Friday, January 15, 2010

Tracks4Africa - Digital & Paper-based

Historically, printed maps were the only choice for an overland trip.  However, as digital maps have become more detailed and have offered routing options, a number of digital mapping providers have emerged.  The best provider of these digital maps are the Tracks4Africa team.


I have recently been in touch with Andre B (Cabex Maps) regarding the printed version of the Tracks4Africa maps.  Currently the maps are available for download and will enable your GPS (device depending) to view the maps and plan routes.

About T4A:
Tracks4Africa (T4A for short) is a organisation run by ‘Environmental users’.



What lies at the core of our business? Our core business is MAPPING AFRICA. More specifically, Community Mapping because the only way to map Africa accurately, reliably and environmentally correct is to put the task of land surveying in the hands of experienced and responsible eco-travellers who are in touch with conditions at ground zero.
What’s the main focus? Our main focus is the GPS mapping of eco-destinations in rural and remote Africa.

Folded Maps
There is nothing better than holding a map, or spreading a map on the bonnet of your expedition prepared vehicle.  The hours of route planning can be very entertaining...

The good news is that T4A are now producing paper based maps for those essential planning evenings and for sharing routes around the fireplace. Andre kindly provided the following update:


About me: I refer you to my travelog on www.travelongravel.tk, where I have written about our trip from Stellenbosch/Cape Town to Amsterdam (via Emirates/Oman/Iran/Turkey) and back (via Italy/Turkey/Syria/Jordan/Egypt/Sudan/East-Africa) in 2005, as well as some later trips. As I said, on an earlier occasion (1979) I drove from Amsterdam up to North Cape and back, but I lost all records - written and photographic - of that trip, due to a car break-in in Stockholm, while on the way back. I'll have to re-do that part some day, I guess.


As to my maps: I make them for Tracks4Africa, the organisation that produces GPS maps for the African continent, with an emphasis on the Southern and Eastern African countries.  Our first map was for Botswana, scale 1:1,000,000 on a large folded piece of paper. The first edition was sold out in a matter of months and we are currently printing a thoroughly updated version, on non-tear and waterproof 'paper' (poly-art), which will be on the market by end of January 2010. We are printing in Italy, and a portion of the maps will stay in Europe for distribution there.  A preview of the map is available at



At present I am working on the map for Namibia. It will be at the same scale, 1:1,000,000 and it will have the latest roads/tracks for Namibia, as driven and recorded by members of the T4A community. 


The great thing about our maps is: since all the road/track data was recorded by GPS and concatenated into a big database, we can annotate the roads not only with distances, but also with travel times, which, in Southern African countries is a great help in trip planning. It is in my opinion a WORLD First. I have never seen maps that have that kind of information. 
Secondly: Although the maps are large (1 m x 1.265 m), they are folded the same way as the famous Michelin maps, which you can open inside the car only to show the area where you are currently traveling and yet it can be spread out on the bonnet to show the entire country. 



We are planning to produce maps for Mozambique, Zambia and probably Kenya this year, to be followed by Tanzania, Angola, Zimbabwe, Malawi next year, so it will be a magnificent range of maps in the end. Also we endeavour to update maps on a yearly basis, since our forum members constantly send in updated information on roads and tracks. In other words it is a very dynamic project. 

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Thanks to Andre for proving the above information. If you are interested in knowing more, please contact me and I will forward your information to Andre.

About Cabex:
CABEX MAPS is the sole agent working together with Tracks4Africa, to create the well-known T4A Tourist maps. Based on the GPS data which are at the heart of the superb digital T4A GPS maps, paper maps are now being created to provide the tourist with a large scale travel map, showing the exact same information that is found in the digital GPS version.

Story time
In 2005, during our trip through Cameroon, we were choosing a few of the lessor known roads.  One map, out of the four we had, showed a route between the towns of Mbonge and Idenao.   We drove that route and enjoyed a fantastic route which offered river crossings, muddy roads, sandy tracks and outstanding views of Mt Cameroon.  You can read about the days event here: BigSky Adventures - 8 May 2005

Additional photos from 8th May 2005: