Mozambique: Go before the crowds

Mozambique: Go before the crowds


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Blessed by a pleasant tropical climate, warm ocean waters, exotic wildlife, scenic beaches, and great diving point breaks, Mozambique will soon make it to the list of top holiday destinations in Africa. Unlike other more touristy countries on the continent, this south-east African pearl is still unblemished by the negative side-effects of mass tourism: tourist crowds are few, beaches are clean and inviting, accommodation is decent and available for travelers of all budgets, and local culture has preserved much of its unique spirit despite globalization trends. If you want to visit Mozambique, the best time to go is now – and here are only a few reasons why you may want to explore this fascinating country before it turns into a large-scale tourist hub.

Holiday at the beach: Bazaruto and Quirimbas

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Though Mozambique inland has its charms, most holiday makers and honeymooners are drawn to the country’s coastline and neighboring archipelagos. Who would not be, after all? Stretching 1,500 miles along the Indian Ocean, local beaches are a true tropical paradise. Two most popular summer destinations include the archipelagos of Bazaruto and Quirimbas, both of them ideal for divers, snorkeling fans, and other water sports enthusiasts.

• Quirimbas Archipelago is mostly uninhabited, except for a few private islands with luxury resort facilities. Gathering over 30 small islands, the archipelago is popular among hard core divers across the globe: here, you can see impressive coral reef formations, over 350 species of reef fish, humpback whales, whale sharks, dugongs, and turtles.

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• Bazaruto Archipelago is another secret ocean gem of Mozambique. Unlike Quirimbas, though, Bazaruto comprises only six large islands soaked in warm and clean ocean waters. In addition to its vibrant marine diversity (in the mood for a quick race with dolphins?), Bazaruto is also home to Nile crocs, pink flamingos, suni antelopes, red duikers, samango monkeys, rare butterfly species, and over 150 bird species.

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Feel the positive vibes of Maputo

Mozambique’s main business and cultural hub, Maputo, takes pride in a unique mix of modern and quaint vibes. In the streets, you can see pieces of colonial architecture peacefully coexisting with 21st-century malls, flea markets, street vendors, and skyscrapers. Landmark historical and cultural sites every Maputo visitor should see include Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Fisheries Museum, Louis Tregardt Memorial Garden, National Art Museum, Museum of the Revolution, Central Train Station, Natural History Museum, Mesquita da Baixa, and Iglesia de San Antonio de la Polana.

As far as accommodation in Maputo is concerned, hostels and hotels are a go-to for tourists staying in the city for a few days. For longer stays, however, property rentals are a more affordable option.

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Gorongosa: Where wild creatures thrive

Though not blessed by multitude of wildlife resorts such as Kenya, Tanzania, or South Africa, Mozambique still has a few national parks up its sleeve. Apart from the protected wildlife areas in Bazaruto and Quirimbas, Gorongosa National Park has been popular among western tourists ever since the ‘60s: even John Wayne, Joan Crawford, and Gregory Peck checked it out! The park boasts impressive biodiversity, including populations of rhinos, elephants, buffalos, waterbucks, antelopes, zebras, hippos, lions, crocodiles, and over 500 exotic bird species.

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Make merry with the locals

Although its history is written in blood and tears, Mozambique is home to positive, friendly people who cherish a deep connection with their ethnic roots and their natural environment. The positive mindset of Mozambique locals is best reflected in numerous festivals that take place throughout the country on a monthly basis. If you are visiting Maputo in May, you may get a chance to take part in the three-day AZGO music festival. STRAB Festival is organized in Ponta Malongane in May, gathering over 20 R&B bands. Independence Day Festivities are staged in Maputo every June, while July is a month of music and arts, with FORR music festival in Ponta Malongane and TAMBO International Art Camp in Pemba featuring music, theatre and dance workshops and performances.

Are you ready to take a plunge into the lap of nature and freedom? In Mozambique, your wildest holiday dreams will come true, so make sure you explore this colorful country before throngs of tourists overtake its streets!

Blog by Oliver Hyde

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Top Places to Visit in West Africa

Top Places to Visit in West Africa


West Africa is a huge territory with several dozen states and several hundred million inhabitants. It is the area with tragic history, bright future and friendly and hospitable residents. In this article I shared my experiences from this part of the world in the form of a short guide in which I will present sites that I enjoyed the most during my five months long stay in place where ocean, jungle and savannah meet.

Togo’s Cultural Diversity


Togo is the gem of West Africa with its white sand beaches, voodoo shrines and untouched hinterland in the north. Tourists can visit Koutammakou, area populated by Batammariba people who live in villages, with tall mud houses, which are also known as the national symbol of this small and beautiful country. Capital city Lome is located on the coast and has some of the best night life in the whole West Africa, with bars and clubs around every corner. Tourists also enjoy Loma’s markets, regular and the voodoo one, which are great for meeting the locals who come here to meet, talk and shop. They enjoy spicy fufu (pounded white yams), a very popular fast food in West Africa, eaten with a variety of different sauces, from spicy ones with tomatoes and peppers, to the ones made with smoked fish, which is a real gourmet treat. Most popular souvenirs that tourists and travelers bring from Togo are voodoo masks and charms that enable travelers to bring part of Togo’s mysticism to their own home.

Mole Savannah, Most Visited National Park in Ghana



Mole National Park is located in the north part of Ghana and it is a place that resembles similar savannah parks from Eastern Africa. We arrived to Mole from Tamale, capital city of Northern Ghana. Place with friendly residents, traditional houses in the city center and a crocodile pond nearby, often visited by tourists. The only way to arrive to the park is in a 4×4 vehicle, which is also great for driving around the safari park and covering a much wider territory than tourists who decide to go around on foot (with an armed ranger of course). Some of the animals that can be seen in the park are: elephants, monkeys, warthogs, baboons, antelopes, etc. Inside the park grounds there is also Larabanga mosque, oldest and the best preserved mosque made by mud and stick in the whole Ghana.

Accra, West African Metropolis


This is one of the most cosmopolitan places in West Africa, with high glass buildings, wide boulevards and dusty shanty towns painted in vivid colors. Both tourists and local residents are using Trotro buses to reach their desired destination, share some interesting conversations and hear life stories of people they see for the first and the last time in their life. Sad colonial history of this magnificent land and post-colonial pursuit for prosperity merge in Accra’s architecture. Some of the most notable places to visit in this city are: the National Museum, the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park and the Independence Square. W.E.B. DuBois Memorial Centre is a place where this famous American author and civil rights activists decided to move to in his pursuit for equal rights for all, and where visitors can see his house, grave and personal library. One of the most interesting places to visit in Accra that completely describes the soul of this mosaic, composed out of life stories, people’s wishes and dreams is Kane Kwei’s Carpentry Workshop, where visitors can see some of the best works of Kane Kwei, famous coffin maker from the fifties, who carved his works into different shapes and was one of the most famous names on West Africa’s applied arts scene. Although Accra is a very hospitable and safe city, sometimes it is really hard to find the appropriate lodging. That’s why tourists are advised to arrange their stay in advance, through websites like MeQasa, where they can meet people who are renting rooms and flats.

Dakar, West Africa’s Entrance Point


“Teranga” is the name for hospitality in Senegal, and Dakar is the right place to experience it. Senegalese are very proud and respectful people, who like to spend time with tourists and show them every corner of their beautiful city. In Dakar you will see many smiles on people’s faces and have frequent talks with very persistent sellers. It is the place to buy traditional West African clothes, including haute-couture worn by West African Muslims. There are lots of busy and vibrant markets in the city including the fish evening market that also sells souvenirs, as well as Marche Sandaga, one of the biggest markets in town that sells everything from live chickens and fish to Barcelona and Man Utd jerseys. Since Senegal is one of the bird-watching capitals of the world, Dakar surroundings are also great for bird lovers. Iles De la Madeline, are the only nesting site of red-billed tropic bird in Africa and tourists can also find genuine Pink Lake (Lake Retba), whose pink color is caused by the presence of cyanobacteria in the water. Lake Retba is also the popular salt harvesting site, and its salt can be a great souvenir to take home. City itself is the mixture of colonial and Arabic architecture, and some of its main sites are: Dakar Cathedral, Dakar Grand Mosque, IFAN Museum of African Arts, etc. African Renaissance Monument is another great and respected site inside Dakar that symbolizes the end of slavery and the fight against oppressive European regimes in their attempt to destroy the cultural heritage of African people.

Author bio:

Oliver Hyde

Oliver is an experienced business consultant from the UK. His job allows him to travel, which also happens to be one of his greatest passions. You can find him on Twitter

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Twenty one year old me could not get enough of Kuta. Party, party, beach, party and repeat. Straight off the flight, a short taxi and you were slam in the middle of the action. Crazy streets, bustling shops and blaring music. Happy days!


A few visits (and a few years) later spent discovering some more areas of the ‘Island of the Gods’ I realised there was plenty more on offer in Bali. If you are after relaxing, diving, exploring or indulging you might want to hit up one of these areas…



Imagine black sands. Coconuts whilst hanging out in hammocks. Bars with furniture that could well belong to a pirate. Mornings scuba diving and afternoons napping – This is Amed.

If you want that kicked back vibe whilst also being a short drive from one of the best wreck dives in the local area (or even to get your scuba qualification), Amed is somewhere that (as of yet) hasn’t drawn in the sheer volume of people you will find around Kuta.



Head to the far south of the Bukit (The small bit on the map below the airport) and you will find Uluwatu. Its cliffside temple full of monkeys and crashing waves is the main draw but it is also a great place to kick back and relax away from the more party heavy spots.

With two awesome bars and beach clubs in the form of Single Fin (cool hangout) and Finns beach club (crystal clear reef waters) amongst plenty of accommodation and food spots you might not want to leave.



Beyond Kuta and even Seminyak likes Canggu which is sure to be the next big thing in Bali (if it isn’t already?). Think biking through lush green rice paddies, hanging out with surfers and filling up on Acai bowls and you get the picture. With heaps of hip bars, trendy cafes and tranquil dream like villas you can not go wrong.

Tanah Lot, famous for those sunset shots is also just a bit further along and take a bike further afield for miles of untouched beaches and scenery.



Ubud is known as the cultural hub of Bali and is home to the famous Monkey Forest but head slightly north and you will hit Tegalalang. With its natural beauty, rice paddies to explore and jungle like experience it seems a million miles away from your average Bali trip.

It is also a great base to have for a drive and explore Lake Batur after taking the morning trek up the volcano to catch sunrise in all its glory.



To be technical the Gili Islands are a whole other story than Bali, but how can we miss them out? These three small Islands (Meno – Romantic, Air – Chill and Trawangan – Party) have white sands, clear waters, plenty of hammocks and heaps of turtles to swim with.

Just a couple of hours by speed boat from Bali and you can find these incredible beaches and slow island life. Oh, and those amazing sunsets!

Still want more options? Head here for a breakdown of even more places and areas to stay in Bali.


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When I arrived to Sri Lanka it was the people I fell for first. Everyone who is used to flying solo will know that makes or breaks a trip.

Given its proximity to neighbour India you could be expecting a crazy busy island, where no one would have the time of the day to help you get around.

Fear not, I was shocked to find a relatively compact yet truly rewarding experience. From tea pickers to bike repair shop workers, everyone would gladly take time out to point you in the direction of your next discover and the place they are so proud of, Sri Lanka.

Here are five reasons it quickly jumped up my solo travel recommendation list…


DambullaCaves (1)Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle consists of ancient cities, historic ruins, old cities on rocks (Sigiriya, the magma plug of a volcano) and cave temples. Of the eight UNESCO sights of Sri Lanka, five alone can be found in this triangle.

Whether you are looking to see perfectly persevered cave painting in Dambulla, trek up the lions rock and try to understand how a city was built so high in times gone by or discover ancient Buddha tooth relics in Kandy you don’t have far to go for a new wonder each day. A word of warning though, Sri Lanka is cheap but entry to its historic monuments certainly is not.


TeaFields (1)Heading to the hill country certainly brings the temperature down in Nuwara Eliya above the clouds, also known as ‘Little England’ due to the style of its buildings. It is surrounded by tea plantations and waterfalls and is certainly worth a few days off the tan for. Further along the town of Ella has a great backpackers vibe to it, an ideal spot for unwinding and meeting new friends to travel towards the beaches with.

The vistas and views are easily accessible by bus or hiring a tuktuk so even if you are flying solo you can head out hiking, visit the tea factories and even get a free cuppa at the end of it without splashing too much cash.


ElephantSafari (1)Sri Lanka has national parks dotted all over, in fact, you will never be too far from them. Hiring a private jeep here is cheaper than the famous Africa parks but there are plenty of operators you can jump on board with for a bargain in a group.

Take you pick: Elephants, monkeys, birds or even cheetahs. Grab the chance to see some beautiful wildlife where it should be, in the wild.


SriLankaTrain (1)Ok, so, the small busses you might be stuck on for what seems like days aren’t quite so glamours, but like I said. The people make a place. Travelling along with the locals is an easy going experience and once conversation is quickly started it will fly by. And think less than a dollar for some long journeys.

The tuktuks lack the hassle that much of Asia has and when you have train views like above, would you really want a travel buddy to distract you from hanging out the open doors anyway?


SriLankaBeach (1)If you want to find you own private beach, here is the place to do it. Head south and you will realise that tourism hasn’t struck Sri Lanka big time yet. Jump on a boat in Mirissa to see whales, head to Unawatuna for the ultimate beach backpacker vibe (and seriously good value and great tasting fresh fish) or just get a bike, head along the coast and find a hammock for one with no one to disturb you.

The Stilt fishermen of Sri Lanka, which makes for a killer sunset photo can also be found here. A piece of culture and a fresh coconut in the sand. Sold yet?

SriLankaFisherman (1)The best news? I already started spreading the Outbound word when I was in Sri Lanka. Head there and get connected as you discover the gem once known as Ceylon!

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5 things you should not miss if you are in Sydney

5 things you should not miss if you are in Sydney

Pic 1 - Sydney (1)

No matter if you are a world traveller or simply an Aussie trying to run from a local town for a weekend, if you find yourself somewhere near Sydney, there are some things you should not miss out on.

Here are five things you should try and do when in.

1. Go to secret beaches

Pic 2 - Balmoral Beach

One of the biggest secrets Sydney has are its quiet beaches. Secluded and sprinkled around Sydney, they have harbours all along the coast and are the perfect place to relax even if you come by foot.
You can pack a picnic basket and a blanket, take a ferry and head towards one of them to discover the secret world they hide. Shelly Beach, Chinaman’s Beach, Balmoral Beach, Redleaf Beach, Milk Beach – it is all up to you to decide which one to visit.

  1. Eat local food 

Pic 3 - Breakfast in Sydney

Sydney is famous for great food, so if you are a food lover – do not skip spending the evening in one of its restaurants. Once you spend the day walking around, visiting famous places, it is natural that you are going to be starving, right?

Take this perfect chance to try out some of these meals: Salted caramel gelato; soup dumplings; Peking duck pancakes; tuna tartare with truffle; yuzu and lotus root; Ricotta hotcakes, banana & honeycomb butter; and if you do not know what to eat for breakfast, order scrambled eggs that will change your life!

  1. Take a Tour 

Pic 4 - North Sydney

The best way to meet Sydney’s soul and see it from all angles is to book your seat in one of the Sydney tours. The best one is definitely the one which provides you to meet the entire city, but you should not miss out on seeing the unusual, stunning nature outside of Sydney as well.

  1. Go to the theatre or concert

Pic 5 - Sydney Opera House

Sydney’s is famous for its theatres and opera houses, so if you are a classic music lover, you should go on a concert or opera performance in one of these theatres: Sydney Opera House; Opera Australia; Capitol Theatre, Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace; Sydney Lyric Theatre, State Theatre, and Marble Bar.

And if you are jazz lover, The Basement, Wine Banc Bar, Hero of Waterloo Hotel and Marble Bar should be on your list of the places  to visit.

  1. Take a ferry to one of Sydney’s islands

Pic 6 - Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney’s harbour is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and definitely deserves to give your attention to it. You can walk around it, climb the bridge or jump a ferry and go to one of the islands around Sydney, such as Fort Denison, Shark, Clark, Cockatoo, Goat and Rodd. You can also catch the Circular Quay ferry and meet the nature from distance – in its grandest splendour.

Pic 7 - Sydney Harbour


As you can see, there are a lot of interesting places to visit in Sydney. Our another special recommendation is that, if you have the time, take a walk and meet true Sydney on foot – its biggest treasure are its welcoming people.


About the author

Pic 8 - Author


Marie Nieves, student of economics who loves unusual trips and have a plan to travel the whole world. She has always loved to travel, and she loves to talk about her experiences. On her travels she likes to read poetry and prose and loves to surf the Internet. An avid lover of photography and regular author on High Style Life.


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Choosing Your Perfect Travel Bag

Choosing Your Perfect Travel Bag

For weeks now, you’ve been researching the Internet or pacing up and down the isles of outdoor adventure stores looking for your perfect travel bag to head out on your next outbound adventure. I remember those days quite fondly, researching for hours trying to learn all about the perfect travel bags for your travels. However, once I got out in the field, I quickly learned that there were a few important factors that I did not consider at the time. Most importantly, knowing whether you are pursuing a simple travel adventure, a working holiday, a hiking adventure, or a combination of all three activities.

Type of Travel Adventure

While reading many travel blogs, from other experienced travellers, two common themes became apparent. One, the number one packing issue is bringing too much stuff, especially clothes. Everyone kept reiterating not too bring too many clothes and pack light. For many, this is true if you’re simply travelling. However, there are a few things I’ve learned about choosing the right travel bag for your travels since leaving. I’ve now put together a multi-part series on my thoughts and lessons learned in picking the right travel backpack.
After 5 weeks in travelling in India, I was glad to have headed the advice as much as possible, using packing four packing cubes, when packing my travel backpack. While I still packed too many things, it was mostly little things that were replaceable that I eventually had to abandon in India. The second theme, whatever you pack you can find in another country. Everyone continues to discuss how many clothing or pharmaceutical items are replaceable or purchasable in other countries. While this is true, there are a few significant consequences and sizing factors that can result of this advice depending on the type of travel your pursuing.



Consequences of Purchasing Clothing On The Road.

If you’re pursuing a working holiday adventure in Australia or elsewhere in the world, the biggest challenge is deciding on what clothing to pack. While I headed the advice of others to pack light and purchase items I needed once I got to Australia, I found the biggest challenge was reserving space for items purchased here. Ultimately, this led me to a pattern of dumping off fairly new work clothes at the conclusion of my stay in each city. This would include such items as dress shoes, dress pants or slacks, and dress shirts, as most of my work experience was business oriented. However, for others, it might be different if you’re working in hospitality or construction. As one might imagine, this became a costly experience in Australia and New Zealand to purchase new work clothes in each city.

The other factor is that clothing, in different cultures, is made in significantly different sizing than what some may be use to if you’re from North America. If you find yourself on the slightly bigger side, then finding specific types of clothing can be hard due to limited sizing. This can result in costlier expenses if you’re adamant about purchasing those specific types of clothing.

No Perfect Universal Travel Bag

Using my own example, it’s primarily related to my own personal experiences of the working holiday, however, you’re intended outbound adventure may compose entirely of travel and no work. If this is the case, then your backpack or luggage requirements are entirely different than mine. I’ve believe that for a working holiday, there really is no one bag that perfectly fits all my personal requirements. As a photographer, I travel with my equipment in a dedicated bag designed specifically for my photographer gear. My carry-on backpack doesn’t provide a lot of space for other personal items that some might be able to take in their carry-on bag.




However, don’t expect to fit multiple pairs of shoes and work clothes in that bag as well. My new technique to try and get around the issue of over-packing is to compress my loose items as much as possible through compression sacks. In the next part of the series, I’ll discuss how and why to compress your loose items.

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Travelling in a Tour

Travelling in a Tour

Travelling on a tour offers an unforgettable palate of experiences to the intrepid souls that sign up. It’s about seeing all the bucket list sites with no fuss logistics. Or having expert road crew that makes it more of an adventure. Most say our namesake is the raison d’être, to meet a bunch of like-minded travellers and make friends for life.

We all have our reservations about joining a group tour, but our global team at Tour Amigo have come up with a hit list of the top 7 of the most inspired reasons on why people like to tour:

1. The hard work is done for you

Top of the pile is taking the stress out of travel. The tour mechanics drill all the nuts and bolts of travelling abroad. Accommodation, itinerary, excursions, and most usefully, transport, is all arranged for you. Getting logistics right are a massive part of the travelling experience that can frustrate lone travellers. Forget scouring the internet each night for a half-decent hotel, or tackling the matrix of public bus timetables to get to the next town. Tours are the epitome of organisation, and even if things go wrong, they have a reliable network and backup to put things right.

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2. Meeting new tour amigos

It’s what our company is all about – making lifetime mates on tour. Touring is like a giant social experiment – a group of travellers and a tour coach/boat/train as the elements, in a foreign country petri dish, mixed together by wild, knowledgeable scientists of the crew. Many fear about the people they will meet on tour, but this equation always triggers to a chain reaction of social success. Like-minded people with the same goals are all out to have a fantastic time and making it a trip to remember. You’ll soon be calling them your ‘tour family’. Eureka!

3. Seeing new places

Riding high is – the inevitable – to travel and to see new destinations. The touring world is so diverse now, you could be strolling through Europe’s ancient cities, trucking across African savannahs, or tuk-tukking around Asia’s hottest islands. Touring companies offer the best of the lot, iconic monuments mixed with the insider hidden spots. UNESCO world heritage sites one morning, local restaurant feast by afternoon. You can also be sure to see the most important sites plus places you’ve never heard of, thus the tour offering a smorgasbord of new places you can brag about.

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4. Follow the leader

Time and time again you tell us, ‘it’s the crew that makes it”. Tour leaders, tour drivers and even tour cooks are the team that guide, inform, host, direct, teach, organise, help, and entertain your way around the world. Tour companies are strict on recruitment to always ensure you only have the most dedicated leaders taking pole position. It’s always good to have some help when travelling, and as passionate professionals, they will be the best source of local advice you’re ever likely to get. And you will never get lost.

5. Free time

Does free time exist on an organised tour we hear you cry? Well we’ve listed it as a reason you come on tour, because contrary to some bizarre popular belief, tours insist you have free time when travelling. Tours know that it’s important to their travellers and having all the main logistics organised for you, takes away all the time-consuming planning that can make a tour a bore. Now you can choose to have all the time you like between destinations. You always have the choice too and tours will provide maps, advice and pick ups for your free days to make it as time efficient as possible.

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6. Save money

At first glance tours can seem more expensive, yet look more closely and you’ll save more dollar than they ever could doing it independently. Most tour costs cover the majority of the trip, such as transport, accommodation, some food and even some sightseeing. Once that is paid you can carefully budget for anything else without surprises such as optional excursions, the occasional dinner out, or for souvenirs. Independent travel can be a minefield for shock costs such as taxi rides, pricey restaurants or local excursions that simply don’t have the same discounts that organised tours do.

last pic

7. Safety

Travellers have no need to be scared when galloping to an unknown country, but even the most courageous prefers peace of mind when going to a new place. Tours bring safety and security to the forefront. Getting from A to B, friends to accompany you or advice against scams that regular tourists have no idea about. Tours have a reputation to be protective, so all hotels, excursions, and transport are routinely vetted. Rest assured you are in safe hands so you can focus on enjoying yourself. Of course, personal safety is nothing to ignore whilst with a tour, there is still much of an adventure to be had. At least the scary unknowns are dealt with. Yet tours will make you realise that the world isn’t that scary a place at all.

ABOUT: check our Tour Amigo for all your tour needs and independent reviews from other travellers:

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It’s summertime

It’s summertime

It’s summertime, so that means I’m lacing up my hiking boots and hitting the trail. Since I’m training for my trek to Half Dome , I’m putting in more miles and exploring a lot of new spots in the Bay Area.

If you plan to visit northern California and are looking for superb coastal views, cliff drop-offs, seal sightings, and getting lost in the redwood forest, read on for some of my favorite hikes.

Rodeo Beach Trails

If pressed for time and looking for a quick jaunt out of San Francisco, head over the Golden Gate Bridge to the first exit, Alexander Valley, and head towards the parking lot at Rodeo Beach.


Hiking South:

For a rewarding journey and destination, hike south to the Point Bonita Lighthouse.  After parking along the road, just before the main Rodeo Beach parking lot, you’ll cross a bridge where you can watch birds scouting for food in the lagoon.


Or you can linger on the beach to ponder at the surfers braving the cold Pacific Ocean waters. Brrr! Then head left down the beach to reach the trailhead. You’ll start on a dirt path and wind up for awhile until you are treated with some spectacular views of the coast and rocky outcrop formations.


Then continue south until you meet up with the main trail  signs for Point Bonita Lighthouse. From here, it’s a short, but steep, 0.5 mile down.




















Make sure you check the lighthouse hours, as I arrived too early on a Saturday morning and discovered that the tunnel to access the bridge didn’t open until noon.

Hello, anybody home?? Knock, knock?


That didn’t discourage me though.  I explored nearby coastal side trails and stumbled upon old military batteries covered in street art and deer grazing on grass.



Hiking North:

IMG_6901Starting at the Rodeo Beach parking lot, take a right up the hill and follow the signs for the Coastal Trail. There are a few trails that split off from each other, so you can choose how far you want to go. For a good 7 mile loop, you can connect the Coastal Trail, Tennessee Valley Trail, Old Springs Trail, and Miwok Trail.


My friend and I took the Coastal Trail north and paused at a wide opening with cliff views running north and south.  As we approached the edge, we were treated to a surprise.



A fisherman was dangling his line to a staggering distance below. I didn’t think he’d have a chance in heck to catch a fish from that height. But soon enough, we saw him straining against the line and furiously trying to reel something in. As I squinted far down, it appeared he had snagged something on his hook — a big clump of seaweed? But no, as he brought it higher up the cliff face, I could see something flapping and flailing in the air. When he finally reeled it all the way up to the top, he proudly posed with his bounty: a rockfish.

















I leaned in a little too close to take a picture and almost got smacked in the face as the little guy swayed on the fishing pole struggling to be set free.



















After our fish adventure, we hiked up the Coastal Trail to some wooden steps (great workout for the backside) to discover more military structures covered in street art.

We then circled back down the hill to explore the Marine Mammal Center, a rescue and rehabilitation hospital for marine mammals.  It’s a treat to watch the animals up-close as they glide in their pools and get fed by the staff. Unfortunately, there has been an increasing number of sea lions dying on the California coast, so the center has been busy nursing starving pups back to health. On the day we visited, almost 300 California sea lions and elephant seal pups were onsite.


After our hike, we headed back to the parking lot to retrieve our car. But you can enjoy a picnic on the beach or go to nearby Farley Bar for a post-hike beverage.

Pantoll Station to Muir Woods

The parking lot at Pantoll Station is a hub for many trailheads. That said, it gets very busy very early, so if you want to find a parking spot, don’t get there after 9am on a Saturday! Pick up a free map at the ranger kiosk to guide you on your hike, as the many criss-crossing trails can get confusing.

To start your journey among the redwoods, begin at the Alpine Trail, at the north end of Pantoll Station.  Enjoy the shady tree coverage and the mostly downhill trek as you make your way towards the Muir Woods visitor center. You’ll cross over many wooden bridges, but water might not be flowing depending on the season and drought conditions.


When you reach the main entrance to Muir Woods, stop there for lunch, browse through the visitor center shop, and ask a docent questions about the majestic trees. Then wander along the Main Trail wooded boardwalk and whisper in hushed voices in Cathedral Grove.Family-Spring-Break-2009-082-2

Then it’s time to gather your strength, as the way back is mostly up hill. Hello buns of steel!

Luckily, you can grab a beer on tap, listen to live music, eat an authentic British pub meal, or just laze about on the grass at the nearby Pelican Inn. Shhh…this is one of my favorite hidden gems in the area. But just between you and me, you should really check it out.

Pantoll Station to Stinson Beach

The Matt Davis & Steep Ravine trail is probably my favorite hike in the area, and I’ve done it several times. I usually start at Pantoll, hike down to Stinson, then take a break to grab lunch at one of the cute eateries or pack a picnic lunch for the beach. Then I head back uphill to Pantoll to finish the hike. Many people like to start at Stinson so they end the hike on a downhill, and then do a victory meal in Stinson.

The great thing about this hike is that it gives you a taste of all of the micro-climates and beauty of the surrounding area. You don’t have to choose between the redwoods, the beach, waterfalls, jaw-dropping views, or exposed grasslands — you get them all wrapped up in one perfect 7-mile loop! And if you’re looking for a bit of a kick-in-the-pants-get-your-heart-pumping workout, then this is your trail.

Sadly, I lost my pictures from the most recent hike I did here, so you’ll have to trust me that this provides truly some of the prettiest scenery around. So I guess that means I’ll have to hike this loop again sometime soon to update the post with photos (oh, darn!).

Cushing Memorial Theater to Mill Valley

If you’re looking for something unique to do in the Bay Area during the summer, you must see a play at the outdoor Cushing Memorial Theater. You can incorporate some exercise into the day by taking a free shuttle up the mountain, and then hiking down to Mill Valley after the play is over, like I did. Or if you’re really ambitious, you can hike both ways, but just make sure to plan your time accordingly.

This summer, the play in production was Peter Pan. It was one of the coolest things I’ve done to date in San Francisco. Nestled high up near Mount Tamalpais, you can bring your own picnic or buy food from the festival booths, and then set up camp in the circular stone amphitheater to enjoy the show. Get there early to get a good shaded spot with a view, or pay for the more expensive ticket, otherwise you will melt.


After the play, it feels good to stretch your legs on the hike down to Mill Valley. You’ll pass the historic West Point Inn, with far-reaching views of the mountains and the city. Next you’ll go past the picturesque Throckmorton Ridge Fire Station and Mountain Home Inn. Then the trail takes you through the trees and down the many steps of the Dipsea Trail, where you can ogle at the homes woven into the forest surroundings.

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Do you have a favorite hike in Northern California that I *must* know about? Please share!

ABOUT: Nikki is an official Outbound Ambassador. She’s an outdoorsy adventurer who marvels at natural wonders, world cultures, and really old stuff. She’s talented at climbing mountains, making crafts, and eating cheese and chocolate. When she’s not off exploring the world, she’s uncovering off-the-beaten path adventures in California. What to read more from Nikki? Visit her website here:

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RyanIt’s summertime
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How To Travel As A Baller On A Budget

How To Travel As A Baller On A Budget

One of the few questions any long-term traveler gets is “How do you afford it?” While I find it truly abrasive and personal, I tend to overlook the brashness and look at it more like intense curiosity. I mean, I don’t comment on my friends’ baby pictures and say “How on earth do you afford that?!” Yet, alas, on almost any of my travel-related posts I get asked the same question over and over again.

It may shock a few of you to know that 1.) I’m not royalty, 2.) I don’t have a trust fund and 3.) I didn’t win the lottery. Yet, I’ve traveled to over 30 countries, lived in Australia for a year and now live in Thailand – all on my own money. I just worked really hard, allocated my money towards different priorities, and made that dollar sign stretch as far as it can go. You don’t have to have too much cash to have a great time in cities such as Budapest, where you and your friends can party like an animal on a shoestring budget. Plus, in Budapest, you can find an array of fun activities for you and your friends to enjoy, such as shooting – which you can find out more about at somewhere like if you’re interested in Budapest as a location for a bachelor party or stag night.

And here’s how you can stretch your money while travelling too:

Sleep on a couch


Couchsurfing friends in Barcelona, Spain

Some of my all time favourite memories of travelling through Europe were the ones with my couchsurfing friends. It may sound a bit creepy, but it’s totally not. In exchange for a couch or sometimes even a room to sleep in, the hosts just want to hang out with you, learn about new cultures and make new friends. I couchsurfed in Barcelona, Amsterdam, Munich, Frankfurt, Budapest and others. I made great friends and saved a few bucks.

Make your own tours

It may be really enticing to just take a day trip and not have to worry about maps, how to get to certain landmarks, language barriers, etc. Usually, these tours run three or four times higher than if you do it yourself. What we usually do is find a tour we like, take a picture of the itinerary, and go find a local taxi driver or longtail boat driver and see what price they can give us for the exact same tour. Sure, it may be minus the lunch and super informative guide, but we’ve saved hundreds of dollars by doing this over the years and it gives back to the local economy.

Eat local

While the street food may not always look the safest, I can guarantee you it’s the cheapest and the tastiest. If you’re looking for an authentic meal, street food is always the way to go. Many times on long train rides, we bought a loaf of bread, some salami and cheese and a bottle of wine, and split it amongst ourselves for dinner. In Austria, we bought giant pretzels for 3 Euros daily. In Berlin, we bought curry-wurst for 2 Euros. In Thailand, we can buy pretty much any type of food we want for less than $3 USD. Not always looking for the shiniest or most “Western” restaurant is your best bet on saving money on food in a foreign country.


Tasty street food in Budapest


If you’re in a country where haggling or bartering is appropriate, then by all means go for it! I’m naturally terrible at bargaining, but I’ve learned that the price can drop drastically (sometimes even in half) if you’re persistent and also respectful. This can go for anything – from clothes to taxis to massages. As long as you’ve done your research and know what is the normal rate, as opposed to the foreigner rate, then you’ll have the power to lower your costs.

There are many ways you can stretch your money while travelling. You just have to be on the lookout. You may not eat at the beautiful restaurant on the beach, but you’ll have the most authentic eating experience. Sure, sleeping on a couch isn’t nearly as comfortable as a fluffy king-sized bed, but you made great friends in a new city. Travelling isn’t a budget-breaking lifestyle if you don’t want it to be. Frugality is always out there, and it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice on the fun.

ABOUT: KP is an official Outbound Ambassador. Florida-born, Thailand-based. KP has travelled to 31 countries, studied in 3 and lived in 3 – all before turning 23. In between trips, KP likes to practice yoga, write, run on the beach and plan the next big adventure.

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RyanHow To Travel As A Baller On A Budget
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“I am Berber. My home is south Morocco – the Sahara. After school I became a camel trekking guide, then I worked in a hotel reception and as a waiter. Next I trained as a four-wheel driving guide on desert tours. Today I am a driver.” Ali, our personal host from Your Morocco Tour, was happy to see us when we finally walked through the sliding doors at Tangier Med’s extensive commercial port. It was the first time we’d opted for a private tour, yet loading our backpacks into Ali’s silver 4WD Prado, I’d never felt more at ease arriving to a foreign country – in Africa no less.

We’d left our sailing boat finally my darling safely moored in La Linea, Spain and boarded a two hour ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar – the narrow, jaw-like opening to the enclosed Mediterranean Sea. We’d been yearning to visit Morocco for years, so we intended to do it justice. With little notice, Your Morocco Tour efficiently tailored a diverse 10-day itinerary to fit our timeframe and interests. And in Ali’s hands, we were gifted the perfect host.


Nestled amongst the Rif Mountains in Morocco’s northeast, Chefchaouen has carved a unique identity thanks to the legacy of its past Jewish residents. During the 1930s, in honour of their religion and spiritual homeland Israel, the medina (old town) was painted a charming blue-wash: Judaism’s colour of the sky and heavens.

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With the onset of winter, it was damp and cool when we arrived. Though in return, tourists were thin on the ground. Wandering the working village amongst its peaceful non-assuming locals, we immediately felt immersed in the essence of Morocco.

As if having walked straight out of a Star Wars sequel, local men were cloaked in woollen, pointy-hooded djellabas and gathered in simple cafes sipping sugary mint tea. Muslim ladies, veiled in colourful silk hijabs, carried soft bags filled with produce or chatted quietly together in laneways.

We peered inside miniature workshops of painters and fabric weavers, watched warm loaves collected from communal bakeries and sidestepped loaded donkeys delivering supplies to tiny shopfronts. After hiking to the Spanish mosque for a “panoramic view” (a favourite reference of our guide Ali) the sun broke through the clouds and on returning to the mesmerising medina, it was awash with a dozen new shades of blue.

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Our 10-day itinerary allowed for two nights and one full day to explore the enchanting mountain town. Hidden down a quiet blue lane, toward the top of the medina, was welcoming Dar Meziana – the first of several characterful accommodations pre-arranged by Your Morocco Tour. Intricately painted doors, mosaic tiles, ornamental lamps, tasselled cushions, well-worn rugs, silver teapots and a swath of other textures and colours decorated the small property.

Up several flights of narrow stairs, the view from our large room was over Chefchaouen’s flat rooftops where elderly women tended to their aerating laundry or chicken pens. Awaking to the spellbinding Islamic call to prayer, we devoured our first of many Moroccan breakfasts: a multi-plate collection of spreads, sweet and savoury breads, eggs, olives, soft cheese, dates, strong coffee, mint tea and juice.

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Any extended tour of Morocco will include a lot of driving. Fortunately, I found the journey to be just as intriguing as each destination. We drove through working townships and observed locals go about everyday life, untainted by the influence of tourism or many Western conveniences.

We passed countless people commuting on donkeys and mules; farmers tending fields with horse and plow; women hauling water pails from communal wells; trucks piled precariously high with cargo and nomadic Berbers herding sheep across desolate rock tablelands. In villages, markets were bursting with activity; Muslim ladies strolled together cloaked in flowing black niqabs; men spilled onto mosque sidewalks, knelt in Friday prayer; dusty-kneed teenagers played soccer on rocky fields and smiling children walked each other to school.

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The landscape too was constantly changing. From the rolling Rif Mountains, to endless fertile-soil farming fields on approach to Fez and the snow-strewn Middle Atlas Mountains – where temperatures dipped to six degrees, before reaching mid-20s later that evening in Morocco’s Sahara Desert. The diversity was enthralling. Film-worthy backdrops unveiled around every bend (not surprisingly many have been shot there) including regal kasbahs and intriguing mud brick villages swathed with palmeries (oasis-like date palm plantations) cast against a red rock panorama.

Granted our smiling guide Ali knew interesting back roads, vantage points for the perfect “panoramic view” and narrow-street communities that could be visited by car, but not by tour bus, as well as enthusiastically answering endless questions on everything from geography to religion, politics and local insights.

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Some may consider the only way to explore Fez is to follow your nose and concede to being hopelessly lost. But when time is limited we didn’t wish to miss the heartbeat of Fez’s beguiling and chaotically disorientating medina. With our Fassis guide Khalid – a local celebrity with friends and hand-over-heart handshakes around every corner – we walked for hours through a twisting labyrinth of narrow streets and seemingly dead-end lanes.

Originally the capital of Morocco before it was moved to Rabat in 1912, Fez el-Bali – Fez’s 1,200-year-old UNESCO protected medina – contains over 9,000 lanes, alleys and thoroughfares and is the world’s best-preserved medieval city. Living inside the impenetrable ochre walls, 150,000 Fassis are serviced by a myriad of markets and tradespeople who continue to function as they have for centuries.

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Fez, Morocco-15Fez, Morocco-16Sunlight filtered through bamboo and cedar awnings; below, Fez’s bustling bazaars were fascinating and overwhelming – a pure sensory assault. There were souks (markets) dedicated to blacksmiths toiling in charcoal-blackened workshops over red-hot steel and anvil. Nearby in Place Seffarine, a rhythmic orchestra emanated from coppersmiths hand-pummelling copper cooking pots. “They are deaf by the time they turn 18,” Khalid explained. Down the next lane cobblestones were slick with water and dye, as men re-purposed old denim and clothing, then hung to dry.

Atmospheric produce souks sold dates, almonds, olives, lychees, pomegranates, chillies, spices, cured camel meat and snail soup. We wandered souks selling colourful silk bobbins, hand-tailored djalabahs and silverware in every imaginable variety; one store simply piled high with a jumble of silver teapots. Entering a corner of the medina occupied with butcheries, halal-killed goat heads were gathered in stacks and, underfoot, cats scampered and gutters ran with blood.

Narrow streets of the medina were often dark, dank and wafted with odours, yet so incredibly raw and real. Simply put, Fez was mind-blowing and one of the most intriguing places I’ve ever visited. Nothing was manufactured for tourism and we felt transported to another era and a fascinating world that time forgot.

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Earlier in the day Khalid and Ali drove us to the ceramic district – another of Fez’s renowned handicrafts. In sheds lining the streets, men sat cross-legged on concrete floors, painting or chipping tiles for mosaics. In the visitor display compound, ceramics were hand-moulded, fired, painted or chipped up and crafted into mosaic tables, mirrors and water fountains. Morocco is an interior decorator’s dream and we left wishing we’d a room or courtyard at home waiting to be revamped.

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Nothing assaults your nostrils like the pungent odour of animal excrement. Ammonium-filled vats occupy a quarter of Fez’s 11th century Chaouwara Tannery complex where cow, sheep, goat and camel hides were soaked to remove flesh and hair. Braving the leather-shop viewing platforms without handfuls of mint leaves offered to mask the stench; the sprawling scene below was again like being transported to another time. Born into the backbreaking trade, hardened men were often barefooted and barelegged, labouring waist-deep in dye as they plodded and hand-churned the leathers for suppleness. Its filthy, grungy work and the smell wafts for blocks. Though Fez leather is world-renowned and the tannery’s location inside the medina walls is a captivating cultural treasure; functioning unchanged since medieval times.

For two weeks hides are soaked in vats filled with colourful natural dyes: cedar wood for brown, poppy flower for red, indigo for blue, henna for orange, wild mint for green, mascara for black and “very expensive” is saffron for yellow leather. Next skins are dried on the surrounding rooftops and hillsides, before again being washed and soaked, then distributed to local leatherworks and distant factories for manufacture and export.

We accessed the tannery viewing platforms via strategically positioned leather markets selling jackets, belts, handbags, shoes and babouche slippers.

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Traditional Moroccan riads (houses or palaces) are constructed around a sundrenched communal courtyard, pool or garden. Balconies, doors and shuttered-windows faced inwards where Muslim women could unveil and seek privacy.

Fez’s first tourist riad opened in the mid 1980s and in recent years increasingly more homes are being converted to these striking guesthouses. Along a chipped stucco laneway, a tiny sign and heavy brass studded door indicated our arrival to grand Riad Layali, our comfortable and peaceful two-night escape amid the maddening medina.

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WATCH: exploring Chefchaeoun and Fez’s atmospheric medinas (select 720p HD via the cog wheel and wait to buffer).

Adventures in Morocco: Fez to Chefchaouen

Beguiling Morocco is a vast land of contrasts: dramatic landscapes, captivating history, deeply-rooted faith, disorientating ancient medinas, chaotic markets, intriguing kasbahs and mud-brick villages; awash with a kaleidoscope of colours, music, mix-matched fabrics and textures, smells and spices.

Our tour continued to include enchanting destinations such as a desert luxury camp at Erg Chebbi and Morocco’s Sahara, Todra and Dades Gorges, Ait BenHaadou, the High Atlas Mountains, Marrakesh and sea-side Essaouira. In two weeks we barely brushed the surface though, guided through the eyes and insights of our Berber host, Ali, we departed Africa moved and culturally enriched.

En route to the Sahara, Morocco

ABOUT: Brooke Darling is an Official Outbound Ambassador. While she’s been travelling on and off for the past 14 years, in 2013 she departed on the most challenging journey to date: sailing the high seas aboard the family sailboat finally my darling. Two summers were occupied exploring every nook and cranny of the European Mediterranean coastline, followed by three weeks sailing across the Atlantic Ocean to the blissful Caribbean; which is where you’ll currently find her. Brooke has captured a wealth of photographs from this Aussie family’s sailing adventures which you can see on her blog:, or follow via Facebook, Instagram, Flickr and Twitter.

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