Wild Junket » Tanzania http://www.wildjunket.com An adventure travel blog that brings you on a rollercoaster ride around the world Wed, 29 Oct 2014 14:30:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Ditching the Digital World in East Africa http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/10/09/ditching-the-digital-world-in-east-africa/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/10/09/ditching-the-digital-world-in-east-africa/#comments Wed, 09 Oct 2013 14:44:59 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=15784 Masai in East AfricaJambo from Kenya! I’m writing to you from Nairobi, where I’ll be starting my overland trip with Africa Travel Co around East Africa. After a few hectic months of working on my new book and the magazine, it’s time to give myself a well-deserved break so I’m taking the opportunity to give myself a digital [...]

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Jambo from Kenya! I’m writing to you from Nairobi, where I’ll be starting my overland trip with Africa Travel Co around East Africa. After a few hectic months of working on my new book and the magazine, it’s time to give myself a well-deserved break so I’m taking the opportunity to give myself a digital detox. This is an unofficial vacation for me as I get disconnected from both the internet and work, and head deep into the African wilderness for a month of camping.

It’s been more than five years since we’ve been back in East Africa – having spent a few months volunteering in Tanzania in 2007. This part of the world is still very special to us and I’m really glad to be back. It’s a pity Alberto won’t be joining me this time (he’s got plenty of work on his plate) but I’m sure he’ll be enjoying himself back in Spain. I’m definitely looking forward to this trip as it’s my first time in Kenya and Uganda, and gorilla trekking has always been top on my list!

I’ll be traveling on the 24-day Gorillas, Game Parks and Zanzibar trip and criss-crossing Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. To give you a glimpse of where I’ll be going, here’s a look at some of the major areas:

KENYA

Masai Mara Reserve

For the first part of the journey, we’ll be game driving in Masai Mara Reserve. The Masai Mara is well known as one of East Africa’s best national reserves and is most famous for the annual migration. Each year, impressive herds of over 1 million wildebeest, zebra and Thomson’s gazelle cross over from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. I’ll be there towards the end of the season, hopefully I’ll be able to catch some of the action.

Lake Nakuru National Park

We’ll also be visiting the Lake Nakuru National Park – famous for the thousands of lesser and greater flamingos that flock to this soda lake’s edge. The numbers vary depending on the water level, and when it’s low, the lake almost turns pink. The park was established as a sanctuary for black and white rhino, which I hope to see on this trip. From there, we’ll head to Lake Naivasha, home to a multitude of bird life, the most magnificent being the African Fish Eagle with his regal cry. At 1880 m, this is the highest of the Rift Valley lakes.

Masai in East Africa

UGANDA

Lake Bunyoni

Our journey then takes us across the border into Lake Bunyoni, Uganda, where our gorilla trek begins. There are only about 700 mountain gorillas left in the world, and they are mostly concentrated in this region although we might have to trek in the the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo or the Ruhengeri National Park in Rwanda depending on where the gorillas are. I’ve heard that seeing a gorilla in the wild is an extraordinary experience, some even say it’s life-changing. I’m bursting with excitement about having the opportunity to see gorillas, but I’m also excited about having the chance to cross into Congo or Rwanda.

Jinja

Our next stop brings us to the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary for more interactions with native primates before we head to Jinja, the adventure hub of Uganda, for some wild and fun activities including white water rafting at the source of the Nile, quad biking or visiting a community project.

Gorilla TrekFlickr photo by Hjalmar Gislason 

TANZANIA

Arusha

Before heading into wilderness of Tanzania, we will spend some time in Arusha, the main gateway for safaris. During our volunteering stint in 2007, we spent quite a lot of time in this town as our village was just an hour away. This was where we’d go to visit the internet cafe, stock up on some medication, and basically spend our weekends. It will be very interesting to return and see if things have changed.

Ngorongoro Crater & Serengeti

The world famous Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park promise to be another highlight of the trip. I’ve been to both parks and know just how rich and vibrant the wildlife population is in the area. I remember seeing cheetahs lounging by the jeep trail, with blood dripping down their cheeks after feasting on an impala; as well as lions lazing out under the sun on the crater floor in Ngorongoro. We also visited a Maasai village in the area, which definitely gave us insights into the life of these native tribes.

Zanzibar

Our journey eventually brings us to the capital Dar es Salaam where we’ll take a boat over to the island of Zanzibar where our trip ends. Packed with history and fringed with stunning beaches, Zanzibar is definitely one of my favorite islands in the world. There’s so much to do here: from wandering through the Arabic-influenced cobbled streets of Stone Town to scuba diving in Nungw and going fishing on a traditional dhow. Oh and I loved the seafood here: cheap, fresh and excellent!

Elephants in Serengeti

After this epic trip, I’ll be back online at the end of October. Meanwhile I have prepared a slew of photo essays and stories from Antarctica to Nicaragua to keep you entertained. Stay tuned for my stories from East Africa, and see you in November!


