Home Travels Africa

WanderLearn with Francis Tapon's Facebook PageFrancis Tapon's TwitterWanderLearn's general RSS
Connect with Francis!

Would you like see my 40-minute video of Traversing Spain Twice for free? Or how about getting four chapters of The Hidden Europe? And chapter 2 of Hike Your Own Hike? Get them all when you sign up for my bi-monthly newsletter below! I won't share your email with anyone. I hate spam too, so you can easily unsubscribe.

Email

Banner

Africa

Support The Unseen Africa Kickstarter Project

Watch the video below and press the "K" in the upper left corner to learn more.

On March 5, 2013, I started a four-year adventure that take me across all 54 countries in Africa. Yes, even the crappy ones. The journey is called The Unseen Africa. To get updates on the voyage, subscribe to my newsletter (on the right), and don't worry, you can easily unsubscribe.

Find out my last known location.

Africa54 mapAfrica54 map
Move your mouse over image or click to enlarge

What are your goals?

  1. Visit every country in Africa.
  2. Film it to make a documentary / TV show about it.
  3. Write a book about Africa's unseen sides.
  4. Get a tan.

What's your general travel plan?

Follow the red line on the MAP on the right (move your mouse over the map to zoom into a section). I started in Morocco. I've gone through West Africa. I'm now going through Central Africa until I reach South Africa. Then I'll travel up through East Africa, eventually traversing North Africa (making sure to hit all the countries in between).

The red line gives you a rough idea of our journey's path. It crosses all the countries in Africa. Realistically, I will make adjustments, so don't analyze the red line too carefully. Still, it's been accurate so far.

I expect my real journey to be far less efficient, with lots of backtracking and circuitous ways to a destination. For example, just because the red line doesn't go to East Angola doesn't mean we won't go there. The only promise is that I will try to visit every country. If I follow the red line, I'll do just that.

The Unseen Africa Logo

How will you document the journey?

My Assistant Director of Photography is always on my back! Photo taken in the Gambia.Four ways:

  1. Write a book. Just like I wrote a book about my 3-year trip to all 25 Eastern European countries, I will write a book about this 4-year trip to all 54 African countries.
  2. Film it. I am producing one made-for-TV pilot episode about the first country (Morocco). If that goes well, then there will be more episodes. The TV show (and book) will be called The Unseen Africa. I'm currently looking to team up with a video production company to turn the journey into a TV show. If you have contacts regarding this, let me know.
  3. Blog. I'll be blogging about once a month. (I'm not a hyper-blogger. I save my writing energy for my books.)
  4. Share photos on Facebook and tweet whenever possible.

Will you travel on foot everywhere?

No. Although I've backpacked 20,000 km (12,500 miles) in the mountains, Africa has two things that make it unattractive to walk across. First, it's mind-bogglingly big. Consider the following facts:

  • The island of Madagascar is bigger than California.
  • The combined territory of just three countries (Sudan, South Sudan, and Congo) is over half the size the USA, including Alaska.
  • The combined land of Algeria and Egypt are the same size as all of Western Europe combined (including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Greece)!

In short, Africa is bigger than your backyard.

Second, Africa has vast flat areas. As I learned on El Camino Santiago, I don't like flat. To top it off, it is often murderously hot in much of Africa. Imagine walking 10,000 km in hot, dry, flat deserts. I can barely imagine it. No thanks.

I will climb peaks and trek through jungles as much as possible. I'd love to get to highest peak of every country. Although most are rather short, the logistics of getting to many of them will be a nightmare. Still, it is a great excuse to go to rarely seen places.

Sahara Desert in Morocco with Francis Tapon's Canon XF 300 for the Unseen Africa

Will you have a vehicle?

The Santana Anibal in a remote part of Guinea Bissau Yes. In Spain bought a rugged Santana Anibal 4x4 SUV. I put it on a ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar so that the journey can start in Morocco.

