TUSKER'S ORIGIN STORY
AN ATLAS AND A DREAM
EDDIE FRANK, a man of rugged determination, did not dream of the commonplace like becoming a fireman or a movie star. His dreams were of the untamed wilderness.. As a child, growing up in Africa, he yearned for the thrill of adventure, for the chance to conquer the wilds of Africa. His father regaled him with stories of the great explorers, and at the age of six, his grandfather gifted him a world atlas, stirring his desire for adventure. But fate had other plans. His family moved to the USA and the dream, like a distant echo, faded away.
Ten years later, in the gritty city of Los Angeles, a young man of 23, Eddie was building a career as a photographer. One fateful day, while sipping a cold beer with friends at his local pub, the conversation turned to adventure. And, with a glint of defiance in his eye, Eddie shared his dream of driving across Africa. His friends laughed, and said he'd never do it. But little did they know, that glint of defiance would be the very thing to fire up his dream once more. He went home, dug out his grandfather's atlas, and got to work.
TUSKER IS BORN
He spent a full year researching a trans-Africa route, studying the journals of adventurers who explored Africa over a century before. In February 1977, he and a friend embarked on the first of many expeditions through Africa, driving two Land Rovers and leading a dozen adventurers across Africa. The thrill of discovery was invigorating, it hit a nerve and Tusker Trail was born. Today, decades later, Eddie has become a member of the prestigious Explorers Club in New York City, an honor bestowed upon only 3500 worldwide, a true testament to his spirit of adventure.
Eddie blazed a trail of adventure through the African continent and beyond, driven by an insatiable hunger for the wild. He explored the mountains, deserts, jungles, and rivers of Africa, mapped out on the atlas given to him by his grandfather when he was six years old . But he found a new passion: trekking on foot. When you're on foot, the world slows to a crawl, and the wilderness is encountered face-to-face, on its own terms. It's a life-changing experience that became a way of living for him for the rest of his life..
THE FIRST EXPEDITION VIDEO
Adventure, that wild and reckless pursuit of the unknown, was what lured Eddie Frank into the wilderness. The danger, the uncertainty, the euphoria of new discovery- these were the things that set his blood on fire.
But how does one convey such a passion to those who have never known it? In 1993, Eddie snatched up an old video camera and ventured into the heart of Africa. He captured the sights, the sounds, the music, and the soul of the land.
He amassed a volume of footage and one of the finest collections of African music around. Join us as we journey back to 1993, to Tusker Trail’s very first expedition video.
Enjoy the ride!
A TRAIL TOO FAR
Eddie Frank's adventures across Africa were legendary, a wild and untamed odyssey that took him to the most remote and untrammeled corners of the continent. He dined with Emperor Bokassa in the Central African Empire, floated trucks down the Congo, led safaris in the wilds of Zambia, and uncovered ancient astronomical sites in Kenya and Zimbabwe. Once, he spent three weeks in the Sahara sitting out a coup by the Nigerian army.
On the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro Eddie first discovered his true calling. Back then, the idea of climbing Kilimanjaro was a novel one, and the mountain was not yet the well-hiked destination it is today. But Eddie saw something special in the mountain - an accessible challenge for adventurous travelers, and a feeling of accomplishment at the summit that was second to none.
It was a different time, when the dangers of altitude were less of a concern than the threat of a military coup. But Eddie persevered, and his approach changed the nature of the climb forever. He introduced world-class training to the local guides, and built Tusker Trail into one of the most respected companies on the mountain.
A TEAM OF ALL SORTS
In 2004, on his 23rd climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, Eddie Frank met Amy, a seasoned outdoor guide and mountaineer who had dedicated much of her life to leading adventurers through the Canada's wilderness. It was a meeting of like-minded souls, and soon their shared passion for the wild and the unknown brought them together.
They formed a formidable team, with their sights set on new continents and new adventures. They scouted and hand-crafted new treks that pushed the boundaries of personal discovery. They understood that true adventure is about new discoveries and the camaraderie comes from challenging oneself in foreign lands. This spirit of self-discovery is the axis on which Tusker Trail spins.
AMY FRANK - A GUIDE SUPREME
For 35 years, Amy has roamed the wilderness, scaling mountains with the rugged grace of a true wildcat. Long before she crossed paths with Eddie, she had already made a name for herself as a seasoned climber. And beyond the roof of Africa, she's guided treks through the Himalayas, in Bhutan, Nepal and across the vast steppes of Mongolia. As a co-instructor of Tusker Trail's high altitude first responder course, she's a vital force in shaping the training and syllabus for the guides.
But Amy's talents don't stop at the summit, as an authority on nutrition, she's collaborated with the Culinary Institute of America, crafting Tusker's famed Kilimanjaro recipes in their adventure kitchen.
THE LEGACY OF ADVENTURE
Step back in time and scroll through Tusker's Legacy timeline, joining a young Eddie Frank as he embarks on his first wide-eyed expedition across Africa in 1977. Over the years, he and Amy have forged new trails of discovery and adventures around the world, raising millions for charity on Kilimanjaro climbs and chasing solar eclipses across the globe. Adventure runs deep in Tusker's DNA, and it's that spirit of wild exploration that Eddie and Amy have infused into every journey they lead.
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
Welcome to Adventure TV, where Tusker Trail's passion for adventure is captured in every frame. Here you'll discover the gritty, raw footage of our hard-driving expeditions across the African wilderness, dating back to the mid-1970s.
These films document the evolution of Tusker's adventure craft over the decades, culminating in the present-day thrill of our international trekking expeditions. Follow us as we reveal the rugged, sandy, and muddy world of overland adventure, and witness how we've crafted our adventure reputation.
CREATE YOUR OWN LEGACY
Tusker Trail's origins are deeply ingrained in Eddie's wild and adventurous childhood spent in the African wilderness. It was during his first breathtaking expedition to Africa in 1977 that Tusker Trail truly came to life. Since then, we have been leading intrepid travelers on journeys that ignite the soul and awaken the spirit. Our worldwide treks are the culmination of Eddie and Amy's lifetime pursuits.
They have meticulously crafted every detail of our expeditions to ensure that you too can experience the life-changing thrill that has driven them for so long. Eddie began Tusker Trail on a whim, and it consumed him. So we dare you to step out of your comfort zone and join us on a Tusker Trail trek, where the exhilaration and passion will take your breath away.
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.