Travel

Okavango-Delta 02Once part of the Lake Makgadikgadi and one of the seven Natural Wonders of Africa, the Okavango Delta is one of the largest inland deltas in the world. It forms where the Okavango River reaches a tectonic through in the endorheic basin of the Kalahari. The national park is on the eastern side of the delta. Annually, 11 cubic kilometers of water spreads over the area, feeding the Delta’s lush greenery, which is home to over 71 fish species, 60 000 Lechwe antelope, and herds of buffalo and elephant totaling approximately 30, 000, with the popular tourist attraction being the Big Five.

Little experience will enable you to feel as close to nature, especially if you use the “mokoro,” a traditional means of transport ( basically, a hollowed trunk tree on which you move silently through the papyrus and the fields of lilies in the Delta). The surrounding silence allows you to appreciate nature even more with the wind in the reeds, the multiple cries of birds, the hum of hippos and so much more.

The Okavango River (or Okavango in Botswana) is the fourth largest river system in Southern Africa. It takes its source in the mountains of northern Angola. Originally the water reached Maun and even filled the folds of Magadigadi and Nxai Nxai. Today the delta tends to move back and the most spectacular part to visit remains Maun.

The Okavango Delta in Botswana is the ultimate magical experience of the African safari! Widely believed to be the world’s largest inland delta, it is famous for its abundant wildlife and the indigenous Bushmen, with their ancestral cultokavango-delta-15-1g-150x150ure. Okavango offers unparalleled opportunities for observing big safaris game by boat, sightseeing flights and bird watching.

Also known as the Okavango Swamp, the delta is located in the center of southern Africa. The waters of the Okavango River flowing into the Kalahari Desert create a single area of ​​lush tropical wetland of 15,000 km ². Local residents, who are originally Bantu and San (Bushmen), traditionally depend on agriculture, hunting, fishing and livestock grazing. However, tourism is now developing also an important economic source in the Okavango region.

The Okavango Delta is home to a large amount of wildlife, attracting visitors who want to experience a truly natural and wild African safari. Safaris in the area of ​​the Okavango Delta allow you to reach a multitude of destinations, the famous Moremi Game Reserve in the western part of the Okavango Delta up to the Makgadikgadi Rserve, Pan Nxai and Aha Hills all intriguing adventures to consider.

One of the other attractions is the Tsodilo Hills site that offers nearly 4,500 ancient rock paintings by Bushmen. Visitors can also experience the old way of life in the village. Maun, the main town of the Okavango is the gateway to the Delta gate, and has its share of lodges, shops and agencies and safari tour operators. There is a pleasure flight in the Okavango Delta departing from Maun airport. There is also an educational safari park in Maun. Nhabe the museum in the northeastern Okavango Delta features exhibits on the natural history and culture of the region.

Source: Ventures Africa

Original article: http://www.ventures-africa.com/2013/12/discovering-africa-the-okavango-delta/

British journalist, David Hayward  visited Nigeria and captured his impressions about the country:

Earlier this year, I was approached to do some media consultancy in Nigeria. I’d just left the BBC after 18 years, to set up my own business, so this seemed a great opportunity.  I spoke to a number of friends and former colleagues. I’d heard many stories about Nigeria, seen the reports on Boko Haram and had my own impressions of sub Saharan Africa.

DavidHaywardThe advice fell into two camps:

a) Don’t go, you’ll get kidnapped or catch malaria. Either way, you’re going to die

b) Nigeria is a nightmare. When you arrive, you’ll be swamped by hustlers trying to rip you off, steal your luggage and all your money. If they don’t get you, the corrupt police officers and officials will.

I was mainly to be based in Asaba, the capital of the Delta State, one of, if not the biggest, oil producing states is Nigeria. In an attempt to be a bit more thorough with my research than asking a few old mates, I contacted the office of BBC Media Action in Abuja.

The fairly pragmatic response was: “We treat the Delta State as a hostile environment. It’s an oil producing area and there is a strong risk of kidnapping. However if you have armed security, this risk will be slightly reduced”. I took this to be reassuring and made sure an armed security clause was written into my contract. I spent some time talking to my wife Jo and children about the prospect of going to Nigeria.

Jo’s attitude was: “For God’s sake, this is exactly what you love doing. The more dangerous a place the better the stories. You’ll be able to show off and bore people senseless about roadblocks, men with guns and how brave you are”.  Buoyed by this I accepted the work and prepared for Asaba. I got my visa, all the vaccinations I could fit into my arm and made sure I had a small mountain of malaria tablets.

I really didn’t know what to expect from Nigeria. It’s easy to fall into preconceptions that Africa is all about war, famine, corruption and poachers killing endangered animals. I caught the overnight BA fli1around the site to cater for a mass of cargo. About ten minutes drive away, just across the Niger Bridge, is the city of Onitsha. One of the busiest markets in Africa. You can buy almost anything there.

I was to travel in and out of the airport several times in the next five weeks. Each time something new was completed. The baggage carousel, lacking when we first flew in, was fully operational the next time. So were the check-in areas and the very plush departures hall.

The next morning was the first venture out. Yinka and I decided to go for a bit of a run. It seemed sensible to set off early because of the heat and to avoid the risk of being kidnapped or shot at. So at 6am we were off. About a minute into the jog we approached a group of somewhat hard looking men with very big guns. They were guarding the gates to our compound. This is not a sight I’m used to on my normal runs in rural Leicestershire, in the UK.

Anxious to appear as inconspicuous as possible I tried to sneak past, not drawing too much attention to myself, convinced I was about to be arrested. However quite the opposite. We were greeted with cheers of “Good morning sir, well done, how far?”.

Once I had composed myself from the shock, very nearly tripping over in a sweaty heap, we continued our circuits. Every time we passed someone we had the same greeting. It began to feel as though we had our own troupe of heavily armed cheerleaders. (Or should that be troop?) This was quite an introduction to what, I began to realize, was one of the most friendly countries I have been to. This is a genuine friendliness. It is not a means to get to know you and rip you off.

