With the easing of travel restrictions within South Africa, the continent’s most experienced expedition team is beginning an exciting new adventure, this time to track the outline of Mzansi. The journey will give the Kingsley Holgate Foundation its first long-distance test of the recently-launched new Land Rover Defender while delivering humanitarian aid to those in need along the way.
Humanitarian explorers and global Land Rover ambassadors Kingsley and Ross Holgate will lead the 70-day, 10,000km Mzansi Edge Expedition, which will follow the entire land border of South Africa and track the Atlantic and Indian Ocean coastlines. The Holgates have taken delivery of two new Defenders to continue their life-saving efforts within their home country and later throughout Africa and beyond.
Kingsley Holgate said: “They say you only have one chance to make a good first impression and the new Defender has certainly wowed us so far. Our team has had the privilege of driving two Discoverys for the past three years and we’ve accumulated over 130,000km on each adventuring to places like Somalia, Turkey, Iran and Nepal.
“Those vehicles were the best off-roaders we’ve driven, so we’re excited to see how our new Defenders will improve on its already amazing capabilities in some of the harshest conditions on Earth. With many African borders closed, the Mzansi Edge Expedition will offer an ideal first outing in these vehicles as we trace the borders of our home country.”
The Holgates’ two Defenders are equipped with the all the items necessary to tackle the challenging routes necessary to deliver aid to Africa’s hard to reach locations. Both are fitted with Explorer Packs featuring raised air intakes, lockable side gear carriers, roof racks and underbody protection among others. The two Defenders are powered by 3.0-litre straight-six mild hybrid (MHEV) P400 drivetrains with 294kW - making them the first petrol, and first electrified vehicles in the Holgate fleet.
Expedition Leader, Ross Holgate, said: “Over the decades we’ve become very familiar with the previous Defender. While we salute its departure, the arrival of this completely reimagined version of the legend will enable us to do so much more. In our early days we could have hardly imagined the 360 degree camera systems, hi-tech off-road developments and comfort features which will make saving and improving lives even easier and more enjoyable.
“In a way Land Rovers are our offices, and we’re thrilled with the environment the new Defenders will offer. Some of our expeditions truly only begin after 6,000km so the comfort and capabilities available to us with these vehicles will be welcome. Though Mzansi Edge will only scratch the surface of what’s to come for our new expedition vehicles, it won’t be an easy trip by any measure.”
Aside from putting the new Defenders to their first real world test, the Mzansi Edge Expedition will include several geographic and humanitarian objectives. It will begin at the country’s most easterly point near Kosi Bay in northern KwaZulu-Natal in mid-September, with the symbolic filling of the Holgate’s traditional Zulu calabash. From there the team will travel in an anti-clockwise direction, staying as close as possible to South Africa’s borderline, 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. While 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.
The challenging route 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. The expedition will see rare geological formations and extreme mountain passes, soft sand 4x4 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 South Africa’s ‘edge’ – from ancient civilisations to modern times.
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, continued: “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. 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’ – to outline this ‘world in one country’ that we’re proud citizens of – and to bring charity close to home.”
“For the past few months, we’ve been assisting the ‘Feeding the Wildlife Community’ volunteer teams with the distribution of nutritious 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,” said Ross Holgate.
“Even though travel restrictions are easing, it’s 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. 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 200,000 meals to needy families close to wildlife parks, as well as to early childhood development centres and creches in rural communities, in partnership with the DoMore Foundation and others. We will also distribute face-masks and sanitising soap to families, as well as digital thermometers to community groups and organisations that need to maintain strict Covid-19 health protocols.”
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 to assist the Habana Foundation with its humanitarian outreach in Cape communities.
Follow the Holgates’ expedition updates using the #TeamDefender hashtag on social media.