7 Must-Visit Hotels in Africa


Bahir Dar, Etthiopia
Two of the biggest misconceptions about Africa is that the entire continent is pitifully and irreparably mired in poverty and overrun by sick  people who are ill and dying from a host of infectious diseases.  And also that Africa is full of violent extremist groups and unscrupulous, corrupt leaders. Articles like the recently published Africa for the pessimists: 2014 in review does the continent no favors. Yes, Africa is facing its challenges this year, but what continent isn’t?

Perhaps I am hyper-sensitive about western media’s perpetual, unfavorable depictions of  Africa, but to me there always seems to be laundry list articles painting a Monet about how miserable Africa is. It’s maddening to me. While those articles, especially the aforementioned one, isn’t wrong per se, it also is not balanced. We know this off the bat from the title. At least the author told us off the top what his perspective would be and for that I cannot fault him.  But, in the entire scope of media about Africa can we get a little balance and little nuanced perspective? Can more people write about the beautiful aspects of the continent – its people, its food, its landscapes, its burgeoning economies, its technological advances, its glorious music, its varied cultures, and even Africans’ resilience after an era of colonialism?

In my own way I like to show the Africa I know; the Africa that draws me back year after year. If Africa were indeed a cesspool of disease and poverty no one would visit, but that just isn’t the case. And no, I don’t have some sort of twisted affection for Africa. If you just read the news you’ll never want to visit if you haven’t been before. There is so much more to the continent besides what you’ll read in the dailies.

I want to show some of the hotels where I have stayed over the years. Yes, Africa has hotels…very nice hotels.

Sheraton Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The seat of the African Union, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia has many great hotels. One of the best where dignitaries, heads of state, and just everyday people stay is the Sheraton Addis. The grounds of this luxury hotel are gorgeous and it’s where you can get the best view of the city. You can also find everything you need here – rental cars,  book flight tickets and Ethiopian tours. Some say the rooms aren’t up to par with the quality of this hotel. Right across the street from the Presidential Palace, it’s the most high-end hotel in Addis.

Radisson BLU Lusaka

When I travel overseas I love staying at Radisson BLU hotels. It’s my favorite chain when I travel. They are quite nice and the service is always impeccable. The Raddison BLU In Lusaka, Zambia has a great restaurant, free Internet, and is located right across the street from a bustling strip mall with a bookstore, grocery store with money exchange, and many nice restaurants.

David Livingstone Safari Lodge, Livingstone, Zambia

The David Livingstone Safari Lodge is everything you’d expect from a safari lodge…the decor, the food, the views, the animals. It’s one of the only places in Africa where I saw you can order impala and crocodile on its dinner menu.  There are monkeys everywhere so you have to be vigilant about keeping your deck doors closed. Elephants come right up to the property. And don’t even think about swimming in the Zambezi. Its full of crocs and hippos! The greatest thing about the David Livingston Safari Lodge is it is about a 15 minute drive from Victoria Falls.

Mkuru Training Camp, Arusha, Tanzania

The best place I have ever stayed in Africa is Mkuru Training Camp right outside of Arusa, Tanzania and at the base of Mt. Meru. Mkuru Training Camp is run by Oikos, an Italian NGO that believes in conservation and sustainable development . Jointly owned by the Maasai communities in Mkuru and Meru, Mkuru Training Camp is a peaceful place to lay your head for a night or a week in one of its tents. Even though the camp seems rather rustic, there are immaculate bush toilets, showers, great food, and the chance to just sit out at night and look at the stars across the sky.

Mapungubwe Hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa

Most people who visit Johannesburg for business and even for travel stay in Sandton, an upscale suburb of Johannesburg. There are fantastic hotels and restaurants there. I’ve stayed there and enjoyed many of its luxury restaurants. Plus, the big convention center is there as well. But, if you’d like to stay in the heart of Joburg, I recommend Mapungubwe Hotel. It has 98 apartment-style rooms. Its restaurant has really delicious fare and, of course, the wine is impeccable. The breakfast buffet is also surprisingly good with many options, not just pastries and juice. You can also hire a car to take you anywhere you’d like to go. The service is stellar. Everyone was eager to help me in any way they could. While I wouldn’t recommend walking around the area at night, during the day you can walk to local stores and restaurants. 

