Tuesday, 16 January 2018

An Eight in Africa: our nine month exploration - thanks, maps, statistics, and toys

This post is intended to capture some statistics, for those who appreciate them, and also to note some details of our vehicle, where we stayed, the places we visited, and the stuff we took along for the trip.

Initially however; a note of thanks and recognition:

After 288 days and 44,694 Km we are now back in Bogotá, having spent every moment of the trip enjoying, learning, and meeting many people. In particular we would like to thank all those who have helped, advised, or welcomed us:

During planning:

In Colombia: Americana de Colchones

For Tanzania: Dennis

For the trip overall: Enzo, Luke, and Shara

On the journey:

UK: Mark & Beate in Marlow

Kenya: Luke and Chloe, Patrick, Moses, Michael, and Kevin in Karen (and in Kigali)

Zambia: Isaac, Sam, and Kelvin in Livingstone

Zimbabwe: Raymond and Nelson in Victoria Falls, Enzo, Stabile and Lawrence in Bulawayo

South Africa: Hilda and Japie in Mapungubwe and Krugersdorp

Namibia: James and Vanya on the road to Aus, Udo in Lüderitz, Charlie and Mark at Shamvura

Botswana: Jim and Sarai in Moremi, Lilian, Sekule, KB, and Jacob at Tuli

Zambia: Armstrong, Gerrit, Tammy, & Wouter at Liuwa Plains, Paul and Julie at various campsites (also in Malawi), Chris & Charlotte and Irwin & JoAnne at McBride’s, Deborah & Andrés at South Luangwa (and in Uganda)

Malawi: Tom and Chloe at Mulanje, Isaac in Livingstonia

Tanzania: Chris & Louise and Hassani at Lakeshore, Tomas & Sabine in Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Lake Manyara, and Dar es Salaam, Corrina & Saif at Blues ‘n’ Chutney, Dennis & Alice in Dar es Salaam

Rwanda: Mohamed at Bandag in Kigali, Innocent and Frederick in Gisenyi

Uganda: Chan Kobuko (Selisius) in QENP and Murchison Falls, Brenda, Martin, Eddie, Moses, and Stephen in Murchison Falls, Ineke, Max, & Ata at Fort Portal, Deborah & Andrés in Kampala, Maria at Mabamba, Oscar at Kidepo, Terry & Brian at Jinja, Patrick, Paul, Alfred, John, Ernestina & Hans in/around Mbale and Mount Elgon,

Kenya: Dick & Jane, So Ra, Serge, and Jamas at Barnley’s, Rolf, Dennis, and Sophie at Lake Turkana

In particular, the warm hospitality of Beate and Mark in Marlow, Hilda and Japie in Krugersdorp, and of Deborah and Andrés in Kampala was unexpected and highly appreciated.


Alan and Marce

1)      The maps:

-       Our route - African continent

-       Our route – Southern and Eastern Africa

-       Countries visited in Africa

The Africa trip compared with the South American trip

It’s interesting that we ended up covering about the same number of kilometres per month in the African trip as in the South American “big trip”.

54,911 Km in South America in 326 days – 170 Km/day
43,307 Km in Africa in 255 days – 168 Km/day

However in the former we were driving approximately 5 hours a day on “driving days”, whereas in Africa we were driving an average of 7 hours a day, simply since the average speed possible was a lot lower.

2) Travelling

In Africa: 254 nights/ 255 days
Overall: 287 nights / 288 days (we went to the USA for the Botswana visa, then to the UK for the Namibia visa and to visit friends and family; on return from Africa we were again in the UK, then in Portugal on business before returning home).

Kilometres driven:

-    Our Land Cruiser - “Frodo” – named by Charlotte at Macbride’s Camp 
           a. Start mileage = 177,560 mi
           b. End mileage = 202,599 mi
           Total mileage = 25,039 mi = 40,062 Km

     Plus 528 mi/845 Km, in NY rental (NY to Washington and back)
Plus 1754 Km in a rented Ford Ranger (Namibia)
Plus 1491 Km in a rented Toyota Land Cruiser (Uganda)
Plus 542 Km in Mark's Saab Turbo (UK)

Total in Africa 43,307 Km
Total including USA and UK 44,694 Km

Ferries: multiple ferries ranging from the ancient Kazungula ferry across the Zambezi to the modern ferry from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar, including various river and lake ferries in a range of displacements.

