African Great Lakes Trip
January 5, 2018 Update:
I first became aware of the African Great Lakes while I was a student working in the Alexander Cruz lab at the University of Colorado. The lab's research was focused on novel species of fish endemic to Lake Tanganyika. Working with these species introduced me to the biodiversity of the African Great Lakes, but also the threats to the continued survival of these ecosystems. I soon realized that the African Great Lakes region is globally significant to biodiversity, vital in sustaining the lives of the millions of people who call the region home, but also tragically suffers from a comparatively low profile to conservation efforts in other regions. Therefore, a founding element of this trip was to find and support a non-profit whose work in the region aligned with my conservation ethos.
So, when I had adequately planned my trip, I conducted some research on the leading conservation groups active in the region, and found that The Nature Conservancy has a large scale project, the Tuungane Project, on Lake Tanganyika. The Tuungane Project brings a multidisciplinary approach to conservation and addressing the extreme poverty that is the underpinning of environmental degradation in the region. Their efforts are introducing fisheries education and management, terrestrial conservation, healthcare and women's health services and education, agricultural training, and other efforts to increase the quality of life and understanding on how human activities impact the very resources that the local people depend on for survival. Without the buy in of local communities, efforts to conserve this incredible region will likely be unsuccessful.
I am happy to announce that I will be working with The Nature Conservancy to promote greater awareness of the value and threats to the region, as well as their conservation initiatives on Lake Tanganyika. If you have some time, please visit the Tuungane Project website and read more about the great work that they are doing.
In December 2017, I plan to do the first unsupported, human powered, solo crossing of the three largest African Great Lakes. The African Great Lakes region is extraordinarily important for vertebrate diversity, containing an estimated ten percent of the world's species of fish. The lakes also contain approximately twenty five percent of the world's unfrozen freshwater. In addition to their ecological significance, the region's fish and water are essential resources for the millions of people living along the shores of the lakes. Unfortunately, the lakes are under threat from invasive species, increases of sediment and nutrient inputs from deforestation and untreated sewage, over fishing, and the myriad impacts of poverty and war.
My objective is to paddle the length of Lake Malawi, Lake Tanganyika, and Lake Victoria, and bicycle between lakes. The total distance is approximately 1000 miles of kayaking and 600 miles of bicycling through remote regions of Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Uganda. I'll carry everything that I need with me, including a folding expedition kayak, folding bicycle, and folding bicycle trailer. At night, I will wilderness camp or stay in small villages, relying on the kindness of local people - a reliance that has been rewarded time and again by good natured people in remote areas of the world. It is my hope to document the trip in a way that can bring you along to witness the splendor of this incredible place, and maybe to see some hippos and crocodiles from a safe distance.
Stay tuned for updates.
I would like to thank the trip sponsors who are providing invaluable contributions to this expedition:
Long Haul Kayaks - Folding Kayaks have over 100 years of history, and Long Haul is proud to be a part of it. Mark Eckhart founded Long Haul Kayaks over 15 years ago, with an idea and a dream. Mark spent years repairing folding kayaks, when he realized he could create a better design. It was then that he started Long Haul Folding Kayaks. We are a company built on pride. Every piece of our products is hand made on site, in Cedaredge, Colorado.
Long Haul Kayaks will be contributing to the expedition by providing a kayak that is rugged enough for the rigors of this trip, while collapsable enough to be pulled on a bicycle trailer. Ross is working directly with Long Haul Kayaks to create a kayak that is capable of carrying the necessary equipment, including his bicycle and trailer. Ross is proud to be working with Long Haul Kayaks, and relieved to know that he will have such a capable watercraft when he's alone out on the African Great Lakes and the winds pick up.
Burley - Burley is known around the world for building recreational transport gear that sets the standard for safety, durability and thoughtful design. While they continue to perfect the bicycle trailer that put us on the map, the Burley product portfolio has grown over time to meet the changing needs of their customers. From multi-functional child carriers to jogging strollers and balance bikes, they put their heart and soul into everything they build. The Burley brand stands for unmatched quality today, just as it did in 1978.
When Ross set out to figure out a way to succeed in his ambition to cross the African Great Lake system by human power alone, he needed to resolve the issue of how to get his kayak and equipment between lakes. The only option was to use a bicycle trailer, but he needed one that was collapsable and reliable enough to fit in his kayak and not fail him in the field. The solution to this is the Burley Flatbed trailer, which is capable of carrying a 100lb load and rugged enough to not let him down in rural Africa.
Duvall Cartographics - A plain map is kind of boring. Duvall Cartographics creates map graphics and infographics that are fun, engaging, and informative. Justin Duvall, founder, creates custom designs for any need. Duvall Cartographics will be providing maps and graphics for his African Great Lakes solo crossing.
Aqua-Bound - As the world's largest manufacturer of quality kayak, stand-up, and whitewater paddles, Aqua-Bound/Bending Branches operates out of Northwestern Wisconsin, staffed by paddling enthusiasts. This translates into countless hours spent designing, prototyping, testing, and perfecting each of their paddles. And when that's done, they go back and look at ways to build them even better. Lighter, stiffer, smarter, more durable, and more beautiful. Their customers have found their paddles to be their long-term companions on adventures, both short and long. All paddles are 100% designed and manufactured in the United States.
Ross estimates that nearly one million paddle stroked will be necessary to complete this trip, so a top quality paddle is among the most important equipment for his success. The best expedition touring kayak paddles are extremely light, stiff, durable, and have a low swing weight. To meet these needs, Ross has selected the new low-angle, Aqua-Bound Tango Carbon as his primary paddle. This ultra lightweight, 100% carbon paddle will help to keep him fresh over week after week of 10 hour days of paddling. On an expedition like this, you need to have a backup for any critical equipment, so Ross will also bring a packable, 4-piece Eagle Ray Carbon backup paddle.
NRS - The premier retailer of kayaking and rafting gear in the states, NRS is also produces high quality water sport equipment and apparel. On this trip, Ross will be using a wide assortment of NRS gear, including the Chinook PFD, the Bill's Bag Dry Bag and Expedition Dry Duffel, H2Core sun-protective and quick drying clothing, Crush shoes, and many, many other items. NRS's equipment has provided the edge that will give Ross a distinct advantage on the water.
Adventure Medical Kits - Safety is always a top priority, especially when you are on your own in African wilderness areas. That's why Ross is going well equipped with a number of products from Tender Corp, including a well stocked Adventure Medical Kit Mountain Series Guide medical kit, Ben's Deet insect repellent and Permethrin spray, and Natrapel Picaridin insect repellent. In Africa, insects carry disease, so preventing bites is essential. As for the medical kit, Ross hopes that he never has to use it, but he wouldn't leave home without it.
Craghoppers - Travel apparel produced by Craghoppers isn't just well made, they're also exhaustively thought out and designed to provide the versatility and features that travelers need. The Craghoppers apparel that Ross is using features NosiLife treatment, which makes the garments permanently insect repellent. They're also quick drying, and feature tons of smart features for travel clothes, such as draw cord cuffs on the pant legs and zippered pockets.