Changes

The course is known for its challenging elevation gains and losses. 

Include hill repeats and long runs on hilly routes in your training plan to build the necessary leg strength and cardiovascular endurance. 

Practising on inclines will also help you develop a strategy for tackling the hills efficiently on race day.

Big Five Marathon 6 332x250

What To Expect on Race Day Of the Big Five Marathon

Morning Start

The Marathon typically kicks off early in the morning. 

This timing is chosen carefully to balance the need for cooler temperatures against the likelihood of wildlife activity. 

Runners should prepare for an early start, which allows for the enjoyment of the savannah’s beauty as the sun rises, casting golden hues across the landscape.

Wildlife Precautions

The Big Five Marathon takes place in a game reserve, meaning there’s always a chance of encountering wildlife. 

Safety measures are paramount, with rangers, helicopters, and vehicles ensuring the route is secure and participants are safe at all times. 

The presence of wildlife adds an exhilarating element to the race, but it also means there could be unexpected delays. 

Runners are briefed on how to behave if they encounter animals and are always kept at a safe distance.

Aid Stations

Throughout the course, aid stations are strategically placed to offer hydration and nutritional support to the runners. 

These stations supply water, electrolyte drinks, and sometimes light snacks to help maintain energy levels. 

Book Your Spot In the Big Five Marathon With Travelling Fit

Discover the adventure of a lifetime with our Big Five Marathon travel packages

Our packages not only guarantee entry but also offer a hassle-free travel experience, with accommodation, transportation, and exclusive tours all arranged for you.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us to speak with one of our friendly team members