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 developing Overlanding West Africa as a company, 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:

2009: The Planning Stage

David-Oades-West-Africa-Overland-ToursIn April 2009, David Oades (Hatter) left the UK with Jamie Kay for an epic overland expedition from Finland, to China – and all the way back via Central Asia.

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…

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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!

June 2010: Implementing The Plan


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. Click Here to Read More

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

2012-13: Our First Successful Season

In September 2012, Hatter and Jimmy left the UK with Aminah to run their first ever exploratory season as Overlanding West Africa. Transiting from the UK through Europe, Morocco, Western Sahara, and Mauritania, they arrived in Senegal to meet their first ever OWA group in Dakar!

For the next 7 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!


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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!



May 2013: Al Goodridge Joins OWA

Africa-Overland-Tours-TravelArriving 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!

2013-14: A Second Successful Season

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!


2014-15: The Ebola Outbreak

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 #Unite4WestAfrica Travel Initiative

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.


2015-16:  Trips With Al & Jason

Thankfully the authorities gradually got on top of the Ebola 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.


2016-17: Another Season With Zoe & Jason

Africa-Group-Tours-OverlandIn May 2016, Al and Jason drove Aminah back to the UK and parked her up for a well-deserved rest.

After a number of weeks spent hunting for crew for another season,  Zoe Moffat agreed to lead the 2016-17 trips for OWA with Jason as the co driver-mechanic.

Hatter spent a number of weeks over the next few months working on Aminah with the help of some of the Drago staff (many thanks to George Durie), whilst Al sorted and cleaned the equipment. Zoe and Jason pulled out of the UK a few days later for the long journey south to Senegal for the start of our Dakar to Freetown trip.


2017-18: A Year Off

In May 2017, Zoe and Jason drove Aminah back to the UK and parked her up for the summer.

After a number of months spent hunting around for crew for another season,  Hatter resigned himself to the fact that a team he could rely on could not be found, so reluctantly agreed to take a year off from operating trips.

2018-19: Trips With Zoe & Adam

David-Oades-West-Africa-TravelAfter searching around for months on end, Hatter managed to convince Zoe to lead another season for OWA – this time to be accompanied by Adam Blay, who used to own a similar company called South America Overland. With the 2 crew in place for another season, Hatter opened the bookings and within weeks a few of the trips had sold out!

In May 2018, Hatter and Jason took the covers off Aminah after a year parked up in Suffolk, and took her down to the workshop for a good mechanical overhaul. After a number of weeks hard graft they parked her up again, before Hatter and Al returned a few months later to finish off the preparations for the upcoming season…


Unfortunately Zoe had to leave the 2018-19 season half way through for personal reasons, but fortunately Jason was on hand to jump in and take over for the return trips with Adam back to the UK – hoorah! Despite 2 bouts of malaria, salmonella poisoning and Aminah falling through a wooden bridge in Sierra Leone, it all worked out and they brought Aminah back to the UK in June 2019.


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, as well as our Testimonials page to find out what previous passengers who have travelled with Overlanding West Africa thought.

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.