Miracle Maker

“Sheikh Hussein guides anyone who calls his name.” So says the Arabic inscription atop the Sheikh’s tomb, deep in the Bale Mountains National Park in the Horn of Africa. On two occasions each year tens of thousands of pilgrims – most belonging to Ethiopia’s Oromo ethnic group – flock to this shrine in the remote village of Dirre Sheikh Hussein to celebrate the man they credit with introducing Islam to southern Ethiopia almost a thousand years ago.

Over the course of several days, pilgrims pay homage to the man they revere for performing many miracles. They fall into trances, sing, dance, laugh and cry in fervour and mix prayers to Allah with pre-Islamic rites. According to Sheikh Kadir, the chief of the village and a descendant of Sheikh Hussein, religious fundamentalists who disagree with the blending of ancient local and newer Islamic traditions are a threat to the pilgrims. Some have destroyed the holy tombs of saints in surrounding mountains, but despite their intimidation they have not yet disrupted this celebration.

Photography by Boris Joseph

Tribal Connections

For the past nine years I have been travelling to the northern border of Namibia to visit Himba villages. Originally I went to the area of Epupa and my partner and I were invited to stay in a village. That evening one of the children passed away. Wanting to give the family some space, we left in the middle of the night. Later, when we learned more of the Himba’s culture in regards to death, we felt compelled to return.

Our return to the village was welcomed with open arms and led to a fascinating experience. At the end of that stay we were initiated into the village, and I return on an annual basis.

Each year I spend at least two weeks in the village, photographing the people and learning about their culture. I always bring the images from my previous trip, which cause a stir in the village and provide me with a lot of freedom.

I now run photographic tours to share my relationship and experiences with others. These tours allow the Himba culture to be experienced, while also providing the tribe with things that they need for their daily traditional lives, and it shows them they have an amazing culture worth hanging on to.

Photography by Ben McRae
benmcraephotography.com

Bike like an Egyptian

If you’re a motorist with a thirst for adventure, this might just be the ultimate.

The Cross Egypt Challenge, back this year after a COVID enforced cancellation in 2020, is arguably the best way to see the North African country beyond just the pyramids.

Spanning 2400km, the challenge is a 9-day motorcycle and scooter rally open to professional and amateur motorists alike.

The route starts in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, heading south to the capital, Cairo, before moving through the Western desert. It also takes in the Nile Valley, and Luxor, the capital of ancient Egypt and the largest open-air museum in the world.

www.crossegyptchallenge.com // 7 – 16 October 2021

Luxury Desert Tent in Namibia

Camping sure looks different these days. And we definitely like the look of this place.

When staying at Zannier Hotel’s lodge in Sonop, at the heart of the Namib desert, you can expect the rudimentary, naturistic pleasures that come with a camping trip in such a beautiful location. You can also expect otherworldly luxury, like an outdoor cinema that overlooks a heated infinity pool backing onto an extraordinary panoramic desert landscape.

There are only ten tents, minimising noise and clutter and maximising attention to detail in the 1920s British colonial base styled living spaces. The entire lodge is entirely powered by solar, which, as you’d expect, isn’t much of an issue in the Namib Desert.

The lodge covers 5,600 hectares of private reserve, where you might see oryxes, brown hyenas, rabbits, foxes, jackals, kudus and leopards roam free as you soak in your tent’s bath with a beer.

During the day, there are helicopter trips over the Sossusvlei Desert and hiking and biking trails to enjoy, and when you get home, you can sit and watch Leonardo DiCaprio strut his stuff on the big screen*.

*Watching Leo not a requirement but rather a strong statistical chance.

Hot 5 Balloon Rides

Dunes ahoy
Namib Desert, Namibia

Arid scrubland, dramatic dunes, otherworldly expanses of red sand and mountainous outcrops are all part of the Namib Desert – the world’s oldest. Operating for more than 25 years, Namib Sky Balloon Safaris is a family-run business helping intrepid visitors see regions of the Namib-Naukluft National Park that are otherwise off-limits to the public. Flights leave at the crack of dawn, so you’re high in the sky as the sun’s first rays illuminate the ochre dunes. After an hour of drifting with the wind, the experienced pilots bring you back to the ground for a sumptuous champagne breakfast. In stark contrast to the scorched surroundings, the decadent buffet of cured meats, cheeses and fresh fruit is set on a crisp tablecloth. A one-hour flight with Namib Sky Balloon Safaris costs about AU$585.
balloon-safaris.com

Historic highs
Aosta Valley, Italy

Next-door neighbour to Switzerland and France, the rugged Aosta Valley is the most sparsely populated of all of Italy’s regions. Here, instead, Mother Nature reigns supreme. Strewn with ragged mountains, silver fir trees and vistas largely unblemished by humans, this Alpine landscape is a veritable playground for cool climate fans. To get better acquainted with Europe’s highest peaks, including Mont Blanc among others, take to the skies. With more than 30 years’ experience under their belts, the team at Charbonnier Mongolfiere will expertly glide you past these famed pinnacles. Keep your eyes peeled for the valley’s wildlife as you rise and descend, but when you’re up high it’s just you, your basket and the mountains. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these balloons soar higher than any other on the continent, reaching between 1800 and 3050 metres. A one-hour ride with Charbonnier Mongolfiere starts at AU$277.
mongolfiere.it

Urban cruise
Melbourne, Australia

There aren’t many major cities in the world that you can survey from a hot air balloon. Luckily, Melbourne is an exception, and jaunts with award-winning Global Ballooning Australia take you over the world’s most liveable city. The company encourages guests to get involved in everything balloon-related (from inflation to deflation), as well as providing in-flight commentary. Prepare to see Melbourne’s icons from a whole new perspective. Float above the hallowed turf of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, admire the green lung that is the Royal Botanic Gardens, spot the towering spire of the Arts Centre and follow the Yarra River that snakes into the heart of the CBD, from where you can see all the way to Port Phillip Bay. The balloon will rise before the sun, offering views of skyscrapers twinkling in the dark as the city awakens. Flights are carbon neutral and a one-hour trip costs AU$440, or $470 with a champagne breakfast.
globalballooning.com.au

Jungle flight
Alajuela, Costa Rica

Existing in droves, canopy walks on hanging bridges are one of the more vanilla ways to spy on Costa Rica’s resident flora and fauna. For something a little more exceptional, fire up the burners and set sail over the cloud forest canopy on one of Serendipity Adventures’ scenic flights. The operator’s launch site is located close to the mighty Arenal Volcano, which is notorious for hiding its crest above a blanket of clouds. By balloon you’ll see parts of this active behemoth that remain out of view for many visitors. The real drawcard, however, is the opportunity to cast your eyes over the country’s rich landscapes – some of the most biodiverse on the planet. You’ll fly low over small rivers, vast fields and steaming forests that bristle with monkeys, iguanas and all kinds of feathered friends. A one-hour flight with Serendipity Adventures Costa Rica leads in from around AU$513.
serendipityadventures.com

Holy views
Pushkar, India

Known as the Rose Garden of Rajasthan, Pushkar is one of the most sacred sites for devout Hindus in India, and one of the country’s oldest cities. The best time to visit is during the annual Pushkar Fair, a congregation of almost half a million pilgrims and merchants with tens of thousands of bejewelled camels in tow. While cultural performances, camel beauty contests and cattle races thrum on the ground hot air balloons take to the sky. Venture 365 metres into the air at sunrise to gaze over the ships of the desert crawling across the ground like ants returning to a nest. From the basket you’ll get an eyeful of the city’s holy lake and Hindu devotees perched on stone ghats (steps) leading down to the water. Countless temples speckle the land, but none more prominently than the famous Brahma Temple, dedicated to the creator of the universe, Lord Brahma. As the sun spills golden light across Pushkar the experience is almost spiritual. A one-hour balloon trip with Adventure Nation starts at AU$235.
adventurenation.com

Mozambique’s chill zone

Quirimbas Archipelago is the ideal chill location. You can nap beneath a palm trees between meals and plunge into the water, pull dinner from the ocean or if you are the active type you take the windsurfer for a spin or snokel.

