Lonely Planet Trailblazer and travel film maker, Siya Zarrabi, recently returned from the trip of a lifetime, on safari in South Africa and Zimbabwe (one of our top countries to visit in 2019). Here are the highlights and moments that made this adventure a truly unforgettable one…
Microlight over Angel Falls
When I turned 30, I found one of my childhood books in my parents’ basement. It was full of adventures in far-away places I didn’t even know were real, and all the amazing machines that existed to help you explore them. One page had a drawing of a kite big enough to hold a human, with a propeller behind it. I have wanted to fly in one my entire life, but have never had the opportunity. Amazingly, while exploring some stunning waterfalls in Zimbabwe, I saw an advert for the flying machine from my book. I had to navigate three hours by foot from Zimbabwe to Zambia to take the flight of a lifetime. I had goosebumps for the duration of the flight, but not from fear, from excitement.
Edge of the world
The Cape of Good Hope in South Africa is one of the most southwestern points in Africa. The signs and guides are hard to miss, and so is the opportunity to stand on the edge of a continent for a photograph! This is a place where ostriches run wild, and the ocean fills your view. Along the water’s edge, I was amazed by the millions of tiny barnacles clinging to the rocks, completely resistant to the waves smashing against them all day. The fascinating part of this view is beyond the horizon – the next stop out to sea is Antarctica.
My hope was to spot an elephant or two on our tour of Kruger National Park, however I certainly didn’t expect this scene. Emerging from the edge of a dried-up river was an entire pride of elephants. You can’t appreciate the magnitude of this animal until you see them for yourself. These huge herbivores roamed the dry riverbed for what little food and water there was left. From my viewpoint, I could see a pride of lions headed their way. The lions had no chance, they were out-numbered and out-muscled.
The local experience
While in Johannesburg, South Africa I was photographing local life on the street; traffic, buildings, bicyclists, fruit stands, etc. The entire time a young boy, maybe 10 years old, was watching the process with curiosity. I could see his interest so I turned the camera around and let him have a go behind the lens. He lit up with enthusiasm and snapped photo after photo, even turning the camera sideways, mimicking my camera stances. I taught him about zoom and framing, which he picked up immediately. You can see by his face that this kid was taking the photography life seriously!
Planning for the future
Travel inspiration for me comes from visual stories. My career as a travel filmmaker started before blogs and online video were a thing. All I had to inspire me were pictures in books and the Lonely Planet TV series! I dreamed of being a travel host like Ian Write, navigating through far-away lands and diving into distant cultures. Flash forward 20 years and I have my own travel video series on YouTube, and am now working with the company that started it all for me. It’s a dream come true!
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