Africa is home to numerous beauties and wonders centuries old and encapsulating a divine heritage and history in its landscape. Journeying through the continents cardinal points immerses you in its majestic wonder. In the ‘Ventures Travel Interviews,’ Vénicia Guinot follows the trail of international globetrotting artists, chefs, CEOs and designers, who share their most memorable travel experiences with our readers.
Bisila Bokoko is the founder and chairperson of ‘’The Bisila Bokoko African Literacy Project’’ (BBALP), a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote literacy among the African people. In this interview, Ms. Bokoko shares her passion for African tourism with our readers…
Q: How often do you get away and what is your favourite African city? Can you recall few memories of your very best trip ever and would you do it all over again?
A: I travel minimum 2 weeks a month and since September, I have been only one week a month in my home at the most. It is impossible for me to choose my favourite African city because I have so, so many great experiences in Africa. Every African city I have visited has its charms and it is so unique and full of wonders that to name only one… It’s a tough question but let me speak about the Maasai Mara in Kenya which I have visited four times already and I never get tired of it… Maybe because it’s a totally different side of Africa that combines nature and people in a very special way. When you are in the savannah, all you feel is peace and you feel connected to nature, and also you experience kindness of humankind as no other.
How can I forget to be awakened by hippos, in the morning, saying good morning with their strange noises!? Jogging in the morning and having the giraffes around, taking breakfast while staring at the most amazing sunrise and a bunch of elegant zebras around me, having a bush dinner around the fire in the savannah with warriors singing and performing their traditional dances… Well, all this makes me feel so emotional every time I remember them bringing me a huge cake for dessert with their traditional songs and dancing only with candle lights and fire… Watching lions taking their nap, elephants going to grab a snack, all this gives me goose bumps when I remember!!!
Q: Is it still fun for you to pack up a suitcase and head somewhere new? If yes, where would that be?
A: Believe it or not, packing my suitcase is part of my daily routine. My record is taking 6 airplanes in a week! Therefore packing is something I do with my eyes closed. I have so, so much fun discovering new places, and especially new continents!! It is always a great feeling for me to land to a new destination. I still have a list of must-visit places but next year, I would love to visit Senegal, for sure!
Q: What are your style choices during getaway seasons? Have you ever experienced any fashion disasters while travelling?
A: I like blending in while travelling and love trying out something new like the local fashion trends. And, Africa is the best place ever when it comes to fashion! I have so much fun dressing in Africa because I feel amazing wearing African clothes, accessories and our fashion is to die for. And yes, I have had my share of fashion disasters…. I am not so skilled when it comes to trying to wear some of the traditional outfits, luckily African people have a sense of style to play with a piece of fabric and wrap it up around the body: that is admirable! Performing my duties as ‘Queen Development Mother’ in Kokofu, for instance, I made some mistakes because I did not know the fabric should be worn in a certain way. Thank God, I was helped by gracious ladies who taught me how to seat down with the fabric, to learn how to carry it around and to maintain a certain length and keeping the event’s etiquette abreast is key because your style describes your personality and mood. You see, I learned a lot (chuckles)… and I think Africa is unique!
Q: Do you know of any African destination that is overrated? Give us your own review of this country…
A: Honestly in Africa I haven’t had that experience… Actually it’s the opposite; I always have surprises. When I visited Rwanda, for example, I had zero expectations, plus I did not have a predetermined idea about the country. And once I landed in Kigali, I was shocked by the rural areas. Oh boy, it was incredible! So nice, very organized, so beautiful that I had to revisit 3 months later.
Q: Take us through the process of choosing your accommodation and making your food choices abroad… Have you ever dealt with a culture clash?
A: Most of the time, I choose to work with local people who give me good advice in terms of accommodation and tourist operators that I met along the run help me with the arrangements to avoid surprises! I am open-minded when it comes to food choices. As a food-lover, I make sure to always enjoy the local delicatessen. Wherever I go in the world, I make sure to experience everything and food plays an important part in any country’s culture. I laugh every time locals try to propose me European dishes abroad.
I am one of those who believe in promoting our amazing rich cuisine. Sometimes, people are surprised in hotels when someone from outside picks some local food and it’s sad to notice the poor traditional food choices with some hotels. I believe part of tourism promotion is to sell the gastronomy of each country. Why can’t we be even more proud of what we have?
Oh yeah, talking about cultural shocks… (Laughs)… Some people get furious when they see you with a camera. I was told somewhere in Africa that: “People steal souls with their cameras so we don’t want pictures…” I respect all beliefs and I love to learn about people’s cultures, that’s what I find so interesting about traveling.
Q: What part of the continent would you like to revisit should Africa’s tourism industry improve? A: I believe that, in some African countries, the tourism industry needs some improvement. Some destinations are not so ‘tourism friendly’ but they can still be pleasant to visit because other sectors may be quite interesting and most of all, people’s smiles and kindness make the trick! In pretty much every country I have been to, I have revisited or I intend to do so. Africa is my love and no discrimination should be made when it comes to countries. I find every part of Africa fascinating and that sincerely intrigues me. I will continue to travel in Africa for leisure and pleasure as much as for business!