Elephants in the Masai Mara National Park in Kenya.

The Ultimate African Safari Packing List

Wondering what to pack for African safari? It can be a daunting task if you don’t even know where to start. Don’t dither – we’re here to help you out with our ultimate guide on how to pack for an African safari.

Most of the times it’ll be hot, so think about lightweight and breathable clothing, and excellent sun protection. African landscapes are also dusty, which is why people prefer neutral colors. You know, dust wears better in neutral colors than vibrant tones.

Also, the classic bush colors, like the khaki and military green help you to blend in the environment while on a walking safari, sitting in a game drive vehicle, or other activities outside the car. Then again, temperatures can drop at night, so a good sweater or a jacket is essential to keep you warm.

The most critical rule-of-thumb is: keep it simple and light! Otherwise, you’ll have problems with the micro aircraft to remote destinations where they have strict weight limits for luggage. And if you lack something of importance, you can probably buy it when you’re in Africa. Just do your shopping when you’re in the bigger cities, and you’re going to be well equipped.

Now, everybody knows that the devil is in the details, so let’s get into it!

*This post contains affiliate links. If you use them, there won’t be any additional costs for you, but we may receive a small commission, which helps us keep up this blog. 

Views into the great African plains, near Sarova Salt Lick Game Lodge in Kenya.

Best Safari Clothing

Practicality and comfort should come first when you are packing your safari wear. Fashionable and colorful prints aren’t going to impress anyone, but being neutral will help you get closer to the animals.

Think about these principles when you’re packing for your safari outfit:

• Comfortable clothes for long journeys on safari vehicles
• Lightweight, breathable fabrics and neutral colors
• Long sleeves (for arms and legs) to prevent sunburn and protect the skin from insects
• Something warm for the evenings and early mornings

What exact clothes to pack will vary depending on your destinations and the time of year you are traveling. But what is consistent across most of Africa, is the intensity of the sun. One of the most essential pieces of garment to fight the scorching sun is an excellent safari hat!

If you’re traveling on the rainy season, consider taking a right, lightweight rain gear. The rains during this season are generally of the thunderous kind, pouring down torrentially for an hour or two before the skies will clear again. However, if you’re in the open ground, these moments can leave you thoroughly drenched, if you’re not prepared – and sometimes even if you are. But a great Gore-Tex jacket like this will save you from the worst. 

And when you go on the early morning game drives before the sun rises, it will be a bit chilly – just as it may be in the evenings. Be prepared with a piece of warmer clothing, too, like a warm jacket or a fleece.

A pack of hippos in Masai Mara, Kenya.

Why Neutral Colors Are Recommended for an African Safari Clothing

You may immediately think of the “classic” safari tourist look; someone dressed from head to toe in matching khaki safari outfit, like straight out of a movie. You can do that, too, but just remember that is isn’t a fashion show and whatever you wear, think practicality first.

There are three good reasons for the monotone colors. On game drives, the animals don’t see you, they see the safari vehicle. The 4x4s are usually a dull green or soft khaki, which helps them seem less threatening. So, it doesn’t matter so much what you are wearing, but it’s always better if you can blend in with the car. Also, it isn’t advisable to wear bright, flashy colors even on game drives, especially not blue.

But when you are going on a walking safari or a horse riding safari, it’s a whole another story. Then you will be entering the wild animals’ kingdom, and when you’re on foot or on horseback, they will see you. Bright colors will stand out, and that alerts animals to your presence and can potentially be even dangerous, especially when encountering the larger animals. This is why you should always wear neutral colors on these occasions and blend into the landscape. It’s safer and being discreet is going to help you get closer to the animals.

Most safari landscapes are also very dusty, especially in the long dry season and you can’t avoid getting the dust everywhere, and dust wears better on neutral colors.

A black rhino in the Masai Mara Conservation Area, Mara Triangle, Kenya.

What Do You Wear on the Evenings?

Basically, anything you’d like and anything you have brought in your lightweight luggage. Evenings are enchanting times, as you’ll probably have dinner outside on a deck or a balcony while listening to the sounds of the wildlife and watching the fantastic blanket of stars above.

Even on the most luxurious lodges, there are not any policies on what to wear. You are still on a safari, remember. After the days’ activities and dusty game drive, you will want to have a shower and change clean clothes for the evening, though.

You can wear a bit more relaxed or even a bit fancier clothes if you want to, but don’t overdo it – this is the wilderness, not the Ritz. Pack for comfort and remember that in the evenings the temperatures will drop significantly and it’s the prime time for the mosquitoes, too.

What to Wear at the Beaches in Africa?

Swimsuits are generally okay and acceptable on the beaches, but nudity is not. Also, it’s not usually ok to walk around villages and beachside towns in swimwear, especially in Zanzibar and along the Kenyan coast. However, sarongs are fashionable, and you can pick one up from almost anywhere around the coastal areas. There is a beautiful selection of bright colors and patterns available.

A paradise beach in Zanzibar Island, Tanzania

Best Safari Shoes

Comfortable, closed footwear is the one to take with you. Aim for the most comfortable, yet a lightweight shoe for here, too. Sneakers, runners, gym shoes, etc. are all adequate for game drives, if that is all you are doing.

If you’re also doing a walking safari, then a bit stronger footwear is recommended, and then we’re talking about the bulkier hiking boots. The terrain is unforgiving and harsh, filled with rocks, spikes, roots and everything in between. Also, many tiny insects are buzzing around the ankle level, and you can get bitten if much skin is exposed.

However, if walking is not a primary part of your itinerary, you can entirely get by with lighter, yet sturdy and comfortable boots. But if you’re doing a lot of walking, be prepared with the sturdy, but heavier hiking boots.

We have been on several safaris and what we usually bring is our trusted and brilliant HAIX Black Eagle Athletic mid 10 Desert boots – they have it all: waterproof Gore-Tex, lightweight, the most comfortable ever (on long day’s hikes, too!), heavy-duty made by military standards. These shoes are very hard to beat as superb travel shoes!

 

Best Safari Travel Bags

The best bags to take are backpacks, not those bulky and big, hardshell luggage. Those hardshell travel cases take too much space, and you may not even be allowed to take them to the smaller bush aircraft where space is insufficient.

We have always used our 65L backpacks, and when packed moderately to keep it as lightweight as possible, we have been fine.

As a general backpack for a daypack, the best one I’ve used so far is the 22L Hazard4 Second Front Backpack (as Coyote Brown, though). It has a great, separate hydration/laptop back-pocket (fits even most 17” laptops), unbeatable expansion options with MOLLE webbings all around the pack and its usability is top-notch. The Coyote Brown color is also perfect for the dusty African landscapes because the dust won’t ever show on it!

Made out of the extra tough, 1000D Cordura fabric, it’ll take more beating than you can imagine and still come out just fine. The material is also pretty water resistant, but I always recommend a separate rain cover. Military grade quality will guarantee that this pack will hold on with your every adventure!

Zebras in the Masai Mara National Park in Kenya.

What Gadgets and Electronic Devices to Pack on an African Safari?

Take the necessities you will need. Remember to pack the chargers of your laptop, camera, eReader, tablet and take the adapter, as the electric socket is probably different from the ones in your country.

*A reading tip: If you have your eReader with you, my top recommendation for you to read would be “The Obstacle Is The Way” by Ryan Holiday!

Apparently, the camera is the most important for a lot of us on an African safari. What kind of camera to take, what lenses, etc. depends on how serious a photographer you are.

If you are like me, who takes her photography to professional levels, you will at least pack your camera body/bodies, one prime lens, one zoom lens, and one telephoto lens. Good tripod, spare batteries, several memory cards, and external hard drive are also must-items to accompany your laptop with your favorite photo editing software (like Lightroom and Photoshop).

A good photography backpack that fits you perfectly is also essential and I’ve recently found that my new Shimoda Explore 40 photography backpack is just superb! It’s the best photography backpack I’ve ever owned and I expect to carry it with me for many years to come on every adventure ahead.

In my photography backpack is Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM, EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM, EF 50mm f/1.8 STM, and Canon Speedlite 430EX II. With this set, I can get a vast variety of shots, though if I could change something, I would take more lens reach, preferably up to the 600mm (I’m working on that).

For audio recording, I have the Zoom H2n recorder, and for my DSLR I have a lightweight Rode VMGO video mic. A GoPro is something you won’t necessarily need on an African safari, but I’ve used it, for example, to record some time lapses of the fantastic African starry skies and sunsets/sunrises.