Air travel: Coastal flights from Zanzibar to Dar es Salaam to Mafia Island and back to Dar es Salaam; flights from Bogotá to New York, New York to London, London to Nairobi, Nairobi to London, London to Lisbon, Lisbon to Madrid, and Madrid to Bogotá.

3)    Sleeping

In Africa:

70 nights in 48 campsites
23 nights in 11 bandas/fixed tents
52 nights in 31 lodges
32 nights in 13 guesthouses/BnBs
8 nights in 3 homes
69 nights in 40 hotels

Selected accommodation:
These are places to which we would return without hesitation

  • Forest Inn Campsite, Mkushi, Zambia – good restaurant, convenient from Great North Road, a good stopover from Lusaka to Tunduma
  • Berg en Dal campsite, Kruger NP, RSA – excellent facilities, ideal for the southern area of Kruger NP
  • De Hoop campsite, Richtersveld NP, RSA – Green oasis on the riverbank
  • Omarunga Lodge Campsite, Epupa Falls, Namibia – another attractive riverside setting
  • Olifantsrus Campsite, Okaukeijo campsite, Halali campsite, Nabutoni campsite, Etosha NP, Namibia - all of these campsites have very good facilities and good access to the wildlife
  • Drotsky's Cabins campsite, Shakawe, Botswana – good Riverside location with sites in tall trees
  • CKDEC02 campsite, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana – very remote, no facilities, however deep in the Kalahari providing a unique experience
  • Khwai campsite, Savuti campsite , Botswana – well situated in the Moremi GR
  • Ikithe Lodge campsite, Mongu, Zambia – campsite with outstanding facilities adjacent to the lodge in front of the lake
  • Pontoon #1 campsite, Kasanka NP, Zambia – friendly staff, a perfect setting to see Sitatunga in the morning and evening.
  • Wildlife Camp campsite, South Luangwa, Zambia – good facilities, set on the riverbank
  • Chintheche Inn campsite, Chintheche, Malawi – excellent campsite on the lake shore, spacious with good facilities
  • Special campsite, Mara River, Serengeti NP, Tanzania – on the Banks of the Mara River, no facilities, included to recognise the value of the “special campsite” option.
  • Bwatherongi campsite #2, Samburu NP, Kenya – helpful staff, well-equipped campsite, with and amazing pool to relax in the heat of the day
Bandas/fixed tents:
  • Shamvura Camp, West Caprivi, Namibia – outstanding hospitality
  • Ghanzi Trailblazers' Camp, Ghanzi, Botswana – integrated into the Kalahari, provides an opportunity to appreciate the San culture
  • 3rd Bridge Campsite, Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana – the fixed tent is the same price as camping for two, and is you are in the midst of wild dogs, elephants and other wildlife
  • Molema Bush Camp, Tuli Block, Botswana – outstanding friendly staff, excellent Riverside location, excellent guides
  • McBride's Camp, Kafue, Zambia – a jewel in Kafue, overlooking the river, with comfortable central lodge, campsite available however we stayed in a banda.
  • Chelinda campsite, Nyika NP, Malawi – basic campsite with very friendly staff and the opportunity to appreciate this mountain ecosystem
  • Lakeshore Lodge banda, Kipili, Tanzania – an outstanding place to stay; friendly, with excellent food, wonderful staff, overlooking the lake. We stayed in a banda, with excellent facilities; there are also cottages and a campsite.

