Tag Archives: Mother Continent

MOVERS: Latoya Brown

One of an occasional series

Latoya's Namibia Tour

First, she moved herself from the US to Ghana as an expat and a solo Black woman. Now, she’s making moves on the African travel industry, organizing safaris for women of color.

When Ghana became the first Black African nation to win its independence from colonial Europe in 1957, it also became the first nation on the Mother Continent to formally extend a standing invitation to Black Americans to return to the land of their ancestors.

Latoya Brown
Latoya Brown. Photo courtesy & property of L. Brown.

Four years ago, Latoya Brown accepted that invitation, leaving behind the United States for a new life in Africa. That’s when IBIT readers first met her.

A few years later, she sent for her 11-year-old son to join her in the Ghanaian capital of Accra.

For all its goodwill and good intentions, taking up Ghana on its trans-Atlantic invitation to reset your life in Africa is not easy for Black Americans. Dealing with the country’s bureaucracy is enough to deter all but the most determined.

Which pretty which describes Latoya Brown. Which explains why she and her son today have a Ghanaian home address.

Now, she’s launching a venture through which she hopes to share the wonders of southwestern Africa with eight to 10 women of color — and perhaps, leave them feeling as empowered as she is.

It’s a 10-day trip to explore Namibia, near the tip of the continent on the southwest Africa coast, on the board with South Africa.

She’s calling it Soul Adventurer Safaris.

She organized this journey, she says, “to bring together ladies interested in an African safari — to see something more magnificent than ourselves. Small and quaint and still fun for us all to learn about each other, enjoy nature, and get some reawakening or refreshing in 2016.”

If that sounds good to you, give Latoya a shout on her Facebook page — and start preparing yourself for the journey of a lifetime.

The safari hits the main highlights of northern and central-western Namibia first, then heads south to the Namib Desert.

This is assisted comfortable camping, with participation limited to only helping with the tents.

See the highest sand dunes in the world, wildlife, cultural visits, the art of the San peoples and a trip to the seaside! You’ll get up close with the Big Cats at Okonjima and photograph amazing wildlife in Etosha National Park. Learn the tribal structures, religions and daily life of the Himba. Walk Namibia’s highest mountain, the Brandberg, to view the ‘White Lady.’ Drive through the beautiful desert landscape of Damaraland. Enjoy Namibia’s premier seaside town, Swakopmund on the Skeleton Coast. A visit to the Namib Desert sand dunes at Sossusvlei.

Your flight and visa costs are separate and you will be responsible for securing this part. I have found flights for as little as $900 up to $1300 round-trip from the U.S. You may also use your traveler’s points if you have any. Hosea Kutako airport in Windhoek. Airport code is WDH. Contact Trips by Greg for flight information and booking.

Arriving at least the day before, and then staying in Windhoek, is ideal to rest after such a long flight. On the 1st, all will be picked up from the airport – that specific information (time) will be given to participants closer to the date. You may find a hotel on your own to stay in during that time. I have found 1 hotel at about $30 for the night.

FOR THOSE CAMPING — Total: $1500.

FOR THOSE IN HOTELS —Total: $2,000

Payments can be made in installments. Contact Latoya Brown as soon as possible for pricing and payment schedule, or any other questions you might have.

NOTE: VERY IMPORTANT that you place in the description for the PayPal payments that you are with ForBlackWomen Group. Payment email is Namediting@gmail.com. You will receive a formal receipt by email.

Greg Gross is the Publisher/Sr. Editor of “I’m Black and I Travel!,” and the owner of the Trips by Greg travel agency, specializing in cultural and heritage travel worldwide.



To really get into Black history, you’ll need to go beyond the month of February, and travel beyond American borders, because Black history is global.

We’ve just left Black History Month, so this is as good a time as any to make this point.

Were we to insist on historical accuracy, we’d refer to February as “Black American History Month,” since in this country, those who celebrate it — and even those who are repulsed by it — associate it strictly with the history of African-Americans in the United States.

So why am I waiting to bring this up outside of February? Because an awful lot of “our” history took place — and is still being made — well outside American borders.

Where, then, do we begin in the search for that history? That depends on how we choose to approach the subject.

If we go chronologically, we need to begin where all human history begins, in Africa. The first peoples, the first kingdoms, the original “first nations.”

The footprints they left in history remain embedded the length of the Mother Continent. Some of those names — and their peoples — survive into the present. Some of them as cities, some of them as regions, and some as nations:


  • Ashanti
  • Benin
  • Ghana
  • Kanem-Bornu
  • Mali
  • Mossi
  • Songhay
  • Yoruba


  • Congo
  • Buganda
  • Luba
  • Lunda
  • Rwanda


  • Axum
  • Kush
  • Ethiopia


  • Kilwa
  • Lozi
  • Malawi
  • Merina
  • Monomotapa
  • Zulu

From Africa, the history of Black peoples spreads across time, and across the world. We can find its threads on every continent, if we look.

But instead of following Black history through the march of ages, perhaps we could go by geography instead. That would allow us Americans to begin a lot closer to home.

