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Trekking in a 20 million year old rai...
Madeira, Portugal
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
14 Jun 2013

Trekking paths follows the water channels for more than 200 routes inside the island

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Mozambique Tea Estates
Gurue, Zambezia, Mozambique
By Mais Istanbuli
14 Jun 2013

Once called the the Switzerland of Mozambique, Gurué, in Zambezia Province, center of Mozambique stays forgotten for decades after the independence of Mozambique and three decades of civil war.

In colonial times, the disrict, founded in the 19th century and named Vila Junqueiro, was the biggest tea region in Mozambique, having a total of 5 factories processing tea leafs and exporting worldwide. Now only remains one factory working.

Due to the high level of the region (having the second highest mountain in Mozambique - Namuli Mountain with 2.419 m above sea level) and the wet climate, the settlers, one century ago, found this place with the proper conditions for tea plantations. The landscape was largely transformed to grow tea and tea tasters began building houses. Gurué is a model in colonial architecture with a well preserved number of traditional houses, churches, and other vestiges of Portuguese presence.

Now, the Lomwe people, continue to cultivate the tea, this time owned not by the old settlers but by Indian capitals. However the production is far from the 70´s values of last century. The independence made the old lords run away, back to Europe, everything was abandoned and three decades of civil war made four from the five factory close, get ruined and abandoned.

Meanwhile the intense green, the complete transformation of the landscape made by the vast tea plantations, the unique climate and it's isolation together with the individuality of the Mozambique region make Gurué a tourist destination.

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Tea Estates in Mozambique (8 of 13)
Mozambique
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
11 Jun 2013

Children from the nearest village come to work and play in the tea fields in Mozambique.

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Tunisia's Tourism Sector Looks for Al...
Tunis, Tunisia
By Mohamed Haddad
14 May 2013

A Video Report Done By: Sarah Mersch & Mohamed Haddad

Tunisia has long been a favorite destination for Western tourists. Since the revolution, prices went down, but so did the number of visitors - a disaster for the vital sector of Tunisian economy. 400,000 of Tunisia’s 10.5 million inhabitants depend on tourism, which makes up seven percent of the country’s GDP. Despite this, tourism professionals are looking for alternatives, whether it be wellness, cultural or hiking trips.

This is an international version, voice over + original soundbites are on the left track, ambient sound on the right.

Sidi Bou Said, a picturesque village over the hills of Tunis. Once a must for every visitor of the country, the small town is feeling the decline in tourism since the political turnover.

Mohamed Ben Ameur still opens his little souvenir stall every day, but the craftsman struggles to make a living.

SOUNDBITE Mohamed Ben Ameur, craftsman [ar]

There is nobody. Look, it’s Saturday and it’s empty. As soon as the big cruise ships leave, the street gets empty again. That’s what the minister said as well, there are less reservations than last year.

Half a million Tunisians and almost 10% of national income depend directly on tourism. Since the revolution, reservations have gone down by almost 15%.

Hammamet, an hour south of Tunis. It once used to be the hotspot of beach tourism, but the Europeans looking for cheap sun have gone elsewhere. Even though a week of all inclusive sells at 200 Euros.

Many of the three and four star hotels haven’t been renovated in a long time and struggle to keep the standard up. A third of the establishments should close for the sector to rejuvenate, professionals tell us off the record.

For the 4 star hotel Le Sultan, the situation is difficult, but the manager Mehdi Allani tries to keep up a good service. 120 employees are taking care of one hundred clients. An investment for a better future the owner still believes in. Mehdi Allani wants the restaurant setting to be top notch, even though yesterday, only twenty people ate here.

SOUNDBITE Mehdi Allani, Vice-President, Le Sultan hotel [fr]

Today, we are living a crisis. The priority should be reactivity. But this means being very fast. But we still function slowly, we’re in the phase of ‘Ah, we don’t have the money. We should... or maybe not...’. rather than acting quickly. [...] Our competitors are very reactive. If we want to compete on eye level, we need a lot of communication, a lot of events and most of all, reactivity. We need to be hyper-creative and hyper-fast.

