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VW Amarok off-road driving report: In the heart of Africa

Ulrich Sonntag
VW Amarok off-road driving report
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E s snorts, it rustles, rattles, rumbles. Less than ten meters away from my tent, on a bright night with a full moon, a cow elephant passes by. A young animal in tow. On which side the respect is greater can be determined immediately: As a precaution, I hide behind a sufficiently dimensioned tree and try to become invisible. It didn't work out even as a child, but it's better than the thought of ending up as an elephant's shoe here and now.

Welcome to Africa, the real, immediate.

Crime scene of the weird ones The Moremi game reserve, around twice the size of the Saarland and home to almost everything in southern Africa that has feathers or fur in southern Africa, meets the trunk. As well as a handful of tourists, one of whom is currently hiding behind a tree.

World Heritage Okavango Delta

The Moremi Game Reserve is located in the uppermost tip of Botswana, in the middle of the world-famous Okavango Delta. The around 1,700 kilometer long Okavango feeds countless canals, swamps, lakes and water holes that do not dry out even at the height of the hot period in November - the reason for the spectacular biodiversity in the Okavango Delta, which was declared a World Heritage Site in 2014.

I would have to decide where to spend the last days of my life - this would be my favorite, ”says Matthias Göttenauer. He heads our small expedition company through the Moremi Game Reserve, and his assessment carries weight: with his agency “experience”, but also as an expedition traveler on his own behalf, he has traveled all over the world. We are on the way with Göttenauer's Safari fleet, consisting of eight VW Amarok. The modern VW pickup looks unusual for this purpose, but Göttenauer swears by the Amarok.

His personal copy already has well over 100,000 kilometers on the clock, the participating vehicles around 60,000 each. And the majority of it was unwound somewhere in the middle of nowhere, on mogul slopes, deep sand drives, mud paths, most recently on an Africa crossing from north to south. The choice of gearbox was also deliberate. The participant vehicles are equipped with the eight-speed automatic transmission without off-road reduction, but also have a rear axle lock that can be activated. This prevents incorrect operation by the userWithout any off-road experience before, a smoked clutch 500 kilometers beyond civilization, nobody really needs it.

But above all, as the multi-day off-road trip over challenging slopes in the Okavango Delta shows, this choice shows what it is all about Expedition travel really matters: No extreme competence built up for the toughest terrain, but absolute reliability. Göttenauer also helped a little, because the demands on the vehicles, some of which have to cope with several thousand off-road kilometers without the possibility of maintenance, are enormous.

VW Amarok with sensible off-road conversion

Most of the VW Amarok have been upgraded the range of the VW off-road specialist Seikel. A lift chassis with more robust dampers and extended springs on the front axle lifts the VW Amarok by 25 millimeters, underride guards for engine, tank and gearbox as well as rock sliders on the sills protect the pickup from cold deformation when it comes into contact with rocks. The air intake was raised with a plastic snorkel, which not only significantly increases the fording depth of the VW Amarok. The snorkel also allows the installation of a cyclone pre-filter, which cleans the intake air in dusty and sandy use. When it comes to tires, a size that is readily available in the outback is used: BF Goodrich All Terrain in 235 /85-16, which adds another 25 millimeters of ground clearance compared to the standard condition. The aluminum hardtops come from South African production.

Botswana is not only a worthwhile destination in southern Africa because of the breathtaking fauna. As the “model country” of the region, the African landlocked state shows what is possible with a responsible government. A relatively well-developed health system, almost all children go to school, almost a third of them up to university entrance. In the corruption index determined by Transparency International, Botswana scores better than Italy or Spain, and religiously motivated conflicts are practically unknown here. The extremely low population density also contributes to the feeling of security for travelers, which is not a matter of course everywhere in Africa. Just two million people are spread over an area almost the size of France.

Solitude and pure nature

For us on our tour through the Okavango Delta this means above all loneliness and unfiltered impressions. Animals can be spotted and observed almost behind every bush; whoever listens and peeks into the distance with the engine switched off, gets a first-class 3D cinema experience.

The mostly unpaved slopes during the excursion are ininteresting condition. Fallen trees force you to detour off-screen, deep erosions and holes throw your stomach upside down. The partly very sandy, partly stony paths offer enough driving challenge, leaving them is strictly forbidden for nature conservation reasons. On longer connecting stages, the VW Amarok then shows why Göttenauer likes it so much: the pickup manages the accelerated march on the mogul slopes without rattling and stoically, occasionally rude driving maneuvers and volley-taken lateral grooves with serious depths. We are particularly grateful for the reinforced dampers that have to do the hard work on the slopes, they do not weaken in the end either.

The VW Amarok proves itself in the endurance test

The supposed renunciation the ground reduction is in truth not at least in such operations. The automatic transmission, which is briefly translated in the first stages, thanks to converter support, delivers a lot of torque to the wheels even at low speeds in deep sand and mud passages, the switchable rear axle lock only has to deal with very sporadic use. The result of three days of intensive off-road use: No special incidents, no stuck, no mechanical defect, no flat tire.

The unconditional takeaway qualities of the VW Amarok will be remembered after this endurance test. Much more, however, is the unbelievable diversity and overwhelming nature in a country that, with its uniqueness, makes anyone who travels with an open heart a repeat offender.


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