We could start in the Caribbean, where European slavery brought African captives more than a century before the first chained Africans arrived in what is now the United States.

We could focus especially on Haiti, site of the only slave rebellion to throw off its chains and defeat a European army (Napoleon’s, no less).

We could check out Panama, where an abused and underpaid labor force — mainly from Barbados and overwhelmingly Black — did most of the actual work to build the Panama Canal.

From there, we could head south to countries like Brazil, Guyana and Suriname, where the descendants of slaves have held on to traces of their African heritage, often in defiance of the formal European colonists.

If we feel like stretching our historical legs, we could cross the Atlantic to Europe, where we’ll find a whole pantheon of Black history that was never taught to us in American schools. We’ll also learn that Civil Rights movements were never limited to the American South.

By the way, the British have their own Black History Month. Theirs is in October.

And we can go farther than that, into Asia and the Pacific, to the islands of Melanesia. Put it this way: the resemblance between the words “Melanesia” and “melanin” is not coincidental.

At a recent travel trade show, a guy at the Indonesia booth was telling me about the Black peoples living on Irian Jaya, which is split between Indonesia and New Guinea.

There’s plenty of Black history in the US that has been glossed over, neglected, ignored, sometimes even denied. It’s why a concerted effort to preserve and teach it first came into being in this country back in the 1920s.

But if we really want go deep into “our” history, we’ll need three things — patience, persistence…and a passport.

Greg Gross is the Publisher/Sr. Editor of “I’m Black and I Travel!,” and the owner of the Trips by Greg travel agency.


AFRICA: The hotels are coming

Western tourists may be staying from Africa because of ebola, but the world’s hoteliers are rushing in. That bodes well for the future of African travel.

The Africa Hotel Investment Forum is an annual two-day meetup of African governments, business leaders and hotel operators. This year’s event was held last week in Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa.

This isn’t one of those conventions held mainly to give business people an excuse to party. Deals get done here. And the deals coming out of this year’s forum were major.

Nine hotel corporations signed to build 41 new hotels across Africa over the next six years, nearly a dozen in the next three years.

We’re talking Wyndham, Inter-Continental, Accor, Marriott. Also in the mix, Best Western, Starwood (the folks who own the Sheraton brand), W Hotels, Carlson Rezidor (the folks behind the Radisson Blu hotels) and Hilton Worldwide.

All of them household names among the world’s travelers. All of them heavy hitters in the hospitality industry. And all of them looking to step up their game on the Mother Continent.

Meanwhile, you now have multiple African nations all but climbing over one another in hopes of hosting this forum next year.

This is part of an ongoing hotel building boom across Africa. There were more than 200 hotel projects — to create some 40,000 new rooms — in the works even before last week’s deals became public.

If I sound excited, it’s because I am. While there’s no guarantee that all of these places will actually get built, enough of them will to perhaps change the face of African travel and tourism.

Clearly, the world’s hoteliers are looking past the current ebola outbreak and are making plans for the long-term. That in itself is a good thing.

Most of these new hotels are being built with business travelers in mind, as well as MICE tourism.

(MICE has nothing to do with rodents. It stands for Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Events.)

Business types aren’t the only ones who need nice places to stay. So do diplomats. The African Union has its headquarters (seen above) in Addis Ababa, where this year’s forum was held. And several of those hotel deals were for new hotels in Addis.

So what does any of this hotel boom have to do with you, the potential Africa visitor who’s not looking to swing business or political deals?

Potentially, a lot.

Currently, the top form of African vacation travel by far is safari travel. Has been for decades. The best safari operators have it down to a science, an art form, and it annually draws travelers from around the world.

But not everyone interested in Africa is necessarily interested in safaris. And those who aren’t often forgo Africa for other destinations.

The other reasons to visit the Mother Continent are almost too many to list — history and heritage, music, art, food, fashion, film, education, adventure, culture, religion.

But the travelers looking for those things need places to stay, preferably in the cities where they’re most likely to find what they’re looking for.

For this kind of traveler, even the most luxuriously appointed safari camp out in the bush probably won’t work.

Having more and better hotels means that African countries will be able to offer travelers more lodging in their urban centers. Keeping those rooms filled — and adding more of them — will give those nations incentive to do something they have long needed to do — diversify their attractions for the leisure traveler.

African travel and tourism will never reach their full potential until they can offer the traveler a broader range of options and attractions. Building new and better hotels could be an important first step toward achieving that.


AFRICA: Go North, East or South

Does the ebola virus outbreak make you nervous about visiting West Africa? That still leaves you with a whole continent to explore and treasure.

A longstanding, widespread ignorance about Africa in the United States predisposes a lot of would-be visitors to a hysterical view of events on the Mother Continent. And when it comes to Africa, mainstream media always stand ready to deliver hysteria in abundance.

The latest example is the current outbreak of the ebola virus that now affects a total of six African nations.

Five are in West AfricaLiberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and most recently, Senegal. The sixth is the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa.

As a virus that creates deadly infections and has no cure, ebola certainly is no joke, but a little perspective may be in order here.

As of this writing, ebola has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa since the outbreak was first recognized as such in February of this year.

Across the African continent, malaria will have killed more people than that by the end of the day, maybe even before you finish reading this. It’s been that way for centuries.

Yet malaria somehow has never stopped people from traveling to Africa for business, education or leisure.

A little more perspective. The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 killed 50 million people worldwide, some say as many as 100 million, more than were killed in World War 1. Did the world stay home after that? I think not.

Ebola is scary. Terrifying, in fact. So if you’d rather wait until West Africa gets the current outbreak in hand before returning the region to your list of must-see destinations, that’s perfectly understandable. And at this point, it’s highly unlikely that the DRC was on your must-visit list, anyway.

Africa flags

Meanwhile, allow me to point out something that mainstream media will not tell you: Africa is a continent of 54 nations, 48 of which are utterly unaffected by ebola.

At least nine of those nations are in West Africa, but you’ve written off that entire region for the time being, right? So what does that leave us?

It leaves us the northern, eastern, central and southern regions of the world’s second largest continent to see, explore and treasure.

In North Africa, it leaves Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt. Yes, Egypt. You remember Egypt, right? Cairo. The pharaohs, the pyramids, ancient history and culture that predate the birth of Christ.

There are no State Department travel alerts or the more dire travel warnings in effect on Egypt. None. Not on Morocco or Tunisia, either.

Most travelers associate the Nile, ones of the world’s great rivers, with Egypt…and only Egypt. In fact, the Nile is not just a river, but a river system shared by 11 African countries — Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the DRC, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Sudan and Egypt.

To see where that system begins, and what it means to life in nearly a quarter of the African continent, you’ll have to go south of Egypt and into East Africa.

The first thing you’ll find out is that the Nile has more than one source. The Blue Nile originates from Lake Tana in Ethiopia. The White Nile has as its mother the far larger Lake Victoria, whose shore is shared by three East African nations — Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.

This also is where you find out that Lake Victoria is one of the Great Lakes.

That’s right: North America is not the only continent in the world with a Great Lakes region. The North American version has five lakes in all. Africa’s boasts 15.

Cross-border incursions from Somalia by the jihadi terrorists of al Shabab might make some folks a bit nervous about visiting Kenya these days, but Tanzania and Uganda have no such issues.

And no ebola, either.

So what do they have? Start with great natural beauty. Tanzania has 13 national parks, Uganda 10. Thirty percent of Uganda is covered by water, not bad for a country that is 100 percent land-locked.

Tanzania has Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa and one of the world’s Seven Summits. In the entire world, there are 700 mountain gorillas; 400 of them live and can be seen in Uganda.

Another good place to see the beauty of nature and the majesty of the mountain gorillas is Rwanda. Indeed, TripAdvisor can show you a list of 62 different things that make Rwanda worth a visit.

Kenya has worked hard to give the world the impression that all the Maasai people live within their borders, to the point where they’ve practically become a living symbol of the country, a very tall national brand.

But if you’re skittish about visiting Kenya these days, you can still get to know the Maasai in northern Tanzania, one of the 125 different ethnic groups that live in the country.

Uganda, a country no bigger than Oregon, has 56.

(NOTE: You’ll be hearing more — a lot more — about Uganda on IBIT in the coming days and weeks.)

Keep going south and there’s South Africa. Its wildlife. Its cities. Its wine country. Its coastline. Its history. A whole nation still sorting itself out, post-apartheid, post-Nelson Mandela.

But as you look south, you’ll soon realize there’s a lot more to southern Africa and just South Africa.

Angola. Zambia. Malawi. Mozambique. Botswana. Zimbabwe. Namibia. Each with its own charms, its own attractions, its own layered, complex past.

Off the eastern coast of southern Africa, a short cruise or even shorter flight from the mainland, you have the islands — the Comoros, Reunion, Madagascar, Mauritius, the Seychelles.

Speaking of islands, there’s a lovely set of them off West Africa, untouched by ebola — the Cape Verde Islands. They even have their own airline that connect to the United States via Boston.

So as you can see from all the above, if you want to visit Africa without exposing yourself to major hazards, be they natural or man-made, it really isn’t all that hard when you’ve got most of a continent to work with.

All you have to do is turn off the hysteria of the mainstream media and do some research of your own.

Then find yourself a good, knowledgeable travel agent and start making plans for journey of a lifetime.

Some links to help jump-start your research. Let me emphasize that this is just to get you started. If you encounter a problem with any of these links, leave a comment or send me an email:

North Africa
Morocco (in French)

East Africa

Southern Africa
South Africa

African islands
Cape Verde
Comoros (in French)

In addition to guidebooks and Web sites, make a point of seeking out expats from the African countries you wish to visit. Let them know of your interest and ask questions.


LAX to Africa?

Boeing 787 Dreamliner of Ethiopian Airlines
Imagine courtesy of Boeing

Ethiopian Airlines could become the first African air carrier to connect the Mother Continent to the US West Coast.