Haile Resort, Hawassa, Ethiopia

In my travels to Africa I have spent the most time in Ethiopia. I have seen a lot of the country, but not nearly all of it. Ethiopia is one of my favorite countries in Africa. It’s not a surprise then that I go every chance I get.

Ethiopia has many big lakes including Lake Tana and Lake Hawassa. I love traveling to Hawassa, Ethiopia because it’s a thriving city with a scenic backdrop. The Haile Resort right on the lake is one of the most-recommended places to stay in Hawassa. The grounds are delightful with a gorgeous view of the lake. The rooms are also quite clean with every amenity you need. The only thing the rooms don’t have (at least when I was there) was wifi in the rooms. Wifi was only available in the lobby which can be very limiting when you have a lot of work to do. Check with the hotel. They may have put wifi in the rooms by now.

Radisson BLU, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

I lost count long ago how many nights I stayed at the Radisson BLU Addis. I stayed here so long this year that I knew the entire staff and their shifts. Everyone I met made my stay enjoyable. I loved everything about the Radisson BLU Addis including the immaculate rooms and bathrooms.  They had a delightful buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but each was extremely expensive even by USD standards. I recommend going to a nearby restaurant for lunches and dinners.

The Radisson BLU Addis also as an exceptional spa and even a patio for outdoor dining. In my experience, the concierge is happy to help arrange taxis and private cars and will also make reservations at Addis’ top restaurants. Ask for recommendations for Ethiopian tours and some of the best places to visit in the city. The only downside of hotel is it does not have a store where you can buy the things you forgot like toothpaste and aspirin. Instead they chose to put in a coffee shop, which isn’t bad. It’s just nice to be able to get what you need instead of having to go into the city and find a store. In all, though, the Radisson BLU Addis is an amazing property.

It’s important to me to be able to tell another side of Africa’s story.  And if you’ve never been I hope you plan a trip to Africa soon. It’s well worth it!

34 Photos Honoring the Women and Girls I Met During My Travels This Year


This year I traveled to four countries – Ethiopia (I spent nearly two months there this year), South Africa, Tanzania, and the Philippines. It was a great year of learning and traveling and meeting women and girls I greatly admire. Since it’s the end of the year and I have no immediate plans to jump on a plane overseas — at least that I know of because you just never know — I wanted to share some of the photos I took this year that stood out to me.

When the new year rolls around I am definitely going to be ready to travel again, but for now I am content looking back at all of the traveling I did this year and relishing how grateful I am to have seen these amazing countries and have met so many exceptional people.

Did you travel this year? Leave your posts in the comments. I’d love to see where you visited.

Ethiopia

Basketweavers for Project Mercy in Butajiri, Ethiopia

Basket weavers for Project Mercy in Butajiri, Ethiopia

Young expectant mother in Butajira, Ethiopia.

Young expectant mother in Butajira, Ethiopia. She was married at 13 and will deliver her first child at 15. She came to this lie and wait house because of excessive bleeding.

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Basket weavers for Project Mercy in Butajira, Ethiopia

Frontline Health Worker in Hawassa, Ethiopia

Frontline health worker pays a visit to a new mother with her newborn in Hawassa, Ethiopia. She washes her hand before tending to the baby.

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My Most Recent Trip to Tanzania


When I look back on 2014 a few years from now I want to remember that I went to Tanzania in October because, friends, I will forget!

I always need to write about my trips because remembering back to the things I’ve done and trips I’ve taken is sometimes quite difficult for me because I am so busy! Days merge into weeks; weeks merge into months. Then, the next thing I know I look up and it’s an entirely new year.

In October I traveled to Tanzania with PSI along with singer, actress, and humanitarian Mandy Moore and IntraHealth to report on health workers. It was a whirlwind trip – not even an entire week. And although it was quite quick, we packed a lot into the time we had.