There are many downsides to having a car, including:

  • Worrying where to park it and what to leave in it.
  • Unable do a one-way trek - you always have to get back to the car.
  • Border crossings are more expensive - bribes, fees, insurance, and hassle increase dramatically.
  • You're in a bubble: when you take public transportation or hitchhike, you interact with the people, which is my biggest joy in traveling. A car isolates you from that.
  • Africa's road conditions are unforgiving, so maintaining the vehicle will be expensive.
  • A car encourages you to take too much crap.
On the other hand, the benefits more than offset the downsides:
  • You can break the "bubble problem" by picking up hitchhikers, thereby interacting with the locals. I've picked up over 1,000 African hitchhikers in the first 9 months.
  • Compared to African public transportation, you can cover at least 5 times more ground in the same time and get to places that are hard to access. Taxis and hitchhiking options are sometimes non-existent.
  • Sleeping options expand: you drive to remote locations to camp or find couchsurfing hosts that are not on the public transportation routes.
  • You can comfortably carry the heavy camera equipment that's necessary to shoot a TV show.

If it's too much of a headache, I can always sell it. 

What is your rough schedule like?

  • 2013: West Africa
  • 2014: Central Africa
  • 2015: Southern Africa
  • 2016: East Africa
  • 2017: North Africa
As the map shows on the top of this page shows, I started in Morocco. I will go counter-clockwise around Africa and finish in Algeria. I will not leave the continent *even for a day) until 2017 (unless I get an offer I can't refuse).

How much time will you spend in each country?

I plan to spend, on average, one month in each country. That's not a lot of time, given that many of the countries are enormous. With 54 countries, that's about four years.

Why not skip some countries to spend more time in others? That's unacceptable to my goal of seeing all the countries of the world. Of course, I would love to spend more time exploring, but most people spend less than 2 weeks in one corner of Africa in their once-in-a-lifetime trip. I'm lucky that I can spend 4 years.

Also, one-month-per-country is an average. For example, I may only spend 3 days in Sierra Leone or Somalia, but spend 2 months in Morocco or South Africa.

Exploring Africa's ancient kingdoms will be fascinating

What will slow you down?

If I find an idyllic spot, I will stay there for a couple of months to focus on my book and catch up on my digital life.

Won't you get robbed?

Yes, it's part of the budget. I plan to be robbed three times.

I'll look at the theft as a contribution to the African economy. The thief will spend the money he gets from me in Africa. That money will trickle into the economy when the thief buys anything. That money will help whoever provides that good or service to the thief. Seen in that light, getting ripped off in Africa won't feel so bad--it's a form of charity!

UPDATE: So far on the trip, I was bulgarized once in Cape Verde. Lost about $2,500. So I plan to get robbed two more times. 

Are you afraid?

A little. Some worry that I will be killed by some random guy, or get eaten by a lion, or die from a disease. Although I am pretty sure that I will be robbed and get sick at least once, what worries me the most is dying in a car accident. I've never been to Africa, but I know they drive like they have death wishes.

Also, thanks to Barack Obama's Kenyan background, no other region in the world loves America as much as Sub-Saharan Africa. That should translate into friendly treatment there. On the other hand, no other region in the world dislikes America as much as Islamic countries, which dominate North Africa. I'm not afraid, but in some places I will be cautious, just like I would be in parts of America and Europe.

"What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money." - George Leigh Mallory, who died trying to be the first person to summit Mt. Everest

How will you avoid the war-torn regions?

Go around them. Most African countries dwarf European ones. If war rages in Mali, for example, you just have to avoid the hot-spots. Although that hot-spot may be as big as Italy, when the whole country is as big as Western Europe, it's easy to avoid "Italy." Also, I may just peek in the country for a day (like Somalia) to minimize the risk.

How often will I connect digitally?

Perhaps a couple of times a week. As the map below illustrates, most Africans don't have Internet at home. The African country with the highest percentage of people with Internet at home was Algeria. However, even there, less than half (48%) had it in 2012. Iceland had the world's highest Internet penetration rate (94%). Meanwhile, when Gallup surveyed 1,000 random people in Guinea, for example, nobody had Internet at home. 

Map showing what percentage of people have Internet at home in each country

Obviously, this is all changing quickly. Not only are Internet penetration rates rising fast, but nearly every African has a mobile phone. Soon they will upgrade to smart phones (or tablets) with Internet access. So while they may not have a PC at home, by 2017 many will have mobile Internet access.

Still, Africa is about 10 years behind the developed world. Therefore, I suspect that wifi will be rare outside of cities. This may mean that I will go for a couple of weeks without Internet. 

I'm used to that: when I was writing my book on Eastern Europe, I spent just one hour per week on the Internet for an entire year. While I walked across America twice, I checked email even less often during that seven-month period. Also, my mom is used to not hearing me for weeks. She doesn't like it, but that's what may happen.