Always a good idea to pack on an African safari is some spare AA and AAA batteries, as these may not be readily available, especially when you are out in the bush.

And the last, but certainly not the least, is a small flashlight or a headlamp! Believe me, you will need it during the pretty regular power cuts that are common in Africa. Some smaller lodges and bush camps also may not have a generator running all night for power so the electricity may not work for certain times of the day. For example, the power may be cut at 10 pm in the evening and then resume at 6 am. With your own, reliable light source you won’t be left in the dark.

We have relied upon the Maglite PRO+ Mini flashlight and the Black Diamond Storm headlamp. Both are absolutely amazing and will give you enough light to do practically anything.

The legendary African sunset in South Luangwa National Park in Zambia.

Toiletries and First Aid Kits to Pack for an African Safari

Every lodge and camp will have at least a basic First Aid kit on hand, but it’s still a good idea to have your own, small supply of the most needed health and hygiene essentials.

Make sure to include at least the following in your own First Aid Kit:

• Antiseptic gel and/or cream
• Antibiotics
• Antihistamines (for bug bites and allergic reactions)
• Painkillers (aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.)
• Band-aids
• Diarrhea medication
• Cold and flu medication (just in case)
• Any prescription medicines you take
• Small scissors
• Antiseptic wipes
• Safety pins
• Coal tablets (if you have them)

Then do not forget mosquito repellant (the most effective ones have at least 30% of DEET), sunscreen (preferable SPF 50+), and malaria pills (if needed).

What you’d like to take as your personal toiletries, is a matter of choice. A travel-sized shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, moisturizers, toothbrush, toothpaste, and some sanitary products (for us ladies) are some of what you will want to take.

Pack For a Purpose

Nowadays many lodges and safari camps support their local community initiatives in and around the National Parks, reserves, and conservation areas. And if you’d want to make a positive difference during your time in Africa, you can check out if you can bring any supplies that will help these local projects. Most of the times they are, for example, medications, clothing, school supplies, etc.

Check out Pack For Purpose for lists of specific projects and requests from lodges and safari companies around Africa, and you can check out the best packing suggestions for the items, too.

If you think that we missed something critical on this ultimate safari packing list, then just tell us in the comments, and we can make some add-ons if needed!

And if you’d want, here you can check out a more item specific post about what gear and gadgets we’ve been packing on our African safaris.

But there you have it, the ultimate African safari packing list!

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Wondering what to pack for a safari? Check out our ultimate African safari packing list and get excited about your adventure! #safari #packinglist #Africa


Sudan, the last male northern white rhino in the world in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya in February 2016.

Farewell, Dear Sudan, the Last Male Northern White Rhino! We Won't Forget You.

Sudan was an icon for the conservation world, and he also had a huge, positive impact on the conservation efforts for many other species than just rhinos. And because he holds a special place in my heart, I felt the need to write something for his memory right away when I read the sad news yesterday. 

When I woke up yesterday morning and opened my social media, I saw a message that I wouldn’t have wanted to see.

I saw an update by the Ol Pejeta Conservancy telling that Sudan, the last male Northern White Rhino in the world, had passed away on the 19th of March, 2018, and I felt a tear escape from the corner of my eye.

Sudan and one of his six caretakers, James, in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya in February 2016.

Why This One Rhino Was So Important?

Sudan was the last male of his species walking on this Earth and with him died a bit more hope of the survival of the northern white rhino. His passing is also a grim reminder of the unsustainable actions of the humankind – about how we are affecting our environment. Human is the cause of the sixth mass extinction which is going on as we speak and the time to stop it is running short.

All is not lost yet, though, even for the northern white rhino. Sudan’s daughter, Najin, and her daughter Fatu are now the only two left alive, and they remain at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

However, the only hope for the preservation of this subspecies now lies in developing in vitro fertilization (IVF) techniques using eggs from the two remaining females, Najin and Fatu, stored northern white rhino semen from males and surrogate southern white rhino females. We genuinely hope that the scientists will succeed in this project and we won’t lose yet another great species to extinction.

Najin and Fatu, the last female northern white rhinos in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

Sudan was also important for my spouse and me personally because we met him in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya in February 2016. On the same visit, we also had the rare privilege to meet the little Ringo the Rhino, who already passed away in July 2016 due to an illness. Saying that they both had a massive impact on us, feels like an understatement.

When we met Sudan and Ringo, we realized how gravely sad it is that so many species are under severe threats because of the irresponsible actions of humans. We also realized how much we wanted to help somehow and contribute to the wildlife conservation.

Conservation has always been close to my heart, and I’m very passionate about it, but after meeting Sudan and Ringo, it felt like I had finally found my true calling. I’m still searching for the ways to best make my contribution to this vital cause, but I’m sure that I will find my way. I always do.

Sudan had a positive influence on hundreds of thousands of people, and I’m sure that anyone who met him will not forget that encounter.

Me with Sudan in February 2016 in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.
Sudan, the last male northern white rhino in the world in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya in February 2016.

Meeting Sudan in February 2016

I’ll always remember how I felt when we stepped into Sudan’s enclosure in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. I remember how I felt huge respect, slight fear, and keen interest all the same time towards this beautiful and magnificent animal which was standing right there, just a few meters from us.

Despite his limitless power and robust presence, he was very calm, and a tranquil atmosphere surrounded him. One of Sudan’s six caretakers, James, was with us and he told us that we could approach him from his right side, which was his better-seeing eye’s side.

I will never forget how it felt to be so near to such a big animal and I was even petting Sudan while he was calmly eating his dinner! It was one of those moments I will remember for the rest of my life and a moment that I still cannot adequately describe with words.

Today, I feel so privileged that I had the chance to meet distinctive Sudan when he was in good health. He indeed was the charming bachelor all the articles about him always told.

I also feel despondent because I know how significant a loss to the world his passing really is. But he was the best global ambassador for wildlife conservation that we could’ve hoped for and certainly he won’t ever be forgotten!

With his legacy of how much he raised the global awareness of the conservation issues, he will continue to positively impact this cause even after his death.

A Tribute to Sudan

May your spirit carry on, like the wind that shakes the trees.

Remembering Sudan the Last Male Northern White Rhino

As sad as his death is, we also must remember that Sudan was already 45 years old, and he had severe age-related complications in his last weeks, so his passing didn’t come as a total surprise to the world. Of course, we all hoped that he would still recover. But even though he lost the battle to the illness, he was a fighter until the end!

And when his health deteriorated quickly in his last 24 hours, his caretakers in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya made the only right decision; to let him go.

No animal should never suffer unnecessarily, and we as humans are responsible for that. We have the responsibility of the animals, wild and domestic, until the end. We owe them that they can leave this world with dignity when their time has come.

People all over the world are mourning of Sudan’s death, but we as humans are responsible for that all he was, and all he represented will be remembered and that his legacy will not be forgotten.

Sudan raised global awareness of the plight of so many species under severe threats and awakened many people to take action towards a better future. That indeed is something to remember!

We certainly won’t forget him, as he held and will always hold an extraordinary place in our hearts, just like little Ringo the rhino does. And we hope that you won’t forget him, either. Thank you for reading this and thank you for sparing a thought for majestic Sudan.

Please, read more about Sudan and his legacy at Ol Pejeta Conservancy. 

And if you’d like to help, on the Ol Pejeta’s website you can donate to support the IVF research that will help to ensure that one day in the future, northern white rhinos will once again roam freely in their natural habitat.

Now, it’s time to say goodbye to one of the greatest rhino ambassadors of all time. You were one of a kind. Thank you for everything. 

Rest in peace, Sudan, our friend. ♥ 

#RememberingSudan

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Sudan was an icon for the conservation world, and he also had a huge, positive impact on the conservation efforts for many species than just the rhinos.


Hittavainen the bear looks into the camera. Kuusamo, Finland.

A Night of Bear Photography in a Hide in Kuusamo, Finland

We had just arrived at Kuusamo, a robust wilderness area in Koillismaa, Finland, and I was extremely excited. Despite this being my home country, I had never visited this part of it before. Kuusamo is famous for the large amounts of brown bears living in the area, and we had come to photograph them from a forest hide.

