Tracks4Africa puts a continent at your fingertips

A trip to Africa requires some serious preparation. Guidebooks. Vaccinations. Maps. Tourist visas. Mosquito nets. Hiring guides. For many people, the very idea of the African continent conjures images of huge steamer trunks, pith helmets and mountains of travel gear. But for the technology-inclined, the mysterious continent author Paul Theroux once dubbed “the dark star” is becoming just a little bit more accessible, thanks to Tracks4Africa.

Essentially a giant community mapping project, Tracks4Africa is a non-profit organization that maintains user-generated GPS maps of some of the more remote and “eco-sensitive” areas of Africa. Although the project originally started as a way for outdoor enthusiasts to preserve some of Africa’s most unique plant and animal life, it has since blossomed into a full blown database of “off the beaten path” sights in Africa. More than 1,400 adventure travelers have contributed data on everything from recent elephant attacks to ghost towns and covered countries ranging from Ethiopia to Mozambique. And because it’s entirely user-created, there’s a good chance users will also have access to the most current information on the ground. Take this in contrast to an Africa guidebook from Lonely Planet, which might not get updated for several years (if at all).

All you need to get started with Tracks4Africa is a compatible GPS unit and a sense of adventure. Armchair adventurers take heart – the Tracks4Africa database is also viewable through Google Earth. Now get out there and find me a nice date plantation to check out in Namibia.