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A History of the Land Rover Camel Trophy: Part 5, 1993-1995

  • Greg Fitzgerald
  • Jun 13, 2020

From 1993-1995, Camel Trophy would see what some considered the last gasp of its glory years. The event was still solidly focused on the 4x4 expedition, using Land Rover Discoverys. This period would take the event on some of its first multi-national adventures as well. However, the seeds were being sown for the final events, where the focus on off-road driving would be heavily reduced.

Check out the rest of our History of Camel Trophy series:
Part 1: 1980-1983
Part 2: 1984-1986
Part 3: 1987-1989
Part 4: 1990-1992
Part 6: 1996-2000

Camel Trophy 1993: Sabah-Malaysia

Winners: Tim Hensley & Michael Hussey (United States of America)
Team Spirit Award: Ellis Martin & Francisco Zarate (Canary Islands)
Special Tasks Award: Paul Gasser & Loup Tournard (France)
Trucks: Discovery 1 5-door 200tdi (teams), Defender 100 200tdi (support)

The 1993 event took Camel Trophy back to Borneo, where the 1985 event had been held. This time, instead of visiting their frequent haunt of Indonesia, they tackled the Malaysian side of the island, and the northern state of Sabah. It would be the first time Camel Trophy ever did a loop route, beginning and ending in Kota Kinabalu. The first leg was a 21-mile/35 km train journey from Kota Kinabalu to Tenom, to the south. From there, the teams traversed some of the world's oldest jungles -- at 130 million years old, they're older than the Amazon by double.

The route was planned with the assistance of legendary Malaysian environmentalist Tengku Adlin, and the route took in one of his great projects in conservation, the Maliau Basin, known as "Sabah's Lost World." Isolated and unexplored by outsiders until the early 1980s, the Basin is a large catchment area that exits only one way -- through the Maliau River. It is home to some species found nowhere else in the world. The Camel Trophy party did an overnight hike to take in the wonders and construct a building for the local Sabah Foundation to use as a scientific research center. The building was put up in under 24 hours before the team trekked out again, having left a lasting legacy of Camel Trophy.

The rest of the event featured the normal Camel Trophy features...rafting across rivers, deep mud, dense foliage, and rutted tracks. At the end of it would come the United States' only triumph in the event, as the team of Tim Hensley and Michael Hussey took the Camel Trophy. Their simpatico personalities and skillset propelled them through the special tasks and gave them serious team spirit points to witness the achievement. Like many Camel Trophy winners, Tim Hensley would take on a corporate role at Land Rover as a driving instructor.

Camel Trophy 1994: Argentina-Paraguay-Chile

Winners and Special Tasks Award: Carlos Martinez & Jorge Corella (Spain)
Team Spirit Award:
Etienne Van Eeden & Klaus Haas (South Africa)
Trucks: Discovery 1 5-door 200tdi (teams), Defender 110 200tdi (support)

1994 would have Camel Trophy taking a multinational turn, with the first-ever expedition to three countries in one event. The event began in Argentina at the iconic Iguazu Falls, the largest waterfalls in the world. They then traced the Parana River, the border between Argentina and Paraguay, before transiting Paraguay and crossing the Andes. Then it was into the high and dry Atacama Desert before dropping to the coast and the end near the Chilean city of Antofagasta. The entire journey was almost 1,500 miles, one of the longer Camel Trophy treks.

The variations in the route put the participants through significant physical turmoil. In the height of the Andes, temperatures would drop to as low as -4F, while in the Atacama Desert they were over 100F. The Paraguayan jungle brought 100% humidity, while the mountains were totally devoid of it.

The Spanish team would prevail in this epic relay of terrains and climates, as well as taking home the Team Spirit Award. The South African team took home the Special Tasks Award on their first appearance.

Camel Trophy 1995: Mundo Maya

Winners and Special Tasks Award: Zdenek Nemec & Marek Rocejdl (Czech Republic)
Team Spirit Award:
Pavel Bogomolow & Sergei Fenev (Russia)
Trucks: Discovery 1 5-door 300tdi (teams), Defender 110 300tdi (support)

Land Rover put particular focus on the Mayan world in the mid-1990s. The Discovery launched in North America in 1994 with the La Ruta Maya expedition, which took journalists to Guatemala and Belize to explore the truck's capability in the jungle. The Camel Trophy the next year would somewhat overlap that route. While the 1994 event had broken a record visiting three countries, the 1995 event smashed that, taking in five -- Belize, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.

The event began in the Jaguar Temple of the ancient city of Lamanai, now in Belize. After two days of Special Tasks in this area, they headed through the Orange Walk District to Mexico and the Yucatan. Here they made humanitarian contributions by assisting with archaeological works at the ancient city of Rio Azul. Then it was south into the remote and sparsely-populated Guatemalan province of El Peten. After a visit to the ruins of Tikal, the teams did a rafting challenge on Lake Peten Itza. Then it was into the Guatemalan Highlands, to Lago Gujia, and over the border to El Salvador to build a research station in the Montecristo National Park. After a dip back into Guatemala, they drove to the ruins of Copan in Honduras, with the toughest and most rutted roads of the trip. Then it was back to Belize and more days of Special Tasks at Xunantunich.

The Camel Trophy and Special Tasks Award would go to the Czech team, while the Russians took the Team Spirit Award. The American team of Daphne Greene and Jim Swett would end up taking what was becoming a traditional route for American Camel Trophy veterans, becoming Land Rover driving instructors and ambassadors, roles they hold to this day.

The 1995 event would signal a shift in the tone of the Camel Trophy, though. In the early 1990s, it had slowly begun to drift from being just a 4x4 competition. After the disaster of the 1987 Special Tasks competitions, the more formal contests at the beginning and end of the event started to create more structure than there was before. The 1992 overnight diversion to Kaieteur Falls in Guyana was the first time the team spent the night away from the Land Rovers. The 1993 and 1995 research station construction projects began a shift towards humanitarian pursuits, in line with the general ethos of the 1990s. This trend away from a focus on the trucks would accelerate rapidly in the next few years, and there would only be three more Land Rover-based Camel Trophies.


  • Written By
  • Greg Fitzgerald
  • Adventure addict. '90s Land Rover daily driver. Historic preservationist. Personal vehicles: 1994 Discovery I, 1994 Range Rover Classic, 1961 Series II.
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