This time next year, you may be able to fly to Africa from the West Coast of the United States — on an African airline.

Ethiopian Airlines has announced plans to begin flying out of Los Angeles (LAX) to the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa (ADD).

The LAX-ADD flight would make a European stopover in Dublin, Ireland (DUB).

This is not just huge. It’s historic.

Currently, the FAA allows only six African airlines to fly to and from the United States. Ethiopian will be the first to touch down anywhere west of the Mississippi.

The airline already flies to ADD out of Washington Dulles (IAD).

It’s but one in a series of ambitious moves signaling the intent of Ethiopian to be recognized as a major player in the air travel industry.

(NOTE: Skytrax, the British airline rating Web site, gives the airline three stars out of a possible five, putting it on a level at least equal to that of most US-based airlines. The highest rated African airline flying to the US is South African Airways, with four stars.)

Ethiopian already is Africa’s largest airline.

For the last several years, it’s been expanding its route map to Europe and Asia, and gone to Boeing for jumbo jets with extended range, including its new state-of-the-art 787 Dreamliner.

In 2017, another long-range specialist, the Airbus A350-900, will join Ethiopian’s fleet.

Its arrival at LAX will definitely raise its profile among international travelers, especially in the US, and could pave the way for the arrival of other African air carriers to the US.

But they aren’t stopping there.

The airline also is looking to open new routes to Madrid and Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia.

Clearly, these guys are serious about taking the Ethiopian Airlines brand — and by extension, Ethiopia’s national identity — to almost every corner of the world.

When Boeing was catching hell for the teething pains of its new 787, from being three years late on its first deliveries to a series of problems with its lithium-ion batteries, Ethiopian Airlines stood strong behind both Boeing and the Dreamliner, even as other airlines delayed or cancelled their orders. That loyalty may have helped save the Dreamliner program.

A Dreamliner of Africa
AFRICA — The air game changes
The “Wings of Nigeria” reach the US
AIRLINES: Africa extends her reach


the IBIT Travel Digest 5.25.14

The good, the bad and the bizarre in the world of travel

Happy African American Family in Front of Cruise Ship.

Three years ago, with reports of cruise passengers and crewmembers alike being mugged and assaulted there, the major cruise lines dropped Mazatlan as a port of call faster than the NBA dropped Donald Sterling.

It was a major blow to the cruise lines and the Mexican Riviera in general, and to Mazatlan in particular. The city has worked to win its way back into the good graces of the cruise lines ever since.

It looks as if Mazatlan has succeeded.

Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and Azamara Club Cruises already have either resumed calling on Mazatlan or announced plans to do so as of last year. Princess Cruises announced earlier this year its own plans to return in the fall.

Now, the cruise industry’s 800-pound gorilla, Carnival Cruise Lines, says it will return to Mazatlan starting next spring with year-round cruises out of Los Angeles.

Welcome back.


And speaking of cruises, it’s a widely held belief that Carnival, Royal Caribbean and the rest of the cruise industry big boys will descend on Cuba in force once the US government finally lifts its long-outdated trade embargo against Havana.

But not everyone is waiting for that.

According to Travel Agent Central, an outfit known as Wilderness Travel is offering an eight-day cruise to Cuba for 48 passengers aboard the three-masted sailing ship Panorama starting Nov. 29.

It’s part of the People-to-People cultural exchange program that Washington allows to take American travelers legally under license to Cuba.

Technically, it is not absolutely forbidden for Americans to travel to the island nation, but the embargo places a blizzard of restrictions on who’s allowed to go and what they can spend there.


The nations of East Africa are taking concrete steps to make the region more attractive for visitors. One of those steps is removing the hassle — and expense — of obtaining a new visa each time you cross from one country to another.

The East African Community, a five-nation economic cooperation group, is now offering the East African Tourist Visa, a single $100 visa that allows the holder multiple entries between countries for 90 days.

No more spending weeks sending your passport back and forth to embassies and consulates to arrange each visa in advance, or hours waiting in lines at border checkpoints and paying a different fee with each new visa. That’s the good news.

The bad news? The new visa covers only three of EAC’s five member countries — Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. The two remaining members, Tanzania and Burundi, have yet to come on board.

Perhaps they’re waiting to see how it works out before committing themselves to the process. If it goes as I expect, it shouldn’t take them long to see the advantages. And hopefully, it won’t take long for the rest of the Mother Continent to follow suit.


Ethiopian Airlines touts itself these as “Africa’s flagship carrier” — and it looks as if it’s building a fleet to back up that boast.

The second airline in the world to operate the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Ethiopian recently added its seventh Dreamliner to its stable of aircraft, and shows no lack of confidence in the plane.

Dreamliners are gradually taking hold on the world’s international air routes, despite nagging issues with its controversial lithium-ion batteries.

The airline expects to take possession of three more by year’s end, giving it one of the world’s larger 787 fleets and easily the largest Dreamliner fleet of any African carrier.

