Destination West Africa: Travel Plans for 2016

These are the soporific, lazy days between Christmas and New Year when the leftovers seem never-ending; piles of chocolates and mince pies still adorn every surface; and everyone is in a slightly boozy state of relaxation. It seems like a good time to start thinking about the year ahead, as 2015 ambles to an unseasonably warm close. For me, it’s all about destination West Africa, as I prepare for two months based in Dakar, Senegal. Africa is a continent which has been calling me for a long time. I’ve worked as a film reviewer of African cinema, I’ve hosted an African series on this blog, I’ve completed a Masters in African film, and I’ve lived vicariously through friends’ experiences. But I’ve yet to really get to know any of the cultures or places first-hand. 2016 will change all of that, as I head to Dakar for a while. I’m planning to continue with education and research there, with classes in Wolof (the main language in Senegal besides French), meetings at the university, and lots of time watching films and researching cinema. But of course, plenty of travel will be involved as well. I’ll navigate the journey to Guinea-Bissau, one of the world’s least visited countries, perhaps via the Gambia, and I’ll spend some time in the Senegalese city of Saint-Louis, a UNESCO World Heritage site. I’m leaving on the last day of February, arriving in Dakar on the first day of March, with everything, except flights, to sort out before then. But I have always been a last minute sort of a traveller. As with all my big adventures,...

7 Links: My Starry-Eyed Travels so far

It’s taken me a while to get round to writing my own 7 Links list, but after being nominated by MalloryOnTravel and stirred into action by the fabulous lists appearing on travel blogs everywhere, here it is. It’s a great idea dreamed up by Tripbase, one which has allowed me the great luxury of meandering through my archives, stopping nostalgically here and there and reflecting on my still young but evolving blog. I have nominated 5 further bloggers who I hope will enjoy writing their lists as much as I did! So without further ado, here are my 7 Links. Most beautiful post La Vie Douce in the Dordogne All the posts I’ve done about France fit into the ‘beautiful’ category, with all the breathtaking landscapes, incredible cuisine and historical gorgeousness that I’ve discovered there. However, it was the Dordogne Valley above all places that truly spoiled me with endless photo opportunities and a simply beautiful way of living. I only hope I managed to capture that beauty in this post! Most popular post Preparations of a Novice Backpacker I discovered that people love it when I’m open and honest and they see a bit of the real me! Ironically, this was a post I dashed off in a frenzied state of booking and trying to organise things ahead of my trip. However, other travellers seemed to connect with the tone of panicked excitement. Despite writing more polished pieces before and since, this remains one of my most popular posts. Most controversial post Behind the Headlines: The Middle East I am passionate about Human Rights issues and while I thought hard about whether to include more...

Starry-Eyed Africa Roundup

So, the two-week Africa theme is over, and what a fabulous two weeks it has been. It sounds stupid, but even though part of the point of it was to show that this amazing and complex continent cannot be defined or described in simple terms, I thought that I might be able to show a lot more of it in two weeks. At the start, a fortnight felt like a luxurious amount of time, but before long, the days were slipping away at an alarming rate and I only managed a few feature pieces, which in no way adequately portray all that is Africa. I hope that you can accept these weaknesses and that what is here has in some way opened your eyes and has left you wanting to discover more. I am very lucky to have had a whole range of expert guest bloggers and contributors, who all approached the idea of ‘Starry-Eyed Africa‘ from a different point of view, but who provided an incredible series of articles. Maya Northen of Chimera Travel got the fortnight off to a flying start with her Close Encounter in Botswana… Jo Woods, who is just finishing her degree in African Studies, took us on a Journey Beneath an African Sun… Matt Crowcombe of SOS Africa and Dogwoof, on behalf of the film A Small Act, contributed information and photos for the feature piece: A Small Act Joanne Haw of Classic Retreats provided the finale, describing what it feels like to be Starry-Eyed in Africa. On the Facebook Page, Iain Mallory, from MalloryOnTravel and Anne from Oyster Worldwide both joined the...

Starry-eyed in Africa

The final guest post of the Africa fortnight comes from Joanne Haws of Classic Retreats. Prepare to become starry-eyed… The phone rings… slightly disorientated, you lean over and reach for the receiver. ‘Hello?’  – “Good morning this is your 5:30am wake up call.” A jolt of excitement and a rush of energy pulses through your body as you throw yourself out of bed! It is dark, slightly cold as you leave the warmth and luxury of your chalet. Making your way to the communal area there is a smell of fresh earth and sounds of crickets and morning birds.You are handed a much needed strong coffee by a warm friendly smiling face, far too awake for this time of the morning. Your ranger wonders over with a smirk on his face, realising in an instant that this is your first time safari experience, he confidently knows he is about to take you on an exceptional life changing adventure…. Having grown up in South Africa and having spent much of my childhood holidays camping in the African bush the thrill of a safari experience; the anticipation when setting out on a game drive and having no clue what is in store, the exceptional wilderness adventure and the glow of the African sun warming the earth and wakening the world, never ceases to amaze and excite me. The diversity that Southern Africa has to offer; chic Cape Town beaches and restaurants, mountains, whales, infamous wine routes, easy self drive itineraries, fabulous dive sites and tropical beaches, incredible safari experiences in simple bush camps to luxurious chalets and a host of adventures...

News: A Small Act

Creating lasting change in Africa One small act can change the world. I can hear the rumbling of cynicism already, but allow me to explain. On the 15th April 2011, the film A Small Act by Jennifer Arnold was released in the UK and I went along to see it. What unfolded was the remarkable story of Chris Mburu, who began life in poverty in a Kenyan village and became a Human Rights lawyer working for the United Nations. He tracked down the Swedish schoolteacher who had sponsored him through secondary school, a lady who never knew what had become of that little bit of money she donated  each month. He also founded his own sponsorship programme in her name: the Hilde Back Education Fund. With a small budget and limited resources, the foundation managed to support 10 children per year to attend secondary school. The story would be incredible enough, but the documentary was so successful and had such an effect on audiences that donations began flooding in and this year, the foundation is able to support over 100 children and has hugely increased its geographical scope. Without Hilde Back’s first donation, without Chris Mburu setting up the foundation, without the film being made and people donating, none of these children would have continued their education. The problem of access to education is not unique to Kenya. Matt Crowcombe was on a gap year in South Africa when he met schoolteacher Henry Matthews. Henry introduced him to the residents of the Lonely Park township near Mafikeng where schools had class sizes approaching 200 and severely insufficient resources. Matt...
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