Surviving Malaria COMPLETELY Alone in Liberia

If you ask most people out there, the thought of traveling alone is NOT exactly the most appealing idea. Many like the idea of exploring the world, but with the comfort of a friend, family or significant other by their side.

However, COMPLETELY ALONE…..that raises too many fears and doubts, right? 

The talk about fears as a solo traveler comes up ALL the time in my conversations, especially when people find out how much I actually travel.

Just to get the perspective from other women, I like return the question and get their personal opinion of travel, especially in regards to going alone, and find out what holds many of them back.

When I ask non-traveling women, or ones that have the desire to venture out on their own (but are too nervous to make that decision, I typically hear three main fears:

    1. Getting abducted by some crazy stranger
    2. Being stuck abroad, completely alone, with a sickness, disease or hospitalised.
    3. Feeling overly lonely.

I hear these three common fears ALL of the time. They are very normal and most women travellers have had at least one of these fears at some point or another while on the road, whether it was before they started, or during the time that they are gone. I have had all three of these fears many time throughout my time abroad.

Unfortunately, in April 2019, one of these three fears actually happened to me.

Without a doubt, I can say this one experience (until now) has been one the scariest things that has ever happened to me as a traveller…

 

So, let me start off with how it all started……

In early 2019, I was looking for a new kind of experience. I was going through a stage where I was completely bored with European travel. I had finished a long trip through Southeast Asia about 6 months prior and was saving South America and the Caribbean for another moment.

My adventurous side was calling out my name. I searched endlessly for a wild experience that I had never had before and something most solo female travellers would never think about doing. I had no idea what I was looking for, but I just knew that there had to be some sort of exciting adventure that I could have that was totally off the beaten path.

I looked up routes all over the world and FINALLY ended up finding my next adventure: Overlanding West Africa.

Traveling West Africa has its own share of challenges. When I made this plan, I had just finished 6 months of physical rehabilitation, due to a bad motorcycle accident I had over the previous summer in Thailand. The doctor had just given me approval to get on the road and the pain was finally under control to the point that I could carry a backpack again on my newly healed collar bone.

I bought a one way ticket to Nouakchott, Mauritania and started making my way south by public transportation. All I wanted during this time was pure adventure: staying with local families in their homes, public transportation (some hitchhiking) and an authentic immersion into the African culture, that would place me WAY outside of my comfort zone.

During this time, it was was just me, myself, and I.

No plan.

No expectations.

No time frame.

No travel partner

Everything was truly going PERFECT….

I was having a genuinely great experience, meeting incredible people and visiting places that I did not even know existed on the map.

I continued on with my positive experience into Liberia, visiting a beautiful Eco Lodge right outside of Monrovia, called Libassa. The location of the lodge was perfect. My cozy eco cabin was located on in the middle of the woods, only a short walk from the white sandy beach. I literally had the best of both worlds!

I quickly unpacked my bags and anxiously walked around to get familiar with the area, which would be my home for the next three days.

Out of no where, the first symptom hit hard: an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion.

I had just traveled hours to get to the lodge, in the hottest part of the day, so I blew it off and took a small nap. I woke up shortly after feeling unrested, so I took a brief walk and decided to call it a night.

I woke up feeling better the next day, just knowing that all I needed was a good night’s rest in order to feel myself again.

During the day, I relaxed and then visited their private animal sanctuary. I was able to see the rescued animals and learn about all the positive work they are doing to save and protect wild animals in Liberia. I felt completely normal!

As the evening crept in, the new symptoms appeared: bursting head ache, a thirst that felt like not even 100 bottles of water could quench and absolutely no appetite (which is not normal for me).

I laid down in the bed and felt anxious and restless. I tossed and turned and continued to drink water, telling myself it was ONLY dehydration. On the second night I was unable to sleep. I felt all of the muscles in my back aching and no matter which way I turned, I could not get comfortable. I went through moments where I felt like I was on fire, followed by uncontrollable shivering and chills.

On day three, I woke up so weak that I could barely walk. I knew something was seriously wrong at that point and it was WAY more than just dehydration.

After days of ignoring the signs and thinking I would just get better on my own, I decided I couldn’t go on any further.

I could literally hold myself up to get to the reception of the hotel.

Everything from that point was an absolute blur. My knees were weak and shaky and I urgently called a taxi to take me to the international hospital. Honestly, I barely remember that long ride there. All I remember is stepping foot in the hospital and collapsing on the floor the moment I walked in.

The doctor gave me one look up and down and said,  “WOW, you look terrible!”

He took my blood, gave me some tests and within minutes told me that I tested positive for a bad case of malaria. Without even asking, he told me that I would be instantly admitted into the hospital.

The local doctor looked at me in shock and asked me over and over, “Why did you wait to come in? Miss, did you know that this could’ve EASILY killed you. You are so lucky.”

At that point, his words did not really sink in. I felt worse than I had ever felt in my entire life.

The symptoms only grew worse and I honestly felt like I was out of my mind. The doctor put an IV in my arm and told me to not panic and a few minutes I found out why he had given me that warning.

A strong sense shock took over my body. The medicine started to kick in all at once and it was simply too much for my small body to handle. Frightened, I called the doctor and told him that I was having an adverse reaction. I could not think or see straight and I felt so much anxiety that I thought I was going to rip off the IV and jump out the window. He assured me that all of the feelings that I was having was completely normal.

I sat up in the hospital bed, shaking profusely, while frantically looking at the clock and waiting for time to pass.

The more I let my mind roam, the more anxious I felt. I was there all alone, with no family, friends or contacts, and honestly doubtful if I was going to make it out alive from this living nightmare.