This matters because the hallmark of the Dreamliner — and its even newer Airbus rival, the A350 — is longer range. It means we American may one day be able to fly directly to the Mother Continent without first having to fly to the East Coast and then change planes.

Of course, that presumes that our FAA eventually decides to grant Ethiopian and other top-tier African airlines the right to connect to airports west of the original 13 colonies.

And now, here’s The Digest:


from Yahoo! Travel
Airlines with food you may actually want to eat.

from Reuters
How to get paid — and rather handsomely, at that — for air travel delays. Not only is legal, but it’s the law.

from the Irish Times
The future of air travel will be digitized and customized — especially up front in the high-priced seats.

from The Business Journals
The death of First Class in international air travel, and why that may not be such a bad thing.


from BBC Travel
The world’s five most affordable cities. Affordable, yes. Livable? You be the judge.

from BBC Travel
Seven of the scariest high-risk roads on the planet — and why people seek them out, anyway.

from AppAdvice.com
Is a luggage tag worth $119? Maybe, if it’s one that calls your iPhone to warn you that someone is stealing your suitcase.

from the Daily Mail (London UK)
Here’s one for “Bizarre” — A train from China to the United States. Eight thousand miles in two days, including a 125-mile-long tunnel under the Bering Sea. Supposedly, China wants to build it.


from the Sydney Morning Herald
River cruising in the United States must be pretty cool. Tourists are coming all the way from Australia to do them.

from the Sun-Sentinel (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)
In the go-big-or-stay-home world of cruise ships, Italian shipping line MSC is going big with two new mega-ships and an option for a third.


from the New York Times
Five flavors of France, by region — Alsace, Bouches-du-Rhône, Finistére, Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées.

from The Guardian (London UK)
The Spanish region of Andalucía is taking on Catalunya and the Basque country in a battle of regional cuisines. The most likely winner? Your tastebuds.



from eTurbo News
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, a major air link between Europe and the United States, also connects Europe to East Africa, especially via Tanzania.


from The Guardian (London UK)
See the USA — as the Brits see it.

from the New York Times
Chicago’s Riverwalk is getting a $100 million makeover in time for summer 2015.

from Travel Weekly
The top tourism destination in the Caribbean — Jamaica? The Bahamas? The Virgin Islands? You’re not even warm. It’s the Dominican Republic.

from the New York Times
How to kill a weekend in Montevideo, capital city of Uruguay.

from the New York Times
Heading to Brazil for this year’s World Cup? Tips to keep your budget cup from running over.


from Yahoo! Travel
Japan creates a new national holiday to encourage its work-obsessed population to take some time off. The other 15 holidays apparently weren’t enough.

from BBC Travel
Few cities in the world have their own national park, much less one with leopards. Mumbai does. Here, when you talk about an urban jungle, it’s a real one.

from BBC Travel
The Sichuan-Tibet Highway. That which does not kill you makes for an unforgettable journey.


from The Guardian (London UK)
If the tourist mobs in Barcelona have become too much for you, consider smaller and more bohemian La Coruña in northwest Spain as an alternative.

from BBC Travel
To see a body of art, visit almost any museum. To see the body as art, head for the World Bodypainting Festival next month in Pörtschach, Austria.

Spotted something you’d like to see in the next IBIT Travel Digest? Send me a message using the handy form below:


Cruising Africa

[portfolio_slideshow id=19531]

All images by©IBIT/G. Gross. All rights reserved.

The Mother Continent is quietly becoming a destination of interest for the world’s cruise lines. Travelers can find both ocean and river cruises with wide ranges in style, accommodation and price.

I’ve said it many times: Small dreams are a waste of sleep. One of my bigger dreams is to cruise western Africa.

But this is no idle fantasy. I know this can be done, because it’s being done already, and with a frequency that really took me by surprise.

Avoya Travel alone maintains its own list of Africa cruises well into 2015 — at least 130 of them from nine different cruise lines.

One of them, the river cruise specialist Ama Waterways, offers nearly 100 cruises out of South Africa that include visits to Cape Town and the Stellenbosch wine country and flights to one of the world’s great natural wonders, Victoria Falls.

Nor are we talking about rough-and-ready freighter or expedition cruises, either. Most of the cruises on the Avoya Travel list are being run by lines like Crystal, Oceania, Seabourn, Silversea and Windstar.

Cruise lines like these tend to fall into one of three price categories — upscale, very upscale and OMG. Many range in length from two weeks to more than a month, which makes the cost even more breathtaking.

At the other end of the scale, the Italian mass-market line MSC has the shortest and cheapest Africa cruises on the Avoya list — Cape Town to Walvis Bay and back, four nights, $279 for an inside cabin.

The most expensive cabin, a suite, goes for $469.

The Avoya list itself is by no means all-inclusive.

Princess Cruises offers a mammoth 30-day cruise that runs the entire length of West Africa, from Cape Town to Ceuta in Spanish North Africa before finally ending in London, with nine African port calls in between.

Holland America offers Africa cruises. So too does the Cunard line, the ocean liner specialist that made the names Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and QE2 household names in the travel world.

