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The New UNESCO World Heritage’s Sites We’re Dying To Experience

Every year at its annual meeting, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee unveils new additions to its epic list of significant cultural and natural sites. This year, the committee added 29 sites to its powerful list… which has got us totally inspired to revisit our bucket list. Pretty awesome, right? Here are some of the new UNESCO World Heritage Sites we’re chomping at the bit to see for ourselves!

India: Jaipur City, Rajasthan

India’s northern fortified city was designed years ago to be a commercial capital, and its grid-like city planning is proof. Jaipur’s organization creates uniformity throughout its public squares, residences, temples, markets and stalls. But its grid plan with different districts actually pre-dates the Western idea of city layout!

Australia: Budj Bim Cultural Landscape

Located in the country of the Gunditjmara Aboriginal people, the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape is one of the planet’s most expansive aquaculture systems. Through oral tradition, historians have been able to understand that the creation of this complex system goes back centuries. The system allowed the Gunditjmara people to call this location home for over six thousand years… but it’s believed to have been thirty two thousand years old/

Myanmar: Bagan

The sacred site of thousands of temples, stupas, monasteries, frescoes, sculptures, and archeological gems – Bagan is a wonder. It’s incredible architecture and collection of ancient Buddhist art illustrate the power of the Bagan empire.

Iraq: Babylon

Babylon is home to the Hanging Gardens (one of the seven wonders of the world). But, the surround villages and the ancient city also once housed the world’s most influential ancient empires. Rulers like Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar sat within the city walls as emperors, forever changing the world’s history.

Italy: Le Colline del Prosecco di Conegliano a Valdobbiadene

Prosecco anyone? The “ciglioni” checker board designed rows of vines dates all the way back to the 17th century. You’ll find lots of small plots of land with the design atop the area’s rugged terrain. (P.S. if you love a good glass of vino – check out this round up of destinations for wine-lovers).

United States: The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright

You know a Frank Lloyd Wright design when you see it. Frank’s iconic Fallingwater in Pennsylvania or the modernist Guggenheim Museum in the heart of NYC spotlight his “organic architecture” style. Each of his eight buildings scattered across the USA blurs the boundaries of indoors and outdoors, making a strong impact on the many architectural designers that followed his legacy.

Iran: Hyrcanian Forests

Iran’s Hyrcanian Forests date back to 50 million years ago. Yep, you read that correctly! This ancient forest area covered most of the Northern Temperate region of the planet many moons ago. The biodiversity within the forests now is staggering. 180 species of birds and 58 mammal species have been recorded within its dense woods.

Iceland: Vatnajökull National Park

This volcanic region of Iceland covers 14% of the island! Within the national park, visitors can find ten volcanoes (eight of which are subglacial and two of which are the most active on the island). The amazing volcanic action creates incredible landscapes, including river systems, growing canyons, massive waterfalls and more.

Japan: Mozu-Furuichi Kofun Group: Mounded Tombs of Ancient Japan

The burial mounds of all shapes and sizes found above the Osaka Plain are tombs for the elite. Archeologists have found weapons, armor, ornaments, clay figures in the shape of homes, humans and more within the funerary system.

What do you think? Find some new destinations to add to your bucket list? Every traveler should get familiar with UNESCO’s listed destinations and sites. It’s beyond inspiring to learn about their mission. (P.S. you can check out the whole list of the new UNESCO World Heritage Sites, if you’re interested in learning more!)


Have you visited any of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites? What was your favorite?

Advice Africa Outdoors

A Beginner’s Guide To Planning An African Safari

The best safari experiences depend on when, where and how you go. Time your trip correctly, chose the top countries, and the best parks and lodging within that country, and you will have the trip of a lifetime. Today, I wanted to share my beginner’s guide to planning an African safari.

I have been traveling to Africa for 34 years and designing safaris for families, couples, and celebrities including Jane Goodall, and non-profit organizations for the past 15 years.

Here are my top tips for planning your african safari.

