TANZANIA 2018 Turning off the main road we head up a windy incline into the foothills of Kilimanjaro towards Kahawa Shamba, a family run coffee farm. ‘Kahawa Shamba’, incidentally, means ‘coffee farm’ in Swahili – it must have taken a long meeting to decide on the name.  I quickly slip (literally) into my first off-road driving experience as we bump along a narrow track to the farm, at the gate of which we are greeted

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MALAWI: April 2018 The alluring smell of herbs, music blaring from a house, goats bleating. The lap of the water on the shore, the long stretch of untouched sand. The splash of a paddle in the water, the freshness of the air. The heat of the sun, the warmth of the people. Fishermen casting their nets out on the lake, others tending theirs at the water’s edge. The stench of fish laid out on long

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MALAWI: April 2018 There’s something about travel that encourages me to try new activities – the sort I’d never contemplate having a crack at stuck at home. Having exhausted snorkelling and kayaking and general lazing about in the relaxed atmosphere of Kaya Mawa resort – on the picturesque Likoma Island in the middle of Lake Malawi – my attention turns to the paddleboards that lie invitingly on the sand, next to the still, aquamarine water.

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MALAWI: April 2018 As we watch a scrub hare scurrying across the road in front of us, before it just as quickly disappears into the vegetation, Whyte Mhone, our guide on the Nyika Plateau, turns to us, ready to impart another of his wonderful tidbits. “Hares are so clever,” he smiles, a twinkle in his eye. “People hunt them with dogs, and when a dog is the hare will wait until the last second before

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MALAWI: April 2018 Acha Chawinga, as well as extolling the virtues of his country – not unexpected seeing as he works for the Malawi Department of Tourism – likes a good story. The phrase ‘kaya mawa’ – the name of our resort on Likoma Island – is the local equivalent of  ‘mañana’, along the lines of I could leave Likoma today, but maybe I’ll go tomorrow. The wiry Acha explains the meaning in a more

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MALAWI: April 2018 “We need to make Malawi an experience in one country,” says David Kelly, general manager at Tongole Wilderness Lodge in the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. But he adds that he would rather see Malawi promote its diverse ecosystems than go down the big game park route. “Malawi can offer a complete safari in one place – the Lake, wilderness, mountains, mopani forest. There are varied landscapes that Malawi could sell, but it has

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MALAWI: April 2018 As I sip a cool drink, perched on a barstool at Kaya Mawa on Likoma Island, overlooking Lake Malawi, barman Luke Kakhongwe tells me he was born on the island and has always lived here. Although members of his family have moved to the mainland, he seems to have no desire to do so. And looking around me, why would he – he has a great job in the perfect surroundings. As

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MALAWI: April 2018 “The translocation programme started in 2015, when African Parks took over Nkhotakota and Liwonde,” says Marnet Ngosi, education officer for African Parks, as she talks me through the largest transfer of elephants to a single reserve ever undertaken. Dubbed ‘500 Elephants’, the initiative saw the conservation NGO African Parks, together with Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife, move more than 500 elephants to Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve in the north from Liwonde

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MALAWI: April 2018 “I was attacked by a leopard when I was around seven years old,” says Emmanuel Kandiero, a guide in the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. We are sipping rather generous measures of Jameson whiskey (well, I am, Emmanuel’s drink of choice is a ‘Green’ – a Carlsberg to you and I) around the campfire at Tongole Wilderness Lodge, while telling stories. I have a feeling Emmanuel will trump the rest of us with this

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MALAWI: April 2018 James Lightfoot, a tall, blonde Englishman appears to love his lifestyle. Co-owner of Kaya Mawa on Likoma Island, a Malawian outpost that lies in the Mozambican-owned waters of Lake Malawi, he is also co-founder of Latitude Hotels. A backpacker in the ’80s and ’90s, like myself, he wanted to recreate the experience for that generation of travellers now that they had ‘grown up’. Although, we both agree, we haven’t really grown up.

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MALAWI: April 2018 Christopher Mvula, known more affectionately as Mr Christopher, is an engaging character. He oozes charisma and has one of those faces that you don’t forget – the sort you know has a thousand stories to tell. I’ve met him before – in Liwonde National Park on a previous trip to Malawi – but on that occasion I didn’t get the chance to sit and chat; this time I don’t miss the opportunity.

