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Self-Drive Safari With Tracks4Africa Road Maps

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.

You need a Tracks4Africa map for your self-drive safari adventure
You need a great map (Tracks4Africa!) for your self-drive safari adventure

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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.

Getting lost in Mozambique is easier than you would think
Getting lost in Mozambique is easier than you would think

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 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.

Detailed map of Botswana
Maps include distances and travel times

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 Namibia road map, 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.

The Namibia road map is pretty easy to handle. It fits on the hood of the car!
The Namibia road map is pretty easy to handle. It fits on the hood of the car!

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.

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.)

Scamper on Botswana map
Our cat Scamper testing Tracks4Africa maps

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!

What Next?

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.

Cristina Garcia

Zoologist and wildlife photographer. She has worked in the field with jackals, wolves, cheetahs, & leopards. She serves on the Board of Directors of SEE Turtles, a non-profit sea turtle conservation organization.

Read her posts at Travel For Wildlife and see more of her work at Truly Wild, & Our Wild Yard.

Tokkie Smit

Monday 12th of September 2016

Outdoor warehouse has the latest maps of quite a few African countries also showing the co-ordinates. Tokkie Smit

cristina garcia

Wednesday 14th of September 2016

Thanks for the info! :)

Mike Lindsay

Saturday 10th of September 2016

I am off on a trip thru Africa soon. Where can I get detailed paper maps for Kenya Tanzania Zambia Malawi Uganda Rwanda?

cristina garcia

Saturday 10th of September 2016

HI Mike,

I am not really sure, perhaps you'd better contact the Tracks4Africa guys and they could point you in the right direction.

Have fun on your trip!


Tokkie Smit

Thursday 4th of February 2016

I an looking for outlets in Roodepoort that sell your paper maps

Tokkie Smit

Thursday 4th of February 2016

I live in Weltevreden Park in Roodepoort and would like to buy your papermaps. At which outlets, in nearby to me can I get these maps. I travel a lot and have a GPS MAP FOR AFRICA but still would like to buy the paper maps. I believe you have a new paper map of South Africa.

cristina garcia

Thursday 4th of February 2016

Hi! I've past your request to the lovely people at Tracks4Africa. They should be contacting you soon.


Saturday 24th of January 2015

Good Day. I am looking for a map of South Africa on a little bigger scale than 1:3 500 000. What have you available? Where can I have a look for this type of map?

Kind Regards

Stoffel Swartz