We love our traveling community here at Visiter l’Afrique and love introducing you all to each other even more! Meet Daron Bandeira, co-founder of Afrobougee, photographer and world travel enthusiast!
So tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Daron Bandera and I’m a lifestyle and travel photographer based in Ghana. I’m originally from Benin and partly Ghanian but currently I consider myself as a world citizen as I’ve been able to travel and fall in love with 21 countries. Ghana has been my home base as I’ve lived there the longest; it always feels good to come back to Ghana. When I’m away for up to 6 months I like to come back for a month or two to re-immerse myself in the culture and good vibes. I’ve also set up my business in there which has been supporting artists and creatives from across the continent for over the last 6 years so that’s always a good reason to return.
How do you support your traveling lifestyle? Any advice to those who would like to follow in your footsteps?
I got into travelling because my Mum and Dad were themselves travel enthusiasts. They enjoyed visiting other countries and learning about other cultures. They mostly traveled around West Africa and in my early age I was able to follow them to different places learn with them. My travelling bug took root when I built my company as I had to to travel to different countries to check out events, record and share my experiences. Collecting pictures and videos from the places I visited gradually turned from a hobby to a career I pursued.
My advice for those who would like to follow in my footsteps is that it’s easier than most people think. Most people feel the pressure that you always need a lot of money to travel which I won’t deny is a big factor. I think that you can always put a little bit aside and go closer countries, take baby steps before going all out. For example I’m in Ghana, so Togo or ivory Coast would be the closest countries to me. I started with these destinations and then moved on to more distant lands.
What has your experience with visas for intercontinental travel been like?
Visa issues are the bane of travel within Africa. I don’t get why you need a visa to travel to another african country, it should be open. Our leaders should be working towards free movement across the continent for all of us. It so difficult for africans to travel to other african countries not only because of visa issues but also because of cost.
My visa experiences have gone smoother than most because I speak both french and english, the two most common languages in Africa. It made it easier to go to different places and be able to even just request for a visa. I also mainly chose to go to countries that have Visa free access or offer visas on arrival. I didn’t want any hassle or feelings of restriction so I started with these. I did have a very bad experience on my first trip to seychelles. That trip had been dream to me because I knew it would be a beautiful experience. When I landed I was held at the airport for over two hours because I had travelled from Madagascar to get there and had also gone to Ethiopia. They seemed to think my frequent travelling was suspicious and that I was some international smuggler or something. They searched through all my luggage and essentially invaded my privacy, wanted to know my bank account balance to see if I could even afford to be here. Just because I’m from West Africa and probably because I’m black that I can’t afford to be here. I felt like I was being discriminated against on my own continent.
Thankfully that was sorted out and my trip was otherwise amazing. I ended up loving Seychelles because of the people there. They are the most beautiful people I’ve ever met. They have a very communal lifestyle that is tied to nature. It really feels like a tight night community because the country is so small. I love the vibe there and all its islands are just magnificent. The people are friendly, there’s a communal bus system link that makes it so easy to connect with people. It was also cheap to travel around with the bus.
Any recommendations for good accommodation?
Accommodation is key for me. Wherever I go – whether I’m photographing a village or a deep jungle – I want to come back to comfort, some form of hot water and a somewhat comfortable bed. As far as my recommendations I’ll have to say Airbnb. Some countries have some really good spaces to pick from. When I’m doing work for a company or doing work for a client, my accommodation is usually covered. I’ve been lucky to stay in some really well designed homes and hotels. I do try to mix it up and I have this routine where I stay in a high end place for a few days and then stay at a low end place for another few days. I want to experience a few different spots if I’m in a country for 2 weeks or a month. Lately I’ve been leaving marks in every country so when I go back I have places to stay. When I go back to Nigeria for example I have friends and community workers that I can stay with.
What are some of the best restaurants you’ve eaten at on the continent?
So let me tell you something, me and food are like one, there are too many to pick from. I do have weird confession to make: I love airport food! Those restaurants have kept me going on those day long layovers. The airport food I love the most is in Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta airport and Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa airport. Eating there during layovers has just gotten me addicted to airport food.
I’ve also loved the The Butcher’s in South Africa. I’m a heavy meat eater so it’s a world of amazing stuff where you get lamb, ox, really anything you want and it’s really really great food.
Lastly I would suggest going to Kumasi, Ghana for the fufu experience of a lifetime. Fufu in kumasi is on a different level: it’s well done, cheap and you have a lot of fufu to eat. It’s their tradition so the skill is really in their blood.
There is no shortage of amazing Arts and Culture events to check out all over Africa and we’re sure you’ve seen your fair share. Any standouts you would recommend?
I’d suggest these for events around the continent:
Addis Foto Fest: It gives you a chance to explore and see some of the great photographers creating and showcasing amazing work. The artistic installations spread across the event spaces are something you don’t want to miss.
Chale Wote Festival: What makes this festival great are all the international travelers and visitors. are all the travellers that come to visit. If you’re living in the main hub in ghana which is the Osu area you’re able to meet different diverse people from Canada, from the US and different African countries just coming to experience the festival. It’s a great time to connect with people and that’s why Ilike the festival.
The Voodoo Festival in Ouidah, Benin: Of course I have to talk about an event from my country Benin. People are scared of voodoo usually wary to see it in person and to them it’s a strange thing to experience. This festival is one of the most intense events to experience. These people believe in their craft and believe they have spirits and powers and seeing them practice their craft is truly a life changing experiences. The thought involved in the planning, all the colourful decorations, the clothes people wear and the masquerades all add to this air of mysticism.
Do you go off the beaten path often and enjoy the natural beauty our continent has to offer, from pristine beaches to magnificent mountain ranges?
First off I am all about location, location, location. Beaches, mountains, nature – this is my thing. I always make time to be around nature on all of my trips.
Sante Marie is one of the most beautiful small cities that I’ve ever visited. It’s in Madagascar and has the best beaches. Of the surrounding hotels, the Princess Boa was one of the most amazing place I’ve ever stayed in. It has bungalows that sit right over the ocean and it’s truly a sublime sight.
Sometimes your trip doesn’t quite turn out how you expected it, do you have any travel fails to share?
Funny enough, I don’t think I’ve ever experiences any travel fail. It’s usually a matter of disappointment before the trip. Personally, I always travel with the purpose of photographing so when I get there I’m able to get what I want at the end of the day and meet people that I actually can connect with. My free spirited nature makes me easy to connect with. I have to say my travel fails probably involve police in different countries and the way they they treat us foreign black people in our own continent. Xenophobia is a very serious issue and we should be talking about the presumptions some of us make about each other. We can’t all be falling into the trap that we Africans can’t afford certain lifestyles and discriminating against us because of such beliefs.
How do you pick your travel destinations? Do you travel for pleasure or with a purpose?
Where I want to go to next just comes to me. Sometime I’m just sitting at home and a friend messages me asking if I want to travel to Cuba for example. I go and check it out online l, fall in love and plan for a trip perhaps in 6 months. Sometimes my trip is covered by people who want to collaborate with me and sometimes it’s just on the go. Some places you visit multiple times, others you slowly discover. I do have an idea of where I want to go next. I want to explore Namibia (I think it’s an amazing place to explore), I want to go back to Asia and I want to connect with new artists and discover more countries in Africa.
I always travel with a purpose to photograph. I intend to travel the whole world and I want a photograph in every single country. I want to meet and shoot with all types of people, from models to everyday people and travelers. Before I go to a country I reach out to a whole lot of people and see if when I get there we can create content together. I always have all my tools with me and shoot enough content to keep be busy for the year and have variety. I’ve been able to attract a decent clientele just by creating great content to attract them to my skills. The pleasure comes with the purpose but sometimes I don’t even get to enjoy my lucious setting because I’m busy shooting.
I like to tell people that they shouldn’t be afraid of moving and going to different countries especially in Africa. These are trips of a lifetime. I’m hoping to gather all these wonderful experiences I’ve been lucky to have in a book one day.