Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Sumatra - Indonesia's Wild West

And here is my long awaited first full-length travel feature in the October issue of Real Travel.

Earlier this year I traveled to the northern region of Sumatra in Indonesia and it was a truly fantastic experience. Not only was I privileged in having some incredible close encounters with the critically endangered Sumatran orangutangs, but I also got to dive the underwater wonderland of Pulah Weh. These will be memories that I will cherish forever.

Of course none of this would have been possible without the help of Ben Stokes and Sarah Kemsley from
Dive Safari Asia. So friendly and helpful, and without doubt the experts when it comes to adventure trips in the region.

Anyway, without further ado, I'll let the words speak for themselves... Here is my article on Indonesia's Wild West.


Saturday, 29 August 2009

So you want to be a travel writer?

"So what do you want to be when you grow up?" Ah, the million dollar question. Hindsight is such a wonderful thing.

Chances are, what you envisaged yourself doing from when you were a child, is far from what your job now entails. For example, growing up, I really thought I would end up being a vet. If you were to mention this to my friends now, they would laugh in your face at the sheer thought of this.

I never thought in a million years, I would end up writing about travel. Let alone having anything published. But it wasn't until I returned from a trip in South America a few years back, that I thought I would try and put pen to paper. What was essentially a throw away excuse for me to relive my experiences in Peru, turned out to be a winning entry for a Lonely Planet writing competition that I entered at the end of 2007.

And then from there I guess it snowballed. I realised I actually quite liked writing, but knew I had a long way to go in terms of fine-tuning my style and adapting it to different audiences. Rather than it being "oh, this is what I did on my holidays".

Every day is still a learning curb and I am no way near in the same league as the many great travel writers who work so hard in this testing industry. And yes, 'travel writing' is not always the dream job everybody thinks it to be, even more so with publishing houses crumbling every day under the pressures of the economic melt down.

One particular person who I am indebted and forever grateful to, is the award-winning travel writer and Lonely Planet author,
David Atkinson who writes an insightful blog Hit the North, and has been a fantastic mentor and a great inspiration to me. If perhaps, as a result of my constant badgering and nagging for advice. David, your efforts will be rewarded in heaven. I can assure you of this.

Over the course of the last two years, one publication that I worked with to varying degrees is the monthly UK based magazine
Real Travel. I first started off with submitting selections of my travel images to their Reader's Gallery, and then from there I got the opportunity to review Tim Butcher's Blood River . And now, nearly two years on and several more book reviews and contributions later, I finally will have my first full-length feature published next month in their October issue.

The article will look at my time spent in Sumatra earlier this year. This is such a great achievement for me, even if I have to say so myself, and I am very excited.

So you can imagine how privileged I felt when Hfu Reisenhofer, Real Travel's newly appointed Chief Editor, asked me to contribute a few words towards an article he was writing about breaking into the industry, as I am a 'reader turned writer'...

If you would like to get a better insight into this and fancy reading my ''words of wisdom', then take a sneaky peak here:
So you want to be a travel writer?

Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Five things you might not know about the Camorra

In 2008 the award-winning film Gomorrah stormed the big screen, exposing the day-to-day realities of the Camorra – a branch of the Italian Mafia that operates in and around the cities of Naples and Caserta in the Italian region of Campania.

Directed by Matteo Garrone, the film was based on Roberto Saviano’s book which exposed the territory and business connections of this merciless organisation. Since the book’s publication, Saviano has received several death threats from “GodFather” style Camorra exponents and as such has now been forced to flee his native Italy for his own safety.

As the film’s first anniversary fast approaches, here are five facts about the Camorra that you might not know:

1. The Naples rubbish crisis, which saw its peak in January 2008, has proven how deep-rooted the Camorra’s influence is within local government. Making millions of euros from the transport and illegal dumping of waste, the Camorra has also been accused of sabotaging plans for new incinerators.

According to Italy’s National Research Council, the Camorra-controlled waste disposal has poisoned the environment in such a way that people living in some parts of the Campania region are three times more likely to get liver cancer than those living elsewhere in the region.

2. Majority of companies that pitch for public works contracts are financed by the Camorra, guaranteeing themselves a substantial income flow and the reputation of an enterprise that creates jobs for the area.

3. In order to launder monies, the Camorra builds exuberant shopping centres within the Campania region, despite there being a lack of consumer demand.

4. Members of the Camorra often have strategic relationships with political figures showing them their support with votes in return for help and favours.

5. For over twenty years the Government has tried to widen the motorway running between Salerno in Campania and Reggio Calabria, a town in the toe of the Italian heel, but given the Camorra’s monopoly over the area and the local construction companies, this has yet to happen.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Have you ever starred in an underwater adventure?

Read a short tale about my first ever whale shark encounter in this month's edition of Real Travel.

Whilst completing my PADI Open Water last year in Sodwana Bay, South Africa, I was fortunate enough to encounter a whale shark on my first ever dive. Oh and a very cute leatherback turtle too, oh my.

(Please click on the image below to read the full article...)

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Feature Article on the Similan Islands appearing soon in SPORT DIVER

Well it is with great pride that I can confirm that my first ever published travel feature will be appearing in SPORT DIVER, the official magazine of the PADI Diving Association.

