Rivers of West Africa with Variety Cruises – Part 3

Variety Cares

During the first few days of our Rivers of Africa trip with Variety Cruises, we were joined onboard the Harmony V by a number of guests, with links to Variety Cares. As the name implies, this is a foundation established by Variety Cruises to support the communities that share their landscapes, culture and heritage with passengers.

Not only is Constantine Venetopoulos, Variety’s Director of Corporate Social Responsibility, he’s the grandson of the company’s founder. As I’d assumed that Variety was a somewhat anonymous conglomerate, it was fascinating to hear Constantine talk movingly about how his grandfather, Diogenis, had begun his journey back in 1949, before explaining how Variety supports the African communities we visited.

Variety Cares™ supports two special projects in The Gambia: the Lamin Koto School and the Kuntaur Film Festival which during our trip, we saw at first hand.

Lamin Koto School

Lamin Koto School, The old and new Lamin Koto School in the rural village of Kuntaur, was founded in 2012. Having seen the state of the building with its dilapidated roof, the foundation began supporting the construction of a new building, with help from passengers. A visit to the school is included in the cruise’s programme, but we were also fortunate to have on board Tony and Tiffany Reima and Marco Maranghello, all from the US who had supported the development of a well, which provided not only the school, but also the village, with fresh running water for the first time. During our visit, the well was officially opened, and it was wonderful to see children excitedly filling their water bottles with fresh drinking water. After a number of short speeches, we were invited to give our school supplies to the head of the school, in our case a lot of Poundland biros, and as usual, money donated by the previous week’s passengers was gratefully received

Kuntaur Film Festival

Kuntaur Film Festival Children from Kuntaur village programme funds the provision of popular films in remote villages without electricity and a generator had been provided. Whilst moored up after dinner, we were invited to a screening of the Lion King. The cinema was a disused roofless building with, what looked like a large white sheet as the screen. There were a few plastic chairs which, as VIPs we were allocated to. The ‘doors’ were then opened to the children who ran eagerly to the front and sat on the floor. There were cartoons, and a short play by a handful of teenagers, which although in their local language, appeared to be about a man who only wanted his daughter to marry a rich man. A shortened version of the film began, and the children were enthralled. After a long day, we didn’t stay for the popcorn and soft drinks, but could imagine the excitement.

Inside Out project

Posters laid out on the sundeck One day after lunch, huge posters, bearing black and white head shots of school children, were laid out on the sun deck before a drone was flown over to capture the images. Later that afternoon on our return from our excursion, we found the posters being plastered along one side of the yacht. Similarly, when we visited the Lamin Koto School, the posters were there as well. We discovered this was part of what is known as the Inside Out Project by a French artist known as JR. Whilst he says on his video says it’s not just about “papering black and white images on walls”, I must admit I was somewhat confused about what the posters achieved. However, this didn’t stop me having my photograph taken in front of the distinctive back drop of black and white dots to be part of the Variety project. Having watched me put on my lipstick for the shoot, it wasn’t until afterwards that my partner said, “you do realise you’ll be in black and white”. 

Click here to see the Variety Cares™ activities in other countries. 

Helen booked her cruise through Seafarer Cruising and Sailing Holidays who also arranged a week at the Kombo Beach Hotel with Silver Travel Advisor Partner – Serenity Holidays – The Gambia Experience.

Silver Travel Advisor recommends Variety Cruises and Seafarer Cruising & Sailing Holidays.

See also

212 people found this helpful

Share Article:

Helen Jackson

Traveller & writer

Leave a comment


Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest travel tips on top destinations.

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Most Recent Articles

Mark Nicholls visits Austria’s snowiest ski resort and stumbles across a chapter of pop history….

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.