Choose A Safari Operator

Planning a safari is very different then planning a trip to Europe, or Australia for instance. Unless you are doing a self-drive, ground-camping excursion (definitely not recommended for foreigners or people who are not experienced Africa travelers) you will need a ‘safari operator’ to put your trip together for you. You can’t get around this. The whole safari industry is based on using safari operators as the go between the tourist and the lodges and guides.

 

Pick Wisely!

Choose an operator who specializes in Africa. Travel agencies who offer trips all over the world are not specialists and rarely do their agents ever visit Africa. These agencies offer cookie cutter itineraries with little ability to personally design your trip. Skip those in favor of an operator that is intimately familiar with Africa and able to help you sort through all the options to custom design an itinerary that fits your specific needs.

Determine Your Focus

Get clear on your dream. Do you want to see as many different animals as possible, or do you want to focus on one species like elephants? Do you want a cultural element like visiting indigenous tribes, or to add an activity or famous landmark into your itinerary – like taking a helicopter ride over Victoria Falls, hiking to see gorillas, going down into the Ngorongoro Crater, or trekking with an organization working to save rhinos?

What is it that you picture yourself doing? This is your dream and you need to make sure you fulfill it.

 

Prepare For The Price

Accept the fact that this will be an expensive trip. The best places to stay on safari are in the areas with the most animals. And they are exclusive and expensive. The lodging I recommend are called tented camps. These camps host smaller groups, and provide first class amenities, service and food. These smaller camps are always my client’s favorite. You can hear the lions roaring at night, and have to be escorted back to your tent after dinner because of animals wandering around. Definitely something that adds to the allure and adventure of your safari.

Choose Your Country

The most popular countries for safari goers are Kenya and Tanzania in East Africa, and Botwana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe in Southern Africa. This year Namibia has gained a reputation for being the number one spot for Americans going on safari. My first choice for first time safari travelers is East Africa for the sheer numbers of animals (the wildebeest migration happens here) as well as cultural options such as vising a traditional Maasai village, and being guided by Maasai guides.

 

Pick Dates Accordingly

Choosing the right time of year for the country you will visit will maximize your wildlife experiences. If you are working within a set of dates, make sure you choose the place that offers the best experience for those dates. If you are flexible with your dates of travel then choose the country and time of year that offers you what you dream of doing.

Make It Happen

Don’t let the excuse that you have always wanted to go to Africa but can’t find anyone to travel with, stop you.

If you have always wanted to go on safari but don’t want to travel on your own, and you enjoy the company of a small group of like-minded travelers, sign up for one of the safaris I personally lead each year.

 

Africa Giving Back

Daraja Means Bridge: Inside A School Giving Kenyan Girls An Education

Daraja Means Bridge: Inside A School Giving Kenyan Girls An Education

“Education is the single most important civil rights issue that we face today” – Michelle Obama. In Swahili, Daraja means bridge. And we are the “bridge” that can connect every deserving girl with an education. Did you know that 20 million high-school aged girls are missing from high-school classrooms? In Kenya, less than half of all high-school aged girls are enrolled in secondary schools. This can’t be ignored. In 2009, I was introduced to Daraja & I’ve been a supporter ever since.

Daraja Academy of Kenya is an all-girls boarding high school. Each year Daraja provides comprehensive scholarships to 30 exceptional girls born into extreme poverty from diverse religions and tribal backgrounds. Without Daraja – these girls would never receive an education. To date 151 girls have graduated. 35 tribes and 4 religions are represented and 45 local community members are employed on campus.

Daraja Means Bridge: Inside A School Giving Kenyan Girls An Education

In 2011, I visited the campus for the first time with my boyfriend to welcome the second class of girls who were fortunate enough to be accepted into Daraja. We flew into Naiorbi and drove 3 hours north to the small town of Nanyuki. We drove past giraffes, camels and elephants on the bumpy road leading up to the painted Daraja gates.

As soon as we arrived we were welcomed with hugs and love from faculty, teachers and students alike. I was immediately hooked and inspired by the girls. Studying is taken very seriously; but laughter, dancing and singing fill the classrooms and cafeteria. We arrived on a weekend, which allowed us to help them with their chores (cleaning their rooms and campus, sorting beans and tutoring).

Daraja Means Bridge: Inside A School Giving Kenyan Girls An Education

Sunday is a special day on campus as each classroom is transformed into a church where the girls conduct readings, singing, dancing and prayer. Though I was a bit nervous, I was encouraged and welcomed to dance and sing with the girls.

For weeks we were fortunate enough to be a part of the Daraja community, contributing in any way we could. We involved ourselves by participating in classrooms, sports, gardening, cooking, and facilitating a WISH (Women of Integrity, Strength, and Hope) course.  Learning about the differences and similarities we shared was an eye-opening experience for both the girls and myself.

For hours, I listened as each girl candidly shared their stories of struggle and survival.  Unbroken and undefeated, these girls have taken on a mentality of determination and perseverance.  Driven to improve the lives of their families and their own, through their education. My heart broke as I listened to these stories.  Some girls traveling miles by foot, with no shoes, in order to get to school.  Most studying hours on end with nothing but a flashlight, before the delightful news of being accepted into the Daraja Academy.  These countless stories told by such strong-willed, remarkable young women impelled for a better quality of life, regardless of misfortune or circumstance, inspired me to get involved, and prompted my support for the past 9 years.

Daraja Means Bridge: Inside A School Giving Kenyan Girls An Education

In 2014, I returned to campus with my family to witness the first class of girls to graduate. It was an emotional and incredible experience to see how confident, poised and eloquent the girls were after their 4 years spent at Daraja. They were ready to go to college and take on the world. My girl I sponsored through her time at Daraja, Kajuju, also known as Moreen, is one of many who received a scholarship in the States.

Daraja Means Bridge: Inside A School Giving Kenyan Girls An Education Daraja Means Bridge: Inside A School Giving Kenyan Girls An Education

Daraja has built the bridge that these girls so desperately need in order to secure their future. It has been and continues to be an honor and privilege to have Daraja in my life. I 100% recommend everyone to visit the campus. Your trip will not only change the lives of these eager young ladies, but most likely your trip to Daraja will inspire and change you too. For more details on you can help and volunteer opportunities – visit their website.

Daraja means bridge, join us, be her bridge!

Africa

An Insider’s Guide To Cape Town

An Insider's Guide To Cape Town

Cape Town has it all: beautiful beaches and wildlife, breathtaking scenery, exquisite food and exciting nightlife. No matter what you’re looking for, you’ll find it in the “Mother City.”

An Insider's Guide To Cape Town

Where To Eat

You may be surprised to learn that Cape Town is home to some of the world’s best gastronomy. Here are a few places that you should definitely try when you’re in town:

Truth Coffee

Truth Coffee is a great café and coffee roaster housed in a three-story Victorian warehouse decorated with old machinery. Named number 1 coffee shop in the world in 2016 by the Telegraph, Truth coffee also offers a fairly extensive menu. Before noon, their breakfast menu covers the heartiest of fare. Try their signature Steampunk Benedict, truffle-infused scrambled eggs or croissant French toast. An all-day breakfast menu also touches on more traditional dishes. Choose between the likes of shakshuka, avocado on toast, croque madame or a Caprese sandwich. Everything about this place is perfect!

Kloof Street House

Walking up the stairs towards the elegant Victorian-era house is quite an experience in itself: as you walk in you are almost immediately flanked by an outside dining area with mosaic-style and wooden tables. Apart from the impressive decoration, the food here is amazing. A few standouts on Kloof Street House’s menu include the Ossobucco, bouillabaisse, Ostrich fillet with butternut purée and the salted caramel cheesecake with popcorn ice-cream. Good to know: they host a super cool jazz concert every Sunday afternoon.

La Mouette

A lovely old-world mansion in the bohemian Seapoint district along the Atlantic Seaboard sets the stage for refined French cuisine. Menus reflect the best seasonal ingredients: sole with pumpkin emulsion, pickled kohlrabi, chestnut crumble, mushrooms, and charred spinach for fall, whereas summer brings cauliflower couscous with a Cape Malay sauce, almonds, and raisin puree.

Charly’s Bakery

The fabulous female team here makes incredible cupcakes and other baked goods. Their heritage building is as colourfully decorated as their bakes. The bakery is a 20 year-old family run business and their style of cakes is fresh, modern and beautiful with decors. Their most popular cakes are the “Wicket chocolate cakes”.

Where To Stay

Whether you’re visiting for a relaxing weekend getaway or to experience an energetic South African city, there are plenty of stylish places to stay in Cape Town. Here are a few hotel options:

Cape Grace

Cape Grace provides the perfect Waterfront setting for discovering Cape Town. Designed to resemble a big ship when seen across the harbour, Cape Grace stands alongside the yacht marina backed by the silhouette of Table Mountain.  Each one of the 121 guest rooms and suites is unique and has its own story to tell. Even the standard rooms are spacious here, with separate sitting areas, desks, complimentary high-speed internet, and cushioned headboards. Interiors showcase hand-painted fabrics and custom-made metal, glass, and leather. Decor at this storied hotel reflects indigenous and foreign influences that have come to epitomize the Cape. With an excellent spa, charming library where you can take afternoon tea, enjoy views of the ships or the mountain; and with a world-famous whiskey bar boasting more than 500 whiskeys from 14 countries, this graceful establishment knows how to pamper its guests.

An Insider's Guide To Cape Town An Insider's Guide To Cape Town An Insider's Guide To Cape Town

Taj Cape Town

Located in the historic city center on the pedestrian St. George’s Mall, this architecturally striking hotel is ideally suited to travelers wanting to tap into Cape Town’s cosmopolitan culture. Stay here and you are perfectly positioned to explore the city by foot; there’s a city walking tour departing from here. The Heritage rooms are by far the more atmospheric and the Heritage suites are gorgeous. Tower rooms obviously have the more panoramic views. Mountain views, regardless of location, are a bit more expensive but it’s worth it, particularly if you can bag a corner room. Two and a half restaurants complete the package: the mod-international Mint, the Indian-themed Bombay Brasserie, and The Twankey, the Taj’s champagne and oyster bar.

An Insider's Guide To Cape Town An Insider's Guide To Cape Town An Insider's Guide To Cape Town An Insider's Guide To Cape Town

What To Do

There’s something for everyone in Cape Town. There are hundreds of things to do in this beautiful city, but here are a few recommendations:

Winery Tour

Go wine tasting. There are over 2000 vineyards and wine estates in the Western Cape, so where to start? Book a wine tour with Wine Flies, the boutique touring company invites you to explore the province through wine. You can visit up to five wine estates a day and even more if you choose to go on a weekend away.

An Insider's Guide To Cape Town

Table Mountain Hike

Anyone who has been to Cape Town will tell you the first thing you should do is go up high to get a panoramic view of the city and there’s no better place to do it than Table Mountain. If you’re looking to get some exercise, take a 2-hour hike to Table Mountain’s summit. Or if you’re feeling a little tired, the cable car is the better option.  

Sunset by Camp’s Bay Beach

Camp’s Bay, nestled just below the Twelve Apostles mountain range, is the perfect chic and trendy beach town to visit. Be sure to go there before 6pm to secure a table at one of the countless cocktail bars and get wonderful views of the sunset. Hout Bay is also an extremely romantic and picturesque place to enjoy the Atlantic Ocean.

An Insider's Guide To Cape Town

 

Africa Journal

Ubuntu – We’re Part Of It

As I was driving on the wild coast of South Africa, I took a step back to think about my year on the continent. It is true that travels change one’s perception of reality. I would even say that it shapes our (future) self. In Africa, I have experienced pure happiness. Far away from my European comfort zone, each smile received made me feel like a queen in her castle of freedom. As I turned left from the small road heading to Umtata, I realized that I felt closer than ever to the African philosophy of Ubuntu. This bantu word sums up in two syllables the entire spirit of Africa: the sense of community, the idea of “I am because we are” and the perpetual feeling of gratitude, of caring and sharing about each others.

