THE TUSKER STORY
AN ATLAS AND A DREAM
When EDDIE FRANK was a child, little Eddie didn’t dream of becoming a fireman or a movie star. While his father regaled him with fantastic stories of the great explorers, he dreamed of driving a 4-wheel drive on an expedition across Africa. In between safaris in the bush, he was so obsessed with adventure that at the age of 6 his grandfather bought him a world atlas. But when he turned 13 his family moved to the USA and the dream faded away. But fate had another plan.
Ten years later, in Los Angeles, a 23-year-old Eddie Frank had been building a career as a photographer. One day he was enjoying a beer at his local pub with some friends and the chatter around the table drifted to adventure. Eddie shared his childhood dream of leading an expedition across Africa. His friends laughed and said he’d never do it. That was the spark, and it was all he needed. He went home, dug out his grandfather’s atlas and got to work.
TUSKER IS BORN
Eddie spent a full year researching his trans-Africa route, and reading the journals of adventurers who explored Africa over a hundred years before. His adrenalin was pumping and he couldn’t wait. In February 1977, Eddie found himself and a friend in two British ex-army Land Rovers, leading a dozen adventurers across the Sahara Desert on the first of many expeditions through Africa. The camaraderie and passion for discovery on that first journey was invigorating. It hit a nerve that was difficult for him to ignore, and Tusker Trail was born.
The next 45 years saw Eddie leading expeditions and safaris throughout the African continent and beyond. Hungering for adventure, he explored the mountains, deserts, jungles, and rivers that he discovered in the atlas given to him by his grandfather when he was a young boy. He also made a new discovery – trekking. On foot, the world slows down, and you encounter the wilderness with all your senses – face to face and on its own terms. It's life-changing. For him it became a whole new way to travel and a whole new way to live.
THE FIRST EXPEDITION VIDEO
The dictionary describes ADVENTURE as a bold, risky undertaking, a hazardous action of uncertain outcome. Adventure was Eddie Frank’s calling. The appeal for him was the risk of the unknown, and the payoff was the rush of euphoria of succeeding in the challenge. But how could he convey that to others?
In 1993, he dug out an old handheld video camera and started shooting. By recording the sights, sounds and music of Africa, the adventure came alive. Since then, he has amassed volumes of video and still possesses one of the finest collections of African dance music around.
So, sit down, and step back in history to the year 1993 in Africa, as we present Tusker Trail & Safari Company’s first Africa expedition video.
A TRAIL TOO FAR
Leaving no trail untouched, Eddie’s adventures across Africa led him to the dining table in the palace of Emperor Bokassa; found him floating trucks down the Congo river; saw him leading wild safaris in western Zambia; and discovering ancient astronomy sites in Kenya and Zimbabwe. Once, he spent three weeks in the Sahara sitting out a coup by the Nigerian army. His early wanderings led him up Kilimanjaro for the first time, and on to guide further expeditions in Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Botswana.
When Eddie Frank first arrived on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in 1977 there was no such thing as a bucket list. Kilimanjaro was not the well-traveled destination that it is today. A climb up Kili was an integral part of Eddie’s trans-African adventures. His approach to the climb was casual – without any planning, he just pitched up with his group and climbed the mountain. It was a different time when you worried less about altitude and more about a military coup. But Eddie saw an opportunity: even though climbing Kilimanjaro was a tough undertaking, it was an accessible challenge for fit travelers, plus the feeling of reaching the summit was undeniably powerful. Since his first climb, he’s changed the way Kilimanjaro is climbed by introducing world-class training to local guides, and building Tusker Trail into one of the most highly respected companies on the iconic mountain.
A TEAM OF ALL SORTS
In 2004, on Eddie’s 23rd Kilimanjaro climb, he met Amy, an accomplished outdoor guide and mountaineer who spent most of her life leading adventurers through the Canadian wilderness. It wasn’t long before their shared passion brought them together.
As husband and wife, they were – and still are – a formidable team, with eyes on new continents and new adventures. They scouted and hand-crafted new treks across the globe. Each trip was designed around adventure, camaraderie, and personal discovery that only happens when you challenge yourself in foreign lands. This personal discovery is the axis on which Tusker spins.
AMY FRANK - A GUIDE SUPREME
Amy has been climbing mountains for 29 years and had been climbing long before she met Eddie. She has led many Kilimanjaro climbs, many of them as charity fundraising climbs for breast cancer research. She also leads Tusker Trail’s treks in Bhutan, Nepal, and Mongolia. Amy is a co-instructor of Tusker’s HIGH ALTITUDE FIRST RESPONDER medical course for Tusker Trail’s mountain guides. She is instrumental in shaping Tusker Trail’s day-to-day training syllabus.
As a nutritionist she also worked closely with the Culinary Institute of America, building Tusker’s Kilimanjaro recipes in our famous adventure kitchen, and helped train Tusker’s wizard chefs.
THE LEGACY OF ADVENTURE
Take a step back in history and follow the early adventures of Tusker Trail, starting with Eddie Frank when he was a young wide-eyed adventurer blazing a trail across Africa on his first expedition in 1977. Over the years, he and Amy have created exciting new treks of discovery and adventure across the globe. They helped raise millions for charity on Kilimanjaro climbs. They also followed solar eclipses all over the planet. Chasing adventure is part of Tusker’s DNA and what Eddie and Amy have injected into each experience.
Take the trek and scroll through Tusker’s adventurous legacy, there and back again.
1977 – On a friend’s dare, Eddie leads his first expedition across Africa in British Army Land Rovers via the Sahara. The expedition is planned for 4 months, and cost $850 to join. That’s where it all started.
Adding to the excitement, while in Benin in West Africa they get stopped at a roadblock. The soldiers at the roadblock think that the group are mercenaries and take the group to prison. Eddie and the US consul hatch a trick to get the group out of captivity – but only after having spent two weeks there. That was Africa in the crazy 1970’s.
1977 to 1980 – Eddie launches a daring trans-Sahara truck selling business in West Africa. However, a rough start with breakdowns and massive sandstorms leave him almost broke.
Down to his last $20, Eddie finds himself stranded in Bangui in the Central African Empire. The military dictator, self-appointed Emperor Bokassa, who was rumored to have human flesh in his fridge, approaches Eddie and buys his four trucks. Two months after Eddie leaves the country Emperor Bokassa gets deposed by a military coup.
1980 to 1983 – Eddie leads 16 adventurers in a 6-ton truck across the Congo River on a barge, built out of three canoes roped together. The year before a friend sunk a similar truck in the river.
During these early years Eddie crosses Africa a lot, including 33 times across the Sahara Desert. On numerous occasions he gets lost in the desert, but eventually finds his way out. He says that each time he crossed Africa he feels like he is stepping into another world, full of fascinating cultures, traditions, and landscapes.
1983 – While crisscrossing the African continent, Eddie arrives in Tanzania and his encounter with the wildlife feels really familiar from his childhood in the African bush. So, he starts leading wildlife safaris in East Africa.
While on safari in a remote part of Botswana, while watching a pride of lions 15 yards away, Eddie hears diesel pouring out the bottom of his fuel tank. With one eye on the lions, he crawls under the truck to fix the leak. Leak repaired, and arms and legs intact, he gets on his way.
JUNE 1983 –Teaming up with NASA astronomer, Dr. Laurance Doyle, Eddie leads and expedition to NAMORATUNGA in north Kenya, a remote site with a 2,000-year history. They discover that a now-extinct pastoralist people used stone pillars as an observatory.
The site is known as NAMORATUNGA which means “people of stone. ” A local legend says that men turned to stone if they laughed or cried while the devil sang his song. Frank and Doyle still run astronomy trips to view solar eclipses.
DEC 31, 1983 – Tusker’s trans-Africa expedition celebrates New Year’s Eve in the dusty Sahara town of Agadez. They plan to cross the border into Nigeria the following day. But the Nigerian army stages a coup and closes its borders.
The group is stuck in the neighboring country of Niger for the next 3 weeks. Then Nigeria opens up — but only for 5 days. Long enough for the group to get in, and out the other side to the Cameroun.
1985 – Eddie moves Tusker’s safari base from East Africa to Zambia at the Victoria Falls. This turns out to be exactly where his parents had their honeymoon in 1951!
Now located close to the Zambesi River, Eddie runs leads exciting scouting trips into western Zambia and takes his groups canoeing down the Zambesi River amongst hippos and crocodiles, viewing the massive herds of elephants and other wildlife on the riverbanks.
1985 — 1993 – Eddie walks into the radio station with an armful of records that he just brought back from Africa. The beat is good, the DJ invites him back every time he returns from Africa – for the next 9 years until the show ends in 1993.
Over the years, with his passion for African music, Eddie amasses one of the largest and finest collections of African dance music outside of Africa. In the process he builds a life-long friendship with African music star Samba Mapangala, who hails from the Congo via Kenya.
1985 — 2005 – When crossing borders on an expedition, Eddie uses a savvy mix of diplomacy, political awareness, and an occasional ”gift.” His advice: Always be respectful, extremely patient, and buddy up with the border guards.
Around midnight on a safari some lions start playing with the tents flapping in the wind. Eddie gets up and chases the cats away with a flaming log from the campfire.
1989 – Eddie and Dr. Laurance Doyle team up again, on a scientific expedition to the Great Zimbabwe Ruins. They discover a unique stone marker showing that the ruins have astronomical features dating from 400-1400 AD.
Following the moon, sun, planets and stars for centuries, the position of the ruins and their complex markings suggest ancient Zimbabweans tracked orbital patterns of Earth and Venus, allowing them to forecast eclipses.
1993 – With a strong desire to share the exhilaration of African adventure, Eddie shoots his first video on a 3-week expedition in Africa depicting a wonderful array of sounds, sights and thrills of Africa.
Follow their journey as the group travels from Malawi to Botswana as they ford rivers, view countless wild animals and get a bird’s eye view of Victoria Falls from a microlight. So, take a few minutes, sit back, relax and enjoy the show.
1997 – After years of leading adventurers up Kilimanjaro on his Africa expeditions, Eddie changes course and sets a goal to establish Tusker Trail as the leading climbing company on Mount Kilimanjaro.
Today, after over 4 decades leading climbers to the summit – step by step – Eddie succeeds in establishing Tusker Trail’s reputation as the top climbing outfit on Kilimanjaro, and enjoys world class status among an elite cadre of high-altitude medical doctors.
2000 – Eddie Frank’s belief in helping others prompts Tusker to start running Kilimanjaro charity climbs. The first climb by the Make-a-Wish Foundation starts a trend that continues to this day, with over $13,000,000 raised so far on Tusker’s climbs.
A charity climb is an incredible way to take on the personal challenge of climbing Kilimanjaro’s summit on a life changing adventure and change the life of others at the same time. The feeling is beyond rewarding.
2001 – Tusker runs its first Solar Eclipse trip with NASA astronomer, Dr. Laurence Doyle, in Zambia. It occurs on June 21, and is the first solar eclipse of the 21st century. The group enjoys almost four minutes of totality on a remote hilltop in Zambia’s Kafue National Park.
Prior to the eclipse Eddie and his team are scouting a prime viewing location, and they get attacked by poachers who set massive bush fires to burn them out. Eddie runs the fires in the Landcruiser, and the team escapes unharmed.
2002 – Eddie saw that first aid training didn’t address the majority of medical issues that occur at high altitude. So he and Tusker’s medical advisors create the High Altitude First Responder (HAFR) course on Kilimanjaro.
