Matusadona National Park, Zimbabwe

Posted on September 9th, 2011 in General,MAPA expeditions,New Content by Administrator

Every week Peter Levey puts together a slideshow from our volunteers’ photos and adds them to the MAPA layer for Google Earth.

This week he put up  some images from Matusadona National Park in Zimbabwe.  These photos were taken by Willem Coetsee and the Radley family.    These guys really struggled in the mud for MAPA covering the Eastern Caprivi, southern Zambia and northern Zimbabwe just before the rainy season – actually the rainy season did catch up with them…..

 

Download the whole MAPA layer for Google Earth here and navigate to Matusadona, or download this small file and just Matusadona National Park will open up on Google Earth.  When you expand the park bubble, remember to click on “Click here to see more detail….” to see the slideshow!

 

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Mining & Making Maps: MAPA winter newsletter

Spring has set in in the southern hemisphere and here at MAPA we’re suitably excited about some budding new developments.  Here is our latest newsletter:

A searchable map of conservation actions and areas in Africa

In our ongoing quest to make conservation more visible and accessible, we set ourselves the task this year to, amongst other things, make it easier to find information about protected areas and conservation projects in Africa. We also wanted to find more ways that conservation scientists and practitioners could use the MAPA project database and conservation map for their own benefit.

So it was with great excitement that we released the first version of a searchable, browser-based map to compliment our existing Google Earth layer to a small group of test users last month.  After fixing some bugs and making a few changes, we are even more excited to make a this map publically available as of today. Go to maps.mapaproject.org to start exploring!

We’ll tell you more about the map and how you can use it for your organisation or project in a separate blog post, but, in the meantime, don’t be shy to share your thoughts and suggestions.  We take these very seriously and consider each and every one!

Adding projects just got a little easier

The map of African conservation is only ever going to be as useful as the contribution from the conservation community is strong. We’ve tried to make it intuitive and easy to add a project, but we also know that a little guidance can go a long way. If you want to add your project, but you’re unsure about how to go about it, have a look at this video, and look out for more help material and tips coming your way in the coming month.

If you’ve added a few projects, and would like to have your efforts highlighted further, let us know.  We could add your organization’s efforts to featured conservation series – have a look at some of the programmes and projects highlighted so far.

Making many meaningful maps

It’s so much easier to communicate conservation challenges and efforts when one has a visual representation of the environmental context within with these take place.   Here at MAPA we’re very fond of Google’s Geo tools not only because it provides just such a visual platform, but also because it comes with really easy-to-use tools that can be used to add other layers and perspectives to that platform to guide understanding about pressing issues and activities.   Our map is one such annotation, but there are also many other ways that these tools could be utilised to make conservation more visible.

For this reason we decided to compliment what we do with the MAPA database and map with hands-on Google Geo tools workshops for conservation practitioners.   Not only do these workshops offer us an opportunity to connect and collaborate with the scientists, managers and environmentalists that look after Africa’s priceless natural heritage, but they allow us a way to help visualise conservation far beyond what we can do with our map alone. And they also happen to be quite fun.

After a fortnight of slightly experimental and (we think) successful workshops in Cape Town and Stellenbosch earlier this year, we found ourselves travelling to Arusha, Tanzania in June to run more of these trainings as a side-event to the ATBC/SCB Africa conference.   Read more about our time in Tanzania and, if you reside in the northern regions of South Africa, look out for an announcement later this month …

Google Geo tools series

In the short time that we’ve been running Google Geo tools workshops, we’ve picked up on particular topics that a lot of participants have an interest in or difficulty with, and as part of an effort to follow up with these participants, we’ve started a new (more or less) fortnightly series on our blog.

We superficially touched on using short, simple Google Earth tours in the first blog post in this series and two weeks ago wrote about using Google Earth without an internet connection in publications and presentations.  Look out for a blog post on GPS collar track data next week and more on teaching Google Earth to others in your organisation and using Fusion tables to share data sets later this quarter.  Are there any pressing topics you would like to read about? Suggest one, and we might just write about it.

More memories of our mapping missions

We’re no longer driving around Africa’s protected areas, but we do still have plenty of memories to share.  We add new albums to our Facebook page from time to time and we’ve been adding slideshows to various protected areas on our Google Earth/browser-based map, which we’ve started to highlight on our blog.

