It’s been some time since we last posted as we waved goodbye to Zoe, Adam and Aminah from the UK last October – so we’re well over due with an update regarding what’s been happening on the road and at OWA!
In summary it has been a challenging season so far but also a very rewarding and successful one. We’re pleased to say that our trips have proved to be as popular as ever, having sold almost every place on every trip (approx 98% capacity). With a decent number of passengers returning to see more of the region after previous trips with us, it suggests we must be doing something right!
On the road things have, at times, been a challenge this season. Zoe (Trip Leader) decided to leave half way through for personal reasons after doing a great job at leading the 3 southbound trips with Adam. Fortunately Jason was available to do another run for us and flew out to Ghana in February to take over the reigns for the 3 return northbound trips.
Unfortunately the security situation in Burkina Faso deteriorated rapidly towards the end of 2018, meaning we took the very difficult to decision to re-route our Accra to Ouagadougou and Accra to Freetown trips to avoid Burkina Faso completely. We of course continue to keep a close eye on the security environment in the country and very much hope the situation improves soon, in the hope that we can include Burkina Faso in our 2020-21 itineraries.
Along with Jason getting 2 bouts of malaria, Adam getting salmonella poisoning and Aminah falling through a bridge in the east of Sierra Leone (see pictures below), there’s been no shortage of dramas this time around! Still, it’s all part and parcel of overland adventure travel and we believe everybody has had a really great time despite these various obstacles. We’ve received some wonderful feedback from the passengers which has been added to our Passenger Testimonials page, and we’ll be adding more in the next few weeks as we receive it.
One blog we’d like to share with you is from passenger Peggy Bright, who travelled with us between Accra and Dakar this year. Peggy has some really wonderful photos and writes about her experiences in a very evocative way. Our favourite post focusses upon Aminah falling through the bridge in eastern Sierra Leone, perfectly summing up the true nature of overland group travel. Everybody chipped in with helping get Aminah upright again, working with the guys in the local village to get the trip on the road again. Do take the time to check this wonderful blog out out you won’t regret it!
So what’s next? Out next season of trips are scheduled to start in November 2020. The dates are now up on our Overview Page and we are aiming to open the bookings around very late September 2019 – so get your requests in for time off work now!
Please note we will be updating all trip documentation and tweaking the itineraries here and there in the next few months to take into account the feedback from our current season – though please note there will only be a few minor changes. Please do bear in mind that we might not be able to include Burkina Faso at all, depending upon how the security situation in the country plays out in the months ahead.
If you are interested in a trip in 2020-21, please send us an Enquiry Form to register your interest and we will add you to our email list to let you know when we’re ready to start taking bookings. We look forward to hearing from you soon!
David (Hatter) Oades, Al Goodridge and Jimmy C
Below are some wonderful pictures taken on our current season of trips, taken by Adam, Annabel, Peggy, Ella and Herman – enjoy!
After many weeks of planning, writing, and HTML, we’re pleased to announce our new itineraries for late 2015-early 2016 are ready to go and now live on the website! All of our trips can be viewed here or you can navigate to the trip that interests you by hovering over THE TRIPS tab at the top of each page. This will bring up a sub menu to take you to any of the trips we operate.
All of our existing trips are still there, but with some minor changes:
Dakar to Freetown – stays the same
Freetown to Accra – much the same as last year, except we will visit the south of Ivory Coast instead of the north, and not visit Burkina Faso
Accra to Ouagadougou – very similar to our Ouagadougou to Accra trip, but visiting more of Togo and the east of Burkina Faso
Accra to Freetown – stays the same, but includes a visit to the Gurunsi homes of the Kassena people in Tiebele, Burkina Faso
Freetown to Dakar – stays the same
Dakar to Marrakech – Brand new trip, taking in northern Senegal, some of Mauritania, Western Sahara, and southern Morocco
Marrakech to Tangier – Brand new trip in Morocco, visiting many of the key highlights in the Sahara desert, Atlas mountains, and Rif mountains
Our Trips And The Situation In West Africa
The ebola outbreak continues to affect many lives and communities in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia. From watching the mainstream media news channels, the situation seems as bleak as ever.