The HAFR course spans five days with a 100% focus on high altitude medical conditions where guides learn how to monitor, detect and treat altitude problems. This medical course is recognized by leading altitude physicians all over the world.
2004 – On Eddie’s 23rd Kilimanjaro climb he meets Amy, an accomplished outdoor guide and mountaineer who has spent most of her life leading trekkers through the outback of Canada.
They band together and create a new chapter for Tusker Trail with their sights set on new treks in distant lands. A formidable team, they pioneer, scout and craft exciting journeys stretching out across the globe.
2005 – Tusker moves on from its overland expeditions with a final journey through the remote bush of Tanzania and Malawi. They end a chapter and begin a new one around the globe.
On the final days of the trip Eddie and his team say farewell to old friends in faraway places. They get a special sendoff from his old friend, Mungoma, the witchdoctor, with a rare behind-the-scenes look at a rarely seen local ceremony.
2006 – Traveling 3,000 miles in Mongolia, Eddie and Amy discover one of the world’s last pristine wildernesses and some of the richest history on the planet. It is Inhabited by nomadic Eagle hunters and Tuvan herders who have been living their traditional lifestyle for over 1,000 years.
Eddie and Amy launch Tusker’s Mongolia Trek, which catches the eye of OUTSIDE MAGAZINE, who presents Tusker their coveted “2011 Trip of the Year” award. Tusker Trail runs this very same award winning trek today.
2008 – On Friday, Aug 1, 2008, Tusker and NASA astrophysicist, Dr. Laurance Doyle lead 47 adventurers to the remote far west of Mongolia to experience the magical total Solar Eclipse.
The path of totality begins in northern Canada where the moon’s shadow first touches the earth, then for two hours it moves across the Arctic, central Russia, till it passes over the Tusker group, camped in Mongolia’s Altai Mountains.
2009 – Amy and Eddie Frank are the medical guiding team on a Charity Trek to Everest Base Camp, Nepal. The trek is led by a 7-summit climbing friends of theirs. On the tough trek they scout the possibilities for future Tusker journeys in the region.
They guide 27 trekkers over hanging bridges and remote Sherpa villages, hiking the ridges and deep valleys of the magnificent Himalayas on what is to become one of Tusker’s most exciting and challenging treks. Tusker runs the trek to this day.
2009 – Tusker teams up on Kilimanjaro with Dr. Greg Bledsoe and Dr. Michael Callahan to run its first wilderness medical training course for medical professionals, where they earn CME study credits.
When climbing Kilimanjaro on a CME climb your multi-day live activity workshop occurs while climbing the slopes of Kilimanjaro. You participating in medical activities and classes required to earn the CME credits to maintain your medical license.
2010 – Tusker’s reputation at high altitude prompts the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Project Agency to ask Eddie to assist with research and provide high altitude medical training for elite special forces operators.
The goal is to ensure that special operators experience the body’s natural response during altitude sickness in a safe environment so they can recognize the early signs and react proactively to avoid acute mountain sickness.
2012 – Eddie and Amy brainstorm on how to create a unique and well-designed Kilimanjaro mountain meal experience. They engage the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) to train its team of cooks. In a mountain first, CIA Master Chef James Hanyzeski flies to Tanzania to train and climb with the cooking team.
Your entire climbing menu is designed by Amy Frank, a nutrition expert, along with CIA Professor of Culinary Arts, David Kamen. Together they create a delicious climb-specific menu, using locally grown food and produce.
2013 – It’s “Hockey Day” on Kilimanjaro! A group of our Canadian charity climbers summit Kilimanjaro with Tusker Trail, and after spending the night in the crater, decided to do what Canadians do when they have free time, play hockey!
With Crater Camp as their field, and the “Roof of Africa” hockey world record on the line, they battle difficulties at high altitude to play the world’s highest hockey game at 18,810ft. Watch the physical prowess of these elite players under the roar of the crowd as they battle for the record.