The following few weeks continued to surprise me – and to make me feel very embarrassed about my initial preconceptions. I’ve been lucky enough to visit a whole range of places in the Delta State. The TV and radio stations need some work, but the staff are young, enthusiastic and very hard working. Warri, the oil centre, is a thriving hub that is only going to get bigger, with the construction of the largest business park in West Africa. The sign at our hotel was a bit disconcerting. It asked everyone carrying guns to make sure they weren’t loaded – which was nice.

The University Teaching Hospital in Oghara is as well equipped as any I have been to in the UK or the rest of Europe. There are state of the art CT and MRI scanners, a world class renal unit and 25 paediatric intensive care beds.

The journey to the hospital gave me the first opportunity to see a proper Nigerian village. This was far closer to what I had been expecting. The goats and cattle roaming the dusty roads, the food stalls cooking chicken, fish and corn over open fires. Dozens of bars with dodgy looking satellites, advertising the latest football matches live. When we slowed down, or stopped the car we were surrounded by two groups. The children pointing at me were shouting Oyibo, Oyibo (white man) and teenagers trying to sell anything from palm wine to cola nuts, to the latest mobile phones.

Now I can’t be sure, but I don’t think the iphone 5 I was offered for 5000 naira (about £20) was as genuine as it could be. All of this was done with great fun and humour. If you chose to, you could buy everything you needed from your car. If you didn’t, that was fine too.

Suicidal Okada

The transport system is far from perfect but all the roads we’ve driven on are absolutely fine. The most interesting experience was seeing the suicidal Okada motorcycle taxis in full force for the first time. They have been banned in Delta State and replaced by three-wheel kekes. But this is certainly not the case in Onitsha. It is about a fifteen-minute journey from the centre of Asaba, but it could be on another planet.

You drive over the Niger Bridge, enter the neighbouring state and a different world. One where thousands of the small machines ferry people and any goods you can think of around. We saw one driver with four passengers, two adults and two children precariously balanced in front and behind him. Oil barrels containing God knows what, weighing heavily on the clearly inadequate suspension. I was told someone had seen an Okada carrying a donkey, strapped to the driver as though he was giving it a piggy back. I don’t know if I believe this, but, from what I saw in Onitsha that day, I can’t rule it out.

The drivers are quite mad. We were there for about a minute before our car had its first near miss. We were to have many more in the next half an hour, with the rules of the road, like driving in the same direction on a dual carriageway, simply ignored.

The noise is deafening. As the Okadas rev their tiny engines, they sound like a swarm of very loud insects buzzing inside your head. You very soon begin to choke on the fumes of burning oil and petrol. It was quite a relief to cross back over the bridge into the far more serene and calm home ground of Asaba.  The welcome I have had everywhere is stunning. On one occasion I interviewed a senior state commissioner. It turned out it was his birthday. He kindly invited me to his party that evening. I didn’t really know anyone else going – so felt a little uncomfortable. No need. When I arrived he insisted I sit with him.

He  made sure my glass was never empty and my plate constantly filled. I was introduced to everyone and made to feel an honored guest.

There was a downside to this. The comedian who anchored the programme took quite a shine to me….. “Ahhh give it up for the white man, where are you from”? This was followed by ten minutes of him royally taking the **** out of me. I understood about one word in ten, but by the reaction of everyone else, it was obviously very amusing. So much for being inconspicuous.

Premier League

But the worst was still to come. People began standing up and paying tribute to the Commissioner. He is a very popular guy. Halfway through the speeches the comedian spotted me once again. “Does the white man want to speak”. I stood, said a few words and wished he would see his children’s children and his children’s children’s children. This appeared to be the toast de jour and went down very well. The evening ended with lots of photographs being taken and many new good friends.

The one thing you cannot escape in Nigeria is the love of the English Premier League. I have so far failed to meet another Leicester City fan, an obvious shame, but there are millions of diehard Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea supporters.

Watching the Liverpool v Man Utd game at the Asaba viewing centre, with thousands of people wearing the respective replica kits, was one hell of an experience, although my eardrums may take some time to recover. There is no doubting their passion. They may not have been to Old Trafford, The Emirates or Stamford Bridge, but the passion they exuded was clear. I’m not sure what ‘come on ref,’ or ‘what was that you idiot’ is in pidgin, but I heard it several times that day.

The viewing centre was created by the governor of  Delta State, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan. He is an Arsenal supporter. I met him once while playing tennis. For some reason he didn’t seem very impressed by my love of Leicester City. I simply don’t understand why.

http://www.vanguardngr.com/2013/09/nigeria-in-the-eyes-of-a-briton/

Source: Africa Travel Quarterly

cuba1More travelers are now going to Cuba. Nearly half a million travelers now go from the United States to Cuba every year to the once-forbidden island.  The island is not as isolated from its American neighbors than as it used to be.  Damien Cave tells us in this article for The New York Times who gets to go and how:

Wading through the licensing requirements from the United States Treasury Department, which oversees the trade embargo that has more or less kept Cuba off limits since the early ’60s, reveals that not all American visitors are created equal. Depending on who you are, Cuba can be as open as any other Caribbean island — or it can be a restricted destination that could cost you thousands of dollars in fines. Here is a quick rundown on how American travelers get to Cuba, presented in order from the least restrictive options to the most.

Revisit Your Family Tree

Americans with a “close relative” in Cuba are free to come and go as often as they wish, and do not need to ask in advance for a license from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, which enforces the embargo. They travel instead under a general license, and are not subject to the $188 a day spending cap and the limited travel itineraries that other United States citizens face in Cuba. The definition of close relative is broad: OFAC defines it as “any individual related to a person by blood, marriage, or adoption who is no more than three generations removed from that person or from a common ancestor with that person.” So even if you aren’t Cuban but one of your spouse’s grandparents is, you may qualify.

