4×4 and the Environment: Guidelines
Going off-road is a wonderful way to explore our natural heritage and get to inaccessible terrain but the vehicles have the capacity to severely damage sensitive eco-systems — we owe it to future generations to be careful when off-road, the impression left behind should be one of a responsible off-roader and not strips of black rubber, ruts from wheel spin and rubbish.
It’s really quiet simple, one has to care for the environment and the rights of others be they the local populace or fellow off-roaders. Understand the consequences of off-roading, if necessary attend a training course that covers off-road technique, the environment and vehicle recovery. Plan your trip and in leaving a good impression try to improve on the terrain: repack ruts with rocks, take out your litter and anything else you may find – spare the route the negative effects of your passage.
Engage 4×4 when leaving the tar, high-range gearing for gravel roads and low range as you start trails and obstacles. This will immediately limit the impact of your passage.
- Travel in terrain that is suited to your vehicle.
- Stay on the designated route and avoid the temptation to create a new track unless absolutely necessary.
- Become aware of sensitive areas and avoid them at all cost.
- Adhere to speed limits even in off-road situations, they are there for a reason.
- Respect the local population, fauna and flora.
- Practice safe convoy rules and avoid creating dust.
- Use eco friendly soaps and cleaners and do not dispose of toxic materials such as old oil etc.
- Use water with care and do not camp too close to water holes, this may scare off animals.
- Practice safe fire techniques, check for restrictions and do not make fires on the drip lines of trees as this will harm their roots.
- Remove your litter and do not wash dishes or clothes in rivers or dams.
- Use the cat-latrine technique for toilets.
- Obey signs and close all gates when passing through.
- Practice safe recovery techniques and restore any possible damage after badly stuck vehicles have been extricated.
- Always use tree protectors when winching to avoid ring barking trees, ensure minimal movement when winching as even with a tree protector one can chafe the delicate bark of a tree.
- Avoid wheel spin as the flora and ground cover bind the topsoil, an open rut can start soil erosion in the rainy season.
- Never ride over young plants and saplings they are the future shade and food for animals that live in the area.
- Remove trees that block the road if possible, rather than driving past them, creating a new track for others to follow.
- When camping, respect the rights of others. Avoid loud music and excess drinking – we are all in the bush to enjoy the solitude, loutish behaviour can spoil the experience for all!
Driving on beaches has been prohibited for some time now, but it is possible to drive on beaches in neighbouring countries. However, all indications are that this may be stopped simply due to bad behaviour and the lack of capacity to police these areas, general guidelines however are:
- Use demarcated exit and entry points.
- Ensure that driving is permitted.
- Obtain the necessary permission or permit.
- Reduce tyre pressure. A softer tyre causes less damage and gives more traction.
- Do not pollute.
- Drive on wet sand below the high tide mark, but check local requirements. On the East Coast, turtles breed above the high tide mark, but in certain areas on the Western shores crustacean breeding populations exist.
- Never drive on beaches designated for swimming, always consider other people, vehicles and your passengers.