Richard Hugo getting some high-tech directions in Angola

To celebrate the end of our mapping expeditions we’ve put together a bumper slideshow of some of our volunteering adventures from across the continent.   We leave you with these memories until next quarter!

 

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Kafue National Park, Zambia

Posted on September 2nd, 2011 in General,MAPA expeditions,New Content by Administrator

Every week Peter Levey puts together a slideshow from our volunteers’ photos and adds them to the MAPA layer for Google Earth.

This week he put up  some images from Kafue National Park in Zambia.  These photos were taken by volunteers Andy Welch and Geoff Jones while they were travelling in the little known, southern portion of this massive park – one of the largest in Southern Africa.    We will add some images from the better known northern circuit in due course.

Andy and Geoff live in Zambia and we were lucky to have their local contacts when they ran into mechanical problems in the heart of Kafue.

Zambia is a fantastic country to travel in overland, with no shortage of really wild big game experiences.

Download the whole MAPA layer for Google Earth here and navigate to Kafue, or download this small file and just Kafue National Park will open up on Google Earth.  When you expand the park bubble, remember to click on “Click here to see more detail….” to see the slideshow!

 

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End of the volunteer mapping adventure….

Posted on July 19th, 2011 in General,MAPA expeditions by Administrator

Many of you will know that MAPA started with a volunteer programme, sending teams out with Garmin GPS units to map parks and reserves across Africa. Having driven through southern, east, west and bits of central Africa over the last two and half years, we have finally closed the programme.

We really struggled in west Africa this year with weather and politics making our routing almost impossible to get right and sadly we had to cancel some volunteer trips. We got the data but it wasn’t easy and there wasn’t as much to map as we had hoped. To cap it all, by the time the last two cars in the field had reached northern Senegal, north Africa was too unstable to go any further. We will tackle it again at some stage.

The important thing is that everyone got home safely and the maps of African conservation areas keep getting better. I am enormously grateful to everyone who went out for us – none of the trips was easy and some where downright tricky.

So, this is a big thank you to everyone who took part. It has been very exciting – lots of laughs and a few tears. One marriage in Vic Falls, a brush with disaster in Malawi, lots of malaria, a little snake bite, plenty of beer and tons of photos. I have been hunting through for pics of all of you and I am sure that I am missing some – if you aren’t in here somewhere please send me a mugshot or two and I will add them!

MAPA has been using two Land Cruisers for the last year and they recently arrived home at Cape Town harbour, a month after leaving Dakar, Senegal – very battered but still running. They are both in hospital at the moment – JB’s Autos for normal mechanical work and Burnco for engineering. They should live to fight another day.

As you can see from our other posts, MAPA does much more than mapping on the ground but this was how we started and hopefully the maps will help plenty of other people travel overland to new destinations. All the data we collected has been added to the excellent GPS and paper maps produce by Tracks4Africa.

So, who has any idea how we can get the north African data any time soon……?!

Cheers
March

Bongo or Bust: Mark Eveleigh writes about MAPA in Ghana

Posted on May 2nd, 2011 in General,MAPA expeditions,Media by Alta

Travel Journalist Mark Eveleigh formed part of the recent MAPA Project expedition to Ghana.  He wrote several blog entries for MAPA during this time (read them here) and more recently published an article about their trip in Esquire magazine:

Read the article here

Esquire

Nigeria (again….)

Posted on February 7th, 2011 in General,MAPA expeditions by Administrator

We got caught out by the weather in Nigeria this year and have had to send volunteers back to finish the mapping job that we failed to do at the end of 2010.   There  are two cars making thier way clockwise around Nigeria and they have been on the road for two weeks now.    This is a selection of their mails back to base…..

2 February 2011

Hey March…

We are now in Gashaka Gumpti Park, in the Gashaka Primate Project…lovely site with a very dedicated German Professor Detlev Sommer, which provides us cheap accomodation and 24h solar and Gen electricity (probably the only place in all of Nigeria) so we can keep up with all our data transfer. someone will prob write a blog for you.

