Namibia was high on our list of places to admire. We were taken by surprise by our family who treated us with a magnificent trip through the desert. While we had been to Jordan earlier in the year, and visited Wadi Rum, this desert experience, in particular in the Hoanib, one of the seasonal rivers in the west of Namibia, was of a different kind. Full of endless landscapes and desert-adapted wildlife. Combined with free camping in between the animals, baking fresh bread over a fire, an excellent cook and guide and great company.
Low season in Jordan. The summer heat was unbearable at the dead and the red sea. But we had magnificent Petra all to ourselves in the breezy late afternoons. The country offers numerous hikes through wadi's, canyons, deserts and historic sites, with the play of light ever changing. The Jordanian food is delicious with plenty of choice for vegetarians!
It is worth spending three days or more in the mind blowing landscape of Wadi Rum, the largest wadi of Jordan, where yellow, green and red colours blend. Things are quite touristy in the area where day-trippers make their rounds past the highlights and anything called 'Lawrence'. The hikes and jeep rides past this area awarded us with more peaceful and impressive desert moments.
Petra is one of the highlights in Jordan. We spent three days in this huge area, enjoying the impressive rock-cut architecture and beautiful scenery. Because of the low season we had the privilege to walk around without the crowds and even enjoyed the site almost completely alone after sunset.
After snorkling and scuba diving at the Togian islands in Sulawesi we thought it wouldn't get any better. Until we swam with Manta rays, the largest of all rays. They are not dangerous, but it is quite freaky when they suddenly turn and gracefully fly your direction at amazing speed with their gigantic fins. They are found only 15 minutes by boat from the beach of Nusa Lembongan as the area is a so called reef-side "cleaning station" to let cleaner wrasse remove small parasites from their skin and gill cavities.
We found total relaxation at Nusa Lembungan. A local showed us a great selection of very affordable accommodation and we got our own house on stilts with an outdoor shower and a swimmingpool right at the beach. What more does one want! Well, the privilage of swimming with manta rays, very exhilarating!
What better way to explore the island of Bali than by scooter. It allowed us to get off the main roads into the woods and on top of the mountains. Thanks to a local friend we found relaxing and special places to stay. We even spent some nights in a traditional 'Lumbung' (ricehouse), which was traditionally used for storing 'beras' (rice) and is just big enough for two people.
The art of traveling is to meet people that introduce you to their culture and to take the time to go with the flow. We were a bit put off by stories about mass tourism in this magical region. Through friends we found a guide that took us via hidden tracks across the mountains and fields to traditional villages far away from everyone. By bicycle we found secret graveyards and our friends invited us to stay with them, at only 3 hours travel from the tourist buzz, but into the heart of the fascinating Tana Toraja culture which resolves around death.
We spent almost 2 weeks at the Togian Islands which are just paradise with tiny tropical islands, small fisher boat, the bluest water we’ve ever seen, fascinating marine life, but also has some creepy dense forests where you can do truly slippery jungle treks.
Sulawesi is one of the best places for snorkeling and scuba-diving in Indonesia. Bunaken in the North has drop-offs only 50 meters from the beach and we saw huge turtles which we could follow for minutes. Sharks and other giant marine creatures are also around. We spent almost 2 weeks at the Togian Islands which are just paradise with tiny tropical islands, small fisher boat, the bluest water we’ve ever seen, fascinating marine life, but also has some creepy dense forests where you can do truly slippery jungle treks.