But there are some limitations: travelers and the company they book their trip through are responsible for proving, if asked, that they meet the requirement. To do so, most of the people who qualified and flew from the United States to Cuba last year used a Treasury-approved “travel service provider” and then just signed an affidavit affirming that they have a close relative on the island. Once there, they can roam about as much as they please.

Pray on It

People who work with churches or religious groups on the island can travel under a general license as well, but only if they have the necessary proof that their trip is not tourism. That means travelers with church groups who are flying from the United States must carry with them (and give their travel providers a copy of) a letter confirming they are members or staff members of the organization and are traveling under its auspices to engage in religious activities in Cuba. Carrying an itinerary proving that is also a good idea. Spending limits still apply, and religious travel requires a religious visa from Cuba too. Many companies, like Marazul in Miami, offer to help obtain one.

Take a Look at Your Résumé

Travelers doing professional work or research also qualify for a general license, but that, too, requires some paperwork and comes with limitations. Academics doing research in Cuba, for example, are generally expected to have (and to show to travel providers or American customs officials, if they ask upon return) a copy of their C.V., published research relevant to what they’re studying in Cuba, and an itinerary of whom they are going to meet, or have met, with locations and times. Academic research must also be “noncommercial.” In other words, don’t go with the idea of starting a business working with Cuban cancer researchers. And fun cannot be the goal. Treasury Department guidelines specifically note this example: “A group of architects wants to arrange a sightseeing trip to view the architecture of Old Havana. This does not constitute research and would not qualify for a license since it constitutes travel for personal satisfaction only.”

Journalists, whether traveling with or without an official press visa from the Cuban government, get off a little easier. They are generally expected to carry published articles, a business card or a press pass if they are on the staff of a major media organization, and/or — in the case of freelancers — a letter from an editor asserting the journalist is on assignment. If you’re a doctor or other professional attending a conference, make sure that it is one held by an “international professional organization, institution or association.” The gatherings cannot be hosted by the Cuban government, or by an American organization.

Go Back to School

Several American universities now offer their students programs that include either short trips to Cuba or a semester abroad at Cuban universities. Some of the programs are limited to enrolled students, or small in number — Burlington College has a license for 15 students to study at the University of Havana — but open-enrollment programs for studying Spanish in Cuba are also expanding. Spanish Studies Abroad, an independent language institute, recently received an OFAC license that would allow American students to receive college credit for learning Spanish in Cuba, although it requires some extra homework. To ensure that they do not go beyond lawful spending limits, students must retain records related to all travel transactions on the island for five years.

Try Visiting People

“People to people” tours are the way to go for everyone who does not have family on the island or a specific job to do in Cuba. To be legal, the trips must be educational in nature, with a focus on interaction with everyday Cubans as opposed to the government. The groups that put the tours together will have received approval from the Treasury Department only after filing reams of paperwork explaining the reasoning behind their itineraries, but for interested travelers, the barriers to entry are low. Those eager to get to Cuba just have to pay, and agree to take part in a busy, highly organized tour with very little free time.

Embargo-Flouting

This is not a method that we recommend. Hundreds of Americans — maybe thousands — go to Cuba every year by flying through a third country, usually the Bahamas, Mexico or Canada. Cuban immigration officials, eager to welcome visitors and their dollars, rarely if ever stamp American passports, so it is possible to have an unrestricted visit. But it’s not a wise idea. While traveling to Cuba is not itself illegal, the moment you buy your first drink, you’ve broken the law. Paying for anything at all means that you’ve violated the embargo and risk fines of up to $250,000. And if you lie to United States customs officials to hide your trip to Cuba upon re-entry, you will be violating a whole different set of federal laws that have nothing to do with the embargo. Tourists are rarely penalized for violating the embargo — the Obama administration has focused its enforcement efforts on businesses — but those bold or dumb enough to try to smuggle home a few Cuban cigars shouldn’t expect to get away without a hassle and some serious legal bills.

For the original report go to http://travel.nytimes.com/2013/09/15/travel/cuba-doing-it-your-way.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

I left London on a gloomy afternoon in October to travel Europe for five months, searching for the interplay between Black and European cultures, writes Afropean British writer, photographer and TV host Johny Pitts on his website The Afropean.I came in contact with Black French militants, German anarchists, an Egyptian nomad, Russian Nazis, Cape Verdean favelas, racist football hooligans, the Black Panther party and more, all telling me a tale of an alternative Europe not readily exported to the rest of the world. My journey lead me to the fringes, culturally and geographically, and also became an investigation into my own mixed-race identity. See Facebook.com/afropeans

Marcel Proust is quoted as saying 'the true act of discovery consists not of finding new lands, but in seeing with new eyes'.  I thought of that on the day I left in search of 'Black Europe', on a cold October morning.  I wanted to do both at the same time though- see new places but also present an alternative view of them as that rarest of creatures- the Black European explorer.

Johny Pitts
@Johny Pitts: Johny Pitts in Moscow

And so I set out in search of a Europe that isn't always offered in the tourist literature of its great cities...London to Paris, Brussels then Amsterdam, Stockholm over to Moscow, Berlin down to Rome, across the Riviera to Marseilles, Madrid and Lisbon, strangely ending up back in Britain- Gibraltar, where Europe kisses Africa.

@Johny Pitts: Girl on a rainy day in London

Initially I imagined flaneuring my way around only taking photographs of cool Afropeans- those artists, musicians and fashionistas who had managed to find some sort of cultural coherence in their Black European identities and created what might be described as a kind of 'post post-colonial' aesthetic.  I wanted to find a diasporic unity that was as solid as African American culture and celebrate this coming together of cultures and races.  Whilst I certainly did find (and photograph) these people, I was naive to think I'd come back with a trendy little coffee table book which offered only a convenient view of Black people in Europe.