Disclaimer: This trip is made possible by Africa Travel Co, but all opinions expressed are our own.

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Daily Travel Snapshot: Bomang’ombe, Tanzania http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/06/23/daily-travel-snapshot-bomangombe-tanzania/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/06/23/daily-travel-snapshot-bomangombe-tanzania/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2011 01:30:23 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=6495 Market day in Bomang’ombe, a village in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.

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Market day in Bomang’ombe, a village in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.

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Memories of Tanzania, Africa http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/04/26/memories-of-tanzania-africa/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/04/26/memories-of-tanzania-africa/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2011 18:54:41 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/04/26/memories-of-tanzania-africa/ Ngorongoro crater walls in the distance, TanzaniaLast weekend, I received an email from a friend in Tanzania and it reminded me of all the beautiful times we had there almost three years ago. If you’ve been reading about my travels for awhile now, you’ll probably know that Tanzania has a special place in my heart. In 2008, Alberto and I spent [...]

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Last weekend, I received an email from a friend in Tanzania and it reminded me of all the beautiful times we had there almost three years ago. If you’ve been reading about my travels for awhile now, you’ll probably know that Tanzania has a special place in my heart.

In 2008, Alberto and I spent a few months volunteering in Tanzania and during our stay, we forged strong friendships with locals, learned lifelong lessons from my students and explored different corners of the country. Tanzania gave me some of my best travel memories – with its amazing people, stunning beauty and striking characteristics. Here are some of the highlights of my stay there.

Ngorongoro crater walls in the distance, Tanzania

Volunteering in Bomang’nombe

Through a European non-profit organization, we’d arranged to volunteer at the local education office in Bomang’nombe, a village at the foothills of Kilimanjaro. Our main role there was to help reconstruct a school (build windows, doors and sturdier walls) and teach English.

The experience at Bomani Primary School was one of my most memorable travel experiences thus far – from getting to know my students well, visiting them at their orphanage, spending invaluable time with them after school to forming close relationships with the local villagers and feeling like part of their community.

with my students in Bomangombe, Tanzania 

Volunteering is one of the best ways to truly immerse oneself in a country – we’d arranged the volunteering stint independently but there are also several tour operators that design tailor-made holidays to combine volunteering with travel.

Visiting Small Villages and Towns

Some of my favorite places in Tanzania were small villages where our local friends brought us to. These places represent the heart of Tanzania – where local women are decked out in colorful kitenges, random Masais roam and children play in open fields. We’d spent a few days in the capital of Dar Es Salaam and didn’t like it one bit: chaotic traffic, air pollution and overwhelming touts. In contrast, the villages we enjoyed were quiet, relaxed and calm.

Masais in Tanzania

A friend brought us to his hometown, Machame, and we instantly fell in love with the waterfalls, banana plantations and curious people (everyone came up to me to touch my hair). In Marangu, we visited our friend’s mother who told us plenty of her childhood stories and legends. It was through these heartlands, that we got to know Tanzania under its surface.

local market in Tanzania

Serengeti Wildlife Safari

Tanzania has some of the best wildlife-watching opportunities in Africa – and as avid wildlife buffs, we were stoked to go on a wildlife safari through the famous Serengenti National Park. From Arusha, we booked ourselves on a 4-day safari that brought us through Serengeti, Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro Crater. 

wildlife safari in Serengeti, Tanzania

There is a wide variety of safaris available: from luxury safaris in massive, enormous tents to basic camping safaris. Being budget travelers, we opted for a basic camping safari after scouring through the tour operators. Expect to pay up to $1,500 per person for a luxury safari in Tanzania and $600 for a basic camping safari (prices depend on season). You can usually find good last-minute deals in Arusha.

Elephant in wildlife safari, Tanzania 

Beach-bumming on Zanzibar Island

Zanzibar island, a short ferry-ride from the capital, is one of the most beautiful islands I’ve ever been. We left this for the last part of our trip and spent two weeks relaxing and soaking up a different vibe of the country. Upon arriving on Zanzibar, we rented a jeep and took time to explore every inch of the island. Our first base was Paje, a quiet patch of beach with only fishermen in sight. Then we moved to Nungwi, where we met fellow travelers, went snorkeling and had the best seafood in Tanzania. Zanzibar signified a dreamy end to our amazing trip through Tanzania but it definitely left me wanting for more.

Paje beach, Zanzibar Tanzania

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Top 7 Destinations for Photography Enthusiasts http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/07/01/top-7-destinations-for-photography-enthusiasts/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/07/01/top-7-destinations-for-photography-enthusiasts/#comments Thu, 01 Jul 2010 10:53:38 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/07/01/top-7-destinations-for-photography-enthusiasts/ rice terraces of GuilinAs a photography enthusiast myself, capturing the beauty of a place is essential during my travels, especially if I have a story to go with it. Of all the striking travel destinations in the world, those ideal for photography often stand out for the natural blend of colors, nature and sunlight. Based on my previous [...]

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As a photography enthusiast myself, capturing the beauty of a place is essential during my travels, especially if I have a story to go with it. Of all the striking travel destinations in the world, those ideal for photography often stand out for the natural blend of colors, nature and sunlight. Based on my previous travels and some hearsay, these are some of my personal favorite spots to take the perfect picture.

1. China

The poetic setting of karsts-studded Guilin, languid waters of Yangshuo River and the phenomenal Great Wall in Beijing – there are literally picture-perfect spots in every corner of China. This country is especially favored by landscape photographers, owing to the bountiful rivers, mountains and valleys littered throughout.

rice terraces of Guilin Flickr photo by Jack FrenchGuilin Flickr photo by Blazej Mrozinski

2. Peru

Some of our best shots were taken in Peru. It’s a heaven for photographers, whether you specialize in landscapes or human portraits. One group of people I particularly enjoyed photographing was the Uros tribe who lives on Lake Titicaca. Clad in brightly-colored traditional costumes, with dark silky hair and weathered faces, their ingenuity shines through in the photos. Of course, the emerald green terraces of Machu Picchu make powerful shots, especially when the afternoon sun rises.

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3. Morocco

Morocco has that special charm that draws you in to a world of chaos, raucous noises and outrageous aroma. Another personal favorite, the buzzing Djemma el Fna square in Marrakesh is perfect for the hedonistic photographer, who likes to capture secret moments. Morocco has got so much to offer – from the Atlas Mountains to the sprawling Sahara Desert. With such diversity, your photos will also flicker from one extreme end to the other.

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4. Laos

Of all of IndoChina, Laos is the only place I’ve never been and I’d always wanted to visit. The combination of bright orange robes that monks adorn, with the golden shimmering temples as the backdrop, Luang Prabang sets the scene for some challenging photography. Here, you can play with colors and also capture the faith present. Floating villages along the Mekong River are also intriguing objects to feature. It’s a good idea to include Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam in your next trip to Indochina.

Luang Namtha Flickr photo by whl travel

Temple in Luang Prabanag Flickr photo by jmhullot

5. The Galapagos Islands

Undoubtedly the best place in the world to photograph wildlife, the Galapagos Islands are nature’s masterpiece. Endemic animals roam freely, you can easily bump into a lazy sealion lounging on the beach, or a giant yellow land lizard hiding under the shade of a cactus, and even swim with hammerhead sharks. The best part is that due to the long isolation from human beings, these animals are not afraid of humans and tend to get close and sniff around.

Marine Lizard at Tortuga Bay

yellow land lizard at Seymour

6. The Himalayas

Home to the world’s highest peaks, the Himalayas range separates the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau. For the hardcore landscape photographers, the endless clear skies and white snow-peaked mountains make for some phenomenal shots. Intriguing architecture and smiley locals in Tibetan villages are most frequently photographed. This is one place I’ve been longing to go, will be visiting Ladakh, the Indian Himalayas next month, will be back with more photos!

Ladakh Flickr photo by Magda & Maciek

3840735160_587d46792f Flickr photo by artisrams

7. Tanzania

Personally, for great portrait shots, Africa is the place to go. In Tanzania, people are friendly and children love to hang around. When I was volunteering in Tanzania, I would take pictures of my students or children on the road. When I showed them the picture, they would always giggle or tease each other – honestly, those were some of my best memories. Get deeper into the heart of Tanzania, and you’ll find yourself capturing the essence of its people. Of course, for wildlife buffs and landscape photographers, there are endless choices – Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti National Park and Lake Manyara.

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Childen in my village

*All the photos that are not credited were taken by myself and Alberto Molero, they cannot be used without my permission.

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6 Adventurous Destinations for Solo Travelers http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/06/29/6-adventurous-destinations-for-solo-travelers/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/06/29/6-adventurous-destinations-for-solo-travelers/#comments Tue, 29 Jun 2010 10:47:40 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/06/29/6-adventurous-destinations-for-solo-travelers/ Picturesque Motor Car CreekAs an occasional solo traveler, picking the right destination to explore is not quite as easy as one would imagine. Since our move to Spain, Alberto has settled into his new job so that leaves me and my backpack, out to see the world alone. As much as I enjoy the prospects of meeting more [...]

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As an occasional solo traveler, picking the right destination to explore is not quite as easy as one would imagine. Since our move to Spain, Alberto has settled into his new job so that leaves me and my backpack, out to see the world alone. As much as I enjoy the prospects of meeting more people and having the freedom to do whatever I want, solo travel can be a little daunting at times. Especially for a solo female traveler, it’s wise not to be wary of your surroundings. In this post, I share with you some of my suggestions for the best adventurous destinations for solo travelers.

1. Australia

For the ultimate adventurous holiday, Australia definitely wouldn’t disappoint. Few places in the world can beat Australia’s myriad of natural spots and adventurous activities – scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef, then skydive in Sydney, and go bush-walking in the outback – Kakadu National Park. Besides world-class infrastructure and some of the friendliest people in the world, Austalia makes for a safe and easy destination for solo travelers.

Picturesque Motor Car Creek

2. Tanzania

Although African capitals can be slightly intimidating, venture out to the savannahs and wild lands and you’ll find the warmest people who are more curious about you than anything else. This East African nation is bursting with thrilling outdoors opportunities ideal for the solo traveler. Sign yourself up for an adventure tour – from the Kilimanjaro trek to a wildlife safari or scuba-diving trip on Zanzibar island – you’re sure to meet fellow travelers and have a wild time. Unlike the usual stereotype view, Tanzania is relatively safe to travel alone, just try to avoid dodgy areas in the capital city.

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3.  Malaysia

Being a Muslim country, Malaysia is often misunderstood by many as conservative and unwelcoming. But adventure travelers who have given it a shot all leave with a big smile  – Malaysia is packed to the brim with raw, unexplored natural spots and bewitchingly beautiful terrain. Explore its acres of dense rainforest and mingle with orang utans or live with ancient tribes, then emerge out of the forest to find clear, turquoise waters, home to some of the world’s best dive sites. And its people – you can hardly find such genuine and hospitable people elsewhere.

kinabalu-summit2Photo by whoa adventures

4. Ecuador

A small nation chocked full of rare and endemic wildlife and nature, Ecuador is a country only worthy of superlative descriptions. With natural wonders that hit the right sensory glands, you can feed your craving for all things natural here in one small country. Swim with sea lions, sharks and penguins on the Galapagos Islands, hike through the culturally-rich Amazon Rainforest or climb the Cotopaxi Mountain – you could easily do all that in one week. What’s more, Ecuador is one of the better-off countries in South America, equipped with better tourism infrastructure than its neighboring nations.

Thsats me in the Amazon Rainforest

5. Jordan

Amongst the Arabic nations, Jordan is tops on my list – especially in terms of ease of travel, security and sights to see. Float in the Dead Sea in the north and then head down south to explore the archaeological sites of Petra and then hop on a camel safari through Wadi Rum desert. Unlike neighboring Egypt or Israel, the country is not overrun with tourism and dominated by foreigners. To see a real peek into the Middle Eastern world, Jordan would be a great start.

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6. Macedonia

During my recent solo jaunt in the Balkans, Macedonia definitely left a deep impression on me: Not only were the locals helpful and forthcoming, the country is also shaped perfectly for intrepid adventure travelers looking to get off the beaten path. Composing of a multitude of mountains and emerald lakes, Macedonia is favored by outdoor lovers who enjoy hiking, climbing and boating. Be sure to check out Lake Ohrid and the Bitola Mountains.

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*All the photos above are my own, they cannot be used without my permission.

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7 of the Best Trekking Destinations http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/04/06/7-of-the-best-trekking-destinations/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/04/06/7-of-the-best-trekking-destinations/#comments Tue, 06 Apr 2010 11:13:58 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/04/06/7-of-the-best-trekking-destinations/ To journey beyond travel, add a tinge of adventure and the voyage becomes an incredible one. We’re no experts at trekking but from our past experiences journeying through Australia and South America, we found ourselves delving deep into the back country and thoroughly enjoying it. Whether you are ice-climbing in Patagonia or trekking through the [...]

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To journey beyond travel, add a tinge of adventure and the voyage becomes an incredible one. We’re no experts at trekking but from our past experiences journeying through Australia and South America, we found ourselves delving deep into the back country and thoroughly enjoying it. Whether you are ice-climbing in Patagonia or trekking through the Sahara Desert,  trekking holidays amplifies your  view of a country and stretches your limit.

1. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Climbing Africa’s highest mountain can be quite a challenge, so make sure you’re prepared for the cold conditions and altitude before setting off on the Kilimanjaro trek. There are several routes – with Machame and Marangu routes being the most popular. The best trekking season is from January to March, but temperatures are colder then. The Kilimanjaro trek would make an excellent highlight in your trip to Tanzania.

Flickr photo by Matt Kieffer

2. Inca Trail, Peru

To get to Macchu Picchu – the world famous archaeological site in Peru – many people opt for the 3 or 4-day trek that brings them through the sacred ancient sites and rocky paths. The Inca Trail was said to be the same route that the royal Incas used to take.  The trek usually starts from Cuzco and costs around US$350, including all meals, porters and camping facilities.

Macchu Picchu

3.Patagonia, Argentina

The southern-most tip of Argentina is definitely a popular trekking destination for plenteous terrain for hiking. Popular treks take you around Calafate and El Chaltén in Los Glaciares National Park, as well as Tierra del Fuego National Park in Ushuaia. Patagonia’s star celebrity, Perrito Moreno Glacier Park can be visited on a light trekking trip from the Fitz Roy Mountain Range.

