Founder of the travel blog Lively Journey, Moulaye Diarra is a creative who's pursuit of beauty and excitement has led him to various countries outside of his residence in Paris. Follow him as he explores a little-known island off the coast of Central Africa: São Tomé and Príncipe.
Hi, I’m Moulaye. I work as a communication consultant, a photographer and creative director based in Paris. I’m originally from Mali. I have many interests which include travelling, reading and art in all shapes and forms.
What brought you to São Tomé and which parts of the island did you visit?
Before I took that trip, I was in a very weird place. I knew I needed to think, clear my head. I felt overwhelmed by everything really. So I decided to take a long trip to Africa. Why Africa ? Well It felt right, you know! My trips to Africa used to be very boring to be honest. I usually just travelled home, to Mali and visited family. It was cool, but not exciting. So this time I wanted to be adventurous. Through my research I stumbled on São Tomé and I have to say I was charmed. So here I was, late September 2017 at Charles de Gaulles airport ready for a Lively Journey. After a10 hour flight, I landed in paradise (literally !!).
During my time there I mostly visited the East coast.
What language is spoken in the country, and how did you communicate during your time there?
Portuguese is the official language. Communication was very funny to be honest, full of signs and a lot of mumbling haha!
Google translation app was my best friend.
What sparked your interest in travel blogging and how did you get started?
The idea sparked while on the road actually, I loved the fact that I was experiencing something new. Everything was vivid and interesting and especially my interaction with locals. I just wanted to share it with people. Capturing moments and stories is at the core of what I wish to share.
How does your interest in photography influence the way you travel?
The thing I love about photography is the ability to capture time. Let me explain! Sometimes we all wish to go back in time and relive a specific moment. Although we physically can’t, we can with a photograph. And with that in mind, while travelling I tend to stand or sit somewhere and observe everybody and everything. I love watching people living their lives, and just being an eye. Most of the time that's how I get my best pictures.
Does São Tomé receive a lot of international visitors? Is it hard to get to?
From what I’ve seen not at all. It’s pretty cool to go somewhere and not be bothered by hundred of tourists. That’s one of the things I really enjoyed about my time on the island. You can feel a real authenticity. And as far as getting there it’s not that hard, but you might have a connection in Lisbon. Other than that, it’s pretty easy.
Why are you passionate about traveling through African countries?
To be honest I hadn't really thought about it until recently. It’s like I’m finally opening my eyes. Coming from Mali probably also has a lot to do with it. Africa has so much to offer and I simply want people to see the beauty of the continent too. It’s also about the need the reconnect with myself— knowing where I’m coming from makes it easier.
What are some must-see spots in São Tomé?
There is one must-see spot In São Tomé, at least in my opinion. The Lago Azul, the water is clear like crystal, it’s so beautiful! Other than that the best advice I could give is: while you're there, rent a car and drive around the island. That’s what I did and I loved it!
What type of accommodations did you stay in? Are there any places you would recommend?
I stayed at an airbnb, it was amazing. Right on a cliff with an ocean view. I had a great time. And my host was very present and full of insight. He actually has few places available. I definitely would recommend.
What is life like in São Tomé and what might surprise people about the country?
Life on the island is pretty simple. There is no rush, everybody is just living, literally. To me it’s the perfect place if you wanna relax and disconnect. That I think would surprise people, we tend to forget to take time to just simply be.
What was your favorite experience you had during the trip?
My favorite part of the trip was the fact that I was able to disconnect from everything. Having a lot of “alone time” to think was probably the best thing for me. Actually— I needed that. But also taking time to breathe. While on the island you can feel something that just makes you wanna slow down, and the expression for that is “Leve Leve” which means slowly.
What’s next for you?
I’m actually planning my next trips. I’m thinking about a lot of destinations, such Uganda, Seychelles, Kenya etc. But also few destinations in Europe. I might travel for few weeks.
Images courtesy of Moulaye Diarra
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