Electric Land Rover makes your safari experience even greener

An electric Land Rover promies eco-friendly safaris in the futureFor decades the Land Rover has been an iconic part of the classic African safari. The four-wheel drive vehicles were once the only way to travel through the rugged countryside while following the massive herds of wild animals that inhabit that continent. Soon, an electric version of the Land Rover Defender may be available, allowing for an even more eco-friendly approach to spotting animals.

At the 2011 INDABA Travel and Tourism show, which ended yesterday in South Africa, Axeon, a company that specializes in lithium-ion batteries, unveiled a concept vehicle which was co-developed with Jaguar Land Rover South Africa. That vehicle had its usual 2.4 liter diesel engine replaced with a drive system powered by an Axeon’s high-capacity battery that is designed to perform in extreme conditions and in rugged environments. Axeon says that its testing shows that the electric Land Rover does very well in those conditions, while still having three times the range of a typical game drive.

Of course, the most exciting thing about this prototype is that it has zero emissions. The standard LR Defender spews out 295 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer driven, which makes it a less than stellar performer in terms of being ecologically friendly. Considering that it is often used in some of the more spectacular, yet fragile, environments on the planet, only adds to the concern. Axeon’s model is completely carbon neutral however, which heightens its appeal amongst tour operators across Africa, many of which specialize in the ecotourism trade.

The electric Defender has an additional side benefit for travelers as well. It is completely silent, which means that it doesn’t disturb the animals on safari either. While going through a series of rigorous tests at the Land Rover Gerotek proving grounds, the battery powered version was able to consistently get closer to the wildlife than the traditional model powered by a combustion engine, something that will probably be highlighted in the travel brochures of early adopters.

While the electric land rover has been well received by tour operators, it may yet be some time before we see them in the field. Still, it is nice to envision a day in the not too distant future when travelers can take a safari that has no impact on the environments they are visiting, protecting the natural resources there for future generations to enjoy as well.

Explorer Ben Saunders gears up for North Pole speed run


This fantastic video provides a glimpse into the equipment and preparation necessary for a solo speed run to the North Pole. Ben Saunders, a world class athlete and explorer, will attempt to break the North Pole speed record on his 487 mile journey from Cape Discovery in Canada. No stranger to the pole, Saunders has seen his share of polar expeditions and will be setting out completely unsupported. He was the last solo explorer to reach the pole in 2004 from Russia.

Aside from polar bears and -50 degree weather, Ben must contend with the most dire of hurdles – equipment failure. His last two expeditions to the top of our world were stymied by such setbacks. For this trip, called North 3, he has provided this video to showcase the gear and tech that goes into a solo polar exploration. Shotguns for bear defense and custom made meals for snacking are two of the gear staples for this polar adventurer.

From bensaunders.com:

Ben Saunders is a professional endurance athlete and a pioneering polar explorer. He is one of three in history to ski solo to the North Pole (from the Russian side of the Arctic Ocean, in 2004), the youngest to do so by more than ten years, and holds the record for the longest solo Arctic journey by a Briton (1,032km). Ben is an Ambassador for The Prince’s Trust and a Patron of the British Schools Exploring Society, and is an acclaimed public speaker (the TED conference called him a ‘master storyteller’). He has been a global brand ambassador for Land Rover since 2009.

Ben Saunders – North 3 from Ben Saunders on Vimeo.

Ben Saunders – Living on Ice from Ben Saunders on Vimeo.

African safari: then and now

The African safari has evolved over timeAfrican safaris are one of the most enduring travel experiences ever. For decades the safari has remained at the top of the “must do” list for many travelers. Such a trip is often seen as the ultimate escape, giving them a chance to visit a wild and untamed place, encounter amazing wildlife, and add a bit of adventure to their lives. Over the years, the traditional African safari has evolved greatly, and today it is still a fantastic experience with options for nearly every type of traveler, under nearly any budget.

The word safari traces its origins back to the Arabic word of “safara,” which when translated means “to go on a journey.” It was originally used by merchants traveling long distances trade routes throughout the Middle-East and Africa. As late as the 18th centuries, the term continued to refer to those traveling caravans that roamed the continent selling all kinds of goods, which was a profitable, yet dangerous, venture during that era.

During the 19th century, the writings of a number of prominent naturalists and explorers, such as Henry Morton Stanley, kept the public enthralled. They told tales of Africa that included vast herds of wild animals, deadly predators, primitive cultures, and dark, unexplored jungles. Those stories sparked the imagination and painted the continent in an almost mythic light. Many readers wished to travel to Africa themselves, and see these wonders with their own eyes, but in that age, few could make such a journey for a variety of reasons.The modern safari as we know it had its origins early in the 20th century, when larger than life figures such as Teddy Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway made frequent visits to Africa on big game hunts. Tales of their daring exploits were popular with the public as well, and soon the safari became synonymous with bagging big game on the wildest continent.

