The Google Trekker Project

It’s the human quest to know and understand the world better.

A year long project (7 months spent on the road) reconnecting with, and mapping out, South Africa’s landscape - 170 hiking trails, 900km on foot, 50 000km by car, 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 19 national parks and countless life-changing  encounters with the 567 South Africans who helped us along the way.

It’s 6 ordinary people embarking on a journey, shutting out the details, the worries and the limits, and throwing themselves into an odyssey that would bring out the extraordinary in each individual and the whole team. Kelly and Woods is immensely proud to showcase to you the Google Trekker project...

Cinematography: Justin Woods, Editing: Dylan Bosman, Production Management: Liam Kelly, Sound Mastering: Raiven Hansmann (Popsicle Studios)

Our Journey

In a country as beautiful as South Africa, opportunities for tourism, wildlife spotting, photography and videography aren’t exactly thin on the ground. Even so, Kelly & Woods is always on the lookout for opportunities to approach tourism with fresh ideas and to work with South African people whose genuine passion for their natural environment is a creative force to be reckoned with. For Drive South Africa, Liam Kelly and Justin Woods (founders of Kelly & Woods), the opportunity to bring South Africans together, to bring the world to South Africa, came about in a not-so-unusual way…

National Park #1. Siting #1. Photo by: Rudolph de Girardier

National Park #1. Siting #1. Photo by: Rudolph de Girardier

Just Google it. That’s the ordinary response to a question, the way we deal with not being able to have all the information we want in our heads.  Google: the most ordinary platform for learning and discovering. And yet so extraordinary.  Enter Google Trekker - more specifically, the Google Trekker Loan Program. A mind-blowing mapping tool, the Trekker takes a picture every 2 seconds with 15 individual cameras, creating a complete panoramic “street view” of the scenery it moves through. Except this camera isn’t attached to a car. It’s fixed to a backpack and mounted on a person. And sometimes that person was on top of a horse.

Photo by: Rudolph de Girardier

Photo by: Rudolph de Girardier

It’s ordinary, just like Google.  It’s the human quest to know and  understand the world better. It’s two ordinary people, Liam Kelly and Andre van Kets, meeting over a beer at a Travel Massive event and recognising in each some serious potential for collaboration.  Fast forward a couple years to Liam receiving a call from Andre, asking, “How would you like to travel around the country for 7 months using the Google Trekker camera?”  It’s 6 ordinary people embarking on that journey, shutting out the details, the worries and the limits, and throwing themselves into an odyssey that would bring out the extraordinary in each individual and the whole team.

Kelly & Woods introduced ReWild to the project and from there the collaboration grew into a strong team that would - quite literally - carry the project through, bearing the weight and responsibility of the Trekker camera around the country.  From the hardworking and committed staff at the national parks and reserves to the volunteers who participated by carrying the camera and appearing in the various productions, this was a collective, community effort.


Aside from pulling together part of the core team, Kelly & Woods were tasked with:

  • creating a mini documentary and promotional videos for Google Street View about the project

  • shooting and producing 35 short documentaries for 35 national parks and reserves

  • producing stock footage for SA Tourism

  • creating content for the South Africa in 360 microsite

  • managing the editing process of all video footage (often on the road)

… and ultimately leading the production management with heads and hearts.

That’s 2 months pre-production planning, 7 months on the road, 170 hiking trails, 900km on foot, 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 19 national parks, over 200 South African volunteers and 3 months of final editing. What comes out of this is a unique virtual reality from the hiker’s perspective.  Viewing footage from this camera, you can sense the sway of the body carrying it, can feel the goosebumps rippling on your skin as the hiker summits an epic Drakensberg peak and surveys the vastness below.

Mkhambathi Crossing. Photo by: Alistair_Daynes

Mkhambathi Crossing. Photo by: Alistair_Daynes

The Google Trekker has explored some of the world’s most dramatic landscapes and natural phenomena, but coming to South Africa brought the camera into contact with a full range of diverse wildlife, from birds to the Big 5.  This journey was also one of the camera’s largest crowd-sourced project thus far, with so many extraordinary local people getting involved.