I had heard lots of stories about this area in my childhood. My grandfather and grandmother used to visit here every year, for as long as I remember. They loved fishing, and Kuusamo with its surroundings is also very famous for its excellent fishing possibilities on the many crystal clear rivers that run wild in almost every corner of this province.

After all those stories, though for other reasons, I was finally here. I’ve always loved the forests, and this area seemed like a perfect example of a classic wilderness with the pines, spruce, and forest ponds. I imagined almost seeing the bears already, observing from behind the trees. As it is said that most of the times, the bears can see you, even though you can’t see them. Despite being such big creatures, they are masters in hiding.

A portrait of a bear called Hittavainen, Kuntilampi, Kuusamo, Finland.

Driving to the Hide Cabin, Close to the Russian Border

We were picked up in the afternoon from our hotel. Our driver was Pekka, the owner of the bear photographing company – a fit man maybe in his late forties or early fifties, who had a cool hat like the Crocodile Dundee and a general presence of an experienced bushman. It was about 20-30 minute’s drive to the location of the hide, and we had a nice chat with Pekka during the journey. He told interesting facts about the bears and about how he had known most of the individuals we were probably going to see tonight for several years. It sounded like the bears were his friends, and I’m sure they were. He respected the bears, and he seemingly had a special bond with them.

The hide was a beautiful wood cabin in front of a small forest pond, only 2 km from the Russian border. There were photographing and sleeping spots for eight people. However, tonight there were going to be only three other people and us. We prepared our gear while Pekka went to pick up the others.

When everyone was ready, Pekka told that he was now going to put tonight’s food servings in place for the bears. Soon we saw from the cabin’s window how Pekka dragged a cow’s carcass with a quad to the other shore of the pond and spread a 10 kg bag of dog food all around the pond. More often the bears are served fish, but tonight was one of those fancier dinners. Everything in place, then it was just waiting for the bears to arrive at the scene.

Hittavainen the bear with her three cubs at Kuntilampi, Kuusamo, Finland

The Bears Came in Large Numbers

It wasn’t even for approximately fifteen to thirty minutes when the first bears arrived at the spot.

It was exhilarating to have the first sighting of a bear when it suddenly appeared from the middle of the pine trees. It raised its big, brown head and sniffed the air. The smell of the food had attracted it to the spot, and it went straight to check out the cow’s carcass.

Soon after this first male, came a bear we all had been waiting for: a beautiful female bear with her three, adorable cubs! Pekka had a name for her; Hittavainen. He had seen many litters by her during the 11 years he had owned the photography hide. Her cubs were carefully waiting in the bushes when she inspected the area, and when they emerged from their hiding to the open area, we just let our shutters sing on a continuous mode.

The evening had barely started, and we had already seen several bears – this was going to be a great night and an awesome photography opportunity!

Bears at Kuntilampi, Kuusamo.

Briefly About the Bear in Finnish Mythology

When the first bear walked out of the forest and went straight to the carcass, I could easily understand why the bear is so respected in our Finnish culture and mythology. The bear had such dignity, glory, and beauty in its presence that it has truly deserved its moniker; “the King of the Forest.”

The bear (Ursus Arctos) is also Finland’s national animal, and it has a significant role in the old mythologies; it is the oldest Finnish god known to be worshipped thousands of years before Christianity ever reached this far north. The bear was also connected to shamanism and sometimes thought to be the spirit of a shaman. I remember my grandmother, too, always saying that the bear is a magical animal. I honestly believe her now. She inculcated a deep respect for the forest into me, and maybe that’s one reason I still feel so unique and calm whenever I am in a forest.

The legends tell that the bear (karhu in Finnish) as a sacred animal, was born in the heavens at the Ursa Major (or Plough or the Big Dipper), the great star constellation in the Northern hemisphere. Finnish people are the tribe of the bear, and according to the old myths, the bear is our ancestor. During the centuries its role has faded, but today the bear is still respected in Finland, in many different forms. For example, just in Helsinki, there are more than fifty bear statues in approximately kilometer’s radius from the Senate Square.

This bear was called Mörkö (which means "Boogeyman" in Finnish). He visited us several times during the night.

Spending the Night at the Bear Hide

The night this far north in Finland during the summer doesn’t get dark at all. Earlier in the summer, the sun doesn’t even set at all. This gives perfect opportunities to wildlife photographers to take incredible pictures of the majestic forest wildlife.

At the cabin, we had comfortable amenities to just sit and watch one of the most spectacular nature shows around here. The cabin also had a tea/coffee pot and gas stove, so we could also make ourselves a cup of tea every time we wanted to.

I kept a sighting diary during the whole night and while writing this, I kept checking up my notes from the night.

Through the whole night, bears just kept coming to eat the meat and the pellets. On the best of times, there were totally of nine bears eating the carcass at the same time! During the night, many same bears kept coming and going around the hide. Pekka had told us the names of many of the bears and when they emerged from the forest we were almost always able to name some of them.

A bear enjoying a night swim at Kuntilampi, Kuusamo, Finland.

Hittavainen with her three cubs visited several times on the carcass, and we had plenty of great photo opportunities. Mörkö (which is a Finnish word for “boogeyman”) was another easily recognizable bear with a broad, blond fur collar around his neck and we saw him, too, many times during the night.

Also, in addition to the bears, all the time there were also several white-tailed eagles sitting on the treetops around the pond. They were observing and patiently waiting for their turn to feed. At one time I counted the white-tailed eagles sitting around, and I got sixteen of them altogether! The white-tailed eagle is a big and beautiful bird whose wingspan can be over 2 meters.

In the middle of the night, one of the bears decided to go for a swim in the pond. The scene was just magical – it was dusk, and just a little bit of fog was floating around the pond and the forest around us. And then there was the bear, swimming back and forth in the small lake, seemingly enjoying itself to the fullest!

I decided to sleep for a few hours when I just couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore, and I’m sure that I did miss some excellent shots while asleep. But then again, I had already got some superb ones, so I allowed myself a little rest.

And when I woke up very early in the morning, around 4 am, I woke up to the sight of yet another, a previously unseen bear eating away at the now almost gone carcass. After making myself a cup of tea, I continued to watch the bear, and I took a few frames, too.

At about 5.30 am Hittavainen came back with her cubs, too, and she bossed around a bit as to make the scene safer for her cubs. Around seven Pekka came to pick us up and drove us back to our hotel.

The experience as a whole was amazing. Even on those brief moments when there were no bears in sight, I enjoyed just sitting in front of the one-way glass window, drinking tea, and listening to the silence of the forest. It was just me and the wilderness around. And I have to say that this was one of my best birthdays ever! Not to forget that we saw well over two dozen bears during the night, it was nothing short of fantastic.

Hittavainen came really close to our hide and I'm sure she smelled our scent.

The Best Time For Bear Photography in Finland

Approximately the best time of the year to photograph the bears in Finland is around June and July. During the midsummer months, the cubs are still small, and the bears will willingly come to the feeding spots.

Later in the autumn the bears can be deeper in the forests eating berries and won’t necessarily come to the feeding spots in such high numbers. However, they do still come, as late as even to the end of September. I would still recommend going either in June or July, for the best possible opportunities. During the winter the bears are hibernating, but if you happen to be visiting in Finland and the Kuusamo area during the winter time, there are still plenty of things to do.

The bears mostly come from the Russia’s side of this wilderness area. Metsähallitus, a government organization of forestry in Finland, collared fifteen bears in 2009 as to study their living habitats and movements. During the research, they discovered that the area of Kuntilampi and Kuntijärvi, where the photography hide of Karhu-Kuusamo is located, was actually the westernmost location where the bears visited. So, this eastern borderland in the north of Finland is no doubt the best area for spotting the wild brown bears around these longitudes.

Seeing the brown bears in the wild was an exciting and an extraordinary experience for me. And I’m already looking forward to maybe returning one day and seeing how things have been for Hittavainen and her offspring.

And if you like wildlife photography, you will love this bear photography opportunity – I encourage you to come and experience it yourself!

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Photographing bears through the night in a hide in the Finnish wilderness in Kuusamo.


Ringo the rhino on the 15th of February, 2015, at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

Ringo the Rhino – in Memoriam (Video)

We had the privilege to meet cute, little Ringo the rhino in February 2016 in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. We will remember him and all the joy he brought to us for the rest of our lives. 

Ringo was an abandoned southern white rhino calf that was saved in 2015. During his short life, he inspired numerous people all over the world with his playful antics and utterly irresistible charm.

