Friday, March 29, 2013


Zanzibar's picture-perfect beaches rarely get crowded. Unless a herd of cows gets thirsty and decides it's time for a drink and some sun. These hedonistic bovines give nude beach a whole new meaning.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


At the Zanzibar Butterfly Center, visitors get to experience the first moments of a butterfly's life,
while the Center provides an income for local farmers and incentives them to protect the tropical forest.
While traveling and volunteering, we often meet or hear about creative people doing innovative things to help alleviate poverty. Until a recent visit to the Zanzibar Butterfly Center, however, we had never imagined farming butterflies as an engine to support local economies.

Figo the butterfly farmer
But just ask Figo, one of the more than 30 villagers who raise caterpillars for the Center in the island's tropical forests. The young entrepreneur filled us in on the practice's viability.

"It gives us a reliable source of income," says Figo, who lives near the Center and became a butterfly farmer three years ago. "It also gives us a reason not to cut down the forests, which we used to use for charcoal."

Farmers like Figo can earn a steady income, selling their "crops" either locally to the Butterfly Center, which needs a constant supply, or for export to markets as far away as Europe. 

Depending on the species of butterfly the pupa will produce, farmers can earn anywhere from 25 cents to one dollar per pupa, also called a chrysalis. Since most butterflies live only 2-3 weeks, the work and resulting income is steady, as long as there is demand.

Liz peers into the raising cage, where mature pupae are glued to sticks. There, they will eventually emerge as butterflies, which you can witness during your visit to the Zanzibar Butterfly Center.
Founded six years ago by a Scottish ecologist, a Zanzibari forester and a Tanzanian conservationist, the Center received a United Nations SEED grant last year, recognizing it for sustainable development and environmental innovation. 

"Visitors can see and touch all stages of the life cycle, from egg to caterpillar to pupa to new-born butterfly," said co-founder and Scotsman, Benjamin Hayes. "It's one of the biggest butterfly facilities in Africa, and every visit helps us support the local farmers."

The glistening green chrysalis of the Gold-banded Forester is dotted with gold flakes.

If you get to Zanzibar, make sure you drop by the Center for a visit. Enjoy the surroundings, learn about the insects' life cycles, and best of all, try to stand still while watching a newborn butterfly take its first flight from the palm of your hand. 

Best of all, remember you're visit and dollars help support the livelihood of some of Africa's only butterfly farmers. 

ZBC founder Benjamin Hayes (left) and a volunteer show off a collection of pupae. 
An African Monarch, also called a Plain Tiger, rests on a leaf at the Zanzibar Butterfly Center.

Monday, March 25, 2013


Even without the groups of acrobatic kids soaring high over the sand, Stone Town's sunsets tend to stick in the memory. Combine the sights, however, and you get what's by far the greatest show on the historic Tanzanian island of Zanzibar.  

For three days, we started our nights here, watching as not-so-organized gangs of local teenagers twisted, flipped and somersaulted their way from the beach into the shallow waters. These weren't local kids looking to bilk money from tourists. These guys performed for fun. For bragging rights. For each other. And luckily for us, thanks to their nightly shows, they'll be performing in our memories for a long time to come.

Friday, March 22, 2013


We thought we'd never see anything like the Photo Friday rainbow over Burma's Inle Lake from months ago. But an afternoon thunderstorm on our first day in Zanzibar produced a scene we thought was pretty close. 

Above, two men pole their boat through the shallows as another sails past in the distance. Welcome to Zanzibar indeed.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

CAPE TOWN GRAPE TOWN least for Liz and her new best friend Alison, at the House of J.C. Le Roux
On the road, you sometimes meet people you enjoy talking to. Perhaps it's over a drink at a bar or on a long ride on a local bus. You talk of travel, of life, of things seen and places explored. 

Occasionally, if things go really well (or it's happy hour), you might exchange contact information. Maybe you even go so far as to invite your new "friends" to visit you back home, knowing full well the chances of such a visit are slim at best.  

