> General Africa Safari Articles
How About Romantic Africa?
Today, Norm Goldman, Editor of Sketchandtravel.com and
Bookpleasurs.com is pleased to have as a guest, travel writer and
author Deanna Swaney.
Deanna for the past twenty years has written travel articles and
guidebooks pertaining to Brazil, Madagascar, Russia, Seychelles,
Bolivia, Iceland, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, Namibia, Norway,
Samoa, Tonga, the Arctic, Zimbabwe, and Botswana, Brazil, Israel,
Reunion, Mauritius, Comoros, Zambia, Alaska, and, probably a few
Good day Deanna and thank you for agreeing to participate in our
Deanna: Thanks, Norm, for asking me.
Deanna, when did your passion for travel and travel writing begin,
and what kept you going?
My passion for writing began as a child Ė My father was a newspaper
reporter, editor and photographer. He taught me to read and write
before I went to school, and provided all the inspiration to steer
me in that direction.
In addition Ė and unlike anyone else in my family Ė I always longed
to travel, even on road trips as little as 20 miles from home!
Having said that, my first real international trip was a very low
budget three-month spin around Europe and the Middle East after
graduating university, and it became clear that my desire to travel
was probably insatiable.
After a trip to Bolivia in 1986, I decided that Lonely Planet needed
a Bolivia book, so I wrote up a sample chapter and sent it to Tony
Wheeler. He liked it, commissioned the book, and then offered one
project after another, much to my delight, of course!
What kept me going was not only my innate love of travel in general,
but a growing interest in travelling for a purpose Ė writing,
trekking, photography, and spiritual pursuits Ė and a real joy in
the opportunity to see first-hand all the wonderful (and even
not-so-wonderful) things the world has to offer.
I noticed you have travelled widely in Africa. Could you describe to
our readers five most unique and perhaps romantic venues in Africa
that you have visited, and what makes them so special?
It will be very difficult to limit that list to five, but Iíll try!
∑ My favourite spot in Africa is undoubtedly the Tsodilo Hills, in
northwestern Botswana. This little range of four small hills rises
from the flat Kalahari and is considered by the local San (Bushmen)
to be the site of Creation, as well as the heart of their world. The
hills are covered with ancient rock paintings, which are said to
have been done by the ancestors of the San, and itís quite simply
the most enigmatic and spiritual place Iíve even visited, and I
return again and again, each time seeing and discovering more
wonderful things there. On one hike alone through a remote part of
the hills, I surprised a pack of 17 wild dogs, and felt both
vulnerable and exhilarated at the same time.
∑ Another wonderful spot is Lianshulu Lodge in Namibiaís Caprivi
Strip. Itís rather simple as Namibian safari lodges go, but the
surrounding landscape is reminiscent of the Okavango Delta, without
the tourism hype or extortionate high prices. Itís heaven sitting
out at night listening to the elephants trumpeting, the hippos
belching, and a dozen species of frogs calling from the wetlands.
∑ The third spot is Canyon Adventures in the northern reaches of
southern Namibiaís Fish River Canyon. Itís owned by friends of mine,
who came from South Africa and purchased their own personal Grand
Canyon. Here the landscape resembles images sent back from Mars,
with fields of rocks baked black in the sun and some of the most
fascinating geology on the planet. On one visit, I hiked alone for
six days through the hills and canyons, sleeping under the stars
every night, and swimming in waterholes during the afternoon heat.
During the trip, I saw no one else, but did manage to share a
waterhole with a leopard one night, and all along the route passed
through some truly incredible and inspiring terrain.
∑ Then thereís the remote and very unique Jungle Junction, along the
Zambezi River in Zambia, which is a sort of counter-cultural venue
on a remote jungled island mid-stream. Visitors arrive in dugout
canoes poled by friendly local people, and the experience feels akin
to what David Livingstone must have felt the first time he was taken
to Victoria Falls. Guests camp in simple jungle tents or very basic
cabins; one of these is actually on a raft moored in the river,
where guests are lulled to sleep by a raging current just inches
from their pillows!
∑ In another part of Africa entirely, a particularly impressive
place is Karnak at Luxor, Egypt. While itís all very touristy, the
scale of the place is overwhelming, and one can only feel
insignificant in the face of so much mystery and apparent skill in
the construction of the place.
