2017 is the UN’s Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, and today, 27th September, is World Tourism Day. It’s inspired me to look back over the year so far, and reflect on some of my top sustainable tourism encounters and achievements, working with animals, companies and NGOs from across the globe.
“Where everyone knows your name” is now published by Bradt Travel Guides. The tale takes place in tiny Wimbí, an Afroecuadorian village along the farthest reaches of the Cayapa River, as it snakes its way through the Chocó rainforest. Separated from the Amazon by the Andes, the Chocó is remote, barely explored, and exhaustingly hot.
There is an island off the coast of Cartagena de Indias, far from the sounds of horses and carts clattering over cobblestones, from the salsa drum that drifts through shuttered windows. The island is near silent – the Caribbean heat is brutal here, and nothing can bear to move.
In a small corner of Ghana’s Upper East Region, the buildings themselves tell stories. Faint patterns emerge on the adobe walls of the compounds and granaries and huts. Smudges of red ochre, ebony and ashy white flake from the baked mud, becoming richer and more visible the further north we travel.
Chief Zotentaar-Suhbazaa of Tengzuk sits beneath a vast baobab, squinting at us through his orange-tinted aviators. He is an extraordinarily powerful and respected man, as his entourage and his ceremonial walking stick suggest, and so, presumably, does the neon-streaked beach towel he has draped casually around his neck.
Bo-Kaap provides a colourful contrast to Cape Town’s black and white nature – in more ways than one. Its buildings are painted every colour under the bright African sun, seducing photographers with its rainbow palette. And its Cape Malay residents are a blend of yet more ethnicities, a culture as colourful as its streets.
A tour of a Nambian township is a start reminder of what Nelson Mandela – who is 95 today – has achieved. Apartheid literally means ‘apartness,’ ‘the state of being apart,’ and to be confronted by the physical reality of this was incredibly shocking.
The Batwa – Uganda’s “first people” – were nomadic hunter-gatherers who developed advanced hunting and trapping methods. Their profound knowledge of the forest allowed them to harvest honey, fruit and roots to use produce food, medicine and shelter. But when the forest became a national park, the Batwa were moved out. Now, the Batwa Trail is their only chance to return to their ancestral home.
La Nomadita has a “Lord of the Flies” moment with the boy hunters of the Choco rainforest, Ecuador
It’s appropriate that reaching the Himba involves such an arduous journey across Namibia. Arriving at the settlement, I realised life here was as far removed from my own as I could imagine, and the punishing journey was first test at leaving my comfortable, western lifestyle to enter another, more primal world, where human movements are dictated by nature, and not the other way around.