The Cape Town effect

Cape Town South Africa

Located at the tip of South Africa, Cape Town, affectionately referred to as the Mother City, is rightly considered as the gateway to Africa. But with a distinct climate, wider ethnic mix and unique culture, the Cape feels like a country of its own.

Flanked by Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak, Lion’s Head and Signal Hill, while simultaneously embraced by the Atlantic Ocean, the City Bowl that is created is the epicenter of South Africa’s port city. Whichever direction you look towards, riveting views abound. This is a city for outdoor lovers. Continue reading “The Cape Town effect”

Monica Suma

Monica Suma is a Romanian-American freelance travel writer and blogger, always on the hunt for art, good food and all things Cuba. Through storytelling and an insatiable pursuit for whimsy, she contributes to a variety of publications such as Lonely Planet, BBC Travel, Business Traveller and more. Follow her adventures live on Instagram and Twitter.

Paradise on the Rise: Mozambique’s Ibo Island

At the sight of fishermen mending their nets, women in colorful khanga collecting clams, and crumbling coral forts on the cliffs, Fiona and Kevin Record were instantly wooed by Ibo Island. Tucked in Mozambique’s Quirimbas Archipelago, Ibo has been inhabited for over 500 years and during its heyday in the 1700-1800s it was a vital trading port for the Portuguese spice trade. Though when the colonists were forced to leave at the dawn of Mozambique’s independence, this thriving town slipped back to its simple ways as a simple fishing village and its grand buildings began to crumble with it. The Records knew this was a special place in need of preservation so they took the bold leap to build the first hotel on Ibo and help the community shine again.

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Rather than bring in a mainland construction team to build Ibo Island Lodge, the Records wanted to have the hotel be an avenue for growth and development for the town and its people. They hired all local builders, carpenters, seamstresses, and offered training courses for more to join in, plus English classes for those interested in continuing to work at the hotel. The majority of today’s staff at Ibo Island lodge were the very hands that built it. The hotel sits at the western shore of the island as a mark of progress the whole community can be proud of.

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Ibo is a remote island so everything seen here was brought over by dhow boat or made custom on the premises. The interiors have a European elegance lightened with sunny colors and an ocean breeze. (Note the exposed section of the living room wall, it’s a glimpse into the classic Ibo construction, a mix of coral rock and lime.)

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To explore town, we went on a walking tour with Ibo Island Lodge’s resident guide: A fifth-generation Iboian, who has lived through the days as a Portuguese colony, Mozambique’s tumultuous independence, the return to an isolated fishing village, and now the new beginnings of tourism. (Talk about perspective!) Walking along the dusty boulevards, past abandoned 17th-century forts, churches, and mansions you feel the mystic of Ibo. The chipping paint and vines growing on the buildings makes it hard to distinguish between what’s in use and what is long forgotten.

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After our town tour, we went back to the hotel for a little relaxing and contemplation by the pool. What I love is that the lodge didn’t feel like it was on a pedestal separated from town; low walls give views to the life on the shore.

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Whether served by the pool, on the beach, our on the terrace, meals were always a delight at the lodge. Coconut and crab curry, crunchy green pawpaw salad, and Lobster Thermidor were some of the highlights on the menu, though the showstopper was this gorgeous conch salad.

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Many meals and cocktails were also enjoyed on the rooftop terrace, looking out across the idyllic turquoise water and second largest mangrove in Africa.

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Life slows down at Ibo Island Lodge, but they have plenty of activities on tap if you want to pick up the pace. We took a guided kayak trip to watch island life from sea. Weaving through the mangrove forests, we ducked into different coves to watch the bird-life, admire the architecture, watch the fisherman at work, and just enjoy the gentle waves.

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A true highlight during our stay at Ibo Island Lodge was our trip to the sandbar island. The tides fluctuate so much in a given day that depending on the hour, this dreamy spit of land can vanish under the water. Timing it just right, we sailed out in the morning for snorkeling, sunbathing, and brunch. The team amazingly set up a full sit-down meal of omelets, yogurt parfait, pastries, and french-press coffee under the shade of this pop-up dining room.

