Tomorrow, May 8th, the Republic of South Africa (RSA) goes to the Polls. While I have been involved in Politics (& Africa) long enough to know no one day of voting completely determines the future of a country, May 8th is pretty daggone significant for the RSA.
Please join with me in sending good thoughts and prayers to the Citizens of the Republic of South Africa. Just like the Rare & Vulnerable Blue Crane, RSA’s National Bird, they choose their own path going down this road.
Back in 2009, I found myself on a bus in Tanzania, headed to Swahili Language School in Iringa. The bus flew around hairpin curves, going well above the speed limit, with no brake bars on the side. I promised myself that if I got back to Dar es Salaam (in one piece!), I would never, ever take a long distance bus again.
Well…fast forward to the end of 2018, nearly a decade since that promise to myself, and where do I find myself? On a long distance bus in Chile!
While planning our unusual getaway to Chile, we had our hearts set on going to San Pedro de Atacama. In fact, I booked lodging reservations before even firming-up how we’d get there from Santiago. Unfortunately, I quickly realized a “Road Trip” was simply out of the question. 26+ years of marriage has given us the blessing of knowing each other’s travel limits. Mine include avoiding 8 hours a day of driving in a country to which we had never been.
While we could have flown, our instincts were proven right when we got to the Calama Airport to pick up our truck for the short drive from Calama to San Pedro. While my husband had flown from JFK to Santiago on Aerolíneas Argentinas, I had flown Emirates from Seoul via Dubai. This included the 20 Hour transit via São Paulo, Brazil. A regional puddle jumper was not how I envisioned spending our vacation.
What to do?
While preparing for the trip to Chile, I had begun listening to Podcasts about the country. One good one was Passport Joy. In their podcast they mentioned how the wished they had taken a bus. Their description of the bus and the excellent infrastructure in Chile made me question my complete ban on long distance buses. And I am so glad I did. We found Turbus!
In less than 24 hours, you can board a bus in Santiago and be in Calama, the closest large town to San Pedro. If you book Premium – you are given a Layflat Seat, a comfortable pillow and blanket, and time to relax and enjoy the trip to the Atacama.
Light snacks were provided on the bus, with an occasional “local” hopping on and off to sell Empanadas. But, most importantly, it gave us time to acclimatize, in our attempts to avoid Altitude Sickness. While I had thankfully never experienced Altitude Sickness, in 2004 during a vacation in Sante Fe, New Mexico, my husband had. We knew to be extremely cautious.
And, sure enough, sitting on the bus, gradually ascending to the Atacama, religiously drinking water we had brought with us, we thankfully were not stricken with Altitude Sickness. We credit that in part to taking the bus.
Would I do it again?
In a heartbeat. Chile has long distance bus travel down. This was an extremely relaxing way to traverse the extraordinarily long country that is Chile. My husband and I had a chance to chat, enjoy being with each other, and try something we had not done together in our 26+ years of marriage – take a long distance bus ride together.
So, I did something I swore I would never do again and loved it. Thank you Turbus and Chile for such a great experience!
World Travel Market Africa 2019
It is an honor for Flyga Twiga™ LLC to be invited for the 3rd consecutive year as a Fully Hosted Buyer to World Travel Market Africa (WTMA). Once again hosted by the City of Cape Town, South Africa, WTMA 2019 will bring together nearly 5,000 travel industry professionals, focusing on Africa and Middle East North Africa (MENA) Travel.
The World Travel Market will take place from Wednesday, April 10th through Friday, April 12th at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. WTMA offers Flyga Twiga™ an opportunity to meet in-person with In-Country Partners, Safari Lodges & Reserves, as well as the chance to take Familiarization (Fam) Trips to new and existing properties and ventures.
Thank you WTMA & Looking Forward To Seeing Old and Meeting New Africa Friends & Travel Colleagues in April!
Seeking the warmth of the Arabian Gulf, leaving behind the Siberian High sweeping through Korea, in 2016, my husband and I sought out one of our favorite places, Abu Dhabi. During this trip, our tour guide pointed out the construction of the Abu Dhabi Louvre.
I have traveled numerous times to Qatar and seen its spectacular Museum of Islamic Arts, as well as their unrivaled Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art.
