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The adventure of a self-drive African wildlife safari is on the bucket list of many travelers. The freedom to go anywhere you want at your own pace is priceless. The discovery of Southern Africa by 4×4 is still the best trip I’ve ever taken and I hope to do it again soon. In a remote place like Botswana’s Central Kalahari where you need to bring all your own water and supplies, having a good map is a necessity.
If you are heading into the wilderness in Southern Africa you need a reliable map. Who hasn’t felt let down or deceived by the map they were trusting their lives to? We’ve all been there, in the middle of nowhere trying to decipher a map with missing roads. Or for those of us who trusted the GPS directions…well, I bet I am not the only one that ended up in a field full of cows when we were supposed to be attending an office meeting. True story.
I love paper maps. I don’t like GPS voices (I know I can turn that off, but I still don’t like them). Call me old school. I like to be able to look at the big picture and see the geography of the whole area, not just the next three roads ahead of me. Plus electronics are not 100% reliable. Having said that, on my next trip I’m taking both, for that “just in case” moment. But even if you have GPS maps, you need a paper map.
What map to take on a self-drive safari?
Well, I’ll tell you. Get Tracks4Africa paper maps.
The roads and places on the maps are real. The data used to make these maps have been verified by the Tracks4Africa community. All of it. They never use data that hasn’t been verified just so the maps make sense. The Tracks4Africa community is a group of travelers and like-minded people who travel extensively across Africa and share experiences and data. If you want to become a part of the community you can do so by submitting your travel experiences to firstname.lastname@example.org. Pretty neat. Plus this is why and how their GPS data is updated so regularly. They produce paper maps of Namibia, Botswana, and Malawi & Mozambique.
When we did our Southern Africa tour someone gave us the Tracks4Africa Botswana Road Map just before we were about to cross the border. It was invaluable. The maps come with distances and travel times along roads, making the planning of the next day’s adventure pretty easy. Though I have to say that if you travel during the rains in Botswana, those travel times will change. Driving in wet mud is not easy.
There is a road near Cape Cross in Namibia that I used to take when I worked at a research project there. This road does not appear on any map and the two times I’ve been back to the country I’ve never been able to find it. Sometimes roads are not easy to see when they are covered in sand. The first thing I did when I got the Tracks4Africa Namibia map was to look for this road. It is there! Only in these maps. I have also looked for other obscure roads in Botswana and Mozambique and they too appear on these maps.
They’ve thought of everything while making these maps. If you look at the Road Map of Namibia, you’ll see there are some cemeteries/holy places marked. It is disrespectful to camp nearby, so that’s a good thing to know.
Their maps are so fantastic that their Namibia map received a Golden award from the International Map Trade Association for the Best Folded Map in 2012. And I agree, this one is so manageable that you can open it on the hood and it fits pretty snugly.
Tracks4Africa Southern Africa Road Maps Available
Tracks4Africa keeps on working to get more reliable road maps available for self-drivers. These are the tear proof and waterproof road maps available right now.Namibia Road Map
Botswana Road Map
South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland Road Map
Mozambique and Malawi Road Maps
Testing the Tracks4Africa Tear Proof Maps
Hal looked up at me and shouted “what are you doing?!” as I attempted to tear the corner off one of our beautiful new maps. Tracks4Africa claims that their paper maps are tear proof. The verdict? Absolutely true. Try as I might, I could not tear the map. The map just stretched a little bit due to the nature of the plastic-like material. Hal couldn’t believe it and had to try for himself. “Holy #$%@ing *%#@!” he said. You should try it yourself as soon as you get one. Then I designed a more creative test.
What better way to test them than to lay them flat on the lawn and let your sharp-nailed crazy cat walk on it? As all cat owners know, cats cannot resist paper. I set the Namibia and the Botswana maps overlapping side-by-side in our front yard. Since they are produced at the same scale (1cm=10km), they line up well and it looks pretty cool. I wanted to also attach Mozambique but then I realized that Zimbabwe is in between them so I ended up with a big gap in the middle. Moving on. Two huge maps laying on the ground were too much for our cat Scamper to resist. He walked straight across the Kalahari desert, just like his ancestor the African Wild Cat. He settled down around the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and sat there for a while. If I had let him, he would have taken a nap. It is officially cat-proof. No damage to the map. No punctures, not even a wrinkle. (Disclaimer: results may differ with lions.)
Tracks4Africa tear-proof and water-resistant maps are printed on PolyArt material, making it perfect for outdoor use on your next overland drive in Africa.
Wait…Tracks4Africa Maps Are Even Water Resistant?
I tested this one too. Feeling a bit skeptical, I chose a corner that I wasn’t too concerned about, just in case. I submerged it in a glass of water for a full minute. After the 60seconds, I pulled it out and dried it with a kitchen towel. It was perfect. As if nothing had ever happened!
If I was to embark on an adventure in Southern Africa again (and I hope to next year!!) I would also get their digital GPS maps (which can be loaded into your GPS navigation unit) and their Namibia Self-Drive Guide and Botswana Self-Drive Guide. Packed with vital information like where to sleep and where to get supplies and fuel (priceless), this info will save you a headache or two. In short, I trust anything that comes from Tracks4Africa.
Disclaimer: some of the links in this article are affiliate links. If you buy your maps through these links we get a small percentage at no extra cost to you, and helps us running this site. Happy travels!