I really enjoyed writing 2015 in Photographs earlier this year. It was a way to reflect on my travels throughout the year, to marvel once again at the magnificent paysages and UNESCO World Heritage Sites before me, to contemplate my smallness, to worship natural beauty, and to admire human innovation.
Writing such a post also lets me go through my photo archives and recollect the strangers I connected with along the way, who for a few hours, days or weeks became friends, who shared something special with me, taught me something new. And so I’ve decided to make this photo essay an annual post.
I try explore one new country each year in an attempt to visit 30 countries before turning 30 next March. At the beginning of the year I had visited 29 countries. I never expected that by December I’d have visited four new countries: Seychelles, Mauritius, Greece and Qatar (even if the last one was only for 24 hours). I also soujourned through countries I had been to before: Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Swaziland and England.
I’m going to post a photograph for each country I’ve travelled to or trip I’ve undertaken this year, in chronological order. So here’s to 2016 in photos.
In February, I spent six days at Hoogland Health Hydro, less than an hour’s drive from Johannesburg and not too far from Pretoria. It’s a wellness resort that focuses on the mind, body and spirit by promoting a healthy lifestyle, clean living, productive habits and unprocessed nutrition. It’s something I think each of us should do, especially at the start of a new year.
During my birthday month of March I went on safari to Ezulwini, a luxury safari game lodge in Balule Nature Reserve, which adjoins the famed Kruger National Park in South Africa. Here we watched sunset from a raised wooden deck overlooking the undulating hills.
I revisited Africa’s smallest country, Swaziland, which borders South Africa and Mozambique, not once but twice this year. In April I road tripped to the northern parts of the country for a week to partake in some adventures, while in May I jammed at the Bushfire music festival, which has been named one of the top music festivals on the continent.
In May, Durban welcomed me for the Indaba tourism conference. From there 10 members of the Johannesburg Travel Massive chapter road tripped along the coast back to Johannesburg with a number of stops along the way during our two-week trip. We slept on a yacht, tracked endangered wild dogs, were mock charged by a rhino, and cruised among hippo pods in iSimangaliso Wetland Park and World Heritage Site. My two ultimate stops were Kosi Bay and Kaapsehoop.
Two days after returning from our road trip I was off to Tanzania again. As you may have read in last year’s post, I loved Tanzania and its warm people, so I was really thrilled at the chance to visit the Serengeti and Lake Manyara national parks and Ngorongoro Crater. Best of all, I was there during The Great Migration.
I spent time at home in June and it was lovely. :)
In July I flew to the Seychelles. It was my first Indian Ocean island experience, yay! And boy did it impress. I visited three islands: Mahé, Praslin and La Digue. I fell in love with the latter and didn’t want to leave. I even considered that wedding proposal I had received. Patates, pictured above, was my favourite beach on La Digue, even though it is not nearly as well known or visited as Anse Source D’Argent. It was also here that I did an open water scuba dive, my first after I had a bad experience in while diving in South Korea in 2011.
You know me, I love cultural experiences and religious festivals. I was so pleased to experience the annual Hindu festival of Ganesh Chathuri, which happens each September on Mauritius. We became one with the crowds and experienced it first hand. While this was my first proper resort holiday experience, I learned that there’s so much more to Mauritius than merely a honeymoon destination.
In South Africa, September is heritage and tourism month. On that occasion I was invited to explore the Eastern Cape as part of an initiative by the Eastern Cape Tourism Board. I couldn’t contain my excitement when I found out that we’d be visiting Nieu Bethesda again (it was my top South African discovery of 2015). Plus we’d tour some towns I had never visited before. Another highlight was staying at Ganora Guest Farm, only 8km outside of Nieu Bethesda and famed for its rock art and South Africa’s second largest, private fossil collection.
Three countries were checked off my list in October – Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana – during an adventure itinerary through southern Africa. We did a helicopter flight over Vic Falls, a gorge swing through Batoka Gorge, swam in Devils’ Pool at the edge of the world’s largest sheet of falling water, did a sunset booze cruise along the Zambezi River and saw over a thousand elephants on a single day in Chobe National Park.
While November saw me travel for close to a month to England to witness two UNESCO World Heritage Sites (more about those later, but you can see The Angel of the North above), and to Greece, as well as Andros island, for the first time.
My flight from Europe back to Johannesburg was delayed by nearly 24 hours, not ideal but I tried to make the best of a bad situation and did a three-hour tour of Qatar’s capital city Doha.
And my final trip was in December to Reunion for Festival Liberté Métisse. Technically it’s a French department, they speak French, Creole and English, use the Euro and have French EU license plates, so it doesn’t count as a new country. I was really impressed by its natural beauty and the array of adventure activities. It was unlike the Seychelles or Mauritius.
Where will you travel to in 2017? Please tell me in the comments below.