I was curious about the new entry in what I call “The Gulf States Arts Race.”
The Unexpected & The Architect
Open just under a year when I visited the Louvre Abu Dhabi, I was surprised at how I fell in love with the Museum. In the just less than two years since I was last in Abu Dhabi, the project had slipped from my sphere. From time to time I would see an article on its progress, but I was busy with other projects. I simply hadn’t made visiting the newly opened Museum a priority.
The Architect, Jean Nouvel’s vision sees "Bridging Land and Sea." He succeeded. I believe he created the perfect background of calmness with which to view "the cultural achievements of mankind from prehistoric times to the present day."
And, while I certainly wouldn’t call myself a Jean Nouvel “Groupie” I do have a bit of history with his work. I have had the pleasure of seeing his:
Museum Two, Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea
Doha Tower Skyscraper, Doha, Qatar
100 Eleventh Avenue, Manhattan, NY, USA
Golden Angel (Zlatý Anděl), Prague, Czech Republic
And in my opinion, prior to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, one of his most iconic & my favorite of his work - Gasometer A, Vienna, Austria.
Even the Museum's Café was designed by the Louvre’s famous architect, Jean Nouvel. His vision for the Café was to create a space where, "visitors can hope for waves of the sea to touch the sky," while enjoying your dining experience.
Every detail in the Café has a nod to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, such as the paper placemats with the iconic roof design. The Café’s desire is to tell “international stories that highlight the similarities between us, in harmony with the spirit of the museum."
A New Light
Nouvel’s play on light in the Louvre Abu Dhabi I feel falls under one of those extraordinarily rare places where even the most vivid of descriptors cannot reveal the experience. Each corner of the Museum offers a new play on light, a new way of viewing the Arabian Gulf, Abu Dhabi, and the piercing Sun of the Desert.
This extends into the play of light in how he offers light for exhibits. During this visit to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, I was particularly moved by an Oriental Rug Display. Light plays on our souls in different ways.
And, while among the great works of art from van Gogh to Picasso to da Vinci and the multitude of early Islamic works and writings, this piece spoke to me of my childhood. The plays of light I grew up with in my family home in Virginia. Light from the sky, enlightening our home.
A Universal Museum in the Arab World
اللوفر أبو ظبي
The Art World and the development of Museums are nearly always plagued by controversy. As someone who incorporates Art into my Travels, I have been blessed with the confidences of those in the Art World who have shared their experiences and opinions with me about several new museums which have recently opened.
I view Museums as much like Theaters. Do I really care if the Director and the Leading Actress had a raging dispute before the play? No. I care about the performance.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi spoke to my soul. I found it to truly be a Universal Museum in the Arab World whose light offers new perspectives on as they had hoped in a "spirit of respect, curiosity, learning, and self-reflection."
Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital
Next year will mark the 20th Anniversary of the founding of the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital. Under the late patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, the hospital has become one of the largest avian hospitals in the world.
The history of Falconry in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) follows the rich path of the Bedouins. The first reference to Falconry in the Middle East appears in the ruins of Nineveh under the Assyrians in an engraving dated to 750 BC, modern day Iraq.
There are two types of Falcons used in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for hunting, the "Saqr" Falcon (Falco Cherruq), the Peregrine (Falco Peregrinus). In both cases the female is preferred.
Today in the Gulf States, Falcons can go at auction anywhere from $5,000 to over $25,000. It can not be overstated the love the Emiratis have for their falcons, viewing them as members of the family.
Touring the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital
One of the most exciting and unusual tours offered in Abu Dhabi is that of the Falcon Hospital. Groups tours run throughout the day.
Guided by an Emirati, the Falcon Hospital Tour is comprehensive. With traditional Bedouin hospitality, Tourists are taken throughout the facility and shown the multifaceted programs, research, and patient care being offered at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital.
With no expense spared by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, the Falcon Hospital offers:
Numerous clinical examination rooms
State of the Ophthalmology Unit
Entirely separate Falcon Pox Unit
2 Operation Theatres
Digital Radiography Unit
Intensive Care Unit, capable of handling multiple emergencies – in private rooms – at once.