∑ Other amazing venues in Africa, which Iíd mention in more detail
if youíd allowed me ten or more sights (!), are Matobo National Park
in Zimbabwe; Lamu and Mt Kenya in Kenya; Berenty Reserve in
Madagascar; the Makgadikgadi Pans in Botswana; and the Naukluft,
Kaokoland and Skeleton Coast in Namibia.
Norm: How easy or difficult is it to travel in Africa?
Obviously, some countries are easier than others. For those who
arenít travelling on organised tours, the most straightforward are
Namibia, Botswana and South Africa, where visitors can hire a car
and get around quite easily, and in fact these countries have been
dubbed ĎAfrica for Beginnersí.
In general, the further north you go, the more difficult things
become Ė at least until you reach Egypt and the Mediterranean Coast,
which are quite easily tackled - but Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi,
Tanzania, Kenya and non-war zones in West Africa enjoy relatively
good public transport systems that facilitate independent travel.
Where are the Faroe Islands and what can travellers expect to find
The Faroes, which belongs to Denmark, is an archipelago of 18 very
green islands about midway between Scotland and Iceland, but the
green comes at a price, as one can expect rainfall and generally
very nasty weather about 300 day a year.
On the other hand, thereís no need to worry about tourist crowds,
and those with webbed feet will find some spectacular hiking, as
well as very impressive sea cliffs, bird colonies and an ancient
Scandinavian culture that still speaks a derivative of Old Norse,
which was spoken by the early Viking settlers on the islands.
Visitors can also expect to see more ovine than human Faroese, and
may even witness the traditiona, quirky and controversial grindadrap,
which involves rounding up and slaughtering pods of hundreds of
pilot whales for food.
Can you explain some of your research techniques, and how you found
sources for your various guidebooks?
Every country was different. In some, especially those with active
tourist offices, it was easy to find contacts and sites of interest.
In others, such as Bolivia the first time around, and for most of my
other first edition books on developing countries, I was pretty much
on my own. In such places, Iíd see a place on the map and try to get
there to find out what there might be of interest to readers. Of
course, this was all before the days of the Internet and hosts of
competing guidebooks, which have recently made researching anywhere
in the world much easier.
How have you used the Internet in arranging your travel and in
boosting your career?
Over the past 10 years, the Internet has been a wonderful tool and
has made research considerably more convenient than it was in the
days when the only information one could find on some countries was
an old article in a National Geographic or an obscure 18th century
explorerís journal! Of course, it has also made it possible to
advertise my career and secure new gigs. In fact, the project Iím
working on now came to me through GUIDEBOOKWRITERS.COM
If you were to pick one country that impressed you the most, which
one would it be, and why?
Thatís an easy one Ė Namibia. Iíve always been inspired by Africa,
deserts, wilderness, hiking opportunities, wildlife, geology and
unique cultures, and Namibia enjoys all these features in abundance.
Itís also a reasonably affordable and relatively safe venue for
Close runners-up would be Nepal, Tonga, Portugal, Bolivia, Australia
and just about every part of the USA.
What does travel mean to you?
Hmm, that one isnít so easy. I think more than anything, itís a
lifestyle Ė and of course an addiction. When Iím not travelling, Iím
thinking of travelling, and dreaming of travelling, but not so much
due to Ďwanderlustí as to a perceived imperative to seek out some
unspecified ideal. As I said before, itís a spiritual quest Ė
although Iím not exactly sure what will be found on that quest.
What is next for Deanna Swaney?
At the moment, Iím working on a Dorling-Kindersley Eyewitness Guide
to Alaska. Having had my base in Alaska for the past 27 years, itís
a joy to have the opportunity to explore close to home and see my
backyard from a new perspective.
Is there anything else you wish to add to our interview?
Only to tell readers that organised travel can be great if they have
only two or three weeks, but for those with more time, independent
travel isnít as expensive or difficult as they may imagine, and can
be infinitely rewarding. Oh yes, and that in my travels, Iíve never
found a place without some sort of beauty or interest.
Thanks again and good luck with all of your future projects.
About the Author:
Norm Goldman is the Editor of the travel site,
www.sketchandtravel.com and the book reviewing site,
www.bookpleasures.com. Norm is also a travel writer and together
with his artist wife,Lily, they meld words with art focusing on
romantic and wedding destinations. Norm and Lily are always on the
lookout for romantic destinations to visit in Florida, New England
States and New York State.
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