Simon Reeve embarked on one of the most dangerous legs of his journey this week, as he explored the Indian Ocean coast along the Horn of Africa.
He starts his journey in Kenya, which is no stranger to tourists. In fact, around 1 million people visit each year for a mix of sea, sand and safari! However, Simon goes off the beaten tourist track to explore Mombasa, an important trading port in the Indian Ocean and Kenya’s second city. Its sizeable port enables trade links to the entire region for goods such as oil, rice, sugar and grains.
As he approaches the Somalian border, you can see the mood of the crew get more and more tense, as security around our favourite explorer gets tighter and tighter. He travels up the coast, with a police guard, up to the Tana Delta, where the Tana river meets the Indian Ocean.
An important ecological site, the place is postively crawling with wildlife. There are crocodiles, hippos and over 350 species of birds. However, developers want to sell off the area to grow sugarcane, which will have a devastating effect on the wildlife, not to mention the people who live in the area.
Some people in the area have already been forced off their land several times by government development agencies, and there is always fear that they will evicted again. While visiting a local village, he helps construct a basic hut for people who have recently been uprooted. It is an uncomfortable situation, but the locals are just made to get by.
He then heads up to the island of Kiwayu, just on the border with Somalia. It’s a haven for marine life, but its otherwise pristine beach is scarred with plastic litter. Simon helps local women comb the beach for flip flops, then watches in amazement as they turn them into beautiful decorations (right). They are so pretty, I’m actually tempted to source and buy some for myself!
Simon then travelled to Mogadishu, which some say is the most dangerous city on Earth. He is taken care of by AMISOM, who are backed by the UN and fight the Islamic militants Al Shabaab. After a civil war in 1991, the government collapsed and conflict has pretty much thrived ever since.
I can’t help but feel nervous as he trundles along the area in his highly armoured jeep, dressed head to toe in bulletproof gear, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who jumped when I heard gunfire in the background.
However, Simon sheds his armoury to head North to Somaliland – a country that technically doesn’t exist. The area split from Somalia in 1991, but the rest of the world hasn’t acknowlegded it as an independent state. However, the place is a lot safer, the people are a lot happier, and Simon is able to walk around without armed guards because Somaliland is a more stable state with a functioning law and order system.
However, as it is technically still part of Somalia, it is very difficult to attract tourists and aid. The region still suffers from implications of the Somalian conflict, and is home of many refugee camps, one of which Simon visits. He sees families of 8-10 people crammed into tiny huts, but the people are just glad to get out of the horrific fighting.
Even though this was a relatively difficult programme to watch, I’m glad that Simon went through this area, and wasn’t scared to show that the region isn’t all sunkissed beaches and tropical havens. However, if you feel inspired to follow in Simon’s footsteps, then travel operator Kuoni are running special Simon Reeve trips to various locations around the Indian Ocean, including stunning Maldives holidays, a stark contract to the places he visited this week.
Next time, Simon will be heading to India and the Maldives. If you missed this week’s offering, be sure to catch it on BBC iPlayer.
Have you been watching Simon’s programme? Has it inspired your adventurous spirit? Where do you want to go? Tell me in the comments below.