Tag: Africa

Madagascar – Island Hopping


Just an hour and a half flight north of Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, lies the sleepy island of Nosy Be (big island in Malagasy). Known for its beautiful beaches, sleepy villages, and French influence, this archipelago serves as a jumping-off point to a number of smaller islands in all directions. One finds it easy to disconnect from the digital world here.  Not only is there an abundance of underwater dive excursions, horseback riding, island hopping, wildlife, and scenic parks to distract one from one’s digital devices, but these islands you are so far off the grid that electricity is unstable.  It can and will vanish during any one of the many fierce lightning storms which pass over daily, leaving one delightfully disconnected from the outside world.

Local fishermen return with this day’s late-afternoon catch. Want anything?
David Loughlin

There’s no shortage of resorts along the beach offering a full range of accommodations. I’m enjoying an ice-cold beer at high tide.

A local woman strolls the beach in search of buyers for her fresh fruit.
David Loughlin

Low tide Southwest side of Nosy Be, peering south down the beach.
David Loughlin

Warm sunsets with fast-moving clouds.  The sky here constantly changes.

Raw video of a lightning storm in slow motion to expose the bolts.

Exploring – Hell Ville, Nosy Be, Madagascar

Peaceful drive into Hell Villa, the main town on Nosy Be. There are great deals to be had on local coffee, vanilla, and many spices.

Here you will find hundreds of merchants selling anything from freshly caught fish, local produce, electronics, or whatever you need.

Island Hopping – Nosy Be to Nosy Komba (Lemur Island)

Off the coast of Nosy Be lies a volcanic island, famous for the preservation of lemurs, appropriately nicknamed Nosy Komba (Malagasy for Lemur Island). For a nominal fee of $35. USD, about 110,000 Malagasy Ariary, you can travel via boat to any number of outer islands and explore the deep blue, snorkel, picnic, or, in my case, get up close and personal with a community of Malagasy lemurs.

Nosy Ambariovato

After 35 minutes of ocean wind in my face, we arrived at Nosy Ambariovato. A picturesque island, covering 25 km2, complete with lush jungles and golden-sand beaches.  This island’s lighthouse once served to help mariners to safely navigate these waters.
David Loughlin

Eager to explore the island, we beached the boats inside the cove. Overhead winds from the Indian Ocean provided persistent change of light, as the clouds above cast quick-moving shadows on the tropical landscape, causing the rich colors to alternate between soft and deep shades of blue and green.

Just some stock video footage of our arrival on the beach on Nosy Komba.

Malagasy Lemurs

After a twenty minute hike into the forest, we encountered curious lemurs who scampered up and down the skinny tree trunks, hungry for fresh bananas. Connecting with these creatures was an amazing experience.  They are fun-loving, playful, and trusting, but mostly motivated by food.   Bold and eager to jump on your shoulders from all directions for a bite to eat, they are not shy when it comes to asking for handouts.
David Loughlin

This little guy is curious to see if we have food. What friendly little animals!

This lemur is fascinated with the cell phone.
David Loughlin

Other Creatures on Nosy Ambariovato

Lemurs are only a few of the natural surprises you might encounter on Nosy Ambariovato. The jungle is alive with jewel-colored reptiles.

I’m not a big fan of snakes, but everyone else took the same picture, so why not don a reptilian scarf?
David Loughlin

Rum & Lime – Sleepy Beachfront Bar

I found a sleepy beach bar offering shots of local rum, a 50/50 mix of rum and local lime juice served with a salted rim.
David Loughlin

Nosy Tanikely

Heading back to Nosy Be, we stopped at an even smaller island in the archipelago, named Nosy Tanikely. The lighthouse on the island was once the navigational aid for nautical traffic in these waters.
David Loughlin

Boats tied up, let’s explore this island.

David Loughlin

The lighthouse located at the island’s highest point is a reminder of days when sailors relied on their senses, not electronics, and were guided to safety by carefully-tended flashing lights.
David Loughlin

Atop the lighthouse, you get a panoramic view in all directions.

