A History Of Overlanding West Africa
Overlanding West Africa is an independent overland travel company founded by David Oades (Dave The Hat) and Jimmy Corrigan (Jimmy C) in 2010.
After a hugely successful 2012-2013 season, including being the first commercial truck based overland company to ever run trips through Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone, Hatter decided to settle down in the UK and focus upon taking Overlanding West Africa forward, whilst Jimmy decided to settle down in Tasmania and focus upon a new business venture.
Hatter and Jimmy approached Al Goodridge and asked if he would be interested in joining OWA and running the trips in the future. Al agreed and joined the team as Director, and lead the next successful season through the region, including being the first ever overland truck based company to operate a trip through Liberia.
How was all this achieved? Here’s a brief history of Overlanding West Africa:
The Planning Stage: 2009
In April 2009, David Oades (Hatter) left the UK with Jamie Kay for an epic overland expedition from Helsinki, Finland, to Beijing, China – and all the way back via Central Asia and Iran!
During that expedition, Jamie asked Hatter what his favourite journey had been to date. West Africa was the obvious response! Jamie asked if he’d ever thought about setting up a company focussing upon that part of the world. Which got Hatter thinking…
From that moment on the idea was firmly implanted in Hatters mind, and for the rest of the journey to Beijing and back via Istanbul, the long thought process of how to set up an overland company began. Sounding out passengers thoughts on the idea of a new overland company focussing purely on West Africa, he decided he had to go for it!
Implementing The Plan: June 2010
Upon his return to the UK, Hatter began working on a business plan. Having studied the Michellin map of West Africa for many years, his idea was to focus the trips upon all of the countries in the region that had been, for various reasons, off the travel radar for most overlanders to date.
To achieve the dream of setting up an overland company, Hatter needed a business partner. It just so happened that Jimmy Corrigan had recently returned from a Cairo to Cape Town Trans Africa run with Jamie Kay. Hatter approached Jimmy with the idea, what was needed to fund the company, and the big task that lay ahead.
After a few weeks of negotiation, an agreement was reached, the company was formed, and the look for a truck began! George Durie (Director of Dragoman Overland) agreed to sell an empty chassis that had been sitting in the yard, along with an old body that had been sitting in Cape Town for the past few years.
The Company Takes Shape: 2010 – 2012
For the next 18 months, Hatter and Jimmy built the chassis and body from the frame up, developed the website, raised the profile of the company, and convinced a bunch of travel hardened overlanders to join them on the maiden voyage!
You can see more about how Aminah took shape here: Aminah: A Brief History
Our First Successful Season: 2012 – 2013
In September 2013, Hatter and Jimmy left the UK with Aminah to run the first ever exploratory season for Overlanding West Africa. Transiting from the UK through Europe, Morocco, Western Sahara, and Mauritania, they arrived in Senegal to meet the first ever OWA group in Dakar!
For the next 6 months or so they drove through Senegal, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Burkina Faso, and all the way back again!
This journey included being the first ever truck based overlanding company to operate trips in Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone; the first to return to Ivory Coast since 2004; and the first to market and sell trips operating in Senegal’s Casamance region and Guinea!
Al Goodridge Joins OWA: May 2013
Arriving back in the UK in May 2013, Hatter decided he wanted to stay in the UK to settle down with his partner and focus upon developing Overlanding West Africa and running the company, while Jimmy decided to move to Australia to settle down with his partner and start a new business venture.
Hatter and Jimmy invited Alastair Goodridge to join the team and lead the trips for OWA in the future. Al was the ideal person to take over the role considering he had previously run trips in West Africa for Dragoman and also had a great passion and enthusiasm for the region.
Hatter asked experienced overlander Nev Kelly to join Al for the second season as co-driver, and after giving Aminah a good going over we were ready for another set of trips in West Africa!
A Second Successful Season: 2013 – 2014
Leaving the UK in October 2013, Al and Nev drove down to Dakar and ran a second successful season for OWA, including being the first ever truck based overland company to operate a trip through Liberia!
With some great new additions to the itinerary, particularly in Casamance, Senegal, and Banfora, Burkina Faso, the trips received overwhelmingly positive feedback!
Back In The UK For A Third Season: 2014
Returning to the UK in April 2014, Hatter and Al gave Aminah another overhaul in preparation for a third season in West Africa.
With the addition of a new trip between Ouagadougou and Accra that Al devised, Hatter asked Jason Parry to join Al as co-driver for the 2014-15 season, to which he agreed.
Unfortunately for OWA, and of course even more so for the people of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, an Ebola outbreak took hold with devestating consequences throughout these 3 countries. This lead to the closure of a number of key land borders in the region.
With no way to connect our multi-country trips, Hatter and Al were forced to cancel our 2014-15 season. It was not an easy decision to make, but ultimately a sensible one considering how difficult travel became in the region at that time.
The End Of Ebola And Trips In 2015-16
Despite the mainstream media focussing upon Ebola and little else in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, OWA was determined to promote a more positive image of the region. Working with West Africa Discovery and Another World Adventures, and with the support of a number of other travel companies, the #Unite4WestAfrica initiative was launched.
For many months we worked tirelessly to counter the negative media coverage of the countries in West Africa and to challenge the widespread ignorance that resulted.
Fortunately the authorities gradually got on top of the outbreak and the number of new cases declined. Hatter and Al decided that with the improvement on the ground the time was right to run trips in the region again. After many months of promoting the trips and selling a good number of places, Hatter and Al prepared Aminah for another run down to West Africa and back!
Jason agreed to join Al as co driver after missing the year before due to the cancelled season, leaving the UK in late September 2015 for the long drive down to Senegal to begin our 2015-16 trips.
Fancy joining us on an overland journey through West Africa? Between us we have the knowledge, expertise and passion to run some truly exciting and unique overland expeditions.
Please have a read of our Why Travel With OWA? page to see what makes us different from other overland operators.
We have the expert knowledge about the countries in West Africa that other operators are lacking. Our trips run at a slower pace, visiting more countries and places, allowing you more time to experience the magic of the region. We will show you the best highlights that other operators miss out on, giving you a more comprehensive and indepth trip.
Read our Testimonials page to find out what previous passengers who have travelled with Overlanding West Africa thought.