Great Package Race 2017

Photo of students in front of Gootberg Primary School

And they are off…!

This year we are sending books for school children in Namibia.

The occasion was provided by Glynda Ratliff, who traveled last year in Namibia with Jason Nott of Ultimate Safaris. She writes “The Conservation Travel Foundation, through its support from Ultimate Safaris and the guests that travel with them, has a philosophy of enriching lives through creating viable economic development for rural communities based on the sustainable utilization of the natural resources in all the areas in which it operates. At the same time it provides support to communities and projects that operate through a non-bureaucratic and pro-active board.”

“Children from surrounding villages walk or ride a donkey to school and spend the week as boarders in the small dormitories. Their resources from the government are very limited. The government has decreed that they will all learn English so books in English are very welcome there.”

Photo of students in front of Gootberg Primary School

“At the Grootberg Primary School the Foundation has constructed a volunteer accommodation centre for volunteers. The volunteers stay at the school anywhere between one and three months and assist the children with literacy and computer skills, also dedicating their time to extramural activities. The computers were supplied by a former safari guest. Last year while we were there the school had just received a shipment of new mattresses for the bunk beds and we delivered some boxes of books from another former visitor. Also last year, a shipment of blankets was supplied and a Citrus Garden was planted.”

“Thanks so much for enabling us to share more books with these kids. They were purchased from Scholastic Books through a program that I work with in Franklin County, Florida called Bring Me a Book Franklin. Kids all over the world deserve the chance to own a book of their own!”

We heartily second that and are glad that the race can do some good as well as entertain.

The start: 27 February, 12:45 PM

We went on-line to fill out shipping forms for each shipment. Then we took the packages to a nearby branch of Intown Business Center, which accepts shipments for UPS, FedEx, and DHL.

And the winner is…

FedEx! They jumped to an early lead by getting to Windhoek, NA in only 4 hops, while both DHL and UPS required 6. By then FedEx was about 12 hours ahead of DHL, which was in turn about 12 hours ahead of UPS. The FedEx package was released from customs
in Windhoek at 4:30 pm local time on 2017-03-02, but just missed the truck. It was then held overnight at the local FedEx facility and delivered early on 2017-03-03. FedEx was also the cheapest.

To: Grootberg Primary School, Namibia
Carrier Service Cost Delivered Date Delivery Tracking # Comments
FedEx Priority International $419.97 2017-03-03 9:15 AM 85735879410 Only 4 hops to reach Windhoek: Decatur, GA to Memphis, TN to Johannesburg (ZA) to Windhoek (NA)
DHL Express Worldwide $495.97 2017-03-06 1:25 PM 4578228314 5 hops to reach Windhoek: Atlanta to Cincinnati to East Midlands (UK) to London-Heathrow to Johannesburg (ZA) to Windhoek (NA)
UPS Worldwide Expedited $441.13 2017-03-08 11:45 AM 1ZR3R9186795982292 6 hops to reach Windhoek: Doraville, GA to Nashville, TN to Louisville, KY to Koeln (DE) to Kempton Park (ZA) to Windhoek (NA). It took 4 days from leaving Kempton Park to delivery.

The routes

After local pickup, each package was driven to a local freight terminal, sorted, and then flown to one of the major sortation facilities the carriers operate in the mid-western US: UPS uses Louisville, KY; FedEx uses Memphis, TN; DHL uses Cincinnati,


  • Costs:
    • FedEx was the clear winner, with costs that were 95% of those of UPS and 85% of those of DHL.
  • Tracking:
    • DHL tracking seems closer to real-time than others, some of which are updated 24 hours after the events. Furthermore their website for tracking has more detail yet seems cleaner and easier to understand.
    • UPS seemed to report less frequently and with less information the closer the package was to its destination.
  • Delivery:
    • The UPS package spent longer at each stage of its trip. In particular, it sat in Kempton Park (near Johannesburg) for at least 28 hours and then in Windhoek for 4 days (part of which was a weekend).


Many thanks to Glynda Ratliff for providing a worthy occasion for this package race. Thanks to Andres Perez for help in preparing and sending the packages; and thanks to the recipients for documenting their arrival.