@Johny Pitts

Still, resisting cliched depictions that ghettoised or victimised the communities I visited, I let the people I met tell the story of the continent...from Belgian-Congolese artists to Egyptian nomads, Black French militants, Swedish musicians, German anarchists, racist football hooligans, Russian Nazis, Nigerian students and more.

@Johny Pitts: " Berlin. I visited the famous artist squat Tacheles which this month [September 2012]  lost it's long fought battle to stay open."

Often this meant being led to the figurative and literal periphery of societies, so in many ways my journey became a tour of the outskirts of Europe- the multicultural hinterlands...Clichy Sous Bois in Paris, Rinkeby in Stockholm, Cova Da Moura in Lisbon...

@Johny Pitts: "Last year [2012] I spent time in Lisbon, and visited the European Favela of 'Cova Da Moura', home to a large Cape Verdean community. Described as a 'no go' zone for police, I was lucky enough to be escorted by an ex resident. I saw poverty, and was threatened by a local gangster, but I also felt a strong community spirit and was introduced the beautiful Cape Verdean folk music 'Morna' in a small makeshift cafe."


Throughout my trip the Afro-Europe blog was one of the very few resources I had to help me navigate my way around, and became a second companion when I felt lost in the cold urban wilderness of Russia or the dangerous Banlieues of France. 

@Johny Pitts: Near Patrice Lumumba University — in Moscow, Moscow City.

And so here I am proud to share this introduction to my story and present some of my photographs before the travel narrative and photo essay is released next year as a book.  I felt it important to write and take pictures, trying to make images with my pen and tell stories with my camera, and let each one fill in what the other couldn't describe.

@Johny Pitts: "I spent five days alone in the Parisian banlieue of Clichy Sous Bois."

As the underlying cause of the project is to promote dialogue between various Black communities living in Europe, as well as with white Europeans who are curious about, or influenced by Black culture themselves, I invite people to join a Facebook community I set up when I started the book Facebook.com/afropeans here you will find more of my photographs, but also various imagery from other Afropean artists; music videos, art, and literature that tell their own story.

Johny Pitts, June 2013

Johny Pitts is a writer, photographer and TV host based in London.  Winner of a Decibel Penguin Prize for new writers, his short story "Audience" was included in the anthology 'The Map of Me' published by Penguin Books.  In 2012 he collaborated with author Caryl Phillips on 'A Bend in The River' -a project for the BBC/Arts Council run 'Space'.  in March 2013 he held his first international photography exhibition in Belgium as part of the 'What is Africa to Me Now?' conference at Liege university.  As a TV host he presented for MTV UK and ITV1, and can currently be seen on the BBC.

Video: A photo-montage from my travels around Europe looking at Afropean/ Black European culture. Joy Denalane's 'Vier Frauen' as a the soundtrack.

Source: Afro:Europe

bl ams“Don't go to the Bjilmer,” was the general consensus among folks I asked about this predominantly Black neighborhood in Amsterdam.

"Make sure you hold your purse” cautioned my taxi driver on our way from the airport to my hotel.  While I appreciated her advice, I grew up in Kingston and lived in Brooklyn for sixteen years, so visiting Amsterdam’s proverbial ghetto wasn’t a stretch for me. I took the #54 train from Centraal Station in the heart of the historic district.

In twenty-five minutes I was in Bjilmer, home to 100,000 people of 150 different nationalities, mostly from Africa, the Dutch Caribbean and Suriname. I exited at Bjilmer Arena A and walked into the sunshine. The day was unseasonably warm and I took off my jacket and scarf.  I had no plan, no direction. I just walked.

As I walked past the Heineken Arena I saw a Green Day poster and thought, “If Green Day is going to play here then how bad can this place be?” I considered all the warnings I had received and even though they were well intentioned, I was annoyed that I was getting so much warnings because I was going to a Black neighborhood.

In the 1960’s the city of Amsterdam had a housing stagnation problem.  They had more people than available shelter.  Bjilmer was built to abate this crisis. It was touted as the most modern place to live in all of Amsterdam with innovative housing implementations. The high rise apartment structures were a modern approach to living for the Dutch. The design was also innovative, from the air Bjilmer looks like a series of connected honeycomb structures with long hallways and galleries on the interior.  It later became problematic to manage Bjilmer because management offices were located too far out of town. Livability issues like trash collection, resident deviant behavior and police patrols ran amuck.  Decades later 1970’s, Dutch colonies like Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles gained their independence. People started flocking to Amsterdam and then funneled into Bjilmer’s affordable housing.  The low social status coupled with low-income of many tenants, subsequently led to Bjilmer’s  notoriety of high crime rates and drug trafficking.  I noticed the Bjilmer development was far removed from rest of Amsterdam, out there in the Dutch wasteland.

amsterI walked into the development past a café where locals were out enjoying the sunny weather while sipping beverages.  There was a moderate police presence in the area.  Underneath the three-story brick apartment locals first built shops into the spaces to suit their needs like harberdasheries and small grocery stores.  Today, these are replaced by flower shops, make-up sores, H&M, bakeries and flower shops.   It was obvious to me that Bjilmer was shedding its negative stigma for one of gentrification and urban development.  The Bjilmer even has a Starbuck’s, the quintessential modern day symbol of gentrification.bl am

As I walked further in the Bjilmer I bumped into a street market and was immediately transported to Flatbush, Brooklyn and downtown Kingston simultaneously. Fruit and vegetable stands were brimming with vibrant foods from immigrant’s homelands. Yellow and green plantains, coconuts, scotch bonnet peppers, avocadoes, squash, field greens like callaloo and kale made a bright spot in Bjilmer.  The sounds of reggae music from Luke Dube, Peter Tosh and even bachata and salsa floated throughout the market.

jilmer’s does have an underbelly and it showed.  I was walking alone and taking pictures and I was being followed at a distance. There was no way the man following me was that interested in perfume, flowers and make-up as much as I was.  I made sure I stayed in wide open spaces in the sunlight. Bjilmer is definitely a diamond in the rough.  On certain corners I noticed young boys as “look outs” and saw money exchanged hands quickly quite a few times.

