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General Hints for Outdoor Adventuring
Disrespect for nature and different cultures as well as inadequate planning can easily turn a magic experience into a nightmare. Here are a few basic common sense rules and hints that should be adhered to at all times.
Visiting the wild destinations in Southern Africa places a very special responsibility on you to protect them. Bear in mind that many of the ecosystems are extremely sensitive to any disturbance. Stick to existing tracks at all times - blazing your own trail is not only unattractive, but the damage caused to the environment can take decades to heal.
Respect other cultures and treat them with the same regard you expect from them. Wherever possible, ask for permission to use scarce resources such as water and firewood, or to camp in areas inhabited by local people.
By obtaining information about their customs you will not only enrich yourself culturally, but will also help to undo the resentment that some indigenous people have against tourists.
1. First of all, proper planning is the most important factor of all. Obtain as much information as possible in advance about your destination by studying topographical maps. Maps are obtainable from automobile associations and tourist information bureaus. Read as much as possible about your destination and the surrounding area.
2. Have your vehicle thoroughly checked, before leaving on your trip, to ensure that you will reach your destination and back again. Spare parts are often unavailable in remote areas, so the money spent on a service and check-up could save you a whole lot of time and hassle. Carry as comprehensive a range of spare parts as possible.
3. Make sure you have all the necessary permits, as well as the correct travel & vehicle documentation. Comply with all health requirements if your trip involves cross-border travelling.
4. Tell someone of your planned route, destination and dates. Do not deviate from your route, unless unavoidable due to circumstances. In case of a breakdown, remain with your vehicle, especially in big-game areas.
5. Always carry emergency food & water that will last at least 5 days. Don't forget warm blankets, even if it is summer.
6. Remain well within the load capacity of your vehicle. Ensure that the vehicle is not top-heavy or carrying too much weight on the rear axle.
7. Check the weather constantly, especially during the rainy season and avoid travelling or sleeping in river valleys. Flash floods can occur with little warning.
8. Find out, on a regular basis, about road conditions ahead, from those most likely to be able to give you accurate information.
9. If you're going to remote areas, check the availability of fuel at destinations ahead of you and carry sufficient fuel to get you to the next fuelling stop. Remember to take enough cash as garages in remote areas accept only cash.
10. Always carry a set of detailed maps and refer to them regularly because getting lost and disoriented is definitely no joke.
11. In the wilds, be aware of potentially dangerous animals such as predators, elephant, rhino, lone buffalo and snakes, especially at night.
12. Most accidents occur on gravel roads, so watch your speed. Hitting a pothole at 100km/h could put an end to your holiday plans. Always switch on your lights when travelling behind a vehicle on a gravel road, also when overtaking or approaching oncoming traffic.
13. When anticipating difficult driving conditions, engage four-wheel drive before you get into trouble. In soft loose sand, deflate tyre pressure to about 1 Kpa (front) and 1.2 Kpa (rear). Although this is time consuming, tyres should be reinflated to recommended pressure once you are back on tar or gravel.
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14. Never cross a river unless you are able to wade through it. The current might be too strong, or there might be obstacles or washaways that could get you into serious trouble. If a river is fordable, approach it slowly and accelerate gradually to increase your speed. This will create a wall of water in front of the vehicle. Increase power output when the water gets deeper or resistance increases, but do so gently. As a general rule, try to cross where the river starts running across the road.
15. On steep descents, engage four-wheel drive low range, first gear, and take your feet off the petrol and clutch petals, allowing the vehicle to crawl along against its engine revolutions.
16. Rocky terrain and steep ascents should be negotiated slowly and with caution. Be especially aware of the position of low points underneath the vehicle. Engage four-wheel drive low range, first gear, and ease the vehicle over obstacles, rather than using brute force. Tyres should be hard, but not over-inflated.
17. Avoid driving at night, unless absolutely necessary. Domestic and wild animals, especially kudu, are difficult to see.
18. Be sure to take EVERYTHING with you when you leave. Don't bury litter -
19. Plastic bags take up to 12 years to biodegrade and can kill turtles, seals and other animals.
20. Go to the toilet like a cat - bury everything. Dig holes far from water and burn toilet paper before covering it up.
21. Avoid washing clothes and dishes in rivers and use eco-friendly soaps.
22. Fix any fuel or oil leaks
23. Keep damage to a minimum - don't create new tracks. New ruts form rain channels that lead to erosion.
24. Don't stick to 2WD when 4WD is an option. It causes unnecessary wheelspin that leads to surface damage and erosion.
25. Protect trees by using strap protectors in recovery operations.
26. Making a fire near or on a tree's roots will eventually kill the tree.
27. Bring your own firewood.
28. On the Beach:
Respect the beach ban.
Where it is permissible, drive at low tide at the water's edge. The sand is firmer and there is less impact on the environment.
Don't drive above the high water mark or in the dunes - that's where turtles and birds tend to nest, and plants are struggling to survive.
Deflate your tyres on beaches to create a bigger "footprint", which minimizes damage.
Avoid driving in seawater as it will corrode your vehicle, reducing its life by years.
29. Birds and Beasts
Paths often lead to water, so don't camp on them - do you really want to come between a hippo and its pond?
Domestic animals in remote areas may be nervous of vehicles - be prepared that they may bolt.
Panicked creatures may run into your path, not away. And if one does, be aware that others may follow.
Look out for camouflaged nests or young. Don't shine bright lights on them - it could scare off the parents.
Wildlife always has right of way. Stop, switch off and wait if necessary.
Never feed wild animals.
Go, do your bit, you can make a difference - Mother Nature will love you !
Have a safe trip
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