After the revolution, Tunisia’s authorities have realized that its prior focus on cheap beach tourism is long outdated and especially vulnerable to political instability.

But the sector is still waiting for concrete initiatives by the authorities, Mehdi Allani says. He voluntarily works in a group of officials and tourism professionals to improve the situation of the industry and promote new concepts.

SOUNDBITE Mehdi Allani, Vice President, Le Sultan hotel [fr]

If we speak about the fact that there was a revolution, it happened in Tunisia, but not at the Tunisian Tourism Office, nor at the ministry. They still need to work on changing the habits, being creative.

Allani wants to go ahead and give a good example. Next to the Sultan, he’s constructing a second, even fancier hotel. Looking for alternatives, some hotel owners are increasingly focusing on golf and spa tourists, a rich clientele that is willing to pay for good service.

At the Hasdrubal, one of the few 5 star hotels in the region, the situation is very much the same as at the rest of Hammamet. Less than 20% of the capacity of this hotel with more than 400 beds is used in late May. But the Hasdrubal features something special:

SOUNDBITE Talha Husseini, General Director, Hasdrubal Thalassa hotel [fr]

This presidential suite is the biggest of the world. It measures 1540 m², features an interior and an exterior swimming pool, five sleeping rooms,....

The Salambo suite, where stars, starlets and politicians once came and gone has been deserted since the political turnover. The hotel opens it up only for TV crews. Nobody sleeps here anymore for 5000 Euros a night, neither Bashar Al Assad, nor Algerian president Bouteflika or Mariah Carey. Talha Husseini is in a hurry to quickly lead us through the suite. Other clients are to arrive soon - at the normal hotel, which has become the Hasdrubal’s main business.

SOUNDBITE Talha Husseini, General Director, Hasdrubal Thalassa hotel [fr]

The kind of clients that use the presidential suite are really part of the upper class. And they prefer not to come as long as the political situation in Tunisia is not really stable. Honestly speaking, 2011 and 2012 weren’t great.

The days of glory of the Hasdrubal have passed. The suite is mentioned in the Guinness book as the biggest of the world. Even though the award features big on the website, it fails to attract the clients the hotel once had.

SOUNDBITE Talha Husseini, General Director, Hasdrubal Thalassa hotel [fr]

When the owner of the hotel was building it, everybody told him that he was crazy. There were no clients for this kind of luxury tourism in Tunisia at the time. So he had to develop the clientele.

The director remains silent about the exact number of guests currently visiting the hotel. Most have been shied away by bad press and security concerns. The few who come enjoy the calm and empty beaches.
This british tourist is on his first visit to Tunisia. He appreciates the increased security measures

SOUNDBITE British tourist [en]

This morning, there were policemen going along the beach in buggies. There is always a risk, wherever you go in the world. I think the Tunisian government has seen that there is an interest and a need to address any concerns and they have dealt with that.

As the Hasdrubal once brought a new category of visitors to Tunisia, tourism professionals today try to develop another new clientele. The Northern region of Kef, once the wheat chamber of the Romans: tourists
have always been a rare sight here. Today, there are even less than before the revolution. But the population tries to promote local initiatives and to attract new clients. A cave serves local painter Ammar Belghit as a workshop. It could be one stop on a tour that takes visitors around the region, from hot springs to Roman ruins and the historical city of Kef. For Ahmed Trabelsi, the revolution was a blessing.

SOUNDBITE Ahmed Trabelsi, [exact function / association]

We are a lot more flexible. There’s no police car anymore following us around to see who these people are and what they are doing at Ammar’s grotto.

Before the revolution, to organise even a small hiking tour with a group of foreigners, guides needed almost a dozen permits from local and national authorities. Now they are free to show the treasuries of a country with rich history, which has a lot more to offer than just beaches.

