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My friend and author, Francis Tapon, has been traveling around Africa for the past year. While I was sailing up the west coast of Africa this year, he had been traveling across similar territory by land.
Given how different our trips were, I thought it would be interesting for Francis to compare his observations about Africa with mine. Although his experience in Africa has been much more extensive, we’ve come to similar conclusions about some things, and very different conclusions about others.
He has also begun a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the pilot episode of the Unseen Africa TV show. All money raised will go directly to the production of the pilot.
Take it away, Francis….
Although Gary and I explored West Africa around the same time (he went through a few months after I did), our experiences were radically different. So it’s understandable that we sometimes reached different conclusions. It’s equally remarkable that we often agree with each other. What follows is a comparison of our two trips through West Africa, with a focus on three West African countries.
But first, a bit of background on how Gary and I met. Probably like you, I first bumped into Gary in cyberspace. Soon thereafter, I was on his “This Week in Travel” show to discuss the sexiest country ever: Moldova.
Latitude: 30° 25.2′ N
Longitude: 9° 37.72′ W
Our arrival in Morocco marks the last day of our trip.
Most of the countries we visited on this tour had very low numbers of tourists. Morocco was one of the exceptions. Because of that, I assumed that going through customs and immigration for Morocco would be the easiest of the entire trip, especially considering we did it just 2 days earlier when we landed in Dakhla.
I was mistaken.
Day 29-30, West African Cruise – At Sea, Off the Coast of Morocco / Punta del Rosario, Fuerteventura, Canary Islands
Latitude: 28° 29.64′ N
Longitude: 013° 51.49′ W
I’ve decided to merge these two days because our visit to Fuerteventura was the shortest of all our ports of call. We had limited time on the island because the ship had to get to Agadir, Morocco the next day at a set time.
I had previously visited the Canary Islands in 2011 and it was a great experience. I visited most of the islands, but never got to El Hiro and Fuerteventura, so our stop on the island was interesting to me in that it was one of the few islands in the Canaries which I hadn’t visited.
Latitude: 23° 50.5338′ N
Longitude: 15° 51.4997′ W
No one knew what to expect in Western Sahara. Last year, the West Africa trip ended in Senegal, so even the staff didn’t know what to expect. It isn’t a place that most people even know about, and the name doesn’t really lend itself to much more than sand.
Before I get into the details of what we did, however, I think a bit of backstory about Western Sahara is in order.
Latitude: 21° 05.20′ N
Longitude: 17° 51.30′ W
As the cruise is winding down, I thought it was worth it to take a moment to talk about the passengers on the ship.
Prior to boarding the ship in Cape Town, I suspected that the other passengers would be well traveled people. West Africa isn’t the sort of trip a first time traveler takes.
My suspicions were right.
Latitude: 14° 41.7956’ N
Longitude: 17° 27.9840’ W
In Senegal, we were given two different options. The first was to visit the Bandia Reserve and have lunch at the Pink Lake. The second option was a tour of the city and a trip to Goree Island.
The day started in central Dakar where the government buildings are located. This part of Dakar is one of the nicest areas we’ve seen on the entire trip and was on a par, or surpassed, Accra, Ghana. It had the feel of a French Colonial city and was quite clean. Unlike what we found in Sao Tome and other countries, you could take actually photos of the guards in front of the presidential palace!
Latitude: 13° 18.1922’ N
Longitude: 16° 36.9651’ W
The Gambia is the smallest non-island country in Africa. It is also one the rare countries which borders only one other country: Senegal. In fact, on a map, The Gambia looks like a finger being stuck down the throat of Senegal (if you don’t believe me, go look at a map!)
Carved from the area immediately surrounding both banks of the Gambia river by the British, the Gambia marks a significant turn for the trip. From our previous stop in Sierra Leone, we’ve moved closer to the Sahara. The population is significantly (but not yet exclusively) Muslim, the landscape is drier and, unlike Sierra Leone, The Gambia actually has tourists.