Fortunately for my mom (and anyone else who wants to stalk me), Delorme has given me their InReach device which can track my movement.

Finally, I think travelers who spend so much time being digitally connected while they're traveling are doing themselves and the places they are visiting a disservice. They need to present and immersed in their environment. If you have one foot in digital land, then you're not truly 100% in the environment. Unplugging is good.

How will you travel?

I rough it more than most. I love doing it because it gives me a good perspective of the real people and culture, and it also lets you travel for longer. Therefore, couchsurfing and camping will be my first choice, while hostels/hotels will be my last resort option. As the map below illustrates, couchsurfing is sparce, but I'm sure random strangers will invite me to sleep in their backyard.

Couchsurfing map of the world

Will you take planes?

Only as a last resort. For example, it might be much cheaper to get to Africa's island nations (e.g., Comoros, Seychelles, Madagascar) by plane instead of by boat. 

Can I come along?

I am happy to meet travelers along the way. Above you'll find a vague schedule. Unfortunately, I probably won't make it much more specific than that since I like to improvize while I travel. However, certain visas may dictate a few fixed dates along the way. Once the trip gets started, check this page and my Twitter or Facebook status. You can see the last place where I've checked in on my satellite map. If it looks like our paths could cross, then contact me. 

Are there really 54 countries in Africa?

Yes, there are 54 countries in Africa (South Sudan became an official country in 2011). There are also two quasi-states, Somaliland (a separatist region in Somalia) and Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (a separatist region in Western Sahara) that dream of become independent countries. Finally, there's Cabinda, Angola's exclave, which is attached to Congo. I intend to visit the quasi-states too because I don't want to have someone tell me a year or two after my long voyage that I "missed one." An easy way to tell someone about this page is to point them to Africa54.com.

Why the world needs a book about what we can learn about Africa

This video below spoofs the fact that the average person doesn't know much about Africa. What are 3 differences between Niger and Nigeria or Algeria and Angola? By the end of my future book, you should know. Enjoy the video...

If you have questions about this trip, I prefer that you post the question on my forum so that I don't have to answer it multiple times.



Kickstarter for The Unseen Africa TV Pilot Episode

If you do just one thing for me this year, please tell everyone you know (and a few you don't know) about The Unseen Africa Kickstarter Project, which launches today, Africa Day (May 25)!
Below you'll find the Kickstarter video, its current fund raising status, and links to blogs that have covered the project.

Status of The Unseen Africa Kickstarter Project

⋆ The Unseen Africa TV Series - The pilot episode: Morocco -- Kicktraq Mini

Press Release

Man Traveling Nonstop to All 54 African Countries Over 4 Years
The Unseen Africa TV Series Announced on Africa Day on Kickstarter

May 25, 2014 - Agadez, Niger - To celebrate Africa Day adventure travel writer Francis Tapon is announcing the production of a new TV series called The Unseen Africa.

Tapon, who is traveling nonstop to all 54 African countries over four years, will host the show. In addition to capturing Africa's unseen parts, he plans to summit the tallest mountain of every African country.

Tapon said, "This ground-breaking travel TV series will reveal the sides of Africa that CNN and National Geographic never show."

The Unseen Africa will move beyond the standard images of Africa (war, wildlife, poverty, and pyramids). Instead, it will capture the everyday life of Africans and also show how 21st century Africa is different than how most Westerners imagine it.

Tapon said, "Besides going to unseen parts in Kenya, Morocco, and South Africa, we will go to African countries that rarely appear on TV such as Benin, Guinea Bissau, and Comoros."

To make the show's pilot episode, Tapon has created The Unseen Africa Kickstarter project, which aims to raise $20,000. The campaign launches May 25 and lasts 30 days.

Tapon started his African journey in Morocco and has spent the last year in West Africa. He plans to finish in North Africa in 2017. He has walked across America four times, written two travel books, and has visited nearly 100 countries.

Contacts
Public Relations: Zorica Loncar This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Creator/Host: Francis Tapon This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  
http://TheUnseenAfrica.com | http://Facebook.com/FTapon
http://Twitter.com/FTapon | http://Google.com/+FrancisTapon

Press Coverage of The Unseen Africa Kickstarter Project

The Unseen Africa Logo

Below is a list of the bloggers who have written about the project or where I've written a guest post. If you'd like to get on this list, write about the project and we'll add a link to your page!