In my red little rented car, I was driving carefully on the dirt road leading to Mdumbi, a small Xhosa village on the South African wild coast, not far from the village where Nelson Mandela grew up. The landscape was completely dark as the night has fallen and some lazy sleepy cows slowly moved from the way as I drove towards them. Two hours of potholes, strange noises and wandering animals led me to a state of near exhaustion. Will I ever arrive to the village? As I opened my window driving down another hill, the sound of the endless rolling waves encouraged me to keep going. The ocean is near. It can’t be that far anymore.

Lost in my thoughts,  on the dark deserted road, I replayed the film of my travels.

Africa… Africa for me is more than a place on earth that we point on a map. Africa – it’s first and foremost smiles. Hundreds and thousands of true smiles shining at my face. Africa – it’s happiness in despair. It’s positivity no matter what. It’s hope and faith in the darkest times.

As I drove near a dead animal’s skeleton that almost scared me, it led me back to my biggest travel fear: losing a relative.

One day, it is true, we will all die. As my grandmother would say. However, all the other days of our life, we are alive! would I add.

I remembered as I was still a teenager, my mother fighting against cancer and her endless faith. For ten years, our life has been unpredictable as the quarterly hospital checks were setting the tempo. Today, she is climbing some of the highest summits of the Indian Ocean. My mother, by her restless fighting and her inner wiseness showed me the beauty of life: a walk in the countryside, a rainbow after the storm, a bird picking up some wooden sticks to build its nest. She opened my eyes to the not- so-hidden beauty of life. I often wonder if this is one of the reasons why I live so intensely.

My hands hooked up to the wheel, some kids running a few meters from me in the dark, drew me out of my thoughts, their large white teeth smiles reflecting the light of my car. As I watched them running on the hill to their huts, I told to myself:

We have two lungs, we can breath in and breath out. Why always waiting for a better time, for more money, for a hypothetical boyfriend to live our dreams? There is only one thing that we will ever possess in this world. And this one thing is here and now: the present moment. It is as ephemeral as it is eternal. So why don’t we take our backpacks and fly, run, drive, walk, cycle, swim, sail, ride, dance… whatever makes us feel alive. As Wayne Gretzky says: “ You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

I finally saw some lights at the end of one curve. Mdumbi Backpacker stood discreetly in the deep dark of the night, in front of me. I will have to be patient to discover the surroundings. At that moment, all I could see was my traditional hut and all I could hear was the wind and the waves rolling endlessly not far from here.

As I fell asleep under the caring milky way, I dreamt about Mandela, Desmond Tutu and the Ubuntu feeling of connexion to my seven billion brothers and sisters, to the Earth, its species, its water, its ecosystems.

 

5:30am, it has never been so easy to wake up! I jumped out of my little bed and ran outside. The first light of the sun was shining on the morning dew, changing the grass field into a diamond mine. Click. Mental picture.

As I walked down the path to reach the ocean, I picked up a few plastic bottles brought by the tide, traveling is about being the change we want to see in the world.

The magic of walking alone on an untouched natural landscape, being the only one watching the rolling waves, the surfing dolphins following my path along the beach made me feel like part of it: I was the ocean, the sky, the air and the soft sand between my toes. It threw me back to the wandering rhinoceros crossing my way while driving in a National Park, the feeling of invincibility while watching the milky way from a tent, in the middle of nowhere, somewhere; the sweet taste of an apple – only meal of the day-  as the best food on earth. Traveling alone is an indefinable feeling of finally being able to play the first role in the movie of your life. It is about taking back the control.

The small village of Mdumbi stands proudly. This place is nothing else but magical. The small colorful huts watch patiently the village’s life. Children are running and playing in the waves down the cliff, armed with wooden fishing sticks, they laugh almost as loud as the waves and the wind together as they catch the evening’s dinner. The white face painted women walk proudly as they carry on their head the heavy treasure to be sold on the market to feed their families.

As I walked up the little track leading to the other side of the beach, one man was sitting on the hill above me, resting his back on his little blue hut’s wall. A cow was enjoying the rich grass few meters from him. With his left hand, he slowly put the lightened rolled cigarette to his dry lips and inhaled carefully the smoke before releasing it amidst the low clouds above his head. The sky was a light painted blue and the sun was reflecting its light on the village’s colorful huts. Click. Another mental picture to add to my private mind collection.

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