It’s been quite some time since our last post – and as you can imagine a lot has been going on at Overlanding West Africa since then.
Curious to know more? Then read on to find out all the latest:
2015-16: Another Successful Season!
We’re incredibly proud to have operated another successful season between October 2015 and May 2016 throughout the West Africa region.
As you may know, we were the first overland operator to return to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia since the Ebola outbreak came to an end. Al and some of our passengers even made an appearance on the BBC News as our Dakar to Freetown group were filmed on the golden-sand beaches of Freetown on the day Sierra Leone was officially declared ‘Ebola Free’!
Over the 7 trips we operated we were joined by 56 passengers from Canada, Norway, Germany, UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden and the Netherlands – all of whom experienced the warmth, hospitality and friendly welcome from the people of the 14 countries (and 1 disputed territory) we travelled through.
Aminah, Al and Jason arrived back in the UK at the end of May and took some time out for a very well earned rest and a chance to catch up with life. You can see a small selection of photos from the trips at the bottom of this page which gives you a good idea of some of the amazing places our passengers got to visit.
If you like the look of what you see in the photos then please send us an Enquiry Form to book yourself onto a true overland adventure trip with us in late 2016/early 2017!
Our Revamped & Responsive Website
Those of you who’ve visited our website before will notice there have been a few changes! Noting that Googles preference is for ‘mobile friendly’ and ‘responsive’ websites, Dave the Hat has spent countless hours over the past few months transferring the website content over to a new custom-made and fully responsive theme that our web hosting company devised for us.
As you can see, much of the website is exactly the same as before, except now all of the content should be ‘fully responsive’ for mobiles and tablets and make life easier for those viewing our website ‘on the go’!
We hope you like the new look and that each page loads faster than before. If you spot any errors or issues with the functionality of our website then please do send us an email to let us know – despite all the hours Hatter has put in I’m sure there are still some glitches that will need attention!
UK Turnaround For Aminah
For a couple of weeks in August 2016, Dave the Hat went up to the Drago workshop to get Aminah turned around for the upcoming 2016/17 season in West Africa. George and Charlie were, as always, incredibly generous to rent some space at their UK workshop to OWA for the work on Aminah to be completed.
To do a number of the heavier jobs on Aminah, Hatter was helped at various stages by Nick Fulford and Dave Pettsy, as well as Adam, Jemima and Sara (the 3 trainees) – all of whom played a role in helping get Aminah turned around for next season.
We want to take this opportunity to say a massive thank you to G and Charlie for lending Hatter some of their staff for a few days, as some of the jobs really do require 2 people so we truly are grateful – cheers guys!
Here are a few pictures of just some of the work that was done to Aminah over the course of the fortnight – and to such a good standard Aminah passed her MOT again first time with only 1 advisory – hoorah! (An MOT is the UK-based annual vehicle test for those that don’t know). As you can imagine, the roads in some of the countries in West Africa do take their toll on the old girl, especially on the axles and suspension, so though a painful and tiring amount of work it’s good to get Aminah ship-shape and in good condition again for the upcoming season ahead.
Replacing a rear wheel bearing and hub seal after the rear springs were taken off and rebushed
A new diaphragm for the rear brake pack – which alas still leaked so an entire new pack was purchased and installed!
Re-setting the valves/tappets to ensure the valve clearances were correct
Front wheel bearings re-greased after new front springs fitted – with new brake linings too!
Replacing the belt tensioner and swapping the pulley over
While the wheel bearings were off Hatter fitted brand new brake linings on both axles
2 new sets of front springs ready to go on and bearings ready for fresh grease!
Inflating the new tyres after the rims have been given a fresh coat of paint
Dave the Hat inserting a new bush into the rear spring swinging shackle
Freshly painted wheel rims with new tyres on ready to go back on the axles
The front torsion bar after being repaired and rekitted – no more play!
Rear brake pack repair attempt round 2!