David Loughlin

David Loughlin

View from the lighthouse, your chariot awaits below. Gazing down at the beach, you gain perspective
David Loughlin

Local fishermen
David Loughlin

H O R S E B A C K   O N   N O S Y   B E
The mid-morning start of a half-day ride across the lush countryside on Nosy Be. We rode on horseback through the Malagasy countryside, crossing  many local farms and plantations.
David Loughlin

We paused for a rest, taking in the sights before descending to the beach.
David Loughlin

David Loughlin

It’s warm today, so it’s time to head to the beach and have some fun cooling off in the bay with the horses.
David Loughlin

Madagascar – Antananarivo

Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar.  A city rich with a blend of Malagasy and French European influence.

Le Louvre Hôtel & Spa

I booked accommodations at Le Louvre Hôtel & Spa during both of my visits to Antananarivo.  The spa instantly sold me on the hotel.  At the end of each day, I booked massages to wind down and relax–some of the best self love I’d treated myself to in a long time.

The lobby at Le Louvre Hôtel & Spa

The spa at Le Louvre Hôtel & Spa

Patisserie Colbert Tananarive – Fine Malagasy Chocolate

Stumbled upon this French Bakery just two blocks from my hotel and added a couple kilos of fine Malagasy chocolate to my luggage.

The Open Air Market – Antananarivo

Exiting my hotel, crossing the street and walking through the park, I reached a set of stairs that lead down to the local open air market that was filled with hundreds of vendors ready to bargain.


The Royal Palace




Zanzibar – The Spice Island

Situated on the Swahili Coast, adjacent to Tanganyika (mainland Tanzania), lies one of the most beautiful islands in East Africa.  Formerly known as a center for spice and slave trading in the 19th century, Zanzibar is much more than a stopping point on an itinerary; it’s 1,020 square miles of pure adventure waiting to be explored.

N U N G W I   B E A C H   Z A N Z I B A R

Whether you are an avid diver, beach comber, hopeless romantic, shopaholic, love horseback riding, enjoy fine dining, or just want to escape and explore new destinations, Zanibar has something for you.

One of the first things you will notice are the countless miles of untouched beaches: romantic, pristine, untouched pieces of paradise waiting to massage your feet.  Since this island is not a high-traffic tourist destination, there are plenty of beautiful seashells to be found in the early mornings, before the locals awake to gather these gems for the market.

Zanzibar hosts many luxury resorts waiting to pamper your every need.  While I stayed at several resorts on the island, my favorite is the Sea Cliff Resort, situated on the east cost, twenty-five minutes north of Stone Town.  Whether you like horseback riding, golf, sailing, fine dining, the spa, or simply relaxing by one of their two infinity pools, Sea Cliff will soothe your senses.

Miles of beautiful beaches line the coastline in Matemwe, north Zanaibar on the east coast.
David Loughlin

S E A  C L I F F   R E S O R T

Riding, Sea Cliff Resort, Zanzibar
David Loughlin

Equestrian lovers will find pleasure in riding horses across the tropical countryside and into emerald-green waters.
David Loughlin

Private Beach @ Sea Cliff Resort
Enjoy one of the private beaches reserved for guests only.
David Loughlin

Nothing like a a couple of beers, a several hour nap, and waking to this scenic view.  Ahhh…yeah.
David Loughlin

D I V E R   D O W N

Whether you enjoy snorkeling or deep water diving, Zanzibar offers an array of excursions to meet your needs.
David Loughlin

Diving The Royal Navy Lighter shipwreck at 30m, Zanzibar
David Loughlin

Exploring artifacts below.
David Loughlin

Shoppers Delight
If you love to barter, then the markets of Stone Town are the place for you.  The city is a virtual maze of alleyways, all lined with merchants eager to sell their goods.