Talking of energy supply…we are having a very hard time with both car’s electrics for the last ten days. Two of the three Inverters are not working anymore. Also one of the major fuses for the trunk electricity box in the 105 burnt, fortunately did not hit the freezer, but the split cable for the other plugs. so we only have the main cigarette lighter in the 105.

Greg and Don took the two inverters apart, replaced the fans and did everything possible but they wouldnt start working again. The remaining one is on and off…so at times we can charge our stuff, but we must plan well and can only work on the computers and recharge in shifts, which is sometimes very difficult timewise and when we are bush camping. Some days it does not work at all.

That means, we would not be able to split and store data at the moment …which is not the problem in the next few days, but might become an issue once we go north where we possibly split.

Will tell you about our new plans just now.

So basically, we needed at least one reliable inverter, two would be better. I guess, we can get them in Kano, where we possible will do the car lubrication. If not, we can either wait for the english to bring some good ones from England or we need some flown in from SA or GER.

I read in our two Bradts Guides (Africa Overland and Nigeria) that the BF embassy is in Lagos, not in Abuja…can you please check on the internet if that is correct or not? Thanks.

If so, we would have to go to Lagos, which again we wouldnt but would skip Abuja and cross Nigeria in the North straight through Kamuku and Kainji/Old Oyo to the Benin Border and get Visas at the BF Border. Going to Quaga is not a problem, since we drop Greg and Don anyway.

1 February 2011

Hi March

We are in Afi Drill rnch right now, it took us most of the day to get here. A really incredible place. I have a meeting with the guys here tommorow morning at Eight. there is a man named Peter Jenkins who runs it an knows about MAPA, he is keen and seems to be the main guy for conservation in this region.That is Pandrillus… I’ll keep you upated.

Cercopan is a great place they have an office in Calabar and Rhoko forest, where they do communiy work, have a research forest an have a core protection area. there are maps and they are mainly GPS’d, a woman name Claire has them an a french guy name Sylvan is the man on the ground. He is sending you his processes Garmin files with the polygons of the north and south sections. We can also use the maps that Claire has done. I will email her an link her up to the MAPA team. People here are very keen on the idea, as they shoul be, and its major selling point seems to be the conservation layer, obviously. I’m unsure as yet but what are the possibilities for people linking to the MAPA site etc? i haven’t used this as a pitch yet but my sales pitch is getting very good now ( i mean the project sells itself really, i just smile)

As for the GPS points for the Goodgle datasets, there are not many as these are small areas with a bit of trekking available. No roads, no tracks, no real infrastructure. They dont conserve for tourism. REDD is quite big here, have you been in contact with them? Data is an issue for both of these but just an idea.

So Cercopan is as well mapped by Sylvan and his guys as can be, he will send all his info , land use maps etc, and i will send the maps he gave me when we reach decent internet access. Its really usefull stuff. they were funded by the Sylva foundation. I have never heard of them. I’ll cc you on the mails i send to them for the data.

Otherwise all is good, we are spending the net night here becaue its cheap and we’re getting local info and mapping what we can. We also have to rewire  parts of the 150′s accesory power cable, but we’ll let you know once its all done tom.

An amazing place out here, its heartbreaking that this is what is left though.

Keep well, we’ll keep hammering away and try get some more GPS points for you in actuall protected areas, at the moment we just seem to be driving roads to the place and then finding out that there is no infrastructure there. While Don and I go to twon tom to phone Peter, Greg eand C-baz will map the hell out of this place and wire the cars.

For the blog, our mammal list so far is growing

red flanked duiker

mona monkeys

red capped mangabey( at cercopan sanctuary)

Allans galago

Thomas’ galago

signs of elephants

signs of buffalo

tons of unidentifiable bats

niml densities and visibbility are very low.

birds are a ton, great blue turaco’s , piping hornbills, white thighed hornbill, yellow casque hornbill, african finfoot etc…

Cheers.

