As many of you already know, we took the very difficult decision to cancel our 2021-21 season of trips due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we’re pleased to announce we fully intend on operating a 2021-22 season instead, the dates for which can be seen here:
If you haven’t done so and are interested in booking a trip with us, please send us an Enquiry Form to get the ball rolling!
David and Al recently headed up to the Drago workshop in October to get some work done on Aminah. As the pictures below show we managed to get some big jobs ticked off the list! Though we still have quite a bit to do we have a good head start on the work planned for next year, which includes a full respray to bring Aminah’s paintwork back to life (she is looking a bit faded after all the years in the sun!)
Remember, you can keep in touch with all the latest happenings at Overlanding West Africa via our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and Pinterest) by clicking on the icons close to the top right of each page on this website.
We hope to see you on board Aminah in 2021-22 for another adventure through magical West Africa!
David Oades (Hatter), Al Goodridge, Jimmy C and Aminah
Repairing the bent rear bumper
Front springs and hangers
Jerry can racks and lockers
Replacing water tank floor and edge
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!
We hope you’re all well and that you’ve had an enjoyable summer (or winter, depending on which hemisphere you live in!)
David (Hatter) and Al have been super busy in the UK workshop completing the last few jobs on Aminah in preparation for the upcoming season of trips. With a recon engine and a new clutch assembly fitted, new camping stools made, new leisure batteries fitted, a respray of the cab and locker level and a successful MOT pass, we certainly have put in the hours!
In just 3 weeks time Zoe and Adam will pack up the equipment and drive south for the big journey down to Dakar for the first trip of the season…..not long to go now!
Below you’ll find a selection of pictures of just some of the work that Hatter and Al completed over the past few weeks. Enjoy!
A big thank you to G and Charlie at Dragoman (as always) for allowing us to work on Aminah in their workshop, and to G for putting the new paint on for us! Thanks also to Darren, Pettsy, Nick, Amber and Jordan for helping us for a couple of hours taping Aminah up for the spray job!
We wish you all a great autumn, and remember, if you can join us on either our Accra to Ouagadougou or Dakar to Marrakech trips, please contact us via our Enquiry Form and we’ll send you over all of the relevant booking information.
David (Hatter) Oades, Al Goodridge, Jimmy Corrigan and Aminah
It’s been some time since our last update so here we go with all that’s been happening at OWA over the past few months!
Firstly, we’re pleased to say that we’ve sold nearly all of the places available on our trips in 2018-19, which is of course great news for us – and we hope an indication of the growing interest there is for travel in this less known part of the African continent.
We do still have a few spots available on all of our trips, mostly on our Accra to Ouagadougou and Dakar to Marrakech departures, so if you are interested and able to get the time off work, please get in touch as soon as possible to avoid missing out.
We’re also pleased to say that Zoe will once again be leading the 2018-19 season for us, this time accompanied by Adam Blay, who used to own a similar overland company called ‘South America Overland’. We’re sure they’ll run another great season for us and we’re looking forward to receiving all of their updates from the road starting this November!
In the meantime, David (Hatter) and Jason have been burning the midnight oil in the UK workshop getting Aminah ready for the big journey ahead. We managed to get all of the major work out of the way, including a rub down so that Aminah is ready for her new coat of paint in a couple of months time. As always a huge thank you to George and Charlie at Dragoman Overland HQ for allowing us to rent some space in their workshop and for ordering us all of the parts we needed. Cheers G and Charlie!
Below you’ll find a selection of pictures of just some of the work that Hatter and Jason completed over the past few weeks. Enjoy!
The new front springs arrive – the last 2 sets in all of Europe (apparently…!)