Hatter will return to Drago in a few weeks time to finish off the interior jobs in Aminah and to ‘tart’ her up outside, whilst Al will bring the equipment and remaining tents that he has been busy cleaning whilst away.
Not long to go now before Aminah sets off for the long journey south to Senegal and the start of our first trip of the season from Dakar to Freetown!
Bookings For Trips In 2016-2017
We’re incredibly pleased that our trips are selling so well again. Each of our trips currently has an average of 12-15 passengers booked on, and fresh enquiries have been flooding in over the past 10 days so we are hopeful that most of our trips will sell out very soon.
If you want to join us then please send us an Enquiry Form and we can forward you all of the relevant booking information. Remember, we offer discounts if booking multiple trips, and it’s important to book sooner rather than later to ensure you can get all of the necessary visas in time before flying out to West Africa for the start of your trip/s with us.
Need convincing? Then check out the selection of photos below from our overland trips last season. Many thanks to passengers Alexi O’Brien, Alice Lowry, Alice Richardson and Alice Goodridge for letting us share some of their photos.
In addition, you can check out Al’s excellent OWA Travel Blog which highlights exactly why an overland adventure trip through West Africa with us is something you will never forget!
We hope you can join us for the adventure!
Dave The Hat, Al Goodridge, Jimmy C and Aminah
Overlanding West Africa
There’s only a few seats left on our Southbound trips starting in October 2015, so now is the time to get in touch if you want to experience the magic of West Africa with us! If you do want to join one of our trips please remember that you will need to obtain a number of visas in advance before you travel, so you will need to book as soon as possible to ensure you can get all of the necessary visas in time.
After such a dreadful year in 2014 with the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, it’s great to see the West African region finally returning to some sense of normality. There are now just a handful of cases being recorded each month, all of which are confined to a very small area (geographically speaking). Contact tracing is now much more efficient than before and has played a significant role in combating the spread of the virus. The vast majority of each of the 3 affected countries have been Ebola free for many months now, making travel through the region possible once again.
Since we last posted a couple of months ago, Al and David (Hatter) have been busy getting Aminah ready and all of the paperwork in place in preparation for the upcoming season. We’re pleased to say she passed her MOT first time with no advisories (that’s her annual mechanical check for the non Brits out there) and also her tachograph calibration. All that’s left to do is to stock her up with spare parts and food supplies for the big journey ahead. Not long to go now!
For those of you who don’t already know, Jason Parry will be joining Al as the co-driver for our upcoming 2015-2016 season. We know Jason from his time working for Dragoman Overland, and though he has been away from overlanding for the past few years doing a ‘normal’ job in the real world, he is itching to get out on the road again!
We’ll let the man himself do the talking:
“I know Dave (Hatter) & Jimmy from my time working at Dragoman, last seeing them in person just prior to their first OWA season in 2012. Having recently met up with Al in preparation for the season ahead, I cannot wait to get back out on the road, and am looking forward to meeting all of the passengers and immersing myself in the diverse cultures, customs, and terrain of West Africa!”
I first fell in love with Africa when I spent 4 months working in South Africa back in early 2000. Since then, I have travelled independently in South Africa, Kenya and Namibia, as well as leading trips for Encounter Overland between 2006 and 2008.
I reluctantly left the road in 2008, intending to knuckle down for a couple of years doing a ‘proper job’ to secure myself some sort of financial security. My intention was always to return to overlanding, and after too many years of masquerading as a grown up, I am finally in a position to do just that. Hatter approached me earlier this year and could not have timed it any better”.
As you all know we always love to highlight a more positive image of the region, and to support that initiative we recently found this superb article entitled “The Top 10 Least-Visited Countries in Africa” written by ‘Travel Geek UK’. We’re really pleased to see so many countries in West Africa represented, highlighting just some of the many reasons why you should visit West Africa. Click on the photo from Sierra Leone below to read the full article and to see more beautiful images from around the region!