Flickr Photo by Luis Argerich

4. Annapurna Base Camp, Nepal

Home to the highest peak in the world, Nepal is the playground for climbers and trekkers. There are numerous trekking routes to explore the Himalayas – the most popular being the Annapurna Base Camp Trail. This classic trek is suitable for amateurs and beginners, although risk is still involved, especially depending on snow conditions. Expect stunning scenery and picturesque mountainous villages.

Flickr Photo by judepics

5. Torres del Paine, Chile

This national park standing side by side with Argentina’s Patagonia is equally beautiful and offers the same amount of challenge. Torres del Paine is located between the Andes Mountain Range and the Patagonian steppes. The 3day-2night trek will bring you through the Ascencio, Frances Valleys and Grey Glacier giving you a close look of the flora and fauna.

Flickr photo by Christopher

6. Routeburn Track, New Zealand

From NZ’s adventure hub, Queenstown, outdoor lovers can hop over to the Southern Alps for a scenic trek. The Routeburn Track traverses wild and scenic mountain country between the Hollyford and Dart Valleys at the base of the Southern Alps. Passing through two national parks – Fiordland and Mount Aspiring- the trail leads you through a variety of landscapes: from mountainous peaks to pristine lakes and cascading waterfalls. The Routeburn Track Guided Walk is a 3day/2night from Queenstown.

 Flickr photo by Antoine Hubert

7. John Muir Trail, California

This trail – named after the famous naturalist John Muir – runs 340km in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California, between the northern end of Yosemite Valley and the southern summit of Mount Whitney. Passing through Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park, expect to immerse yourself amidst deep valleys, meadows, massive sequoias and wildlife. A permit is required to hike the trail, which can be obtained from the national park where the hiker begins the hike.


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8 Ways to Spice Up Your Travels http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/03/18/8-ways-to-spice-up-your-travels/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/03/18/8-ways-to-spice-up-your-travels/#comments Thu, 18 Mar 2010 09:13:45 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/03/18/8-ways-to-spice-up-your-travels/ P1020077Since travelling became a significant part of my lifestyle, I’d come to realize that a conventional travel itinerary was just not enough to feed my thirst for complete cultural immersion or adventurous endeavors. It was time to ditch the guidebook and delve a little deeper, to get to know my destination inside out. Slow travel [...]

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Since travelling became a significant part of my lifestyle, I’d come to realize that a conventional travel itinerary was just not enough to feed my thirst for complete cultural immersion or adventurous endeavors. It was time to ditch the guidebook and delve a little deeper, to get to know my destination inside out. Slow travel (usually means spending more than a month at a place) definitely does the trick, but if you haven’t got the time, here are some other ways to help spice up your journey and make it more than just travel.

1. Volunteer

Over the past ten years, voluntourism has gained popularity, especially among young travelers. Many people include a short volunteering stint in their travel plans. I personally volunteered at an education office in a small village in Tanzania two years back – the emotional ride was one of the best times in my life. Programs such as the Peace Corps assign volunteers to places that need help. Many organizations require a program fee, so do your research before signing up.

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2. Hop on a Cruise

I’m not talking typical Caribbean party cruises. Think mid-sized cruises that bring you through the isolated Norwegian fjords or the massive icebergs in the Arctic and island-hopping in the Galapagos. Cruising offers a different perspective, especially in remote and secluded areas like the North Pole. They allow us to get to territories that cannot be visited otherwise. Discount cruises can be an interesting way to travel and even a cost-cutting one.

fjords-of-norway Photo from Destination360

3. Learn A Skill

From culinary classes to meditation courses, there are plenty of learning opportunities that gives you the chance to know the local culture better. Traveling to China? Take a tai-chi class or a kung-fu introductory course and you’ll leave with more than just photographs. In Japan, you can take a class from a veteran geisha to learn about their traditional ethics and behavior. Many embark on culinary tours around Italy and Spain to dig deeper into their gastronomy, learning to whip up typical Mediterranean dishes and sample local wine.

beijing Photo from Tripadvisor

4. Couchsurf

The trend is here to stay: couchsurfing is now used worldwide, where members contact locals who are willing to offer them a couch to crash in or just meet up for a coffee. I personally have tried couchsurfing several times and have had amazing experiences every single time. It’s the perfect way to meet locals, understand their lifestyle, cultural habits and customs. Check out my previous post on couchsurfing.

Photo from shoestringmag

5. Book an Adventure Tour

Whether you are climbing icebergs in the Patagonia or trekking through the Amazon Jungle, an adventure tour definitely gives you the thrills of travel. It challenges you to your limit, gives you an adrenaline-pumping experience and allows you to explore a part of the country you might not be able to on your own. A tour usually takes up a chunk of your travel budget, but hey, no pain no gain. It’s often cheaper to book the tour at your destination rather than through the internet.