Do all this and more on the Quirimbas Archipelago, one of the few parts of the earth where the marine environment remains largely untouched by human hands.

Lying just off the coast of Mozambique, the archipelago consists of 12 major islands, about 20 smaller outcrops and any number of sandbar beaches. One of the cultural gems is Ibo Island, with its strong Arab and Portuguese influences. Stay at Ibo Island Lodge, where there are just 14 rooms and a private sandbar beach for complete separation from the rest of the world – if only for a few hours.

For divers, this is a must-visit. Shallow sites swarming with tropical life are suitable for newcomers, while those with a few stamps in their logbooks will want to hit the staggeringly beautiful drop-offs. One popular spot is the southern tip of Matemo Island, where you can see dolphins, turtles, groupers and stingrays in the drift

Artsy digs in Kenya

What was once the home of a local artist is now an intimate boutique hotel. The property has just eight bedrooms spread across two buildings set on Nairobi’s fringe, close to David Sheldrick’s elephant orphanage.

Each room is minimalistic and charming and features the former artist owner’s  eclectic mix of tribal and worldly accessories and artworks lining the wall, and is furnished in rustic wood and leather hide. But best of all, this intimate property in the tranquil surroundings of Nairobi’s Langata suburb is just around the corner from your new long-necked friends at the Giraffe Centre and the orphaned elephants and rhinos of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

There are also plenty of other critters in your own backyard at OneFortyEight, from monkeys with a taste for Ferrero Rocher, to peacocks, warthogs and parrots. It’s a veritable zoo without walls.

Top 5 Overland Rallies

Put your foot to the floor
Southern Africa

SUV, RV, scooter, 1970s Volkswagen Beetle – anything goes during the annual Put Foot Rally. And entrants can expect the same loosey-goosey approach when it comes to almost every element of the race, which the coordinators declare is definitely “not a race”. A lack of organisation, resources and a general mentality of insouciance is held in high regard on this “roughly, sort of, in the region of 8000-kilometre” rally, and responsibility for organising the route, accommodation, food and insurance rests with you. Meander through six southern African nations – South Africa (Cape Town is the starting point), Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique – stopping at six different checkpoints for six different parties in 19 days.
putfootrally.com

Rove on rickshaws
India

You’re standing at the start line of the Rickshaw Run, 3,500 kilometres of India stretching out before you and all you have to traverse it is a three-wheeled, seven-horsepower rickshaw that is really just a glorified lawn mower. At least your trusty steed looks fly: participants design their pimped-out ride from the comfort of their own home, arriving on the subcontinent to be greeted by a freshly painted set of wheels. You’ll race with two pals for two weeks, crossing paths with other like-minded (read: non compos mentis) travellers, as you putter, slowly, across the country. Between Cochin, in India’s tropical southern state of Kerala, and Jaisalmer, a city almost encroached by desert in the northern state of Rajasthan, riders can choose their own adventure by following the ‘unroute’, i.e. making it up entirely as they go.
theadventurists.com

 

Time warp
Italy

Unlike the infamous Mille Miglia (Thousand Miles) endurance race that was banned in the 1950s following a particularly devastating crash, the annual amateur re-enactment – with the same name – doesn’t slap down a thrill a minute. What it does boast, however, is one of the most beautiful rally routes in the world, traversing a course of cobbled streets, Tuscan hills and lofty mountain passes. The event draws thousands of spectators each year, all of whom share a love of classic cars: only models that participated in the original races – held between 1927 and 1957 – are welcome to enter. Even so, more than 400 teams cruise in with their vintage rides from all corners of the globe. While the route varies slightly each year, these ancient engines always rev to life during May in Brescia, at the foothills of the Alps, where motor races have been held for more than a hundred years. If you don’t happen to own a 1951 Jaguar XK120 or a 1927 Bugatti T40, make for one of the checkpoints and watch these charming beauties roll by.
1000miglia.it