Bjilmer has definitely cleaned up since the 1970’s, but there are still telltale signs of the ‘hood.  A shabby Chinese food store, a beauty supply store, a weave store, a stall selling international phone cards and satellite dishes hanging off the sides of porches (Bjilmer is only zoned for cable TV) and worn out porch furniture with peeling plastic littered on many balconies throughout the complex.

I safely made it back to my hotel in central Amsterdam, happy that I ignored the warnings.  Have you ignored travel advice and just gone with your gut?  Tell me about it in the comments.

Photos: Diana O'Gilvie

 

 

diane

Diana O’Gilvie is filmmaker, photographer and writer who travels because the world is just too big to not go exploring. She makes valiant attempts to slow down and forgives herself for her short comings. Diana is currently working on a book (with pictures!) about her time as flight attendant. Visit her blog site at http://love2travelwritefilm.com

Original artilce: http://love2travelwritefilm.com/2013/05/08/black-amsterdam-the-bjilmer/

 

c ape vLiterally translated, Boa Vista means “beautiful view” and the Cape Verde island lives up to its name, surprising visitors with stunning views. But there is so much more to Boa Vista than spectacular landscapes and observation points, specifically the lovely islanders, as Bugs Steffen discovered when he went to explore.

I was asked how I came up with the idea to visit Cape Verde. There are quite a few people who have little knowledge, if any, of Cape Verde. “Where is it you’re going? Where on earth is that? Near the Maldives?” friends asked. But for me, a visit to Cape Verde had been a “must do” for quite some time. It is the music of the islands that has captured me. Cesaria Evora, the ‘Grand Madame’, and her equally famous compatriots such as Lura  and Sara Tavares all have their musical roots here and have been at the top of the world music charts for years.

Like many other tourists this year, I was diverted to Cape Verde rather sooner than I had hoped - something I had not planned but was grateful for. The safety concerns surrounding popular North African destinations such as Tunisia and Egypt forced many travellers, including myself, to change their bookings. As a result, the island state has seen a real wave of holiday makers.

Cape Verde had so far been an insider tip and island hopping in order to experience all of the islands is still a bit of a chore. There are small, local airlines and rickety ferries but either method of travel to discover individual islands in depth requires patience and a fair amount of African “laid-back” attitude.

For those who prefer an easy, relaxing and comfortable island experience, there are now direct flights from large European tour operators such as TUI or Thomson. You can fly from Frankfurt to two of the islands, Sal and Boa Vista. The reason why these two destinations are on offer is simple: they are the site of the largest all-inclusive resorts. For now, these are tucked away close to the idyllic beaches and well adapted to the barren landscape, and one can only hope that this will remain so for a long time yet.

A mere 4,000 of the island population (435,000 altogether) live on Boa Vista. An outpost of the slave trade in the past, Boa Vista, with its deserts and sandy volcanic landscapes, has evolved to become an ideal seaside holidays island.

Sal Rei, the capital, is a dreamy fishermen’s village and Rabil, the other larger town on top of a mountain, does not have much to offer apart from the airport and local artisan pottery. Both towns are connected by the only paved road on the island. Other than that, the road network consists of cobbled streets that often deteriorate into dirt roads. This requires the use of 4-wheel-drive vehicles and turns any discovery trip across the island into an exciting adventure.

Trips to destinations such as Deserto de Viana, the Santa Maria ship wreck or the perfect Santa Monica beach all offer beautiful views. In addition, you can go whale watching off the coast.It is easy to fill a fortnight’s stay on the island with activities; for those who don’t want to rent a vehicle, there are plenty of excursion offers from various tour operators or the possibility to hire a taxi and driver.

The greatest discovery to be made on this island is its inhabitants! If one moves about with an open mind, it doesn’t take long to find out that the Cape Verdeans are a lovely people, unobtrusive and yet warm and friendly. A glance or friendly gesture will always be reciprocated and you should try and talk to people. Don’t be shy! Even if you don’t speak Portuguese, you can manage using sign language and if push comes to shove, someone who speaks English can be found in a jiffy.

 
West Africa Trip 341She set foot on the first plank holding tightly to the suspension ropes on both sides of the hanging
bridge. Looking at the seven bridges ahead of her she automatically decided she wasn’t going through
with it. No amount of reassurance from her boyfriend or our tour guide could convince her otherwise.
So she walked back to the safety of the seating area taking my self-confidence with her.
 
Only a few minutes earlier, I had been very excited to be at the Kakum National Park and about to
embark on its popular canopy walk. There was just one tiny problem though – I’m afraid of heights.
Luckily, I had an angel in the form of a fellow tourist visiting from Abu Dhabi to help me. He stepped
gingerly onto the first bridge and was already bouncing along onto the third when he turned around and
saw me still contemplating whether to even get on the first bridge. We were 130 feet from the forest
floor and seeing the planks and ropes that made up the bridge sway from side to side with each one
of his footfalls gave me cause for pause. He cheerfully reminded me that we had traveled from various
parts of the world to visit Kakum and we surely couldn’t leave without making it across the seven
bridges.
 
West Africa bridge
“It has been up since 1992 with no casualties,” our tour guide’s words reverberated in my mind. I barely
remembered his comment about the quality checks performed at the beginning and end of each day
and took the first step. Then it got really humid - fast. Maybe it was panic or perhaps at that altitude
the humidity in the forest simply strikes you at a different angle. By the third bridge I was sweaty but a
bit relaxed and appreciating the bed of vegetation below us. It was awe-inspiring to think that the thick
lush of greenery below us were treetops. After making it past the seventh bridge, we made our way on
downward through the Park, stumbling upon the coconut juice stand along the way. The patron swiftly
cut off the top of large coconuts with a wide cutlass and handed them to us to drink the juice.
 
