Perfect Backpacking Holiday

The world is a huge place and therefore, if you want to see as much as possible, taking a backpackers holiday is ideal. Rather than being fixed in one location for the duration of your vacation, enjoying a backpackers retreat will allow you the flexibility to go exactly where you want. And, as long as you do the necessary prep work before you leave, a backpacking holiday can give you one of the most perfect getaways you’ll ever experience.

There are a vast range of top destinations to visit, and there is no end to where you’ll be able to explore. Some of the best places for backpacking holidays are the Americas, Australia, Thailand, Europe and India, with each location offering its own unique attractions and iconic landmarks to see. It is therefore essential that before you leave on your holiday you do some preparation in terms of discovering where you’re going. This can save vital time when you’re in a country, allowing you to head directly to the popular spots, save money, and make the most out of your time away whether it’s a few short weeks or several months.

One of the most significant things you should organize is how you intend on travelling around. Once you’ve booked your flights, which can be bought as open flexible travel so that you can move around at your own free will, you’ll need to establish how to move around within a country. Whilst public transport is always an option, a great way to travel, especially if you’re holidaying with friends, is to take advantage of cheap car rentals. If you’re planning on moving around a lot then simply hiring a car can actually work out as inexpensive as taking multiple train and bus journeys. In addition it’ll offer you a little luxury as you won’t have to heave your bags around and will be able to enjoy you own space without having to deal with passengers you don’t know.

Once you know how you’ll travel around it is important to plan a few places to go. There is something to be said for simply arriving in a country and heading out on a whim, however, this can often lead to a lot of time being wasted. You can maximize your stay by picking out a few key areas to visit such as major tourist attractions and landmarks. On your travels between these sights you can then explore other areas, allowing you the freedom of enjoying a backpacker’s holiday. This way you won’t return home feeling that you’ve missed anything out, and will be able to share stories and pictures of some of the world’s greatest sights in addition to your own unique adventures.

If it’s done in the correct way a backpacker’s holiday can truly be one of the best adventures you will ever experience. You can go where you what, when you want, and get a completely different view of a location than if you were staying in a resort in one place. And by carefully planning your journey beforehand you can reduce the possible issues that might occur whilst you’re away.

Tantalizing Tanzania

Tanzania is surely one of the most breathtaking countries in East Africa. Home to the historic state of Zanzibar, the towering Mount Kilimanjaro and so many more beautiful sites and experiences, Tanzania is not to be missed on any trip to the continent.

After a considerable amount of advice and recommendations, I decided to start my trip in Zanzibar. Where better to start than Zanzibar city itself? Situated on the west coast of Unguja (the main island of the Zanzibar Archipelago), the city offers something to suit every taste and interest. For a dose of historic architecture, The Stone Town is the place to see. The House of Wonders is probably one of most well-known landmarks. It was built in 1883 as a Sultan’s residence and is simply spectacular. The Old Fort, a heavy stone fortress is also well worth a visit. Live dance and music shows are held daily in the internal courtyard. After a day of sightseeing in sweltering heat, it was time for something to eat. The Forodhani Gardens, fronting The House of Wonders is the place to go after sunset for great food. Expect everything from grilled seafood to typical Zanzibari recipes. Pilau Meat with coconut milk and rice was my particular favourite.

With a belly full of rich and exotic food, it was time to burn off the calories. What better way to do this than trekking Mount Kilimanjaro? The climb is not an easy one. High winds and altitude sickness can put many people off. But the views are simply stunning and well worth the trek. The Rongai and Marangu paths are the best camping routes for beginners. If you would rather gaze at the impressive mountain from a safe distance, the plains of Moshi town are ideal. Expect to see some giraffes casually wondering about too.

If it’s luxury you are after, staying in Tanzania completely satisfies this need. Lake Manyara Tree Lodge, quietly tucked away by a beautiful lake and mahogany forest is the perfect base to enjoy the Tanzania Royal Safari. Expect seven days of seeing all kinds of game and the stunning plains of Kilimanjaro. There are plenty of luxury safari packages out there to suit every budget and taste. Unfortunately, my wee budget could not stretch this far, but not to worry. The Zanzibar Palace Hotel in the Stone Town was my base of choice. With authentic architecture, friendly staff and yummy breakfasts, you couldn’t really go wrong. The Zanzibar Serena Inn is another great location in the centre of the Stone Town. With its historical features still intact, there is a real atmosphere to the place.

To be truthful, Tanzania completely exceeded my expectations. When people think of a great safari, perhaps Kenya or South Africa spring to mind. Or if people want a bustling, cosmopolitan city, maybe Cape Town would be top of their list? The truth is, Tanzania offers both of these things and so much more. Whether you are trekking Kilimanjaro, sightseeing in Zanzibar City or just looking at some spectacular game, it’s hard to know where to start.