If these mass-market-style cruises don’t float your boat, so to speak, you could always sign up for an African expedition cruise from G Adventures, Canadian adventure travel specialists.

Two British cruise operators are hitting Africa.

Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines offers an 11-night West African cruise that departs from Tenerife in the Canary Islands and calls on Senegal, the Gambia and the Cape Verde Islands.

The other, P&O Cruises, has sailing from opposite ends of the Mother Continent, starting from Egypt in the north and from Australian ports for cruises in southern African waters.

If you’re not intimidated by language barriers, you can find even more Africa cruises available.

The German travel company Plantours Kreuzfahrten does a cruise from the German port of Hamburg to the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Senegal. And later this year, she will begin calling regularly on Sierra Leone.

All of these cruises present real challenges to American travelers in terms of cost, distance and time. In virtually every instance, you’ll have to fly to meet your ship and return home, which represents at least two lost days.

Even so, it figures to be an unforgettable experience.

Avoya Travel
CLIA — Cruise Lines International Association
Cruise Africa
Cruise Critic
Vacations to Go


AIRLINES: The “Wings of Nigeria” reach the US

Arik Air Airbus A330
Arik Air Airbus A330

Nigeria no longer needs to rely on Europeans to operate its trans-Atlantic airline flights to the United States.

Amid all the mystery and tragedy of Malaysia MH370, a little good news from the airline world…and it comes from West Africa.

Last week, an Airbus A330-200, flying the colors of Arik Air, touched down at New York’s JFK International Airport after about an eight-hour flight from Lagos, Nigeria.

It wasn’t the Arik Air flight ever to land in the United States; the airline has been making that run since 2009. But it was the first time in 20 years that a commercial aircraft registered to Nigeria had made the trip.

Before that, Arik Air’s other US flight had been operated by a Portuguese company. Now, Nigeria is reaching across the Atlantic on its own, with its own jumbo jets.

Not bad for an airline only seven years old.

It took more than a smile and a nod from President Barack Obama to make this happen. The airline to jump through three years’ worth of hoops from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation before receiving the official go-ahead.

Of the 18 major airlines currently based in Africa, Arik Air, which calls itself “the Wings of Nigeria,” is one of only six allowed to fly to the US. The other five are:

  • Air Maroc
  • Cape Verde Airlines
  • Egyptair
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • South African Airways

Two US airlines, Delta and United, offer direct flights between the US and African destinations. Others connect to the Mother Continent via codeshare flights with European airlines like British Airways, Air France and Germany’s Lufthansa.

Having US government clearance to operate its own planes to US airport should enable Arik Air to add flights to more East Coast destinations, making it easier for American travelers to visit Africa.

And as new-generation airliners with longer range come into service like Boeing’s Dreamliner and the new Airbus A350, perhaps one day, I’ll see jumbo jets rocking the colors of African airlines at LAX.

Am I dreaming? Sure. But small dreams are a waste of sleep.


Travel to Africa…why you should

Second of two parts

Nature and Black heritage are perhaps the two best-known reasons for visiting Africa, but there are many more reasons to go.

In the first segment of this series, we looked at Africa in terms of safety and whether a traveler could feel reasonably secure visiting the Mother Continent. We found that, on the whole, the answer is Yes.

Having established that can, we’re now going to look at some of the reasons why you should.

Typically, discussions of African travel focus on two themes. The first is nature. That usually means safari tours, hunting and fishing trips, bird-watching outings, backpacking, bike or motorcycle tours.

On these travels, the stars are Africa’s flora and fauna, much of it found nowhere else on Earth, and much of it under threat from everything from habitat loss to rampant poaching.

The other travel theme most commonly brought up for Africa, especially among Black Americans, is heritage travel, taking an up-close, in-person look at the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade where it began, maybe tracing their own African origins with the aid of DNA.

Both of these are valid reasons for a trip, or several trips, to the Mother Continent. But Africa has so much more to offer to the senses.

Sight, you know about already. Egypt’s pyramids and monuments. The mountains, deserts and of Morocco. The vast, grassy plains of the savanna that covers nearly half the continent. Mount Kilimanjaro.Victoria Falls, shared by Zimbabwe and Zambia. the beauty of Cape Town in South Africa.

But what of sound? There may not be enough years in an average lifespan to get your head around all the varied richness of Africa’s music, both ancient and modern.

Modern popular African musical styles by themselves are enough to swamp you in a tidal of creative sound. Afrobeat. Afrojazz. Highlife. Hiplife. Makossa. Sakara. Zouglou. And dozens more, some of them a century or more old.

If, starting right now, you devoted a year to fully immersing yourself in each style of African popular music, you’d still be going at it 40 years from now.

And those are the purely African sounds. That doesn’t count imports like Jamaican reggae nor Black American gospel music, on which Africans are putting their own delightful stamp.

What about food? On this side of the Atlantic Ocean, the Mother Continent may best be known for images of starving babies, thanks to our mainstream media. But the reality is that Africa has given the world many foods and many flavors we enjoy without even thinking about their origins. Coffee. Peanuts. The cacao bean that gives us chocolate.