For the hunter, the ultimate prize was to shoot one of the Big Five, which include elephants, rhinos, lions, buffalos, and leopards. Well heeled travelers came from around the world just to have the opportunity to stalk one of these creatures and take its pelt home to put on their wall. Roosevelt himself once spent weeks on the hunt with his son, and over the course of their expedition, the two men claimed more than 500 kills, including 17 lions, a dozen elephants, 20 rhinoceros, and much more.

The Afrian safari continues to evolve over time.In those days, travel was often done on foot or horseback, with dozens of porters carrying gear, food, and other supplies. Travelers stayed in tents, although they were often quite luxurious in nature, with plenty of comforts from home. Later, trucks would make travel easier, as they could carry the travelers and their gear over rough terrain much more quickly and efficiently. In those days, the vehicles were prone to frequent breakdowns however, and they were far from reliable in the field. Later, more durable and sophisticated trucks, jeeps, and SUV’s would hit the open savannas of Africa, allowing for even more travelers to experience the safari first hand. The Land Rover was just such a vehicle, and for decades it was seen as the only way to travel throughout the continent.

The advent of cheaper, more reliable, vehicles meant that people no longer needed to be rich to go on safari. That realization brought a more diverse, and discerning, traveler to the Serengeti. One that wasn’t all that interested in killing the creatures they saw, but would rather see them thriving in their natural habitat. Slowly, the safari evolved once again, this time away from shooting the animals with a gun, to shooting them with a camera instead.

Today, travelers can go on safari in a number of countries across Africa, each offering a unique and amazing experience. You can now have a safari experience that is expensive and luxurious or affordable and basic, with just about every option inbetween. For example, you can catch the Great Migration in Kenya and Tanzania from a comfortable vehicle or go deep into the bush on foot in South Africa. You can glide across the Okavango Delta in dugout canoe in Botswana or sail above the African plains in a hot hair balloon in Zimbabwe. The options are nearly endless, and there is little to keep adventurous travelers from making the journey themselves.

The concept of the safari has come a long way in the past hundred years, and it is likley to continue to evolve in the future. No matter how it has changed however, the African safari remains a fantastic adventure that is unlike any other.



Travelers chronicle epic road trip through the Congo

Africa’s Democratic Republic of the Congo has earned a legendary reputation among travelers. This war-torn African nation was once the stomping grounds of the famous explorer Henry Morton Stanley (Dr. Livingstone, I presume?) not to mention the setting for well-known books including Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Tim Butcher’s Blood River. This infamous history was apparently no threat to Belgian travelers Josephine and Frederik, who undertook a road trip across the Congo earlier this fall in a well-worn Toyota Land Cruiser.

Josephine and Frederik’s tale actually doesn’t begin in the Congo – it begins in Belgium. In 2006, the wanderlusting couple decided they wanted to drive around the world, bought a Land Cruiser, and began their trip in Brussels, traversing their way across much of Asia and Africa in the process.

Though the pair had driven thousands of miles before reaching the Congo, their epic trip from the Southeastern Congo town of Lubumbashi to the capital at Kinshasa was a feat for many reasons. Due to more than 50 years of on-and-off war, the country’s infrastructure is in terrible shape. Roads, where they exist at all, are not much more than dirt tracks. Maps are inaccurate. And the Congo is notorious for its corrupt military and government, meaning the pair would be shelling out plenty of bribes and “taxes” along the way. Yet somehow, with a little bit of luck, plenty of supplies and a whole lot of bravado, the pair made it through the trip. The 14 page chronicle of their trip is an epic read…full of adventure and plenty of mishaps.

The reader questions and comments interspersed with Josephine and Frederik’s chronicle are telling. How did you do it? What was it like? Is it irresponsible to travel through a recently war-torn country? Each of these questions has contradictory answers, none of which is resolved easily. With a trip this epic – it’s up to the reader to form their own judgment. Grab yourself a comfortable seat and give this travelogue a read – you won’t be disappointed.

[Flickr photo by whiteafrican]

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LandRover Adventures in Moab

align="right" src="http://www.gadling.com/media/2006/04/landrover.jpg" alt="" />It seems like every old movie
showing a vehicle moving across the yawning African landscape features one kind of vehicle: a Land Rover. Am I right?
OK, maybe you’ll see a Jeep now and again, but if the characters in the film are at all wealthy, colonial or scientific
types, it’s ALWAYS a Land Rover. The fact is the Land Rover is synonymous with
driving across forbidding territory. And they seem to know this. And more, they want you to learn more about it. Land
Rover in fact, offers courses in how to drive on tough terrain, and you don’t even have to go very far to try it. />
For example, the Land Rover folks are offering an off-road driver training program in Moab, Utah this summer.
Moab, as you know, is probably better known as a mountain-0biking Mecca, but the off-roading must be great there too,
providing an excellent backdrop for the href="http://www.landrover.com/us/en/Owners/Drive_Off_Road/Adventures/Moab.htm">Land Rover Adventure. During the
four-day trip, you’ll drive with a professional Land Rover instructor and cruise some of the most picturesque trails in
Moab. Here are some more details:

Duration: 4 days, 3 nights, Thursday to Sunday

Dates to
Choose From:

May 11-14, 2006
May 18-21, 2006