Conscious that alternative tourism will not save the whole industry, the locals hope to at least attract a customer base which is less vulnerable to political hiccups.

In the meantime, the beaches are awaiting another quiet summer.

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Pungue River as seen from Bue Maria
Mozambique
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
05 May 2013

Pungue River, the south border of Gorongosa National park

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Sunset in Gorongosa
Mozambique
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
05 May 2013

two pelicans in Urema lake at sunset time in Gorongosa

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Gorongosa antelopes
Mozambique
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
05 May 2013

hundreads of antelopes live in Gorongosa grassland

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Fish Eagle
Mozambique
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
05 May 2013

flying fish eagle with lake Urema in the background

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Gorongosa Antelopes
Gorongosa, Mozambique
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
05 May 2013

One of the many varieties of Gorongosa antelopes run and jump in the wild and protected area

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Gorongosa Plains
Gorongosa, Mozambique
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
05 May 2013

Vast plains with a number of antelopes can be easily seen in Gorongosa National Park. Sometimes the quietness of the place can be broken by the presence of a lion family hunting elephants while drinking water at the lake.

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Gorongosa National Park
Mozambique
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
05 May 2013

GORONGOSA IN THE XXI CENTURY

After decades of war and deprivation, Gregg Carr, an American philanthropist funded a 50 million USD project that intends to bring back the glorious days of Gorongosa National Park, which, in the late 70´s, was the biggest National Park in Africa.

Gregg Carr changed, from one of the first I.T. tycoons, that generated wealth from his invention - the voice mail - to a full time philanthropist, dedicating himself to humanitarian and sustainable development activities. One of this projects is a 30 years plan that will use 50 millions of USD from his personal wealth to restore and bring back to the wild life, elephants, rhinos, buffaloes and other species to a place that in the past was the Heaven of wild life in Africa.

Activities like planting more than 3 millions of trees, creating and subsiding a natural research center with a full time investigating team, establishing eco tourism and specially make the communities that live around the park to better levels of health, education and employment were already done. Bring back the times where 6000 elephants, 500 lions and others could be seen in Gorongosa is the next step to be done in this National Park over the next 30 years.

HISTORY OF GORONGOSA

From the beginning of the 20th century to our days Gorongosa region was most of the times seen as a sanctuary of wild life unique in Africa. Meanwhile it reached the 21th century practically depleted of its wild life due to the brutal civil war between Renamo and Frelimo, political party's in the country during cold war time. But the hope and the will of the people, the philanthropy of a millionaire and the magic of Africa is giving Gorongosa rivers, lakes, tress, grass and specially wild animals a new spirit and life is returning to the glorious days.

In 1920 Gorongosa was declared by the colonial Portuguese administrations a game reserve for its directors, governors and all the superior staff and elite at the time. From the 30´s of the past century until the 70´s, Portuguese administration turned Gorongosa into a interesting touristic place receiving around 6000 tourist a year. It can be said that before Kruger National Park in the neighbor South Africa, Gorongosa have transformed safaris and wild life observation, in Africa, a democratic to do thing for the middles classes living in this region. Wild life was abundant and its easy to find old photos where 70´s fashion cars like Mini Cooper and others were stopped near lions or elephants with the same 70´s fashion style persons inside enjoying the animals. It was the time of around 6000 elephants and 500 lions among other species.

But after 15 years of struggling for its independence from Portugal and after few years of relatively peace and high social convulsion and revolution, Mozambique started a civil war between the Soviet supported Frelimo as the ruling party and the Western counterpart, Renamo. It was 13 years of destruction, guerrilla and real war that spread all over the country. Gorongosa, centered in the middle of Mozambique and located exactly near the biggest opposition base (Renamo), have seen a disaster, day by day, happens. Most of its animals were killed for illegal hunting or feeding both sides soldiers or even due to the lack of prey, they starved and diminished in number. Ivory trade played also an important role in the death of wild life, being used as gold in exchange for weapons to support and feed the war machinery.