But those are just starters, you could say.

The nations and regions of Africa produce a whirlwind of flavors, everything from pastilla and harira, thieboudienne, yassa, egusi soup and jollof rice from West Africa, wat and shiro in East Africa, Central Africa’s babute and piri piri chicken, seswaa and sosatie in southern Africa — along with a curried dish inexplicably known as “bunny chow.”

(Don’t worry. No cute and fuzzy bunnies are harmed in the making of this dish…)

You can already find culinary tours on offer in North Africa, West Africa and the Republic of South Africa, and as the interest grows, there will be more.

Religion? Nearly all the continent is a massive collection of sites and artifacts holy to Christians and Muslims, among them the rock churches of Ethiopia.

Interested in high fashion? There are major annual fashion shows in Senegal, Nigeria and South Africa.

What about film, cinematography? We all now know that India produces more feature films that any other nation. Who’s Number Two? It’s not Hollywood. It’s Nigeria. That’s right: After Bollywood comes Nollywood.

Egypt, Tunisia and South Africa even can lay claim to a growing medical tourism industry, and Nigeria is looking to get into the mix. It’s another growing trend in African travel.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about all the attractions listed above is that taken all together, they still comprise but the merest introduction of what Africa offers to the traveler. So start making your plans, saving your money, and get that passport.

The Mother Continent is waiting for you.

Travel to Africa…why you can
2014: Make your own Black History in West Africa
AFRICA: 2 rails, 3 trains, 5 stars



The Tuskegee Airmen proved that Blacks could fly as well as anyone. But it would take another 20 years before you saw a Black pilot at the controls of a US airliner.

When you board an airliner and the cockpit door is open, do you ever peer inside to see who’s sitting at the controls?

If the pilot is a Black man or woman, do you feel a small smile spread for just a moment across your face?

If your answer is yes, you have three men to thank for that, Marlon Green, David Harris and August Martin.

After World War 2, the United States knew that Black men could fly as well as anyone else. The Tuskegee Airmen had proven that.

However, not one Tuskegee pilot was ever hired in the United States to fly for any US airline. Among those denied was August Martin, who was flying B-25 Mitchell bombers at war’s end.

For nine years, all he could do was scrounge part-time flying jobs with various lines — including El Al in Israel. In between, he took odd jobs, everything from aircraft mechanic in New Jersey to stevedore on the docks of New York harbor.

Finally in 1955, he became a captain for a cargo airline. But flying passengers was still off-limits to Blacks.

Two years later, Marlon Green heard that passenger airlines in this country had made a public commitment to hire pilots regardless of race.

He very quickly found out just how much that promise was worth. As his ex-wife would later tell the Denver Post, Green “got doors slammed in his face all over the place.”

There was no doubting his qualifications. While in the Air Force, he had flown not only twin-engined B-26 Marauder bombers, but the Grumman SA-16 Albatross rescue amphibian.

If you can take off and land the same twin-engined airplane on land and water, you’ve got skills. If you were black in the 1950s, however, your skills didn’t matter.

It seems the airlines were afraid back then that white customers would refuse to fly with a Black man at the controls, and that they would have too much trouble finding hotels willing to accept Black flight members in 1950s America.

When in 1957, he saw Continental Airlines hire five white pilots with less flight experience over him, Green decided he’d seen enough. He filed a complaint with the state of Colorado.

The state ordered Continental to enroll him in its pilot training class. The airline refused. The battle would last for six years and go all the way to the US Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Green applied to ten other airlines. All ten turned him away. The whole experience took its toll, his brother, Jim, would say years later.

“He lost his dignity, his honor, his self-esteem, all of his savings, and he was reduced to menial work like cleaning milk cans. It destroyed his faith and his family.”

Finally in 1963, the Supreme Court ruled — unanimously — in favor of Marlon Green. But he would not get to be the first Black pilot for a US-based passenger airline.

That distinction would go to David Harris, who had been dealing with his own series of race-based rejections from the US airline industry.

In 1964, a year after Green’s court victory, Harris went to American Airlines and made a point of letting the interviewer know he was black. The interviewer’s response:

“This is American Airlines and we don’t care if you’re black, white or chartreuse. We only want to know, can you fly the plane?”

American hired Harris that same year. He would spend 14 years with the airline, retiring as a jumbo jet captain.

The following year, Continental put Marlon Green in the cockpit, backdating his seniority to 1957.

Capt. Green died in Denver in July 2009 at age 80. The next year, Continental named one of its Boeing 737 jets after him.

Capt. Harris remains active in the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, which is fighting to raise the number of Black airline pilots from its current level of fewer than 1 percent of the industry’s roughly 71,000 pilots.

But what of August Martin?

“Augie” Martin cared deeply about the newly independent nations of black Africa. During the 1960s, he used to spend his vacation time flying critically needed supplies up and down the Mother Continent.

During one such mercy mission in Nigeria in 1968, he was killed while trying to land on a highway during a driving rain.

