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.


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.


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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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

Nearly a Month in Africa

I spent nearly a month in Africa, again! I went through a period last year when I also spent a month in Zambia, Tanzania and South Africa. This time Ethiopia and South Africa were my temporary home throughout June and the early bit of July.

I’ve been home now for about a week and I have adjusted quite well, surprisingly. I haven’t had really weird jet lag problems. The only day when I was ridiculously tired was the day I came back (on July 4th) and I slept like a rock! No one could wake me up for anything. I missed FIFA soccer and Fourth of July fireworks, but I was with my family so that’s all that mattered.

There were a few days when I still desperately missed my family even though we were all in the same place – at home! That was really weird, but that feeling also passed. I am so glad to be in North Carolina without any pressing global jaunts in the pipeline. Although for those of you who know me well, it will probably be a few months before I am on another jet plane with passport in hand ready for another adventure to report on women and girls in unknown places.

Typically when I travel I post updates when I am away, but this trip was a little different. I was co-leading a group of stellar US journalists throughout Ethiopia to report on newborn health on an itinerary I put together in the spring with the International Reporting Project. If you recall, I went on two IRP trips last year as a fellow. This time the tables were flipped and I was the program manager for this Ethiopia reporting trip. It was intense, to be sure, with a lot of moving parts. To make a long story short I concentrated on ensuring the trip went smoothly instead of blogging here every day. I did post pictures along my journey that you can see on my Tumblr blog – short and sweet.

Guarang Women in Ethiopia's Southern Highliands

Guarang Women in Ethiopia’s Southern Highlands

Ethiopia is definitely one of my favorite countries to visit. In fact, I love it so much I will figure out a way to live there if only for a few months at a time. There are a lot of stories I would like to tell about women and girls. I want to push my reporting to visit those who I can’t easily get to and places where I might need two translators – one for English to Amharic and another who specializes in Amharic to some other lesser known Ethiopian language; they have several.

In the meantime, it’s back to life and back to reality. I’m thrilled to be back in my own time zone, sitting at my own desk right now, looking out of my own windows.

Goats in the Streets

Goats in the Streets

Addis Ababa often puzzles me. As big, largely populated, and urban as Addis Ababa is, I’m always left scratching my head that any time day or night you can see a herd of goats traipsing through the crowded streets. I am used to seeing herds of goats walking amongst the UN and NGO vehicles, city and mini buses, and private vehicles during the day. But, I had no idea goats would be herded through the Addis streets during the wee hours of the morning. It’s 3 AM! I suspect they’re going to the market and will be someone’s lunch today.

It’s so early, they’re up with the party-goers at the open-air bar on the street below my hotel window. Only in Addis!

Goats in the Street

Fluffy Trees and Ethiopia is 48 Hours Away

It’s Sunday. 48 hours from now I will be en route to Addis Ababa. I’ll be in Africa until July. That’s a long time, but I’ve done it enough now to know the days fly by in one big whirlwind. I’ll be there and then the next thing I know I’ll be home. That fast!

Today is a day for me to rest, but most importantly remember to bring everything I’ll need when I’m in Ethiopia. Inevitably, no matter how prepared I am and how many times I look at my lists, I always forget something. Last time I went to Ethiopia in April, I forgot my travel adapters and I had to buy another one at the airport. In fact, I have a ton of travel adapters just because I always forget to pack mine when I’m traveling abroad. They’re packed now.

This morning, we got up early to take photos of this amazing tree we see when we’re out running. I have no idea what it is. We just call it the “fuzzy tree”. I know, very scientific!  To me it’s oddly ethereal and as long as I’ve lived in the south (my entire life!) I’ve never seen it before.

This tree has lost a little of its spring newness since the first time we noticed it last week. That’s why we rushed to take photos today before the flowers are all gone. And certainly by the time I get back home next month it will only be bark, twigs, and leaves. Isn’t it gorgeous?

Do you know what this tree is? We saw one in pink and white.

fuzzy trees

fuzzy trees

fuzzy trees

fuzzy trees

fuzzy trees

fuzzy trees

fuzzy trees

fuzzy trees

A little listening…

10 More Days…

Ethiopian Flag

…and I will be back in Ethiopia. 

Going to Africa is a little second nature for me now. This will be my eighth time traveling to the Continent in three years and my third time traveling to Ethiopia, one of the countries I truly love! I will be in Africa for quite some time again. It seems like I have these massive opportunities to visit Africa, but I’m staying there for longer and longer stretches at a time.

I look forward to sharing photos when I travel around the country throughout June.