When I was in Tanzania last year I took a lot of overland trips from Dar to Morogoro to Iringa with a final stop in Arusha. It was gorgeous around the time I went. The Jacaranda and Flame trees were in full bloom. It was beautiful. This time we flew from Dar to Mwanza and then drove a few hours to Shinyanga and then back to Dar. Dar was just like I remember her – crowded with a ridiculous amount of traffic! I still haven’t spent enough time in Dar. The next time I am in Tanzania I am going to give myself at least a day to just wander around the city. And, of course, I will go shopping at my favorite place in Dar, The Slipway. And, I am not going to miss another chance to visit Zanzibar. I’m always so close, but find myself just being way too busy to get to the islands!

As you know I love to travel. Most importantly, I love seeing the smaller cities and getting outside of the capitals and major urban metropolises. Getting out into the other parts of the country is what makes traveling worthwhile.

jjames-tanzania

Here are some of the posts I wrote about health workers for both PSI and Intrahealth.

Here are some of my photos from Instagram. You can follow me at instagram.com/jenniferjames_

I've missed you #KLM! #travel #DaresSalaam #Tanzania

A photo posted by Jennifer James (@jenniferjames_) on

I can spend all day in the field with babies. All day!! #Tanzania

A photo posted by Jennifer James (@jenniferjames_) on

Flying from Mwanza to Dar es Salaam this afternoon. #travel #Tanzania #love

A photo posted by Jennifer James (@jenniferjames_) on

I loved meeting Lucy, a family planning health worker who receives training from @PSIImpact

A photo posted by Jennifer James (@jenniferjames_) on

Dar es Salaam #OysterBay #Tanzania

A photo posted by Jennifer James (@jenniferjames_) on

Beautiful young girl in Dar es Salaam. #Tanzania #travel #photography #latergram

A photo posted by Jennifer James (@jenniferjames_) on

A bajaj driver in Dar es Salaam #Tanzania #Africa

A photo posted by Jennifer James (@jenniferjames_) on

You know how much I love moms and #babies. #travel #photography #Africa #Tanzania

A photo posted by Jennifer James (@jenniferjames_) on

I could be with the babies all day! #Tanzania #latergram #Africa #travel #cute #babies

A photo posted by Jennifer James (@jenniferjames_) on

I’ve Fallen in Love With the Philippines


I have been in the Philippines all of four days and I’m already in love with this country!

First, I didn’t know that the Philippines is made up of over 7000 islands. That mere fact sounds like a challenge to me and although I won’t nearly see them all during my lifetime, I am already plotting in my mind how my family and I can see at least some of them.

I rarely come to Asia as most of you know. I’ve only been to Asia once before and that was to India. But, now I am entirely intrigued about visiting Asia more often to write about global health. I know there are challenges in southeast Asia and while I tend to primarily concentrate on sub-Saharan Africa most of the time, I think it might be time to expand my horizons slightly. There’s a big world out there!

As you probably know, if you have been following my journey, I am here with World Vision USA to see their recovery efforts after Typhoon Haiyan. I’ve written a few posts thus far. You can find them here:

I’ve also been taking slice-of-life photos while here in Tacloban. Here are a few of my favorites.

Philippines

Wheels Down Tacloban

Philippines

This is public transport if you can believe it. These buses called “jeepneys” are holdovers from WWII.

Philippines

Filipinos are huge basketball fans. In fact, the Philippines is the second largest NBA market behind the United States — hence this driver’s seat cover, a Dwayne Wade jersey

Philippines

Filipinos love basketball. Really love it!

Philippines

Fresh seafood! Even the clams were moving and spitting water. I’ve never seen that at home.

Philippines

I can’t say enough about the seafood. We’re on an island and it’s delicious and fresh!

Philippines

I met  Crisanta V. Caimoy in Dulag, about 90 minutes from Tacloban. She is lovely!

 

Philippines

If you follow my travels, you know I always take photos of flowers. Always!

Philippines

More flowers! Different color.

Coconut mound

The Filipinos are VERY  fond of their coconut wine and many have offered it to me, even on the one-year of Typhoon Haiyan anniversary vigil route. Many make coconut wine themselves and their livelihoods were wiped out because of the storm. I don’t know. ..not sure how good coconut wine would be…

Philippines

The food is really delicious here. And with  chili peppers..it’s even better!

Philippines

The Pacific ocean is beautiful. ..just beautiful.

I’m Traveling to the Philippines on Monday. Here’s Why


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©2013 Jon Warren/World Vision

One thing I now readily realize is that I travel so much that many of my online friends, followers, and even my family don’t know where I am from week to week. They’ll often ask: Are you at home? Still traveling? Where did you go again? Where ARE you?