It is notoriously difficult to raise wild-born rhinos in captivity, and little Ringo too fell ill in 2016. After two weeks of sickness, Ringo sadly passed away on the 19th of July in 2016, his loyal and devoted caregivers on his side.

I remember when the sad news reached us. We were in Medellín, Colombia, at breakfast in our hotel and I happened to read the news on my phone. Maybe because we had met Ringo in person, and he had made such a powerful impact on us, I felt especially sad, and a tear escaped from the corner of my eye.

But because we certainly weren’t the only ones who had been touched by the joyous spirit of this little southern white rhino, we want to ask everybody to celebrate his life instead of being just sad that he is no longer with us.

We would like people to remember him as he was – a happy and playful, little rhino, who by simply being himself, undoubtedly helped to raise awareness about the plight of all rhinos in Africa.

So, to honor Ringo’s legacy on this World Rhino Day today we wanted to make this special video and remind all of you to help save the rhinos of this earth!

We still have time, but we have to act now. Let every day be a rhino day!

We want to say special thanks to Ol Pejeta Conservancy and Ombeni African Safaris for this extraordinary experience.

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We met adorable Ringo the Rhino in Kenya in 2015. This is for his memory and important legacy for the conservation efforts for all rhinos.


A beautiful view from the Abai Lodge's deck to the Kinabatangan River in Borneo

Cruising on the Kinabatangan River in Malaysian Borneo

Our boat flowed through the trees hanging on top of the river. They grew on the river benches, but they had begun to reach out to the water, and now they made like corridors and portals out of themselves. We glided through them slowly, keeping an eye out for animals. The jungle of the Kinabatangan river was all around us.

There were only four of us and our guide who was steering the small boat. I knew that somewhere above us, we were being observed by the long-tail macaques and proboscis monkeys that call this place a home. They knew how to hide from the eyes of the visitors if they wanted to because we could spot only a few among the thick branches.

But wildlife watching is always like this, you don’t have any sighting guarantees. What you need, is your sharp gaze and a bunch of luck, and you can have the time of your life in the jungle. Though now it seemed that this was going to happen on another day. And it did.

Morning mist at the Kinabatangan River in Borneo.

Meeting the Bornean Pygmy Elephants Down the Kinabatangan River

Our guide came to us with urgent news: the pygmy elephants had been spotted down the river a few hours ago, and we were going to try to go after them, even though they were pretty far away from our lodge, the Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge in the village of Sukau. They could also anytime venture back to the forest from the shores, so there were still no guarantees.

However, our excitement went through the roof, and we couldn’t believe our good luck! Just a bit earlier we had almost given up on the hope of seeing the famous, endangered pygmy elephants here in the Kinabatangan River because they are so rare and sometimes they are not seen in months. We just had time to prepare our camera gear before the departure, and we saw how extraordinary this incident was, as even our guides were extremely excited.

Rare Bornean Pygmy Elephants at the Kinabatangan River in Malaysian Borneo

Soon we were sitting in the boat which rapidly made headway through the water, trying to catch up with the elephants who were about half an hour’s journey away. On the way we didn’t stop for anything because this was our only chance to meet the pygmy elephants, so we had to try our best.

Our guide got information updates to his walkie-talkie and after about 45 minute’s journey our boat curved over a river bend and behind that turn, in the middle of the high vegetation, were several, small elephants feeding on the grass!

A small herd of maybe 10-12 pygmy elephants was calmly eating on the river bank, undisturbed by the boats and humans who were watching them in admiration and awe. There were already about four boats beside us, but luckily we were able to get a pretty good spot to watch and photograph the elephants. I felt like a kid in a toy store when I raised my camera, looked through the viewfinder, and started shooting away.

It was a very rare treat to see these endangered pygmy elephants in the wild. So, from time to time I just sat back and enjoyed the experience.

Photographing these rare and distinctive creatures was not easy – they stayed among the thick vegetation and just suddenly popped out their gray heads, backs, or trunks from the middle of the grass.

One baby elephant was lying in the waterline, still safely in the grass, but every once in a while popped out its head and watched us curiously. I think we were watched just as carefully and interestingly by the elephants as we were watching them.

We were incredibly lucky to have this experience to observe the pygmy elephants here in their natural habitat. It was a rare treat and I knew that this was one of those “once in a lifetime” –moments, that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

Even though I love to photograph things and trying to capture the feeling of the moments I encounter, sometimes I want to put the camera away for awhile and just live the moment – absorb the surroundings into myself and feel the life around me. This was one of those moments. As much as I enjoyed photographing, I enjoyed lowering my camera while standing in the boat, and just peacefully watching the elephants.

A rare Bornean Pygmy Elephant in the bush at the Kinabatangan River in Malaysian Borneo.

The Situation of the Bornean Pygmy Elephants

The Bornean Pygmy elephants also really were as cute as they were said to be; baby-faced and much smaller in size than, for example, their African counterparts that we had met before.

Their tails are so long they sometimes drag on the ground as they walk, relatively large ears, plump bellies, and they are more gentle-natured than other Asian elephants – from which the Bornean Pygmy elephants are also genetically different.

DNA evidence has proved these elephants were isolated about 300,000 years ago from their cousins on the mainland Sumatra and Asia. The sad truth is that there are only about 1500-1600 individuals left in the world and the conservation efforts to keep the population alive are vital to the survival of this extraordinary species.

One of the primary threats to these elephants is the loss of continuous forests, as it is a grave threat to many other species in Borneo, too.

Logging, expanding agriculture, and the palm oil plantations are all reducing contact between the elephant subpopulations, as well as shrinking the forest areas available. I hope that the Bornean Pygmy Elephants’ cause won’t get overshadowed by the more famous species, like the orangutans, but instead be given as much importance and attention. They are a high conservation priority, yet they still remain the least-understood elephants in the world.

Bornean Pygmy Elephant in the bush at the Kinabatangan River in Malaysian Borneo.

Seeing Proboscis Monkeys – The Nose Monkeys, And Other Creatures

We were also able to see several proboscis monkey populations during our boat trips along the Kinabatangan river. They were hanging out in the treetops, but many of them were noticeable without binoculars. The proboscis monkeys are native to Borneo, and they truly were one of the most interesting-looking monkeys I’ve ever seen.

The good thing is, they are relatively easy to spot, so there’s a good chance to see them during a trip to the Kinabatangan river. As we saw several herds of different sizes, I was also able to get fairly good chances to photograph them. But without a relatively long zoom lens, you won’t have that many shots.

On many occasions, we parked our boat under the trees and observed the monkeys sitting on the branches. The alpha males always have the biggest noses. And the bigger the nose, the more respected the male proboscis monkey is and the more popular he is among the females.

A baby proboscis monkey with its mother at the Kinabatangan River in Malaysian Borneo.

Seeing wildlife in Borneo is not the same thing as spotting wildlife, for example, in Africa. Animals are fewer here and maybe even more sparsely scattered, even though they live in much smaller areas. The conditions are also very different. Bare this in mind, while you are in Borneo and you won’t get disappointed.

There still are so much to see, and the Kinabatangan River area is one of the best places for wildlife spotting, so when you are here, you are in for a treat. You will see lots of long-tail macaques and other small monkey species, loads of different birds, and even forest pigs. There are always life around you, even if you don’t see it all the time.

You can take several boat cruises daily and in between them, hang out on your lodge’s terrace, sip a cold drink, and just watch the river run slowly by only a few meters away. And don’t miss the dashing sunsets when the sky discolors in tens of different shades of red and orange while listening how the river carries the sounds of the jungle right to you.

Why Should You Go On a Cruise to the Kinabatangan River?

It is true, that the slice of the forest along the shores of the Kinabatangan River is shrinking as we speak, which is a serious problem to the fauna and flora of the whole region. When we saw the situation by ourselves on the spot, it made us sad, and it also made us to really understand the severity of the situation. But all is still not lost, and by visiting the region, supporting the conservation organizations and their continuous work in protecting the forests and its wildlife, you can cast your voice on behalf of the conservation.

During our visit, we also participated in the Abai Tree Planting Project, the Pelacongan Bondok Abai Rukee. We both made a donation to the cause and planted a tree to the shore of the river. Acts like these are small, but when significant numbers of people do them, they will matter in the long run.

