Angola Avante: Kayak the KwanzaPosted: May 23, 2016
On June 3rd, Oscar Scafidi and Alfred Weston will embark on 1,100 kilometer kayaking expedition along Angola’s Kwanza River from almost the center of the country to the capitol, Luanda on the Atlantic Ocean. This will be the first source-to-mouth expedition of the Kwanza and Oscar and Alfred will be using the trip to raise awareness about Angola generally and support the HALO Trust specifically.
Oscar is a travel writer whose Bradt Angola guide I will be leaning heavily on during my own trip to Angola. Alfred works for a company that provides specialized services to the oil and gas sector.
After hearing about their trip and reading of their relationship with the HALO Trust (see Oscar’s post here about his visit to HALO’s work site), I reached out to them to learn more:
1. Why did you choose the Kwanza as the river for your trip?
I (Oscar) lived and worked in Angola for five years between 2009 and 2014, and in 2013 wrote the Bradt Travel Guide to Angola (Second Edition). Alfy (Alfred Weston) has been in Angola for the past two and a half years. Angola seems like the natural choice, and the Kwanza is Angola’s longest river! Also, this is a charity expedition to raise money for The HALO Trust’s demining work, and Angola is one of the most mine-affected countries in Africa.
2. What is the state of eco- and adventure tourism in Angola?
Angola has a great deal of unrealised potential in the eco and adventure tourism sector. The country has a huge Atlantic coastline with excellent surf and fishing opportunities as well as a diverse interior of tropical forests, mountains, desert and bush. The government is also keen to promote growth in the tourism sector, to help diversify the economy away from oil-dependence. However, change is coming quite slowly. It is still a difficult country to get a tourism visa for, and prices are high once you arrive. Despite this, there are a few excellent independent operators such as Eco-Tur and Angolan Adventure Safaris who can help you put together an amazing experience.
3. Where does “Getting eaten by crocodile” rank in your list of concerns about this trip?
To be honest, “getting eaten by a crocodile” is quite low on our list of worries.
What are your biggest concerns?
Safety is the number one priority. Our main aim is to finish the 1,100km journey safely. To this end we have spoken to a number of experts who have worked in this type of environment, including the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project, who have explored over 1,500 miles of river systems in southern Africa. The main concern in the early stretches is hippos, who can be very aggressive and territorial if surprised. The logistics of accessing medical assistance in such remote locations have also been a challenge, and we are very grateful for the support of the Bié Provincial Authorities as well as International SOS in this regard. Although hippos and crocodiles sound a lot more exciting, I think statistically the biggest risk to the trip is of one of us contracting malaria or another insect-borne disease, so we have to avoid bites wherever possible and be sure to take our anti-malarials!
4. Your preparations (sponsors, equipment, training, website) has been extensive: What has been the most challenging? What has been the most rewarding?
Getting the kit list together and persuading sponsors to hand over equipment has been very difficult, but I think the most challenging thing has to have been the physical training. Kayaking is a very demanding sport, and we have undertaken a pretty intensive schedule to make sure we are ready in June. Hiking with a 20kg rucksack has also been no fun! Having said this, it is great to be able to measure our progress, both in term of kayaking ability and donations to the cause!
5. Had you always intended to use this trip to support a charity?
Yes, we thought that this was such a unique experience that it would be a waste not to use it to benefit a charity. And what better charity than The HALO Trust, who are already busy working in many of the remote areas of Angola that we plan to kayak through?
6. What is the link between your trip and your support for the HALO Trust?
In 2012 I travelled all over Angola to write the second edition of the Bradt Travel Guide to Angola. I had to visit all 18 provinces, and during my time in Bié and Cuando Cubango provinces I was able to see for myself what a huge problem land mines cause for the local communities. It was then that I decided that it was important to support charities working on landmine removal in Angola.
7. What has been the most important contribution from the HALO Trust to your trip?
The HALO Trust has proven invaluable in our preparations for the trip. They have offered everything from transportation and accommodation in-country as well as route advice and other logistics support. I think their help and advice on emergency medical evacuation has probably been the most important contribution, as we would not feel comfortable undertaking the journey without a proper support network in place.
8. How can others support the HALO Trust?
The best way to support The HALO Trust is to make a donation online, via our JustGiving page. Also, you can help to spread the word about our expedition by following us on Twitter, sharing our content on Facebook and reading our blog posts on WordPress.
Good luck to Oscar and Alfy!
Michael P. Moore
May 22, 2016
moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org