Refreshed, we went looking for crocodiles nearby but outside of the Park. We found several nestled
in or lazing on the bank of small bodies of water. We moved in close enough to observe them but we
didn’t dare disturb them.
 
More serene, and less populated, this part of Ghana stood in interesting contrast to its capital city Accra
located about 275 miles away. Consistent though was the general ease with which Ghanaians carried on
with daily life.
 
Before venturing from the Greater Accra region towards the Central region, I had spent several days
touring Accra. This was preceded by the day-long bus ride I took from Nigeria through Benin and Togo
before arriving in Ghana – arguably one of the most tourist-friendly countries in West Africa. We
alighted into a burst of commercial activity. People hawking – from trays on their heads and roadside
stalls – everything from recharge phone cards, prepared food and snacks to bundles of the tiniest red
onions I had ever seen. But in the background remained an impenetrable calm.
 
Because Accra is a compact, relatively well-laid out city, getting around was quite easy. The country
had recently lost its president, Atta Mills, and tributaries abounded on almost every street corner from
street lamps to museums. Ghana knows how to honor its socio-political luminaries.
 
West Africa Trip 246The Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park – a carefully constructed homage to the country’s first president
– is a must-see. So is the W.E. Dubois Memorial located in the well-heeled Cantonments area. But it
was Jamestown, an old fishing community, that offered one of the most stunning views of the city via a
lighthouse that dates back to the 1800’s.
 
If the National museum showcased Ghana’s history and rich cultural heritage with art, excavations,
textiles from around the country and other parts of West Africa, Aburi Gardens helped display its
natural beauty. Ghana’s “Garden of Eden” sits high in the mountainous East Legon region requiring a
bit of an excursion from Accra. Attractive homes etched in hills peppered the landscape on the way to
Aburi Gardens which strikingly overlooks Accra. Aburi is home to many acres of trees with stories for
a lifetime. Some had quite unusual characteristics – with leaves growing from its bark, for example.
One that seemed to garner a lot of attention grew horizontally with “two tops”, one on each side. Short
trees. Tall trees. All arresting in how disheveled or gracefully they stood.
 
It seemed like an ideal prelude to the drive up to Cape Coast to visit the castles. The Cape Coast CastleWest Africa Trip castle
and the Elmira Castle are the two predominant castles, with the latter being the older and larger of thetwo. At Cape Coast Castle, a personable tour guide relayed heart-rending stories of slavery in Ghana
skillfully balancing a very sensitive subject matter with just enough detachment. In every dungeon weentered he challenged our group to try to imagine what it was like living in slave conditions.
 
Noteworthy - and touching - were the bouquet of flowers, gifts heaped in a corner which he said were
from African Americans who visited the castles to pay homage to their ancestors. One was from some
special visitors – the First Family of the U.S.When Michelle Obama visited Ghana in 2009 with herfamily, she too presented a special bouquet at the Cape Coast Castle to honor her forebears. Thereit was, positioned near where the chief priest would have been seated had he been there when wewere on the tour. Replete with animal skin, the pseudo throne of the chief priest represents Ghana’s connection with its traditional religions the tour guide told us. A little more subdued but not lackingthe complex, fascinating history of the Cape Coast castle, Elmina Castle’s fishing town backdrop offeredeasier access to admire the works of a flurry of carpenters building giant fishing boats and fishermenprepping vast webs of fishing nets. While nearby a tribe of goats lazily grazed close to waterfront quiteoblivious to the waves noisily clashing onto shore less than five feet from them. Very slowly, venturingwestward, the sun began to paint the scenery with a subtlegolden hue. It was time to start heading for Accra.West Africa Trip obama
 
 
Ufuoma Otu is an avid traveler who is passionate about intercultural exchange. Recent travels have taken her to China, Thailand, Cambodia, Panama, Nigeria, Ghana, Czech Republic, and Turkey.
 
Photos:
1) Author at Kakum National Park
2) Kakum National Park Canopy Walk
3) Kwame Nkrumah Memorial, Accra
4) Elmina Castle
5) The Obama's plaque at Cape Coast Castle
 

In its heyday, the city of Chicago was a unanimous choice to house 1893 The Columbian Exposition, most popularly and affectionately known as The Chicago World’s Fair. The metropolis that lie nearly smack-dab in the middle of North America boasted the tallest building in the world for nearly a century—downtown Chicago’s Sears Tower; those brave enough to climb to the top can glimpse the peak of four states at once (Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan). Unto today, the shops of State Street and its neighboring Magnificent Mile draw millions of tourists. Attractions such as Navy Pier and the Museum Campus swell in the summertimes. And of course, there is the Chicago Bulls Dynasty and still The Taste of Chicago—a summer feeding extravanganza featuring some of the best corner and gourmet cuisine any world-class city has to offer.

For Black Americans, Chicago holds a heartfelt stature as one of the most populated resting spots for Black migrants from the South after the World Wars. The city produced some of the most innovative and legendary jazz and blues artists of the world, cementing America as capable of giving rise to its own unique musical genres. It was a hotbed of suffrage, Civil Rights and Black Power activity, with none other than Minister Louis Farakhan, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and Barack Obama calling it home.

But a few outspoken souls are now questioning whether Chicago can continue to compete as a world-class city that tourists want to spend their vacation, money and time to visit. It is not only the near artic temperatures that surround the city in the winter months. It is also a state of fear which hovers around the largely urban neighborhoods and the rise in street crime in the central downtown tourist districts.

HayOn January 29, 2013, a bullet pierced 15-year old Hadiya Pendleton in the back while she gathered with her high school friends in a park just one short mile from President Obama’s home. Much has been made of this fact, and it is hard not to. Ms. Pendleton had just come from a trip she earned with her school band to perform as a majorette at Obama’s Second Inauguration less than 10 days before. The ironic connection not only stirred conspiracy theorists, but it also thrust a death that may have just been a local news soundbite into the national spotlight where it belongs. Ms. Pendleton was an honors student. She was described as highly intelligent, diplomatic and funny by those who knew her. Yet, it took a link to our President to start the conversation that had been somewhat buried: Is unpredictable, chronic violence scaring people away from Chicago?