Raising the chassis on an Indian jack to remove the old front springs
The offending rivet which caused issues last time around
Springs removed and ready for a clean up
Adding the old blocks to the new leaves to give Aminah a bit more ground clearance
New springs on and ready for tightening
Removing the old brass bush from the swinging shackle
Inserting a new brass bush into the swinging shackle, drawing it in with a length of threaded rod
Cleaning up the threads on one of the rear U bolts
Jet spraying the old leaves ready to put together spare packs in case they’re needed
Jason by the press as we removed a brass bush
Marking the splines to make sure it goes back in the same position
The new carrier bearing
Removing the front torsion bar bushes and circlips
Replacing the leaking steering box top seal
A crank inspection whilst we replaced the weeping sump gasket
Cleaning up the engine sump in the kerosene bath
New sump gasket ready to be fitted
Colin lends a hand for a cylinder compression test and replaces the valve stem seals
Adjusting the tappets after replacing the valve seals
Removing the front hubs to inspect the bearings
Hatter about to remove the rear hub to inspect the bearings
Rear hub removed to replace a pitted wheel bearing and hub seals
A new rear wheel bearing about to be fitted
Nice fresh bearing grease for the front axle hubs!
Jason tightening the front bearings after reinstallation
Replacing the stereo voltage dropper (again…)
Tidying up the wiring
New voltage dropper fitted
Replacing the charging unit in the passenger area
Painting the roof
Sorting out the headlights for the MOT
Making a new stool locker panel
Removing another damaged panel
A lick of anti rust paint to the frame
The big rub down for the respray begins!
Hatter sanding away the truck body
Aminah’s cab after the rub down
Jason replacing one of the broken seat backs
Hatter and Jason still smiling after many late nights working on Aminah!
We wish you all a great summer and remember, if you can join us on either our Accra to Ouagadougou or Dakar to Marrakech trips, please contact us via our Enquiry Form and we’ll send you over all of the relevant booking information.
David (Hatter) Oades, Al Goodridge, Jimmy Corrigan and Aminah
We hope you’re well wherever you are in the world at the moment, and we hope you had a very happy Christmas holiday and a good start to 2018!
Many of you have been in contact over the past few months asking about our trips in 2018-19. We’re pleased to let you know that we’re now ready to take bookings!
If you’re still interested in booking a trip with us, please send us an Enquiry Form or reply to the initial form you sent, so that we know what trip/s you want to book onto.
Please note that nearly all of our trips have now sold out….there’s literally just a few places left on some of our trips!
Please note we have tweaked the trips ever so slightly to take into account what has and hasn’t worked in the past – so please have another look at the updated itineraries on our website before booking.
One noticeable change is on our Accra to Ouagadougou trip, on which we will no longer spend any time in the east of the country – we will instead drive over to the west to see some of the Banfora region.
Please remember we have a discount structure in place if you book more than one trip with us, and all of the dates, prices and itineraries can be seen on the trips overview page by clicking on the trip maps image below:
Please note we will endeavour to respond to your emails/enquiries within 24-48 hours of you making contact with us, and often much sooner – but please bear in mind we are expecting a lot of bookings in a short space of time so we appreciate your patience in waiting for a response. We have already sold over 30 seats since we opened the bookings 1 week ago!
We really hope you can join us for our next season of trips, and please do share the message on social media and with anybody you know who might be interested in travelling through West Africa with us.
We look forward to hearing from you soon – and wish you all a very happy 2018!
David Oades (Hatter), Al Goodridge, Jimmy C and Aminah
Overlanding West Africa
After leaving the UK in September 2016 for another expedition down to West Africa and back, Aminah is home!
Our last trip of the season arrived into Marrakech at the end of May 2017 after the long journey north through Senegal, Mauritania, Western Sahara and southern Morocco. After a couple of days turnaround in Marrakech, Aminah, Zoe & Jason headed to the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, crossing the Mediterranean to Algeciras where they began the long drive back to the UK via Spain and France.
Rainy season is now well underway 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 in the UK.
We’d like to say a massive thank you to Zoe and Jason who ran the trips for OWA this season, they both did a truly fantastic job! With trips in West Africa it’s so important to have good crew on board, they’re an essential part of any overland expedition, and Zoe and Jason’s hard work and enthusiasm is highlighted by the overwhelmingly positive feedback we’ve received from the passengers that travelled with us. Thanks very much indeed Zoe and Jason!
