The Book Bus Safari
The Book Bus Foundation promotes literacy to children in Zambia and Malawi and each year we operate special 2 week “Book Bus Safaris” to support schools in the remoter parts of these countries. Our volunteer Safari crews depart from Lilongwe in our customised Book Bus safari truck to visit schools on the shore of Lake Malawi and in the Luangwa Valley in Zambia.
As a Book Bus volunteer you will contribute by providing reading, storytelling and creative arts sessions to the school children. You can also enjoy excellent wildlife viewing opportunities in the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia and the life on the beach by Lake Malawi.
The Book Bus - Improving children’s lives one Book at a time
The Book Bus aims to improve literacy in Africa by engaging with children and their teachers to promote reading in a way that is creative, safe and above all, fun. Our “Book Bus” is a rugged go anywhere mobile library stocked with storybooks and materials and manned by a volunteer crew of story tellers. The legacy of each of our school visits is a reading corner and bookshelves stocked with children’s books.
The Book Bus Safari Itinerary
Please note this itinerary is subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances such as inclement weather and poor road conditions.
The Book Bus Safari crew assembles at our base in Lilongwe on Saturday to prepare for departure on Sunday. We head first for the shores of Lake Malawi to set up a base camp from where we visit 5 schools in the area. On Friday afternoon we return to Lilongwe and proceed over the weekend to our base camp near Mfuwe in Zambia. During the week we visit 5 local schools, there will be free time during this period to visit the South Luangwa National Park. The Safari returns to Lilongwe on Saturday.
What to expect - a week in the life of the Book Bus Safari
We spend each weekday at a different community school. Our programme of activities is led by the Volunteer Crew members and might include story-telling, one-to-one help with reading, music, arts and crafts, structured play, drama, puppet shows and sports. We also donate books and show the teachers how to set up and run a Reading Club. School hours are generally from 09.00am to 13.00pm. The afternoons and evening are free to prepare for the next day’s school visit and to enjoy exploring the area’s spectacular surroundings. Lake Malawi offers plenty of water-based activities during the first week of the Safari and South Luangwa National Park will be a major attraction during week two. There will be the opportunity to host an open evening for adults in the host community to learn more about the Book Bus.
Travelling in Africa
The Book Bus is a fantastic way to reach out to the villages and remote communities that are well off the beaten track. Some would say that this is the “Heart of Africa” and arriving at our destination schools certainly gives this impression. We try hard to minimize the project’s travelling times and most of the schools are with 30 minutes of our base camps. Some of the weekend relocation drives are long and the road conditions vary from region to region and even from one year to the next. Be prepared for the occasional bumpy, dusty ride and should the day’s drive take longer than expected please be understanding of reasons why.
Life in the camp
There’s no doubt that life on Safari brings many rewards: endless horizons, huge skies and the call of the wild are just some of the impressions you can expect from life in the African bush. The actual lifestyle on the road however, is very different from home. Our base camps do provide the basic home comforts of toilets, showers and even a bar and life tends to revolve around the Book Bus which acts also as our home, it carries tents, a full field kitchen and storage for water and all of our personal equipment. The local environment can present its own challenges with temperatures often soaring to the mid 30’s (centigrade) in the middle of the day. The insect life
is prolific and whilst the majority cause no harm, some are annoying and we must guard ourselves against malaria throughout the Safari. As long as you are prepared for an outdoor lifestyle you will enjoy your Safari lifestyle as do the vast majority of our Safari volunteers.
Week 1 – Lilongwe and Lake Malawi
Lilongwe and Lake Malawi
We meet in Lilongwe on Saturday for a project brief and introductory brief on the Book Bus and the Safari lifestyle. On Sunday morning we depart Lilongwe for the drive to Lake Malawi where we pitch camp on the lakeshore at the Sunbird Nkopola Lodge campsite. The schools are located in villages near the lake shore and for most of these communities the Book Bus project has proved to be an entirely new concept. Literacy rates here are only 63% so the opportunity to improve the children’s reading skills is warmly received. We work with primary school grades 7 and 8 pupils, known locally as “learners”, who are aged between 10 and 12 years old. With class sizes of up to 180 pupils, both learners and teachers are delighted to receive the Book Bus volunteers who, working with small groups, can provide individual attention and valuable reading and English language practice. Lake Malawi occupies over a fifth of Malawi and is home to over 600 species of fish. This great lake's tropical waters are reportedly the habitat of more species of fish than that of any other body of water on the Earth. The lake is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is famed for its beaches and lakeshore culture with activities on offer from snorkelling to kayaking.
Week 2 – The Luangwa Valley
Lilongwe to Chipata and Mfuwe
We re-supply the Bus on Saturday morning and depart for the Zambian border in the afternoon. We overnight across the border in Chipata and complete the journey to the Luangwa Valley early on Sunday. We set up camp at the Croc Valley campsite which is near the South Luangwa National Park. The Book Bus school visits in Luangwa are organised in partnership with the Chipembele Wildlife Education Centre which offers a fun, interactive and contemporary learning facility for Zambian children. It focuses its programmes on wildlife, the environment and conservation issues.
