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Mar 2014

The White House

Posted by / in Africa, Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage /

The White House.

In 1792 James Hoban was appointed by George Washington to design the White House – not bad for a modest Irish immigrant! Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic Mulay Suleiman was consolidating his Sultanship of Morocco, putting an end to piracy along the Barbary Coast, cutting ties with Europe (sponsors of the piracy?) and strengthening ties with the USA.


Sultan Suleiman was so impressed with the White House that he commissioned Hoban to build a palace for himself, to consolidate his presence on the Barbary Coast. Sadly, it’s now a sand-dune-shrouded ruin sitting next door to a hidden-away stable block which is home to the best Barb horses I’ve ever ridden. Barb stallions are Ferraris: responsive, powerful and well-mannered.


Dar Soltaine

The sand-shrouded Dar Soltain, Barbary Coast, Morocco.

Jimi Hendrix loved horses; he was also intrigued by this mysterious “white house” in Morocco. So in the 1960’s he made the trip to Essaouira on Morocco’s Barbary coast and gave his name to the hotel which stands next to the stables, which stands next to the sultan’s ruined palace, known to map-makers and locals alike as “Dar Sultan”.

And the twist in the tail? “Soltane” in Arabic means “white” and has nothing to do with “Sultan” (a ruler) except that to the European ear, the two words sound very similar! “Dar” means house or safe harbour. Hoban’s palace in Morocco was called Dar Soltane, “The White House” and was home, for a short time, to Sultan Suleiman.

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Jan 2014

A Book For Christmas in Kitwe – Zambia

Posted by / in Africa, Blog, The Book Bus /

Here’s the story of what happens to the Book Bus over the Christmas period; it’s doesn’t stand still!

Book Bus partnered with Talent Community Club to celebrate Christmas with the visually impaired and their children in the small town of Kitwe, north Zambia. Many blind people have children who are affected by their parent’s disability and have to sit by their parent’s side the whole day directing their every movement so that they can find a better spot to beg for money: there are no social services here. The sad part of it is their children have become part of the street life. About half of the children of blind parents go to school, but are regularly interrupted by their parents or grandparents need for a guide on the streets.

Christmas is about sharing and we decided to share our day, love, smiles, fun, and food with these precious children of Kitwe. To give them a Christmas to remember.

The children sit alongside their visually impaired grandparents. (Small)

One of the highlights of the day was a visit from Zambia’s first ever Track and Field World champion, Samuel Matete. Having grown up in the small township of Chingola he encouraged the children to polish up their skills and talents to attain greatness just like he did.

Samuel Matete visits the book bus (Small)


After all the fun and games and eating the children took time to talk about the importance of school and knowing how to read and write.  It’s during this interaction that I asked the children “do you know what a library is?” one answered “it’s where they park cars” none of the children had the correct answer or even a clue. With that we took a tour of Charlie (The Book Bus) and the children felt extra special to have Charlie come out on a Saturday just for them to have a fun reading day and for those that can’t read they felt encouraged and happy to be part of Book Bus day. Some of the children were extremely proud to have a book for a Christmas gift; one could easily see the smiles on their faces, the excitement to own a brand new book and their visually impaired parents and grandparents were pleasantly surprised.  Some of the kids were eager to show off their reading skills. The Christmas lunch and the Miles Kelly Books are probably the only gifts they will get this Christmas.

Children of the visually impaired reading their new Miles Kelly books (Small)

The Talent Community Club is a local club which we partnered to make this day take place. One of our favourite things to do as individuals is cooking and the Book Bus team and Talent Community Club all got together for a big Christmas lunch cook out.

Find out about how you can volunteer on the Book Bus

Written by Monica in Kitwe, Zambia; volunteer Book Bus leader Christmas 2013.

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Dec 2013

Bush Baby in Malawi

Posted by / in Africa, Blog, frontpage /

When you’re tiny, and a new Mum, it pays to be cautious. Not all of Africa’s game is Big and some of the best moments on safari are unexpected. Meet Buzz who has set herself up in rather a nice lodge in Malawi three days ago she gave birth to two tiny babies! Smaller than your finger!

Bush Baby in Malawi 1

Spot the tiny hitch-hiker! Mum became quite bold and even pinched some fruit from the fruit bowl!

Bush Baby in Malawi 2

The new family has now left Room 6 (the best in camp – of course) and moved into more natural accommodation!

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Dec 2013

Tavistock Travel Talks

Posted by / in Blog, Tavistock Travel Agents /

Explore the Globe with Travel Talks in Tavistock

Avid travellers can fuel their wanderlust this winter without leaving Tavistock, thanks to a series of talks from adventure travel specialists, Venture Co.

From tackling the Inca Trail to navigating around India, the talks are aimed at anyone with itchy feet who’d like to learn more about getting out and exploring the world. The series starts on Tuesday 10th December with a talk entitled ‘Safari Guide’, a Big Game guide to east and southern Africa.  The evening will address when and where to go and what to see, whether as a first-timer or safari connoisseur, revealing the famous sights as well as hidden gems.

Each of the talks is presented by Mark Davison, owner of Venture Co and former safari guide. Having worked in Africa for many years, Mark has led expeditions and travelled independently throughout much of Africa, South America and India.

Announcing the launch of the talks, Mark said: “Whilst I may not be able to bring the campfire to the office I want to recreate the atmosphere of sharing travel tales and experiences. This is a great opportunity for anyone who’s ever considered going on safari to come along and ask questions and find out if it’s for them. I’m looking forward to a great evening.”

Further dates include:

Tuesday 21 January 2014 – Beyond Machu Picchu

Tuesday 4 February 2014 – Horses Riding Holidays: researching rides

Tuesday 18 February 2014 – Taj and tigers

Tuesday 11 March 2014 – Galapagos: Tortoises and blackberries

The talks take place at Lockyer House in Paddon’s Row, Tavistock, beginning at 6pm and running for 45 minutes with the opportunity to pose questions at the end. There is a nominal £3 ticket price, 100% of which will be donated to the Book Bus child literacy charity. Seats are restricted and on a first-come-first-served basis. To book call 01822 616191 or  contact us


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Aug 2013

Literacy in Motion (and P.S. Giraffes CAN Dance!)

Posted by / in Africa, Blog, The Book Bus /

The last week of term has come and gone in Zambia and holidays began today. During last week we carried on with our book in every hand scheme where we aim to give each child their own book to take home.

At Muke the children were delighted with their story books and even if it may be too difficult for them to read, they delight in looking at the pictures and discussing them in their own language. Seeing them busy buried in the books is a delight.

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Aug 2013

My Trip to Gabon West Africa

Posted by / in Africa, Featured Posts /

West Africa is my favourite part of the world: unpredictable, unexpected and uncontrollable: love it or loathe it. Nowadays very few tour operators run trips in West Africa, it’s just too raw for the insurance companies! None the less, exploring the music, art, wildlife and complete atmosphere of West Africa isn’t so much edgy as an out-and-out gamble!

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