Video and Audio podcasts

Bernie Wild at Practical Backpacking interviewed me. There's as bonus audio available about how you can finance your adventures.

Script Magazine highlighted us by featuring a 45-min video podcast that talks about the unseen parts about The Unseen Africa.


 

The Amateur Traveler's popular podcast discusses the Western Sahara and my journey there: 

Extra Pack of Peanuts podcast:  

Unseen Africa with Francis Tapon - This Week in Travel #166

Read more... [Kickstarter for The Unseen Africa TV Pilot Episode]
 

Role of Women in Morocco Podcast

Download my first radio dispatch from Africa for WBAI radio in NYC

It's a 7-minute (7 MB) report on the role of women in Morocco.

Notice the woman in this Moroccan tent is away from the men in the corner. Francis is in the corner with Soufianne.

Notice the woman in this Moroccan tent is away from the men in the corner. I'm drinking tea in the corner with Soufianne, my cameraman, who is wearing an orange sweatshirt.

 

9 Tips For Travelling to Africa

African women preparing foodThis sponsored post is by Nadav Ziv:

Africa is a land of mystique and adventure. Even in today's world, where Instagram and Facebook have brought people together like never before, Africa remains one of the few places on Earth where there are huge territories over which no communication with the outside world exists. Yet, for the intrepid traveller, Africa is that frontier which needs courage, curiosity and passion.

If you are planning on taking a trip into the continent from where man started out, there quite a few things that you would need to taken into account. You should always do your research about the place that you are going to. Essential things like travel arrangements and accommodation should be taken care of.

As for accommodation, one interesting option is that of renting a holiday apartment. Many travellers are opting for these instead of the usual hotels. The USP of renting a short term apartment is that it gives you the feel of having a home away from home. Vacation rentals can work out to be more cost effective as well (learn more).

While travelling to Africa, here are 9 tips to keep in mind...

Read more... [9 Tips For Travelling to Africa]
 

Morocco: Street Food or Cafes & Restaurants?

This Guest Post is by The Travel Dude:

Morocco Street Food 1When it comes to culture, religion, music and food, one of the best places to visit is Morocco.

The streets of Marrakesh, the Moroccan Capital are filled with street food options to high end cafes and restaurants providing you with a taste of local cuisine.

From dry tagines to perfumed fruit bowels, there is a huge range of local cuisine readily available at numerous food stalls on streets of Marrakesh. Beside many other attractions in Morocco, the local food and taste was one of my major inspirations during my stay.

I enjoyed both, the street food stalls and local cafes and restaurants some even designed for only foreigners. Both have different advantages and a different taste to offer.

  • In a restaurant you might have a chance to choose food from a large menu of local cuisine.
  • At food stall, your choices are limited, but you may find a completely different scenario if you are at any of the city’s food street with almost hundreds of stalls offering different foods.

The top chefs of local food are known as dadas, the housewives and female home cooks who were only cooking for their families few years ago. However, now with the developing interest of travelers into the local cuisine (especially ones cooked by a dada) more and more housewives came out to offer their dishes in small food stalls and boutique raid hotels. Most of the top restaurants also hired dadas for local cuisine while the other chefs cook the foreign dishes.

Read more... [Morocco: Street Food or Cafes & Restaurants?]
 

Are Nomads Running Away From Something?

I'm in a car running away from the camera. But I'm running TO the middle of nowhere, which is where I like to be.While I'm traveling all 54 African countries, the two most common questions I get in my email inbox are:

1. “Where are you?”

2. “How can you afford to travel so much?”

(Click the question to find the answer.)

Far less often, someone will try to play Freud with me and say that all my travel indicates that I’m “running away from something.”

In fact, Ryan Holiday, a guest blogger for Tim Ferriss, wrote that "most travelers . . . are fleeing themselves and the lives they’ve created. Or worse, they’re telling themselves that they’re after self-discovery, exploration or new perspectives when really they are running towards distraction and self-indulgence."

Bullshit.

If I'm running away from anything, it's that I'm running away from things I don't enjoy that much, like:

Read more... [Are Nomads Running Away From Something?]
 
<< Start < Prev 1 2 Next > End >>

Page 1 of 2

Before you make a comment, know that:

  • If you use a fake name, like "Cheap Hotels," you'll get deleted. 
  • Those who put self-serving links in their text will also get deleted. 
  • To include a link, put it in your name when you fill out the form. 


If you like this article and website, then please donate something! You'll get a gift in exchange!