Those were some of the worst hours and thoughts that I have ever had in my life, but in the end, I made it.

I was released from the hospital and agreed with the doctor that I would finish my medications by mouth over the next three days. Keep in mind that most people that get malaria can get rid of it by just taking medication at home by mouth during three days.  My situation was more serious and I needed double dosage, which is why I had to continue taking the medications after being released from the hospital.

My Couchsurfing host was traveling outside of Liberia at the time, but he allowed me to stay at his house while he was gone so that I could continue on with my recovery.

I just assumed that I was going to get better from that point on, but I was COMPLETELY wrong….

In the middle of the night, after arriving to the apartment, my fever spiked again out of control. I did everything the doctor told me to lower a high fever, but no matter what I did, I could not seem to get it down.

I admit, I panicked.

All I could do was cry hysterically. I was in pain and I was so terrified that I would not wake up the next morning. No one was around to check on me, which only made that fear grow stronger by the minute.

During those long weeks getting over malaria, I lost all my strength and looked like a bag of bones. In a given day, I was lucky enough to force down a mango or avocado.

Despite it all, I continued to look forward and stay positive.

The day finally came that I woke up feeling better, but it was a long process towards a fully recovery.

I had to reevaluate my plan and quickly decided to end my West African trip shortly after. All of the malaria medications destroyed my body, messed up all my blood levels and left me with very bad anemia.

The road to recovery was VERY slow. Even after 6 months, I did not feel my normal self…

Traveling the world can be such a beautiful and rewarding experience, but there are some serious dangers out there, especially regarding health safety.

I’m writing and sharing my story with you the midst of a national health emergency with Coronavirus. I am trapped inside my Airbnb in Ecuador, unable to walk the streets (unless I have a good reason) and with a strict curfew of 9pm-5am.

The world is in a state of panic right now and this time being quarantined inside has given me time to reflect on my life experience and this awful health scare that I had just 11 months ago.

I want to urge you to NEVER ignore any odd symptoms that your body may be having, ESPECIALLY while traveling to a country where disease and infection are common.

When you notice a change in your body, go to the doctor and get checked, especially if you are traveling in a country with malaria.

There are more than 195 million cases of malaria each year and over 500,000 deaths.

What I learned from this horrible experience is that strange, out of the ordinary symptoms are NOT something to play around with.

The moment you these symptoms, you should immediately visit the doctor to get checked:

  1. High fever
  2. Shaking/chills/sweating
  3. Headache
  4. Unusual muscle pain
  5. Nausea/Vomiting

Unfortunately, if you have malaria and wait too long to get tested, it might just be too late.

Malaria DOES and WILL kill you…..

 

Don’t forget to also check out:

IS SOLO TRAVELING WEST AFRICA WORTH THE EXPERIENCE?

OVERLAND TRAVEL TO LIBERIA, AFRICA: A COUNTRY OF LONG STANDING RESILIENCE

THE ONE THING THAT YOU SHOULD NEVER TRAVEL WITHOUT

 

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Is Solo Traveling West Africa Worth the Experience?

While other people see traveling alone as an act of courage, I now consider it normal. That could not be further from the person that I was in my late teens, that frequently mentioned, 

“I would NEVER consider traveling all alone. That would be too dangerous and scary!” 

Just the single thought of traveling alone years back, without the comfort of a friend or boyfriend by my side, brought me severe anxiety and an over whelming feeling that I could not even think about facing. 

Sure, traveling across Europe and North America is not so scary, right? 

While there are dangers to be found in any part of the world, for the most part, many European countries tend to be safer than other locations, with easy transportation and up to date infrastructure, allowing for trouble free travel between the countries.    

Let’s face it…there is an obvious sense of comfort to be found while traveling to more organized and developed countries. You still get that sense of adventure, but it’s less risky.

HOWEVER, that comfort easily diminishes the further you travel off the normal path, especially to parts of the world where most travellers do not step foot, like West Africa. 

West Africa is known as one of the most difficult areas of the world to travel to overland. Lack of infrastructure, unpaved roads, unsuitable conditions for the public transportation (I have no idea how there are not more wrecks with how old and run down the taxis and mini busses are) and a lack of connection between countries, which makes it very difficult to travel with ease across borders. 

After many years of traveling, I became addicted to this lifestyle. After becoming a “true addict,” I decided that I wanted to travel to every single country, and from that point I set off to make that goal become a reality.

In 2019, the time came to plan my next adventure. I was contemplating many places close to Europe and the thought came to my mind to organize an independent overland adventure across West Africa (no tour), something that you cannot find much credible information on while searching online. 

I honestly had NO idea what I was getting myself into.

All that I had in mind was the time in which I wanted to go, the countries that I wanted to visit, and I told myself I would plan the rest along the way. I bought a one way ticket to Nouakchott, Mauritania from Spain and my plan was literally unplanned and up in the air the rest of the way. 

The lack of information online can cause even the most experienced traveler a bit of discomfort, ESPECIALLY for a solo female. 

I decided to face a huge fear of mine and try to make the long journey from Mauritania all the way to Angola (I will save that dramatic story of why I didn’t make it all the way there in another article). 

This overland path would entail crossing by foot across some of the most corrupt borders in West Africa, such as Rosso, Mauritania to Senegal. Other borders that I was planning to cross did not even have a single piece of information online to direct me and in many cases I eventually found out that some of the plans I originally had in my head of how I was going to get from one point to another, was completely ridiculous and unsafe. 

I often had to change my plan, especially the further south that I got, towards Guinea Bissau–Guinea–Sierra Leone—Liberia. 