So, now I try to write about my upcoming journeys as many places online as I can leading up to my trips to avoid any confusion.

TYPHOONHAIYAN Joy and her 2-year-old daughter Kimberly are on the pathway to recovery after their family was walloped by Typhoon Haiyan. Summary: Tonight, for the first time in months, 7-year-old Joel Jan is eating supper after 6pm. Later, he'll be able to pull out a book, and his mom, Joy, will read to him and his two younger sisters. "Finally we have light at home," says Joy, 35. Today, World Vision has provided them with a solar lamp.

TYPHOON HAIYAN Joy and her 2-year-old daughter Kimberly are on the pathway to recovery after their family was walloped by Typhoon Haiyan. Summary: Tonight, for the first time in months, 7-year-old Joel Jan is eating supper after 6pm. Later, he’ll be able to pull out a book, and his mom, Joy, will read to him and his two younger sisters. “Finally we have light at home,” says Joy, 35. Today, World Vision has provided them with a solar lamp.

That said, I am traveling to the Philippines with World Vision USA, a Social Good Moms’ partner and one of four organizations Bill and Melinda Gates recommended as an organization to support last year.  I leave on Monday to report on World Vision’s yearlong response to Typhoon Haiyan. I’ll be there for about a week not counting travel time. I won’t begin reporting until next Thursday. The one-year anniversary of Haiyan is Saturday, November 8. I’ll try my best to repost all of my articles and photos during US time. There is a 12-hour difference from eastern time.

You can follow all of my updates via Twitter primarily on @jenniferjames and @socialgoodmoms.

I look forward to seeing what World Vision has done since Haiyan slammed into the Philippines and killed 6,100 people and caused hundred of millions of dollars in damage. There are still 1,100 people who are unaccounted for.

I will travel with members of World Vision USA staff as well as a media team. You can follow along on Twitter at #WVBloggers as well.

Photos courtesy of World Vision.

New! Airplanes, Helicopters, Engines + Flying


Friends, have I told you how much I love airplanes? Maybe a time, or two, or three.

They fascinate me!

Years ago, I used to hate flying. Now, I get on an airplane as often as I can because they give me great peace! I can’t be reached when I am thousands of feet in the air. Yes, I know, airplanes have Wi-Fi now (even on international flights), but believe me, when I am flying, no matter whether I am going to Addis or Dar es Salaam or London or Johannesburg or Lusaka or a few states away I am never checking my emails.

It’s a shame that the only place I can get a little peace from the world – even though temporary – is in the air.

Flying

(left to right) Flying over Washington, DC, Kenya, Ethiopia, Zambia,  Tanzania, New York

I really love airplanes even though I have no idea how they function. I am always fascinated that big chunks of metal can lift off into the air and fly for hours to the other side of the world.

Amazing!

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Photos: Flowers + Macchiatos #Ethiopia


For the past few weeks the news has been utterly insufferable. It’s just been really bad – there’s no eloquent way to say it. Bad! In fact, I needed to back away from my laptop last week because the news was a little too much to bear.

I am the type of person who reads as much as I can. I get my news from curated Twitter followers, Flipboard, Facebook (from time to time), and my daily rounds of the major US and UK newspapers and magazines.

Now that I think about it, that may be a bit much! 

So, in honor of how much I need to just get away from the 24-hour news cycle again, behold: flowers + macchiatos from Ethiopia. And a great song at the end.

Flowers  in the Southern Highlands - Ethiopia

Flowers in the Southern Highlands – Ethiopia

Double Macchiato - Addis

Double Macchiato – Addis

Flowers in Hawassa

Flowers in Hawassa

Macchiato at Radisson BLU Addis

Macchiato at Radisson BLU Addis

Flowers in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

Flowers in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

Traditional Cup of Ethiopian Coffee

Traditional Cup of Ethiopian Coffee

Flowers in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

Flowers in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

Double Macchiato at Coffee House, Addis

Double Macchiato at Coffee House, Addis

Wild Flowers - Great Rift Valley - Ethiopia

Wild Flowers – Great Rift Valley – Ethiopia