Category Archives: Overlanding Africa

General overlanding information from preparing for the next grand adventure through to hot topics affecting travellers.

Pulling the string to a new life

Installing the actual solar panels was a skill the ARCC Gap group learned quickly. We began by assessing each house, which inevitably gave us all a very harsh but needed wake-up call as to what living in the dark is like – we began to feel immense pride in the work we would be doing.

Each house we went to was somewhat similar: a window-less kitchen with no ventilation and charcoal fumes that would take anyone out – especially me, a small bedroom, and a very small living room. For each family, we needed to install upwards of 3 light bulbs for the various locations they needed light in. For me, wires, cables, and electricity in general is a foreign concept, however, Thiemo made it very simple to understand, and in no time it all began to flow like clock-work for me.

Franny installing solar panels on the roof for Napenda Solar Community

Franny installing solar panels on the roof for Napenda Solar Community

After assessing each house, we placed the solar panel in the perfect place on the roof, an essential part of using panels in the most effective way. I was the first person to get on the roof, and I will not lie, it was a very scary experience. The roof, made out of thin corrugated steel, felt as though it would cave with every one of my fearful steps. Luckily, it did not; nonetheless a heart-racing experience.

After the solar panel was installed, the rest of the day was spent wiring cables into all the various locations that needed light. This was at first the hardest part for me seeing as this was a new skill, however, Thiemo’s teaching made it very simple for the whole group, but also the families; making it easy for them to understand how their new system worked. The wires took us a while on the first day but after getting used to the way things worked, we became very quick, installing the whole solar power system in under two hours on the second day!

Once everything was finished and the whole system was ready to go, all our hearts were racing as the families gathered around the light bulb ready to pull the string – a string that would in turn change their lives for the better. Thankfully, and solely due to Thiemo’s teaching, 3 out of 3 of the families had light at the first pull, smiles consuming their faces as they saw, like we did, how helpful this small light would be for them.

Napenda Solar Community is one of the service projects the Gap year program with Adventures Cross Country is involved.

Napenda Solar Community is one of the service projects the Gap year program with Adventures Cross Country is involved.

It was an incredibly rewarding community project, and knowing how much our days of hard work would help will have a lasting effect on me. When I asked Nancy, mother of 4, how light would help her, “This is going to change things for me so much. I am internally grateful. My children can study and we can live happily with light. I am so happy.” As am I, Nancy.

Francesca Eremeeva is with the ARCC Africa group who spent 10 days with Napenda Solar Community in Kajiado, Kenya learning about solar power, building and installing systems and she worked tirelessly on promoting the project on Twitter and Facebook.

Follow Napenda Solar Community on facebook, twitter , linkedin, and google+ or peruse Africa Expedition Support website for more information.

Life without light – Napenda Solar Community

This blog entry was written by Sam Cary who is on the Adventures Cross Country Africa Gap year program.

Before we arrived at the locals’ houses we were told how poor their living conditions were, but nothing could have prepared us for the reality of their situations. On the first property we worked on were two toolshed-sized structures: one house and a kitchen. Living in these extremely small and poorly lit structures is a family of 9, named Nancy, Jane, Naomi, Gif, Faith, Abby, Tabi, Leah, and Rose, four of whom are small children.

Before the solar panels were installed, any and all housework, schoolwork, and cooking had to stop after sunset (in Kenya, that is around 6 PM). Without the solar powered electricity, the kids can’t even complete any school work because during the daytime hours, they have to help around the house, tend to animals, and get water from local wells for the families – these chores always take priority over school work. The first family we helped used Kerosene lamps, which are not only a very weak source of light, but are also extremely toxic and are a major cause of many lung issues within families who live in homes without electricity.

The kitchen is so poorly ventilated that the kerosene lamps make the inside look as though someone sprayed a thick layer of black spray paint over all the walls, cooking materials, and the beds. Yes, there are beds in the kitchen where the younger children sleep, every night. When I walked into this kitchen, my eyes immediately began burning and I couldn’t even take a full breath. These young kids spend hours upon hours in this kitchen, making food, sleeping, or simply spending time with their siblings. Many of these kids had coughs that were so severe it made the hazard of their living conditions on their health extremely clear. Unfortunately, the extremely low income these families make prevents the parents from getting any sort of medication for these children.