Given that there is such little information available, I felt like the majority of my trip was trial and error and that I was literally planning each border crossing and experience day by day, depending on the advice I got from local people that I asked along the way. Obviously, I listened to the locals advice in many situations, but it was very common to hear,

“Ohh, it is SO safe here- do NOT worry. The people here are really nice and never hurt anyone.” 

Sure, maybe they would not hurt or rob their own people, but a solo American female, with a nice back pack (people tend to think of $$$), could possibly be another story. I am not out to think that people are out to get me, but I do understand that a locals experience is sometimes a bit biased. 

I have to admit, the unknown kept me up at night (especially on days when I was exhausted, alone for countless days without an interaction with another person or traveler or had a bad travel day), wondering and reflecting on all the possibilities.

What if someone kidnaps me at gunpoint?

With all of the ridiculous drivers, what if I get in the hands of the wrong person?

What will I do if someone tries to violate me?

What happens if I am in the wrong place at the wrong time? 

When people see my travels across the world on social media, they often think that I am some kind of fearless traveler because I do unordinary things. The truth is that I fear on a daily basis, especially when I allow my mind to take control.

However, one truth that I stand behind is that:

No matter how much fear that I have, I will never allow it to hold me back and be a barrier between me and my dreams. I have taken on the motto for my life, “Feel the fear and do it anyways!” 

Regarding my route across West Africa, it consisted of this: 

Mauritania — Senegal — Gambia — Guinea Bissau — Guinea —- Sierra Leone — Liberia — Ivory Coast — Ghana — Togo — Benin

When major hardship took over my travel and I realized that I was not going to make it all the way to Angola, I decided to turn around in Benin and return to Togo and back to Ghana, before flying to the island of São Tomé and Principe. 

During this wild four month journey, I decided to do everything by public transportation. When we talk about public transportation, we’re not thinking about these big elegant, coach buses that you see in in western countries.

 

NOOOO WAY!! 

What I’m talking about is traveling in awful, run down cars/vans, which are prone to break down every few hours, crammed full of sweaty strangers/animals, in the boiling heat, stacked one on top of the other.

In some countries the transportation was better than others. Strangely enough, if you risk your life and ride on the top of the SUV in some places, you can actually get half off your ticket price. 

Hmmmm…….

While the West African countries are quite small, especially in comparison to other countries in the world, it does not take away the fact that the distances are extremely long, especially in the old, broken car. I can’t tell you how many days I spent 13 + hours crammed on top of an old lady or man (or vice versa), in 95 degree heat (obviously, with no air) and crammed to the point that I thought I was going to explode.

It brings you quite a big of anxiety just reading this no? (I feel anxious just writing and thinking back on this myself) 

Most recommend that you should avoid overland travel at all costs, due to the fact that accidents occur on a regular basis from the crazy drivers (lots of drunks on the road).

In fact, it is a known belief within the locals that you are more likely to die from traveling by car than you are in disease in this part of the world ( and there are A LOT of disease) —  I am not sure if this is actually true, but this is what the locals swear by. 

Looking back on all of this (and lucky to be alive), the experience was one that changed me from the inside out and took my ability to travel as a solo traveler to the next level.  It gave me a new sense of confidence in myself that I never knew that I had and literally pushed me outside my human limits.

It was NOT easy.

In fact, it was quite exhausting, but it was hands down one of the most rewarding journeys that I have ever taken. 

So, was it really worth the risk, you might be asking? 

 

To be honest, I left the experience feeling completely empowered, knowing that I faced a huge fear and did something that most people would never dare to do. It’s easy to have an idea in your mind of what you want, but quickly get discouraged and convince yourself of all of the things that could possibly go wrong, like I did in the beginning of my trip through West Africa. 

But that’s what life is about: RISK

It´s about daring to do something outside of the box and going down paths that the majority of people wouldn’t even think about going down (this is applicable for life, not just travel). 

There is a sense of empowerment in these types of experiences and honestly this feeling helped me to power through on those difficult days of traveling throughout West Africa, when my body and mind were both screaming,

JUST GIVE UP!!!

 

Over those four months of traveling,  I wanted to throw in the towel and give up on many days. I was tired, exhausted, lonely, fearful, frustrated and anxious in so many different occasions. But, I tried to keep in mind that those were JUST moments, like the passing of a big storm in the night. This helped me to realize that if I just stuck to my goal, then this uncomfort would die down soon enough. 

So the question you are probably asking yourself is, “Why in the world would you EVER put yourself through that? Where is the fun?

Still to this day I have not been able to find a good answer to this question.

In a twisted way, there was something so beautiful about being outside of my comfort zone and completely terrified to the point that I thought I literally could not go forward.

There was some sort of twisted beauty as well about being crammed in the back of a small shared taxi in the torturing heat, with children and chickens sitting on my lap and a sense of dirtiness that seemed like not even 100 showers could clean off me. 

Despite the difficult moments that I had in this adventure, I truly felt more connected to humanity than I had ever felt in my entire life.

Sleeping on hard floors/beds every night, using a small hole in the floor to go to the bathroom, having a small cold bucket for showering daily and traveling thousands of miles in terrible public transportation humbled me as a person and genuinely put me in my place.

Those late nights eating from a big shared bowl on the floor, in the pitch dark, with a family of Africans, were unique experiences that connected me more with others and gave me a deep sense of pleasure, realizing that happiness is truly something that you can find in the most simple and ordinary things. 

My thought for anyone reading this: The next time you think about taking an adventure across the world, don’t always go for the most comfortable and touristic destinations.

 

Dare to do something different.