Keith, Alison, Liz and Kip, mid-winery tour. Very happy.
When we met Alison and Keith for 15 minutes in the middle of a torrential rainstorm in rural Madagascar, we figured they were just throwing out a polite invitation when they invited us to stay at their place in South Africa. Little did they know, we always take full advantage of such invitations.

A month later, we arrived at their house in Cape Town at 1:00 AM on a Saturday morning...and they let us in the house. We were slightly shocked...and very relieved.

They gave us a room where we had some of the best sleep in months, they cooked us homemade meals, and they drove us on a well-guided tour of their stunning city. They were two of the nicest people we've met...ever. Come visit us in DC anytime, guys...we mean it!

Pretending to know his sparkling wines.
To top it all off, the day after we arrived, these two superhosts informed us about these incredible places just minutes from their beautiful home that were known as "wine farms." We soon figured out they meant "vineyards," and within an hour we were headed into South Africa's famous wine country.  

Our tour began with a breakfast stop (why not?) at The House of J.C. Le Roux, where we were overwhelmed with the choices of sparkling wine, an excellent choice for ten o'clock in the morning.  

That, and the fact that they do a pairing of nougat and marshmallow with their tasting. Kip was sure he'd heard wrong, but there are, in fact, five different kinds of nougat. We tried them all. 

Two cheetahs enjoy the views at the Graff Estate.

Following our bubbly and nougat, we headed to the Stellenbosch region, to the Delaire Graff Estate. This place was beautiful, as were their wines. We may have tried one or two...or three.  

Liz makes some new furry friends at the Fairview petting zoo.

The last vineyard, Fairviewwas by far our favorite. Liz practically had to be dragged away when we left.  Folks in the U.S. may be familiar with their brand "Goats Do Roam."

Feeding THE goat of "Goats do Roam"
Not only does this vineyard have wine tastings, but they also have a goat petting zoo. For those who don't recall the many Everest trek delaysLiz loves animals...almost as much as she loves wine.  And to make this place even better, it has a cheese tasting bar, which we took full advantage of.   

All in all, we got a great education on the wines of South Africa.  We may even get crazy and try them again someday. If Liz ever gets off that motorcycle.
This is how Liz acts when she's all hopped up on cheese.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Even the views from the cheap seats are stunning at Kirstenbosch Gardens in Cape Town, South Africa.
If you're South Africa's most famous rock band and you need a place to play a farewell gig, there's nowhere better than the mountain-backed stage of Kirstenbosch Gardens near Cape Town. At least, that's what the lead singer of multi-platinum rockers The Parlotones' said on the eve of their re-location to the U.S.

"Kirstenbosch is the best venue in the world!" shouted front man Kahn Morbee, whose known for his high energy and signature eyeliner onstage

Parlotones' lead singer Kahn Morbee gets the crowd moving at Kirstenbosch.
While the music proved quality (a poppy mix somewhere between Coldplay and Arcade Fire), the venue and the wine selection were equally as stellar. 

Before and after the headliners played, we wandered the gardens, getting happily lost among the trails and hardwoods that cover the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. Like a lot of other visitors in the park, we brought in our own bottle of locally-grown vino and took in the stunning scenery as the another day faded into a memorable night.

Yet one more reason to love Cape if we needed another. 

Liz with two pre-show musicians. 
More than a concert venue, Kirstenbosch is an incredible place to spend a day wandering around with a local wine.
A drummer's eye view from backstage at The Parlotones' farewell show. Yes, we talked our way into backstage passes.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Kip rethinks the decision he made two seconds before.
Bungy jumping...this "extreme sport" sounds a little cliche and a lot outdated, not to mention life-threateningly idiotic (similar category as diving with great white sharks, perhaps?). Naturally when Kip heard about a gorge in South Africa that's spanned by a bungee bridge more than 700 feet high, we had to go check it out. 

Surprising to no one who's read this site before, Kip signed up as soon as we arrived (remember the rock climbing jump video in Thailand?). An hour later, in a steady rain, with a juiced-up rubber band tied to his ankles, he jumped off the world's highest bungee. Like hundreds of others who do the jump every year, he survived unscathed...unlike an incredibly (un)lucky female Aussie traveler whose bungee chord snapped last year in Africa

Checking that one off the list, we head back to Cape Town for a visit with new best friends Keith and Allison, who agreed to show us around and even crash at their place while in town. 

Would you trust your life to a bunch of tiny rubberbands
strapped together with a bigger rubberband?
Thousands of people, including Kip at right,
do each year. 

Monday, March 18, 2013


Described on its Wikipedia page as "a favorite haunt of artists, restauranteurs and hippies," Knysna sounded like a quirky place worthy of at least an afternoon stopover, though we weren't really sure how we'd fit in with the local population. 

Turns out, the bay-side town of 70,000+ on the Garden Route is a hangout for anyone who likes seafood, cocktails and sunsets over the water. After eating grilled fish, listening to live music and enjoying the views (like the one above), we stayed the night and wished we could have stayed longer.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Come on in...the water's fine! Or not. A shark lunges out of the water during our snorkel trip.

A visit to South Africa simply isn't complete without a relaxing swim in the swirling waters of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. Or so we were told.  

Not ones to miss an opportunity for some quality beach time, we headed two hours southeast of Cape Town to Van Dyks Bay, home to long stretches of deserted shoreline...and a cove famous around the world for offering visitors the chance to get up close and personal with massive, hungry great white sharks.

Yes, that's great white sharks, the ones made famous by Jaws, "Shark Week," and overblown newscasts from around the planet that make these apex predators out to be much more dangerous to humans than they really are. Of course, when you're underwater in a cage and a 15-foot long, 2,000-lb. killing machine passes less than an arm's length in front of you, you'd be forgiven for accidentally warming your wetsuit from the inside. Not that either of us did that. No, really, we didn't. Photos below. 
"Fishing" for sharks only a few feet from a metal cage filled with snorkelers. Though the sharks are not actually fed, trips like these remain controversial for their impact on shark behavior. Click here for a news story on the practice of shark diving. 
Kip experiences a close encounter with a great white shark swimming just beyond the bars of the cage. 
It was a good day not to be a neoprene seal.
When one of the sharks latched onto the fake seal used to attract them, a tooth lodged in the seal's back. The captain presented the jagged incisor to Liz, who was extremely excited about her new souvenir. 

Friday, March 15, 2013


Most of us mistakenly believe the Cape of Good Hope to be the southernmost tip of Africa. Yet as any well-traveled sea captain would've been able to tell you back in the days of square sails and scurvy , that honor goes to Cape Agulhas, known as one of the most dangerous spots on the oceans. 

The area is famous for fierce winter gales and towering rogue waves, either of which may have forced the ship above onto the rocks where we got a good look at her at sunset. Menacing clouds blocked out most of the light, but the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks made for an impressive soundtrack to end our day. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Volunteering is fun (and maybe scary to at least one kid)!
Interested in voluntourism and volunteering during your next trip? 

The publication Third Sector, which asked us to write about our travels and 1 of 7, liked our first story so much they asked us to write another one with tips for people looking to volunteer while traveling.

Read the full story HERE or below

If you've recently volunteered during your travels (or at home!) and you'd like to see it featured on the 1 of 7 site, send us an email ( @ and we'll do our best to feature it here.


Traveling volunteers Liz Zipse and Kip Patrick provide tips on 'voluntourism' - giving something back to local communities while travelling abroad

You Can Always Do Something
A lot of travelers like to volunteer while away from home. However, not everyone is willing or able to spend their entire holiday volunteering in one place, often paying a third-party organisation for the privilege, which is how many voluntourism trips are set up. 

For those 'selfish' travelers like us who still want to help but prefer short-term alternatives, there are countless ways to give back. From teaming up with on-the-ground organisations that accept short-term do-gooders to organizing your own beach or street cleanup, or helping local children with their nascent English skills, rest assured that whether you’re at home or abroad there’s always something you can do to help others.

