After a couple of days of rough travelling, and my own months of a pretty intense Red Cross contract (immediately after my Belize contract) – I was more than excited for some relaxing beach time on Zanzibar. Our safari driver dropped us off by the ferry terminal in Dar es Salaam, and after the 2h boat ride we hopped straight into a cab by the ferry terminal. Be careful with the prices as they are trying hard to rip people off, there are even laminated “Government price lists” which are almost 4x the actual price. I had called our Zanzibar hotel the day before and asked what a cab should cost so we had a bargaining goal which we were able to hit.
The driver took us to Paje beach on the other side of the Island, where we checked in at Dhow Inn and had a good night’s sleep after having spent another entire day travelling. What we did next was my favourite of activities – absolutely nothing! We chilled on the beach, read books, walked around, painted our nails, had nice dinners, went to nearby Pingwe to the hyped restaurant The Rock which indeed was very cool – and spent the entire afternoon just chilling at Upendo, a chilled bar where we had fruit cocktails while a dj was spinning Fela Kuti tracks. We stayed until the mosquitoes came out.
Paje was a quiet and calm town with crispy white beaches, low tide and palm trees, friendly Masaai men selling handicrafts without being too pushy, and kite surfers with long hair spending their entire days on their boards. It was low season so there weren’t a lot of people around and it would probably have gotten rather boring to spend another day there – but to really get a proper break and some quiet time, Paje was absolutely perfect.
Next morning, we took off after an early breakfast and headed straight to the gates of the Selous Game Reserve again, where we spent the day first walking and then driving around, learning about the plants, insects and animals that the wilderness of Tanzania wanted to show us.
Finding the lions was not an easy task, but suddenly we saw them – and just as we did, our jeep got stuck in the mud. The driver wanted to get out of the car to manually shift the wheels to 4×4, so he revved the engine and opened the door to get out, but the lioness was just looking straight at him, from the other side of the hood, just a couple of feet away from where he needed to reach to hit the switch. He decided to close the door and get back into the car.
We closed the windows but our roof was pretty much open. I took some photos of the lioness that seemed rather uninterested, but judging from how our guide started sweating and looking rather uneasy, we sat down quietly and looked at her and her cubs in awe through the window. As the tension in the air slowly rose and I started wondering how long we would be sitting there and calculating how long the water would last us for – another jeep with a Japanese film crew pulled over, and their guide helped us out of the mud.
A similar thing happened with the elephants, as we had been looking around for them the entire day. I love elephants so I was excited to show my mom their grandeur, but the elephants in Selous were very different from the ones I had seen in Swaziland and Botswana before – Selous is apparently also a quite busy hunting ground, and elephants are intelligent animals – let’s just say they were not excited about seeing our jeep, and did everything to scare us off. And that elephants are big, scary and very dangerous.
All in all, it was a very enriching and exciting experience, but we basically survived both death-by-lion and death-by-elephant just so I can show you these photos, so do enjoy.
And yes – there were zebras too, and giraffes of course – ever so gracious.
After our second night in Dar es Salaam, we got packed and ready for adventure – and were picked up at 7.30 in the morning by the tour company we had booked a tour with – Waterbuck Safaris. We drove for almost six hours to the Selous Game Reserve, where we were going to spend two nights at the Zarafa Tented camp, and were greeted by the very nice manager, Henrick, with popcorn and orange juice. After checking in and dropping bags, we headed straight to the Rufiji river, where the captain took us for a cruise to see the sunset, some birds, crocodiles and hippos.
A very nice evening after a quite tiresome drive. And a gorgeous sunset.
As per tradition, my mom and I went for a trip in August. This time we went to Tanzania for two weeks which were to consist of walking, eating and exploring. We landed in Dar es Salaam, where we stayed in the middle of downtown and spent the first two days just walking around town and exploring. As always, we headed for the markets (The Kivukoni fish market and the Kariakoo market), spoke with people and tried a lot of street food. And on the second day we went to the more touristy Slipway Shopping Center in Masaki district where we sat in a bar by the sea and had a well deserved break, and I had a Savanna Dry cider! Hadn’t had those since Mozambique and was very happy to finally officially introduce my mother to the refreshing taste and a glimpse of what my life in Mozambique had been.
We were so excited to be in Tanzania and start another adventure, and this one had all the good things in store.