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“You can use this to cure nosebleeds,” Whyte Mhone – our guide from Chelinda Lodge, high up on the Nyika Plateau – informs us, picking up a porcupine quill he has spotted lying abandoned on the track. “If you burn the end and sniff it, it aids clotting.” As if this doesn’t seem far-fetched enough, he tells us about a friend of his at guiding school who came to the aid of a colleague who

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MALAWI: April 2018 I have a T-shirt from the 2010 World Cup held in South Africa that states: “Football is life”. For many people around the world this is certainly the case – and Africa is no exception. Africans are obsessed with the game. Not so much with their own teams but with overseas leagues – the English Premier League, in particular; their allegiances often influenced by African footballing exports. They are fiercely proud of

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MALAWI: April 2018 As I buckle up for the flight that will take me from Addis Ababa to Lilongwe, I fall into conversation with my neighbour. Abraha, who hails from the Ethiopian capital, is on his way to Malawi for the first time. I can see the sense of excitement etched in his craggy face; maybe a touch of apprehension too. I’m full of anticipation as well. I’ve had the pleasure of travelling to Malawi

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KENYA and TANZANIA 1993 Leaving Uganda before war breaks out (in my last story), we cross into Kenya, heading for Lake Nakuru. After a couple of days on the road we close in on our destination, camping up in a crater near Nakuru town. The approach to our home for the night is a ponderous one, up a steep dirt track. In fact, our progress is so snail-like that a kid jumps onto the back

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UGANDA 1993 I’m not sure what it was in particular, but Uganda was my favourite country that I travelled through in the early ’90s. Maybe it was the unsurpassable Queen Elizabeth National Park, or happening upon Lake Victoria and all the legends (and myths) of the great explorers that it conjured up, along with our mistaken belief that we were at the source of the Nile. It might have been the fact that we had

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SOUTH AFRICA 1993/2010 Without doubt visiting Africa has changed over the last 20 years. But then so have I. When I first arrived on the world’s most exciting continent in the early 1990s, I was a fresh-faced (sort of) 24-year-old, eager for adventure and prepared to rough it – sleeping out under the stars with only a flimsy mat and a mosquito net to protect me from the elements. I travelled on overland trucks, hitched

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EGYPT 2017 We leave Aswan aboard a felucca, the Egyptian single-mast sailing boat that once carried goods along the Nile. Nowadays, their precious cargo is tourists. We sail towards Luxor, passing villagers swimming, washing, playing and even riding their donkeys in the water. The river is not as congested as I expected, just a few feluccas, the odd rowing boat, a couple of cargo boats and some cruise ships are our only companions all day.

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EGYPT 2017 As we leave the confines of our hotel, a wizened old man approaches us. He smiles, sort of, showing off his four remaining, tarnished teeth. “You need taxi?” he asks. We do, so he leads us to his cab, crossing a four-lane highway by simply holding up his hand and walking out into the stream of cars, like Moses parting the Red Sea. As he pulls out into the minefield that is Cairo

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NIGERIA 1992 Just after entering Nigeria we come to a police stop. A tall, well-built policeman jumps onto our truck and starts chatting away – a really friendly man, full of smiles and laughs. Suddenly, he smacks his left forearm with his right fist really hard, repeatedly. “I’m really strong,” he tells us. He turns to Martin. “Hit me,” he says. Not one to disobey the law, Martin gets stuck in – walloping him as

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BURKINA FASO, IVORY COAST 1992 It was becoming very hot and I am starting to feel really sick. The last thing I need is an 18-hour train journey, but, I thought, if the train is half as good as the one from Ouagadougou to Bobo at least I could sleep it off. The train station is unbelievably huge, as it was in Ouaga – there are around 12 ticket desks, but only one is open.

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MALI, BURKINA FASO 1992 As we cross the border from Mauritania into Mali, I notice a dramatic change almost immediately. We are in real Africa. The Africa I had imagined. There seems to be a more relaxed attitude here, a feeling of warmth (not just from the sun, but from the people as well). In Mauritania, and to some extent Morocco, I had felt like an uninvited guest. Tolerated rather than welcomed. But here, I

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WESTERN SAHARA 1992 We’d been in the desert for five days, with no idea how long we would be here for. We – that’s our old Bedford truck, another English overland vehicle, a Polish 4WD and a couple of Land Rovers – were camped up about 20km outside the small town of Dakhla in the Western Sahara. To the left of our camp (or right if you were facing in the other direction), there was

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NAMIBIA 2012  We were on the road again, this time towards the NamibRand Nature Reserve. As we leave the highway, en route to Wolwedans Dunes Lodge, we encounter numerous springbok, oryx and zebra. The springbok run and leap in front of our car, accompanying us as we make our way along the 20km track that leads to the lodge reception – a personal antelope escort service. The lodge overlooks the plains, and the mountains beyond.