For many years, the presence of Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo behomoth and Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls dynasty veiled the disturbing secret of their mutual locale: the West Side Chicago neighborhood these entities called home was rife with multiple shootings, drive-bys, gang violence and unsolved murders. Yet, foreigners and tourists were hidden from the dangers inherent in their visits by the spectacular shows that awaited them. Now, with such phenomenal lures having had their time come and go in Chicago, tourism is down and so are spirits. With such events as the famed Chicago Auto Show and Chicago Theatre Week fast-approaching, many are too afraid to get tickets.

Chicago is a “downtown” city characterized by highly compartmentalized and distinct neighborhoods, sprawling across 3 huge regions known as the South Side, West Side and North Side. Chicago’s East Side is virtually non-existent or located in Indiana, with Lake Michigan being the final edge for the city on what could be land to the East. Despite such a spread, the downtown and North Side areas comprise the majority of tourist attractions and business activity. They also have largely White populations. But the South and West Side of Chicago, hotbeds of murder, are economically poor and violent.

Just last year, Chicago Tourism Chief and Choose Chicago CEO Don Welsh expressed his wish to the Chicago Tribune that he hopes the violence in the city “sunsets quickly,” as it would surely have an effect on all the city accomplished to spruce up Chicago for visitors, locals and natives. Although he quickly backtracked his statements, he simply uttered what had been on the minds of many for quite some time. The unprecendented skyline, perfect Lake Michigan lakefront, grand Midwest theatre district, and outstanding athletic teams may not be enough to draw tourists to a city known by its chronic killing.

chicagoEarly last year, there was a 38% spike in homicides in the first 6 months of the year. A band of thieves and assailants targeted tourists—often conspicuous due to their large groups or confused orientations—for robberies and attack. Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emmanuel quickly attempted to buttress the growing concerns caused by headlines nationwide; the city had a reinforced police force and rejuvenated landscape, and the incidents of violence among tourists and residents were minimal compared to overall safety. But now, with Ms. Pendleton’s death providing a renewed platform to share stories of violence and fear in Chicago, the concerns have returned and have grown.

Pop culture, hip-hop and Hollywood depict Chicago’s mob history as a vintage scene of old to provide prime fodder for books, song lyrics and films. But recently, ABC News, tracked that Chicago’s current murder rate (42 killings in January 2013 thusfar, or more than one a day) makes Al Capone’s “gangland” Chicago look safe. However, that level of glorification has come with the cost of masking what truly goes on in the city today.

 Along with Hadiya Pendleton, 6 more teenagers in Chicago were murdered with gunshots or violent assault—yet, Ms. Pendleton’s link to the President insures her name became known while the other young victims are barely announced. No matter the sights of the city, if its reputation for violence continues to make news more than its reputation in arts, culture, entertainment, and athletics, Chicago may be put to rest as a tourism has-been.

About Hadiya Pendleton: Hadiya Pendelton (1998-2013) was a 15-year old King College Prep High School sophomore. She was a band majorette and popular honors student. She is survived by her mother Cleopatra Crowley, her father Nate “Anthony” Pendleton, and her little brother Nathaniel Pendleton. She had no arrest history or gang affiliation. Ms. Pendleton’s dreams included attending Northwestern University to become a pharmacist and journalist. The Chicago police department reported 506 homicides in 2012, and the recent tragedy of Pendleton has prompted local authorities to move an additional 200 officers on to street patrols.

First Lady Michelle Obama attended the teen girl’s funeral.

ABC 7 News: (http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/02/hadiya-pendleton-funeral-attended-by-first-lady-michelle-obama-city-officials/)

barbados church Hiking isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when I hear the word ‘Barbados’. Like most, I envision white sand beaches shaded by palm trees, along a coast of turquoise water. Beaches abound, but I was determined this time around my visit would include something different, that no honeymooner, retired vacationer, or even locals might not know about. Going on an early Sunday morning hike with a cousin provided just that. I discovered there is much more to Barbados when you go further up and further in.

Our day got off to a rocky start. I woke up late, which put us behind schedule and my cousin in a foul mood. We left my aunt’s house and sped down the desolate and narrow roads of Christ Church to arrive in St. John, nearly missing the 6am ‘6 mile stop and stare tour’ departure time. As we arrived in the parking lot of our group of 15 people had just set out, and had to run to catch up to them. It was an eclectic group; there was the father with his three young sons, all wearing taqiyah, or prayer caps. As he walked they followed dutifully behind, like little ducklings all in a row. There were the two women who mentioned they were on the hike as way to get back in shape. The older British couple and their adult children on a family vacation and a few others. Then there were those who, like me, wanted to explore Barbados, but not in the typical touristy way. Our guides, 2 friendly local men in headbands, held makeshift walking sticks and casually shuffled along, as if out for a morning stroll.

Barbados has long had the reputation of being ‘a flat island’ in the Caribbean. People from other parts of the English West Indies love to tease Bajans (colloquial for Barbadians) about this, using their own island’s natural mountainous beauty as bragging rights. But they would soon change their tune if not too out of breath after the trek led by our guides who, I discovered, may have been nearly twice my age, but also twice as in shape. They took us through fields of sugar cane that towered above our heads, up steep hills with old windmills and down through slippery gullies with rocky terrain.Barbados View from Parish of St-John

It all culminated in reaching the highest point after our 3 hour journey: St John’s Parish Church. From the grounds of this gothic style church built in 1836, we witnessed the break of dawn from a cliff overlooking the east coast of the Atlantic as the sun glistened over sea and sand, rooftops and treetops for miles around. Embarking on this free adventure made me feel as if I got to know the real Barbados, not the one made up of sun umbrellas hammocks and colorful drinks on the shoreline. I discovered the beauty doesn’t stop at the beach. Put down the rum punch, leave the coastline behind, and delve into the island’s interior and you’ll find out it’s been hiding a secret right under its tropical sun.