1994 have seen a peace deal signed but both parts, headed by Italian NGO, Vaticano and the international community. Renamo and Frelimo agreed to shake hands and share the country with the democratic institutions and real politics ruling. Free elections came and started a project of democracy in the country. The war was finally over. In 1994, with the help of African Bank and European Union, Mozambican authorities started again, slowly and with the resources that one of the poorest country's in the world could have at the time, protecting, restoring and rebuilding the Gorongosa heaven.

10 years of peace in the country and Gregg Carr, together with Mozambican authorities, plans to develop and mainly give back to the wild life the park, the necessary support, quietness, freedom and naturalism to grow and return to the past splendor.

Gorongosa have now one main touristic camp in Chitengo area with all the standard commodities and a new luxury tented style opening in July 2013. Even if the number of animals nowadays is not the same as in the 70´s of last century; lions, elephants, innumerous antelopes, hippos, crocodiles and several others species together with more than 350 different species of birds can be seen in this part of Mozambique. Easily reachable from the capital Maputo by plane or even from Johannesburg in South Africa it can be visited from May until December when is dry seasons.

GORONGOSA IN NUMBERS and DATES

1969 - 2.200 elephants / 3.000 zebras / 200 lions / around 6.000 tourists per year
1974 - 6.000 elephants / unknown / 500 lions / around 12.000 tourists per year
1975 - Mozambique Independence
1992 - End of Mozambican Civil War
1994 - 100 elephants / 6 zebras / 6 lions / tourism was insignificant

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Gorongosa National Park
Gorongosa, Mozambique
By U.S. Editor
05 May 2013

After decades of civil war Gorongosa National Park is growing again thanks to an American millionaire that is donating part of his wealth to preserve the diversity of flora and fauna living on the reserve. Around and inside Gorongosa live around 250,000 persons that continue struggling to survive from a hard daily life after decades of civil war that came after independence from Portugal

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Lake Urema shores
Mozambique
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
05 May 2013

flat plains meet small lakes in rivers and Lake Urema inside the park

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Gorongosa ``society``
Mozambique
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
05 May 2013

while some minutes lost in the paths of Gorongosa we found this birds that seemed at any movement, position and quietness, real humans chatting calmly in the street

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Fishing In Pungue River
Gorongosa, Mozambique
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
05 May 2013

Pungue river borders south Gorongosa National Park and is the workplace of fishing communities that share the banks with animals and nature.

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Spills & Curses (19 of 20)
Yenagoa, Bayelsa, Nigeria
By Tife Owolabi
09 Apr 2013

Jeremaih Tukor, a naitive of Ikarama community empties sample of spilled crude from Eni/Agip Facility on the ground into container in the oil rich Bayelsa state, Nigeria.

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Spills & Curses (18 of 20)
Yenagoa, Bayelsa, Nigeria
By Tife Owolabi
08 Apr 2013

Washington Odoyibo, Public Relations Officer [P.R.O] of Ikarama Community Development Committee collects sample of spillage from Eni/Agip Facility into a container.

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Spills & Curses (17 of 20)
Yenagoa, Bayelsa, Nigeria
By Tife Owolabi
08 Apr 2013

Well head of crude facility belonging to Eni/Agip in the oil rich Bayelsa State, Nigeria.

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Blood Sugar 016
By Ruom
29 Mar 2013

January 8, 2013
Omliang, Kampong Speu, Cambodia

Trucks offload the sugar cane onto a belt that takes the cane into a crusher.

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Heroes For The Strays (18 of 30)
Alor Star, Malaysia
By syahrin
14 Mar 2013

Pak Mie plays with his rotweiller who paralyze half of his mouth from the beatings from the human

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Spills & Curses (20 of 20)
Yenagoa, Bayelsa, Nigeria
By Tife Owolabi
09 Mar 2013

Jeremaih Tukor, a native of Ikarama community collects sample of spilled crude from Eni/Agip Facility on the ground in the oil rich Bayelsa state, Nigeria.

