Humanitarian focus on alleviating hunger with food provisions to rural families bordering wildlife areas still impacted by the loss of tourism income from the Covid-19 lockdown.
With the easing of travel restrictions within South Africa, the continent’s most experienced expedition team will shortly be off on an exciting new adventure, this time to track the outline of ‘Mzansi’ and give the recently launched new Land Rover Defender its first long-distance test on South African soil.
Well-known humanitarian explorers and global Land Rover ambassadors Kingsley and Ross Holgate will be leading the 70-day, 10,000-kilometre Mzansi Edge Expedition, which will follow the entire land border of South Africa and track the Atlantic and Indian Ocean coastlines, including extreme geographic points.
As well as putting two expedition-kitted New Defenders through their paces over rough, tough African terrain each day, the journey has several geographic and humanitarian objectives. It will begin at the most easterly point near Kosi Bay in northern KwaZulu-Natal in mid-September with the symbolic filling of the Holgate’s traditional Zulu calabash and travel in an anti-clockwise direction, staying as close as possible to South Africa’s ‘edge’, to reach the most northerly point on the border with Zimbabwe, the extreme westerly point at the mouth of the Orange River on the Atlantic seaboard and Cape Agulhas, the most southerly point of the African continent. Whilst journeying up the Indian Ocean coastline, the expedition will break away to circumnavigate the border with Lesotho, before re-joining the east coast and ending back at Kosi Bay in late November.
Other key features of the challenging route that will cover eight of South Africa’s nine provinces include World Heritage Sites such as Mapungubwe, ancient deserts, coastal dunes, precipitous cliff trails and river crossings, rare geological formations and extreme mountain passes, soft sand 4×4 tracks, iconic landscapes, unique biomes such as the Cape Floral Kingdom and world-renowned wildlife areas. The expedition also aims to reach all 52 lighthouses along the west and east coasts and will research and record stories of life on South Africa’s ‘edge’ – from ancient civilisations to modern times.
“I’m itching to get going!” said Kingsley Holgate, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society who has spent the last 30 years exploring every country on the African continent and beyond. “After five months of lockdown, you can well imagine how a fellow like me who suffers from constant wanderlust is desperate to get out and explore again, and especially, see how the new Land Rover Defenders perform on lengthy, real-life expeditions.
“So many of our journeys have been in search of wild and distant destinations deep in Africa, but now an opportunity exists for us to explore our own ‘Mzansi’. We’re looking forward to outlining this ‘world in one country’ that we are proud citizens of, and showcasing the beauty, diversity, culture, history, wildlife and adventurous spirit of South Africa.”
Ross Holgate, Kingsley’s son and leader of the Mzansi Edge expedition says that the Covid-19 pandemic has strengthened their resolve to use their Land Rover journeys to improve and save lives. “For the past few months, we’ve been assisting the ‘Feeding the Wildlife Community’ volunteer teams with the distribution of nutritional food parcels to hundreds of rural communities bordering game reserves, who were devastated by the complete collapse of the tourism industry during lockdown and the massive loss of jobs and income.
“Even though the lockdown restrictions are easing, it is going to take time for income to start flowing again and widespread hunger is still a major concern for thousands of people living in outlying areas,” he continued. “So, as September is Tourism Month in South Africa, it is only right that the Mzansi Edge expedition’s humanitarian focus will be on distributing over 200,000 nutritional meals to needy families close to wildlife parks, as well as to ECD centres and creches in rural communities, in partnership with the Do More Foundation and others. We will also distribute face-masks and sanitizing soap to families, as well as digital thermometers to community groups and organisations that need to maintain strict Covid-19 health protocols.”
To add further depth and variety to the Mzansi Edge expedition, the Holgate team will be joined by other South African adventurers to tackle parts of the route by mountain bike, canoe and on foot. These include veteran mountain biker ‘Shova Mike’ Nixon, one of only four people in the world to have completed every ABSA Cape Epic; Everest mountaineers Sibusiso Vilane and André Bredenkamp; and adventure runner David Grier, the first person in history to run the Great Wall of China in both directions.
They will also meet up with fellow Land Rover ambassador and international rugby player Bryan Habana in Cape Town and assist the Habana Foundation with its humanitarian outreach in Cape communities. Regular news coverage and social media updates with the #TeamDefender hashtag will keep Mzansi informed of the expedition’s progress.