Kingsley Holgate Sets Off On 41st Expedition

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Africa’s renowned explorer Kingsley Holgate and his expedition team set off on a challenging new humanitarian and geographic odyssey this week, this time to reach some of the wildest and most isolated regions on the African continent.

Less than a year after completing the gruelling 35,000-kilometre, 30-country ‘Hot Cape – Cold Cape’ transcontinental journey from Cape Agulhas on the southern tip of Africa to Nordkapp in Norway’s Arctic Circle, the 77-year-old explorer is still not ready to hang up his expedition boots.

Instead, he and his team are on a quest to highlight the importance of conserving Africa’s iconic wildlife and remaining natural landscapes and draw attention to the needs of local communities living alongside these remote protected areas.

“During 40 expeditions to all 55 countries in Africa over the past 30 years, we’ve grown to deeply appreciate Africa’s unique biodiversity and iconic wildlife, which are now under immense threat,” said Kingsley.

“The continent-wide decimation of endangered animals such as elephant and rhino and the destruction of vast tracts of pristine forests, wetlands and grasslands that are home to thousands of other wildlife species don’t make the headlines anymore; it’s become too much doom and gloom.”

“For many years, we’ve been asking the question: where can one find hope for Africa’s critically needed wild spaces and irreplaceable fauna and flora, as well as the communities that depend on them? Thankfully, there are powerful and positive stories emerging from across the African continent – uplifting narratives that need to be told. Through this new expedition, we hope to draw attention to the incredible work that’s being done.”

Conservation, culture, community

In a unique collaboration with the conservation NGO African Parks, Afrika Odyssey – the 41st Kingsley Holgate geographic and humanitarian expedition – is a legacy journey-of-purpose with a ‘conservation, culture and community’ theme. Estimated to take 18 months, the expedition will follow an adventure-filled, chapter-by-chapter route on a challenging journey into the wild heart of 12 diverse African countries. 

The expedition departed form South Africa on the 21st of June after a vibrant African send-off from the Lesedi Cultural Village in the Cradle of Humankind. The Afrika Odyssey expedition aims to showcase the inspiring revival of 22 national parks under the management of African Parks and encompassing 20 million hectares under protected area status, which form the backbone of the continent’s biodiversity and benefits many thousands of people.

It will also be the first, real-life test on African soil for Land Rover’s new Defender 130. The expedition’s two long-wheel-base expedition Defender 130s will be tackling an estimated 30 000 kilometres over some of the harshest terrain and off-road routes on the African continent.

“This expedition is going to be one of our most challenging journeys ever attempted,” said Ross Holgate, Kingsley’s son and the expedition’s leader, who has also explored every country in Africa and beyond, including a round-the-world expedition to track the Tropic of Capricorn and a world-first journey from Cape Town to Kathmandu in Nepal across the deserts and high Himalayan mountain ranges of Asia. 

“It’s not just the long distances we’ll be travelling on dirt roads, goat tracks and probably no tracks to reach all of the Parks that are, understandably, in very isolated regions and in difficult-to-reach terrain,” Ross explained. “We’ll also be tackling dense Congo forests, heart-in-mouth, seat-of-your-pants river crossings, vast desert and rocky mountain terrain where water and fuel will be hard to come by, and wetlands that are near-impassable especially in rainy seasons. The logistical issues of this expedition are extreme, to say the least.”

The journey

Starting in the ancient Namib desert of Iona National Park in the south-west corner of Angola, the journey will encompass Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique, Rwanda, DRC, the Republic of Congo and Central African Republic, South Sudan and Chad in north Africa, and conclude in Benin, west Africa. 

The Afrika Odyssey expedition will document ancient indigenous cultures, traditions and historic places of interest on its continent-wide journey. And, in the words of often un-heard indigenous communities who depend on the survival of Africa’s natural landscapes, the expedition will record authentic and powerful stories of hope to create an enduring archive of positive, grassroots narratives in support of conservation from across Africa.

The expedition team will also provide humanitarian support to communities alongside all 22 African Parks through malaria prevention and education for pregnant women and mothers with young children in high-risk malaria areas; eye-tests and reading glasses for poor-sighted, mostly elderly people; and conservation-focussed education for school children to instill a passion for protecting Africa’s iconic wildlife.

Carrying a Scroll of Peace and Goodwill for Conservation to all 22 parks in 12 countries, the team will collect messages of support from traditional leaders, local community beneficiaries, park rangers, conservation partners, government envoys, VIPs and other supporters met all along the way.

“Thriving and dynamic wild spaces have always been the genesis of life-giving water, clean air, food, health and income for humanity. Without them, millions of people are destined to lives of poverty, malnutrition, sickness and inequality,” said Kingsley. “But it doesn’t have to be this way and this expedition aims to showcase the inspirational potential of Africa’s wild places and people.”

A significant story

The expedition’s name ‘Afrika Odyssey’ and logo has special significance, as it is a revival of the very first big expedition undertaken by the Kingsley Holgate family in 1993, when they became the first South African expedition team to travel from Cape Agulhas to Alexandria in Egypt along the wild waterways of Africa. 30 years later, they’ve been revived to celebrate this 41st geographic and humanitarian journey for Kingsley Holgate, Africa’s renowned and much-loved modern-day explorer.

To keep abreast of the expedition’s journey, follow the Kingsley Holgate Foundation Facebook page, as well as updates and stories published by Africa Geographic and African Parks. 

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