Satellite Phone Rental from Sat4Rent – A Review
Satellite Phone Rental from Sat4Rent – A Review
Hiking in the Fish River Canyon – Namibia
My wife, Belinda and I had the privilege of hiking through the Fish River Canyon for the second time from 21 – 26 May 2018. At no stage during our first hike through the canyon did I give a thought to carrying a satellite phone with me. It seemed like something a large hiking group would need and it was probably ridiculously expensive.
When preparing for our second Fish River Canyon hike, I appointed myself as the hike medic and began putting together a list of first aid supplies that I would need to treat any illnesses or injuries that we may face on our 6 day journey through the canyon. Part of this preparation was to run through a few scenarios in my head and see how I would handle the situation and what equipment I would need to manage the situation. These involved for example fatigue, dehydration, sprains, strains, fractures and injuries causing moderate to severe bleeding.
All of these scenarios ended with the question of how I was going to get help if I needed to get the person out of the canyon. Basic First Aid starts with the acronym H H H which means Hazards, Hello and Help. First check the scene for hazards, check if the person is alert and conscious and then contact a higher level medic for assistance or an ambulance to transport the injured person to hospital, or both. The triple H’s are usually completed before any treatment begins.
Why Do I Need a Satellite Phone?
There is no cellular telephone signal in the Fish River Canyon, even if you purchase a local prepaid SIM card. They are only two emergency exits in the canyon that allow you to walk out and get help. They are situated at the 14 km and 49 km mark, respectively. Ask yourself, what would happen if you had a medical emergency at the 30 km mark. What then? I ran that scenario through my head and little did I know, but our group was going to be faced with a medical emergency at the 30 km mark on our second hike through the canyon.
Everyone I have spoken to, without exception really, has answered the above question in the same way. They would identify the two strongest hikers and send them out the closest emergency exit and hike to the nearest person or place and summon help. Have you actually considered how long it would take someone to hike 20 kilometers, scale the canyon wall through the emergency exit and get to someone who can contact help? How long after they get hold of someone will help actually arrive at the person who desperately needs it? Do you know the answer to these questions?
If you drop your backpack and just take water and the bare essentials, you will be lucky to cover a distance of 4 km an hour. That means it would take you about 5 hours to reach the emergency exit with a minimum of a half hour’s rest along the way. Add another 1 hour or so to scale the canyon wall and you are already sitting on a 6 and a half hour’s delay. You still haven’t contacted anyone and help is not yet on the way. Remember it is going to take the Rangers the same amount of time to hike into the canyon to reach the injured person. If you choose to arrange a helicopter medivac it will take the chopper between 5 – 6 hours to fly the 650 km from Windhoek to get to your injured companion. We are then realistically talking about 12 hours to get your friend help from the time you decide to walk out the canyon. Do you think that is an acceptable delay? Will your companion be as patient as you in the situation?
I am asking these questions after having gone through a 10 hour medical rescue in the Fish River canyon with a gravely ill hiking companion, where I was in a position to contact help immediately via a satellite phone. Do not expect rescues to run smoothly and do not expect the emergency services to be immediately ready and able to assist you when you need them. When I first called the Rangers in Hobas, their only vehicle was in for a mechanical service and they were not able to assist at all.
With the aid of the Fish River Canyon Slingsby map, I was able to inform the Rangers in Hobas, via satellite phone, of our exact position in the canyon. I was also able to work out where the safest location was to us to perform a land based rescue. In the end, where we were was simply too dangerous to mount a land based rescue and I ended up contacting the Namibia Medical Rescue 24/7 for a helicopter medivac. Again I was able to explain to their control room where we were in the Canyon, with the aid of the satellite phone and the map, in order to expedite the rescue. Despite all of these incredible tools, it still took the helicopter an additional 6 hours to reach us, making it a 10 hour rescue ordeal in total. How much longer would we have waited for help if we still have to walk the 20 kilometers out the canyon to get help. These are questions every single person hiking through the Fish River Canyon needs to ask himself / herself before tackling this challenging adventure.
It is true that thousands of people hike through the Fish River Canyon without incident. For them and maybe for you, a satellite phone would have been a waste of time, money and precious space in the backpack. The pertinent question to ask though, is what if something like this had to happen to you or someone in your hiking party? What would you do and would it be enough to save yourself, your spouse, your family member or your companion when time was of the essence? Can you really afford to be without a satellite phone in a rugged and unforgiving place like the Fish River Canyon? Only you can answer that question for yourself.
Emergency Contact Numbers for the Fish River Canyon
These are the telephone numbers that you will need to call in an emergency. Once you get to a phone that is.
Ai Ais Resort: +264 63 683 676
Hobas Resort: +264 63 683 445 or +264 63 683 446
Namibia Medical Rescue 24/7: +264 81 257 1810 or +264 81 872 2233 (Helicopter Medivac)
Where do I rent a Satellite Phone?
I did some checking on line and came across a few companies in South Africa that offered short term rental contracts for satellite phones. I decided on Sat4Rent because they have an office in Table View where I would be able to collect the phone myself instead of having to pay courier fees. The staff at Sat4Rent are friendly and efficient. They also seemed to offer the best packages in terms of the type of phone offered and the price per minute of talk time, charged in US Dollars. The package I settled on cost me around R1 700 for 10 days and included 30 minutes talk time [16 May 2018]. Divided among the 12 of us that were going to do the hike, it only cost each of us R150 extra to have absolute peace of mind in case something happened in the Canyon. The phone that came with this package was a Immarsat IsatPhone Pro.
IsatPhone Pro Specs
Length: 170 mm
Width: 54 mm
Depth: 39 mm
Weight: 279 g
Display: High visibility colour screen
Interfaces: Micro USB
Water and dust ingress protection: IP54
Operating range:-20 °C to +55 °C
Storage range:-20°C to +70°C (with battery)
Charging range:0°C to 45°C
Humidity tolerance:0 to 95 per cent
Interesting Facts About the IsatPhone Pro
- IsatPhone Pro coverage is worldwide, apart from the Poles.
- Calls are made via a single, global network so there are no roaming charges.
- It has a record of 99.9 per cent network availability reduces the risk of dropped calls.
- Battery life is one of the longest on the market, with up to 8 hours’ talk time and 100 hours standby.
- Supports Bluetooth – rest the handset on its side for easy hands-free use.
- Exceptional clarity of calls, comparable with mobile cellular, giving clear voice recognition.
- Operates at -20°C to +55°C
- Dust and splash proof (IP54) and extremely robust.
- It also has a humidity tolerance from 0 to 95 per cent.
- Intuitive GSM-style interface and high-visibility colour screen with a larger keypad for easy dialling with gloves on.
Here is a comprehensive brochure on the IsatPhone Pro.
If you want to rent a satellite phone from Sat4Rent visit their website.
They can also be contacted via telephone or email.
Shana Coetzee: +27 82 822 9549 firstname.lastname@example.org
Nerine van Zyl: +27 83 419 0555 email@example.com
Linda du Plessis: +27 82 373 4355 firstname.lastname@example.org