You can read some of the great comments the passengers from this seasons trips wrote about Zoe, Jason and OWA (as well as previous seasons comments) by clicking on the photo below. Thanks so much to all of those who took the time to write such positive feedback for us. Cheers guys!
Dave the Hat headed up to the Drago workshop a few weeks ago to give Aminah some TLC and a good deep clean, as well as a good mechanical inspection. As you can imagine the road conditions take their toll on Aminah and the mud and dust clings to everything, so it takes some time to get her cleaned up properly. After a few long days and nights Hatter parked her up under cover until our next season of trips begin in late 2018/early 2019.
So what’s next? Well, over the next few months we’ll be jigging things around a little to take into account what has and hasn’t worked well on our trips to date. We’re going to start the 2018-19 season slightly later in the year, with our Dakar to Freetown trip starting in early November rather than mid-October. Hopefully the extra few weeks will give the roads more of a chance to dry out!
You can see all of the dates for our trips in late 2018/early 2019 here:
If you haven’t done so already please send us an Enquiry Form to register your interest in joining our trips in the future.
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 on 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 on board Aminah in 2018-19 for another adventure through magical West Africa!
David Oades (Hatter), Al Goodridge, Jimmy C and Aminah
Below is a wonderful selection of photos that our passengers took over the course of the season. If these don’t tempt you to visit the region with us then we don’t know what will! Many thanks to Mahesh Patel, Zinzi Speear, Kath Donaldson, Knut Ovrebo, John Stenson, Melanie Smith and Jim Stolk – your photos really do show off what a magical region West Africa is to visit!
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
As many of you who are on our email list will already know, we’ve just started taking bookings for our trips in late 2016/early 2017 – and are pleased to say that seats are selling fast! If you are keen on joining us for a trip please get in touch with us via our Enquiry Form and come and see some of this magical part of the African continent for yourself.
We ran our new Accra to Ouagadougou trip for the first time last month, and welcomed Frank, Tracey, Tony F, Tony K and Sam to join those who had travelled with us from Dakar and Freetown. After some initial confusion, it was revealed that Frank was the owner of the trumpet that had mysteriously found its way onto the truck the previous evening!
We visited Ghana, Togo, Benin and Burkina Faso on this trip, and this blog post covers the first 2 weeks of the trip.
One of the highlights of southern Ghana is visiting the coffin makers around Accra, who make some lively and unusual designs. Above are some of the impressive examples we got to see.
A number of the group went on a walking tour of Nima, a lively residential district of Accra for an insight into the lives of the local people. The guide was the principal of a primary school: as you can see the children were rather excited when we visited their classroom!
From Accra we headed to Ghana’s Volta region, a beautiful but relatively little visited area which is sandwiched between the artificial reservoir of Lake Volta and the Togolese border. We enjoyed the cool air and beautiful views up in the hills, a lovely contrast to the weather on the coast. Frank even had some time for trumpet practice!
The views from the top of Mount Gemi down to Lake Volta and across to Togo would have been great if it wasn’t so hazy!
Above are waterfalls near Amedzofe that most of the group visited after the trek for a refreshing dip.
Before we crossed over the border to Togo, we visited a community of habituated Mona monkeys which are revered as sacred by the locals. Jase seemed to be feeding them the tastiest bananas!
Our first stop in Togo was among the cool green hills close to the summit of Mount Klouto. We walked among coffee plantations, explored villages, learnt about medicinal plants and natural dyes, cooled off under waterfalls, and looked for butterflies.
We enjoyed a great evening of drumming, dancing and fire breathing with plenty of opportunities for dancing practice which we so clearly needed!
After a brief stop in Lome to visit the famous fetish market, we arrived in Grand Popo in Benin where we camped on the stunning beach for a couple of nights. Some of us enjoyed boat trips to visit fishing villages and to see salt production where the Mono river meets the sea.