For more info please see My Destination Tanzania

Getting Away to the Cape Verde Islands

By Travel Writer Bradley Fink

When planning getaways, many tend to overlook the islands of Cape Verde. Butthis archipelago is one of the world’s most spectacular island chains.Magnificently scenic, exotic and diverse, Cape Verde is a great escapefrom the hordes of Paris and London.And what’s more, withbudgetbungalows,mid-rangehotels, and a growing number of resorts, there are great Cape Verde places to stay throughout these peaceful islands.

Located 570 kilometresoff the coast of Senegal, Cape Verde is an easy flight from Lisbon or the UK. Several flights arrive each week from London, Birmingham and Manchester. Most of these will take you to the Island of Santiago, which is the largest and most populated island of this little chain.If you like romantic landscapes, then you’ll love the vistas here, with sandy beaches, beautiful blue seas, and high volcanic cliffs.While the capital city of Praia has some restaurants and hotels, the interior of the island is a realm of natural wonder. National parks abound with mountain peaks and fertile valleys, where hiking is the best way to enjoy the high terrain. On the shores of Santiago, you’ll find fishing, diving, wind-surfing, sailing, and a number of other sports.

The other islands offer differentthings to see and do. For instance, Santa Antao is known for hiking, while Sal is known for its water sports and holiday resorts.  On any island you can find some top-notch ocean fishing, either from the shore, or by hiring a local fishing boat. But if you really want to escape, then make your way toSao Vicente, which is often thought to be the most enchanting of these islands.In Mindelo, which is home to most of Sao Vicente’s population, you’ll find a rich tradition of music, culture,restaurants and nightlife. The city has a vibrant buzz of pubs and entertainment, as well as several festivals that many come to see. In August there is a beach music festival during the full moon, and in February the city comes alivefor the annualcarnival.

Toeat in Mindelo, make your way to the food stalls of the QuiosquePraca Nova, where for 2 euros you can have a traditional local snack. Cachupa, a slow cooked stew, is famous in Cape Verde, and many people consider it to be the country’s national fare. This is made with corn, beans, and fish ormeat, which may be chicken, goat,or beef. Another delicious treat is the Portuguese dish calledFeijoada, which is also a stew of beans and meat, which is usually pork or beef.

Travelling in Cape Verde is a fairly simple task. There are ferries with connections to all nine of the inhabited islands.You may expect delays, however, as seas can become rough, but it’s a fast and easyway ofhopping in between the isles. There are also international airports on Sal, Boa Vista, and Sao Vincente, which are cheap and easy ways to make the trip from shore to shore.

For more info, please take a look at Cape Verde My Destination

Enjoying Johannesburg

Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city is undoubtedly one the country’s many gems. While the city’s crime-riddled past may be of concern to some tourists (including myself), my experience of the city was anything but dangerous. So, here are just some of the things you can safely enjoy in Johannesburg….

Johannesburg places to stay are stylish and sophisticated. The Peech Hotel in Melrose is one of the city’s renowned, boutique hotels and offers contemporary, African cuisine in their modern restaurant as well as spacious and luxurious rooms. However, if like me you want to be right in the hub of the city, look no further than the Reef Hotel. While it may not measure up to the overstated Peech Hotel, it’s comfy, clean and convenient. What more could I want?

If it’s a good shop that you’re after, why not stay away from the typical shopping malls and head to one of the many markets? Bruma Lake Flea Market is one of the biggest markets in South Africa and you’ll find almost anything here. Textiles, clothes, jewellery, wood, furniture, there is something for everyone. It’s acceptable to try your hand at a bit of haggling too. Let’s just say my bargaining powers need a wee bit of practice… The East Rand Flea Market is another must for market lovers. Situated in Boksburg just outside of the city, the market is particularly famous for its abundance of artwork, particularly street wire art.

So, I couldn’t really go to South Africa without going on safari could I? To escape the hustle and bustle of Johannesburg for a couple of days fly out to Kruger National Park. As one of the top national parks in the world, it would be criminal not to pay a visit. With a safari to suit every taste and budget, Kruger has something for everyone. I set off on the ‘Great Trek North’ and witnessed all of the big game as well as rare, local species. There was also a tense moment with a hungry lion, but let’s not get in to that…

Upon my return from the wild I decided to dip into a little history and culture. Soweto, one of Johannesburg’s largest districts provides the best insight into the country’s past. If you can bare a museum, the Hector Pietersen Museum in Orlando West is well worth a visit. The museum gives a fascinating insight into the apartheid regime and is located two blocks away from where Hector Pietersen (a casualty of the 1976 Soweto uprising) was killed. Soweto is also home to a more recent addition to the country’s history- Soccer City, home of the 2010 Fifa World Cup. Why not go and see some local football or just marvel at the impressive stadium?