Outback assembly
Australia

Negotiate narrow dirt roads, career around snowy alpine passes and wobble over water crossings in deep rainforest – all from the seat of a diminutive 105cc Honda motorcycle. Alongside 50 other mavericks who have a taste for the open road you’ll tackle 3,500 kilometres of sand, gravel and dust on the Postie Bike Challenge, although mercifully you’ll also have a full support team behind you if (and when) things get a little hairy. After each day spent with wind whipping your face and Australia’s rugged landscapes sailing by, you’ll pitch a tent in rodeo grounds before recounting the events of the past 24 hours with your new pals over a catered dinner. This 10-day outback odyssey traces a different route every year, and has raised more than AU$1 million for charity since its inception in 2002. Rustle up the AU$5,650 entry fee and experience a two-wheeled endurance event like no other.
postiebikechallenge.org

Ice rider
Russia

Quite possibly the most extreme adventure since Shackleton’s polar expeditions, the Ice Run sees motorbike riders careening across a frozen landscape in the depths of Russia’s winter. Form your own team of two and hop aboard a Ural motorcycle to traverse the world’s largest, deepest and oldest lake – a body of water so vast that it’s often mistaken for a sea – in temperatures that can reach –27°C. Three days of training preps bikers for the Siberian slogathon. Sharp gusts of 20 different winds can abruptly materialise, threatening to freeze your face; snow is pockmarked with patches of polished ice, creating a veritable skating rink; and the barren landscape, almost entirely devoid of landmarks, means riders have almost no sense of perspective. Come the big ride, the frosty beauty of Lake Baikal will take your breath away – if the freezing temperatures haven’t already – while the camaraderie will warm your heart, even if every other part of your body is frozen. The entry fee is AU$6,250 per duo, which gets you a bike and all your training. Competitors are also encouraged to raise at least AU$850 for the charity Cool Earth.
theadventourists.com

The African safari camp goes portable

Put yourself at the heart of the annual great migration in the Serengeti when you check in to Roving Bushtops. This unique set-up moves from one location to the next throughout the season, meaning guests can be right at the heart of the action.

It starts at the Central Serengeti, near the huge granite formations called Moru Kopjes, in June then is transported to the Southern Serengeti for December in time for the wildebeest birthing season in February.

If you thought a camp that was moved every six months would be a little rustic, you’d definitely be wrong. There are just eight beautifully designed tents, each with its own private bathroom. During the day, open all three sides and take in the views of surrounding bush while you enjoy a siesta.

The animals are everywhere here, and daily game drives, supported by local spotters, search out cheetahs, leopards and lions.

While you’re back at camp, go for a guided walk, enjoy a massage or exchange stories of incredible wildlife sightings at the dining tent while enjoying the contemporary cuisine. Just what you need after a hard day enjoying the very best of nature.

Top 5 Beach Clubs

Grand Africa
South Africa

Any bar that has a giant, shiny disco ball as part of its decor means partying business. And disco balls are just the beginning. Cape Town’s Grand Africa also boasts an enormous red lounge in the shape of some very luscious-looking lips, two huge lion statues and a floating love heart. Despite the audacious styling choices, the interiors are inviting and relaxing, complementing the wooden boardwalks that sit atop marshmallow soft sand and fairy-tale–style day beds. The incredible Table Mountain makes up the backdrop while the Atlantic Ocean glistens out ahead. A wide-ranging menu – we recommend any of the seafood dishes – keeps the energy levels up for the DJ sets, which kick off at about 4pm during summer, while the cocktail menu keeps the party going. As things heat up and the nights cool down, this playful, and a little bit cheeky, Cape Town beach club is the place to be.
grandafrica.com