Befriend Google

As part of pre-trip planning, do an online search for the word 'volunteer' and the name of the place you’re going.

Collecting trash on Everest trek.
This can be a helpful way to learn about local organisations that seek volunteers or find pre-scheduled events where volunteers may be needed – think Earth Day, public festivals, park clean-ups, and so on. 

While in South Africa last month, we found a local animal rescue organisation that held a weekly 'canine socialization session'. We signed up and, after a short training session, we were being overrun by a pack of the happiest, cutest, cuddliest canines we’d seen in months. 

Many charities have excellent websites, as well as volunteer coordinators who can help. Other organisations, such as Stuff Your Rucksack, have details of existing projects that need support around the world. Two other good examples of organisations that offer free, short-term volunteering opportunities are Big Brother Mouse in Laos and Soft Power in Uganda. 

Keep Your Eyes Open 
Opportunities to help out are all around us, particularly in less developed countries – though it often requires a sharp eye to see them. If you meet someone who’s keen to improve their English (and not just hoping to sell you a tour or a trinket), ask if they would like to work on their language skills. On beaches, street corners or nature trails littered with rubbish, spend a few hours picking up trash and see what happens. It’s not glamorous, and maybe it doesn't fit the classic definition of voluntourism, but these and other opportunities to give back are small but powerful ways to make a difference. 

The biggest surprise to us was that every time we found opportunities like this, other people joined in to help, whether it was a father and son in the Philippines, some kids from a nearby mosque in Borneo, or fellow travelers who just wanted to lend a hand. The main thing is to stay alert when an opportunity presents itself. 

Ask a Local 

If you haven't had any luck finding a volunteer opportunity online or at your destination, talk with a friendly local. Hotel managers, waiters, shopkeepers and even taxi drivers can be a wealth of information, helping you to find an organisation that might not be large enough to have a website. You can also stop by or email non-profits wherever you are to ask if they have recommendations. Even if they don’t offer short-term gigs themselves, they might know someone who does. One caveat: be aware that there are people and organisations whose main goal is to make money off tourists under the guise of doing good. Stay alert, ask questions and, if something doesn't seem quite right, don’t proceed. 

Don’t Hand Out Candy or Cash on the Street 

It might seem like a quick, easy way to make a difference but, as painful as it sounds, do your best not to give out sweets or money to beggars on the street, particularly to children. Candy will damage their teeth. Giving money is likely to encourage more begging. Worse, the street kids in some places might be forced to be there by criminals who use them as a source of income. There are exceptions to every rule, of course, but if you really want to help it’s better to direct your donation to a local organisation devoted to addressing the issue rather than make a bad situation worse. 

Ignore the Naysayers

Big Brother Mouse Liz Zipse books Laos
Delivering books in Laos.
Surprisingly, there’s a large group of volunteer 'experts' who tell travelers that short-term volunteering isn't worthwhile. The Volunteer section of Lonely Planet’s latest Africa guide says: "Unless you've got some expertise, and are prepared to stay for at least a year, you’re unlikely to be much use." 

Organisations are doubtless thrilled to have highly skilled, long-term volunteers, especially those willing to pay for the privilege. But for most of us this type of requirement and time commitment simply isn't realistic.

A lack of time or money should never stop someone from giving back, particularly in places like Asia and Africa, home to most of the world’s poorest countries. Even the smallest of gestures can go a long way toward helping someone who needs it most.
Do your research, stay alert, ask locals for advice and never be discouraged if someone tells you "you can't." Take it from us – you can. At the end of the day, remember that there’s always something we can do to help others – even if it’s just one day each week. 

-Liz Zipse and Kip Patrick have spent the last 11 months volunteering while travelling

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


The UK's top non-profit publication, Third Sector invited us to write an article about our trip, 1 of 7, and volunteering while traveling. 

Read the full article HERE, or check out a brief intro below.