Capt. Martin was 49 years old.

The stories of Marlon Green, David Harris and August Martin are among those now being told in the Black Wings exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC.

Black History Month is as good as reason as any to stop by and check it out.

Norma Merrick Sklarek, 1926-2012
Eleanor Joyce Toliver-Williams, 1936-2011
Black America: Taking to the skies


LA Travel Show: Cuba in the house for 2014

WHAT: The 2014 Los Angeles Travel & Adventure Show

Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center
300 E. Ocean Ave.
Long Beach, CA

Feb. 8-9, 2014, 10am-5pm

TICKETS (per person)
One-day: $10 online til Feb. 7, $12 online Feb. 7-9, $15 at the door
Two-day: $16 online til Feb. 7, $18 online Feb. 7-9, $24 at the door

The US may be edging closer to dropping the longstanding trade embargo that blocks Americans from traveling freely to Cuba, but not everyone is waiting. Africa, too, is representing this year.

When this year’s Los Angeles Travel & Adventure Show kicks off next month in Long Beach, there will be an unfamiliar face among this year’s exhibitors.

It’s a face turned 90 miles south of Key West.

The exhibitor is — Cuba Travel Services, which, according to its Web site, “arranges weekly, non-stop, direct public charter flights between the United States and Cuba.”

It is but one of hundreds of travel companies and organizations that will be “in the house” at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, but it’s the one that just might have the strongest pull on my attention.

The company motto is “You’ve Waited Long Enough.”

That’s pretty much what I’d like to tell the US government about lifting its long-pointless trade embargo against Cuba.

It’s the embargo, imposed in 1960 after a revolution put Fidel Castro in power, that makes it a hassle for Americans to travel freely to Havana.

Something the rest of the world has been doing for the last half-century and change.

As an American, you’re not absolutely barred from traveling to Cuba under the embargo, but to do so legally, Washington makes you jump through a lot of bureaucratic hoops, as needless as they are silly.

The biggest of them is the requirement that you obtain a license — yes, a license — to travel to Cuba, which means you have to fall under one of 14 categories.

Cuba Travel Services is an authorized travel provider to Cuba, license by the US Treasury Department, and arranges flights to the island from either Miami or Los Angeles.

A lot of Americans simply ignore the regulations and fly to Cuba on their own via Canada, Mexico or some other country. But if you want to go legally, you have to resort to outfits like this.

I’m guessing theirs will be among the more crowded booths at the travel show, if for no other reason than the justifiable curiosity of a lot of travelers.

The West Coast provides more recreational travelers to Africa than any other regions of the United States, so if travel to the Mother Continent is of interest to you, these African travel specialists will be on hand for you to talk to:

This looks to be one of the stronger African travel lineups at the LA Travel & Adventure Show in recent years.

At the other end of the spectrum, river cruising seems radically under-represented at this year’s show, a surprise given the explosion taking place in river cruise travel around the world, especially in Europe and Asia.

The one major river cruise operator that will be present is Ama Waterways, one of the few major river cruise outfits that offers river cruise tours in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as Europe and Asia.

These are just a few of the exhibitors that catch my interest at next month’s upcoming show. You’ve got the whole world to choose from.


AFRICA: Rethinking safari travel

© Daleen Loest | Dreamstime.com
© Daleen Loest | Dreamstime.com

Poachers are driving Africa’s unique wildlife to oblivion at a pace unthinkable a few years ago. A safari may be your only chance to see it — and only if you go very soon.

Today’s Digital Journal published this announcement today:

“Johannesburg – The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s largest conservation network, has declared the western black rhino subspecies as extinct.”

You can read the entire Digital Journal post here.

This news is popping up on digital and scientific media around cyberspace today. Why, I’m not sure — because as IBIT already announced, the Western black rhino went extinct two years ago.

Still, it’s a jarring reminder, especially when you read something that wasn’t in that original announcement of mine:

“From 2007 to 2012, rhino poaching has increased 5000%.”

Say that aloud, slowly:


IBIT readers know that I’ve never been big on safari travel. I’m more drawn to the urban side of Africa, the cultural and heritage side of Africa. The wildlife side has always been of interest, but I’ve never felt any urgent need to venture out into the bush to play Dr. Doolittle.

Still…Five thousand percent? I may need to change my thinking, and not just when it comes to rhinos.

This has gone way beyond a few locals poaching a few animals on the side to keep their families fed. This is now big business, organized crime, right up there with drug smuggling and human trafficking, and just about as lucrative.

There are even suggestions that some international terrorists are financing themselves this way.

Is that what it’s going to take, invoking the T-word, to get the rest of the world to finally take this situation seriously? And how much of her wildlife will Africa have left before the world decides to act?

If you would like to see some of that wildlife for yourself, in the wild as Nature intended, you might not want to wait for the answers, because time is not on your side.

I’m starting to think maybe a safari trip to southern Africa isn’t such a bad idea, especially if you have any hope of seeing Africa’s unique fauna in anything other than a video or a pic.

See Africa’s wildlife — while you can