A young child sleeps in a smoke filled room due to the family using open fire for lighting.

A young child sleeps in a smoke filled room due to the family using open fire for lighting.

Providing clean solar powered electricity in their homes will remove the need for the kerosene lamps, which would in turn seriously reduce the lung issues that the people in this family have. Having light in the house and in the kitchen would also allow the kids to do their schoolwork during night hours, and would let the adults work on their professions and crafts — a major source of this families income. This experience has given me an unprecedented appreciation for growing up with electricity and the benefits it has on ones life, as well as opening my eyes to how clean and sustainable solar energy really is. Solar energy truly is the most practical method of creating electricity, with virtually no cost and absolutely no negative repercussions; solar is absolutely the way to power any house, anywhere.

Follow Napenda Solar Community on facebook, twitter , linkedin, and google+ or peruse Africa Expedition Support website for more information.

Cory Harris Jnr talks about his experience with Napenda Solar Community in Kenya

Cory Harris Jnr talks about his experience with Napenda Solar Community. 

The benefits of Solar Energy are astounding. Taking the first couple of days of this project to learn how Solar Power works and why it is so beneficial to the people of East Africa – and the world – really highlighted the importance of it all for me. Thiemo spent a day teaching us the ins and outs of solar energy. To start, he said that all you really need to run a solar system is: a panel, a converter, and a battery. After you have these key items, the rest is just a simple, step-by-step installation.

Solar is important to the people of East Africa because it is sustainable. The families that Thiemo is able to give this gift to have an energy source that will not run out and eliminates a monthly electricity bill – a financial burden that many families here cannot even deal with. In turn, this allows for an easier life at an affordable price. Thiemo is an innovative man who just wants to help people out, and I am more than honored to have a gotten the chance to help out with his amazing and life-changing cause.

Working on this project has made me conscious about my own electric bill each month, and even more so the benefits that Solar Power could have on my life. Thiemo gave my group an exercise that helped us calculate how we could integrate Solar Power into our lived back at home. I personally plan on furthering my solar research to seek out concrete ways to incorporate solar power into my life.

Follow Napenda Solar Community on facebook, twitter , linkedin, and google+ or peruse Africa Expedition Support website for more information.

Africa Expedition Support off-roading into making a real difference

Chief Mapengo comes to meet the Adventures Cross Country group at Napenda Solar Community HQ in Kajiado, Kenya

Chief Mapengo comes to meet the Adventures Cross Country group at Napenda Solar Community HQ in Kajiado, Kenya

Lee Erickson is one of the leaders of Adventures Cross Country Gap group currently in Kenya working with Napenda Solar Community.

Here is a blog entry from Lee

“The Adventures Cross-Country (ARCC) Africa Gap crew is currently 30 miles outside of Nairobi, in Kajiado County, Kenya, where we are working with the Napenda Solar Community assembling and installing solar power systems to the local communities to provide electricity and light in their homes for the first time!

I know you guys are probably thinking that that’s some pretty amazing stuff… and you are right! It has been one of the most rewarding service projects that I have ever been a part of, and is definitely a highlight for our group during our three month journey across East Africa.

Napenda Solar Community is a non-profit project that began in November 2013 in hope of improving the lives of many East African families by providing affordable, reliable and clean solar energy to their homes. Napenda is Swahili for “I love,” and in just two short years, Napenda Solar Community has installed solar power systems in 27 homes and have stolen the hearts of the communities that they have reached across East Africa thus far.

So who is behind Napenda Solar Community? Their names are Thiemo and Deborah. Thiemo grew up in Germany and is a master mechanic, car enthusiast and driver by trade. Deborah is originally from Australia and is a nurse, dog lover, and a crafty cook. They met in Africa while working with an overland company several years ago, and eventually started their own overland and guided Land Rover self-drive business called Africa Expedition Support (AES).

They started AES at a campsite near Nairobi with one overland truck and a couple Land Rover 4x4s. They quickly grew in popularity due to their work ethic, knowledge, and passion to create memorable and outstanding experiences for their customers. With currently four overland trucks and 12 Land Rover 4x4s in their fleet, they stay very busy running and organizing overland and self-drive guided trips for school groups and adventurous travelers that want to experience East Africa in a truly unique way. Coincidentally enough, our ARCC Africa Gap group is overlanding with AES for the majority of our journey!