  • Kayube Bungalows, Livingstone, Zambia – self-catering cottages overlooking the river, friendly and a great option close to Victoria Falls on the Zambian side
  • Ilala Lodge, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe – excellent rooms, great setting, helpful staff 
  • Mopane Bush Camp, Mapungubwe, RSA – convenient for the national park, excellent cuisine, set in the Bush but close to the main road. 
  • Mavela Game Lodge, Kwazulu-Natal, RSA – excellent site within Rhinoceros Reserve
  • Gondwana Canyon Lodge, Fish River Canyon, Namibia – set in the rocky desert, fits well into the environment
  • Duwisib Guest Farm, Namibia
  • Cob House, Mushroom Farm, Livingstonia, Malawi – one of several options incuding fixed tents and a campsite; marvellous views over the lake in an eclectic setting
  • Kinasi Lodge, Mafia Island, Tanzania – very good accommodation and a beautiful setting
  • Cormoran Lodge, Kibuye, Rwanda – attractive cottages overlooking the lake
  • Kyaninga Lodge, Fort Portal, Uganda – very good accommodation overlooking the crater lake, with friendly staff
  • Lacam Lodge, Sipi Falls, Uganda – outstanding setting overlooking the lower falls. 
  • Eliye Springs Lodge, Lake Turkana, Kenya – friendly staff, good facilities, great location

  • Montebello Guest House, Windhoek, Namibia – friendly, good food, comfortable
  • Blues 'n' Chutney, Usa River, Arusha, Tanzania – pleasant setting, friendly staff, good food.
  • Rwenzori View Guest House, Fort Portal, Uganda – a welcoming home with legendary dinners
  • Barnley's Guest House, Kitale, Kenya – a beautiful garden and home, with excellent traditional meals and hospitality, a wonderful place to relax for a while.
  • Irish Welcome AirBnB, Karen, Nairobi, Kenya – excellent self-catering cottage in Karen
  • Royal Hotel, Pilgrim's Rest, RSA – cosy historic hotel
  • The Terraces @ Chambray, Franschhoek, RSA – excellent accommodation, breakfast on your own terrace, friendly staff
  • Cresta Riley's Hotel, Maun, Botswana – the hotel is not particularly outstanding however Riley’s is an institution in Maun and the hotel is adjacent to all you need before setting off into Northern Botswana
  • Huntingdon House, Thyolo, Malawi –a historic colonial house on a team plantation
  • Kigali Marriott, Kigali, Rwanda – top class hotel well located.

With some difficulty we came up with the following:

Best Three Places to Stay:
(in chronological order in our trip)
  • The Terraces @ Chambray, Franschhoek, RSA  
  • McBride's Camp, Kafue, Zambia
  •  Lakeshore Lodge banda, Kipili, Tanzania
Alan’s top five
  • The Terraces @ Chambray, Franschhoek, RSA
  • Molema Bush Camp, Tuli Block, Botswana
  • McBride's Camp, Kafue, Zambia
  •  Lakeshore Lodge banda, Kipili, Tanzania
  • Barnley's Guest House, Kitale, Kenya
Marce’s top five
  •  Mopane Bush Camp, Mapungubwe, RSA
  • The Terraces @ Chambray, Franschhoek, RSA
  •  Drotsky's Cabins campsite, Shakawe, Botswana
  •  McBride's Camp, Kafue, Zambia
  •  Lakeshore Lodge banda, Kipili, Tanzania

4)    Photos:  35,000 (after primary edit)

16,591 on the Macbook Pro
the rest on a Seagate 2TB slim portable HD
Photo management - Lightroom

5)    National Parks, Game Reserves, National Monuments, Protected Areas:

We visited 65 parks, in various categories from National Parks to Protected Areas: 4 in Zimbabwe, 12 in South Africa, 7 in Namibia, 8 in Botswana, 6 in Zambia, 6 in Malawi, 7 in Tanzania, 3 in Rwanda, 7 in Uganda, 6 in Kenya