Went to see the acclaimed Cirque du Soleil show Joyà in Playa del Carmen on December 30th. A wonderful addition to a schedule already packed with impressions and highlights – and my first ever full Cirque du Soleil experience. It was amazing! The 250USD tickets (for two people) included a bottle of champagne and small bites of salty and sweet deliciousness (with edible spoons, yum!), and we were lucky to get some of the best seats in our price category, with a great view of the entire stage and all the little surprises happening around it. So very worth it. The stage isn’t huge like in other venues so it’s a very intimate setting and you’re literally part of the show at some points with things happening all around. The show itself was based on a simple adventure story, family friendly and entertaining – and blended a mix of languages, humour, dancing, acrobatics and of course great music into what became a rather magical night.
We had some time to have a drink and some starters in the restaurant Nektar just before the show, and were positively surprised by the low prices and really fast and great service considering the amount of people around and the absolutely stunning venue. All in all, a very positive experience, highly recommended if you’re in Playa!
In November, I was contacted by UNICEF Honduras to support the office with their visual communication and fundraising by producing a book with stories and photos from several of their initiatives around the country. My boss here in Belize agreed to let me go for a week, and I went for a 10 day – Friday to Sunday – deep-dive field mission.
I spent the days photographing and listening to people, which as you know are my two favourite things in the world. It was an amazing trip – and a very exhausting one – not only because of the overload of new information, long hours and distances travelled by car, but mainly because of the people I met and the stories they shared with me. Life in Honduras definitely has its challenges, many of them related to the widespread violence, poverty and lack of job opportunities – taking all of that in, trying to understand, listening, asking questions, taking notes, photographing.. was intense. Interviewing people about their personal experiences is not easy, you have to keep your empathy chip on while disconnecting emotionally – and just managing that is draining. It’s only later, when out of context, that the mind realizes the intensity of the experiences lived and the emotions kick in again. Combine that with the Paris attacks and globally increased racist sentiment that happened the same week and an overall gloomy time here. It was a particularly hard week, but nevertheless rich in new knowledge and refreshed willingness to continue doing what I do. The importance of giving a voice to these adolescents is higher than anything else, and it was as always very inspiring to get a glimpse of their dedication and young passionate minds. I love this job.
I will share the publication and the stories in January. Until then, here’s a small view of how things went down.
And yes, the local media got to me, haven’t found that clip though. haha
The portrait above is without doubt one of my favourites from the Cuba albums, the unforced and charming smile, the shadows, the colours, the hat – and capturing something so old and foreign to us, yet so common on the island – payphones. In some places people were even standing in line to make a call from one of these.
With only one day left to explore La Habana, we went for yet another full-day walk. I always think that we meet the most interesting people and see the most interesting things when strolling around without a goal, so to compromise, we usually do the “must-see’s” with my mom, and then make sure we have some time left to “just walk, talk and look” so I can take my photos and feel like I get into the vibe of the place. It’s a good deal and one of the reasons travelling with my mom is so comfortable – we get to do both because of our different priorities. So we walked and explored 14km of the city by foot, and among some interesting characters, we met Ivan with the cool hair-do and then found our way to Plaza Vieja again where we sat for a while and had mojitos and delicious Cuban croquetas. We also stumbled upon the chocolate museum where we sat down and had a couple of pralines, and we basically walked all day until it got dark and we had to make our way to the San Cristobal Paladar on the other side of town where we had booked a table for dinner. A nice walk in less touristy parts of the city.
San Cristobal was a nice restaurant with a quite unpredictable decor, and the food was fantastic. We ordered black bean soup with sweet potato chips, fried yuca, and the lamb, which was delicious and a perfect choice for what has become my once-monthly ration of red meat. We had some mojitos in the mezzanine of the hotel on the way back, and then a nice long lazy sleep – our last night on the comfy Saratoga mattresses.
Next morning we packed, had breakfast at the nearby Hotel Inglaterra which serves a nice and very priceworthy buffet for 6USD per person, and went straight to the pool to get some last moments of fun in the sun before flying out. The Saratoga staff agreed to give us a late checkout and I think by that point we decided that it actually had been a good choice despite the cost. Cuba had overall been quite an expensive trip, but all had worked out really well – from the convenience of the car rental, to what we felt was an appropriate amount of nights in every place, to the people we had met and the things we had seen. Cuba treated us really really well.