I get asked quite a lot about places I have traveled to - what's my favourite place, what kit do I take with me - does traveling as a woman on my own not bother me etc etc. So I thought I would cover off these questions with a series of blogs.
I started traveling without my parents when I was 17 - it was just a ski trip to Austria with a friend - nothing fancy, but it made me realise how easy travel was - even in the 1980's with no internet or mobile phones.... wow do you remember those times ?????
The first proper travel adventure was in 1989 - I was 19 and wanted to see some of Africa, so I had a 5 week adventure down the East coast of Africa and traveled from Nairobi in Kenya, into Tanzania - where I headed out to Dar es Salaam and caught a ferry over to Zanzibar - this was not a big tourist resort back then, there weren't many hotels or tourists really, just a few backpackers - myself included. From Zanzibar I talked a local fisherman into taking me to Prison Island in his little boat for a few dollars - what an amazing place. This was where I first met some very old and very large tortoises..... they were just huge... I should probably add, that I met some lovely people along the way, I like to think I am pretty streetwise and can judge situations fairly well - I have gotten myself out of some crazy situations that I will mention in the following blogs, but on this particular trip - the worst thing that happened, was on the return journey from Prison Island to Zanzibar the small boat broke down..... too far to swim and no mobile phone to call for help - I pulled out my trusty Swiss army knife and we took the engine apart and fixed it whilst bobbing up and down in the sea, screwed it all back together and carried on back to shore. I never leave home without it.
I spent a few days exploring Stone town and Zanzibar before heading back to mainland Tanzania on the ferry and continuing my journey south.
I used to carry a Polaroid camera with me back then too, so that I could leave photos with people I met - I would take photos with my then Nikon film camera for myself and then leave people with photos of them and their friends from my Polaroid, which everybody seemed to love having.
Travel is a great way to broaden the mind and experience the world and all it has to offer and whilst the world is a changing place, I remember my travels of pre-internet times and pre-mobile phone times with very fond memories, you truly were away from it all - thrown into a foreign land and it was so easy to immerse yourself with their culture and absorb all of the experiences that you had every moment of every day as there really was no easy way of contacting the outside world once you were out of a main city.
I continued south through Tanzania and visited villages and National parks along the way. The lion photograph below was taken on my Nikon with Fuji Velvia film in Ngorongoro National Park - yes in 1989......
I have been back to Ngorongoro Nat Park several times since, it is a lot busier now than it was back then - there are a few too many tourists there for my liking these days, when you're down there you almost feel like you're in a zoo.
Reaching the lesser visited regions in today's world entails more planning and money than it used to, as travel has improved it means people can go anywhere they like a lot easier than 20 or 30 years ago - there are pros and cons to it all, I wont go into them here today.
From Tanzania I continued down into Malawi camping next to the Lake for a week and exploring and enjoying the area at a place called Salima Bay. I also visited Kande Beach and Cape McClear before a visit to Lilongwe the capital. I explored several nature and forest reserves in Malawi before heading slightly north again to cross the border into Zambia.
I crossed the border somewhere near a town called Chipata as I recall and headed to South Luangwa National Park, caught a bus to Lusaka and then headed out to Lake Kariba, which was another beautiful place. I then followed the main route that everybody takes out that way - from the lake back up to the main road to Choma and then down to Livingstone. To my then end goal - Mosi Oi Tunya - The smoke that Thunders - Victoria Falls.
Back then you could Microlite over the falls - I'm not sure whether they have started doing it again now, it was stopped for many years due to the amount of crashes and deaths, but I did it and it was amazing, seeing the falls from above was truly magnificent, the following day I rafted down them - which was another fabulous experience - although to find out the day after that somebody lost a limb to a crocodile brings home the true danger of these sports.
In the 5 weeks that I had taken off work, I had reached Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, which was my plan and so I flew to Harare (capital of Zimbabwe for two days and booked my flight home. I loved Harare, it was a wonderful city - I'm sure it is much changed these days, I have never been back, even though I have been back to Zimbabwe several times since.
I travel - now as then on these trips, with a light rucksack - I try and keep my rucksack to 15 or 16kg, but my camera bag over the years has increased in size and weight, especially when I started taking underwater photographs, but that too is a whole other story.
The problem with Travel Photography is that it becomes a little addictive to say the least - I have traveled to over 100 countries and there are many more that I still want to go and explore and enjoy. I also learned along the way how to make my trips pay for themselves, this becomes more important the more you travel, with rising costs of flights and the further afield you start wanting to go - Africa for example can be traveled across quite cheaply if you are prepared to bush camp, where as getting to Antarctica, Tibet or the Galapagos Islands is at the other end of the price spectrum.
That is where the internet becomes incredibly handy, these days you can find local companies in the place you are going to and book directly with them - missing out an agent and their fees, often getting taken on extra visits to places that you wouldn't even know about on trips if you had booked with a big holiday company. For me it's about getting off the beaten track when I go to most far flung places and getting off the tourist trail to see what else is out there, what might I be missing. Don't get me wrong, diving in the Maldives is a wonderful thing, but so is bush camping in Zaire :-)
My camera kit is now all Canon, with canon lenses and an Ikelite underwater housing, but I will cover exactly what is in my kitbag another day.
You don't need to jump on a plane to Africa for a year to have an adventure, sometimes a day out in the woods can be just the break you need to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and put a zing in your step and get some great photos too.
Being Creative feeds the soul, go and look for unicorns, you never know what you might find.
Look out for the next chapter - of where me and my camera went next in the next week.