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NAMIBIA 2012 It’s hot. And I’m sweating profusely, despite the air con. A complete contrast to the freezing December weather we left behind in the UK; our winter coats thrown into the depths of the boot of our 4WD, to be left unseen for the next two weeks. We drive out of Windhoek, heading for the wilderness of Erongo. After a couple of hours easy travelling on smooth tarmac we turn off the highway on

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ZIMBABWE (1993) We’re standing at the side of the road, thumbs in the air, seeking a ride out of Harare towards the Bvumba Mountains, which lie on the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border. Lorna and I plan to stay at the late author Doris Lessing’s place, now a guesthouse. We’d heard about it through some fellow travellers, Martin and Julia, who are going to manage the property for a couple of months for Lessing’s nephew, Trevor. Our first ‘lift’

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TANZANIA, MOZAMBIQUE (1993) The three of us – my two companions, Lorna and Mike, and I – head down to the docks in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to catch the ferry from there to Mtwara, in the south of the country, en route to Mozambique. We arrive a good 30 minutes before the scheduled departure time to find hundreds of people milling around. The ground is extremely muddy and there are piles of cargo littered

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ZAIRE (1993) Walking round Kisangani, Den, Viv and I bumped into a real dude. He was wearing leather trousers with laces up the side, black cowboy boots, a leather jacket, a dagger necklace and a baseball cap. Anyone would have thought it was only 30°C. He looked like he was one of the Village People. Stopping us, he asked: “What on Earth are you doing in this crazy, mucked-up place with a not very nice

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ZAIRE (1993) After a particularly heavy day and night celebrating the new year in Lisala’s Temperature 40°C Bar, we retired (reasonably early) to bed – or rather to sleeping bags inside mosquito nets tied to some trees in the grounds of a hotel. We had a very early start in the morning, as we were due to catch a boat down the Zaire River in the direction of Kisangani. I awoke with a start at

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SOUTH LUANGWA, ZAMBIA (2015) “I want to see a male lion and a kill, please,” says Jordan, a fellow guest on our safari vehicle for our last drive in South Luangwa. Jonathan, our guide, gives him a knowing look. “Mmmm,” he mumbles. We charge off. It seems like Jonathan is on a mission. After twenty minutes of driving at fullish pelt, he brakes abruptly. Lying on top of a ridge above the river are nine

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SOUTH LUANGWA, ZAMBIA (2015) Our guide Yotam talks a load of crap. Puku poo, buffalo poo, elephant poo and any other poo you care to mention, to be precise. We are on a walking safari in South Luangwa, and there are animal droppings everywhere. It’s only when you are on foot that you truly notice these things. Earlier, when we set off, there was a tension in the air among our small group. Only the

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SOUTH LUANGWA, ZAMBIA (2015) “Not another elephant – we’ve seen three already,” exclaims my six-year-old son dismissively. We’ve barely been at Flatdogs Camp thirty minutes, and haven’t even made it to the entrance of South Luangwa National Park yet, and he’s already elephanted out. Just inside the park gate, we come across four lionesses. “They are from a nine-strong pride,” our guide Jonathan informs us. “They killed a hippo just around the corner three days

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LIWONDE NATIONAL PARK, MALAWI (2015) “How can you tell if it’s an African elephant?” asks Thom, our guide. “Really?” I think. “Because it’s ears…” “Yes!” “… are shaped like the map of Africa.” Well, I wasn’t expecting that. We are in Malawi’s Liwonde National Park, pottering along the Shire River, dodging pods of hippos and keeping a beady eye on the hundreds of crocs lying on the riverbank. A small group of elephants lumber through

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LAKE MALAWI (2015) I awake early after a disturbed night’s sleep, convinced that rain was drumming down on the roof of our rondavel all night. I open the terrace doors to witness the sunrise over Lake Malawi to find a dozen monkeys frolicking on our lawn. I look up, and sure enough there’s some on the roof. No chance of rain here at this time of year, you fool! I take a walk down the

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DRC, TANZANIA (1992-93) There’s nothing quite like the feeling of rolling around on a table covered in bank notes. For a while I felt like a multi-millionaire – and I was, albeit a Zairian one. Maintaining my millionaire status was hard work, though. A beer cost 2.5 million zaires! In 1992 Zaire, as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was called back then, was suffering from crippling inflation: notes were becoming obsolete by the hour,

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AFRCA-WIDE (1992-93) Border crossings in Africa can, at the best of times, be long drawn out tedious affairs. Hours spent waiting in the heat, seemingly endless forms to fill in, numerous questions to answer, your luggage turned inside out and the occasional bribe to hand over. In some places the bureaucracy knows no bounds. However, we found that Africa has a wonderful habit of providing little respites from the monotony of the border queue: whether

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KENYA, TANZANIA (1993) Everywhere you go in Africa, people do everything they can to help you. They don’t want to let you down or disappoint you. This is especially true in cafes and restaurants. One beautiful Lamu morning I dropped into a cafe and ordered a pineapple juice, only to see the owner-cum-waiter run down the stairs and out of the premises shortly afterwards. He returned some 15 minutes later, perspiring and somewhat breathless, clutching

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