On the Kinabatangan river, there still is an amazing world of its own, filled with unique creatures and wonderful experiences. There still is a tranquility and some pure magic in sitting in a small boat in the middle of the river and trying to spot different animals among the trees and dense vegetation. And if you’re as lucky as we were, you can still even see the endangered pygmy elephants!

And after you’ve experienced all this by yourself, I could almost guarantee that you too will agree that this region with all its flora, fauna, and diversity, is worth conserving for the generations to come.

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Take a boat ride to the Kinabatangan River in Borneo and keep an eye out for the Bornean Pygmy Elephants and Proboscis monkeys.


A Bornean Sun Bear called Loki in the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center in Sabah, Malysia

Making Friends with the Tiniest Bear in the World – the Bornean Sun Bear

A pair of dark eyes and a golden-colored snout with a pink nose tip peeks at me from the middle of the branches and leaves. Its black fur is harder to spot from the lush tree, but when I see the shiny, golden, crescent-shaped fur collar around its neck, I will perceive the tiniest bear in the world – a Bornean Sun Bear – is the one who’s peeking on me.

Every bear individual has a unique fur collar like us humans have our fingerprints, and that’s how their keepers will know who’s who. We are visiting at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, where there are 44 rescued ex-captive or orphaned sun bears living in the center’s area today.

They look incredibly cute and cuddly, especially because they have a tendency to hang their long, pink, and thin tongue out of their mouth most of the time. Sun bears are also known as a “honey bear” because of their particular appetite for honey or a “dog bear” because of their small size.

Sun Bears Are Under Many, Serious Threats

The killing of sun bears is strictly prohibited under all wildlife protection laws in Southeast Asia. However, little enforcement of such legislation occur, and conservation priorities vary by country. The Bornean Sun Bears are listed as “vulnerable” by the IUCN, but they are still under a severe and continuous threat.

Despite the strict sanctions against their capture, sun bears are often illegally held as pets. Many of the sun bears living in the BSBCC (Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center) in Sepilok are confiscated from private persons. Individuals who break the Malaysian law by imprisoning a sun bear can get a fine of up to RMY 50,000 ($15,000) and five years in prison.

More public education against capturing sun bears could do magic to this problem and this is one of the things the BSBCC is trying to achieve, but they have a long road ahead with the limited budgets and most of their funds are coming from donations.

The Bornean Sun Bears are also often victims of poaching; parts of their gallbladders are still highly prized in traditional Chinese medicine. These little and shy bears can also get attacked by other animals, like big cats.

But the worst threat to their survival is the deforestation. The Bornean Sun Bears are vitally dependent on the forest, but much of Sabah’s rainforest has been cleared for palm plantations. And even thought the government took action in 2013 to protect large tracts of land as a last-ditch effort to save at least some of Southeast Asia’s few primary rainforests, the clearing still continues. Also, many conservation groups fear that these protected areas are far from enough.

When driving in Sabah you will see a palm tree row after another, as far as the eye can see, and you can vividly imagine what that has meant for all the different species whose living habitats have disappeared with the deforestation. The fragments of land that has been left untouched by the palm oil industry or the logging for hardwood are way too small to provide a suitable habitat for most of the species – the Bornean Sun Bears being one of them.

The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center – A Sun Bear Haven

The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center (BSBCC) was opened to the public in 2014 after a long-term project of its founder, Dr. Wong Siew Te, a wildlife biologist, a tropical forest ecologist and a sun bear expert. With his tireless desire and effort, he raised funds and built the first bear house from scratch with a budget of just $4000. Fortunately, BSBCC’s partners; Sabah Forestry Department, Sabah Wildlife Department, and Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP) have significantly helped them over the years to achieve what is standing today.

When we were visiting in Sepilok, I was more excited to meet the sun bears than the orangutangs, to tell you the truth. The bear’s faces had some distinctive features, and their presence was somehow sympathetic. I loved watching them foraging on the forest floor, as well as trying to spot them from the canopy.

These guys were not the easiest to get photographs from, though. But I enjoyed the challenge and still managed to get some decent shots from these gorgeous fellas. The center has two viewing platforms from which you can observe the sun bears while they are roaming the forest around.

However, raising funds for this relatively unknown species is not easy. The Bornean Sun Bears are not familiar to the vast masses, and the attention of the big NGOs and their campaigns often go to the more flashy fauna, like the orangutans, elephants, or rhinos. So, every cent counts and no effort is too small to help this teddy bear-like and cute creatures on their way through the center’s rehabilitation and reintroduction programs back to the wild.

Luckily the BSBCC is in Sepilok next to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center. So, when visitors come to see the famous orangutans, they can also visit The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center and get to know these lovely, small bears who hang in the tree branches, roam the grounds in searching for honey combs, and are as curious about you as you are about them.

Critical Work and Research at the BSBCC Center in Sepilok, Borneo

At the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center in Sepilok-Kabili Forest Reserve, the researchers and staff are reintroducing the bears back to their natural habitat, and they have the largest forest enclosures of any sun bear center. All the bears looked to be in excellent condition and above all, they seemed euphoric roaming around in their forest.

The BSBCC’s goal is to eventually release the bears back into the wild after they’ve learned some vital skills they will need to survive, like tree climbing, nest building, self-defense, and foraging.

Unfortunately, some bears are too traumatized to be released back into the wild. But the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center will provide a permanent home for these bears, and they can live happily for the rest of their lives in the center’s care.

Increasing the knowledge of sun bears is also important; they are the least researched bear species in the world. Their low numbers, difficult terrains, and shy nature has made the research much more challenging. So, the bears at the BSBCC also provide much-needed opportunities to researchers to study these little bears.

The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center also does the essential work of educating the people about the animal welfare and conservation, and promoting awareness of sun bears where it’s needed the most – locally. In collaboration with other NGOs they have outreach programs for schools, and also for plantations where they go to talk with the workers.

How You Can Help to Protect the Bornean Sun Bears?

The Bornean Sun Bears have critical roles in the well-being of the forest environment, and they always belong to the wild! You can help the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center’s crucial work in many ways. You can adopt a sun bear on their pages where you can pick your favorite bear to sponsor, or you can make a smaller donation and buy, for example, a pot of honey, a hammock, or medical supplies for the bears. You can also participate in their volunteer programs if you want to make a personal difference and have an experience of a lifetime.

And if you happen to visit Borneo and the Sandakan/Sepilok area, be sure not to miss a visit to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center! Spend a memorable afternoon with these shy, but adorable, little bears and please leave a donation. Nothing is too little an effort, and everything counts. The Bornean Sun Bears deserve more attention, and they sure left a heart-shaped mark in my soul!

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Making Friends with the Tiniest Bear in the World, the Bornean Sun Bear


Charles Bridge at night in Prague, Czech Republic.

The Day We Were on the Worst Ghost Tour Ever in Prague

The dusk had already begun to descend when we were hanging out in the front of a tour company’s office in Prague. Only two other couples were coming on a Ghost Tour with us tonight, so we were waiting for quite a quality tour. The famous Astronomical Clock was just a few meters away, and there was anticipation in the air.

A woman nicknamed “Mandarin” came out of the office, wearing a black robe and carrying a wooden cross decorated with skulls, and introduced herself as our guide for tonight. Prague is quite famous for being a very haunted city with many restless souls and spirits wandering about in its alleys.

It’s said that just in the center area of the Old Town there are approximately over 40 “known” ghosts. And whether you are a believer, a skeptic, interested in the supernatural and unexplained, or just looking for a good, old-fashioned scare, learning about the darker side of Prague is fascinating. Nobody even knows how haunted Prague actually is, but there are plenty of ghosts for sure.

Starting Our Prague Ghost Tour

Darkness had already fallen, and the lights of those iconic, old street lanterns of Prague were casting strange shadows into the streets. We started walking after Mandarin towards our first stop, which turned out to be about 100 meters to the square of the Astronomical Clock. She told us a short story about the Butcher’s Young Apprentice who didn’t even want to be a butcher, but who ended up being the best one of them all.

The tale was interesting, but unfortunately, I missed a lot of it because Mandarin had a pretty quiet, thin voice and she seemed to lack any passion for the storytelling she was performing. Good storytelling is always a big part of a thrilling ghost hunting tour. If there’s not any passion, it affects the atmosphere and makes it dull and uninteresting. I was disappointed, but thought that I’d still give her a chance – maybe it would get better when she’ll “warm up.”

