The race entrants under the starting banner on race morning.

Whoever thought Treasure Island was only a book hasn’t experienced the idyllic simplicity of Mozambique’s Inhaca Island. Fresh coconuts, chilled Mac-Mahon 2M (Moz’s local brew), pregos, palm trees, prawn platters, burnt-golden sunsets through the mangroves, sand between the toes and a sunkissed nose… this is the life!

All the island lacked was a trail run around it, right?

Right! That’s what Lowveld Trail Running realised, and in partnership with KZN Trail Running, the two intrepid event organisers created Inhaca360. The inaugural event was last weekend, and comprised three distances: the 12k for those keen for just a taste of trail, the 28k across half the island, and the big one for those eager for the full 360° experience: 56km around Inhaca, taking in long stretches of pristine beach, mangroves at low tide, meandering sand roads, Mozambique’s oldest lighthouse, a fleeting view of the home of the island’s king, King Nhaca, and the beaming white smiles of the local kids.

I was entered for the full distance but the universe had other plans for me – my hammie blew within the first km and I was out. Thankfully there’s always so much more to a race than the running itself – I got to enjoy the race from the sidelines, jumping between support vehicles to get from one checkpoint to the next to cheer the participants, and see parts of the island that even the runners didn’t. There’re always silver linings when you’re open to them!

The event attracted runners – and a handful of very determined 56km walkers – not only from around South Africa but from Inhaca itself, and the island’s speedsters took the wins for both the 12km (Naldo Nhaca) and the 28km (Simao Mausse).

The best part of race day for me was being able to witness my speedy friend Jana Trojanova steadily hunt down and reel in Collin Albertyn, who had led the field from about 5k into the race. Jana caught Collin with just 2k to go, giving the poor man the fright of his life! The adrenalin surge of the shock must’ve released energy reserves he didn’t know he had – he somehow ramped up into turbo gear in that soft sand and crossed the finish line 17 seconds ahead of Jana as a very relieved 56km winner!

Race winner Collin Albertyn and Jana Trojanova – the chase was on and they finished 17 secs apart!

The island
Inhaca is small (just 12km north-south by 7km east-west), quaint and rustic – it’s the perfect spot to slow down, disconnect and enjoy soul time. Getting there from South Africa is easy: an hour’s flight connects Jhb and Maputo, or for those heading from Durban it’s a full morning’s drive. There’s a public ferry between Maputo and the island four times a week, as well as smaller boats that can zip across Maputo Bay to the island in just 40 mins. Interestingly Inhaca is just an island by 500m – it is separated from a remote peninsula of the mainland at the south-eastern tip of the island by “Hell’s Gate”, a deep channel that’s 500m wide and whips up a dangerous current twice a day with the changes in tide.

Inhaca360 is hosted by Manico Camp, a wonderfully rustic spot on the western side of the island, a mere 1km amble from the village centre. The after-race dinner of crab curry and freshly fish hot off the braai had us heaping our plates and going back for thirds!

2023 and beyond
Belinda Barkas is the dynamo behind Lowveld Trail Running, and chatted to me the day after the race about future plans for Inhaca360: “What seemed to be a relatively over-ambitious idea after I got lost due to tidal change during my first recce run in December 2021 has proven to be something very special. Ant and I are very grateful that Andrew (of KZNTR) believed in us achieving our dream of offering the incredibly unique experience of Inhaca360. We’re confident that the great relations we’ve established with the local officials and necessary government departments will see the event growing from strength to strength, bringing much-needed tourism to the island and a unique event to the southern African trail running calendar.”

Inhaca360 is definitely one for the bucket list. The event doesn’t aspire to become a huge commercially focused event – that’s not what it’s about. Instead it’s a fantastic experience on a tropical island that’s unspoiled by mass tourism. And long may it stay that way!

The race medals and the winners’ floating trophies for the 3 races are all hand carved, and the winners’ names carved at the finish line.