As AES expanded, Debs and Thiemo moved further away from the capital city and built their dream home called The Castle in Kajiado. With no affordable way to acquire essential resources like electricity and water, Debs and Thiemo had to design their home in a way that they would be completely self-sustainable. By reading books and searching the internet, Thiemo taught himself how to make a proper solar power system and a wind turbine that powers all of their lights, washing machine, oven, stereo system, water heater, and many more amenities in their beautiful home. By making their dream home a reality, Debs and Thiemo have proven that solar energy is affordable, reliable, sustainable, and makes sense for any home where the sun shines.

It wasn’t long before a light bulb went off in their heads to design a smaller solar power system for the homes in their local community, which sparked the duo to launch the Napenda Solar Community project in order to make a positive impact for those families. ARCC has been an in-country partner with Debs and Thiemo for many years and we feel very fortunate to be able to volunteer on their Napenda Solar project for 10 days, and experience first-hand, how beneficial this project is to the many families it is directly impacting.

The reality here is that 50% of people living in Kenya do not have access to mains electricity in their homes. Most people use kerosene lanterns for lighting which is expensive and has adverse health effects. In Kenya, mains electricity costs $500 to get connected to the grid (plus monthly electricity bills) is simply inconceivable for the majority of the population that lives on less than $2 per day.

“The challenge was finding a good project that individuals can learn something from, is sustainable, accomplishes something big, and has a positive impact on people’s lives. We believe Napenda Solar Community does all of those things, and more” says Debs and Thiemo as we talk over a hot cup of tea. “This project provides poor rural households with efficient, clean and cost effective solar power as a positive step to eradicating poverty,” they state.

After installing three solar power systems in three nearby homes, the impact we made thanks to Napenda Solar Community could not be more evident for our group during our short time here. Each family has invested $50 of their money (which often times means selling a cow or goat) and with their new-found electricity, they understand how valuable this resource is to open opportunities to access information, education, and communication offering a tremendous platform for individual, community and nationwide development.

Debs and Thiemo’s goal for Napenda Solar Community is to install as many solar panel systems across East Africa as possible. “We believe it is our social responsibility to give back to our community to make people’s lives easier here,” Debs concludes. Napenda Solar Project largely relies on groups and travelers such as ARCC to fund the cost of the solar power systems and we couldn’t be more thankful to the two of them for allowing us to be a part of their inspiring and life-changing project.

Follow Napenda Solar Community on facebook, twitter , linkedin, and google+ or peruse Africa Expedition Support website for more information.

 

Why I love travelling and working in Africa

Amanda, one of our tour leaders talks about why she loves Africa and her job with Africa Expedition Support.

A cheese platter and sundowners looking out over the beautiful scenic view of the Great Rift Valley with a spectacular sunset on the horizon… what more can one ask for? I just realise how much I love living in Africa!!

My love affair with Africa started when I grew up on a game farm not very far from the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Being a very young girl my dad took me to work with him on the farm and taught me animal and bird names and to have a respect for nature. There was no doubt in my mind that I would never be living in a city.

Now, so many years later I still do what I love and that is travelling through some of Africa’s beautiful countries and passionately share it with our groups on our guided 4×4 self drive safaris with Africa Expedition Support.

When I think of what it is that made me so passionate about travelling in Africa it will be the diversity of each country we visit, friendly African people, lots of sunny days, breathtaking landscapes and the privilege to experience the most amazing game viewings you can think off! Nights around the campfire telling stories and looking up to the starry skies while listening to animal sounds in the background.

Amanda with a new found friend in Malawi

Amanda with a new found friend in Malawi

One of my favourite experiences is game driving after a good thunderstorm. Smelling the clean washed, fresh field and seeing gazelles running around, all silly with renewed energy. Elephants drinking from the water puddles and a beautiful rainbow in the sky. Rain in these countries is a glorious blessing since water is scarce in a lot of regents and regarded very precious. Animals migrate and people travel great distances after water sources.

