I’m a freelance travel writer, photographer and editor, and a Cuba travel expert, and fixer.
I write about Cuba for the international press and contribute to several travel guides to the island. My latest guide is Frommer’s EasyGuide to Cuba. My new guide Havana Pocket Precincts will be published in 2020. I work as a fixer, consultant, translator, tour leader, and guide in Cuba.
My new site www.insidecuba.co is dedicated to Cuba trip planning.
Over the last 15 years I’ve also become a Guatemala, Laos and Vietnam travel expert, and I’ve happily got lost in the imperial cities of Morocco for several publishers. I’m the main writer and editor of the 4th edition of Time Out Marrakech.
I write and photograph for magazines, newspapers, guidebooks, and online media, and I’ve edited more than 30 country, regional and city guides for UK publishers.
In 2017, I won the Latin American Travel Association (LATA) prize for best blog post about the Burial of Pachencho, a bizarre annual festival in Cuba where a man is buried alive with pomp and circumstance in a faux rum-fuelled funeral.
I spoke about Cuba and answered questions at the Royal Geographical Society in London in October 2014 during its Discovering Cuba evening. I’ve appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Excess Baggage talking to presenter John McCarthy about travel in Cuba and on Simon Calder’s LBC Travel Show travel show talking about Hanoi during its 1000th birthday celebrations in 2010. In February 2016, I appeared on US radio, NPR’s OnPoint with Tom Ashbrook talking about travel to Cuba.
In 2013, I started working in Cuba with Smithsonian Journeys which offered legal People-to-People tours for US travellers to the island. Since then, I have worked with National Geographic Expeditions, the Environmental Defense Fund, board members of the National Geographic Society, and the New York Times Journeys programmes to Cuba. I began work with the UK’s Political Tours in Cuba in 2016. I’ve also worked with private clients on the island, guiding, and trip planning.
A Cuban Stories exhibition of some of my photographs was held at Casa, Floridita, London. The images were also exhibited at Rich Mix. The Guardian profiles these images at: www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/gallery/2010/feb/04/cuba-photography-exhibition-rich-mix
My photo commissions can be found here.
I began my writing life as an NCTJ news journalist in Kent and London before the lure (school geography lessons, plus Redmond O’Hanlon’s travels) of South America saw me backpack from the glacial tail of Chile to the steamy tip of Colombia. After a run-in with a piranha in Bolivia, becoming trapped in a sea lion flash mob in the Galápagos, and a sand boarding accident in Peru, I was hooked. I changed lanes, entered a Radio 4 travel writing competition, and had my first travel article on the Galápagos published by The Independent.
I moved to Barcelona to learn Spanish before becoming fluent in the Peruvian Amazon where I volunteered for two months to capture snakes, frogs and lizards for a rainforest charity project. A flesh-eating tropical disease, followed by a stay at the unit for people under the influence of foreign critters at University College Hospital in London, only strengthened my resolve to return to Latin America.
Riveted by a friend’s tale of hearing Elton John’s eulogy Candle in the Wind set to reggae in the back streets of Santiago de Cuba, and knowing Pope John Paul II had asked Fidel Castro to reintroduce Christmas Day as a public holiday, I left for the Caribbean.
I arrived in Havana a few days before Christmas 1998 with a Mum-made Christmas cake. Cuban customs insisted the cake went through X-ray, quizzed me about its cultural connotations, and gasped at its monster weight. I’ve been returning to Cuba ever since.