Following a fantastic week of diving in March earlier this year in the Similan and Surin Islands (an archipelago of nine small tropical islands, situated 100km northwest of Phuket in the tropical Andaman Sea), a three-paged article on my experience will feature in SPORT DIVER at the beginning of next year.

Oh and I forget to mention that my article will be accompanied by some pretty amazing underwater images too...

Tom Ozanne, a professional underwater photographer and videographer, teamed up with me for this feature, and well, the results speak for themselves!

If you fancy a sneaky peak, check out Tom's website -
Are We Dreaming...


Thursday, 7 May 2009

Real Travel Magazine - May 2009: book review of Chris Harrison's "Head Over Heel"

A book review for UK-based Real Travel magazine:

Chris Harrison’s account of his love affair with Italy and Daniela, a shapely signorina from Puglia, makes for an entertaining, well written and insightful novel that will resonate with anyone who has ever relocated to foreign shores.

On a chance trip to Dublin, Aussie Chris falls head over heels in love with Daniela. With no choice but to leave his life down-under and follow his beloved to the Southern heel of Italy, Chris is faced with all the trials and tribulations of moving to an Italian rural village.

The image of the foreigner as he appears in the eyes of his new-found colleagues and friends is made very clear and leads to many humorous moments. The ensuing madness leaves you in no doubt that this is Italy (corrupt government authorities, dangerous drivers, bizarre catholic traditions) and keeps you turning pages long into the night.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Lonely Planet's The Big Trip - Where Dreams Come True...

As I mentioned a few months back, at the end of last year I won my second travel writing competition with Lonely Planet.

My winning article has now been published in Lonely Planet's "The Big Trip" guide book and is available in all STA Travel shops across Australia and New Zealand.

Living in the UK means that I will not have the chance to pick one up for myself. Luckily for me though, the guys at Lonely Planet in Australia posted me a few copies over and this is what it looks like - how very exciting!

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Real Travel Magazine - February 2009: book review of Miriam Toews' "The Flying Troutmans"

A book review for UK-based Real Travel magazine:

Returning home to Canada following the break-up of her relationship, Hattie takes it upon herself to care for her niece and nephew, after her sister Min is admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Within no time at all, acting on her instincts, Hattie decides to set off on a road trip to find the childrens’ estranged father, who they are lead to believe lives in California.

It soon becomes apparent that the traveling itself is far more important than the actual destination that represents an escape from the family lives they knew. With flashbacks to the past, the reader learns more about the family’s history and the reasons behind the childrens’ sometimes erratic behaviour.

The author mixes humor with bursts of raw emotion in a direct discourse style, and The Flying Troutmans is a captivating and engaging read from the outset, depicting a journey of self-discovery for all involved.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

It's not such a Lonely Planet after all - Tales of an Indian Dream

An article I wrote towards the end of 2008, detailing my ideal trip travelling across the southern region of India, beat over 300 entries to be one of the five winning articles to be published as part of Lonely Planet’s Big Trip book promotion, a one-stop guide to planning your first big trip overseas, which is on sale at the moment.

The Big Trip guide will be full of information and tips to help plan fellow travellers’ trips and is available in all STA Travel shops in Australia and New Zealand.

This is what my local newspaper, the
Nottingham Evening Post, had to say about my travel writing win.

And here is my winning entry:

As I arrive in Kerala, known by many as God’s Own Country, there will be no doubt in my mind that I am finally here in the land that I have always dreamt of visiting.

From Fort Cochin, I travel to the “Venice of the East” where I board my houseboat. As I cruise along the canals, flanked by village houses, everywhere I look there is a microcosm of daily life: colourful women washing their hair or the family’s clothes; laughing children swinging out into the canal on palm fronds; wizened old men fishing off the banks; cows being milked and goats on ropes being led back home. Gliding along, I enjoy the unique aquatic life that the backwaters have to offer, along with the otters and turtles that live in and around the water. The palm trees and leafy plants that grow alongside the backwaters provide a green hue to the surrounding landscape.Come dusk, the boat moors up by a canal bank where I watch the sun go down. I am lulled to sleep by the gentle flapping of the monsoon covers and the steady drumming of the rain on the reed roof.

From Kerala I take a boat to the Lakshadweep islands, a set of 36 coral islands that dazzle in their own vibrant colours. Renowned as India’s turquoise jewel and oblivious to the rest of the world, Kadamat Island is my haven for the weeks to come. I indulge my passion for diving among the unspoiled coral reefs. Exploring the underworld, I come face to face with resting turtles, lionfish, shoaling fish, groupers and tuna. Whilst nosing around a cleaning station, I discover a group of guitar sharks whizzing around on the top of a reef, showing off to each other. I stop and observe from a distance – they certainly will not notice me in my bright red wetsuit!

By night I laze around chatting to the local fishermen about coconuts and fish, discovering more about the daily life of an Indian sea nomad. The mysterious and white sandy beaches envelop me more than I could ever have imagined, despite there being a distinct lack of Facebook access.

Soon it is time for me to leave. As my boat departs the island, a man waves at me from the shore telling me I have forgotten one of my bags. Guess I’ll have to go back…