Another unique experience is driving through villages and looking at the different styles in which each African tribe build their houses, set up their businesses and go about their daily living. Goats, sheep, cattle and other livestock casually walking through these villages are a very common scene and makes driving days much more interesting. Shop names can also be very funny. Anything from “God Bless You Barber Shop” to “ 2 Missed Calls Enterprises” can be found here and they are very proud of their businesses.

On our overland trips we have quite a few border crossings and here you learn that patience and humour is a virtue… Africa has its own time and to go with the flow is one thing I learned very early on my travels.

Meeting the people of each country with their different cultures and beliefs is so interesting and I have learned a lot from them. Some of these countries we visit are of the poorest in Africa but these people are living their lives to the fullest and are some of the most helpful and friendly human beings you will ever encounter.

There is nothing better for me than preparing for the next trip with such excitement of the idea of sharing my passionate love for Africa with a new group!!! My heart will always be in Africa!!

For more information about our safaris peruse Africa Expedition Support

Grey Nomad, Silver Nomad …. Where travel goes beyond a cruise to Tahiti

Whether you describe yourself as a Grey Nomad or Silver Nomad is not important.  What is important, is now is the time to pack the bags and take off on that holiday adventure you have dreamt about for years. The kids have flown the coop (well, mostly), the mortgage is paid off and for the first time you can invest in yourself.

These days there are so many options for Grey and Silver nomad travel, gone are the days when you went to the travel agent and all they could recommend was a cruise to Tahiti or a “grey” bus around Europe. The travel industry has recognised that Grey and Silver Nomads are not the dotty oldies hanging off a Zimmer frame but are young at heart, fit, healthy, and adventurous and want some excitement beyond a 14 day cruise playing croquet on the deck!

Our guided self drive Africa adventures are very popular with retired or semi retired Grey and Silver nomads who love the great outdoors, are adventurous, and are, in short, living their dream! These types of trips appeal to people of all ages, but the retired or semi retired Grey and Silver Nomads have time on their hands, and figure it is best to spend several weeks really taking in a Continent rather than coming back several times.

Meeting the vehicles and crew and other members of the group in Cape Town, South Africa.  Photo courtesy of Judith Africa Discovered 2015

Meeting the vehicles and crew and other members of the group in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo courtesy of Judith Africa Discovered 2015

Having had several conversations with clients who have expressed a number of reasons why they book a guided self drive expedition with us rather than a package holiday. I think this one sums it up nicely “We may be retired but we are not old, this is something we have always dreamt of but the thought of shipping our own vehicle [to Africa], or rather the hassle of getting it back into Australia was just too much to bear; planning a trip like this to do on our own just seems so daunting, sure we could spend weeks trawling though blogs to get ideas from other travellers but at our age we love the idea that we book a trip and everything is taken care of, including the vehicle, meals, accommodation, paperwork and activities. At our age it is not about the money, or time, we have plenty of that; but the convenience”

Another client expressed “travelling in a small group gives us safety and security but without being overwhelmed by too many people on the same tour. My thing was that I did not have to cook, while I love camping I do find the shopping and cooking simply takes up too much of my holiday time, to have someone who carries that stress for me is well worth it! My husband’s big thing was he would never do this kind of trip with a driver, he loves driving and would not travel any other way. Every overseas holiday we have taken we hire a vehicle and do our own thing, this works well in Europe or America but Africa is another story; this was a good compromise, we get to drive one of your vehicles, still maintain some independence and flexibility; and everything is taken care of. We always wanted to travel Africa but never found a good fit. This was a great fit!”

Having the flexibility to game drive in a national park by yourself is an added bonus to a guided self drive expedition.     Photo courtesy of Judith Africa Discovered 2015

Having the flexibility to game drive in a national park by yourself is an added bonus to a guided self drive expedition. Photo courtesy of Judith Africa Discovered 2015

It does not matter if you describe yourself as a grey nomad or a silver nomad it is great to know that your travel needs are being recognised and there are a variety of options out there. Our guided self drive expeditions offer you a different kind of adventure holiday; sure they may not be for everyone but at least you have choices. Africa Expedition Support offer a number of guided self drive expeditions and safaris throughout East and Southern Africa ranging from 7 days to 10 weeks.