28 January 2011

Hi March

After having spoken to Alan Dunn w went to Cross river south, the main tourist gate. We were allowed into the park to camp, under the armed protection of two guards. that’s correct 2. they stayed up all night watching us. No idea why, they did it because they were told to. Great place but it was still in  the buffer zone. As for boundaries, they have a definite boundary which is cleared as a cutline and has beacons on it, IUCN developed it. However no one has GPS’d it that I can find out. Alan Dunn reckons it is a dangerous endeavour, you have o walk the path and apparently there is some local opposition to the line. I have also heard rumours that the line is not really enforced and there is still illegal logging etc… Anyway, boundary aside there is very little road access. We got there, to the camp and did one little track. We tried to split up to save time and costs but it just isn’t feasible or worth it. You drive for a few km and the track ends in a river. there used to be many many tracks and connections through the park, but it is all blocked by trees and the streams are impassable. As it was we reached a dodgy bridge which we didn’t cross as the guide reckons we were too heavy and I agree with him. Anyway, 500m later you reach a river back 3m high. That’s it.

the guides are well educated and keen, we had an excellent little walk with them, full of knowledge and apparently they do treks. Don spent a few hrs with the two guards and got all the info on which roads were “motorable” and which aren’t, not many are motorable. So we have cut our losses and come to Rhoko forest.

This place is definitely needed on the map. Its run by Cercopan, very good and the French manager Sylvan has GPS’s most of the trails etc. there are a number or research projects and we will try get all of the  data. I just need to chat to them about data ownership, but it doesn’t seem like a problem.

otherwise all is good, we are just needing to fix some transformer problems, nothing serious yet, but got only one left that’s working at the moment.

Regarding the further itinerary of Chris and Seb as mentioned in email to team 3, we want to submit our thoughts as well before the guys book their flights. The two of us were discussing a lot on how we could continue and maximize Data gain in these almost 16 days after both guys have left us (provided they still fly in on 15th of March).

Until now we were considering taking the two cars in a convoy to Bamako/Mali and find a safe spot for the one car to be kept for the time until the Englishmen arrive as first line solution.

Re: Ivory Coast…we are hearing different opinions on the situation in the country..some guys saying the rural north will not be a problem since stuff happens in Abidjan while others say white foreign Jeeps might provoke rage anywhere in the country as happened these weeks. To be honest, we both are very keen to see the country, but since there is so much more in that area to be done, we prefer to not take chances and leave Ivory Coast for later unless we can get solid information of some stability in the north.

Please let us know what you think.

keep well, we’ll write a longer mail about the wildlife aspects when we have more charge.

regards

23 Jan 2011

Hi March, we’ve just finished Okumo and are off to Calabar tomorrow. It’s a great little park, it’s definitely being protected and there are good people working here.

Its 72 square miles, however there is no accessible boundary road. We have driven the only road and walked the two major routes and climbed the tree house. They wouldn’t really let us split so the boys are doing some more mapping tom of the one road that takes you to the tree house. I have a map from the head of conservation which we can create a georeferenced polygon from no worries. I have a few easily observable references in a Google image or something that will make it easy to do.

I’ve sent you the track for today, only 3 waypoints, I see Seb has done 20 so I think he wins today’s challenge.

As for info on the park, in our two walks, which is the main form of activity here, very few drives are allowed or done. We saw evidence of forest elephant, no one can give me numbers as a census hasn’t been done. the only estimate I got was of  <15, I’d be surprised if it’s even that many. Similarly we saw evidence of forest buffalo, but a lone animal. We have seen a number of Mona monkeys and are assured that the endemic Nigerian white throated monkey is here too. Birds though are numerous and we’ve seen a bunch, mostly unidentifiable flits through the bushes as we go past. I saw a red flanked duiker and we have seen some bat species. As or herps, geckos and agamas, but I haven’t really been sampling. the forest itself looks pretty good, although it is small, over time it’s been subdivided and subdivided and so now it’s an island in between rubber and palm oil palms. I’m not sure how viable the large animal populations will be in the long term without intense management but as an island of biodiversity it is incredible.

On another note, this is one of the 7 National parks. Yankari is no longer federally controlled and has been downgraded to a nature reserve. It sits under state control, so I will find out when we get there the differences.

they have great facilities here, good people, really good rates… for instance camping is NgN2000 pp, but you can get a room for NgN 5000 if you so wish, they have a beautiful lodge built by a holiday chain ( Mr Hall is the name I got), since the kidnapping problem the National park leases this resort from them, but they are keen to return and Mr Pappilio is here to run it in the meantime, Great old guy from Benin who has told me the ways of the Yoruba’s peoples.