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The Honney Road
Imouzzer, Morocco
By mdhaenen
21 Feb 2013

The Honney road in the Imouzzer Region - Morocco

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Camel Wrestling in Turkey (11 of 16)
Istanbul, Turkey
By Jodi Hilton
02 Feb 2013

Pelitkoy, Turkey--Participants relax during an unseasonably warm February day at a camel wrestling tournament in the town of Pelitkoy in the Aegean region of Turkey.

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CLIMBING NIPPLE'S TOP
Mt Napuluk, Philippines
By U.S. Editor
31 Jan 2013

Wild and enchanting beauty awaits every mountaineer who will trek the off-beaten track of Mt. Napulak, Iloilo's highest peak with 1,200 feet above sea level.

From Iloilo City, around eighty mountaineers around the Philippines travelled two hours to Igbaras, Iloilo the jump-off area to climb one of the hardest trail in Panay Islands to participate the annual climb to the unique peak of Napulak. This climb is organized yearly before the famous Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo City.

The assault to Mt. Napulak starts with trekking the scenic rice fields and residential areas. Different agricultural crops also are seen along the way forming a magnificent view of terraces. Farm animals such as pigs and chickens are seen outside households.

After passing the residential area, the ascend became more difficult yet the scenery is relaxing. Sunflowers in bloom and the negative ions of the forested area soothes the eye and tired muscles of every wanderers ascending gradually at the treacherous and off-beaten track. And seing one of the largest parasitic flower called rafflesia are also seen along the trail of the majestic forest of Napulak. Rafflesia are only founf in Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines.

After passing the forested area, the grasslands of the slopes of Mt. Napulak is another tiring but breathtaking scenery. Gradual assault and traversing the tall grasses and steep trail is another challenge but the stunning view of clouds covering each mountain is magical.

Reaching the summit is the most intriguing part of the climb, a huge rock formation which looks like a nipple of a woman's breast from a far is one of the most exciting part of the climb where every mountaineers are required to rock climb in order for them to say that they conquered the 'nipple's top'.

Yes, Napulak in local dialect means 'nipple's top'!

The summit gives a 360 degrees view of Panay Islands and other mountains of the province.

The climb is organized by mountaineering groups The Friends of the Higher Grounds and Talahib Eco-Trekkers which aims to battle climate change.

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Blood Sugar 020
By Ruom
16 Jan 2013

January 16, 2013
Srei Ambel, Koh Kong, Cambodia

Sugar cane collectors come back home after a day of work.

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Blood Sugar 013
By Ruom
16 Jan 2013

January 16, 2013
Srei Ambel, Koh Kong, Cambodia

B. S. (11) takes a break from working on the sugar cane plantation. Seth works normally 2 days a week trying to not miss too many days of school.

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Blood Sugar 006
By Ruom
16 Jan 2013

January 16, 2013
Srei Ambel, Koh Kong, Cambodia

B. S. (11) carries a bunch of sugar cane. To help his family (evicted from their land in 2006 to make way for the sugar plantation), S. works normally 2 days a week trying to not loose too many days of school.

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Blood Sugar 012
By Ruom
16 Jan 2013

January 16, 2013
Srei Ambel, Koh Kong, Cambodia

N. T. even if he's just 9 years old, helps his parents count and make bunches of sugar canes. He's from Bang Village, about 2 hours drive away from the plantations, where he lives with his other 2 brothers. His family decided to start working in the plantations as the area is suffering a very strong drought and they are not able to cultivate their lands.

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Blood Sugar 011
By Ruom
16 Jan 2013

January 16, 2013
Srei Ambel, Koh Kong, Cambodia

In order to facilitate the cutting, the sugar cane workers burn part of the fields.