Scorpios
Greece

Forget everything you know about the Mykonos party scene, at Scorpios there’s no doof-doof music, no sweaty, gyrating bodies and definitely no overpriced alco-pops. Ideally situated on the sun-kissed southern tip of the island overlooking Paraga Beach, Scorpios is designed to represent a contemporary interpretation of the ancient Greek agora (a gathering place for people to come together to socialise and collaborate). The rustic space, much of it open air, is littered with wooden cabanas, whitewashed walls, knitted hammocks and a quirky assortment of straw baskets, rugs and light fittings. There’s even a boutique bazaar, which stocks a carefully curated selection of products by local artisans – ensuring you can party in the hottest slip dress, should you forget yours. You’ll need to arrive early if you want to secure one of the highly sought-after cabanas by the water – the ideal spot to treat yourself to a Mediterranean feast from the 200-seat restaurant. The setting sun signals a change in tempo, and before you know it you’re kicking up your heels at the chicest party in Mykonos.
scorpiosmykonos.com

Coco Tulum Beach Club
Mexico

All-white everything is the theme of Coco Tulum’s beach club and, we gotta say, this stylish hotel-turned-bar is one of the prettier venues in Mexico’s crowded Yucatán Peninsula. With the crystal-clear turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea lapping at the white sand beach, it’s hard for Coco Tulum to look bad, but the team behind the design has really taken things to the next level. It’s still a little bit unpolished but that just adds to its charm, alongside a sense of sophistication and cool confidence. Think hammocks, bean bags and deck chairs, rows of hanging fairy lights, and an impressive range of signature cocktails. Plus, recognising a good thing, Coco Tulum has added to the number of its signature over-water swings, meaning there are more seats than they’ve ever had before. The mood is chilled-out here, and the music reflects that, so don’t expect hardcore trance parties that rage into the night. That said, Coco Tulum knows how to throw a pretty epic Sunday sesh, and it’s known to get quite lively so best not to lock in plans for the next morning, just in case.
cocotulum.com

Rockaway Beach Surf Club
USA

Yellow sand, salty water and summer beach vibes don’t exactly spring to mind when we think of New York City, but The Ramones were on to something when they decided to “hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach”. Set on the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, this arty-vibe beach is growing in popularity, which makes a nibble and drinks at the Rockaway Beach Surf Club even more appealing. What started as a place for surfers to store their boards is now a beach club with a difference. Rockaway Beach Surf Club embraces the destination’s chilled-out urban beach vibe. Guests, many of whom are locals, are welcomed by the phrase “Live. Surf. Die”, and the club hosts a number of cultural and art events at its on-site gallery. Chow down on some tacos while sipping a fresh watermelon juice or a delicious cocktail or two. It might not be quite the luxury poolside hangout you’d except of the term “beach club” but we’d be happy hitching the next ride to this NYC hangout.
rockawaybeachsurfclub.com

Aiyanna
Spain

With a reputation as the hottest party island in the world, you expect a certain level of unruliness when it comes to clubs in Ibiza. Tucked away on the sandy shores of Cala Nova, Aiyanna is a breath of fresh air. It’s significantly quieter than the party hot spots of Ibiza Town, Playa d’en Bossa and San Antonio, and refuels drained souls with morning yoga and an on-site Airstream caravan serving fresh cold-pressed juices. There’s a boho-meets-luxury aesthetic happening here, with natural colours and earthy textures dominating the landscape and creating some seriously zen vibes. But it’s fun too, with bright Guatemalan parasols adding vibrant pops of colour, oversized bean bags scattered throughout and strings of sparkling sequins cascading from the roof. Evening live music performances generally get the party started, and when night falls, Aiyanna really comes to life. Best of all, there’s not a hint of exclusivity here. Foregoing a VIP zone, Aiyanna is access all areas, and that’s just how we like it.
aiyannaibiza.com