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.
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.
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.
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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