Becca Blond

  • Hot, Weird And Wild: Welcome To Southern Madagascar

    By Becca Blond, 8:09 am

    The bustling port of Toliara is the region’s entry point and is worlds apart from the rural countryside. Bedecked in bougainvillea and jacaranda, narrow corridors wind through the city smelling of salty ocean water and fresh baguettes. There’s also a hint of ethnic spiciness and the air feels gritty. The wide boulevards are home to Arab and French architecture, with elaborate domed mosques sitting next to crumbling, whitewashed colonial buildings.

  • Getting Your Kicks On Route N2: Driving South Africa’s Garden Route

    Driving South Africa's Garden Route By Becca Blond, 2:49 pm

    No matter how many times I drive South Africa’s most famous road trip, the Garden Route never gets old. The scenery is some of the country’s most stunning, beginning east of Cape Town at Mossel Bay and finishing up around Storm’s River and Tsitsikamma National Park. The route follows the sea past lagoons and some of the largest indigenous forest tracks in SA. Book a township tour in Knysna, home to the country’s largest Rastafarian community. The government turns a blind eye on marijuana cultivation in accordance with residents’ religious beliefs.

  • 15 Favorite South African Surfing Spots Where You Need Nerves Of Steel

    South African surfing spots By Becca Blond, 5:20 pm

    Dungeons on the Cape Peninsula is a cold and forbidding stretch facing directly into the Roaring Forties and the great Southern Ocean. Known for its monster waves. this is a spot best surfed in the winter storms, when swells reach 15-to-30 feet on the break. The water is cold, so you’ll need a wet suit. And nerves of steel. This is not for amateurs. Waves break a mile offshore next to a seal colony in some of the most shark-infested waters on Earth. You’re not just dealing with some of the world’s most powerful waves. Great white sharks are common in the area.

  • Lost In A Pan: Navigating The Vast Emptiness Of Botswana’s Makgadikgadi Pans

    Botswana's vast emptiness By Becca Blond, 1:36 pm

    The middle of nowhere, Botswana: No one would be crazy enough to build a hotel here. The book says 25 kilometers. We’ve gone 23. Panic sets in. “It’s dead straight in all directions and I don’t see anything that even closely resembles a life form, let alone some desert oasis,” my companion says. “I think we should turn around. You know what the book says about pans.” The book in question is a Lonely Planet guide. We are trying to find a backpacker-style hotel. It said we’d be following a rough cattle track, but this feels more like four-wheeling across the moon.

  • Exploring Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, Home Of The Presidential Herd

    By Becca Blond, 7:00 am

    Walking through the breezy, thatched-roof boma lobby at Ivory Lodge in Hwange National Park, I find myself skidding to a stop. My jaw drops in shock and words rush out of my mouth: “Oh my God do you guys see that? Right over there?” I’m pointing furiously at a spot the length of a football field away, separated from the hotel by a fire pit and a green manicured lawn, where dozens of dusty elephants are frolicking in a muddy water hole. Hwange is home to the presidential herd, 40,000 strong, and one of the largest elephant herds anywhere in Africa.

  • Saving Madagascar’s Baobabs At Parc Botanique Des Mille Baobabs

    baobab trees By Becca Blond, 7:35 am

    When York Pareik started a 64-acre botanical garden in Madagascar in 2002, he planted 5,000 baobab trees. He will never see them grow more than 10 feet high. “Baobabs don’t flower until they are 100 years old,” he tells me as we hike along a dry forest trail past baby baobabs. “They grow so slow. You cut down one … and you’ll have to wait around a thousand years for another to grow to its size.” Parc Botanique des Mille Baobabs is home to chameleons, geckos, hedgehogs and five of Madagascar’s seven baobab species.

  • 5 Reasons To Go Wild In Swaziland Off The Grid

    go wild in Swaziland By Becca Blond, 7:00 am

    From hut-to-hut hiking and white water rafting to safaris in search of rare black rhino, Eastern and Southern Swaziland are great places to go off the grid. In the shadow of the Lebombo Mountains, the Eastern Swaziland lowveld is home to sugar plantations and four of the country’s five wildlife reserves. An easy drive from the Mozambique border, the area can be visited on a day trip from Maputo, 62 miles away. Southern Swaziland, on the border with South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province, is home to mile upon mile of forests and a stunning gorge.

  • Bringing The World To A Traditional Maasai Village: A 21st Century Tale

    traditional Maasai village By Becca Blond, 2:06 pm

    I was traveling around the world when I visited a Maasai Mara village. I had a digital video camera and shot up close as a young man wearing a lions mane described the lion hunt. When he finished he asked what else was on the tape. I pressed rewind and before I knew it villagers crowded around, watching my adventures in Asia and Europe come to life on a tiny screen. When we were leaving, he handed me a wrapped plastic bag. “It’s a gift,” he said. “Because we so enjoyed your visit.” He told me not to open it until we’d driven off.

  • Taboos And Turning The Bones: Understanding Madagascar’s Culture

    understanding Madagascar’s culture By Becca Blond, 7:00 am

    The Malagasy come across as unfailingly polite and reserved. They aren’t likely to inundate you with small talk or ask personal questions. Don’t mistake this as rudeness. “Some things are just not acceptable for discussion in polite company,” my driver Roger told me in French after a couple of Three Horse beers at the hotel. “If you have trouble with your spouse, or you have to borrow money from the bank, these are just not things you would ever speak about in Madagascar. I think it is different in America, the customs, yes?”

  • Epic Adrenaline Rush: Rafting The Zambezi Through Batoka Gorge

    rafting the Zambezi By Becca Blond, 12:43 am

    I’ve rafted the Zambezi River twice — once at high water and once at low, and I didn’t fall out of the raft. But that’s not everyone’s experience. My sister’s raft flipped during her run, and she nearly drowned. To this day she won’t get back in a boat. Rafting the Zambezi is the adrenaline rush of a lifetime. Don’t let my sister’s near-death experience scare you. Yes, this river is intense. If it was in the U.S. it likely wouldn’t be commercially run. No insurance company would cover the risk. But this is Africa, where extreme experiences are a rite of passage.