Voluntourism the Selfish Way
Eleven months ago we left our nonprofit jobs in the U.S. and kicked off an around-the-world trip...all in pursuit of our goal to volunteer at least one day each week, no matter where the trip took us.

It’s not what most people think of when they hear the word “voluntourism”—which typically involves a trip to a single place for a defined period, all organised by a third party organisation.
But when it came to our trip of a lifetime, we were the entire article here.

Monday, March 11, 2013


Yes, we know it's supposed to be "Funny Monday." 

But it's been weeks since we posted a sunset photo, plus the end-of-day sky around Cape Town is hard to beat, so enjoy this Sunny Monday substitute shot. Hopefully, we'll have some mind-blowingly hilarious stuff for you next week. Either that, or you may have to suffer through a sunset from the beaches of Zanzibar.

Win-win, right?!

BTW, if you or anyone you know is considering a spring break trip this year, check out this article on alternatives to the "traditional" beach/party vacation thing. Read more about alternative spring breaks HERE

Friday, March 8, 2013


On a long stretch of sand not far from Cape Town, this colorful line of beach cottages makes for a scenic view in the surf town of Muizenberg. We stopped for breakfast at a local diner, watching wet-suit clad surfers come in from the frigid waters for a cup of coffee before heading back out for a late-morning session. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Kip walks a rescued yellow lab at the SPCA in George, South Africa. 

The following story appeared in the George Herald, the local paper of the town where we stopped to volunteer on a drive along South Africa's famous Garden Route:

The Garden Route SPCA received some surprise visitors last week from the United States.

Liz Zipse and Kip Patrick, a married couple from Washington, DC, are volunteering their way around the world and stopped by the SPCA during one of its twice-weekly "animal socialization" sessions.

While at the facility, the couple joined a group of animal-loving George volunteers who walk dogs, cuddle cats and play with puppies, all of which are up for adoption.

"Our time at the SPCA in George was some of the most fun we've had in 10 months of volunteering all over Africa and Asia," said Liz Zipse, who, with her husband, is volunteering at least one day every week of their trip.

"The animals love the attention they get from our volunteers, and the volunteers really enjoy their time with our dogs and cats, which stay with us until we can find them a permanent, loving home," said Senior Inspector Salomé Botha. 

"We were happy Liz and Kip picked the Garden Route SPCA as part of their weekly volunteer activities... and were delighted that they took out memberships as well... our first American members!"

The SPCA welcomes volunteers to walk dogs and socialise puppies and cats. (Volunteers must be 16 or over.) The sessions take place 2.00pm to 4.00pm every Wednesday and 9.00am to 11.00am on Saturdays. 

For information on how you can become a volunteer, call Heather at 072 877 2911. For more information on the travels and volunteer activities Liz and Kip, visit their website at

Monday, March 4, 2013


South Africa, home to some of the world's most dangerous and sometimes deadly beasts like lions, leopards, crocodiles, cape buffalo...and penguins and baboons?! 

Yes, according to these road signs along the famous Garden Route, visitors best beware of penguins, baboons, and even golfers? Kip should probably be a bit more careful with ostriches while we're at it. 

Kip does his best ostrich imitation. Luckily for him, it didn't work. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013


From its ancient baobabs to its adventurous sailing trips to its incredible (and oh-so-friendly) wildlife Madagascar's been good to us. But it's time to move on. South Africa, here we come.

Til then, below are a few parting shots from the land of the lemurs (and tortoises, and geckos, and ...).  
reproducing breeding program
Nature at its most "natural"--these radiated tortoises live (and love) in one of the world's only programs set up to breed the highly-endangered reptiles. Seemed things were going well when we visited. 
That's one tiny gecko catching rays on the mirror of our rented motor bike.
A trip to Madagascar without a photo of a ring-tailed lemur? Not a chance.
Sadly, despite its reputation as a haven for rare and endangered wildlife, the island remains a frequent venue for slash-and-burn agriculture, as seen in the photo above.
Us at 20 feet under, diving near Ile Sainte-Marie off Madagascar's remote east coast.