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6. Pick Up a New Language

learn-the-arabic-languageAnother popular traveling option is language immersion: the most typical being Spanish classes in Guatemala, Argentina or Spain. Latin America is a top choice for language courses thanks to the low cost of living, rich culture and wide range of options available.These days, Mandarin is becoming the hottest language – so why not head further afield to Beijing? English is not commonly spoken, so you’ll definitely get plenty of practice.

7. Homestay

Most study-abroad programs consist of homestays where local families host you in the comfort of their homes, cooking you typical meals and speaking to you only in their language. Those who have had first-hand experience only have good things to say about this. Many build strong relations with their host families and often keep in touch after returning home. Even if you’re not a on study-abroad program, there are still many opportunities to go on a homestay. For instance, accommodation in Cuba is often in the form of homestays. They are cheaper and a better choice for many.

8. Get a Part-time Job

Work as diving instructor, teacher, chef, au-pair or cruise crew, there are thousands of working options available. For many countries, being a native English speaker gives you the advantage to find work easily. In Spain, you can easily find work as a teacher in an English summer camp. Depending on your skills, short-term work not only allows you to earn an extra income, but also gives you the experience of living and working in a new country.

 98f6ea0e-efb4-4757-a962-0353650aab00 Photo from Season Workers

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Top 8 Natural Wonders of the World http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/02/23/top-8-natural-wonders-of-the-world/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/02/23/top-8-natural-wonders-of-the-world/#comments Tue, 23 Feb 2010 11:21:27 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/02/23/top-8-natural-wonders-of-the-world/ tn_P1020389.jpgMassive volcanic craters, acres of raw jungle and stretch of deserted sand dunes: the work of Mother Earth is beyond our imagination. Thanks to these natural wonders, our Earth has been blessed with gorgeous landscapes and undulating backdrops. Without environmental protection, they might be gone faster than we expect. To pay tribute to these phenomenal [...]

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Massive volcanic craters, acres of raw jungle and stretch of deserted sand dunes: the work of Mother Earth is beyond our imagination. Thanks to these natural wonders, our Earth has been blessed with gorgeous landscapes and undulating backdrops. Without environmental protection, they might be gone faster than we expect. To pay tribute to these phenomenal sites, here’s my roundup (based on readings and travels) of the world’s top natural wonders.

1. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

The world’s largest coral reef system stretches over 2,600 kilometers and can be seen from outer space. Supporting a wide diversity of marine life, the Great Barrier Reef is a World Heritage site since 1981. A large part of the reef is protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which helps to limit the impact of human use, such as overfishing and tourism. A trip to Australia would be ideal from November to May, when summer temperatures are pleasant and Queensland’s vibrant aquatic life is at its most active.

4251317623_a02bdf4233_b Photo by Sarah Ackerman

4019833871_eb42576b54_b

Photo by Brewbooks

2. Amazon Rainforest, South America

tn_IMG_4206An extensive forest covering most of the Amazon Basin of South America, is spread across 8 different countries and covers over 5.5 million km sq. Home to proliferate wildlife and nearly-extinct primitive tribes, the Amazon Rainforest is the largest and most species-rich tropical rainforest in the world.

The majority of the forest is contained within Brazil, with Rio de Janeiro as the best place to enter the jungle from. We trekked through the Ecuadorian part of the jungle, visiting tribes and exploring the forest at night.

tn_IMG_4303

3. Grand Canyon, USA

A steep-sided gorge carved by the Colorado River in Arizona is one of the most awe-striking natural site in the United States. The Grand Canyon is a creation formed by over two billions years of nature’s work. Aside from casual sightseeing from the South Rim, the floor of the valley is accessible by foot, mule or rafting. Other activities like whitewater rafting, hiking and running are especially popular.

3157603312_5d5154f02e_b Photo by Andy Won

4. Sahara Desert, North Africa

The Sahara is the world’s largest hot desert covering over 9 million km sq of area. Spanning most of Northern Africa (Morocco, Egypt, Sudan, Chad and Algeria), it’s almost as large as the continent of Europe. Consisting of rocky formations and large sand dunes, a trip through the Sahara is one of mystique and desolation. Visitors can experience the various cultures around the desert through the little Saharan villages.

4300437105_fc42fd515e_b Photo by wonker

5. Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Over 972km west of continental Ecuador, the Galápagos Islands have been secluded from humans for thousands of years, resulting in unique and endemic species of wildlife. This volcanic archipelago of 13 islands is sprouting with marine lizards, giant land tortoises and blue-footed boobies everywhere. An opportunity to visit the islands makes one feels privileged to experience such rare sights in this modern world.

