One of the toughest off-road events on earth, raising money for conservation.
The Rhino Charge is a very special and totally unique one day off-road event that takes place each year in Kenya. First run in 1989, its primary aim is to raise money for Rhino Ark Kenya Charitable Trust (www.rhinoark.org) engaged in large scale projects to conserve Kenya’s highland forests and all of the plants and animals within. These include iconic animals such as elephant, buffalo and leopard, as well as the critically endangered mountain bongo and black rhino. Traditionally there has been much conflict between humans and wildlife along the borders of these forests as well as plenty of illegal activity within the forests including poaching, illegal wood felling and charcoal making. These highland forests are Kenya’s primary water catchment resource and are critical for the long-term sustainability of all of Kenya’s largest rivers.
Rhino Ark’s main impact has been in establishing clear and robust boundaries to these forests in the form of hundreds of kilometres of electrified game fencing as well as working closely with the Kenya Government and the Kenya Forestry Commission to improve monitoring and surveillance for illegal activities within the forests. The areas within their scope of protection include the Aberdare and Mount Kenya National Parks both of which host rare flora and fauna that is endemic and unique to these highland areas of East Africa. The task to protect these large areas is huge and requires considerable financial resources. Typically Rhino Ark spends $10,000 USD per kilometre of fence built, not to mention the subsequent maintenance costs, with the fence around the Aberdare Mountains extending more than 400 kilometres, being the longest electrified game fence in Africa.
The highland forests are home to a vast array of flora and fauna including the last remaining Mountain Bongo on Earth
The Rhino Charge event was dreamed up by a group of bush-loving conservationists with a passion
for exploring Kenya’s inaccessible wilderness areas in their 4x4s. Their dream was to mobilise Motorsport and their hobby to raise money for conservation. From very humble beginnings in 1989, when a group of friends got to together for some off- road fun in the bush, the Rhino Charge has grown into an internationally renowned and hugely competitive event that is unique in both its format and its purpose. What other international Motorsport event is there on Earth that can consistently raise more than $1 Million USD annually in one single day for conservation? This is an incredible achievement by solely amateur teams that compete with a passion for an extreme sport in Kenya's natural wide open spaces, and by doing so, they support this vital national conservation cause.
The event is limited to 65 teams, each of which must field a suitable all-terrain vehicle. The vehicle cannot be an agricultural or road building machine, and it must be road registered and legal. In addition each team must raise a minimum of $15,000 USD for Rhino Ark to gain entry. Competition for places is intense and the 2017 event was fully subscribed within an hour of entries opening! A team is allowed six members including the driver. The number is set at six as this gives teams a suitable number of people to help scout the terrain, and man-handle the
vehicle through the team's chosen route. The event’s location changes every year and is typically held within a community conservation area in Kenya's stunning wilderness, and the location is kept a secret, and no reconnaissance is allowed.
On the actual day, each team has the task of visiting 12 geographical way points set by the organisers over an area of approximately 150 square kilometres of rugged country. The organisers deliberately pick locations that are near impossible to access, and they can be anything from the top of a cliff to the bottom of the deepest valley, with the thickest thorns, and strewn with erosion gullies. Wild animals such as elephant are frequently encountered during the day depending on the location. The countryside is typically very inhospitable and tough with steep hills and big rocks. Many a team has succumbed to bees.
An old man of the forest; a Giant Forest Hog in the Aberdare National Park.
The name of the game is to take your car to all 12 locations over the course of a 10 hour period in a single day. The winner is the team that manages to achieve this in the shortest distance travelled by the vehicle. Any team that finishes outside of the allotted 10 hours is time barred. It is typically very slow going and it is certainly not about speed with competitors penalised if they exceed 40 km/h at any point during the day. It is quicker to walk.
The organisers give each team a simple map and fit each vehicle with a GPS unit that records the route and distance travelled. Teams are allowed to use radios and GPS units to navigate themselves from one point to another, working together to find the shortest possible route. The competition is intense and the need to drive relentlessly straight over whatever obstacle lies in your path is paramount. Often the top three teams are separated by less than 500 metres after driving 40 kilometres in 10 hours! When we won for a second time in 2013 we beat the runner-up by a mere 90 metres. The margins are tiny, and the slightest navigational error can destroy a team's ambitions. The climate is tough and the physical strain is severe with risk of dehydration, heat stroke, and physical injury too.
Car 38 in action!
As a team we have been competing annually since 1996 and the event has become somewhat of an annual obsession. The name ‘Bundu Fundi’ means
‘Bush Experts’ in regional lingo. We are a well known team consisting of close friends and family members. We are arguably the most consistent team of the last decade having finished in the top three on nine occasions in the last 13 years! We have won twice in that time and we have finished second, tantalisingly close to the overall win, on five other occasions.
Many of our team have grown up doing this event. In 1996 we competed in a totally standard 109 Land Rover which was the Avery family’s safari car. Over the years our vehicle has been slowly modified and we now compete in a highly modified Land Rover Series III which runs on Volvo C303 portal axles and which is powered by a Land Rover V8 engine. It is a beast of a machine, and much of the work has been done in-house, something we take pride in.
The overall aim of the Rhino Charge is the fundraising element, and every year we look to raise as much as we can. Every donation we receive is donated fully to Rhino Ark so if you would be interested to support the important work of Rhino Ark through our 2017 Rhino Charge entry we would be very pleased. You can learn more about our team and the Rhino Charge through this video https://vimeo.com/154656430 and you can sponsor us online at: https://www.justgiving.com/car38-2017
Many thanks in advance from the whole team.
1996 our first year competing in our unmodified but faithful old family safari car!