This is the tale of four friends who turned two tuk-tuks and a passion for adventure travel into a noble cause raising money for rangers and conservancies. Ivo, Jasper, Robbie and Josh, found themselves in Kenya during the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic. Josh had been stranded on an island in Indonesia in the beginning of the pandemic where he began filming and editing. Later, when he joined his three friends in Kenya, they began to film the effects of the pandemic on conservancies and rangers. In May 2021 they turned their passion into a cause to raise awareness and funds for the charity For Rangers. We caught up with the men of Tuk South as they began their six month journey from Nairobi to Capetown.
What is Tuk South?
Tuk South is a tuk-tuk wielding adventure travel video production crew centred on raising money and exposure for wildlife rangers in Africa. Aside from documenting the thrills and spills of our journey on our social media channels, we focus on videos promoting the 4Cs of sustainability in this field (Conservation, Culture, Community and Commerce). We are using film making, both in the traditional sense and for social media to keep ourselves funded on the road and allow us to continue our For Rangers mission. We have negotiated a couple of content production related deals and will be collecting stories and footage on some of the grass roots, sustainability, community and conservation initiatives we find en route. We also intend on continuing our filming on the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on the wild-spaces of Africa and the people and cultures, who rely on, and protect these spaces. With this footage, collected from conservancies and reserves we visit on the way down we aim to create a small documentary on the subject.
Why did you choose a charity to support rangers?
The For Rangers charity is a fantastic organisation that aligns with many of the beliefs and ethics of the Tuk South crew. For Rangers is a humanitarian charity and a wildlife conservation organisation. This allows us to support both the wild-spaces we know and love and the communities and cultures that depend on these spaces. Furthermore, when you support For Rangers, you are not only offering protection for a single “poster child species” such as a rhino or an elephant, instead you are supporting ecosystem protection as a whole. This therefore offers much needed support and safety to the more elusive and less charismatic species that inhabit these habitats. Support the people charged with protecting these wild-spaces and you end up safeguarding the whole ecosystem.
What were you doing for work before starting Tuk South?
Prior to the pandemic, Jasper and Josh were both working in the hospitality industry on a couple of islands in Indonesia while Ivo and Robbie were in their final year at Bristol University. But as you well know, COVID changed everything. Josh started making and editing videos first in Indonesia and then in his hometown of Chester. Jasper returned to a life of sculpting and creating feather works back in Kenya. After graduating from university, Ivo started tutoring for kids who were struggling with school closures and Robbie began work as an apprentice builder.
Have you always had a passion for travelling? Particularly adventure travel?
We all love to travel and really only work to make enough money to fund our next set of adventures. Between the four of us, we have cruised through every continent bar Antarctica (wonder if we can get our tuk-tuk there?). We all love the adventure side of travel, I mean would we have set off in these tuk-tuks if we didn’t?
How far into your journey are you currently?
Currently we are in Kimana sanctuary in southern Kenya. We have a couple of projects to film in and around the Amboseli ecosystem and then we will be crossing into Tanzania.
Where are you staying along the way?
Mostly wild camping as we are very at home in the bush and our tuk-tuk has all the gear for some serious glamping; a fold out kitchen with a four hob burner, pressurised water for showers, a projector and projector screen for movie nights along with a full solar system. We have however got a few lodges that have offered us free stays in return for us making them videos, so we will have some actual beds over the next half year as well!
Do you have a planned/mapped out route or are you going as far as you can daily?
We have a generalised route in mind however we have allowed for serious flexibility just in case a cool place, story or project catches our eye and is worth detouring to. Roughly speaking we are going to be passing through: Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and finally South Africa.
Which country are you most excited to drive through?
Namibia will probably be the most challenging country we will drive through and with that comes excitement. Not only will we be battling the Kalahari and Namib deserts at the tail end of summer, but we will have no air-con, no shade and no top speed high enough to allow for wind cooling us down. Despite this heat onslaught and the inevitable sinking of tuk-tuks into endless sandpits, Namibia and her beautiful alien landscapes will be where the tuk-tuks look most out of place and will also be the first time they see the sea!
Who’s been the most interesting person you’ve met thus far in your journey?
Francis Legei. The head of security and rangers for Biglife in the greater Amboseli ecosystem. A very interesting, experienced and influential ranger who has helped us a lot with our filming. So far he has organised for us to join a mission herding crop raiding elephants back into the Kimana sanctuary and to also film the predator compensation fund Big Life has initiated to prevent revenge killings of large predators that have killed community livestock.
What do you foresee being the biggest challenge in this journey?
Trying to get Princess Buttercup (the tuk-tuk) over various terrain. She really doesn’t like hills, meaning we end up pushing her up most of the steep ones. Mud is most likely going to be a nightmare, especially as we are hitting each country’s rainy season perfectly! Elephants, who knows about elephants, but one thing is for sure she definitely can’t make a quick getaway if one does charge her.
What’s next for the four of you/Tuk South?
If all goes to plan, we want to ship the tuk-tuks across to Argentina and make our way up the Americas to potentially Alaska, and then who knows? Maybe across to Russia? We basically want to continue cruising in tuk-tuks for as long as possible, and see how far we can push our tuk-tuks while continuing to raise money and awareness for wildlife Rangers around the globe.
Any words of advice or nuggets of wisdom for adventure travellers out there?
Quit your job, buy a tuk-tuk and pick some ludicrously vague direction… What’s the worst that can happen?
What’s the best way for people to follow your journey and support your cause?
The best way to follow the journey is on @tuksouth on Instagram, TikTok and Facebook.
The best way to support our cause is to raise awareness for, and donate to, our For Rangers charity page (links on our website tuksouth.com). The more awareness we can raise for the incredible and often life threatening work that wildlife rangers perform every day the better. As mentioned before, supporting a ranger helps not only the ranger and their family, but the wild-spaces they protect, the communities that rely on them and the health of the ecosystem as a whole. To lift from the For Ranger page, “Every cent goes directly to these men and women, providing them with good quality kit and equipment, improved welfare and better working conditions so that they might better protect the wildlife that cannot protect itself.”