Dealing with Disaster

Published On 17 June 2015 » By Leilani Basson » Bush Lifestyle, Bush Wheels

Dealing with DisasterWhat is an overland emergency? It can best be described as any situation that might threaten the safety of a tour group or its property. How should one deal with an emergency? Well, that depends on the nature of the crisis, and how well a person has planned in advance. Loftus Viljoen from Ngonyama Camper Rentals looks at how to plan for that terrible moment when disaster strikes.

 Not too long ago, we experienced a bit of an emergency while on safari. One member of our convoy had unplugged his two-way radio (he was using the outlet to charge some other gadget), and failed to hear the warnings of our tour guide. Consequently, he veered slightly off the path the rest of the vehicles were following, and drove straight into a pool of thick mud.

The moment this happened, chaos ensued. Absolutely everyone in the group had an opinion, though few of them had ever recovered a vehicle. There was a lot of shouting and gesturing, but no concrete plan was being devised. Eventually I had no option but to tell everyone to stand back and allow those with experience to assess the situation. Together with the owner of the vehicle and our guide, I attached a snatch rope to the 4×4 and rescued it from the mud.

As far as off-road emergencies go, this was a fairly minor one, although it could have been quite serious had we not had the necessary equipment. But what it really showed was how important it is to stand back, relax and weigh up your options. This sort of situation should never be tackled without careful consideration. One should also never allow one’s ego to get in the way. As Oom Gert of Phalagat once said: “Some people are wise, and some people are otherwise.” A lot of people don’t like to listen to advice or take orders from others. When an emergency occurs, though, it is crucial to allow those with experience to take charge. If everyone in the group gets involved, no progress will be made, and the situation will go from bad to worse. Listen to the guide and assist him in bringing the situation under control.


While on safari, the possibility of a vehicle breakdown is always present, so be sure to take a decent toolkit and a couple of essential spares along. Also realise that the standard toolkit that comes with your vehicle is woefully inadequate for the off-road environment. The most important items, in my opinion, are a spade, a hi-lift jack with a base plate and good set of spanners. And please, make sure that your vehicle has jacking points before you buy a hi-lift jack!

The spares are important. Here are a few items I would suggest: Radiator cap; fan belt; fuses, globes and replacements for electrical parts; tyre valve caps and a repair kit. If you’ll be travelling over very tough terrain, take two spare wheels; Wheel bearings and grease


Using recovery equipment can also be very dangerous. While recovering a vehicle, you are working with items that are under extreme pressure, so allow the experienced members in the group to manage the recoveries and ensure the other people stay as far away as possible. What are the basic recovery items I would suggest purchasing? Vehicle recovery is a complex topic that could easily fill a lengthy book on its own, but suffice to say that every off-road traveller should have some knowledge of recovery equipment before setting off. Having a winch and a snatch strap is great, but unless you know how to use them properly, they won’t be of much use. You’ll need: a snatch rope, gloves, bow shackles and a towing rope.

Ngonyama Safari Club offers courses in:  Safari planning; digital wildlife photography (with an emphasis on how to use a digital camera); vehicle repairs while on expedition; proper use of a satellite navigation system; off-road towing. They also organise tours and safaris to: Central Kalahari; Makgadikgadi Pan; Moremi; Savuti; Caprivi; Chobe; Kafue (Zambia); South Luangwa (Zambia); Malawi


Contact: Tel. 012 996-3027; 084 441-0333; e-mail For more information visit

 *Courtesy Leisure Wheels Magazine

Share this post

About The Author
Leilani Basson
Leilani Basson
Leilani Basson is an adventure and travel photo journalist with 16 years' experience in the media - both locally and abroad. She is the creator and contributing editor of the Bush Telegram and also the pioneering force behind the Bush Babes Adventure and Safari Club, an all-women's adventure and outdoors club.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *