Shy smiles

I don’t usually get a chance to get up close with people when I have my camera with me, so when I do I so wish I could capture more from the moment – but that’s my constant photographic cry. I have found that children are often uncertain how to react to the camera but after they see their image they usually put on a more dramatic performance.

When we were waiting for the heli the other day a small group of boys kept trying to get my attention from the other side of the airfield so I went to speak with them and “flash them” – take some photos. The first shot is of them from the distance – note the aggressive stance in the small boy on the left! Oh man, there’s trouble coming in that one! The second shot is the formal pose while the last shot is where we ended up just 4 shots later…all smiles and thumbs-up…well almost all!

Meanwhile this boy in Greenville hugged his blanket and tried to cover his face – the parents insisted I take the photo – but then after seeing the image he wanted another “flash” and this time a shy smile emerged in his eyes.

There was however no shyness from these girls who seemed to know instinctively how to synchronise their pose. I hope I get more people photo opportunities in 2012.

Top 20 places to visit in sub-saharan Africa – revisited

At the beginning of 2011, I created my list of ‘Top Ten places I want to explore in Africa’ and it evolved into my list of top 20 places to visit in sub-saharan Africa. It includes the best safari destinations, world heritage sites, and the best beach locations, but of course there’s heaps more to see on his vast continent than can be contained in this list. The challenge I set myself was to see how much of the list I could experience by 31 Dec 2011, and after my recent holiday I thought it would be a good time to revisit the list.

My list of top 20 places to visit in sub-saharan Africa (in no particular order) – reviewed October 2011

  1. Kenya – Masai Mara, Samburu, Amboselli, and East & West Tsavo National Parks [DONE] + Mara North Conservancy
  2. Botswana – Okavango Delta, [DONE] Chobe National Park
  3. Namibia – Skeleton Coast, Namib desert, Etosha National Park
  4. Tanzania – Serengeti National Park and Ngorongo Crater [DONE]
  5. Uganda – Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and mountain gorillas [DONE] See my Uganda’s mountain gorilla page!
  6. Tanzania – Zanzibar [DONE TWICE]
  7. South Africa – Cape of Good Hope, Rodden Island, Table Mountain [DONE]
  8. Kenya – Lamu Island [DONE]
  9. Zambia and Zimbabwe – Victoria Falls [DONE]
  10. Ghana – Kakum National Park and Cape Coast fort [DONE]  See my Ghana page
  11. South Africa – Krueger National Park [DONE]
  12. Senegal – Goree Island, St Louis Island [DONE]
  13. Tanzania – Mt Kiliminjaro [SEEN IT but never climbed it]
  14. Rwanda – Virguna mountains and the mountain gorillas [DONE]
  15. Zambia – South Luanga National Park [DONE]
  16. Kenya/Tanzania – the great migration [1/2 DONE] We were there but the wilderbeest didn’t cooperate.
  17. Gabon – national park
  18. Malawi – Lake Malawi
  19. Mozambique
  20. Namibia – Fish River Canyon

So, where am I at with all this now? I guess that my last 2011 holiday will be to Ethiopia, so nothing more from the Top 20 list will be conquered this year, unless I change the list! In 2012 I might aim to get to Namibia and Malawi or Mozimbique, but that depends largely on what job opportunities emerge.

The remaining challenge is to document each place with photos and commentary. I have 10,000s of photos from all my travels and safaris; I just need bandwidth and time to post the best of them. The original purpose of the pages at the top of the blog was to write about these destinations and experiences. I have not achieved that and I’m a bit overwhelmed by the task because I would need to re-jig the blog and commit a load of time to it (but I will persist as it is a worthwhile project).

Africa is a brilliantly beautiful continent and yet also tragically difficult place to live in. I hope I’ll get to share my experiences and thoughts but I also love to hear from others who have travelled the same roads and enjoyed the same locations.

Liberian Flag Day

Today is the 164th celebration of Liberian Flag Day, the National holiday to celebrate the significance and symbolism of the Liberian flag. In honour of the day there is usually a parade before the President and other events, but for most it is just a holiday. My security guard did pronounce that “today is da proud day for the Liberian Flag”, although he could not tell me what made it a proud day. I was probably asking too much.

The Liberian flag, in case you haven’t noticed is very similar to the flag of the USA, but with only a single star, otherwise known as the ‘lone star’. I wonder what the average Liberian has to celebrate about the current flag and all the national symbols? They are celebrating the birth of the nation by freed slaves sent from the USA courtesy of the American Colonisation Society and their close national links with the States. Perhaps for most people that is no longer relevant or a point worthy of celebration. It might be time to design a new flag that captures a fresh and modern symbolism for the identity of this nation…and before you ask, I have no idea what that might be!

Until things change, I attach 2 photos:

(1) the President of the Republic of liberia seated on her gold chair with the flag on the gold table in front of her; and,

(2) the flag on a pole outside the Administration building in Harper, Maryland County.

And since we speak of flags, Liberia is also a flag of convenience country which allows shipping companies to register ships and sail under the Liberian flag without ever sailing into the Liberian port. I think I have an amusing photo for this situation – a boat flying the Liberian flag in Lamu Island, Kenya. 🙂

Hotel Africa, Monrovia

There’s not much evidence of the Hotel Africa’s 5-star former glory but it offers some photographic interest to pass away a Sunday afternoon. We talked the guard into showing us around and snapped a few photos as we went. It would be a great place to return to with a tripod and more time. So for a photo safari with a difference, here is a photographic tour inside the ruined hotel.

From what I can understand the Hotel Africa was built (with Libyan investment) for a large Pan-African Conference in the mid-80s. There were separate villas for each head of state (so over 50 villas) and a pool built in the shape of the map of Africa. The hotel continued in service right up to the 1990s but then the war began and eventually the hotel was looted and it has laid in ruins ever since. It must have been beautiful when it opened and it is still a very solid structure. There are rumours that Libya might invest again (and in the Ducor Hotel in Mambo Point) but given the current turn of events, I doubt that will happen any time soon.

It has taken an hour to upload these photos so I don’t want to push my internet luck any further. The final comment is that if you google Hotel Africa Monrovia you will find in Yahoo travel that you can still book rooms at a reasonable rate but the customer’s didn’t rate the service very highly! 🙂

Monrovia photo-safari

The Project has begun! Mission: ‘Raise the standard! Purpose: 1. Improve my photo collection. 2. Make space for new photos from up-coming safari. Activity: 1. Edit and enhance all 25,000 photos; 2. Delete those that are not up to standard. Timeframe: Weekends and some evenings until the mission is complete. Deadline: Sometime before 2015!

The benefit of The Project is that I am revisiting photos in my collection (I dare not call it my portfolio) and rediscovering  the fun of those moments. I think it appropriate that I share some of those moments with you. My last post about Grand Bassa County was a product of that remembering! So here now are some photos from a photo-safari through the streets of Monrovia, Liberia in March 2009. They give a taste of the scenes from the vehicle window rather than being up close and personal. Notice how much of the Liberian economy is driven by small shops (stalls under umbrellas by the side of the road) where people eke out a living by ‘trying small small’.

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(Again I’ll opt for a slideshow because that’s the fastest way to deal with the upload, and I assume if it works well enough for me to see it on Liberian ISP speed, then you with the faster ISP speeds will have no problem at all!)

Memories of Grand Bassa County (2)

As you will see from the last post, the technological hassles got in the way of me mentioning any memories from my time in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County! Funny how life in Liberia does that to you – slams something in your face and distracts you from the purpose. Stay on track, gal!

Buchanan is a nice town, from what I know of it. It stays fondly in my memory as it was the first trip I made outside of Monrovia at the end of 2008. It was the first time I met our CA crew from all over Liberia. It was a bit over-whelming and it took some time before I could place each name, with the face, and the place where they were deployed. Buchanan was also the first field trip where I got a hint of the dehydration and migraine factor that would afflict me on most of my field visits in Liberia. Buchanan was also where I saw the Nepali FPU serving as peace-keepers which suddenly took me back to my time working in Nepal. It was also the first place where I had a chance to mingle with people in a village with my trusty Canon 50D taking aim. The fun photos are in the slideshow that should come next…

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If you have to be deployed in one of the Liberian counties, GBC is q good place to end up. When the railway is fully operational to Nimba County things will speed up even more as the iron ore industry and forestry (logging) will boost the economy and bring in more action. Even though its not in Grand Bassa County, you drive past Firestone HQ on the way and rubber is also a big economic driver in the county.  There are plenty of issues to work on, NGOs to assist, and conferences to attend!

Memories of Grand Bassa County

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Buchanan is a port town about 3 hours drive from Monrovia, depending on how many potholes you encounter along the way! I first went there in 2008 just after arriving in Liberia. Since then I’ve flown over it a few times on the heli and last time I drive there was about 6 months ago.So its overdue for a few photos on the blog!

Well, this has taken me 3 hours to get this far and I’m darned frustrated with the stupid wordpress gallery that refuses to put large photos down the single column, and this silly small netbook that doesn’t display all the screen that I need! so I’ll publish in this slideshow format instead and I think that looks pretty okay. Next time, I might add some more later from our stop at the village market. It has been a long time since I posted any photos from Liberia.! I’m not sure why I prefer to think about my memories from holidays of different places in Africa that are far from here, but my therapist would suggest it means something! Still, its been a fun trip down memory lane, or at least it would’ve been if technology had been a bit more cooperative.

A day exploring iSimangaliso Wetland Park, RSA

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I spent a day exploring South Africa’s oldest World Heritage Site- established in Dec 1999. iSimangaliso Wetland Park is quite beautiful but I think you need a 4×4 and a few days to explore the areas further from St Lucia. I … Continue reading

3 days in Durban, South Africa – Photos

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3 weeks ago I was in Durban for 3 days. 🙂

Durban is bigger than I imagined, with a population of 3 million. That’s almost the entire population of Liberia which is estimated to be 3.9 million. For a city that large it is amazingly well organised and easy to get around in a hire car with street directory. After being in Liberia I always notice the normal infrastructure that is lacking here – Durban has painted lines on its roads, working traffic lights (why they call them ‘robots’ in RSA I still don’t understand!), electricity, highrise buildings in the city centre, and everything that makes for a sophisticated city, allbeit, some parts are looking a bit faded and run down. The sports stadium for the World Cup is pretty awesome and stands out on the skyline. The best bit however, is the beach, which runs right the length of the city and there’s a strip of hotels called the ‘golden mile’ which caters for the tourist. That was all very nice but what surprised me was that its a surfing beach and because of the piers jutting out into the sea you can actully watch the surfers surf right past you! I didn’t expect that!!

Apparently its also the biggest cargo port in the country, but for all of that the water looks inviting. It was novel to watch the surfers up close and fun to try some action photography. There was the challenge of the reflected light from the water and the fact that the surfers were often backlit so it was hard to get a really decent shot. Sometimes half the fun is in trying!

I stayed in B&B guesthouses throughout this holiday and found it a refreshing change from big hotels. I did stay in one of the best – Rosetta House in a very nice part of Durban. It was excellent! Best breakfast in town! Run by wonderfully friendly people. I might try this more often as its a nice way to meet other guests, get local tips about the city, and in this case to enjoy luxurious comfort for a reasonable price!

Durban was fun. It might be the only place in South Africa where it still feels like summer, even in winter! maybe the surfing vibe does that  🙂

Stay tuned for more photos from RSA…St Lucia, whale-watching, iSimangaliso Wetland Park and iMfolozi Game Park.