A marine lizard

6. Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

tn_P1020383The crater is a sprawling conservation land, with one of the largest concentrations of wildlife in Africa. As a natural sanctuary to thousands of birds, lions, zebras, black rhino, it is often called Africa’s Eden.

Known as the “largest unbroken caldera in the world”, the crater is 610 meters deep and 260 sq km. Only the indigenous tribe of Maasai are allowed to live in the land.The crater is most popular for bird watching, photography, walking safaris, and game viewing.

 

 

hippotamos in Ngorongoro

7. Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay – meaning ‘Descending Dragon Bay’ in Vietnamese- is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It features thousands of limestone karsts and oddly-shaped islets rising from emerald green waters. The evolution of these limestone karsts has taken over 20 million years to form, under the impact of the tropical wet climate. With such biodiversity and ecologically-rich grounds, there is also a thick cultural and historical side to the country.

Halong bay -photo by Ethan Crowley Photo by Ethan Crowley

8. Iguazu Falls, South America

Located on the Argentinean-Brazilian border, the falls divide the countries, as if the waters were plunging off the edge of the tectonic plates. It has been compared with the Victoria Falls and Niagara Falls, but the Iguazu definitely offers better views and well-designed walkways. At the Devils’s Throat, you are standing in the midst of the torrential waters, surrounded by 360degrees of waterfalls. Visitors can see the falls from the Brazilian side (Foz de Iguacu) or the Argentinean side (Puerto Iguazu).

Devil's throat

Panorama of internal circuit

References: TravelChannel and Wikipedia.

*Photos not credited are shot by myself and Alberto Molero.

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Your Wildest Adventure: Cycling a Continent http://www.wildjunket.com/2009/11/02/your-wildest-adventure-cycling-a-continent/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2009/11/02/your-wildest-adventure-cycling-a-continent/#comments Mon, 02 Nov 2009 13:33:42 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/2009/11/02/your-wildest-adventure-cycling-a-continent/ EthiopiaI’m starting a new series on ‘Your Wildest Adventure’ where fellow travel writers gather here to share insightful tales on their craziest jaunt around the world. To kick off the series, Dave & Deb at The Planet D brings us on their once-in-a-lifetime journey of cycling a continent.   Cycling A Continent It all started [...]

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I’m starting a new series on ‘Your Wildest Adventure’ where fellow travel writers gather here to share insightful tales on their craziest jaunt around the world. To kick off the series, Dave & Deb at The Planet D brings us on their once-in-a-lifetime journey of cycling a continent.

Ethiopia

  Cycling A Continent

It all started with a glass of wine on a rainy New Years Eve. We had come home early from visiting my parents in Florida and felt that it was time for another adventure.

We needed to take off and be free again. But what could we do to make a drastic and dramatic impact? We didn’t want to just simply go backpacking again. We wanted to do something extraordinary.

As we discussed how unfulfilled we were with our lives an interview caught our attention on the CBC. They were talking with Ultra Marathon runner Ray Zahab. He was the original inspiration for the wildest adventure of our life. Ray Zahab had competed in and won many ultra marathons such as the Marathon des Sables and the Yukon Ultra as well as starring in the 2007 documentary “Running the Sahara” which was produced by Matt Damon.

Dave and Deb in Namibia

Tour d’Afrique

By the time we went to bed our mind was made up and we decided that by the next New Years Eve we were going to be on the adventure of a lifetime.

It was only two weeks after that night that we spotted an article in the paper about a man that was taking part in that years Tour d’Afrique. It is an insane bicycle race that starts in Cairo, Egypt and ends in Cape Town South Africa.

We joined a spinning gym and started our training for the world’s longest and most grueling cycling race. We informed our friends, families and our employers that we were leaving and before we knew it, the time had come.

Racing Off in Cairo

One year later we were on a plane to Egypt. We had been cycling an average of 400km per week and we had been weight training and endurance training all year. But nothing could prepare us for the physical challenges that lay ahead. We would be traveling through some of the toughest terrains on the planet cycling on average 120 km per day for 120 days.

leaving pyramids

It was a cold morning in January when we left in a pack from the Great Pyramids of Giza. 60 people from 23 countries had come together to ride through a continent. We caused quite a stir that day. Half of Cairo’s police force was out to escort us through the city. They stopped traffic and people cheered as we passed. We felt like major celebrities in our convoy as we worked our way through the maze of this enormous urban centre. I imagined that this is what it must feel like to compete in the Tour de France.

It was surreal at times to say the least. In Egypt and the Sudan, we had armed guards following us through our route. Random trucks would pull up in front of us with their machine guns aimed in our direction. They would smile and wave and we would hold our breath and pray that their hand wouldn’t slip or that their truck wouldn’t hit a bump.