And, in addition to the 200 air conditioned, private rooms, the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital also offers “free-flight aviaries of different sizes and free-flight moulting rooms,” during which time the falcons are given "special food menus and vitamin supplements." The hospital now sees over 11,000 Falcons a year.
Types of Surgeries and Treatments
One of the most fascinating part of the tour of the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital comes when they give an extensive breakdown of the types of surgeries offered. From feather replacements to talon and beak repairs, the surgery is in almost constant use.
Falcons can receive their annual check-ups at the Hospital, as well as full Veterinary Services. While on tour, guests are shown a sedated Falcon and discussions of the various surgeries and treatments.
Throughout the tour, at the appropriate times, tourists are invited to touch the Falcons and even have an opportunity to hold one. For many visiting the UAE this is a once in a lifetime interaction with Falcons. The deep love the Emiratis have for their Falcons permeates every aspect of the fascinating tour.
The great Falconer, His Highness Sheikh Zayed, created the concept of the “Falcon Passport.” The passport is approved by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES). Issued through the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, Falcon Passports are more than a way to transport birds from one country to another.
Rather, Sheikh Zayed created the concept as part of his greater mission of Wildlife Conservation. The Falcon Passport was initiated to stop trapping in countries neighboring the UAE. His Highness Sheikh Zayed set up numerous Wildlife Conservation initiatives, both above ground and under water in the Arabian Gulf.
And, many people are surprised when they first hear about the UAE as a Wildlife Conservation and EcoTourism destination. Thanks in part to programs such as the Falcon Passport, the UAE has become a Wildlife Conservationists “must see” with the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital at the very top of the list!
Sheraton Hotels & Resorts
Thanks in part to the 1998 purchase by the Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Sheratons, particularly those located outside the USA, have retained their grandeur. Add to this the 2016 purchase of Starwood by Marriott and you have all the power that comes from being the largest hotel chain in the world.
In the Heart of Abu Dhabi
One of the perks of staying in a Sheraton in the heart of the Abu Dhabi is the perfect mixture of work & play. Located on Corniche Road, the Abu Dhabi Sheraton offers, in addition to Adult and Children’s Pools, a private Lagoon. This provided me with some much needed beach & suntanning time, when I wasn’t working in the spacious office area in my room.
The Club Floor
One of the things I love most about many of the Marriott owned properties, and Sheratons in particular, is they have exceptional Club Floors. Each property, in my experience, interprets the design differently. The Abu Dhabi Sheraton had a relaxed, comfortable feel, as well as a separate Smoking Area.
I always make sure to book the Club Level. In addition to what I consider a full Breakfast, they also offer evening Cocktails & Canopies. I’m often asked if it is illegal to drink in the United Arab Emirates. It is not. Rather, it is illegal to be drunk in public. At the Sheraton Abu Dhabi I enjoyed delicious, well made G&Ts, as well as a nice variety of Australian Wines.
Nods to Traditional Islamic Architecture & Design
From intricate mosaics to dramatic arches, the Abu Dhabi Sheraton blends modern hotel design with nods to traditional Islamic Architecture & Design. Combined with the muted, Earth tones of the Emirati Desert, the marble details & features throughout the Sheraton provide the mood of how the UAE honors its heritage while embracing modernity.
Abu Dhabi Sheraton Hotel & Resort -
A Beautiful Respite in the Middle of the UAE Capital
While we all know to check to see if we need a pre-Visa, or may obtain a Visa Upon Arrival, it is often easy to forget to carry the Name & Address of the first hotel for Entry Documents.
It is important to have the name of the first hotel, especially if you are entering the country at a lesser known Point-of-Entry, than say, the nation's capital. Local Customs Officials can be inexperienced with extensive Globe-Trotting, International Travelers.
DON'T DO IT! No matter how excited you are to be in your new country, photography & filming is STRICTLY PROHIBITED in all airport Customs, Immigration, & Security Clearing Areas.
Always wait until you have cleared customs and are on the outside Terminal before taking photographs.
Prescription Drugs & Vaccination Cards
Be sure to check which Prescription Drugs are allowed in the countries to which you will travel. And, do not forget official proof of Vaccinations.