Dare to step outside of your comfort zone and see where life takes you.

Dare to live an experience that greatly challenges you.

Dare to directly feel the sensation of uncomfort and fear. 

,

If you open your heart and mind to new experiences and chances, each and everyone of us has the possibility to be transformed and completely alter the lens in which you see the world and humankind.

Would I return to West Africa? Absolutely

Would I do the whole thing by land again? NO WAY! 

Do I recommend this experience and this route to other travellers? Without a doubt

 

Get outside of your comfort zone and take the road less traveled. 

 

……

Don’t forget to also check out:

10 MOST COMMON QUESTIONS & ANSWERS ON TRAVELING ALONE TO SAUDI ARABIA

WHAT TRAVEL ELECTRONICS & ACCESSORIES DO I USE?

OVERLAND TRAVEL TO LIBERIA, AFRICA: A COUNTRY OF LONG STANDING RESILIENCE

 

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Overland Travel to Liberia, Africa: A Country of Long Standing Resilience

After an incredible three week overland trip across Sierra Leone, I finally reached my next stop, Liberia, country #98.

I have been intrigued about this place since the first time that I heard about it years back. Unfortunately, many people have only heard about Liberia through its tragic past with war and ebola, and to be quite honest, fear often holds travelers back from venturing off to that part of Africa. 

I truly met some incredible people during my stay there, some in which suffered things that you couldn’t even imagine during those dark years of war. 

As I traveled through the country, the word that stuck in my mind was RESILIENCE. It is a country that has had it share of suffering, but somehow they have kept moving forward..

If you are not familiar with Liberia’s past, I will give you a very quick summary….

In 1989, civil war broke out when a group of rebels, led by Charles Taylor entered into the country through the Ivory Coast and began killing off the ethnic groups siding with President Samuel Doe. This war lasted over 7 years. Not too long after, the second civil war began, from 1999-2003.

Sadly, more than 200,000 people died during those years of war and the survivors were sent to neighboring countries to refugee camps. 

Many years later, in 2014, Ebola broke out in West Africa. Liberia was the first in the region to report it, and from that moment there was a downward spiral, taking the lives of over 11,000 Liberians..


Let’s be honest…

 

Fear is the factor that prevents people from visiting new places and getting outside of their comfort zone, especially in parts of the world where war only happened a short time ago.

In the case of Liberia, I would not say that I was fearful, but more hesitant and cautious as I made plans to visit there. Many skeptical people warned me and would say:  

 

“Sarah, you have no idea what you are getting yourself into. Danger is all around and you must stay away from there.”

“It is very unstable and it not a place you should visit, especially as a solo female traveler.”

 

I understand that many people mean well in their concerns for me, but these warnings are the same ones that I heard years back when I first mentioned to people that I was going to travel alone across the world. Everyday during that period of time people would warn and try to instill fear in me, but luckily I did not take their advice and stay home just dreaming about traveling.

I took the the most important step that most people tend to skip: ACTION! 

Fear…

Most people live in a prison of fear…

Fearful of change…

Fearful of the unknown….

Fearful of what COULD happen…

Trust me, I know….

Before traveling, I lived in that overwhelming prison of fear…

In fact, if you would’ve told me 15 years ago that I would be taking a solo, overland trip across West Africa, into Liberia, I would’ve told you that you were crazy. 

Through my years of traveling, my idea of fear has completely changed and my current mission in life is to take on any challenge and go into new situations with an open mind and heart.

That is exactly what I did going on my trip to Liberia…

 

                              Liberia. Country # 98

 

 
                             Country: Liberia                       
                             Capital: Monrovia 
                             Language: English
                             Money: Liberian Dollar

                           Visa: 180 USD (this is what I paid, but this can vary                                       depending on where you get it).

 

I crossed into Liberia overland from Bo, Sierra Leone. According to Google Maps, the trip should’ve taken around 5 hours.

 

After having had traveled from Mauritania-Senegal-Gambia-Guinea Bissau-Guinea-Sierra Leone, and then to Liberia overland by public transportation, I knew without a doubt that the estimation of 5 hours would be double or triple that time.

 

Anything can happen while traveling in West Africa and if you are serious about visiting there, you will need lots of patience and a good sense of humor.

 

If you want to pay half the price, you can ride on top!


Without that, you will NOT survive. 

 

My first stop on my wild adventure to Liberia was in Robertsport. 

 

I must admit, there is no better place in Liberia (in my opinion) to make a stop for rest and relaxation than Robertsport. It has a reputation for it’s beautiful beaches, relaxed environment, great surfing spots and a common place to meet other travelers.

For anyone traveling from Sierra Leone to Libera overland, this is convenient place, not too far off the main road, that you can enjoy and see a part of Liberia that you will not see just visiting the capital city. 

 

HOW TO GET THERE

 

The route that I chose was from Bo, Sierra Leone to Robertsport.

It is important to note that road conditions are not the best in this part of the world. Some parts of the highway are brand new and in perfect condition, but the majority of the roads are not good and it literally feels like you are going on a bumpy roller coaster the whole time.

If you tend to get carsick, this is NOT the place for you. 

Also, the conditions of the shared taxis are quite bad and it is VERY normal to have to get out of the car multiple times during the trip in order to help push the car up the steep hills. 

 

ARRIVING TO THE BORDER

After crossing the border from Sierra Leone there is a motorcycle that can take you to the Liberian border for a small price. From there you can catch a shared taxi going straight to Monrovia.

 

 

If you want to stop at Robertspoint, you will need to inform the driver that you need to get off at the road going in that direction. The driver will drop you off along the highway and there will be motorcycles and taxis waiting that can take you the rest of the way for less than 5 USD. 

