Destinations | Face of Africa Today

Explore Africa with this blog as your guide

Africa travel and tourism grew by 5.8% in 2018, compared with the global average of 3.9%, making it the second fastest growing tourism region worldwide. All I can say to this is, it's about darn time!

Africa has always received such a small slice of the international travel pie, in comparison to continents like Europe, and with such an incredible offering of culture, wildlife and historical travel offerings, it's hard to imagine why. 

I'm passionate about sharing stories of lesser known travel destinations, in the hopes of encouraging a sustainable increase in tourism to help support local economic growth. 

When I started travelling to Africa in 2016, I knew a few other travellers who had been there, or were considering going in the near future, but from most people I received a lot of flack. Over the years I've been asked a lot of questions about safety or poverty in Africa and how it affects you as a tourist. After spending over a year and a half travelling to 17 countries in Africa, I can say that the Africa you grew up reading about, or the single narrative still fed by the media, is rapidly disappearing and what's left in its place is a growing, vibrant, lively, multitalented continent that is worthy of making the top of anyone's travel bucket list. 

If you have an inclination to make somewhere in Africa one of your next travel destinations, check this blog regularly for stories from my personal travels through Africa. What sort of content will you find? Well, I'm a big hiker, wildlife enthusiast, overlander, camper, culture and history buff, city slicker and more, which means this blog will be filled with stories from all sides of the spectrum. 

Enjoy your virtual exploration of Africa!

UGANDA
Linda is a poet and performing artist who co-created the all-female theatre company, Afromans Spice. Linda’s group performs throughout Europe and Africa, working to empower women and educate men on women’s rights. “I’ve come to realize in order to succeed you actually have to do what you want to do, even if you fear it won’t put food on the table. If you’re passionate about it, it will feed you." I photographed Linda at her office in the Kampala National Theatre, proudly holding her afro wig.
SENEGAL
Senegal has a long-running peaceful political history since gaining independence from France in 1960, and it shows. Running into laid-back and happy locals like the young man photographed here is an everyday occurrence. He owns a clothing stall where I was drawn to the quality and beauty of the women’s fashions he had on display. I asked if he loves his job and he said “of course, I get to socialize and be outside all day”. Welcome to stress-free living in the beach towns of Senegal.
BOTSWANA
After finishing her degree in HR, she had returned home to live while looking for work. I met her while she was enjoying an afternoon of applying for jobs online and catching up with friends. Studying in the capital city of Gabarone had brought her new independence, and she’d discovered a love for experimenting with fashion, so she was eager to find a job in the capital and return to city life. With Botswana’s beef, diamond mining and textile industries doing well, she shouldn't have trouble.
GAMBIA
While visiting Banjul, Gambia’s quaint and walkable capital city, I was welcomed with “hello’s” (most locals speak English) and abundant smiles. In Gambia I was impressed by the opportunities for exotic bird watching, slave trade history attractions and beauty of the Gambia River, but what I will remember most is the friendly locals. This young woman was sitting with her Mom at her roadside stand helping sell fresh vegetables when we met. She was at ease with me even though we were strangers.
MOROCCO
Travelling the highway to Marrakesh, tourists have the option to stop off at a few points of interest popular for their high vantage and entertaining locals offering photo opps for a small fee. While most tourists are only looking for a quick cell phone photo, I on the other hand require 10-15 minutes minimum to work through speedlight flash settings and perfecting a subject’s pose. This means my subject’s must have patience, and this wonderful local had more than enough of that, and then some.
LESOTHO
I was wild camping in the mountains of Lesotho when I met Juliana, who was on her way to tend to the family’s farmland with her grandmothers. She’s wearing a local lotion used for sun protection in the fields, and one of the kindest grins of anyone I’ve met. Being a high school grad with English speaking skills, and in typical African fashion, not in a rush to get anywhere quick, we spent some time chatting about life in the laid-back country of Lesotho.
ZIMBABWE
I was immediately attracted to Scholar's art for its political commentary. Since the country’s long-awaited change in government in November 2017, many Zimbabweans no longer repress their views. The painting I purchased from him is an abstract oil on canvas, depicting the 2017 “coup” march where the ex-president was removed. Anytime I discussed the event with locals they proudly claimed the event was non-violent and overflowing with happiness and hope.
ZAMBIA
Natasha is a licensed pilot who most recently was studying flying in Brampton, Canada. She chose the pilot profession because of her love for travelling, but when asked where she wants to settle down, she says Zambia is her first choice. With more and more tourists seeking the renowned wildlife experiences of Zambia’s Luangwa national parks, there will be a growing need for bush pilots to work in the tourism industry. When we met she was thrilled to be expecting her first baby.
SOUTH AFRICA
When I met James he was juggling his job as a receptionist at a campground, and when no one else was around he was writing away in a notebook. With a friendly demeanor like his, it wasn’t long before we got to chatting. I find out he’s the Minister of his local church, and had been working on next week’s sermon. He was happy to share some of his Christian wisdom with me. Particularly memorable, was how lucky he felt to live in a community that prioritizes love and family over greed and money.
MALAWI
Near the historical village of Livingstonia lies the organic, off-grid farm and eco-lodge Mushroom Farm. Renowned for their guided hikes and garden-to-fork meals, Mushroom is a right of passage for every Malawian traveller. The permaculture farm is proudly lead by their gardener, pictured here. Mushroom is set up as a social enterprise, meaning 10% of total monthly sales are donated to ongoing community projects such as generating clean energy and teaching adult literacy.
TANZANIA
Vacationing on the island of Zanzibar, you'll inevitably cross paths with the Maasai Warriors of inland Tanzania. Zanzibar is renowned for its radiant beaches, but equally enjoyable is the fascinating conversations you’ll have with the Maasai. Seeing them mingling with tourists, playing volleyball and laying on the beach was a common sight that created an ultra positive and unifying island vibe.
NAMIBIA
Visiting a San village will remain etched in my memory forever, as the utmost authentic experience of a lifetime where I reconnected with the ancient secrets and wisdom of my shared Southern African ancestors. Upon arrival guests are immediately welcomed into the community like a local, and taught traditional ways of life such as hunting and fire-building. Finish your visit off by witnessing the performance of thousand-year-old medicinal songs acted out around a glowing fire in the African bush.
MOZAMBIQUE
Helio has the type of personality that lures you in and keeps you entertained for hours on end. Helio and his band, Positivo, were the talk of the town when I spent a month in Tofo, Mozambique. A professional singer-songwriter, Helio is known for his boisterous raps, energetic drum repertoires and standing room only concerts. Guests frequently came with their own drums, eager to partake in Helio’s participatory-style performances.
RWANDA
Millions suffered as a result of the Rwandan genocide, making a visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial painful for anyone who empathizes with those who experienced such devastating trauma. While there is pain, there is also education, growth and reconciliation, thanks to people like Serge and his fantastic Engagement Officer colleagues. Serge is a survivor, having lost his father and brother. He is proud of Rwanda’s reconciliation efforts, which include 232 memorials and 3 peace education centres
KENYA
On the day I photographed Mirry she was glowing with pride at her university graduation. Mirry originally wanted to study finance, but with high grades gifting her a government scholarship, she was led into the field of Nutrition & Dietetics, an industry the government is trying to grow. Her passion rests in the communities, where she believes she can make a big difference. During her new career she’ll work to lower the child mortality rate by educating women on breastfeeding and hygiene.
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Contact | Face of Africa Today Travel Photoblog | emily@emilysheff.com | Canada

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