As for the park, there is a main office on the way in with good people but little resources, no digital maps, or maps ( too me 2 days to get a folded A4 sheet from the boss), but the guys running it are well educated and keen. We are obviously and anomaly as we have been the subject of many photos and posed shots. But it’s great. I’ve met the rangers and the head of education, Tourism, research, Game head protection services and the head ranger. all very keen, helpful and happy to help.

So far so good!

Volunteer Handover in Accra.

Posted on January 28th, 2011 in General,MAPA expeditions by Administrator

If you read the post about Mark Eveleigh lying in a Spanish hospital with a nasty bout of malaria, you’ll know that we have just unleashed a new crew of volunteers on West Africa.

IMG_2492

The new crew flanking Samuel and his team of roving mechanics in Accra, Ghana.  Greg is on the left, with Chris behind him.  Don is at the back on the right with Sebastian next to him.

They have a terrific  mix of skills.  Don cycled from Durban to meet with me in Cape Town (well perhaps not only for that), and when they talk about going kayaking, they mean down the Zambezi or something.  I suspect they will need all that vigour to get them through what is proving to be a tricky leg.

IMG_2497-1

Sebastian Schuhmann is a trauma surgeon from Berlin.  He is travelling with full kite-surfing gear and, if our time together in Accra is anything to go by, will be the entertainments manager for this leg.

Don Tye and Chris Barichievy are old friends from Wits university in South Africa and clearly work together well.  Don will deal with any technical problems on the trip and Chris is the guy you send in when there is a snake in your sleeping bag.

Greg Gearing was the dark horse of the crew; drafted in at the last moment, we were lucky to get him on board.  He has already proved himself in Nigeria when he stripped the fuel system on a land cruiser which had been filled with tainted diesel.

Their job is to go back to Nigeria, to finish the job that the late rainy season stopped us from completing.  Then they will head through northern Benin to Burkina Faso to map in the eastern parks.  After dropping Don and Greg off in Ouaga, Chris and Sebastian will await the arrival of Peter Maynard and Gareth Griffiths from the UK, before heading off again.  If Ivory Coast is calm they will go south, if not they will go west to Mali.

IMG_2486

They’ll be posting soon.

Cheers, March

Malaria is not to be taken lightly….

Posted on January 27th, 2011 in General,MAPA expeditions by Administrator

Mark Eveleigh has just returned to his home in Spain after doing a brilliant volunteer job, with his father Mike, for MAPA in Ghana.   His blogs are lower done on this page.

Mark is currently in hospital with a really nasty bout of malaria and we wish him all the best for a speedy recovery.

Ghana-2010-641

Mark (left) working with Steve Robinson, Mike Eveleigh and a ranger from the Ghana Wildlife Division

As far as I know, Mark’s is the third bout of malaria that we have had from MAPA trips – all of them in West Africa.  Mark is a hugely experienced traveller but sometimes those mosquitoes just get the better of you – even when you use drugs and other preventative measures.

March

MAPA Newsletter: Time for action(s)!

Posted on January 26th, 2011 in General,Get Involved!,MAPA expeditions,Newsletters,Workshops by Alta

Since our inception, the MAPA Project has strived to make African conservation more accessible and visible. When we started we did this by physically mapping protected areas and visualizing these on a map. However, conservation is not only about areas, but about what humans do or don’t do to exploit, use and protect the wildlife and ecosystems within and around them.

We’re still driving around the African continent and mapping protected areas, but during the last year we’ve also spent a lot of time defining other vehicles for making conservation more visible and accessible. We’re just about ready to send these out into the field – and we need your help! Here is our latest newsletter.

Mapping Conservation in Africa: Why we went quiet on conservation projects

When we first started pinning African conservation to a Google Earth map our intention was simply to make conservation areas and actions more visible to the world. To do this, we created a map that showed pictures, actions, blogs, videos and articles of conservation areas and actions on Google Earth. As we kept on adding protected areas and critical habitats to the map throughout last year, we also opened the map up to the conservation community because we firmly believed (and still do!) that the information on that map would only be accurate and updated if it was contributed by people in the field.