Unfortunately, it didn’t. We were led from one site to another during the hour which the tour lasted, accompanied by the same, mundane storytelling. We visited the sites and were told some of the most famous ghost stories of Prague, like “The Angry Turk from Ungelt and his murdered bride” who killed his bride in jealousy. “The Murdered Nun” who was bricked into the wall of St. Agnes cloister for breaking the convent’s rules, and the tale of the old, Jewish Cemetery, where skeletons rose from the graves to play cards with a man who needed someone to play with but who ended up losing his soul.

I couldn’t help but think about how much more thrilling these stories would’ve been if told properly with passion and dedication. I remembered the ghost tour we once took in Edinburgh where the guide was excellent; she believed in her craft and excited everyone as much as the haunted sites themselves. This tour was just a pale shadow of that experience. We would have wanted to get our fair share of Prague ghost stories, but now we were getting just a handful.

The Legend of the Golem of Prague

The legend of the Golem of Prague is perhaps the most famous ghost story from Prague. It’s also a bit sad story. During the era of Emperor Rudolf II, the majority of Prague’s Jews were continuously being attacked and therefore lived in fear. A Rabbi called Judah Loew was about to change this. He asked for an answer to the problem from the heavens and got it in dreams. Rabbi Loew eventually deciphered his dream answer, and with two assistants, his son-in-law, and his pupil the Rabbi created the Golem to protect all the Jews. According to the Kabbala, he made him out of the clay from the banks of Vltava River and recreated him with a special ritual involving the four elements; fire, water, air, and earth, and reciting Zirufim (special Kabbalistic formulas or spells).

There are several stories of how to wake Golem alive, but in most of them, the Golem needs a piece of written parchment inserted into its mouth or chest. In the parchment Rabbi Loew placed into his Golem’s mouth was written “Shem Hameforash, ” and the Golem came to life.

Rabbi Loew named the Golem “Joseph, ” and it did its duty. Some stories tell that the Golem was so terrifying that eventually, the rulers of the city of Prague promised to bring an end to the persecution and attacking of Jews if only the Rabbi would deactivate his clay creation. However, other stories tell that the Golem eventually went amok, started to spread havoc and it had to be destroyed.

Either way, Rabbi Loew dutifully recalled the Shem Hameforash, and with it, the principle of life by removing the parchment from the Golem’s mouth, and it went back to the lifeless piece of clay from which it had been created. The clay figure was then hidden in the attic of the Old-New Synagogue, and the place was forbidden to enter for eons to come.

When the Old-New Synagogue was explored centuries later, no Golem was found in the attic, but the legend still remains. From our guide, Mandarin, we heard a version that the Golem was broken into pieces and bricked into the outer wall of the Old-New Synagogue. I guess that like in most of the ghost stories, there are as many versions, as there are narrators.

This myth is just unusual in that it’s supposed to have happened in a particular year – 1580. And the Golem “Joseph” was said to be pretty indistinguishable from a human being, it just lacked the ability to speak. Then again, we owe to the pop culture our traditional image of Golem – a bit clumsy lump of clay, only distantly figured as a human. But which one you think is more accurate?

This story was still the most entertaining of all the stories we heard that night.

CHECK OUT A VIDEO FROM OUR GHOST TOUR! Put the sounds on!

Also, check the part at about 1:10-1:12 and tell us what do you think flashes in front of the camera lens?! Maybe it actually was an orb?

The End of Our Prague Ghost Tour

We had originally booked this tour supposing that we’d also go underground during it, as like it had advertised in the flyers. We had another disappointment there. We did go underground, but just for the ending of the tour and quite a tacky ending that was.

We went through an ordinary looking, wooden door and descended a few stone stairs into some kind of cellar. The organizers had decorated it with ghost puppets and skeletons, and it was pitch-black dark. Our guide, Mandarin, showed the way with her flashlight and I had my GoPro with a shooting light attached to it. Like throughout the tour, Mandarin seemed very irritated of my filming and didn’t hide her irritation at all. Unpolite behavior, if you ask me since it was absolutely not forbidden to film the tour in any of their ads, neither mentioned so on their website. She even refused to talk a couple of times during the tour, if she saw that I was filming! That’s also why my video material from this tour is a bit scarce and poor quality. I’m sorry about that.

The apex of this tour was the cellar where we stood in a semi-circle around Mandarin, and she asked us for our preferred way to die. We had five choices to choose from. Everyone was made to pick one, and she drew a tally into the flap board standing beside her while telling us that Death could lurk anywhere and attack anytime. Then her colleague emerged from the shadows behind us wearing a black, hooded cloak, a skeleton mask, and a scythe he knocked to the ground.

This didn’t scare me, but maybe one woman in our little group jumped a bit. A bit funny ending, yes, but not scary. If the general atmosphere of the tour had been better, maybe the end scaring would’ve worked better, too. It’s all about the psychological scare, after all.

Do Your Own Ghost Tour Around Prague With A Map

So, would I recommend this tour for someone wanting to experience some of the darker sides of Prague? No, I wouldn’t. One of the best perks of the trip was the copy of the Prague Ghost Map, where all the 42 ghost spots are marked on a map.

We will be adding a copy of the map here soon, so check back here again!

Save your time and money and embark on your own, private Ghost Tour around the Old Town of Prague. I bet you will get more out of it, can spend as much time as you want on every site, and above all, choose the spots you like to visit.

And pay a visit to the Prague Ghosts and Legends Museum on Mala Strána side of the Vltava River. We didn’t have the time, but maybe next time we will go there, too. It seemed it would’ve been time better spent than this “ghost tour” we were in.

Prague once was the capital of the alchemists, occultists, and other esoteric orders of Europe, especially in the 16th century and a longtime home for the still undeciphered “Voynich Manuscript” and for the “Codex Gigas” (also known as the Devil’s Bible). So, this ancient city still holds some dark secrets, I’m sure.

Are you ready to uncover those secrets and embark on your own Prague ghost tour?

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The Day We Were On the Worst Ghost Tour in Prague. But we may have caught a strange phenomenom on the video. Read our report and see for yourself!


Canoe safari in Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia

Gift Guide For Travelers For Valentine’s Day (Or Any Other Day)

Have you ever wondered what on earth to buy as a gift for the traveler in your life? I bet you have. We decided to put together this little gift guide to help you out on that task. You don’t have to wonder anymore, just pick something out of this list and we guarantee that the receiver of the gift is going to be happy. 

There are hundreds of suggestions for holiday gifts for travelers, but we still wanted to give yet other alternatives to those. These would be some of the best gifts for international travelers, too. Even though, I say so myself.

These items are practical above all, yet they also aim to be as light-weighted, as possible.

Ever wanted to pull out your notebook and write down some important things but the weather won’t allow you to? Never have that problem again when you have a weatherproof notebook to which you can write to even when it rains!

Rite in the Rain has this awesome set which comes with a storage pouch and all-weather writing pen or you can get an alternative notebook with the same quality from here (3 notebooks/set). 

Rite in the Rain waterproof writing notebook

Annoyed by the mosquitos? I bet you are. We are, too. With this mosquito repellent bracelet, you can get rid of them very easily! It’s 100% guaranteed to stop mosquito bites and the only natural mosquito repellent bracelet guaranteed to work. Put this into your wrist the next time you go to a mosquito infected area and be safe! But still, don’t forget to take your malaria medication.

invisaband mosquito repellent bracelet

This watch is a true all-rounder for the outdoor person and adventurer in your life! Suunto Core has an altimeter, barometer, and compass, among a huge number of other functions to help you on your adventures around the world!

I can speak out of experience – I’ve had this watch with me for several years now and it has been a great help in many situations. For example, I can check sunset and sundown times for the best photography opportunities. Just to mention one advantage. I wouldn’t give up this watch for anything!

suunto core all black

The Olloclip 4-in-1 iPhone lens broadens your smartphone photography opportunities by leaps! It has a fisheye lens, wide-angle lens, and macro lenses of 15x and 10x. Only your creativity is the limit when you have this attached to your iPhone. A must-have for the smartphone photography lover!