Above and below are photos from the voodoo ceremony we witnessed in southern Benin. Voodoo continues to play a huge role in the culture of the people in Togo and Benin, fascinating though a little bewildering at times! We were encouraged to try the local palm spirit while watching the ceremony, sprinkled with talcum powder and sprayed with perfume. Al and Jase smelt the best they had in weeks!
Ouidah is known as a centre of the voodoo religion, as well as having a tragic history as a port from which many millions of slaves were transported across the Atlantic to the Americas. We visited the famous python temple, numerous other temples and shrines, and learnt about how the voodoo religion travelled across the Atlantic with the slave trade to parts of Brazil and the Caribbean.
We spent Christmas in Ganvie, staying at the famous stilt village on Lake Nokoue, an area originally settled by people escaping the slave trade. After a tour of the village we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening watching the world go by. Frank entertained both the locals and the group by playing Christmas carols on his trumpet! Many people were celebrating by singing and dancing on boats parading around the village; it was certainly a memorable Christmas!
Having spent 2 weeks slowly exploring Ghana’s Volta region and the south of Togo and Benin, after Christmas we had a couple of days driving up to the north of Togo.
The grounds of this primary school made for a great bush camp – the children were fascinated as we set up camp for the night!
We had plenty of interesting stops along the way. In the photo above, Alice is standing in front of the Aledjo Fault, a stunning geographical feature through which the main road passes. On the right, Frank is trying to get through the entrance of a sacred Baobab tree, which has a large cavity inside with room for about half a dozen people to stand in. It was a bit of a tight squeeze!
Below are the weavers hard at work at a local co-operative we visited. They were weaving long but narrow strips which were then sewn together to make a range of colourful garments.
The Tamberma Valley World Heritage site is home to the Batammariba people. We spent 2 nights with them in Togo, visiting their fascinating ‘Takienta’ (mud fortress houses), learning about their customs and beliefs, and witnessing traditional music and dance ceremonies.
Below, Tracey tries her hand at archery. It’s a good job we weren’t relying on her to catch our dinner!
As the day cooled off we trekked up to a cave network, formerly inhabited as a retreat in times of tribal war. From here we were treated to some spectacular views of the valley below.
From here a short drive took us over the border to Benin and the Atakora hills, home of the Tammari people. We learnt about their animist traditions, and saw the similarities between their fortress houses with those of their cousins in Togo. Most of these were spread out among their agricultural land rather than being grouped into villages.
We trekked to see waterfalls, caves and farming land. Above are examples of giant grain storage jars which are partitioned inside. They’re in a cave, near a water source that was used as a retreat in times of tribal conflict as well as to escape the slave raiders. It is believed that people could have hidden for up to 6 months inside!
Below, Frank, Tony, Al, Alice, Theo and Tony stand outside a sacred Baobab tree which we visited on another trek.
Millett is a common crop of the area and is made into millet beer. Above, Tony and Sam share a gourd of it, wondering if it might be a little more palatable cold! We watched 2 locals down a gourd, drinking simultaneously from the same vessel, but didn’t manage to pull off this same feat ourselves!
Below, Jason climbs up to look inside a grain storage hut on the roof of a house, which is partitioned inside for different crops. A bell on it’s rain hat stopped thieves getting inside without waking the household who would sleep nearby for security.
Another short drive took us to Pendjari National Park, part of the WAP complex, the largest protected wildlife zone in West Africa. We boarded a couple of 4×4’s for a bumpy and dusty day of wildlife viewing.
We were lucky enough to see buffalo, water-buck, warthog, jackals, crocodiles, antelope, many different types of bird, and numerous herds of elephants. At our first coffee stop we were treated to a rather special encounter with a group of elephants that wandered right past us. We also visited a pool where we saw many hippos up close.
Below, Tracey, Janet and Sam were getting as dusty as possible on the game drives!