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Ibo Island is a pure place, devoid of manufactured attractions, cookie-cutter accommodations and droves of tourists. It’s a rare that an idyllic island getaway also comes with a sense of history and culture…go while you can.

Anne & Mike Howard

Mike and Anne Howard left on their honeymoon in 2012 and have been traveling the world ever since. HoneyTrek.com chronicles their adventures across 7 continents, 44 countries, and counting! Their writing, photography, and the story of the “World’s Longest Honeymoon” can also be found on Condé Nast Traveler, BBC Travel, The Knot, Los Angeles Times, CBS, and dozens of other international publications. Connect with @HoneyTrek on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Get a wildlife conservancy all to yourself at Saruni Samburu

As our tiny plane dipped beneath the clouds and we caught our first glimpse of the arid plains stretched out below, a collective hush fell over the cabin. Before the plane’s wheels had even touched down on the dirt runway in Samburu, Kenya, we could see our guide Chris, dressed in a cerulean shuka and smiling broadly. Joining Chris in the Land Rover, we headed off to Saruni Samburu, a six-villa lodge atop a rocky hill in the Kalama Community Wildlife Conservancy.

The drive from the airstrip to Saruni Samburu doubles as a game drive. Bumping along the craggy road, we ogled giraffes grazing, impala and gerenuk striding across the plains, and sparrow-weavers sitting high above the action. Chris expertly guided the Land Rover up the steep, rocky pass to the resort and delivered us just in time for lunch with the young camp manager James. Saruni’s owners are Italian and its local chef quite skilled at producing classic Italian dishes. Over two days, we happily tucked into fettuccine with zucchini and capers, risotto, and focaccia, with sides like tender roasted vegetables or a fresh avocado and tomato salad. On our first toasty afternoon, we were delighted to see staffers Kennedy and Peter emerge from the pantry bearing house-made coffee ice cream with biscotti.

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Of Saruni Samburu’s six villas, four can accommodate families. The whole lodge runs in a zigzag astride a hilltop, with one villa on the descent, just down the path from the main lodge, and the rest, along with the gift shop, on the ascent. There are two pools, one on a path running down from the main lodge and one at the very top of the resort. No matter where we were on the property—whether lying in bed, soaking in the tub, or enjoying the outdoor shower—we were awed by the breathtaking views of Kalama Conservancy and Mount Kenya. All of the villas have private verandahs, ideal for sunset drinks à deux.

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Saruni Samburu is the only lodge in the Kalama Conservancy, which covers more than 200,000 acres. Its list of activities reads like a summer camp brochure: bird watching, bush walking, trekking up sacred Mount Ololokwe, visiting ancient caves, bush breakfasts and, as an antidote to all that, swimming. Day-time game drives take place in Kalama Conservancy and neighboring Buffalo Springs National Park and Samburu National Park; on our second day, we were thrilled to park a stone’s throw from a herd of some two dozen elephants, watching as they cooled off in the Ewaso Niro River. Following a sundowner, Saruni runs night game drives, which are allowed only in the conservancy.

We were eager to see a school and the lodge seamlessly arranged for us to go by Kiltimany Primary School on our way to visit the village of the same name. Meeting the 200-odd students here was a wonderful experience. We kicked around the soccer balls we’d brought, played games, told jokes, and generally had a blast. Towards the end of our visit, two of the classes sang for us, which was quite touching. Saruni Samburu partners with Pack for a Purpose, so guests wishing to bring donations know exactly what’s needed and that it’ll go right to the school.

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Saruni’s most unique activity is its Warriors Academy, which can run from one day to one week. Here, guests get an lesson on the history of the Samburu people, meet and shadow real Maasai and Samburu warriors, and learn from them myriad skills. These include tracking wildlife, shooting bows and arrows, throwing spears, building a fire and a bush camp, and tending to cattle and goats. Anyone with nimble fingers can try their hand at making the vibrant beaded collars the Samburu wear. For inspiration, visit to the lodge’s gift shop, where proceeds from many of the lovely pieces go back to the local community.