Tours depart every Sunday from different locations around Barbados at 6 am, 3:30pm or 5:30pm and last roughly 3 hours. They vary in intensity and are divided into categories based on hikers’ experience levels. All hikes are free, but Hike Barbados gladly accepts donations to help preserve the environment through the Barbados National Trust

 

lagos“Shine your eye!” is an oft-quoted Pidgin English phrase for anyone visiting Lagos, including Nigerians who have been away from the country for some time or are originally from other parts of the country. It’s simply caution for one to be alert when traveling through the city. Lagos is a sprawling, chaotic metropolis with a lot of edge and Lagosians are arguably the street savviest of Nigerians you will ever meet. And living in the economic capital of the most populous country in Africa, Lagosians have seen it all. Incredible wealth, evident in luxury homes and cars you will see around the city, not far from less developed, congested communities and barely there social infrastructure – check. Legendary traffic during rush hour – check. The daily hustle and bustle that goes into living in such a crowded city – check.

As far as touristy activities go, Lagos is an anomaly - ideal for the seasoned, adventurous, curious traveler. While the city’s government is making small strides in promoting it as a tourism hub in West Africa, it’s still a city that might grow on you. But then it might not. Lagos is not yet a city pining for its close-up. In fact, its appeal (or detraction) is firmly in its take it or leave it vibe. There’s no silver platter for what it has to offer just yet, you will have to do a little digging to better appreciate how your interests intertwine with the city’s dynamic cultural fabric.

The best way to explore Lagos is with a trustworthy, knowledgeable local friend or associate. If you enjoy nightlife, there are quite a variety of clubs and lounges to explore in Victoria Island and other parts of the city. Lagos is home to some of the most dynamic Afro pop music currently exploding across sub-Saharan Africa and you will be in for a pulsating time. Care to get a bite before heading out? Well, an assortment of flavorful traditional and international cuisine await you depending on how bold your taste-buds and stomach are. There are appetizing options to be had at roadside or hole-in-the-wall restaurants called “mama put” joints or “buka” to casual dining, take-out restaurants and more upscale restaurants.lagos_beach

For beach lovers, Lagos straddles the Atlantic Ocean and has its fair share of beaches spread across the city. A number of private eaches are accessible too for sometimes exorbitant fees. Art lovers can feast their eyes on cultural offerings at spots like TerraKulture, also in Victoria Island, which features arts, crafts and exhibitions. While Nike (pronounced “Nee-Keh”) Centre for Art & Culture in Lekki (Phase 1) offers an extraordinary collection of works by artists from all over Nigeria. The four-story gallery shows like a museum in its own right and is a haven for true art lovers and buyers.

Lagos is a character, taking it all in stride is part of the adventure that is this one-of-a-kind city. So, yes do “shine your eye” when you visit because Lagos promises to be one unforgettable experience!

At_The_Palms_Lekki

Ufuoma Otu (at the Palms Lekki) is an avid traveler who is passionate about intercultural exchange.  Recent travels have taken her to China, Thailand, Cambodia, Panama, Nigeria, and Ghana.

 

 

 

 

Travel

Edit

Amount of short articles:

Amount of articles links:

You can order sections with dragging on list bellow:

  • Travel
Save
Cancel
Reset

1

My Ugandan Adventure at the Source of the Nile in

Image - My Ugandan Adventure at the Source of the Nile in

  Re-Discover Uganda! (Part 2)                                                          

Monday, 30 March 2015 Comments

Discover Cape Verde!

Image - Discover Cape Verde!

Literally translated, Boa Vista means “beautiful view” and the Cape Verde island lives up to its name, surprising visitors with stunning views. But there is so much more to Boa

Monday, 27 May 2013 Comments

Enjoying the Night Life in Dakar, Senegal

Image - Enjoying the Night Life in Dakar, Senegal

If you are ever in Senegal, you must go to Dakar for nightlife entertainment. Senegal's capital, Dakar is located in the most western point of the African continent. You will find

Wednesday, 26 September 2012 Comments

2

Cheap Flights to Africa: Ten Tips on Travel to the

Image - Cheap Flights to Africa: Ten Tips on Travel to the

More and more African Americans and people in the Western hemisphere are fulfilling their dreams of visiting Africa. Finding a cheap flight to Africa from the US is not so

Wednesday, 26 September 2012 Comments

A Giraffe Sighting: An Unforgettable Moment in East

Image - A Giraffe Sighting: An Unforgettable Moment in East

                                                                              On that morning when I stepped to view the 8000 foot high Miriakamba compound on Tanzania's Mt. Meru, where I had eaten and slept better than I had expected the

Tuesday, 11 October 2011 Comments

Going Back to My African Roots!

Image - Going Back to My African Roots!

A traveller from Great Britain experiences the 10th International Gambian Roots FestivalSince my mid twenties, I’ve become a very keen traveller to Afrika.  I really got into it in 1997

Friday, 8 April 2011 Comments

3

Must-Do Tour: Visit the Holy Land In March,

Image - Must-Do Tour: Visit the Holy Land In March,

                                                                  For more

Sunday, 19 November 2017 Comments

10 Historically Black Beaches to Visit This

Image - 10 Historically Black Beaches to Visit This

If you did not get to go in summer 2016, plan to visit one of these beaches now. Elle gave us this round up on 10 historic black beaches to

Friday, 23 June 2017 Comments

Doin’ Accra: Six Ways To Catch Some Culture In Ghana’s

Image - Doin’ Accra: Six Ways To Catch Some Culture In Ghana’s

In part one of a six-part series on Ghana for AFK Travel, Starrene Rhett-Rocque, a first-time visitor to the country, blazes a trail through the capital city of Accra in

Wednesday, 18 March 2015 Comments