But who is this “world” that we’ve created the map for? How would they use this information? And was adding information to our database really useful to conservation practitioners? Almost as soon as we started we were forced to take a step back to answer these questions.  Working with various organizations and individuals it soon became clear to us that our database and map could, with a little restructuring, become a much more useful tool – both to conservation practitioners and the general public.

From Bubbles to Babel

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All across the world, conservation organizations are recognizing the need to share information on conservation actions so that we can learn from each other’s mistakes and successes and practice more efficient and effective conservation. That is the primary reason a partnership of organizations called the Conservation Measures Partnership came into being. One of their main roles is to standardize the way that conservation actions are categorized within project databases. The idea is simple: if we all talk the same language about what we’re doing, it becomes so much easier to share that information – and the information that matters- amongst each other.

From our perspective it seemed like a no-brainer: we were hoping to catalogue conservation actions anyway, so why not do it in a way that could make the information contained within these projects more accessible to other conservation practitioners and provide more accurate information to the general public.

We already had a place where people could go add information, we just needed to organize that a little differently and include more categories.  So for the past few months, that’s exactly what we’ve been doing. Don’t worry…we’re not compromising on looks – we will still allow you to add your project to the Google Earth map with videos, articles and pictures– but we’re also hoping to turn the map into more than just a pretty face.

Adding information is, of course, only one part of the story. The other integral part is being able to access it easily. For that reason we’re also currently working on more ways for you to search & map information from our database. We know that is difficult to find specific information from the Google Earth map and so we’re also developing a website where you can mine the database and map. We’ll keep you updated on developments!

So when will this functionality be available?

We’re getting ready to introduce a prototype of this “new” version of the MAPA Project around mid-March. Although the project will be open for contributions from across Africa, we will focus our attention on getting conservation in the Western Cape, South Africa on the map.

After that, armed with knowledge and help form our various partners, we will be developing a a more sophisticated tool that we plan to introduce to the rest of Africa, region by region, but starting with the ATBC & SCB Africa conference in Arusha, Tanzania in June 2011.

During this time, we value your input and suggestions – and if you are an organization we would love to work with you to find how we can develop the project into a useful tool for you. Please get in contact!

More workshops!

There is no question that there is an increasing need for conservation practitioners to communicate with each other, the public, funders and authorities about the work they have done and the information they have collected. Google Earth & Maps are fantastic visualization platforms for this – they’re what we use!

So as part of our drive to catalogue and visualize conservation efforts in the Western Cape, we are hosting a whole plethora of workshops in Cape Town and Stellenbosch to share ways of using Google Earth and Maps as a way to view and communicate your work.

Whether you are tired of the wrong information ending up with the public courtesy of the passionately uninformed (who usually are aware of good communication tools!) or whether you simply have a project that you need to explain to your peers or funders – we can help you.

The workshops are easy, fun and free – all that we ask in return is that you pin your work to our map.  We are offering both introductory and slightly (but, only slightly – don’t worry, we’re not programmers either!) more advanced workshops focused on Google Earth tours, Mobile data collection and Google Fusion tables. Registration is now open!

We’ll also be running workshops at the ATBC & SCB Africa Conference in Arusha in June – more details on that a bit nearer to the time. In the mean time – thank you to everyone at Google Earth Outreach for your support and advice in putting these training sessions together!

Before we forget…we are still mapping protected areas!

A big part of the MAPA Project is driving around and mapping protected areas. In east and southern Africa this was relatively easy – sure…cars break, roads get wet and border posts and road blocks aren’t always manned by our continent’s finest, morally outstanding individuals.  But those weren’t impossible to deal with and there were roads to be driven, gates and infrastructure to be mapped and park management to work with.

Enter West Africa…

Where roadblocks abound like tsetse flies, civil wars can break out faster than you can say “incumbent defeat” and visas are about as difficult to obtain as the proper border posts to stamp them at are to find.  Where every protected area (that is, the ones with staff) claims to have wild dogs, although most will admit that they’ve last seen them in 1973, which is also the last time anyone has bothered to scrape a road or fix the main camp site. Yes, that cattle track in the tall grass really is that thick white line on your map. Just aim for the space where the trees are far enough apart for a vehicle to fit through.

