In November 2016, six special needs students travelled to Oman on a life-changing expedition organised by Gane and Marshall. Here, Rich Berry from Sky College, one of the two schools involved, recounts the experience:
As part of our aspiration to provide life changing experiences we embarked on an overseas visit to the Middle East. Staff and a group of four students travelled four thousand miles to Oman where they trekked through the mountains and deserts whilst carrying out roles to develop both personal skills as well as team skills. The senior leadership team had difficult decisions to make as over a dozen students showed an interest in the challenge, but only four places were available. Several students from year nine to eleven completed small challenges along the way as part of the selection process. Continue reading Oman School Expedition, Nov 2016 – Trip Report→
I hold Zimbabwe completely responsible for my enduring addiction to Africa, for it was during a visit to this most unique of countries over 25 years ago that my passion for the continent was first ignited. I fell completely in love with its outstanding wildlife, open spaces and welcoming people.
We have some wonderful footage of the Rwenzori Mountains to share, courtesy of seven of our climbers who travelled with us to the “Mountains of the Moon” earlier this summer.
Mahmoud, Ale, Shahid, Jassim, Waleed, Ammar and Zubayr spent 8 days in the Rwenzoris. Heavy rains put a damper on their climb, but didn’t stop them from capturing some beautiful footage of the mountains, which you can view on youtube via the links below:
Gane and Marshall Africa and wildlife specialist Sarah Williams recently returned from a one-week stay in the Republic of Congo. Read on for her account of her Congo safari, which she spent exploring the forests and waterways of Odzala-Kokoua National Park on foot and by kayak.
Snip, snip, snip…. This was the subtle sound made by the trackers in the early morning as we searched for a family of Western lowland gorillas. Unlike East Africa, where they use a low rumble to alert gorillas to their presence, these trackers use the unlikely sound of secateurs to announce themselves as they cut a path through the thick vegetation.
I was in the Ndzehi Forest area of Odzala-Kokoua National Park, which surrounds Ngaga Camp in the Republic of Congo. This is where a research couple have been responsible for habituating two gorilla family groups – Neptuno and Jupiter – and where they are currently working on habituating a third family. The entire Ndhezi Forest area is well populated with gorillas, as there are many other unhabituated families in the region, though these latter groups tend to be nervous and are not often seen.
Our gorilla trek began early when our small group of four followed the tracker into the forest and to the gorillas’ last known location, their overnight nest. A path was then cut through the marantaceae – a large leafed plant and a favourite of the gorillas – until we were in a position to observe the gorilla family at a safe distance. We had a wonderful sighting of a whole family in a tree, for well over an hour, as they completely ignored us while enjoying the delicious ripe fruits!
Taking a break from the gorilla tracking, during the late afternoons we would accompany our guide for walks in the forest, where we saw troops of putty nosed and moustachioed monkeys, as well as several interesting birds, insects and flora.
After a few days in the jungle we moved on to Mboko Lodge which is situated a couple of hours drive away but in a completely different environment. The lodge stands in a huge expanse of savannah, punctuated by massive red termite mounds. The spacious accommodation overlooks an attractive river.
The activities from this lodge are predominately water based, with boat trips along the river, kayaking and walking through the bais and streams. Although you will get wet, the streams are clear and warm so I found these activities to be a highlight of my stay and not an uncomfortable experience.
On a long adventure walk we passed through several ecosystems, from thick forest where we saw forest hogs, forest elephant and colobus monkey, emerging into an area of savannah where we had to crouch low in the tall grass, while buffalo slowly walked passed us!
We then waded through a beautiful deep stream, the trees and flora surrounding us creating curtains of greenery; it was one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever seen and not what I expected of the Congo!
I have to make a special mention of the accommodation, which was of a much higher standard than I imagined. The lodges are unusual but in keeping with their surrounding and very comfortable, the cuisine is outstanding… be prepared for delicious meals served by delightful chefs and staff!
Travel to the Congo won’t appeal to everyone but if you have a sense of adventure and are looking for somewhere which is genuinely off the beaten track – often said but rarely achieved! – then you should certainly consider a Congo Safari… it just may surprise you, as it did me!
At the beginning of this month, Gane and Marshall ran the Ardeche School Challenge for special needs school students. Taking place from 1st to 7th July, the expedition involved a thrilling journey by kayak down the Ardeche Gorge, with plenty of white water and plenty of spills! Then the group tried canyoning with some amazing dives into remote rock pools, and finally they went on a high ropes course (rather like an extreme version of Go Ape, was one comment!)
I was lucky enough to be able to join the group (23 in all) for the kayaking. We flew out on British Airways to Marseilles and then travelled in a convoy of three eight seater minibuses to Pont Vallon – a lively little town at the heart of the Ardeche adventure region. We set up our own tents on arrival and thereafter the group camped and prepared virtually all their own meals themselves. Managing not only the adventurous activities but also the flights, the transfers and the camping and cooking was all part of the ‘Learning Outside the Classroom’ template that we worked to. Flying abroad and seeing a foreign country for the first time was a wonderful eye-opener to many of the students. For all of us – teachers, mentors, outdoor leaders and students – this was an inspirational and challenging holiday. Each of the students on the trip had come from often exceptionally difficult backgrounds. They had been excluded from the main school system for behavioural issues and were several years behind with their education. But in an expedition environment, they performed admirably as a close-knit team.
Phil Worgan, our engaging main leader, founded the event after several trips to the Ardeche with small groups, seeing it as the ideal venue for outdoors learning. ‘Learning Outside the Classroom’ has become a recognised way of working with special needs students to help them improve academically and socially. Our School Challenges are designed with these goals in mind: connecting to the curriculum through outdoor experiences, developing socially and as a team, nurturing resilience, increasing self-esteem, and developing skills that will be useful in seeking work or further education after a student’s school years end.
Ray Mears will be following exactly the same route as us on ITV1 at 8pm on Monday. I’m sure he won’t overturn and disappear under the white-water as I did twice. But then he won’t have a team of brilliant special needs students to pull him out and retrieve his kayak either!
Gane and Marshall will be running one or more Ardeche Challenges during the first week of July 2017. The cost including BA flights will be £884 per person. The trips will once again be led by Phil Worgan. Our kayaking leader will be – as for this year – the amazing sport kayaker Chris Brain. There are various ways in which you can take part: recommend our Ardeche Challenge to a school you are in contact with, send a team from your school, sponsor a special needs student whose family/school cannot raise the funds to send that student. Subject to the safety checks, you could join the challenge as a mentor. We have found that most students want to join in these adventures and are keen to start preparing months ahead. Their preparations involve not only getting fit and learning to set up tents and to kayak, but also winning their place on the team as result of improving behaviour in school.
For more information about our Ardeche challenges, or our school challenges more generally, contact email@example.com.
Our Southern Africa specialist Sarah recently returned from a mobile camping safari to Botswana. Here’s what she saw:
With the annual rains due to arrive any time in December, the proposition of camping in the wet was not my idea of fun, but luck was on my side, the rains stayed away and I got to experience mobile camping with SGS safaris. Continue reading Botswana Fully Serviced Mobile Safari→
Climb Mount Kenya – Technical Routes to Point Peter, Batian and Nelion Peaks
Jeremy Gane spent a week climbing on Mt Kenya in August of this year. Here he details his experience of Mt Kenya’s technical routes, including the climb to the highest peak, Batian.Continue reading Climb Mount Kenya→
Africa Safari, World Wildlife & Adventure Holidays