Olloclip 4-in-1 iPhone lens

One of the most convenient ways to read books on the road is to have them all on your Kindle device. The new Kindel Paperwhite has a 6″ high-resolution display, built-in light, and Wi-Fi. You can choose black or white.

kindle paperwhite

Also, get a cool cover for your Kindle reader, so it will stay safe from the scratches and bumps on the road! This is the thinnest and lightest PU leather cover with auto sleep/wake and it fits all Kindle models.

kindle cover

Can any traveler really manage without an all-around multitool in her/his backpack? The answer is no! We have always trusted to the famous Swiss-made Victorinox Multitools and they’ve never failed. This Explorer model has all the basic things you’ll need or you can get this cheaper-priced alternative, though it will be just as good and useful. 

victorinox explorer

If you don’t want to carry a traditional multi-tool in your pocket, you can alternatively get a credit card-sized one that fits into any wallet, but which has a remarkable amount of functions to help you out. For example, this 11-in-1 multitool comes in five colors and is also a true mini-survival tool.

11-in-1 multitool in five colors

And the last – but in no way, the least – is a classic; a paracord bracelet. There are literally hundreds of applications to use paracord. You can get yourself this true survival gadget to help you on your adventures or you can make your own bracelet, lanyard, belt, hammock, or anything you come up with!

Paracord is one of the most versatile things you can have with you on your travels! And it can even save your life sometime, really.

paracord bracelet with whistleparacord 550

 

We hope that this gift guide gave you some cool, and maybe some unconventional, ideas for the perfect gift for a traveler. However, these gifts would work for virtually anyone. Hopefully, you found yours!

 

*Disclosure: The links on this page are “affiliate links”. This means that if you click on the link and purchase the item we will receive a small commission. There are absolutely no additional costs to you and regardless, we will only recommend products that we personally use and/or believe will add value to our readers!

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Check out some perfect gift ideas for the adventurers and travelers in your life. For the Valentine's – or any other day of the year!


Two girls walking in the street in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Touring Around Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo - in Pictures

Goma is a buzzing border town in the eastern part of Africa’s biggest state; the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On the other side of the frontier is Gisenyi in Rwanda. This border isn’t easy to cross, but when you can do it, don’t skip the chance to get to know the town of Goma on your way to Virunga or Nyiragongo.

Goma is the capital of the province of Northern Kivu, on the Northern shores of the Lake Kivu. Further east in this province there has been (and still is, just in a minor scale) ongoing conflicts between guerilla groups and government troops. So, unfortunately, that area is still mostly a no-go for travelers. But it’s still perfectly safe to visit Goma.

A woman walking in the street in Goma, DRC, in front of a wall made out of the volcanic rock, left from the last eruption of Nyiragongo.

Goma is only about 20 kilometers away from the most active volcano in the world – Nyiragongo. During the last big eruption of Nyiragongo in 2002, the lava flow reached all the way to Goma. A fissure 13 km long opened in the southern flank of the volcano and reached the outskirts of Goma in a few hours.

Lava streamed from three spatter cones at the end of the fissure and flowed in a stream of 200 to 1000 meters wide and 2 meters deep through Goma. During the eruption, 400 000 people were evacuated from the city across the Rwandan border to Gisenyi. The lava also covered the northern end of the runway of Goma’s International Airport and reached all the way to Lake Kivu.

You can still see the remnants of the lava, big piles of volcanic rock, everywhere around Goma.

But not all of it is a useless waste; people have even used it to build fences.

Everywhere around Goma there are still piles of the volcanic rock, left from the last eruption of Nyiragongo in 2002.
In Goma, many fences are built out of the volcanic rock, too.

In the center of a traffic circle, just across the border with Rwanda, stands an enormous, golden-colored statue of a man with a chukudu.
It was quite a communistic-like statue, a pretty odd feature to see in the middle of Africa.

A communist-styled statue stands in a roundabout in the middle of the center of Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Two girls walking in the street in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Most of the time we were actually touring around in a car, accompanied by our guide, Tresor, and a driver. Tresor was telling us comprehensive details about Goma while we tried to take some decent photographs of the open window.

The reception wasn’t always friendly. Sometimes we saw unsatisfied expressions when people noticed my camera. And on the occasions when we were on the streets, I saw that Tresor was looking around efficiently all the time. I almost said to him that I could take care of myself just fine, but decided not to, and instead, I concentrated on shooting some good frames.

But it wasn’t all gloomy, sometimes we also confronted some warm smiles.

A couple walking in the street in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The boy in the picture below is riding a chukudu. The chukudu is a two-wheeled vehicle, handmade out of wood and used for transporting various freight in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Chuduku is a native transporter of the eastern Congo.

The chukudu usually has a bulky frame, two small wheels (often of wood, sometimes wrapped with rubber), handlebars, and a pad for the rider to place their knee on while propelling the vehicle with their leg. On a downhill, the rider stands on the deck like a kick scooter. On the flat ground, the rider can put one knee on the deck and push the ground by the other foot.

In 2008, chukudus were selling for as much as US$100 with a cost of materials of nearly US$60. Also, in 2014 they cost $50 to $100 and were used to earn up to $10 per day, in an area where most people live on less than $2 per day. So, they aren’t cheap, but they make lives much easier for the poor people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

A boy riding on a chukudu, a traditional two-wheeled vehicle.
A typical traffic scene in Goma, DRC.

While chukudus rule on the lava-torn, bumpy, and muddy roads of the outskirts areas, scooters swirl on the paved roads of Goma. Motorcycle taxis seemed to be the top mean of transport for the local people, and there was a guy on a scooter with an extra helmet on their hand on almost every corner.

The office of the Doctors Without Borders organization behind the barbed-wire fence in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Outside of the center, there are countless houses behind tall, barbed-wire fences. Most of them are headquarters of different NGOs. We drove by the HQ of the “Doctors Without Borders.”, among others.

However, all of the buildings weren’t of NGOs. On the outskirts, there were also many military outposts. Some of them were of the UN, and some were of the Congolese Army.

The presence of soldiers was imminent in Goma. I remember when we stopped by in a local shop to buy some more water and all of a sudden, three UN soldiers popped in – in full combat gear. I didn’t know which one to feel; secure or unsafe. At least it felt strange.

A moto-taxi is a popular way to get around in Goma, DRC.
A moto-taxi driver waits for clients on the outskirts of Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

We also drove by the harbor area, which is usually one of the shadiest areas in any city, in any town, anywhere in the world. In Goma, it was pretty quiet, but the general atmosphere in the area right beside the harbor seemed like a place I wouldn’t necessarily want to wander in alone.

After our city tour, we went to grab some cold beers. Tresor and Dan, our local tour manager, took us to a local bar made in a small shack-like house – a place we never would’ve found by ourselves. We had a good time, and in the end, visits like these are some of the most interesting ones to have.

You can stop for a day or two in Goma on your way to climb the volcano Nyiragongo or to see the mountain gorillas of the DRC. But if you ever have a chance to go to Goma; go! It will be an experience to remember.

At the small harbor area of Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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Join us in touring around the border town of Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


An arched hall in Buda Labyrinth, Castle Hill, Budapest.

Exploring the Sinister Legends of the Buda Castle Labyrinth

The narrow stairway is going steeply down into the insides of an old house in the Castle Hill in Budapest. The thick smell of mold in the air presses against my face when I carefully ascend the wooden, creaking stairs.

These walls around me are so old that they would have a hundred stories to tell about what has happened inside the stone halls during the centuries. It has served as a shelter and hospital during the World War II, and during the Turkish era it was used mainly for military purposes, but some part of it also as a harem.

Today my friend and I are going under the ground of the Castle Hill to this labyrinth with colorful, yet a dark history, which in the 15th century held its most famous prisoner; Vlad Tepes, better known as “Vlad the Impaler” – the paragon of Count Dracula.

The labyrinth is a part of a complex series of caves and cellars beneath the Castle Hill and is about six miles long in total. The part which we can visit today is only a one mile long, though it felt like much longer. The entrance to the “Labirintus” was a bit hard to find, and it eventually was a little doorway behind one corner on the Castle Hill.

Inside the Labyrinth of Dracula

When I managed to mentally get past the play created by the human-sized puppet scenes built around the place, the general atmosphere was quite intense. The corridors were narrow, the sound of the water dripping from the ceilings was everywhere, and the mental pressure created by the sheer nature of the labyrinth cast an intrigued feeling.

I would have left the puppet scenes out. The labyrinth was very sparsely illuminated, and the signs showing the right way were few. The labyrinth has a ghostly atmosphere and the thought “what if I get lost?” did occur to me a few times. For children, this place may be a bit scary, but in a good way. However, I would’ve just loved this place as a kid.