It has – to put it mildly, proved difficult to find points and lines for west Africa’s parks, but perhaps that gives us all the more reason to be there in the first place. Despite the non-existent roads, the harsh human conditions and the high poaching and deforestation rates, these are also some of the most important areas ecologically, with some of the kindest, most hospitable and dedicated individuals trying to look after them. If there are any places in Africa that need visibility…these are them.

Read more about our expeditions to Madagascar, Nigeria, and the series of contributions from travel journalist Mark Eveleigh out of Ghana. There’s more to come soon!

Last, but not least – a big, big thank you!

During our two-year old existence we’ve had many slow starts and dry spells. Thank you to everyone who has supported the project so far by putting their projects up, volunteering as mappers, contributing corrections and photos and using the information on the layer. We appreciate it and continue to value your input!

Ghana # 14 – Last days in Ghana

Posted on January 15th, 2011 in MAPA expeditions by Alta

Travel-journalist Mark Everleigh is volunteering for MAPA in Ghana. This is his is his latest post.

We have just come to the end of our last day of mapping in Ghana and have explored all the possible inroads to Songor Lagoon. This is a big Ramsar site not so far from the Togo border. It is famous as a bird-watching venue. There are in fact two bird-watching platforms at opposite ends of the lagoon but both are broken. Mostly Songor Lagoon seems to be being used for salt production and there are eerie landscapes that bring to mind more a desert (or a moonscape) than a tropical lagoon.

Coming to the end of our big Ghanaian adventure now and when we look back it seems incredible that we have seen so many changing landscapes in just a month. From the dust and smog of Accra, which sometimes seems like one big building site, it was a long, long road north to Kumasi and through Bobiri Butterfly Sanctuary and Bomfobiri Wildlife Sanctuary to Digya National Park. The access road to Digya was an adventure in itself (and I still wonder what the people at Kwame Danso hotel are thinking about the two eccentric Englishman who set up a table and chairs to barbecue in their carpark!). The canoe-ride across the Volta to Digya NP has to be one of the most adventurous access points to any park in Ghana and having found a gang of willing workers to swing cutlasses it was good to be able to set up a small campsite there. Hopefully that spot will be used by others in the future (much better than the grungy, bat-infested hut that was considered to be tourist accommodation).

Our road then lead farther north to the Mosque-lined streets of Tamale and Bolgatango where the harmattan winds of the Sahara glittered in the Landcruisers headlamps. The area along the Burkina Faso border was startlingly different, with its desert architecture and fat-bellied baobabs. We arrived late in the village of Tumu and departed early to map the mysterious Gbele National Park…where in the end we found little but yam plantations and settlements.

We just made Wechiau Hippo Sanctuary by sunset and camped alongside the Black Volta. Then it was Mole for Christmas and we finally started to see game and elephant. Our camp there was within earshot of yapping hyena. Mole threw some challenges at us with uncrossable rivers (and others that were only barely crossable) but we mapped every accessible part of the eastern border.

After that a homecoming of sorts in Kumasi and a spot of luxury (sort of) in a hotel owned by Tony Yeboah (Ghanaian footballer of Leeds United fame). Then out to the far west and the Cote D’Ivoire border, wondering about border problems and refugees, but finding ‘all quiet on the western front.’ We mapped Krokosua National Park and even managed to re-open a track that had been closed by elephants into Bongo Camp, in Bia National Park. Working with the rangers and chainsaw operators (the cutlass-wielding Bongo Buccaneers) during those days of bridge building and tree clearing will be one of the unforgettable memories of this trip.

Finally coastwards, stopping for a brief visit at Ankasa to map the only existing road that park has. Resisting the temptation at this stage to try to reopen other roads we set out for a quiet evening game-drive…and got irretrievably stuck in soft clay. We dug for four hours and had to set camp. In the morning we dug for three more before we finally admitting we needed help and hiked the 10km walk back to the ranger station.

After the scrabble out of Ankasa things were pretty much plain-sailing along the coast. We mapped Amansuri Wetlands and part of Kakum National Park. We visited Elmina slave fort and finally headed back through Accra and way back east towards the Togo border and our present location at Songor Lagoon.

Sitting writing now under palm trees with my feet in warm sand I am mentally preparing myself for January in Europe…and already planning a return to Ghana!

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