I chose to take a motorcycle from the main highway to Robertsport and it took us around 25-35 minutes. 

To continue on to Monrovia from Robertsport, you can get a shared taxi and the distance is around 80km. 

 

ENTERING INTO LIBERIA 

There are many different routes that enter into Liberia from the three surrounding countries:

  • Sierra Leone

  • Ivory Coast

  • Guinea.

If you plan on taking the safer option, you can arrive to Liberia via in their main airport, Robert’s International, but keep in mind that flights tend to be quite expensive to and from there. 

It is very important to get your visa situation figured out before arriving. The immigration officers told me that it is possible to get a visa at the border, but I do not recommend it.

There is not an “official” price, meaning that they can try to change the cost to whatever they want. I can tell you from my own experience that it is much better in most cases (if traveling overland) to get your visa in the neighboring country. 

 

MONROVIA (CAPITAL)

This is the largest city in the whole country, and the capital. It is a city filled with history and an interesting place to go in order to get a better idea of Liberia as a country. Passing through the city you can see the remains of old 19th century town houses that were destroyed from war.

 

 

Given that the war happened in the last 30 years, the results of the war are still seen in many parts of the city and in the areas outside of Monrovia. 

 

Ducor Hotel 

This was West Africa’s first 5 star luxurious hotel and an important symbol of prosperity for Liberia throughout the world years ago. This hotel was built in 1960 and attracted people from all over the world to Liberia, for business and tourism. 

It had a beautiful rooftop, with incredible views of the city, 106 spacious rooms, a large swimming pool, tennis court and many other fantastic amenities.

 

 

I took a trip to the hotel and walked through each floor, until I reached the top. I could not help but think about how the hotel might have been more than 30 years ago. What I learned during my visit there was that the hotel was closed in 1989, the year of the first Liberian Civil War.

The hotel was destroyed and anything of value was taken out. What used to be this elaborate, luxurious hotel, was soon nothing more than a destroyed, empty, abandoned building.

 

 

As of today, the Ducor Hotel is one of the most visited places and all of Liberia.

The climb up is quite steep, but at the top you can get beautiful 360 views of the whole city.

 

 

WHERE TO STAY 

There are tons of options available to stay throughout the country, but there are two places that I visited during my stay in Liberia that I absolutely fell in love with.

If you are planning a trip to Liberia, you do NOT want to miss out on lodging in these places. 

 

Libassa Ecolodge

Libassa Ecolodge is located about 45 minutes outside of Monrovia (easily accesible by private or shared taxi). This is a perfect escape from the busy city capital. 

 

 

It’s located in a beautiful area right in nature and only a short walk away from the beach. 

One aspect that I loved about this place is that it is totally surrounded by palm trees and not a single one of them was cut down in order to build this place. The trees that are used to build the hut are replaced with a new seed, bringing life to a new tree in its place. 

The huts are so orderly and cozy. The water is restricted and each room is limited to 200W of electricity. All the products are recycled and each day they are coming up with new ways to help save the environment. 

 

 

Libassa has the only wildlife sanctuary and the whole country.

Sadly, in West Africa it is a very common to see wild animals being used as pets or sold on the street. They do everything possible here to create awareness, educate and help stop illegal animal trafficking throughout the country.

 

 

As of now, more than 265 animals have entered into their sanctuary and out of all of these 123 have been released back out into the wild.

Going to the sanctuary was a touching experience and I recommend it to anyone. Not only will your see cute animals, such as a little pangolin, but you can also get that feeling of satisfaction, knowing that your $5 entrance into the sanctuary is going for a good cause.

 

 

If you are reading this and are not able to make a visit and are interested in donating to the cause, enter into their website make a donation.

Even one dollar can make a difference into the lives of these innocent wild animals. 

Click here for more information. 

 

Nana’s Lodge 

 

Nana’s Lodge is the very first place that I stayed in when I first arrived into Liberia in the town of Robertsport.

 

 

One of my favorite things about staying here was the chance to wake up to the sound of the ocean. They have many styles of beach side bungalows. The one that I stayed in had two double beds, a fan and a lovely balcony that faces the ocean.

 

 

Also, if you want to camp next to the beach, you can bring your own tent or rent one from them. As I mentioned, I chose to stay in a bungalow and it was definitely a great decision. I totally recommend it!

The lodge is located just steps away from an area that is very popular for surfers. In fact, I heard that Robertsport has some of the best waves in the whole country.

If you wake up early, you can find many surfers of all ages out in the ocean surfing. 

 

 

The lodge also has a volleyball net, large beach beds next to the ocean and reclining chairs to relax and read a book.

 

 

If you are adventurous, you can take a one hour hike along the beach to find a ghost ship wreck.

I must admit, it’s not the easiest hike in the world and you must be VERY careful because you have to climb slippery rocks (it is very hard to do with flip flops), but the experience was SO worth it! 

Click here for more information: 



My Liberian Nightmare….


Traveling the world is not always a fun, pleasant, happy adventure like people might assume it is by watching through Instagram. There are many moments in my travels that I have found myself in very uncomfortable situations, alone and totally lost. 

The obstacles that I have faced while on the road are part of the experience and with every situation that I have lived, I have come out with more wisdom and prepared to not make the same mistake again. 

With that said……..

After an exciting week exploring Liberia, my adventure took a major detour…..

I arrived at Libassa Resort, checked into my cabin and instantly started exploring the area. The lodge is a mini paradise, with a large pool, beach area and completely surrounded by nature. As I was walking around, I felt a strange sensation take over my body that only grew with every step. 