New Challenges Each Day

Each day brought on a new challenge and adventure. In Egypt we had to dodge speeding busses and hectic traffic. In the Sudan we dealt with deep desert sand and unbearable heat. Tanzania and Malawi brought on epic climbs and awesome descents. We survived being chased by wild packs of dogs and even baboons. We were lost in the desert and shared or roads with herds of cattle and donkeys. But nothing compared to having children throw rocks at our heads with perfect aim during our entire 23 days in Ethiopia. It was a wild adventure to say the least.

Sudan

As time went on, things became easier however. The roads got better the farther south we cycled and the children in the southern countries didn’t have the same affection to rock throwing as they did in Ethiopia.

We camped our way down the continent meeting new people and seeing awe-inspiring sights like Victoria Falls, Mount Kilimanjaro and Fish River Canyon. We witnessed the beauty of the wild Africa. We slept under the stars surrounded by nothing but nature and we lived a life of simplicity for four months. As grueling and difficult as it was, there was something beautiful about waking up each day and knowing exactly what you had to do. There was only one goal and that was to make it to camp as fast as you could.

our home

Cycling Africa pushed us to our physical and mental limits and after conquering 12,000 km on the seat of a bicycle we have learned that anything is possible.

Ending the Race in Cape Town

Deb, Womens Champ Riding into Cape Town on our final day in May brought a sense of pride and personal achievement. A huge crowd greeted us at the V&A Waterfront and we were even rewarded for our efforts. I had won the women’s race and Dave was awarded the prestigious EFI (every fabulous inch) award. While others went on side trips or took a day off, sat on the bus or fell ill, Dave pushed through sickness and fatigue to ride every single kilometre of the tour.

Our time in Africa had come to an end, but a spark had been lit inside of us. This was only the beginning, a whole new world of possibilities had opened up and we couldn’t wait to plan the next adventure.

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image Dave and Deb are Canada’s Adventure Couple. They have traveled to over 30 countries on 5 continents. From climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to trekking to the Pinnacles of Borneo, they are always searching for new and exciting ways to explore the world.

Follow them at ThePlanetD for their next adventure through Central Asia where they will be trekking the Himalaya’s, horseback riding through Mongolia and learning Yoga in India. You can also track their adventures on twitter @theplanetd

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Seven of the Best Wildlife Experiences http://www.wildjunket.com/2009/01/24/seven-of-the-best-wildlife-experiences/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2009/01/24/seven-of-the-best-wildlife-experiences/#comments Sat, 24 Jan 2009 02:57:24 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=1036 Sea Lions on Galapagos IslandsWildlife is the only thing left on Earth that is original and real, roaming the Planet since thousands of years ago. To me, getting close to Wildlife gives that surreal feeling of seeing how the World would look like without human activities and commercialism. That, is the most beautiful side of Earth one can see. [...]

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Sea Lions on Galapagos Islands

Wildlife is the only thing left on Earth that is original and real, roaming the Planet since thousands of years ago. To me, getting close to Wildlife gives that surreal feeling of seeing how the World would look like without human activities and commercialism. That, is the most beautiful side of Earth one can see. Through wildlife, you don’t see pretentions nor artificialities. It is straight in your face, completely genuine and crystal clear.

The beauty of wildlife is its raw savageness. These days, what you watch on TV is all censored and recreated, nothing is as how we see it in real life. Yet, watching the lions roar and pandas rolling amidst the grass, you can see them at their natural state of mind. While you admire in awe and silence, the animals roam or hunt freely, with not a wink of worries or care in the world.

cheetah at the serengetiWhen we were galloping on our 4WD jeep, throttling through the rocky dirt road of the Serengeti National Park, I could see why the world was so enchanted with the animated movie ‘Lion King’. Inspired by the famous Serengeti, the scriptwriter weaved a magical movie about the Animal Kingdom, based on the wild settings of this beautifully charming National Park.

Miles and Miles of wilderness, you could see acacia trees and dried plains, and thousands of zebras and wildebeests roaming the lands. It’s hard not to fall in love with this sort of beauty.

Of course, an animation can never fully bring out the real charm of the untouched natural landscape of Tanzania. You gotta see it for yourself to believe it. As with the Serengeti experience, other wildlife encounters such as swimming with sealions in the Galapagos Islands and hanging around with Orangutans in Borneo, only bring out the best that the Planet Earth has to offer.

giant-panda

Sadly, these emotional Wildlife experiences are rare gems these days, as human activities are taking away the natural habitats of these animals. As Borneo continues deforestation initiatives, and Global Warming threatens the livelihood of the Polar Bears in the Antarctic, these precious wildlife are on the brink of extinction. As much as global awareness is being promoted, we continue to take away their lives 1 at a time. You never know, at this rate we’re going, in a few decades’ time, Pandas or Orangutans might just be officially declared extinct.

Read more of my article, ’7 of the Best Wildlife Experiences’ on Bootsnall.com.

Photo Credits: Sea lions — Vic Sofras on Flickr, Cheetah – my gallery, Panda – Chendu Panda Sanctuary

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