We have recently partnered with ‘Friends of Conakry Refugee School’, where 26 staff offer an education to 500 students, provide them with a meal each day, and help with safe housing for the vulnerable. Guinea has historically received rather less international assistance than some of its neighbours, so it’s great to see a UK organisation involved with such a valuable project.
Many of the children at the project are orphans from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire and simply can’t afford to go to school. FCRS are setting up small business initiatives such as catering and soap making, and running IT and English classes for the local community in order to subsidise the education of the poorest. We plan to visit the school on our Freetown to Dakar trip, bring out supplies from the UK, and make a financial donation to the project.
You can see more information about the project here on the Friends of Conakry Refugee School website.
We’re really looking forward to returning to West Africa and meeting all of you who are booked onto our trips in a few months time. To keep you going for now, check out the video below from our trips between Accra and Dakar in 2014 – showing off just some of the best places we visit in West Africa!
Dave the Hat, Al, Jimmy and Aminah
Overlanding West Africa
After leaving the UK 7 months ago for another expedition down to Ghana and back, Aminah is home! Our last trip of the season (Freetown to Dakar) arrived into the Senegalese capital a few weeks ago, and Al and Aminah began the long journey north through Mauritania, Western Sahara, Morocco, Spain, and France to the UK.
Rainy season is fast approaching in West Africa, a time that makes travelling in the region challenging at best, so time for Aminah to have a well deserved break back home!
We’d like to say a massive thank you to Nev Kelly who joined Al as the co driver for the season. With OWA being the first ever overland company to operate a trip through Liberia this season, it was important to have good crew onboard. They’re an essential part of any overland expedition, and Nev’s hard work and commitment in working with Al shone through in the overwhelmingly positive feedback we received from this seasons passengers. Thanks Nev!
You can read some of the great comments the passengers from this seasons trips wrote about OWA, Al, and Nev by clicking on the photo below. Many thanks to everybody who took the time to write such positive feedback for us. Cheers guys!
In a few days Al and Hatter are heading up to the workshop to give Aminah some TLC in preparation for next seasons trips. We’ve jigged things around a little to take into account what has and hasn’t worked well on our trips to date. We’re still including all of the same countries, but seeing more of Burkina Faso AND also visiting Benin and Togo on our new Ouagadougou To Accra trip.
You can see all of the dates for our trips in late 2014/early 2015 here:
If you haven’t done so already please send us an Enquiry Form to register your interest and book a trip.
Al has been busy with the official OWA travel blog detailing the journey from Senegal to Ghana and back again. There are loads of entries on our blog site with some excellent photos! The latest entry was from the last couple of weeks of our Freetown to Dakar trip, as the group made their way from Guinea-Bissau to Casamance, Senegal.
There are some great photos in this latest post, it should whet the appetite for joining us for a trip!
We’ve also updated the videos page on this website making it easier to view all of the amazing footage from West Africa. Check out our short films by clicking on the photo below:
Remember, you can keep in touch with all the latest happenings at Overlanding West Africa via our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, Pinterest, and Google +) by clicking through to the pages via the icons close to the top right hand side of each page on this website.
We look forward to hearing from you and hope to see you onboard Aminah later this year for another adventure through beautiful West Africa!
David, Al, Jimmy, and Aminah
Here are some excellent photos from Gary Potter, Claire Abery, and Elizabeth Johnson who joined us on our Accra to Freetown and Freetown to Dakar trip this year.
What a hectic few months it has been since we last wrote a post for the website! Finally we have the time to sit down and put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and fill you in about what’s been happening at Overlanding West Africa.
See what the sign says below? THEY’RE IN LIBERIA!
Overlanding West Africa are proud to be the first ever overland truck based company to run a trip through the country. Here’s a picture of Al, Nev, and the group as they crossed the border from Sierra Leone a few days ago. Al says the drive from the east of Sierra Leone into Liberia was a long hard slog, the roads were terrible, and it took longer than expected, but in the true nature of overland adventure travel they made it!
Another first for Overlanding West Africa after being the first ever overland truck based company to run trips in Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone in 2012. Well done Al, Nev, Aminah, and all the group, congratulations!