As always, I remained positive and said to myself, “This is only the exhaustion from endless travel.”

The weakness grew over the next two days to the point that I could barely make it from my bed to the bathroom. My stubbornness told me not to go to the doctor and to just keep drinking water and that everything will be okay…

However, it was not….

On the third day I found myself hunched over, weak and barely able to make it through the door of the International Hospital in Monrovia.

The doctor gave me a look of concern, took some quick tests and within 2 minutes diagnosed me with Malaria, a disease spread from mosquitos. 

 

HEALTH 

Malaria is very common in many parts of Africa and throughout the world. 

It can be easily treated if caught in the right time, but if you wait, it can and will kill you. In fact, thousands of people die every single year because of untreated Malaria.

If you plan to travel to Malaria zones, travel with precaution and realize that this is a disease that you don’t to mess around with. 

Don’t hesitate one second the moment you start to feel any sort of strange symptoms, such as unusual back pain, fever, weakness and fatigue.

Quickly find a local clinic or hospital in order to get tested. The earlier the doctors can diagnose Malaria, the quicker you can get the treatment you need in order to continue on with your life.

Unfortunately, my trip to Liberia was cut short after nine days of being there. The rest of the time I was either laying in a hospital bed or alone in the house of my American friend who allowed me to stay there while he was out of the country. 

 

 

It was hands-down one of the scariest experiences that I have had while traveling. It truly was a nightmare, especially being completely alone. 

 

People continually ask me “Why did you not get the vaccination for Malaria?!” 

 

As of now there is no vaccination available. 

Many people mistake the vaccination for Yellow Fever that you must get while traveling to Africa for Malaria. 

There are anti-Malaria pills available that you can take during your travel, but given that I was traveling for 4+ months, this option was highly discouraged by my doctor. The pills are quite strong and over a long period of time it might actually cause major problems. 

 

 

If you plan to travel long term in a Malaria zone like I did…..

 


My Words of Advice:

  1. Load up on mosquito repellent and apply it multiple times a day.
  2. Always pack long pants and sleeves and wear them as often as possible, especially in the evening hours. 
  3. Wear a mosquito bracelet (some people swear by these). 
  4. Wear socks any chance you can. 
  5. Sleep inside of a mosquito net. 
  6. For short trips, take the anti-Malaria mediation. 

 

 

 

 

Don’t forget to also check out:

Top Solo Female Travel Myths EXPOSED: Part 1

10 TRICKS BEFORE SPEAKING ON STAGE

THE ONE THING THAT YOU SHOULD NEVER TRAVEL WITHOUT

 

 

adminOverland Travel to Liberia, Africa: A Country of Long Standing Resilience
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Discovering the Beautiful Island of Sao Tome & Principe, Africa

As we were getting ready to land on the island of Sao Tome & Principe in Africa, the man sitting next to me on the airplane looked over and quietly whispered to me, “you must be going to the island for work, no?”

With a very confused look on my face, I smiled and said,

“No, I am going for tourism. I have been traveling alone in West Africa for the last 3.5 months and this is my last stop.”

He looked at me totally shocked, as if I had told him something that was absolutely absurd and unheard of.

“Look all around us and see if you notice anything in common with the majority of the people”- he mentioned

I awkwardly turned around, looking to my right and to the left. He was right, there was a commonality:  Couples, many, many couples. They were of all ages, the giddiest of them being the elderly couple sitting in the seat in front of us, which were kissing endlessly until the plane hit the ground.

So, what the man next to me was trying to determine with his original question is: why on Earth would someone travel to a beautiful island destination, full of lovers, COMPLETELY ALONE?!

Over my years of traveling, I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the typical line: “One day, when I have the love of my life by my side, I will travel to that incredible destination I have always wanted to visit, but until then, I will wait.”

Many people constantly wait until another day, and the sad truth is that many will never actually visit their dream destination because they are constantly waiting on a future change or person to come.

Sure, Sao Tome & Principe is a beautiful island and there are many lovers that visit there, but it’s suitable for all types of travelers, even solo travelers. As I was looking out the window as we were landing I did not get upset by his random question to me, nor did I enter in a depression of the reality that I was there completely alone. In fact, I felt the opposite. I could feel the excitement building as we got closer and closer to the runway, knowing that I had 8 full days to explore this small island, which is the second smallest country in Africa.

Sao Tome & Principe was already on my good list before entering, considering the fact that as an American I did not need a visa for up to 15 days. That was an excellent plus, especially given the amount I spent only in visas in West Africa before arriving. In fact, the no visa applies to all European citizens and in many other parts of the world.

NOTE: Before booking a flight it’s important to check and make sure you need a visa. Many require visas in advance. 

Flying to Sao Tome is quite simple. Portugal and Ghana are the normal layovers to enter into Sao Tome through Tap Air. I was super impressed with the company, which had competitive prices, good amenities on board and good food options for the long international flight.

NOTE: Keep in mind that it is absolutely necessary to have you Yellow Fever Certificate. The moment you get off of the plane there is an officer at the door checking each card individually. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION 

Language: Portuguese

Dinero: Dobra, euro accepted in many places

This is a cash ONLY country. I made the mistake of visiting with little cash and when I arrived I spent a whole entire day trying to get money transferred in by Western Union.

After spending all day at the bank, the transaction was unsuccessful. I then started to investigate different ways to get money and I was informed that if you really need to take out money with your card then you can visit EcoBank and talk with the person in charge. They will then give you a code, which allows you to take out money from the machine. I obviously did not know this, or I would’ve done this in the first place.