Rooftop shot at 5:30 am atop the Maru Maru Hotel, Stone Town, Zanzibar.  Maru Maru means Tile Tile.
David Loughlin

The best deals are waiting to be had if your bartering skills are firm.  Whether you are looking for coffee, fresh vanilla, fish, antiques, artwork, or whatever tickles your fancy, you will find it in the market in Stone Town.  Be willing to walk if you do not get the price you want; the merchant will follow you for blocks to seal the deal.
David Loughlin

Open-air fish market in Stone Town.  Some unique smells for sure.
David Loughlin

David Loughlin

Day Excursions – Prison Island
There are plenty of day excursions to keep you busy. Only a thirty minute boat ride from Stone Town lies a little piece of paradise named Prison Island.  This was a former prison-turned-tourist-attraction that also serves as an animal preserve for the endangered tortoise population.
David Loughlin

The snorkeling is spectacular and the waters are pristine.  Abundant coral lines the ocean floor, rich with a spectacular variety of tropical fish, star fish and much more.
David Loughlin

David Loughlin

On our way to Prison Island, we passed some locals fishing.
David Loughlin

The road to vanilla heaven.  Before departing for East Africa, I created a bucket list of items I wanted to purchase in each country.  Coffee and chocolate were on the list for every country while vanilla was my primary target from both Madagascar and this island of Zanzibar.  Below are photos of one journey to a vanilla plantation, located in the middle of the island.

Farm Country…getting close.

Young vanilla on the vine.

The history of slavery is ever-present.  This is a former slave cave: over 100 years ago, slaves were stored in these caves after a full day of labor on the spice plantations.

David Loughlin

David Loughlin

Fishing boats.
David Loughlin

Below:  A local is spear fishing midday to feed his family.
David Loughlin

The blue Monkey.  It does exist.
David Loughlin

These kids from a local village want to model for the camera.

Double Rainbow
David Loughlin

David Loughlin

Foul weather ahead as the sun begins to set.
David Loughlin

Very relaxing evening.
David Loughlin


Ethiopia – Quest for Coffee

In East Africa, heading south to Madagascar through Ethiopia, Kenya (Nairobi), and Tanzania (Kilimanjaro, Dar Es Salaam, Zanzibar) before heading north to Morocco for a 13-city tour.

While in Addis Ababa, I picked up some elegant local clothing, savored the most amazing cappuccino in my life, mingled with some locals, met a journalist with an incredible life story, then headed out on a quest.  My mission: to track down spectacular un-roasted coffee beans.

It was six hours after arriving in Addis Ababa that my coffee bean adventure began.  I set out in search of a plantation that was rumored to produce some very fine beans.  It was a trek into the countryside and the quality of roads started to deteriorate every ten minutes.  I had to hold on to the overhead bars to keep from being tossed out of the jeep as we bounced over deep ruts.  It was hot and balmy; the soil was moist and the canopy lush, green, and heavy with edible fruits.

Stretched out on other side of the road were calm and peaceful farming communities with endless acres of arable land.  Local workers were intent at harvesting the daily yield, their nimble fingers plucking at vines bursting with cacao, coffee, vanilla, cinnamon, and much more.

I shaved a medium-sized bundle of cinnamon off this tree.  My luggage was redolent with notes of coffee, chocolate and cinnamon.   Note to self: wrap cinnamon in plastic when packing with clothing unless you want your shirts to be pungent with spice.  But I confess; I rather like smelling like a snickerdoodle.

These cacao pods weren’t ripe yet, but perhaps they will end up in your chocolate bar one day.  These trees are checked daily and all the ripe pods are picked as soon as they are ready.

In the end, I returned from Africa with ten kilos of coffee beans from eleven different harvests spread across eight countries.  Some were roasted, and some were raw green, waiting to be transformed into dark, glossy beans in my kitchen at home.  The roasted varieties emitted aromas of chocolate, vanilla, peanut butter, orange, mint, various fruits, and more, but it is the raw beans that are my passion.  After roasting the raw beans, I have a total of 14 different flavors to sample and share with friends.   I take the beans to the sweet, sugar-brewing phase of the roast and stop at the first crack, producing a more flavorful, authentic coffee flavor, much lighter in taste than any store-bought French roast will ever produce.