However, all this doom and gloom is not a fair representation of the facts and decidedly unbalanced. There has been a huge improvement in all 3 of the affected countries:
- The rate of new cases being reported throughout Liberia has drastically reduced in recent weeks, things really are looking alot better there now
- The east of Sierra Leone around Kaliahun and Kenema (where the outbreak first surfaced in Sierra Leone) has improved dramatically, with virtually 0 cases being reported over the past month. In and around Freetown and the west of the country, the number of new cases being reported has declined by a huge amount
- The outbreak continues to rumble on around Guinea, though at a much lower level than before, with the number of new cases reported being significantly lower than in Liberia and Sierra Leone
A lot more is being done by the governments and the international community to help improve the situation, though there is of course a lot more work to do. It does appear slowly but surely the outbreak is being brought under control, and we are very hopeful that the region will return to some sense of normality very soon.
We want to reiterate that we cancelled our trips in late 2014-early 2015 due to the closure of a number of key borders throughout the region. That was the only reason we cancelled – the logistics of operating multi-country trips became impossible.
All sensible advice from health professionals continues to be the same – the risk of travellers contracting the virus is considered very low, you need to come into direct contact with the bodily fluids of somebody showing symptoms of the virus to become infected.
Launch Of The Unite 4 West Africa Initiative
Since October 2014 we have played a key role in setting up and promoting the Unite 4 West Africa initiative, along with West Africa Discovery, Barefoot Liberia, and Another World Adventures. The aim of this collective effort is simple – to challenge the mainstream media portrayal of the affected countries in West Africa, and to raise funds for organisations working on the ground to combat the outbreak.
The Unite 4 West Africa initiative was launched to the media at World Travel Market in October 2014. We’re pleased to say it was a huge success, the room was heaving with journalists interested in hearing what we had to say!
On the panel were the Ministers of Tourism for Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria, as well as Ben Keene from Tribewanted Sierra Leone, Dr Ron Behrens from the London School of Tropical Medicine, and David Oades (Dave The Hat) from Overlanding West Africa. Everybody gave a 10 minute presentation about the situation in the region.
In addition to helping put the outbreak into perspective, Unite 4 West Africa is raising funds for organisations who are working hard in the region to help combat the spread of the virus:
- 50% of the money raised will go to Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF – Doctors Without Borders), who have worked tirelessly from the moment the outbreak was confirmed as ebola back in March 2014
- 40% of the money will go to 3 grass roots organisations in each of the affected countries, being TINKISSO in Guinea, KRITERION MONROVIA in Liberia, and WELT HUNGER HILFE in Sierra Leone
- 10% will be distributed to other grass roots organisations who are doing great work who might approach us for funding – if not, this 10% will instead go to the 3 organisations receiving 40% of the funds raised
All money raised will go directly to the organisations listed above. All of the time we have spent setting up and promoting Unite 4 West Africa is entirely voluntary.
We’re pleased to say we have secured the support of a large number of other travel operators and organisations who run trips and have an interest in the countries of West Africa, including Exodus Travels, G Adventures, Explore, and Intrepid Travel. We’re proud to say we’ve raised over £4,000 since November 2014, and hope to raise much more. We want to take this opportunity to thank all the organisations who have donated to the initiative so far, and all the individuals who have made a personal donation – thanks so much to everybody!
Please visit the Unite 4 West Africa website to learn more about the initiative, and help promote a more positive image of the countries in West Africa. There is also a Unite 4 West Africa Facebook Page and a Twitter Page where you can keep up to date with all the latest news. Please use the hashtag #Unite4WestAfrica when posting about the initiative.
With so much negative media coverage coming from Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia in recent months, there is a real danger that these countries will be associated and stigmatised with this image for years to come. We all need to work together to help promote a more positive image of the affected countries and the West Africa region in general.
Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia were just starting to develop a tourist industry, something we want to see flourish once again as soon as possible.
Remember: A huge number of people throughout dozens of countries all over Africa rely upon tourism for their livelihoods, and many are now starting to struggle due to a decline in tourism. Nearly every major tour operator is saying bookings for trips all over Africa are down. Lets put this in perspective – only 3 countries have been significantly affected by the ebola outbreak to date, just 3!
Africa is a continent, NOT a country, help us put the situation into perspective!
Cheers guys, we hope you are all well, and we hope to see you on Aminah in late 2015-early 2016 for another adventure through the countries of West Africa!
Dave The Hat, Al Goodridge, and Jimmy C