The air was thin and pressing, and the little lights cast dubious shadows around the corners. I caught myself looking in the dark corners a bit more carefully, as I tried to tune myself to see beyond the shadows in my ghost hunting quest. But I had no luck, unfortunately.

There were also short stretches of corridors totally dark, so I grabbed my cell phone to cast some light on my path. However, if you don’t have any light, take walking in the total darkness as an adventure, but step carefully.

Spooky installations in the depths of the labyrinth of Dracula.
Spooky installations in the depths of the labyrinth of Dracula.

The Dark Legends of the Labyrinth of Dracula

There are several legends about this labyrinth. But maybe the most interesting one is the one including Vlad Tepes. He was betrayed by the Hungarian King Matthias, who was supposed to be Vlad’s ally in his task to protect the Christian Europe from the Ottomans. But King Matthias was conspiring with the Turks and abducted and imprisoned Vlad Tepes in the depths of the Castle Hill. It’s uncertain how many years Vlad Tepes was captured in here, varying from a few years to more than ten. Also uncertain is, whether Vlad was tortured here or not, but after his release, he eventually became the impaling and torturing monster of which history reckons him.

Another legend tells that Vlad Tepes died here and that his body is buried in the Buda Labyrinth, but his head elsewhere. So, who knows, maybe under the stone placard where the carving says: “Dracula,” actually rests Vlad the Impaler, guarded by the little Gargoyle.

There are at least five different legends about Vlad the Impaler’s death. However, the actual location of his grave is still unknown. The site said to be his final resting place on an island monastery of Snagov, just outside of Bucharest, houses no human body, only bones of horses.

In the 19th century a ghost named as the “Black Count” reportedly haunted the labyrinth, so maybe there is the connection to Vlad Tepes? Then again, the “Black Count” can also be the spirit of an impoverished count from the 1800s who lived in Budapest and was an ally of bandits, allowing them to hide in the labyrinth for money.

Dive into the depths of Buda Labyrinth with us, if you dare! 

The Restricted, Mysterious Sections of the Buda Labyrinth

There are also sections in the labyrinth that are restricted nowadays. Like a “world shrine” in one cave and a vine-covered fountain, that flows with wine in another. Why the wine flows endlessly in this “Wine Fountain of Mátyás” and why it even exists is a mystery. And even deeper in the labyrinth there are also stone humanoid statues, the most famous one of them is known as the “Shaman of Two Faces.” Are these artifacts extremely strange, or what?

Unfortunately, the sections which hold i.e. the fountain and the humanoid statues are closed to the public. Why? We don’t know. What we do know is, that there was a sudden closure of the labyrinth in the late summer in 2011 when the police reportedly stormed the caves and evacuated the labyrinth without any explanations, why.

Had they found something harrowing in its depths? And if so, what exactly had they found? If some people know, they haven’t told a thing. Also, the whole staff of the labyrinth was replaced after this sudden closure. Very mysterious, I’d say. Since then the caves have been open to the public again but as a very restricted version.

An Entertaining Visit Beyond the Surface of Budapest

Although Vlad Tepes was a prisoner here only for a short time, his legacy has been capitalized in full. But I still felt tingling to see his actual cell in the depths of the labyrinth. And then, on the other hand, the “Coffin of Dracula” or the “grave of Dracula” were a bit too much for me. But I liked the little, white Gargoyle statue guarding his “grave” – it looked just ghoulish enough for the greatest Vampire Count of all time.

The labyrinth is an entertaining way to spend a few hours beneath the ground of Budapest and a little lesson in history on the side. Also, now and then, I couldn’t help of thinking is the labyrinth haunted? With so many centuries behind it, I’d be surprised if it wasn’t. I didn’t see anything, but I did walk through a couple of suddenly cold spots during my wandering in the labyrinth. But then they were gone as quickly as they had emerged. Strange, isn’t it?!

However entertaining this visit was to the Buda Labyrinth, I still have to admit that when we ascended the creaky stairs back to the ground level, and into the daylight, I was thrilled to breathe clean air again. And all the mold, dampness, and ghosts down below stayed behind.

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Under the Castle Hill in Budapest lies a labyrinth, over six miles long. These caves have a colorful history, including Vlad Tepes, the paragon of Dracula.


The entrance of the Capuchin Crypt in Rome, Italy.

6 Highly Unusual Things to Discover in Rome and Florence

When you’re visiting the iconic cities of Rome and Florence, you can explore some extraordinary places. Don’t settle for the obvious — go for the more hidden and lesser-known sites.

The Stranger Sightings of Rome

If you’re starting your tour from Rome and want to go underground to the catacombs, don’t miss the Catacomb of Priscilla, located under Via Salaria. This site is not as crowded as the more popular catacombs, but you can see perhaps the world’s oldest known image of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Staying underground, you can carry on to the Capuchin Crypt in the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini on the Via Veneto. The bones of 3,700 monks remain buried here in interesting compositions in four different chambers.

Continue to Largo di Torre Argentina, a temple complex that also has part of the Theatre of Pompey. Julius Cesar died on the temple’s stairs during his stabbing in 44 B.C. Today, this place is also inhabited by over 250 cats, giving it its nickname the “Cat Sanctuary of Rome.”

Peculiar Stops in Florence

First, head to see the eerily realistic anatomical wax collection of La Specola, part of the Museum of Natural History in Florence. The museum is one of the oldest museums in Europe. Opening in 1775, it was one of the earliest science museums open to the public.

La Specola houses not only the taxidermy form of a hippopotamus that the Medici Family supposedly kept in their garden, but also extraordinarily realistic wax models of humans and their intestines. Some of these gutted wax women depicted in “semi-erotic” poses were the favorites of the Marquis de Sade.

In the Palazzo Vecchio on Piazza della Signoria hangs two huge, detailed globes designed by Giorgio Vasari for the Medici Family. One is for the earth and another is for the heavens.

You’ll also find the famous Medici Hall of Maps in Palazzo Vecchio. Fifty-four maps made in the 16th century, inspired mostly by the Ptolemy’s “Geographica,” decorate the walls. Vasari also built the Vasari Corridor, a secret walkway for the Medici Family to travel between their two offices in Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti. This secret passageway is accessible only by appointment, so make advance reservations.

Finallly, pay a visit to the History of Science Museum on Piazza dei Giudici. At the museum, a glass egg holds the middle finger of one of the most remarkable pioneers of science, Galileo Galilei. Ninety-five years after Galileo’s death, this finger was removed from his body. After traveling around for a few hundred years, it came to its eventual home at the Florence History of Science Museum. The finger is a strange piece to see in a museum. Even though the church labeled Galileo as a heretic in 1633, his finger has been treated like a saintly relic through the centuries. I think some great irony exists here.

These destinations offer brief examples of the many lesser-known sites you could visit in Rome and Florence. If you dig a little deeper, both of these otherwise well-known cities can offer you much more than the most famous sites that everybody else visits.

Getting between the two cities are relatively easy and can take between 1:30 to 3 hours by train. Check GoEuro.com’s train timetable page here which has all the information you need for travel between the two cities. As Florence and Rome are popular tourist destinations throughout the year, it is best to book accommodation early as possible. For example, Booking.com has a great selection to choose from.

A chapel inside of the Catacomb of Priscilla.
A chapel inside of the Catacomb of Priscilla.


Horseback riding, in San Agustin, Colombia

Chasing the 5000-Year-Old Statues on Horseback in San Agustín, Colombia

Ancient statues and tombs, built approximately somewhere between the 6th and 14th centuries, spot the hillsides around San Agustín in Colombia. The best way to explore these mysterious carvings is by horseback.

I was adapting to the movement of my horse, galloping through the muddy roads to see some ancient statues spread on the hillsides of San Agustín, a little town in the department of Huila, Colombia.

The wind had a crisp blow even though it was a sunny day. I smelled the familiar scent of the horses, heard the creaking of the leather saddle below me, and I felt pure happiness. It was just me, my spouse, and our guide, a local man around his sixties with wrinkles around his face and a soft voice, on our brisk horses traveling from one archeological site to another.

For me, this was the perfect way to spend a day. We encountered other travelers only a few times, on foot and on horseback, but mostly we got to keep all the sights to ourselves.

The worst of the crowds have still not found this beautiful place, even though this vast area around San Agustín is said to be one of the most important archeological sights of whole South America.