Friday, September 4, 2009

"Real Wanderers On The Continent”: Real tours and real people who are really addicted to Africa!

Zoe Gazeley

Nuneaton, UK

What tour are you on?
Livingstone to Cape Town (South West Safari)

Truck/tour leader?
Sammy & Julius on Pangani truck

Travelling with…?
My brother and friend

Travel Motto
Go with the flo

Been to Africa before?

Favourite place on the tour?
The Okavango Delta. Trying to pole a mokoro through hippo land!

Most memorable moments on tour?
Whizzing down sand dunes on boards and quad bikes

What would you say to someone thinking of coming on tour?
Africa is an amazing place – the scenery and people are so diverse.

Where’s the next adventure?...
India or the middle east

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Discover Madagascar with Madafan: an online guide with over 200 videos and counting!

Whether you work in tourism or just have a soft spot for Madagascar, Madafan is a portal where you can share your experience.

Known as the lost continent, Madagascar is an amazing country with a great diversity of wildlife and a continuing commitment to conservation. By sharing your stories and photos, the team hope to guide others who want to explore the destination in a non-destructive way, while enjoying their time on the world's fourth largest island to the fullest.

Madafan has recently initiated the first collection of user-generated Madagascar travel-related videos - it’s aim, to become the central point for any free-access online videos related to Madagascar.

So, if you're thinking of heading to the lost continent or if you've recently returned from your Madagascar adventure logon to the site, take a virtual tour and explore Madafan’s new feature.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A close shave and some cultural insight into haggling in Morocco – by Matthew Hampton

There are around 90 muscles in a human face. And I’m doing my very best to keep all of mine still.

Like most men on holiday, I’ve let my shaving regime slide. But after a few days off from the razor, it’s all starting to look a bit Grizzly Adams. This is how I’ve come to be sitting in Mohammed’s barbershop in Marrakech.

While shaving companies seek to outdo each other with ever more outlandish technology (take Gillete’s flagship model – a slightly silly six-bladed affair known as the Fusion), the barbering old school still relies on the faithful mono-blade. Not for nothing is it known as the cut-throat, and, rather alarmingly, there’s one gliding over my adam’s apple.

Barbershops are an institution across North Africa and the Middle East. The only place on earth where moustaches are still worn as an indicator of rugged masculinity, local coiffures hold sway over acres of stubble every week.

Mohammed’s shop is small, but tidy. There is a certificate in front of me from the L’Oreal Institute in Paris. But it is very old. Other ornamentation includes a few of those pictures you see in antiquated barbershops: all quiffs and bouffants that look as though they’ve been stuck on in one piece, like Lego.

Nevertheless, Mohammed is immaculately styled, with nary a stray hair in sight. Mind you, I expect someone else looks after his.

Shaving rituals differ from country to country, but all begin with a luxuriant dollop of soap massaged into the beard. This is nice. The whisk of the razor is somewhat more alarming, particularly around the throat, but I emerge with neither a nick nor a scratch. A hot towel sees me on my way and I’m as smooth chinned as I’ve ever been. Heaven. I wonder if I could carry off one of those Lego styles?

So now to the haggling...

Think of the souk as an early forerunner of eBay. You could leave with virtually anything – any pay anything for it. Follow these rules and you’ll get the most out of Morocco’s many markets, fairly and squarely.

  1. Decide in advance how much you want to pay for an item. Around two-thirds of the asking price is usually fair, half if you’re striking a hard bargain. Start low and slowly your way work up.

  2. Look out for quality workmanship and materials – wood, mother of pearl, leather, gold and silver make more rewarding purchases than a knock-off Real Madrid shirt.

  3. Respect the salesmen – don’t insult them with silly offers and only start bargaining if you intend to buy. Any mention of numbers is an indication that you’re interested…

  4. …but remember there’s no obligation to buy. If the price stays too high, decline politely and walk away. It may be cheaper the next day, or even next door.

  5. Don’t be so hung up on getting a bargain that you don’t buy anything –remember that whatever you buy it will be cheaper than back home. If the salesman assumes you’re rich, it’s because you are – compared with him.

  6. If any of this puts you off, there are large, state-run stores in all major cities and resorts offering fixed prices. You may pay a little more but it’s not such a hard sell.

Catch up with Matthew Hampton, a freelance writer and photographer on his website

Andy, the great outdoorsman from the Veldt, gets his adrenaline fix in Livingstone

This week’s patter comes live and direct from Livingstone, in Zambia

It’s a great time to be here right now as it’s low humidity all the way through until early September, with nice sunny days and cool nights, plus those pesky mosquitoes aren’t so active. The game viewing is also awesome at this time of year - as the bush is pretty bare, making it easier to spot the wildlife.

I’ve been catching up with some of Acacia’s adrenaline addicts this week at the Victoria Falls. What a top place to get the heart racing. Well, ok there are some more sedate activities on offer like walking with lions or elephant back safaris, but you can’t beat it when it comes to active pursuits. Tomorrow I shall be flinging myself off the Bakota Gorge and then I might have to white water raft down the Zambezi before grabbing some pix of the falls and retiring back at camp with a sundowner.

My top tip this week: go all out on the 58-day Ultimate African Overlander – that way you’ll have four days in Livingstone – plenty of time to make more of the adventurous pursuits on offer.