Shopping, luxury hotels, lions and football. Johannesburg and the surrounding area really left me spoilt for choice. I’m just happy I got out of Kruger alive!

For more great info and insight into Jo’burg please take a look at Johannesburg My Destination

Home Sweet Home. I mean…Tent Sweet Tent.

I been asked over and over again what it was like for me to live in the forest, and it occured to me how unbelievable it might be to some people that, along with three other people, I lived without electricity (well, we had a generator that we were able to use about once a week), running water, or regular contact with the outside world. We lived in tents, cooked over a fire, bathed and washed dishes and clothes in nearby freshwater sources, and used ‘latrines’ (AKA holes in the ground).

Despite all of these inconveniences, life in the forest was freaking amazing. We were surrounded by wildlife everyday; one of our camps had a semi-resident group of Pogonias monkeys that, on one morning, decided they would jump around in the trees over our camp.

During our time in the forest, we basically had two on-trail camps that we stayed in, one after the other.

The first was christened ‘Etepo Beta’, and sat on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the ocean. The camp was pretty awesome, but definitely had some unique topographical issues. For instance, our freshwater source was at the bottom of a soul-crushing ravine that involved a fair amount of controlled butt sliding to get down. It was literally sheer at some points, and I swear I had to use all available handholds to get back up again. Bathing here gave a new meaning to the word clean; by the time we got back to camp we were usually sweating again, so when we said that we were ‘clean‘, what we usually meant was that we had bathed at one point during the day.

Etepo beta bathing area. What you don’t see are the thousands of little crayfish that liked to nip at our feet and seemed to have exponential population growth during the time we were there.

Living in a tent was also not bad at all – I actually slept really, really well. Yes, when it rained incessantly (which it did…a lot), the tarp under my tent usually held some water, which made sleeping on it something akin to a waterbed. But, all in all, it was like a little haven of privacy for all of us.

My tent is the one all the way to the left!

Our kitchen/living room/hang out area. Our bubi porters built us the awesome shelf thing under the tarp.

Hanging out in our ‘kitchen’ on a early evening.

My boss found this plastic chair on the beach, and hiked it back up to our camp…the first of several good beach finds.

At any given point in time, at least 50% of my belongings were soaked or wet. Usually 95% of my belongings were at least damp. Drying out shoes was a losing battle…but I still gave it a go whenever I could, because there is nothing worse in the morning than a wet pair of boots!

After days and days of rain, I would just wake up hoping that enough sunshine would make it through the trees to dry my clothes. Fortunately, at the next camp we could use hot beach rocks to dry our clothes much faster.

Our second camp was like paradise. Really, it was. It was right on the beach and directly next to a nice river – one that did not involve a somewhat dangerous climb. Named ‘seven caves camp’, for the seven caves that were found along the coastline at that point, it was my favorite place during my time out there.

Boss and Seth doing laundry in the river right by our camp.

The kitchen/living area at our second camp was way bigger; Seth is sitting on a plastic chair (different from the first one…this was like a patio chair) that we rescued from the beach trash and sat on in camp.

When we did take days off from doing census we often worked on data entry or doing camp chores. This is me trying to sit away from the generator fumes :-)

Washing dishes was so much easier now that the water was close by.

The last night on the beaches, we had to hike to a different location that was easier pick up point for our boat ride out. We took about two hours to set up camp on a tidal beach that was basically surrounded on all sides by cliffs, ocean, and a river. This involved cutting a camping area in a narrow, densely vegetated piece of land.

Me with a machete…

Me actually using the machete.

For what it’s worth – I would go back in second.

Night time, rainforest style.

Nights were a really weird time in the forest; we didn’t have electricity so we would do everything by firelight or by headlamp light beam. It’s strange to describe the feeling of being confined to such a small area because of a lack of power, although I came to prefer having a headlamp on me…even when I got back to ‘civilization’. I think, as with everything about my trip, pictures say much more than anything I could ever describe (I am, after all, just an amateur blogger). That being said, I’ve put together some pictures that hopefully convey would the typical night was at Camp Drew & Crew.

Dinner was usually started before dark, but more often than not, we finished the final preparations using headlamp light.

On the days when our porters were with us in camp, they prepared the food while we took care of other camp business.

Dinner time!

Reppin´the headlamp.

Doing the nightly foot check. I wrote an article for the Naples Daily News about this whole can of worms.

Twice a week we turned on the satellite phone. We would take turns sitting by the phone – it was our only contact with the outside world.

Books became the ultimate entertainment…no facebook or myspace here!

Hot drink time was probably my favorite time of the day after bathing. There is nothing as delicious as a hot beverage at the end of a long day. I preferred hot milk (powdered milk, some sugar, and some cacao powder), while the two guys preferred coffee, and Polly was all for a fully chocolaty experience.