From Pendjari we headed across the border to Burkina Faso and after a great bush camp we stopped in Fada where, above, Al is in front of the signs. Here we encountered a major problem…no eggs! Jase and Al were both very concerned about the next few breakfasts!
We then travelled west to Bobo Dioulasso, home to skilled artisans and a fantastic live music scene. Some of the group visited the impressive domes de Fabedougou (above) and the nearby Karfiguela waterfalls.
The trip ended all to soon in Ouagadougou, but we’ll be back in Burkina Faso very soon to explore further on our current Accra to Freetown trip.
Many thanks to some of the passengers for allowing us to use their photos we very much appreciate it!
Our first trip of the season started in Dakar a few weeks ago after the long drive down from the UK. It’s great to be back in the region we know and love so well and running trips again after so long away due to the sad events of the past year!
A warm welcome to Janet, Wendy, Kathy, John, Theo, Tim, Mehmet, Baz, Sam, Martin, Steve, Ray, Roy and Adrian, it’s great to have you with us! Above are shots taken on Ile Goree, which many of our passengers visited as a day trip from Dakar.
Not far from Dakar we passed this truck being towed along. It looks like it’s seen better days and the truck towing him didn’t look to have been having a much easier time of it either! Fortunately the driver didn’t appear to have been hurt in the crash.
The first truck lunch of many to come! An easy drive day bought us to our first bush camp, and the first night of torrential overnight rain. It ought to have finished raining a few weeks ago, but the rains this year have come late and are lasting longer than normal. We’re hoping the dry season we plan our trips around comes soon. C’est l’Afrique!
Gambia is split in half by the River Gambia, and with no bridges over it, a lengthy wait for a ferry is an inevitable part of overland travel here.
Tendaba Camp is a real highlight of the time we spend in The Gambia, with a great selection of birds viewed from the camp and on the numerous boat trips our passengers took. A comfortable spot to settle into the relaxed pace of life!
Konteh Kunda School of Music have only just opened, and we were delighted to be one of their first groups to visit. Established to celebrate and promote the Griot tradition and musical talent, and to provide a school for foreign students, we were overwhelmed by the warmth of the welcome we received and the energy of the music and dancing we witnessed. Above and below are shots of a Kora and Balafon performance soon after our arrival.
We danced for much of the evening to Djembe drumming, before witnessing an indoor performance from the family. Several of us also took part in Kora lessons.
A short drive down to the Casamance region saw us back with Simon and Khady in Abene. It was great to be back after so long and to see everybody again, and the Koumpo dance we witnessed on the first evening was as stunning as it has ever been!
The Koumpo is a forest spirit, particularly feared by local children, and often used to warn those in a village who may have digressed, such as children picking mangoes too early. A spike comes out of the Koumpo’s head, which he plants into the ground and spins around on – a truly stunning sight to witness!
Kafountine is a busy fishing port that attracts workers from far and wide. Dozens of boats come in on a good day, and the men unloading the fish are paid per crate, which explains their frenzied pace of work!
Some of the catch is sent to market by refrigerated truck, but the vast majority is smoked, or salted and air dried. Dried fish provides a main protein source for many of the countries which make up West Africa.
The beach in Abene gave a great afternoon’s relaxing, and Jase and Baz managed a quick surf!
Another night in Abene and another night of great music and dancing! We were joined by the same stilt dancer who’d given our previous groups such a great performance 18 months ago, but this time with a new costume he’d just finished making!
After a short stop in the main city of Casamance, Ziguinchor, we were back to the coast, visiting local villages by boat, looking for wildlife, and enjoying stunning sunsets.
We’re now in Bissau city, as relaxed and friendly as ever, enjoying some rest and western luxuries before the rough road east into Guinea begins. The heavy rains won’t have helped the roads, but should make for some stunning waterfalls!
Many thanks to Tim, Theo, Baz and Wendy for letting us share some of their photos!
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.