2013 – After two years of scouting, Tusker mounts its first trek in the magical kingdom of Bhutan. Deep in the Himalayas, Bhutan is known for its majestic monasteries, healthy forests and breathtaking mountains defining the Himalayas. It is also one of the most rugged places on earth for trekking.
The Kingdom of Bhutan is also known as the Land of the Thunder Dragon, and when you trek there, its ancient beauty, mythical lure, and rich cultural heritage captivate you.
2014 – Eddie Frank celebrates this remarkable achievement 38 years after leading his first climb up Mount Kilimanjaro in 1977. Over the decades Tusker builds the most successful and reputable climbing outfit on Kilimanjaro.
Before his climb Eddie said, “In many ways the 50th will certainly be easier than the first. And in some ways, it won’t.” His entire crew sings and dances in celebration of the achievement.
2015 – Since Tusker’s first charity climb for the Make-a-Wish Foundation in 2001, climbers raise a total of $13,000,000 for 77 large and small charities on Tusker’s Kilimanjaro charity climbs over the years.
Climbing Kilimanjaro for charity is an incredible way for you to take on your personal challenge of Kilimanjaro’s summit, embark on a life changing adventure, and change the life of others who can certainly use the help.
2016 – Tusker celebrates its tenth year of leading the Mongolia Nomad Trek following in the footsteps of ancient nomads in the remote far west of Mongolia. Tusker’s Mongolian Nomad trek has been recognized by Outside Magazine with their “Trip of the Year” award.
There is one reason why Tusker created this Mongolia Nomad Trek – ADVENTURE. Eddie and Amy Frank accidentally discovered the Altai Tavn Bogd national park while scouting a solar eclipse trip in 2006 — and they never left.
2018 – Amy and Eddie Frank, with biologist Thomas Rüegg publish the definitive Field Guide to the Flora of Kilimanjaro that has become a must-have for climbers from around the world.
The variety of flora on Kilimanjaro is vast and spectacular. It takes them ten years to complete book. This great resource gives you a greater appreciation of the diversity Kilimanjaro’s vegetation while climbing through the magnificent landscapes.
2019 – Tusker crafts the new trek around the Ammassalik Fjords where icebergs float by the Schweizerland Mountains. The first trek departs in 2019 and it is now one of Tusker’s most popular backcountry journeys.
On Tusker’s Greenland trek you travel by boat and on your own two feet through remote and rugged terrain where there are no paths, just pristine untouched wilderness. It’s just you and your companions in the infinite beauty surrounding you.
TUSKER'S ADVENTURE TV
Adventure TV is Tusker Trail’s exciting and passionate video channel, chronicling the Tusker video and film archives of adventure from the mid 1970’s all the way up to the thrilling adventure treks of the present day, exploring Tusker's adventure craft over the decades.
They reveal the gritty world of hard driving, rugged, sandy, muddy, dirty overland expeditions in Africa – culminating in an internationally regarded adventure travel company.
CREATE YOUR OWN LEGACY
Tusker Trail’s roots are embedded in Eddie’s adventurous childhood growing up in Africa and were refined on his first mind-blowing African expedition in 1977. Since then, Tusker Trail has been leading adventurers across the globe on journeys that truly fire up the spirit. All our worldwide treks are a culmination of not just one, but two life works, both Eddie’s and Amy’s. They have dialed in every detail worldwide, on all of our treks to ensure that you experience the same life-changing excitement they’ve been chasing all their lives. Eddie started Tusker Trail on a dare, and it worked on him. So we dare you to step out and experience the exhilaration and passion on a Tusker Trail trek.
PHOTO GALLERY - THE EARLY DAYS
Discover how an exciting trek can change your life.
See why climbing Kilimanjaro is life-changing.
Find out how a true adventure keeps your spirit alive forever.