Mosi-ao-tunya NP
Victoria Falls NP
Hwange NP
Matobo NP
Great Zimbabwe NM
Mapungubwe NP
Kruger NP
Golden Gate Highlands NP
Mavela (Manyoni PGR)
iSimangaliso Wetland Park
Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation Area
Addo Elephant NP
Garden Route NP
Cape Point NR
Table Mountain NP
Augrabies Falls NP
Richtersveld NP
Quivertree Forest
/Ai-/Ais and Fish River Canyon Park
≠Khoadi //Hoas Conservancy
Etosha NP
Mahango Game Reserve
Tsodilo Hills WHS
Makgadikgadi Pans NP
Nxai Pan NP
Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Moremi Game Reserve
Chobe NP
Nata Bird Sanctuary
Tuli Block
Ngonye Falls Community Partnership Park
Liuwa Plains NP
Kafue NP
Kasanka NP
South Luangwa NP
Majete NP
Mount Mulanje Conservation Trust
Liwonde NP
Cape Maclear NP
Nkotakhota NP
Nyika Plateau NP
Mahale Mountains NP
Katavi NP
Serengeti NP
Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area
Lake Manyara NP
Tarangire NP
Mafia Island Marine Park
Akagera NP
Nyungwe NP
Volcanoes NP
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest NP (transit)
Queen Elizabeth NP
Kibale NP
Murchison Falls NP
Mabamba Wetland IBA
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
Kidepo NP
Saiwa Swamp NP
Central Island NP
Shaba GR
Samburu NP
Buffalo Springs NP
Meru NP (*)

In bold – national parks where we were the only visitors
(* almost - 1 other car with 2 visitors)

6)     The car:

Toyota Land Cruiser VX Limited Series 80 4.2 L turbodiesel – 1997
Photo courtesy of Sarai and Jim - Thank you
- Automatic transmission
- Cruise control
- Leather electric seats - leather
- Old Man Emu suspension with 50mm lift, Rob's Magic dampers
- Tyres: 285-R75/16 - 5 x BF Goodrich All Terrain T/A
- exhaust gas inflating jack
- wheel chocks
- Electric winch (front) 
- Rear tow hook
- tow straps with shackles
- Airtec Safari Snorkel 

- 2 sand ladders
- 3 batteries 
- 12V Power outlet at rear
- basic toolkit
- Stainless steel work top on rear lower tailgate
- Howling Moon side awning
- Patriot roof rack
- Fitted kit rack for 3 x 20L fuel cans, 2 x 20L water containers, and kit trunk, 1 more 20L fuel can on roof rack (total reserve fuel capacity 80L – 100L in northern Botswana)
 - ARB 35L fridge
- Cooler/ice-maker between front seats with 6 water bottles

Added in Nairobi before starting:

- Fitted bed inside vehicle (hinged for rear seat access if needed). Easy to remove if not needed
- 1 new wheel rim with Maxxis 980 Bravo A/T tyre (giving us 2 spare wheels)
- 3 warning triangles meeting Zimbabwe requirements (available in USA only as far as we could determine – bought at a truckstop between New York and Washington)
- fire extinguishers (1 mounted plus 3 in toolbox)
- heavy duty jumpleads
- crossbrace
- panga in case with sharpening file
- plates, mugs, cutlery (2 sets), chopping boards, kitchen knives, other cooking items

Brought from home:

-       Long torque bar
-       Socket set, spanner set, screwdrivers, jeweller’s screwdrivers
-       Tyre repair kit
-       Additional compressor
-       10m climbing rope with slings and carabiners

Maintenance: Mbeya, Capetown, Gaborone, Lusaka, Malawi, Dar es Salaam, Kigale, Kampala

Repairs: an initial electrical fault was resolved in Victoria Falls, a new radiator fitted in Lüderitz, a new air conditioning motor/fan was installed in Gaborone, a cracked front differential housing was given first aid in Ngorongoro and fixed in Fort Portal, a broken front differential was repaired in Kampala and adjusted in Kitale, a failed front wheel bearing (fitted in Kampala and not OEM however allegedly the only one available) was replaced at the roadside in Moyok and permanently replaced in Kitale. In addition various running repairs were done during the trip. The full story will be posted separately.