Some countries, such as the Republic of Uganda, offer Yellow Fever Vaccines at Entebbe International Airport, if you don't have your Vaccination Card. But the shot costs money which must be paid in US Dollars & do you really want to start your Safari with a shot in the arm? And, this is rare, you can actually be quarantined or even "Denied Entry" without official Vaccination Cards.
And, once "Denied Entry," it can be nearly impossible to gain a new Visa. This is one case where forgetting documentation can go on your "Permanent Record"!
Don't forget your Vaccinations Cards & check on what Prescription Drugs are allowed!
Bathrooms & Bottled Water
Who knows how long it will take you to get through Customs, Immigration, & Security when deboarding a flight? Go to the bathroom before the airplane lands & be sure to carry a bottle of water with you.
While it is easy to assume this is only advise for airports in smaller regions, recent reports have clocked Heathrow International Airport Security lines taking up to four (4!) hours.
In addition, you may not always be allowed to get out of line to go to the bathroom and some airports may not have air-conditioning. Combined with dehydration from the plane, it best to be prepared by going to the bathroom before the airplane lands and having a bottle of water for the lines through Security.
Do not bring out your Smart Phones / Cellphones, once you have deboarded the airplane, until you are COMPLETELY through Customs, Immigration, & Security.
Once the Pilot has announced you can take your devices off of "Airplane Mode" & before deboarding, that is the time to make any telephone calls, send text messages, or message family, friends, or awaiting parties.
Once you have deboarded & are off of the airplane - DO NOT TAKE OUT YOUR CELLPHONE UNTIL YOU HAVE LEFT CUSTOMS, IMMIGRATION, & SECURITY AREAS & ENTERED THE MAIN TERMINAL!
I can not stress this enough. This has become a hot-topic, flash-point issue. One of the reasons for this is the recent number of high profile cases of Airline Passengers getting into arguments with Customs & Immigration Officials and deciding it would be a "good idea" to record these arguments.
If Customs, Immigration, & Security Officials see you on your Cellphone, in any airport in the World, they have every reason to believe you may be recording or taking pictures. This is simply a basic Security Issue.
Need the time? Look for a clock - there will be one somewhere. Need to communicate with someone? Do that before you deboard the airplane. Just so darn excited to be there you can't wait to take a Selfie? Wait. No Selfie is worth getting in trouble with local Officials.
And now that you have smartly navigated Customs, Immigration, & Security, it is time to have a
Happy Day! Safe Safari!
Hmmm...That Print Looks Small!
While finalizing my trip to South Africa as an International Hosted Buyer for the World Travel Market Africa 2018, I needed to call my Credit Card Companies to verify they had my travel places & dates.
While examining the back of the card with my Grandfather's huge magnifying glass to retrieve the number, it dawned on me - I might need reading glasses!
Where To Go?
In December 2017, while in South Africa for our 25th Anniversary, I had picked up a copy of Longevity Magazine. This magazine is quite good, promoting a healthy living and lifestyle. In the back of the magazine was a Health Directory.
Searching the directory, I found NH Optometrist in the Western Cape Listing. Located in the Plattekloof area of Cape Town, I went to their website. I liked what I saw. Very professional. They accepted cash payment. And, with a few clicks of an email, I had an appointment.
My appointment was beyond what I had expected. The staff were extremely professional. And, NH Optometrist had the latest State of the Art Medical Equipment. My last eye exam was when I had returned to the United States from South Sudan in 2013.
Little did I expect the most up-to-date equipment from my appointment in Cape Town. Dr Anni Brown understood some concerns specific to my genetics and background (double whammy of cataracts on my maternal side & many years working in SubSaharan African Sun!).
I had braised myself for the arduous pupil dilation. I expected the old fashioned, spend half the day nearly-blind, fumbling around from pupil dilation. Not in Cape Town - Dr Brown had the latest, greatest computer technology to check my eyes.
No drops. No dark sunglasses, needed for even indoor use after dilation. The most modern medical technology took some pictures of my eyes & that was it! This was one of the best eye exams I had ever experienced.
In the end, I did need reading glasses. Yet, I wasn't "over prescribed" as I have learned to watch out for. I would absolutely practice Medical Tourism in Cape Town and elsewhere again.
And now I can go back to enjoying reading the inflight magazines, fine print and all, on my longhaul flight to Africa. Medical tourism is awesome!