Well, what else has been happening over the past few months?
After our hugely successful first season, Hatter has settled in the UK permanently to focus upon the operations and marketting for Overlanding West Africa and working to build upon the success of the first few years. Jimmy has decided to move to Australia to focus upon a new business venture and to settle down with his partner Claire.
To enable the trips to keep running, Hatter and Jimmy invited Al Goodridge to buy some shares in Overlanding West Africa and act as the new director, and Al is currently leading our trips in 2013 and 2014 with ex-Oasis Overland driver Nev Kelly.
Aminah needed some TLC after her first run down to West Africa, so Hatter and Al spent some weeks getting her back to her sexy self, including a brand new spray job with a new flag scheme down the side (note the Liberia flag!)
After a full mechanical overhaul, restocking her supplies and spare parts, and passing her MOT, Hatter and Al drove her down to the south of Spain. Upon arrival, Nev flew in to take over from Hatter, and off they went across the straits of Gibraltar to Morocco for the long drive to Dakar.
As those of you who follow us through social media will know, our Dakar to Freetown trip is now well underway. The group are currently in the beautiful Casamance region of Senegal enjoying a couple of nights on the Atlantic coastline.
Al, Nev and Aminah left Dakar with a group of 19 overlanders: A warm welcome to John, Ant, Narelle, Sascha, Phil, John, Arnold (Will), Warren, Jane, Robert, Connor, Chris, Daniel, Ian, Peter, Ina, Janet, Birgit and Tania.
To help us all keep up with the excitement on the road, Al has taken on the task of writing a blog detailing all that’s happening on the trips. If you’re a fan of adventure travel and overland trips you will love Al’s updates! Please do follow our blog through Google+ and all the usual social media channels:
You can expect regular updates from Al and the group as they make their way down to Ghana over the next 10 weeks or so.
A real highlight of the trip so far was the groups visit to Abene in northern Casamance. Al and Nev took the group to a wonderful campement managed by Simon for an evening of traditional music and dance. The climax of the festivities was witnessing a ‘Koumpo’ (known as a forest spirit) whip up a frenzy on the dancefloor, a real privilege to see.
A massive thank you to Simon, the staff at the campement, and all the performers for such a wonderful evening of entertainment.
Back here in the UK, World Travel Market took place at London’s Excel Arena this week. Hatter popped along for the day to visit those stands representing West Africa. Gambia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria were all present, and it was great to put some names to faces after so many years.
We want to say a massive thank you to Ola at ‘Come To West Africa’ magazine for including Overlanding West Africa in the latest edition. Ola was working at the Nigeria stand at WTM helping push the West Africa tourism message, and Hatter was lucky enough to grab a photo opportunity with the editor himself!
Not only is Overlanding West Africa on the front cover with 3 photos, but there is an 8 page feature inside talking about what we are trying to achieve with our trips. Thanks so much for including us Ola we really appreciate it! Also many thanks to ex OWA passengers Rob Kuhlman, Inga Lotta, Wilna Wilkinson, Holly Melanson, and Clare Glade Wright for some of the superb photos used in the article.
Read more about all the media publications Overlanding West Africa has been featured in over the past few months here: Overlanding West Africa In The Media
Also a big thank you to Christophe Noel for writing a review about us for the superb Overlanders website Expedition Portal. Christophe highlights the fact that our trips go as far off the beaten track as possible and to places well of the radar for most travellers. Thanks Christophe!
Remember, you’ll need to book quite soon if you want to take the last available seat on our Accra To Freetown trip in January 2014. We also have just 3 seats left on our Freetown To Dakar trip starting in March 2014. If you can’t join us this season, we will have new dates for our trips in late 2014/early 2015 on our website by January 2014 so keep checking in!
We hope you all have a very happy Christmas wherever you are in the world, and a very happy new year. We hope to see some of you onboard Aminah in 2014 for another incredible adventure through West Africa!
David, Al, Jimmy, and Aminah