Your Next Big Trip

9 Best Travel Moments of 2016

1. Walking with Wildlife in Tanzania (the ethical way)

Having been on safari many times before, I always want to try something different. I rounded up my 4 best friends for a walking safari in Arusha National Park. We walked for a few hours with an armed guide. We hiked in the foothills of Mount Meru. Everywhere we turned there were giraffes, buffalo and various types of deer. Oh and we needn’t have worried- there are no lions in Arusha National Park!

Read more: 5 Amazing Places to See Giraffe in the Wild

2. Attending the Full Moon Party in Zanzibar…twice!

We planned our trip to Zanzibar in March around the Full Moon Party. It takes place every month in Kendwa and is a night of dancing, eating and drinking. The first time we pushed the boat out and stayed at Kendwa Rocks, where the party takes place. We couldn’t believe when we bumped into 2 of our friends from a previous trip. Zanzibar’s a small place!

When we spotted $50 flights from Johannesburg to Zanzibar, we knew we had to finish our August trip with another visit. As luck would have it, our visit coincided with the full moon! We talked two friends into meeting us there and introduced them to a Full Moon Party- Hakuna Matata style. It was just as fun the second time round!

Read more: Full Moon Party- Zanzibar Style

3. Luxury Camping in Tanzania with some of my Best Friends

I honestly think that safari is the best girls holiday you can go on. It helps when your low season gamble pays off with a stay in a luxury tented camp, complete with 4 poster beds. I have never laughed so much in my life as the moment I realised I needed to go to the toilet- located outside the tent. Of course there were hyenas outside, and of course I had to pee in a bottle. Where else will you get a bonding moment like that with your friends?!

Read more: Circle of Life: Ngorongoro Crater

4. Working with Special Education Teachers in Zambia

It had been exactly 3 years since I first visited the town of Mazabuka to deliver inservice training to Early Years Teachers. I was asked to go back in July to give a course on play based learning in a school for children with Special Needs. It was an exciting experience to put together a course for teachers that I would get to deliver myself. It was also an interesting professional experience to see ways that the teachers could adapt the lessons to suit each particular child, something that we couldn’t prepare for in advance.

Read more: Volunteering in Mazabuka, Zambia

5. Visiting Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwean side

In 2013 I visited Victoria Falls from the Zambian side. I did that again this year in a truly terrifying experience (my friend got attacked by a baboon!) I very nearly didn’t make it to Zimbabwe. We arrived at the border with US$40 each to find that the visa had gone up to $50 each! We used our Irish charm to its full effect and agreed to pay the rest on the way back.

The views from the Zimbabwean side were spectacular. I missed the roar of the water that you get on the Zambian side but the sheer size of the Falls were mind boggling.

Read more: How to Get the Best Views of Victoria Falls and Victoria Falls: When Baboons Attack

6. Hiking Big Daddy in Nambia

Namibia was a destination that I didn’t think I’d visit until I was older and had a lot more money! Luckily we found an inexpensive bus from Zambia and, thanks to the weak rand, booked on a three day tour to the Sossusvlei Dunes.

Before we left I read one piece of advice- “People will tell you to climb Big Daddy instead of Dune 45. Don’t do it! It’s never ending.” Of course we did it anyway. My advice- DO IT! The moment where I was standing on top, looking down into Dead Vlei will my etched in my memory forever. I honestly felt like I was on another planet and finally understood the phrase “awe-inspiring.”

Read more: Crossing Namibia off my Bucket List

7. Jumping off the world’s highest bungy bridge in South Africa

I never wanted to do a bungy jump. I even have a list to prove it. Hiking- yes. Sky dive- yes. Bungy jump? Not a hope.

Of course things change when your friend is harnessed up and the guy says there’s one more space, “wanna jump?” I had spent the last half hour blabbing on about how its only a matter of the mind and really if you just said yes you’ll do it…safe in the knowledge that her slot was fully booked and there were no cancellations. As usual my mouth had gotten me to a place where I couldn’t really say no and I found myself jumping off Bloukran’s Bridge into the 216 metre deep valley below.

I still feel sick thinking about it.

But I would do it again.

Your Next Big Trip Bloukrans Bridge

Read more: The (Almost) Perfect 2 Week South Africa Backpacking Itinerary

8. Revisiting Old Friends in Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam

Honestly by the end of our trip I was getting tired and starting to question our addition of Zanzibar at the last minute. I knew we had 2 more friends joining us there expecting a fun time. We had spent more than 60 hours on buses. My friend had been robbed a few days before our flight. We were wrecked.

And then we arrived to our Zanzibari friends who owed us absolutely nothing, barely knew us, yet thought nothing of picking us up from the airport and showing us a brilliant time. We bartered for fish on the beach, had an amazing Swahili lunch, drove a 3 hour round trip in search of a party and showed our Irish friends why we love Zanzibar so much.

When we got to Dar es Salaam another friend met us at the ferry, found us a place to stay, introduced us to his friends, one of whom made us the most amazing breakfast I’ve ever eaten (seriously this woman needs her own cooking show.) It all made me realise that the people make the place. I’m not sure we take hosting as seriously in Ireland but I will honestly make more of an effort after experiencing Tanzanian hospitality!

Read more: Top 5 Things to do in Zanzibar 

9. Taking a Nail-Biting Drive to Balos Lagoon, Crete

My last trip of the year was a last minute affair. My boyfriend finally graduated and has time to travel again! Even more exciting was that he decided to plan our trip, something I am definitely not used to! We drove around the island of Crete, stopping in beautiful tavernas and viewpoints.

After a nail-biting journey, we made it to Balos Lagoon. We dodged goats and picked our way down the uneven path. After a 20 minute hike downwards all that was left to do was relax on the sand. The water was even more turquoise than the pictures and we had the place almost to ourselves. Perfection.

Balos Beach Crete- Your Next Big Trip

Read more: Balos Lagoon- A Perfect Day in Crete

2016 was an unexpected year of travel that took me to Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa and Greece. I travelled with friends, reconnected with old ones and made new ones along the way. I finally got my boyfriend to organise the trip and have yet to become a “solo female traveller.” I have too many fun friends who want to see the world and I’m lucky enough that they want to do it with me!

 

Thanks to everyone who follows my travels. It’s hard to believe that Your Next Big Trip didn’t exist until June this year. I hope your 2017 is full of adventure, wherever you are!

 

 

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25 thoughts on “9 Best Travel Moments of 2016

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      Definitely not! The company I went with, Eastco, have actually taken legal action against hunting companies and have successfully shut down a number of hunting corridors in Tanzania. It’s a great way to see wildlife.

  1. Taryn

    It sounds like 2016 was your year of standing on top of tall things: tall dunes, tall waterfalls, tall bungy platforms 😉 I’ve never travelled in Africa and you’ve given me lots of ideas for my bucket list.

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      Haha that’s very true! I have no fear of heights but am nervous around water so maybe I’ll make that my challenge for 2017!

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      Just before I jumped my brain went into panic mode like “WHAT ARE YOU ABOUT TO DO?!?!” but as soon as I jumped I was totally calm and just enjoyed it. It definitely helped that the view was beautiful. Whatever you do, don’t look down before you jump- you’ll have plenty of time when you’re falling 😉

  2. Jacqueline Taylor

    Looks like you’ve had quite the year!! I’m super inspired by all that you have gotten the chance to see and do… It really makes me want to travel more in 2017. Thank you so much for sharing!

  3. Susanna Kelly

    Wow! You had such an awesome African adventure. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the walking safari! I had never heard of one and this is something I would do as a sustainable way to see the wildlife. Also, I am similar to you, when someone says don’t do it, I do it. But I’m a pretty hardy traveler. Happy new year and enjoy 2017 travels!

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      Walking safaris are my favourite way to see wildlife. Even if there aren’t many animals around, it’s an exhilarating experience to know they could be just around the corner!

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      Namibia was amazing. I’ve never been anywhere like it. There’s a ghost town in the south that was reclaimed by the desert that I didn’t get to see so I’m already dying to go back there!

  4. Lydia@LifeUntraveled

    Looks like you had an amazing year in 2016! I wouldn’t consider bungie jumping (yay for you for having the courage to do it!) but I would love to visit Tanzania and Zanzibar. Here’s wishing you lots more safe & happy travels in 2017!

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      I hadn’t considered bungee jumping either but sometimes your brain surprises you! 😉 Tanzania and Zanzibar are my favourite places to travel. Have a great 2017!

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      Zanzibar and Tanzania in general are my favourite places to travel. If you end up going send me a message. I’d love to help in any way I can! Have a great year 🙂

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      Glad you enjoyed it! The bungee was a crazy experience but so much fun! Glad you got to experience it too 🙂

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      Let me know if you ever need any tips for Zambia. It’s a beautiful, interesting country. I’ve been twice and only touched on it. I’ll definitely be back soon myself.

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      You never know! The hardest thing is getting your mind to say yes but it’s also the easiest thing because the jump itself requires no skill once you’ve made up your mind 😉

  5. Melissa

    You had an incredible year! I’m totally with you on the bungie jumping never being on my bucket list thing…. but I probably would have done it too, if I had been in your shoes. I also agree, people definitely make the destination. I’m highly cognizant of that when I meet travelers in my own country (America). I want them to walk away thinking we are friendly.

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