Oil changes:

~177,500 mi (Nairobi)
184,143 mi (Capetown)
189,308 mi (Gaborone)
194,655 mi (Lilongwe)
198,514 mi (Dar es Salaam)


In our vehicle – none
In the rental Ranger – none
In the rental Land Cruiser (5 (or 11 if you count individual perforations!)

Overall: our Land Cruiser did an excellent job of taking us 40,000 Km around a very challenging part of the world, on roads ranging from excellent to terrible, and off road in conditions which very few vehicles could handle. About the only vehicles with as much capability AND comfort are the Montero and the Patrol, both of which would need the same modifications as ours. Although a Jeep Wrangler or an (original) Hummer would provide equal or better off road capability, both would be far less comfortable on surfaced roads and neither would permit the conversion to allow sleeping inside. Newer Land Cruisers would have more sophistication however have lost ground clearance and approach & departure angles and would hence be less capable. A Range Rover would be capable in both highway and offroad conditions although would have been far more expensive and difficult to maintain and repair outside major cities. The Land Rover Defender is excellent off road, poor on highways, and has a very poor history in terms of reliability, supported by both the fact that the numbers of Land Rovers have dropped to their being a small proportion of the 4x4 vehicles everywhere we travelled. While pickups such as the Hilux are common in the region, and have good capability, we did not consider a pickup since it would not have met our primary needs in terms of conversion. 

Our Series 80 was ideal for the trip, and we would not have chosen any other vehicle, although a lower mileage Series 80 would have been good had we been able to find one. We would have no hesitation in setting off in the same vehicle for another 40,000 Km tomorrow, after a routine service. We would also renew the dampers, which are fine but would probably need replacement before long, and check the 4x4 controls. The only additional modification we would make, after nine months experience in the vehicle, would be to add a transmission oil cooler, which is a fairly common measure when travelling in demanding conditions in hot climates.

7)    The toys:

Navigation: Garmin GPSmap64st with Tracks4Africa loaded, Silva compass
Cameras: 2 x Canon 5D bodies, 1 x Canon SX620 HS
Lenses: Canon 24-70mm f 2.8 Ultrasonic, Canon EF 70-200mm f 2.8 Ultrasonic, Canon EF 400mm f 5.6,
Canon 2 x converter
Tripod: Velbon FHD-52Q
Monopod: KEEP D’Classic
Camera bags: Sandstorm of Kenya.

Binoculars: Leica Trinovid 8 x 20 RCA, Alpen Wings ED 8 x 20, Nikon Akulon 10x50 and Nikon Akulon 8x42

1 pair Merrell Moab, 1 pair Columbia North Plains  
2 pairs Tevas 

iPod 120 Gb, Griffin FM transmitter
Personal tools/knives: Leatherman Wave, Leatherman Squirt Ps4, Swiss Army knives (various)
Outdoor clothing:
Mountain Equipment Coop: Hydrofoil Jacket x 2, Lippi: Jacarandá x 2, North Face Thermoball Triclimate jacket x 2
Backpacks (Mountain Equipment Coop):
Deuter Race EXP, Deuter Race EXP Air
Mad Rock climbing rope bags x 2
Eddie Bauer Expedition 21 and 26 roller kit bags (2 of each)
REI kitbag
Added at trip end: 2 Kit bags, 1 custom-made bag
Medical kit: designed for the trip.
Maps: International Travel Maps, Vancouver (pdfs); Tracks4Africa (pdfs); plus a few paper maps acquired locally.
Guide Books: Lonely Planet (pdfs)
Laptop: This trip we had only one - Apple Macbook Pro (for photographs, also used for email)
iPad: for maps, guidebooks, also used for email and general internet access.
If anyone is interested in more specifics please comment.

Panga (machete), with scabbard made for us in Karen:

The Aeropress - brilliant! Our means of making espresso on the road (thanks Catriona & Nick): 

Photos may be used for non-commercial purposes with credit to alanymarce@gmail.com

If interested in further travels, look at www.alanymarcemoreexploration.blogspot.com ;

If interested in our South American “big trip”, look at www.suramericacontraelreloj.blogspot.com.