If that does not work, there are small places available that you can transfer money by PayPal with 5% commission. In the end, this was the option that I ended up going with. The transaction was super simple and in an official building.

TRANSPORTATION

It’s quite difficult to get lost on the island. Throughout most of Sao Tome, its one main road, with few turn offs. The road conditions are not excellent and especially the more south you go, the more likely the chance is you will need a 4×4.

Without a doubt, the best way to get around is by renting a car. Public transportation is available (yellow minivans shared with many people), but it only stays on the main roads and will not take you to the waterfalls, plantations and all of the places that are worth the visit.

Renting a car will cost you €40 a day plus gas, and if you want to rent a guide, another €20.

I’ve visited the island half of the time by myself and then the other half with a local guide. Looking back, I am happy that I spent the extra money for a guide and the driver, because the roads were rough and as a passenger I was not responsible for any sort of damages that could’ve happened on the road.

In addition, a local guide can give you lots of interesting information, tell you stories and make the experience even more meaningful.

I was traveling alone in the beginning, but I found an elderly 73 year old man that was also traveling alone. We decided to split the travel costs and have a fun adventure together.

Motorcycles are also available, but you need an international motorcycle license. However, I was told by many people that the police do not ever check your license, but in the case that they do, you would be required to pay a fine.

ACCOMODATION

There are countless options for lodging, ranging from very luxurious, mid range, to budget AirbnB rooms. I decided to try many different places out in order to get a more well rounded opinion on the accommodation options available on the island.

For the low budget travelers, the cheapest option is Airbnb for around $12/night. These options are available more outside of the city, but still within walking distance. However, if you are a solo traveler and are looking to meet people, this is not the best option in my opinion.

GUEST HOUSES 

There are two main guest houses in the city, which can range anywhere from $40-100 a night, depending on how many people you are traveling with. This is an excellent way to meet other travelers, cook and share meals and have a common area to talk and have a community of people around you.

I really enjoyed my stay in the guest houses and if you are traveling with another person, the price comes out to be very reasonable.

The two main guest houses are: Sweet Guest House & Sao Pedro. They both have different atmospheres and are located on different parts of the city, so depending on your taste, you can easily decide which one is best for you.

Both are about a 10 minute walk to the city center and easily accessible by car. I tried both of the guest houses out and I can say with 100% confidence that either one of them are excellent choices.

SWEET GUEST HOUSE 

The best thing about here is the cozy atmosphere, the shared, fully stocked kitchen and common area. I met other travelers there and even learn how to cook some delicious Nigerian food with 2 Nigerian men that were there for work. The common area has a big TV and couches for people to sit and relax, as well as an excellent outdoor area, right off the kitchen, to eat outside.

The vibe is very good there and the rooms are spacious and comfy. Of all the places that I stayed, this one had the best air conditioning, which was a huge plus! The staff was helpful and even organized a trip for another traveler and I to the south of the island.  They did all the work and all we had to do was show up, pay and enjoy the trip.

Breakfast is available in the morning at an additional price, which included tropical fruits, coffee, eggs, etc.

Highly recommended.

For more information, click here

SÃO PEDRO 

The best part about this place, in comparison to the other places that I stayed in the island, was its distance to the beach. You literally walk out the door, down the street two minutes and the beach will be right in front of you. Also, if you plan on visiting the chocolate factory, it as well is just a 2 minute walk.

You can feel the vibes of this place the minute you walk in. The huge pool, surrounded by palm trees gives this place a very tropic feeling. It’s a perfect place to lay out by the pool and read a book, relax or even go for a swim.

This is a good place to meet other travelers, in a location that is ideal and safe. The guesthouse is gated,  so I had to fear in laying out by the pool in the evening or night.

The owner was very helpful in helping me to organize my stay, finding nice places to eat and organizing my transportation.

Breakfast is included in the morning for an additional cost and has a large variety of fruits, cereals and bread.

Overall, I highly recommend this place!

For more information, click here

HOTEL CENTRAL

After visiting the guest houses, I decided to try out a couple of hotels in order to see how they are different in comparison to my experience at the guest houses.

The first hotel that I stayed at was Hotel Central. It gets its name because of its location. It is centrally located, right in the middle of all of the action. It´s just minutes away from the main market and restaurants. Wifi was not available in the rooms, but there is a small couch downstairs where one can sit and use the internet.

The rooms were very comfortable, with air conditioning. A breakfast buffet was included in the morning, which offered eggs, fruits, bread and cereal.

A very great alternative if you want to be centrally located!

For more information, click here: 

SH BOUTIQUE HOTEL 

If you are looking for a place that’s more upscale, then look no further than this hotel. This hotel is just 15 minutes away from the airport, in the area “Vila Dolores.”

The rooms were very modern, spacious and elegant. The hotel had all the nice extra amenities that I love, such as a robe, slippers, hair dryer and a a mini fridge to store my drinks.

This hotel has 24 hour security and a good parking area if you have a rental car. This is a quiet place to go and relax, located 10 minutes by foot by the city center.

Breakfast was included in the morning, with different options of fruits, cereals, eggs etc.

For more information, click here: 

WHAT TO DO

CHOCOLATE TOUR 

If you are a chocolate lover, then this is your place to splurge! Years back Sao Tome & Principe used to be the world’s largest cocoa producer, but from what our guide explained, after the small country became independent, a lot of the plantations throughout the island were abandoned. The cocoa history is quite interesting here and you can learn about it at Claudio Corallo Chocolate Factory.

For just 4 euros you can join a chocolate tasting tour where you get the chance to try all kinds of delicious chocolates and learn about the history.