Kenya – Nairobi

The Experience

In East Africa, I headed south to Madagascar through Ethiopia, Kenya (Nairobi), and Tanzania (Kilimanjaro, Dar Es Salaam, Zanzibar) before heading north to Morocco for a 13-city tour.

I was on a quest for the elusive un-roasted coffee bean from small-production farms with a limited annual production of 500 to 1000 pounds max.  I was determined to find a particular scarce bean that, when roasted to the first crack, yields an aroma of dark chocolate with a hint of peanut butter. Its color, once ground, is said to resemble the sands of the Sahara Desert at sunset: a nutty caramel color with a hint of orange.  My goal?  To return home with the most delectable coffee beans I can find.

The Network

I had the good fortune to meet a barista who mentioned a small private tour of a local plantation known for fine coffee and rare spices. The next thing I know, I’m headed north in a silver van, en route to said spice plantation, at the cost of around $30 USD, transportation and guided tour included. People are effecient and friendly here if you know what you want.

The guided tour?  It consisted of the effusive attentions one guide and five young African farm laborers who gathered around me and presented me with samples of their products.  The kiwi was sweet, the mango tangy, and the coffee green on the vine.

“How much?” I asked,  pointing to the green beens ripening on the vine and looking around for the money man.  “You want?” one guy asked in return.

“How much?” I repeated.

“OK, come come,” he said, gesturing with a slow movement of his hand.  I broke away from the spice tour, promising to meet up with the tour guide for lunch around noon.

The Bean

Departing the cool shade of the canopy, we crossed a field and navigated over few irrigation trenches arriving at what appeared to be a shanty bean-drying facility and operations warehouse full of burlap sacks, 50 kilos each.  I was presented with two types of raw coffee beans to choose from.  Option A was the pure green bean, nothing but the bean. Option B was a mix of raw bean mixed with unsorted rough.  To be on the safe side, I chose option A.

Then the money man asked, “How many kilos?”

To which I responded: “Ah…..one!”  That’s 2.2 pounds of raw beans and I planned on scoring 10 to 11 times that many as I moved south before heading up to Morocco in the north.

Suddenly, it occurred to me that I need to quickly reassess my strategy, because my plan was to get samples from 10 or 11 plantations to roast when I return.  So much for strategy…I returned with 10 kilos of beans from the African continent–more than enough to master the art of roasting and still have enough to host “cuppings” (tastings) for a year or more.

The Deal

The money man started the price at 1,654 schillings per kilo, about $16. USD, which was two or three times the going price by weight.  After more bartering we settled on a price and I walked with my score in hand.  Only nine or ten more deals to go!

The Score

In the end, I returned from Africa with ten kilos of coffee beans from eleven different harvests spanning eight countries.  Some were roasted, producing aromas of chocolate, nut, peanut butter, orange, mint, various fruits, and more.  Some were raw green, waiting to be roasted to dark, glossy perfection in my kitchen.  After roasting the raw beans, I have a total of 14 different flavors to sample and share with friends.   I take the beans to the sweet, sugar-brewing phase of the roast and stop at the first crack, producing a flavorful, authentic coffee flavor, much lighter in taste than any store-bought French roast will ever produce.

Above Victoria Falls – Zambia & Zimbabwe

After exiting the Zambezi Gorge, we headed north for a view of Victoria Falls from above.

The sun sets on the Zambezi over Zimbabwe and the full moon sits at the top of the sky.
David Loughlin

Above Zambia – Zambezi Gorge


Getting sideways down the Zambezi Gorge via Eurocopter.  Here is the drop into the gorge and the bending, snaking flight down the river.

View this in full screen!

Loving this wild country and the viewing the Mighty Zambezi River from aboard an elephant.

David Loughlin

Sunset on the Mighty Zambezi River over Zimbabwe. Full moon at the top
David Loughlin