The Book Bus will compliment the work of the Chipembele Centre in 5 local schools. See www.chipembele.org for more information about the Chipembele Wildlife Education Centre. There will be down time in the afternoons and evenings during this week to visit the South Luangwa National Park. South Luangwa is a contender for the title of Africa’s best game park and few others can rival its high quality of guiding and remarkable wildlife spectacles in the isolation of true wilderness. Croc Valley Camp can organise visits to the park on a walking safari or by Land Rover on game drives by day and by night. Game you are likely to see include: Lions, elephants, hippos, leopard, giraffe and hyena. Example prices: Game drive US$ 35; Walking Safari US$ 40. Daily park entry fee is US$20 We leave Croc Valley Camp on Saturday and retrace our route to Chipata from where we cross the border back to Malawi to arrive Lilongwe early evening.
The Book Bus Crew
The Book Bus can't operate without a crew – it's their support that keeps the wheels turning! The crew travelling with the Book Bus includes the Book Bus Leader, a driver and up to twelve Volunteer Crew members. Occasionally we'll be joined by special guests, who might include local storytellers and artists, well known UK children's authors, or even a film crew! You can sign up as a Volunteer Book Bus Crew Member for the two-week period of the Book Bus Safari or you can join us for longer periods by combining the Safari with the Book Bus in Zambia and/or Malawi. Please contact us for further information.
What makes a good crew member?
First and foremost you should have experience or an aspiration to engage with children in a way that will improve their reading and language skills. Some measure of artistic and/or musical talent (or at least a willingness to have a go!) will stand you in good stead, and if you are shy in company, be prepared to shed at least some of your inhibitions! Our crew members all share a positive outlook, the enjoyment of being part of a team and a real desire to make a difference. We don’t promise a life of luxury to our Volunteer Crew, conditions in Africa although comfortable can be pretty basic but what we can promise is a hugely rewarding experience packed with great fun and adventure. If you're interested in a Book Bus adventure (and helping to raise funds), contact us now.
How to join the Book Bus Crew?
The Book Bus Safari starts and finishes in Lilongwe, Malawi. The Safari follows a 2 week itinerary which we repeat 3 times back to back. If you would like to volunteer for more than 2 weeks you can join us for 4 or even 6 weeks. Repeat visits to our destination schools is what makes the Book Bus a really valuable resource and by joining us for more than two weeks you will get to truly appreciate the region and become a regular feature at the schools!
Lliongwe has good flight connections from the UK and the rest of Europe. We have a lot of experience of travel to Malawi so please contact us for advice so that you book the flights that suit you best.
We will be camping throughout the Safari which is made easy using our fully equipped expedition-ready Book Bus. On Lake Malawi we are based at the Sunbird Nkopola Lodge campsite which is conveniently situated for visiting the schools in the area. This lakeside camp has full facilities, games courts, a pool and a bar. Our base in Luangwa is Croc Valley Camp located at the near the National Park which makes game viewing very easy. The camp itself has BBQ’s, hot showers and flush toilets with a swimming pool for staying cool and a bar for the evening sundowner.
We self cater on the Safari and all help out our onboard kitchen on a rota system. Here’s your opportunity to show off your culinary expertise or to pick up some new cooking skills.
Additional activities are available throughout the Safari. Depending on your interests there are game viewing options in the renowned South Luangwa National Park and water activities on Lake Malawi. These optional activities are arranged and paid for locally.
The contribution is £ 950 (€ 1.100) for the initial 2 weeks with a local payment of $ 300 (€ 206). Once in Malawi, each additional week is £ 195.00 (€ 220) plus a $ 150 (€ 103) local payment. Join for as long as you wish.
*exchage rates of April 22, 2011
- Airport transfers (If arriving and departing on Saturday)
- 7 nights accommodation per week
- 3 meals a day
- An experienced leader with back-up communications
- 24 hour support
- full pre-departure support and advice including the Book Bus Field Manual.
- International flights
- Optional activities
- Vaccinations and immunisations
- Personal expenditure
VentureCo Worldwide, in close cooperation with Mambulu!, manage the Book Bus Volunteer Crew recruitment process. They are hugely experienced in gap year travel, mounting expeditions and placing people into overseas charity projects. This is a wonderful opportunity to be part of a great adventure and to help inspire in children a love of books that will serve them and their communities well. We look forward to welcoming you on board the Book Bus. Visit VentureCo Wordlwide>>
About the Founder of the Book Bus
Tom Maschler was a publisher for over four decades. While still in his twenties he ran Jonathan Cape, where he published no fewer than thirteen Nobel Prize winners. He nurtured the careers of many of the Twentieth Century's most esteemed authors, including Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ian McEwan, Joseph Heller, Roald Dahl and Bruce Chatwin. He also came up with the idea for the Booker Prize, now acknowledged as the most significant fiction prize in the world.