LOCAL MARKET 

It can get a bit wild, but the market is a great place where you can get a good feel for the local culture of the island. This place is packed full of people selling fruits, fish, meat, and everything you can possibly think of. They can get a bit rowdy in there, so hold on tight to your stuff.

They sell a lot of raw fish and meat, so if you have a weak stomach, you may want to just visit the market from the outside.

I highly suggest buying some Jackfruit and trying it out. It’s not available in all parts of the world, so it’s a fruit that everyone should try at least once.

SAO SEBASTIÃO 

This is a unique 1566 fortress which is now converted into a museum. This is great place to visit in the city center, with rich history and excellent places to take photos.

GASTRONOMY TOUR 

There are so many dishes available in Sao Tome, which are strongly influenced by the Portuguese. One of my favorite activities that I did within the city was visiting different restaurants and trying typical dishes.

The most common food on the island, without a doubt, is fish, banana and rice. Other local dishes that I enjoyed are:

Calulu: a traditional dish prepared with fish, veggies (eggplant, onion, spices and typically served with rice and plantain. This was my favorite dish that I tried.

Barriga de Peixe: traditional grilled fish, with comes served with rice, or breadfruit

Cachupa: delicious dish, made with green beans, corn and broad beans.

 

SOUTH

In my opinion, the south was the most impressive part of the island. Its a straight road to get there and is located about 2.5-3 hours by car from the airport.

I highly recommend spending at least one night in the south, but it is possible to just do a day trip, although it will be a bit rushed.

ROCA AGUA IZE 

This was one of our first stops on our way to the south of the country. This is one of the most original and largest cocoa plantations, which many years ago had thousands of locals employed.

There are many places for breathtaking views from there and it’s definitely a stop that you must visit.

BOCA DE INFERNO (HELLS MOUTH)

I absolutely loved visiting here. There are some amazing views and it’s interesting to see the water pound hard against the rock to create a large blowhole.

Although my guide told me it was not a good idea, I still decided to go down the hill closer to the rocks. Its interesting to see up close and its a better place to get a photo.

PICO CAO GRANDE

This rock is one of the most famous volcanic rocks in the hole world and it’s impossible not to see if you are traveling to the south. You can either take a hike towards the rock or get a nice shot from the road.

JALE BEACH (PRAI JALE)

This was such an impressive beach, with beautiful white sand. Out of all of the beaches that I explored, this was one of my favorites. The area was super clean, white sand and very peaceful.

The roads are unpaved to get there, so it’s recommended to go with an SUV. There are different bungalows available to sleep, which is an excellent idea for at least one night.

This is also a popular turtle beach between the months of September and April. Here you will be able to see female turtles lay their eggs in the sand, which is a pretty neat experience!

PORTO ALEGRE 

I took a long stop here to explore the area where the fishermen were hard at work, bringing in the fish and cleaning their boats. They were all so friendly with me and had no problems with me taking a few pictures.

From Porto Alegre you can visit Rolas Island, which is the area in which you can cross the equator. It takes about 20-30 minutes and will cost anything between 35-45 euros.

I did not make that trip, but I have heard from other travelers that its a beautiful experience!

NORTH

BLUE LAGOON 

On my road trip by car to the north of the island, I came across the Blue Lagoon. There is a very pretty view spot from the road, or you can go down and swim in the crystal blue water.

This is an excellent stop for divers or snorkelers who love to explore the underwater life.

PRAI DOS TAMARINDO 

This has the reputation for being one of the best swimming areas on the island. It easy to reach from the capital and its worth the visit. This is a good place to get some amazing views and to relax on the beach.

NEVES 

This is one of the most important towns on the island. What I loved about visiting this area was going into the town and getting the authentic feel of the people on the island.

I stopped and had a local lunch and had the opportunity to connect with the kids, listen to them sing and put on performances for the International Kids Day.

If you are feeling really adventurous, just outside of Neves you can find the beginning of climbing point for Pico de Sao Tome, which is the highest mountain in the whole island.

 

CENTER 

The center of the country is where one you can explore different waterfalls, see the forest and even bird watch. There are many different endemic species of birds and on a chilled out day, this can be a great option to explore.

MONTE CAFE 

This is the main place that one can go and learn about coffee, processing, harvesting and have a good coffee tasting.

Coffee is a huge part of their culture here and its a must see when visiting. It’s very close to the capital and can easily be done in just one morning.

Here you can also visit some of the plantations. If you are lucky, a cute kid might even come up to your window and hand you a cocoa pod so that you can suck the sweetness out of each bean. It tastes just like candy!

SAO NICOLAS WATERFALL

This is a waterfall that’s about 20 by car minutes from Monte Cafe. I went during the dry season, so it was impossible to swim, but my guide mentioned that many people enjoy swimming there. The waterfall is accessible by car and requires no hiking to access it.

Its located in the forest and the drive getting there is beautiful, but quite bumpy!

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION 

If you have a lot of time it is highly recommended to visit the neighboring country, Principe. At this moment there are not boats that take tourists between the two islands, but flights are available at different times throughout the week.

Prices range from €70-150 one way. Unfortunately I did not get the chance to make this trip, but I plan to go back in the future and check it out.

Don’t forget to also read:

HOW I GRADUATED WITH HONORS IN 1 YEAR WHILE TRAVELING FULL TIME TO 20 COUNTRIES

THE PERFECT DAY GONE WRONG: MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT IN KO SAMUI, THAILAND

7 GESTURES YOU MIGHT WANT TO AVOID IN OTHER COUNTRIES

adminDiscovering the Beautiful Island of Sao Tome & Principe, Africa
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