For more information http://www.africaexpeditionsupport.com/4x4guided or email Debs info@africaexpeditionsupport.com

For those who prefer a little more luxury and don’t want to 4WD across Africa then maybe a flying safari is more your cup of tea http://www.africaexpeditionsupport.com/multi-country-flying-safaris

Flying Safari or Overland? That is the question in choosing the right holiday in Africa.

Choosing the right holiday in Africa can be a little daunting. Very daunting! Do you want to travel overland or would you prefer a flying safari or even a guided 4WD self drive safari? The options are endless and there are multiple choices of tour packages out there. So here, I am going to offer my years of experience in travelling and leading safaris and expeditions across Africa to help you along.

Obviously what you ultimately decide will depend on your budget and the amount of time you have. Here are some of the pros and cons of each style of travel.

Flying Safari

If you have limited time and want to see and do as much as possible on your holiday in Africa then this may be the best option. A flying safari cuts out or greatly reduces travel days meaning there is more time to enjoy the highlights. This is particularly popular when visiting national parks and game reserves which often take a full days drive to access.

Another benefit of flying safaris means you can cover more ground in a limited amount of time, meaning you are not restricted to just one country on your 2 week holiday but can include highlights in 2 or 3 countries. For some people this is the perfect solution as they know they will visit Africa only once and therefore can tick off highlights on their bucket list in one swoop.

Although this option may appear to be expensive, in reality, if you only have 2 weeks to visit the Continent of your dreams and by opting to fly, means you cover more ground, see and do more than you ever expected; than in my opinion it is well worth the investment. It can be difficult to find a tour package that covers more than 1 country however they are out there http://www.africaexpeditionsupport.com/multi-country-flying-safaris/

The downside is you may risk missing out on the local experience of travelling by road through villages and towns, stopping at local markets to explore and interacting with local people.

Overland

Whether you have 2 weeks or 2 months overland travel is the only way to travel in some people’s opinion; there are those who believe Africa can only be experienced from the ground level. By travelling overland means you have the opportunity to be closer to local communities, have a more authentic experience and see the real Africa.

Advent overlanders will argue that there is no other way to truly experience a country. While travelling overland means you see how real people live, travel on the same roads as locals, drive through villages, see and smell the environment.

The downside to overlanding is if you only have a couple of weeks for your holiday then you are restricted to the distance you can cover during this time. A fair amount of your time is allocated to getting from one destination to another, this is not necessary a bad thing, after all it is also about the journey not just the destination! http://www.africaexpeditionsupport.com/tailormade.html

Guided 4WD Self Drive Safari

Now this is for those who are after a real adventure, it is definitely not your average holiday package found in brochures and large travel websites. Guided 4WD self drive safaris and expeditions are specialized and therefore only available through experienced on the ground operators. We are not talking about standard car hire in South Africa but a multi-country overland experience where you are driving yourself with backup support from a lead vehicle and support crew.

Guided 4WD self drive safaris are not for the faint hearted, not only do you need to be a confident driver but you also need to be open minded and excited to experience the real Africa like a local. Negotiating road blocks and border crossings puts a completely different perspective to travelling overland; while you have a lead vehicle with crew to guide you along, your the one driving.

The benefits to this type of travel is the satisfaction of meeting the challenge of driving across Africa, something many people dream of, but seldom few have. There is also an element of independent travel thrown in, while your expedition is fully supported (accommodation, meals, vehicle maintenance, international paperwork etc), you still have the flexibility to game drive in National Parks at your own pace, rather than share this with many others. This is a huge bonus, you decide how long to stay by that pride of lions or at the Mara River crossing waiting for the wildebeest to cross.

Another benefit is your vehicle is your home for your overland adventure with just you and your partner and/or family sharing the vehicle; no one else. http://www.africaexpeditionsupport.com/4x4guided.html

Of course this is just a brief overview of the pros and cons to each style of travel and I could write pages about the topic, but you would probably fall asleep long before finishing the article!

If you are having trouble deciding which style of travel or tour package to choose then please contact me and I will be more than happy to assist.

Debs from Africa Expedition Support has over 15 years experience in leading safaris and expeditions in Africa, South American and the Middle East.  Contacts Debs on info@africaexpeditionsupport.com or via www.africaexpeditionsupport.com